Every year I participate in NaNoWriMo… short for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been doing this for 18 years and although I rarely reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days and I never finish my novel, it’s okay. The ultimate goal is just to write. So I do that every year. I have 18 plus novels started and maybe one day I will finish one.
Dark Side of the Moon 2008
The cold penetrated her skin, her mind, and her heart, and she wasn’t sure if it was worse than the fear or not. Cassie wondered if her decision about moving to San Francisco was a good idea. It had sounded so glamorous and exciting and warm. And she had hoped, friendly. But none of these had been the case since she stepped off the bus from Goldhill. She considered getting back on the bus to go home, but that thought made her shiver even more.
Cassie pulled her blue fleece coat closer across her body and pulled her hood down in an attempt to get a little warmer. Suddenly aware she wasn’t alone, Cassie looked up to see a large woman standing in from of her. The woman’s dark clothing made her blend in with the dark foliage around her. Cassie just looked up at her and wasn’t sure if she should say anything or not. She didn’t want to appear rude and say anything to offend the woman who very obviously was a bag lady.
But the woman spoke first…
Cassie nodded again.
The woman pointed to a storefront at the edge of the park…. It had dim lights on where the rest of the stores didn’t have any lights on at all, except for one or two blue or green neon lights.
“Go there. They help”.
Then the woman shuffled away. Cassie turned to look again, and while not exactly welcoming, it did beckon to her. She grabbed her two bags and stood up, only to fall down on the bench again. Her legs were so cold; she was finding it hard to feel her feet enough to walk. She stood up again and let her body get its bearings and then picked up one bag and then the other and slowly made her way to the lighted store.
Cassie stood at the doorway and looked inside. The store look liked a cross between a Baskin Robbins ice cream store and a school cafeteria. It had two florescent lights hanging down from a very high ceiling. Each fixture looked to need 6 light bulbs, but only one or two actually worked with gave the large room a very dingy look. The floor was a cement floor painted in a diamond pattern in blue and gray. It looked like a group project as each diamond was a different size, shape, and intensity. On one side was a series of food counters, originally white, but now more grayish and dented and scratched. On the other side of the room was a hodgepodge of tables and chairs in different sizes and colors.
“Either come in or go out, but close that god-damn door,” Screamed a voice with a French accent.
Startled, Cassie stepped in and let the door close behind her. She slowly walked over to an empty table, kicked her bags underneath it, and sat down timidly on one of the chairs.
A girl walked up to her with a hot steaming mug.
“You look like a tea kind of girl, right?”
Cassie nodded as the girl put the mug down in front of her. Cassie wrapped her hands around the warm mug of tea and then carefully brought it up to her lips for a sip. The hot liquid soothed and warmed as it went down her throat. Cassie closed her eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks. When she opened her eyes, the girl was watching her closely.
“Are you hungry too?”
“Yes, thank you. What is this place?”
The girl answered, “It’s kind of halfway house for night people…” Her voice sounded amused. A boy with black hair and thick black eyeliner yelled from the corner…
“It’s more like a halfway house for us strung out street kids!!” and then laughed at his own inside joke.
“Yeah, that too….” Giggled the girl.
“My name is Gabrielle; the loudmouth over there is Nevan. You’ll get to know the rest of us… that is if you are staying. Are you?”
“I don’t know.”
Cassie studied the girl who seemed so animated and friendly. She had long black hair in pigtails that hung down above each ear, with both ears heavily pierced. She was dressed all in black, wore black eye makeup, complete with very long eyelashes, white lipstick, and black fingernail polish. Yet, Cassie liked Gabrielle immediately. Then she noticed the blue crystal in the middle of Gabrielle’s forehead. Gabrielle noticed her looking, and her own eyes looked upward.
“Isn’t that cool? It’s called a bindi. I can get one for you if you want one.”
Then Gabrielle danced away to get Cassie’s food.
Cassie looked around the room while she waited for Gabrielle to bring her food. The young man with the French accent was in the back. Various tables had several people at that, most of them young and most of them in Gothic dress. One girl sat at a small round table, flipping out tarot cards and giving readings to an invisible customer. In the back, a couple of boys sat leaning back in their chairs with their feet on the table watching a rather ancient looking black and white TV. Not far from them was a doorway with a dark green army-type blanket hanging from the top.
