What Lovely Roses You Have

How long was he going to stare out the window like that?  Sadie wondered.  He had asked about Nathan.  She hadn’t thought about Nathan in years.  It was all a closed or cold case file, she thought.  And isn’t he ever going to speak?  

Suddenly, he turned and faced her sideways.  “What lovely roses you have?  My wife would be so envious.  Whatever do you use to fertilize them to get them to grow so full and lush?”

She stared at him, bewildered.  “Huh?”  she asked.  “I’m sorry.  I thought we were talking about Nathan.”

“Ah yes.”  The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small notebook.  “I just wanted to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.”

“Of course.”  She said softly.  “But, I think I told them everything before.  Has something new come up?  Have you found Nathan?”

“Oh, no no no, nothing like that.  I just wanted to go over what you remember about the last time you saw him.  Can you go over the details again?”

She told him what she had told the detectives the last time.  The man nodded as she laid out the details, his gaze frequently turning to the window again.  What was his fascination with her roses?  Finally, she finished and he flipped the notebook shut, then slipped it back into his pocket.

“I think I have it all” he said.  “Thank you again for your time and patience.”

“But, of course.”  She replied  “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No.  I should be on my way.”  He stated flatly and turned towards the door.  As he opened the door, he paused and looked again at the garden, then turned back at her.  “The roses, Sadie.  Please tell me what you do to grow such beautiful roses.”  

She stood there a moment, confused at the man, then she smiled brightly.  “But, of course.” She responded.  “Its just a simple blood and bone meal mixture my mother gave me the recipe for.”

“Any chance you could be persuaded to share that?”

“Alas, no.  Its been a tightly held secret in my family for generations.  We have actually won numerous awards for our roses.  But, I am sure you could find something similar if you did a search.”

“Of course, I understand.  That’s too bad though.  My wife will be so disappointed. Thank you again for your time.”  And with that, he walked down the path to his car and drove away.

Sadie walked out and strode over to her roses, her hand gently petting one of the luxurious blooms.  She leaned over and took a deep whiff of its intoxicating scent, then a smile formed on her lips.  Mother always said the only thing husbands were good for were fertilizing the roses.

“Good night, Nathan.”  Sadie called behind her as she walked back into the house.  “Sleep well.” 

Copyright 07/28/21 Sephi PiderWitch

The Teddy Bear War

It started as a minor altercation. A reporter came to their country to do a story on some event that was taking place. What event, you ask? Well, the event doesn’t matter, but since you asked, it was a celebration on the outskirts of their main city. He was, at this event, invited to a formal function at the palace the next night. To bring his camera and his notebook so he could go back to his own country and tell them of the magnificence of this country he had visited. To comment on how well he was treated and the greatness of the people who lived there. And that was the beginning of when things went wrong.

They were a foolish people who believed that a reporter from another country would do as their reporters did and report what they were approved to. They were foolish in that they trusted he would speak only to the proper people, photograph only the best and most beautiful they had. They believed in this, they trusted in this knowledge, and so they trusted him. It was a mistake they were not likely to repeat.

He returned to his country and began to write a series of reports on what he had seen there. The bustling fair and market of the celebration, the people in their colorful clothing, richly died cottons and silks. The heavy scents of the food aisles full of exotic herbs mingled in simmering pots thick with meats and hearty vegetables. Bright banners and streamers flew from every post on every stall. Even the ground itself was suffused with the smells of the carnivale, the droppings and leavings of all the goers mixing and coalescing with the dirt and sweat and dog feces.

On the surface, it all looked like a pleasure fair of a happy people. It took a discerning eye to see past the bright facade and peer into the shadows behind. And that is the mark the reporter was known for. He found the shadow side and slipped into it and reached out a hand of friendship to it. Gladly was it greeted and he was welcomed by the fires and stories shared. He found the same such outstretched hands in the staff at the castle and passed many hours unnoticed by his hosts as missing, so busy they were with their royal festivities.

All of this came out in his pages. Not the stories of the bright celebration, the glorious royal family, the richness of the castle and the opulence of the ball. Or rather, those things did shine forth in his words, but in exposing the cost to the people. He told of the dismal conditions so many lived, the oppression, the lack of simple basic needs. He told of the jokes the royal family made of the peasants in their kingdom, how they had added a new tax this last month to fund their ball. He told it all and laid them bare.

To say that they were not pleased is an understatement. They sent official demands that the words be retracted, an apology offered. It fell on deaf ears. The country of the reporter and the neighboring countries joined in a condemnation of the country, demanding they give a voice to their people, allow them a part in the workings of the country. The angry exchange lasted for months till it was threatened by the oppressive country more drastic measures would be taken.

Who it was that came up with the idea in the reporter’s country, no one is sure or can no longer remember. That it was a work of brilliance, none can deny. That it made the world sit up and take notice the news can attest.

Through the dead of night a few small planes flew, just under the radar, seeking out the capital and the surrounding townships to release their loads. Tiny parachutes dotted the skyline, floating gently to the ground in the pre-dawn air. Each carrying a single load, a small teddy bear each holding its own unique message for peace, democracy, hope. More than a thousand of them littered the landscape when the people emerged from their homes. More than a thousand that were met with cries of joy from the children and snatched up by all to take back to their homes with them. What a sight it was if you were fortunate enough to be awake to see it. Even in the night dark skies, you could see the tiny white parachutes dancing in the wind currents of the air as they made their way earthward.

The military tried to order the return of the bears, but they only were offered up a small fraction of those that came. They tried threatening with new laws making it a crime to be caught with one of the bears and that seemed to have little impact.

The royal family was furious that their air space had been so easily breached and a few of the highest officers lost their command from it. Then came the talks to figure out what to do about the situation. They couldn’t retaliate with violence. That could incur the wrath of the rest of the nations and they were ill equipped for a full war. In the end, they decided to retaliate with the same. And the next day, their own planes flew over their enemies capital and townships and dropped its own load of teddy bears with their own messages.

All was quiet for a few days and it seemed the news was quiet on the subject. Then another morning dawned with another littering of bears across the land. And soon after, another volley in the other direction, all plush arms holding a message for their neighbor across the border.

The toy factories began working overtime to keep up with the demand by the two governments. When they ran out of the bears, they began shipping their other stores, their bunnies, kittens, puppies, wild animals and fantasy creatures, the dragons, the fairies, the griffons.

The news headlines around the world were in a frenzy over the strange war going on. Each day’s headline marked as the animal or creature of the day. The day of the bunnies, the day of the dragons.

It went on for months and months. By the end of the year, the toy makers had no animals to ship to the stores for children’s presents. All being consigned for the ongoing war effort. Christmas dawned with tears in children’s eyes at not getting their Christmas bear and again on Easter when their basket held no bunnies. No Valentine bears to give your sweetheart jewelry, no boo-boo bears to give your friend in the hospital.

What had started off as a source of amusement had now started to affect the rest of the world. Most importantly, the children. Demands were made to reconcile, negotiate and put an end to this very long war. At first they went unheeded till sanctions were laid till they agreed to meet at a bargaining table. The bears had sparked a rebellion in the one country. Concessions were made to give more voice to the people. Agreements for more mutual respect. A treaty of peace signed and witnessed. The bears were to fly no more.

Never before had a war been waged with a teddy bear. It is hard to tell if any ever will be again. It will go down in history as the war that dropped bombs of joy. Peace was achieved and lives made better. And throughout it all, not a single life was lost. Well, except for the drunk that fell asleep on the beach and choked to death on plush when a bear landed on his face. But, no one speaks of that incident.


Five Dollars

“Five dollars!” Jesse looked around him to see if anyone was looking, glancing carefully at the dirty bill lying on the street half covered by the mud and grime of the gutter. He dropped the folder of papers under the books in his arms to fall close to it and prayed that they didn’t land in the water. “Oh please, just don’t land in the water!” he whispered to himself.  He looked around one more time to see if he had attracted anyone’s attention. No, what few were near were busy with other things. Quickly he reached down and gathered up his Peechee, slipped his hand under the bottom of the folder and grabbed the bill, pulling it back to rest against the back of the folder and straightened back up. An older woman had paused near him as he looked up. “Oh just crap!” he thought. He could feel the sweat beginning to form on his brow, his mouth was getting dry and there were squirrels running circles in his stomach. “Oh, just crap!”

“Are you okay son?” the lady asked, her hand reaching out toward him. “Did you fall? Are you hurt? Can I help you find your mother?”

“I, uhm, I, uhm, no, I’m uh fine.” He swallowed hard. Oh God! Please keep me from stuttering! She’ll take me home and dad will find out and I’ll get a whooping! “Really, ma’am, I’m fine. I just dropped my folder. See?” He held up his books in front of him, holding tight to the bill pressed against the back.

“All right then. It’s getting late. You should get yourself home before you worry your parents.” The lady smiled as she instructed him.

“Yes ma’am!” Jesse grabbed the books tight to his chest and stepped onto the sidewalk and scrambled down the street. As soon as he was sure “she” was no longer looking, he stuffed the bill deep into his pocket and mushed it down tight so it wouldn’t work its way out. Paper has a way of doing that, he had learned that one with enough forged notes and a few homework assignments. He wasn’t taking any chances with this one wiggling its way out of his pocket! No siree! Then he patted the front of his pants just for assurances. One can never be too careful.

“Five whole dollars!” He had never had that much money at one time in his whole life! That was almost a thousand dollars! His mind began racing over the things he could buy himself with that much money. Candy and toys and a slingshot and maybe one of those whirley-giggy things or a new top! The thoughts began whirling in his head, dancing visions of all the treasures he had thought of that would be his soon, just bouncing up and down with the sound of a merry-go-round in the background. His feet began to skip along the sidewalk and he found himself humming a little tune as he rounded the corner, then WHAP! His books went flying, and with them, other books joined in.

“Emily!” he cried out. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”

The young girl who was about his age stared back at him, crossed her arms tightly to her chest, then blew a huff out of her nose. “I WAS watching where I was going, you brainless stoop! You crashed into me! And now look at the mess. You pick my books up right now and you just better hope none of them are damaged or your momma will be payin’ for them.”

“Don’t you go near my momma tellin’ her nuthin!” Jesse yelled, his voice cracking with the fear and anger in it. “You go tellin’ anything to my mum about anything and I’ll tell your daddy that you showed Johnny your panties for a quarter. Then we’ll see who gets the bigger whoopin’!” Jesse reached down and started to gather up his books, making sure to avoid touching Emily’s to the point of grabbing on with just his thumb and forefinger and sliding it out from underneath it. Cripes! How he hated her! Of all the people he had to crash with, why did it have to be “her”?? And how can one have the luck of finding a five dollar bill only to have so many disastrous things happen after? He thought about the possibility that maybe he hadn’t done the right thing sticking that bill in his pocket and not saying anything to anyone. But, he just wasn’t about to admit that he didn’t deserve that money and no one was going to take it away from him, no way, no how. He brushed the smudges off his books and stood back up . . . . and was no more than 4 inches from the face of Emily!