Gabrielle arrived with a tray of food and set it down in front of Cassie. It contained a plate of steaming mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken and carrots and peas. In her other hand, she held a small blue teapot and refilled Cassie’s tea mug.
Cassie looked at the food and suddenly realized just how hungry she really was. Gabrielle whipped out another tea mug from the pocket of her apron.
“Do you mind if I sit with you while you eat?” she asked.
“No,” answered Cassie as she started to stuff a piece of chicken in her mouth. Gabrielle handed her a pink cloth napkin and then poured herself a cup of tea. When Cassie looked surprised that it was a cloth napkin and not a paper one, Gabrielle said, reading her mind,
“We’re huge on ecology around here. Why kill a tree if you don’t have to?”
Cassie nodded as she continued eating. In between mouthfuls of food, she started asking questions.
“You said this was a halfway house? Halfway for what? Who are all of these people? Where does that doorway lead? Who owns and runs this place? Why are you here? Where did you come from? Are you from San Francisco?”
“Whoa, girl, slow down,” said Gabrielle as she leaned back in her chair and put her hand out to stop the barrage of questions. “One thing at a time.”
Gabrielle took a sip of her tea, and Cassie watched her expectantly while she continued to eat her meal.
First of all… I’m from a little town in New Mexico… you probably have never heard of it, and I’m trying to forget it. I came to San Francisco about four years ago with some friends… you know, trying to recapture the old hippie culture.”
“How…” started Cassie.
“How old am I?” finished Gabrielle, “I’m 24, how old are you?”
“Oh, okay… so I’m just a little bit older and was when I arrived. But I bet our reasons are similar.”
“God, I hope not,” whispered Cassie.
“You might be surprised,” said Gabrielle, and then waving her hand towards the others in the room, “Most of us come here for many of the same reasons. We are loners, different, abused, scared, were picked on and harassed, or ignored, abandoned.”
“Okay,” thought Cassie to herself, “Maybe they are.”
Gabrielle continued answering questions.
“The owner of this fine establishment…” Gabrielle waited for a giggle that didn’t come, “Is a woman that we call Lady Francesca. She runs a Gothic nightclub called the Dark Side of the Moon. Actually, her husband, Adrian Byron, owns it, but Lady Francesca does all of the work. On the side, she helps us poor runaways and street children. We like to call ourselves Night People.”
“Why does she do this?” asked Cassie.
“Because she once was one of us too, and she vowed that one day she would help us when no one helped her.”
“Is she here now”? asked Cassie.
“No, but she will arrive later, I’m pretty sure of that. She always comes in just before dawn to, kind of, ya know, tuck us all in for the day..”
Cassie looked at Gabrielle very strangely. What an odd kind of comment. Tuck them in for the day? But before she could ask what Gabrielle had meant by her statement, the door opened, and the wind blew in a very tall person literally cloaked from head to toe in black. After the door closed behind him, he very dramatically threw back the cloak and his arms straight up in the air.
“Good evening, my fair, frightening foes… How is everyone on this dismal, dark night?”
The man, or boy, or Cassie, wasn’t sure what to call him, didn’t actually yell, but spoke in a thunderous and booming voice.
Again, Gabrielle answered the question before Cassie could ask.
“And that, my friend, is Azrael, the Angel of Death!” Gabrielle announced with a dramatic gesture of her arms.
“Is he for real?” asked Cassie in an almost breathless way.
“Well, he thinks he is, but we try to not judge one another around here. We each have our own fantasy life, and often times it ‘bleeds’ through to our realities.”
Cassie caught the way that Gabrielle emphasized the word bleed. It made her just a little uneasy. In fact, many things Gabrielle said made Cassie just a bit uneasy.
Azrael looked down at Cassie with more interest than she felt was comfortable. He had very white skin that didn’t look like makeup, red-rimmed eyes, and large black pentagram earrings that pulled down the lopes of his eyes. When he smiled, Cassie gasped when she saw vampire fangs!!