“Ewww! I can smell your breath! Get back!” Jesse hissed at her.

“Not till you pick up my books!” Emily shouted at him. “You ran into me, you knocked them out of my hands, you pick them up! If you don’t, I swear, I swear . . . . . ” Emily paused for a moment to think about what she could come up with. Suddenly her eyes brightened and a smile spread across her face. “I swear I will kiss you and tell everyone at school that you kissed me!” she exclaimed, a look of complete triumph on her face.

Mortification spread across Jesse’s features. Oh crap! He thought he was going to puke. Quickly he reached down and gathered up the rest of the books and shoved them at Emily. “Here! Now go home.” And he stomped off past her and down the street.

“Where are you going? This isn’t the way to your house. Can I come with you?” Emily’s voice chirped behind him.

“None of your business! Go away! Leave me alone!” Jesse yelled back at her. “Don’t you have some dolls to pull the heads off of? Or some insects to pull the wings off of?”

“Naw, I did that earlier. I don’t have anything to do right now. So, I think I am going to follow you.” she chirped.

“Well, I don’t want you to come with me. Isn’t there anyone that actually likes you that you can go spend time with?”

“Oh sure. But, its much more fun annoying you! So, where you going? Want to go play in the crick? Its nice and warm out, we could try and catch some tadpoles or maybe even a couple of toads.” Emily sing-songed as she bounced along the walk behind him.

“No! Go away and leave me alone!”

“I know where some puppies are.” She teased.

“Puppies? What kind?” Jesse paused and looked over his shoulder.

“Mr. Wiggles’ dog had puppies a few weeks ago and he’s looking for homes for them. I haven’t seen them yet, but we could go look at them together.” she had him hooked. Yes!

“Well, maybe we could go take a quick look. But, then you have to promise you will go away and leave me alone! He shot with the sternest look he could summon.

“Of course! Just follow me, I know the way.” And off she trotted ahead of him.

Jesse’s thoughts wandered as he followed behind Emily. “I wonder if he’ll let me have one of the puppies? Ma said I could have another one. Pa didn’t really mean to run Colonel over, he had just had too much of the shine before he came home. He didn’t see him cuz his eyes were foggy from the likker.” Jesse remembered how sad he had been over that. It had been almost a year now since he lost Colonel. Maybe it was time to find another dog. And Pa had gotten better about the drinking. And he would keep this one tied up so it wouldn’t get in the way of Pa’s truck when he came home.

“Hey!” Emily’s shout brought him back to the here and now and stopped him dead in his tracks. “Get your head out of them clouds. We’re here.” she announced. “I swear. All boys are just plain daft.” She shook her head at him and stomped up a driveway just behind where he stopped. He quickly reversed his course and ran to catch up with her.

Mr. Wiggles watched them carefully as they picked up each of the puppies and played with them. “Them is purebred, just so you’se know.” He informed them. “Gots most of them sold already. Got a right fine price for them too.”

“Sold?” Jesse looked up, his face fallen to near tears.

“Well, yeah! That be what you do with purebreds. You sells them.” Mr. Wiggles looked down at him. “What? Did you think I was just giving them away?”

“How much are they?” Jesse asked, quiver in his voice as he forced the words out.

“I got me 75 dollars fer the boys and 50 fer the girls. Made a nice little profit off’n this here litter, I did.” A big smile crossed his face and his chest puffed out as he spoke. “Tell the truth, there’s only one left what ain’t been sold. No one be wanting that one cuz he’s a runt.”

“What’s a runt?” Jesse asked.

Mr. Wiggles walked over to where the momma dog was and reached down and plucked out a squalking small puppy ball. “This be what a runt is. He ain’t but a bit of the size he should be. No one wants a runt. They can be sickly and die and even if they make it, people just don’t want the runt.”

He walked over and dropped the tiny yelping pup into Jesse’s hands. Instantly the pup started pawing his way up Jesse’s belly toward his chest. Jesse looked down into the eyes of the little ball of fur and pulled him into his arms. The pup became a blur of motion as he jumped and yelped, trying to lick and nip at Jesse’s chin. Jesse pulled him closer, laughing as the little dog showered his face in kisses, then nuzzled his head under Jesse’s chin.

“Well, will you look at that! He’s rather taken with you boy! Mostly he just runs and hides behind his momma. Whataya know about that?” Mr. Wiggles bantered, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shaking his head.

“So, whatcha going to do with him?” Jesse asked. He was in love! He wanted this puppy so bad! But, he only had 5 dollars. He said he was selling them for way more than that.

“Well, how much you got boy?” Mr. Wiggles looked sternly down at him.

“I – I – I only gots 5 dollars” Jesse stammered.

“You got 5 dollars?” Emily screamed. “Where’d you get that much money? Did you steal it from your momma’s purse? Ooooh, you’ll get such a whooping for that!”

“I didn’t steal it from no one!” Jesse shouted, the pup jumped and began frantically licking his face again to calm him down. “I found it. It’s finders keepers! It was just laying in the middle of the street.”

“Well, that be the way it be. Finders is keepers.” Mr. Wiggles agreed. “Now, you sure you telling me the truth bout you finding that money? You wouldn’t be lying, now would you boy?”

Jesse shook his head violently back and forth. “No sir. Lying will get you sent to hell. Momma and preacher both done told me that. I’m not lying, I found it. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. Ain’t no one gonna take that pup off my hands. But, if you’re willing to change me that five for him, you got yerself a dog. He’s cost me more than that in care and feed and such, but I figger I can take a bit of a loss to give him a good home. Was worried I might have to put him down for a while. You sure your momma gonna let you keep him?”

“Yes!” Jesse yelped and jumped up to reach in his pocket for the 5 dollar bill. “She been telling me for a while I could have me another dog. And I promise, I’ll take real good care of him. Ain’t nothing going to happen to him! No siree. You won’t regret this mister! Thank you.” And he held the crumpled bill out for Mr. Wiggles to take.

“Well, alrighty then. You just make sure you do give that little guy a good home. He’s a right cute little feller. Whatcha gonna call him?”

Jesse looked down at the little bundle in his arms and thought and thought, the dark mottled fur tickling his chin, causing him to press his face deep into its depths. Suddenly, he looked up, a big grin on his face. “I think Shadow! I think that would be a right fitting name!” He looked down at the pup and was met with another volley of puppy kisses. He laughed and looked at Mr. Wiggles. “I think he likes it too.”

“I think that’s a right fine name!” Mr. Wiggles laughed. “Okay, you kids get along now. I gots me a lot of work I still have to get done. And you take care of that pup. You hear?”

“Oh, yes sir.” Jesse exclaimed as he headed back down the road, Emily following right behind.

“You know? He probably woulda given you that dog just to get rid of him.” Emily said when they got back to the main road.

“Maybe, but I haven’t had anything but rotten luck since I picked up that 5 dollars. Not till I got this here pup. He was worth every penny of it. And I’m glad to be rid of it.” Jesse replied. “Well, here’s my house. You know? You aren’t too awful bad”

“Well, thanks, I guess.” Emily replied.

“Just sorta kinda.” and Jessee walked down the drive to his house.

“Boys are just daft.” Emily muttered, shaking her head before continuing down the road to her house.


copyright 03/17/2012

The Hanging

“I had the dream again last night Father.”

“What dream, my child?” The black robed man sat down on the bench. a careful distance from the young girl.

Dark matted curls fell away from the side of her face, revealing one bright, tear streaked eye peering up at him. She wiped her sleeve across her nose and backed into the corner of the bench, hugging her knees to her chest as she did so, the curls falling back over her face, a veiled mask he could not see past.

“They came for me and put ropes around my wrists and led me through the halls and all I could think of was how cold my feet were against the stones. And how very cold I was everywhere. And then we were outside and they were leading me to a very large platform and there were people all around. So very many people! Then we went up the stairs and I saw it for the first time. It was dangling from the beam across the top and I knew it was for me. And I was so scared, so very scared as they led me to a spot right under it. And then I woke up.”

“I can see how that would make you afraid. I am here to try and help you with all of it. Do you know who I am Eunice?” The robed man slid a couple inches closer to the huddled form, her body stiffening as he did.

“You are one of them.”

“One of whom?”

“Them what took my family and hurt them and sent them to the gallows to die. And now you have come for me.”

“My child, I am a priest, a servant of God. We don’t hurt people, and we don’t kill people. I am here only to care for you and hear your story and minister to your soul in whatever way I may. That is all.” The soft tone in his voice was almost convincing. Convincing enough to make the girl peer up a bit through her hair.

She pulled her knees tighter and brought back the words of her mother before they took her away the last time. “Tell them no more than you have to. Stretch it out as long as you can, for when they feel they have the all of it, that will be the end. Keep them asking and wanting for more till ‘you’ are ready. And only then give them the last piece. Keep your soul tight within you and never let them see it. You have been trained for this time. You may not think you are ready, but you must be.”

Over and over, she let her mother’s words echo through her head as she watched the man before her. She was no match for him. He was older, smarter and held the power of life and death in his hands. What if she failed? She knew that answer. She would swing like the rest had. Just like the dream. Only, she would not awake in a cell when the coarse rope slipped around her neck.

“You must trust me child.” Again, he inched closer to her, honey with just a hint of venom dripping from his words. “Let us begin at the beginning, shall we?”

And so the questioning began. It lasted deep into the night, till her lids could barely stay open, which she had to keep open or closer he would come again. Night after night he returned, probing deeper, asking more, till felt she had told the story a thousand times in just as many ways. Everything there was to know about her home, her family and even what happened when they were brought here.

“You beat her!” Eunice spat at him. “You raped her! I saw it. You did it right in front of me!”

“No, child. You are wrong. I never set eyes on you or any of your family until we began this.” His soft voice cooed.

“If not you, it was one of your kind and might as well have been you!”

“No child, you are mistaken. We are under vow of celibacy. I am sure you are confused as to what you saw. They tried to drive the demons from your poor mother. That you would see something so vile and profane shows that you have also been possessed. I just pray it is not too late to save your soul.”

“I didn’t realize that you drive demons out with your penis!” she shrieked at him.

“Enough child!”