Then Azrael pulled his cape around himself, again in that dramatic theatrical way, and seemed to just glide away. Cassie could feel her mouth drop to the floor, and before she had a chance to close it again, Giraud stomped over to their table. The contrast between the two males was almost startling.
“Gab-ree-el,” said Giraud, enunciating each syllable, “Is your little one here planning on staying the night? If so, we need to make up another bed for her.”
Gabrielle rested her chin on her hand and turned to Cassie.
“That is a good question. Are you planning to stay with us tonight, Cassie? Do you have anywhere else to go?”
Cassie wasn’t sure what to say. She looked out the door at the cold, damp park, where it was pretty dark and, to her, pretty scary. But then she looked at the people around her. Was the park any scarier than staying here? She then looked at Gabrielle, and something about her eyes told her that Gabrielle was someone Cassie could trust and depend on. She believed that Gabrielle would protect her from anything peculiar happening to her. After all, she had been in the same situation herself. And curiosity was overcoming fear, as Cassie really wanted to meet this Lady Francesca.
“Yes, thank you, I would like to stay the night if that is okay.”
Giraud just rolled his eyes and said, “This bab-ee is just too polite…” and turned on his heel and walked away.
Cassie turned to Gabrielle.
“What do I have to do, or pay, to stay here. Surely, it’s not just free?”
“No problem, yes, there is no cost to stay here. If you do decide to stick around for a while, we ask for some work in exchange for room and board… meaning food and a bed.”
“What kind of work?”
“Oh, no worries, nothing illegal or dangerous. Just help in cleaning up, serving food, that kind of thing. Straightforward stuff, really.”
Cassie nodded. That was something she thought she could do. Gabrielle stood up and gestured for Cassie to follow her. Cassie picked up her bags and followed behind Gabrielle as they went through the door with the blanket curtain and up a staircase that.
Stopped at the landing and double backed in the same direction up to the second floor. They then entered another doorway that was covered with a blanket curtain. Again, as if Gabrielle could read her mind, she said… “The blankets help keep in the heat and the noise out; they seem to work better than actual wood doors.”
Gabrielle led Cassie into a large room with what looked like army cots lining both sides of the room. They walked down the center of the room to a bed closest to the one window, covered by two army blankets that served as drapes.
“You can have this bed. I can promise you that the sheets, mattresses, and pillows are spotless. Lady Francesca is almost obsessive about that. We even have our own laundry facility so we can wash them on just about a daily basis. There are three blankets here; let me know if you need more. There is a chest of drawers over there in case you would like to unpack. I can also assure you that your things will be safe. We all consider ourselves to be a family here, and family doesn’t steal from family.”
“I guess you don’t know my family,” said Cassie.
“No,” said Gabrielle, “but I know families like yours. That’s why I’m here. That’s why we all are here. We wanted something better than what we had.”
Gabrielle smiled and put her hand on Cassie’s shoulder.
“I’ll let you get settled. If you are tired, feel free to go to bed. Although most of us rarely go to bed until morning. If you are not tired, come back downstairs for another cup of tea and get to know the rest of the group. Okay?”
Cassie nodded, and Gabrielle turned and left the room. Cassie sat down on the bed and was pleasantly surprised that it was much more comfortable than she had expected.
For the time being, she just pushed her two bags under the bed. She still wasn’t sure what to think.
“It’s hard to know who to trust, isn’t it?”
Cassie jumped, startled by the voice; she didn’t realize that she wasn’t alone. She turned around to face the voice.. but she still couldn’t see where it came from. Then a young girl walked out of the dark shadows into the light so Cassie could see her.
“Welcome to Sanctuary. My name is Kali.” The girl was smiling as she walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. Kali looked to be the same age as Cassie; she had long black hair and the most vivid pale blue eyes Cassie had ever seen. It made her own hazel eyes look and feel like mud.
“The Sanctuary?” stammered Cassie.
“Yes, that’s what we call this place. I take it that you are new.. Your first day here? Your first time away from home? Are you a runaway too?”