He struck her hard, sending her spinning off the bench and across the floor of the cell. She grabbed her face where he had hit her and scampered into the far corner of the cell, fear and hatred sparking from her eyes as she watched him, holding the sobs she would not let him hear.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you!” He stood up and started to head toward her, stopping when she slunk tighter against the walls in the corner. “Maybe this is enough for tonight.” his voice softened. “I’ll leave you for the night and we’l begin again tomorrow.”


The dream, stronger than ever came again that night. The ropes, biting deeply into her wrists. She could feel every strand, every burr in the rough hewn rope. The smell of the outside air as she took her first step from the walls in who knows how long. It was not fresh air, the market areas seasoning that with the smells of rotting foods and fresh blood mingling in with it. But, it still had a taste of freedom that had been locked away from her. And she breathed it in. As deeply as she could. She wanted to take as much in as she could before it was taken away from her again.

And they turned. And the platform was there, with the stairs leading up far above her head. She knew what was at the top though. She didn’t need to see it to know it was there. And it was for her.

And the people were there. Watching faces, expectant faces, sad faces, hungry faces. They were here for the show. And she was the show. The guards took their time in leading her up the stairs. They wanted to extend the show as long as they could.

And then she was at the top and there it was dangling in front of her. And no matter how she tried to be strong, how hard she always tried to be strong, she couldn’t help but start crying when she saw it. And she had no strength as they led her to it and slipped it over her head and drew it tight against her neck. And she had just enough time to look out over the crowd one last time for just one friendly face before the bag dropped over her head. And the floor dropped out from under her. And she screamed.


She saw him start when she opened her eyes after the scream. Quickly, she curled back around herself in the corner. She could feel his eyes on her, burning into her. Each day she hated him more. Each day, she wished him to be the one tormented, the one the hammer blows were meant for that echoed through her head every day. She wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her face in the hollow of her arms.

Slowly, he began to speak from his place on the bench. At first so low, she could barely hear him. But, slowly his voice got louder, drawing her into the tale he was weaving. It spun about her head. a magic thread that drew her in and held her.

Her family, he said, had been suspected of consorting with demons for quite some time. The church had been watching them, keeping very careful records. Oh, they saw through the respectable charade they put up. The thriving business, the standing in the community. But, there were just too many things that didn’t add up, that weren’t natural. But, they had to wait to see how deeply was the family infected. Were there any that were still capable of saving?

Her mother, he said, was the most difficult to crack. In her lay the purest seed of the demon and she was the one that must be broken and broken completely. He knew she wouldn’t understand, it was after all, her mother they were talking about. But, they needed to cleanse the community of the evil within it. And her mother, with her beauty, her charisma, her way with simples and herbs, there was no question she was infected. And she had the mark, as had all of them. It was harder to find on her though. The demon hid it well on her.

He supposed that is what she saw when she thought they were defiling her. He could understand the confusion. And he had asked to be her confessor. He had, in fact, begged for it. He hoped with all hope that she could yet be redeemed. Even though she also bore the mark.

He cried as he spoke. And Eunice listened. Her heart hardening more with each word spoken. She moved not a single inch. She let loose no indication that she was even listening.

Finally, he seemed to have reached the end of what he had to say. He told her that his time was almost done. He would return tonight. So, she had the day to think of what she had to confess to free her soul before the morrow. He had done all he could and there was naught left he could do.

Quietly he got up from the bench and walked across the cell to have the guards let him out. And she was alone with her thoughts.


All day, her mother’s words echoed in her head. She would be ready. Yet, the fear chilled her bones. No, she was not ready. Her mother was wrong. She would never be ready.

She heard the door open and felt him enter before she saw him. He sat beside her and told her again it was their last night. This was the last chance she would have to clear her conscience and free her soul.

She broke down and began to cry.

“I’m afraid!” She stammered.

“I understand.” he replied softly.

“The dreams they still come. They come every night. They come every night and every night they are more vivid. And I am more frightened. And I know that tomorrow it won’t be a dream.” The sobs began to wrack her body.

“I know child. And I am here to help you meet the morrow confessed and ready for cleansing.”

“Hold me please” she begged him and brushed the hair from her face, showing her eyes, her mother’s eyes for the first time since this began.

Slowly he held out his arm and drew her slight form to him. Her arms wrapped around him, fingers digging lightly into his back, tears soaking into the front of his robe. He patted her head and hair gently, so like her mother’s hair, so like her in so many ways.

Slowly, her sobs began to quiet, she began to still and calm. Her fingers dug a little deeper into his sides and his memories drifted to the mother. Her questioning, her derision, her stubbornness. He held the child’s quieting form as he drifted back to that night when that woman fought him till it drove him to forget his vows. Her demons touched him and entered him, filling him with the desire, the need that must be filled. He held the child as he remembered mounting her mother, the power of God and the Mother Church filling him with the power as he drove himself into her, drove in to drive out the demons that had such a hold. And when he was spent, she lay in a crumpled heap, broken, all fight, all sense driven from her.

The child held tight to him as the memories flowed through his mind, exciting the demons again, proving they lived within the child as well. Causing him to spill his seed again. And still she held him. Quiet in his arms. Unaware of the small pool he left on the bench.


Dawn came quickly and the guards opened the door to the cell, rope in hand for leading her out.

As they rose, she smiled gently up at him, still calm. Then she touched the bench where they sat, where his seed had spilt and seemed to be christening herself. He watched in horror and crossed himsef. She was as damned as her mother. Together, they walked out the doors into the sunlight. A tiny tendril of hair slipped from under the cloak placed about her shoulders. Just a touch of gold against the drab gray of the fabric.

The ropes, so coarse and rough bit deeply into the tender flesh. All around, the faces of the villagers as they gathered for the execution. They could always be counted on for making the show. The faces, the voices, the smells. They created a fugue mind state and the climb up the steps was a blur. The calmness still holding even when they reached the top and the dangling rope loomed ahead. A few more steps and they found the mark and slowly brought the rope down, over the head and then the tightening around the neck.

One last look around at the crowd before they brought the sack down and there, off to the side! The dark cloak and the tiny shock of golden hair. And the face looked up just before the bag dropped down and he had one last glimpse before darkness of the smile that spread across her little face. Then the rope grabbed and his feet dangled in the air below him.

Eunice watched till there was no further movement left in the body, then turned and began to walk away. At the edge of the crowd the others were waiting for her. Just as she knew they would be. Not as many as there were before. But enough.

©Sephi PiderWitch 2011

Ghost Story

Lamia walked quickly down the lane,  Epona at her side, strutting in that cute way she had, tail fanning in the air and ears perked for every sound.  Pulling her cloak tightly about her as a chill wind picked up and etched against her skin. Not very fashionable in this age, but she had never much cared about fashion. It kept her warm, even through the winds, and she felt protected in its heavy folds. She glanced about her as she walked to see if any were marking her journey into this night. She was fairly certain no one would, at this deep hour and on this night of all nights. They would be huddled in their houses summoning prayers and wards against their fears of this night. She watched anyway, for the stray eye peeping from behind a curtain or through a cracked door. As it was, the people thought her wanderings odd and she preferred them to know as little about them as was possible. She saw no need to further stir their superstitions and fears unnecessarily. That, as well as her preference to keep her life as private as possible.

The night was clear save for a few wandering wisps of clouds dancing across the black blanket of the sky. The moon, not yet risen, lay hovering just below the horizon waiting for the proper moment to announce itself. Full, it would be and the closeness of its orbit promised it would light the sky and bathe the earth in silver showers.

She approached the gate just as the first glow illuminated the horizon before her. She paused for a moment to take in the birth shimmer, then reached out and opened the gate. It gave way with a slight moan and she looked again over her shoulder to make sure no one had heard it.  Quietly, she entered onto the narrow pebbled path and made her way along its twists and gentle hills, pausing every now and then to touch a headstone here, whisper a greeting to another off to the side, and listen for the soft replies.

Lamia took her time, breathing in the damp smell of decay mixed with the wild growth. She could feel about her the slow churning of the old and discarded into the new. The sleepy whispers of those who rested here were slowly beginning to awaken, and she listened quietly, a light smile on her lips as she took in their soft murmurs.

The veil was thinning already. She must hurry! She approached the large hill at the center and paused for her first look this night at the majestic tree on its crest. The patriarch, they called it, older than any could remember, older than their grandparents could remember. She called it the Spirit Keeper. Faces seemed to loom from the surface of its massive trunk, ghostly, surreal and changing with each shift of light upon it. It was as if all those who made their rest here had passed through it, leaving just a shade of themselves within it before moving on. At least it was so for those that had found the will to move on. Others tarried, out of confusion, fear, or desperation to cling to what was once theirs, but no longer could be, and some simply because they liked it here. And a small few because there was still something they had to shed before they could move on.

She climbed to the top of the hill, up to the base of the giant oak and placed her hands gingerly upon its surface. A gentle tingling sensation spread into her hands and up her arms. She had lost count of how many times she had stood in this same place, begun this ritual; it never seemed to lose its impact on her. She smiled at the deep lulling sound she heard in her head, that she knew to be a welcome. Then she sat her pack down at its base and began.

The small blanket was laid down first. Her welcome gift into the world, her mother’s as well, stitched with prayers and spells by her great grandmother. Next, came the candles. Six of them this night. The count was always different, but always just the number it should be. She needn’t know why, she would before it was done. She lit them one by one, offering a prayer with each one. Then she sat down on the blanket and removed the bread and cheese, placed them on a napkin, then her thermos. She opened it and poured herself a cup, brought it to her nose and let the warm vapors fill her head with the deep aroma of herbs and spices. She took a small sip, then picked up the bread and cheese and leaned back against her tree to watch the moon’s ascension.

The air seemed to still as the orb grew in its ascent Vaporous forms rose gently from the ground, like smoky tendrils of a cigarette on a lonely night. They hovered quietly just on the edge of her vision, sharing in her watch. Their quiet revelry carried into her and united her with them. She never felt alone when she was with her spirits, unlike how she felt when she was surrounded by the living world.

Lamia knew her kind were few, those that walked between the worlds, never truly belonging to either. But, it was only the living that feared that in her, thought her a witch, or worse, a necromancer. She did her best to fit in on the fringes, immersed just enough to appear acceptably eccentric. She made the obligatory appearances, though it drained her each time. Their chatter, from their minds as well as their mouths, rattled her. They seemed never content, never at home with the life they had, the place they had.