Cassie was still so stunned by Kali’s eyes, she couldn’t even answer. Kali started laughing, a laugh that literally sounded like faeries bells. Cassie closed her eyes and shook her head. Where the hell did that come from? She didn’t even know what faerie’s bells sounded like. Did Gabrielle spike her tea with something?
Kali laughed again and gently took Cassie’s hand on to hers.
“That’s okay, let’s go downstairs. I do believe that Giraud is taking some freshly baked pumpkin pies out of the oven as we speak. Nothing quite as good as hot pumpkin pie and a cold glass of milk.”
Cassie was stunned again. For some reason, a girl who looked like Kali and a cold glass of milk just didn’t seem to go together. But she allowed Kali to lead her back out of the bedroom and down the stairs. In some ways, Cassie felt like she was under some kind of magical spell of Kali’s.
“Oh, what have I gotten myself into,” she thought, feeling just a little panicky.
Kali and Cassie pushed past the blanket curtain into what before had felt cold and garish into a room that now felt warm, softly lit by dozens of candles with someone playing a guitar ever so softly. The inviting fragrance of cinnamon and cloves from the pumpkin pies tugged at Cassie’s nostrils and memory. It had been a long time since she had had pie of any kind. Not since her grandmother had died, and that seemed like a lifetime ago.
At her house, her parents didn’t understand the need for food being comforting and nurturing. At her house, you were lucky to find cold pizza and stale beer. Sometimes they would buy Cheerios and Spaghetti-o’s, cracking up by the “o” symmetry. When they got high, they had this weird thing about circles.
Kali and Cassie sat down at a table, and Gabrielle brought them a tray that had plates of pie slices, topped with vanilla ice cream, and cups of tea for the three of them. Cassie sniffed at the tea.
“What’s in it?” she asked suspiciously.
“Oh,” said Gabrielle, with a smirk on her face… “It’s my secret recipe… I call it “hot water and teabag”! What were you expecting? Something exotic like LDS?”
“Gab, that’s LSD,” corrected Kali.
“Okay, whatever….” Gabrielle spooned a large bite of pumpkin pie, with ice cream melting all over it, into her mouth and closed her eyes… “Mmm… this is the best.”
Cassie took a bite of the pie, and she had to agree it was pretty amazing. It brought some lovely memories of her childhood. Memories that she thought she had lost. As they ate the pie and drank their tea, one by one, the others in the room moved over to their table and started introducing themselves. The first was Nevan, as Cassie remembered Gabrielle pointing him out when she first arrived. He pulled a chair out and turned it around to sit on it backward. He welcomed her to the group. At first, all Cassie had noticed was his black hair and black eye make up. But on closer inspection, she saw that his eyes were the violet color of a sunset just before it went to black. His skin was pale, and his eyes almond-shaped, but he didn’t appear to be Asian in ethnicity. His black hair was thick, coarse, and straight and reminded you of a horse’s mane…. Short on top and very long in the back, it fell almost to his waist. Cassie felt a little envious and wished her hair was as long and beautiful as Nevan’s. He was tall, but almost everyone felt tall to Cassie, and he had broad shoulders, much like a football player wearing shoulder pads. Maybe he was under his long black coat. When Nevan sat down, she noticed he was also wearing ripped and shredded black denim jeans and shiny black boots with at least three buckles.
Then Azrael came over and bent down on one knee next to Cassie’s chair. He took Cassie’s hand and stroked it very softly, which sent chills up and down Cassie’s spine.
“My name is Azrael.” He practically purred as he said his own name. “But you already knew that didn’t you,” he said coyly, looking at her through the longest eyelashes she had ever seen. “Perhaps, we knew one another in a previous life, hmm?”
“Azrael!!” said Gabrielle sharply while swatting him away at the same time. “Give the poor girl a chance to get to know us before you start taking her down dark alleys of past life regression, okay?”
Although just slightly dejected, Azrael was good naturally winked at Cassie and got up to sit in one of the chairs around the table. Cassie couldn’t take her eyes off this guy. He frightened her, and yet at the same time, he intrigued her in a way no one else had. He had black eyes that looked like two pieces of obsidian stones. His thick, wavy, shoulder-length hair was the color of the midnight sky, black with hints of dark blue, and was worn pulled back in a ponytail secured at the neck. He had a beard and a mustache, and for some reason, made her think of Rasputin in the stories about Anastasia. Azrael’s skin was dark like he had a slight tan, and his black clothing made him appear both pale and tanned at the same time. Besides his black velvet cloak, he was wearing what appeared to be a robe that a priest or monk might wear. It, too, was black.