It was only here and away from the workings of the world that Lamia could feel at peace. The spirits, her spirits, were never in a hurry. Each moment took as long as it needed to. Each passage would happen when its time had arrived. And until then, they just existed in what was. Graveyards weren’t haunted as people often thought. She knew that if the spirit travelled here with its earthly body, it was ready to lay that other life aside. It understood that those things that most thought important in the world of the living became trifles when the flesh had become discarded. But, a few things still remained. Love always carried with them between the worlds. It was the thread that most often held them connected to the world before. And it was also the hardest to convince them that they would still have after they cut that thread to travel beyond.

The moon had fully risen now, its massive globe filling most of the sky just before her. She rose to bathe in its glory, then turned her head at the sound of soft laughter at her side. She joined in the laughter as she watched the child spirit chasing the moonflies in the darkness. She hadn’t seen this one before. How curious! Thought she had few dealings with the people, it was a small town and everyone knew of the birthings and passings of all its members. She knew older spirits to lay quietly for many years before coming forth from their earthy slumbers, but a child rarely tarried for long. Especially one as young as this one was! A tingling spread along her spine and Lamia knew this was the one she was sent for this evening. She motioned the young spirit over to her and sat back down to wait.

The child shade made her way slowly over, pausing every now and then to take a close look at something that caught her attention. Lamia smiled in amusement at the realization of how much like living children child spirits were.

They found her the next morning slumped against the tree, the hood of her cloak blown away from her face and her hair making streamers in the wind. The burnt out candles in a half circle in front of her. And in the center of them, a pile of flowers, all of them different, as if each had been brought from a different place and offered by a different hand. A couple of the women crossed themselves at the scene, but all lent a hand in carrying her body and gathering her remains to take back to town.

They buried her at the base of the great tree. They placed her on the bare side where nothing had ever been known to grow, away from the other graves. Unsure, they had to bury her in hallowed ground, but fear made them keep her away from the others. They placed a small headstone on her grave that read, “Lamia of our town. Born, we know not when. Died on this spot on, her body laid where its spirit left it.”

The next spring in the bare place where they had laid her, a blanket of flowers had sprung up, though all swore they had not planted a single seed. And every year thereafter, the flowers came back.

It is said that if you visit her grave at the right time of day and look up into the great tree and turn your head just right, you can see what looks like the hood of a cloak lifting up between the higher branches and the soft features of a woman’s face peering out from underneath, a taproot cascading down like a wayward tendril of hair. And on a night when the veils grow thin, when there is just the slightest of breezes in the air, if you find a place to sit under that great tree in the center, you might catch a stirring of low voices caught in the wind. And if you listen quietly, you might chance to hear a gentle woman’s voice beckoning to those that can’t find the way.

©Sephi PiderWitch 2011

It’s a Matter of Time

Aubrey made one final sweep with the piece of chalk she had in her hand, then smooched back and leaned against the tree and looked at her brother.

“Is it finished?”  he asked.

“What do you think?” Aubrey asked.  “Doesn’t it look finished to you?”

“I think most of them look finished many times before you say they are done.  So, I ask.”  He tossed one of her rags at her head, barely missing it.

“Well, we shall see how I did shortly.”  She replied.  

“You really don’t think they will notice?  I don’t see how they can’t.”

“People see what they want to see.  They’ll see everything else.  So no.  I don’t think they will see.  Now, let’s go back by those trees over there and watch.”

The street was always a busy one.  Today was no different.  The clouds in the sky didn’t affect it in the least.  But, the people did slow.  They slowed, many stopped, all stepped around the amazing chalk painting on the ground.  Large, luminous clouds covered the area, the buildings poking through and parting them in fits and bursts, the clock tower standing out taller than all the rest.  On the ground were people, hundreds of them.  Fleeing and screaming as the clouds unleashed a hellfire volley of lightening and rain at a velocity that pinned them to the ground.  

The pedestrians began to start in horror as they saw themselves in the figures in the chalk.  Some tried to wipe their image off.  But, the chalk held.  More terror rose in their throats at the discovery of this.  They began to swarm around the scene like hornets to a nest.  An elderly lady began laughing at them and their behavior.  A few people stopped and glared at her.

“Look at you all!” She said between giggles. “Afraid of a little paint on the ground.  Thinking that some brightly colored chalk will usher in the Armageddon. Such Nonsense.”  She laughed a couple more minutes, then opened her umbrella, pointed its tip at a spot in the painting that made her snicker, then lifted it over her head after giving a quick glance at the skies and wandered on her way.

Some of the other people began laughing as well.  Pretty soon, almost all of them were in peals of laughter at their silliness.  In the lightening of the spirit, they made note of the images they thought looked so like themselves.  Most began taking pictures and all began talking about the incident.

The bell on the clock tower began to toll 11 PM.  As it reached the last bell, the clouds overhead erupted into a barrage of lightening, hail and rain, driving all below to the ground.  A few tried to make a break from the storm, but a bolt of lightning stopped them in their path.  The storm ravaged for a few moments, just long enough to put an end to those below.  

“I told you someone would notice.”  He said before taking a bite out of the apple in his hand.

“But, no one took note of her.  So, in the end it is the same.”  She said as she began packing her chalks into their case. 

“Doesn’t it ever bother you?  All those people dying?”  he asked

“No.  They don’t have to.  They just need to look and really see.  Had they noticed, they would have left the area and gone somewhere safe.  Maybe not all of them, but at least some of them.”  She snapped the lid shut on her case and stood up.  “Its the job.  We need to cull those that lack the sense for them to survive.  Besides, this one was too easy for you to feel sorry for them.”

“I suppose you’re right.”  He took the last bite of the apple then tossed the core behind him.

They walked off, skirting around the painting, streaked and fading, but still intact.  Aubrey glanced once more at it, the clock tower looming high above the clouds.  Its hands read 11:00.  

©Sephi PiderWitch 2019

A Quiet Disturbed

Swirls of mist rose up from the ground, hovering gently above it, caressing it and checking its substance.  A stir breathed into it and moved it in swirls and undulations, soft glows emanating within its depths like bodies swimming and riding the currents.  Diffused faces looked around, disoriented, seemingly lost and confused.  The glows shifted in varied hues and shades of colors within the deepening churning mists, soft muted colors from gentle pastels to demure shades so dim as to be barely perceptible.  Occasionally, small sparks of light emerged as if a few tiny stars were trapped within and trying to escape.

The soft curtain of silence that was night became slightly severed with low unsettled whispers.  At first, it was but a couple, then it began to multiply, urgent, confused, questioning.  It sent ripples through the night air, awakening more spirits to join and bringing disquiet into this place of quiet sleep. 

A small voice cleared the murmurs of the others, a soft voice, but clear as a crystal bell.  “What has happened?  I slept, I dreamt, all was complete, I was divine.  I was alone and now there are many.  It was quiet, now it is disturbed.  There are so many!  How came I to be in not the place I should?”

The shimmer behind the voice looked about.  Their voices underlying the silence like the hum of a far off machine that is just within the hearing range and can’t be dismissed.  They permeated the air and sent ripples through it that made nerves ache.

The sky began to lighten as the morning sun slowly crept upward.  The unease grew within the voices, their movements quickening and the disturbance in the air rising.  Their glows began to fade as the light grew till all that remained was the mist and the murmurs of the disturbed air. 

Day crested and the gates were opened.  Soon, a group of people made a slow, ritual way inward, their eyes downcast, their purpose focused.  They found the assigned spot and began to take their places, waiting patiently for the last stragglers.  Some shifted uncomfortably for a time while others looked around them and still others simply stood in contemplative silence. 

They began.  And the disturbed mists felt them and made their way over.  They watched as the mists slipped in and about their feet as they began to speak.  The mist rose and thickened, and as it rose, they felt a weight that was beyond the weight of this day, a weight that was beyond theirs, and yet felt like it should be, descend upon them and envelop them.  As each took their turns to speak what they had come to say, they found other words issuing forth in the midst of their own, words that came from their mouths that were not theirs.  Their sorrows made more bare, amplified, as they felt the anguish of the displaced.

A small girl stood off at the end of the group, holding tightly to her mother’s hand.  She smiled as she looked to her side and saw the shimmer that was the small voice and they reached out to each other.  The girl looked up at her mother and tugged gently on her arm to tell her.  The mother leaned down and the girl told her of the shimmer that could no longer dream and the mists that had been forced out and had no home any more.  And the mother heard it and believed that the weight of the day had been too much for the girl and tried to console her and tell her it was but her imagination playing tricks upon her.  The girl sobbed and nodded, but never let go of the shimmer that held her hand.

As the last words were being spoken, the shimmer began to quiver and tightened her grip on the girl’s hand.  She tugged gently, imploring the girl to follow and wrapped the girl in the urgency and desperation that had become her.  Gently, the girl let her hand slip from her mother’s grip and let the shimmer wrap around her, cloaking her from the watchful eyes about.  They went to a quiet hill with an ancient tree upon it, stretching its limbs to protect the whole hill.  They sat under the tree as the shimmer told her story of her dreams disturbed and how she woke to find her place had become no place and of the others who once had a home and a place to rest and now had nowhere and were lost. 

The voices of the party echoed across the area, frantic and imploring.  They watched as they wandered around the area under the hill and sat silent, the great limbs of the tree hiding them from their seekers.  The shimmer held tight to the girl, begging her to stay there so she would not be alone in this strange open place.  The girl nodded and sobbed, for the shimmer’s sorrows as much as the fear of what the party would do to her once she was found.

As the party searched, the mists followed, circling the members of the group and wailing out at them.  Their wails sparked fears in the party and they looked to the sky for the storm they believed to be approaching. The search grew more frantic and harried and the people darted in every direction, fear gripping at them like a stalker.

The mother came up around the back of the hill and that’s where she found them.  The mists converged on her as she fell to her knees at what was before her and wept.  The others came rushing and looked with horror with her at the jumbled wreckage of the discarded.  It was like peering into a dragon’s cave.  The remains were tossed in piles and strewn across the ground like discarded refuse.  Remnants and shards dotted solitary areas.  Eyeless holes peered out at them and skeletal hands reached out as if for help.  They shouted and made calls and soon there were very many more.  Many needed to untangle and make sense of the chaotic tangle of all these remains.  Many needed to help piece each back together and make whole again, many to find answers and demand a reckoning.

A small lone form was the first to be put back in its place, gently lifted and given a new warm place to lie with soft cushions all around.  As she was laid reverently onto the cushions, the young one with the laughter of a thousand bells and stars shining in her eyes, the girl felt the shimmer begin to release its grip and felt a gentle brush against her cheek.  The shimmer settled in and once again dreamt and once again was divine.

©Sephi PiderWitch 2009