Finally, Giraud started to warm up to having Cassie on the premises.
“Did you like my pie, little one?” he asked her.
“Yes, it was wonderful, thank you. I haven’t had anything as good as that in a long time.”
This compliment pleased Giraud, and he held out his hand and introduced himself.
“My name is Giraud Lucien Thibodeau. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Thank you, it’s nice to meet you as well. Are you from Canada or from France?”
At first, he looked a little insulted, and then he smiled and then laughed.
“I am from France, by route of Canada.”
And everyone laughed. The tension in the room had finally lifted, and Cassie felt much more at ease.
Giraud appeared to be the most normal-looking of the group. His eyes were blue and his hair like a blond Californian surfer. He wore simple blue denim jeans and a white tee-shirt along with a white chef’s apron folded in half and tied at the waist.
More cups of tea and coffee were poured as each one told the story of how they came to Sanctuary. Their life stories included the familiar woes of emotional abuse, being bullied at school, ignored by most everyone around them, parents who didn’t care what they did or didn’t do. The more everyone talked, the less Cassie remembered of their stories. She was having a hard time keeping her eyes open and her mind conscious. She wondered if it would be rude of her to say good night and climb the stairs to a warm, comfortable bed.
Just as Cassie was about to plead extreme fatigue, the door from the outside opened, and in walked the most stunning and startling beautiful woman Cassie had ever seen. She was inhumanly tall, at least nearly 7 feet in height, and muscular and athletic in build but also with huge breasts, which were hard to miss in her bright orange leather low cut dress, which showed off a gorgeous cleavage. Her skin was the color of a Hershey bar, her eyes a dark brown that almost verged on black.
She wore her black curly hair short but thick and sensual.
Azrael was the first to his feet to greet the woman. With arms outstretched, he welcomed her in a soft hug and kiss on each cheek.
“Francesca! We were all wondering when you would finally arrive.”
If Cassie was sleepy before, she was now totally awake. This woman did not just walk in a door; she made a grand entrance. Cassie’s jaw had dropped open so wide that Gabrielle reached over, put her hand under Cassie’s chin, and gently pushed her mouth shut. That’s when Cassie came out of her trance and realized that she had been staring. Several others in the group giggled behind their hands until Cassie glanced their way with a sharp look.
“Don’t worry, Cassie,” said Gabrielle, “we all had pretty much that same reaction the first time we saw Francesca.”
Kali smiled and got up from her chair and walked over to Francesca, and greeting her warmly with a hug and a rather intimate kiss on the lips.
“Lady Francesca,” said Kali taking her by the arm, “We have someone we’d like you to meet. She has been anxious to meet you as well.”
Kali guided Francesca to the table. Gabrielle stood up, and since Cassie felt uncomfortable being the only one sitting, she also rose from her chair.
“Lady Francesca, I would like you to meet Cassie. Cassie, this is the Lady Francesca Ryce, our kind benefactor.”
Cassie wasn’t sure if she should shake the woman’s hand, kiss her on the cheeks, or curtsy! But she didn’t have time to worry about protocol since Francesca reached for Cassie’s hand, and held it gently between her own, and then pulled her close from a warm but quick hug.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Cassie. I hope everyone is treating you well? Are you planning to stay with us for a while?” Lady Francesca asked sincerely.
“Uh… I… don’t, not sure”, stuttered Cassie.
Kali and Gabrielle came to her defense.
“Cassie is a runaway…”
“We don’t think she had any clear destination…..”
“She is planning on staying the night….”
“Wonderful!” said Francesca. “I hope you will stay on for as long as you can. Where did you come from?”
Cassie had a hard time looking at Francesca in the eye, so she tended to keep her eyes on the floor.
“A small town in Washington called Goldhill.” Said Cassie very quietly.
“Well, my dear… their loss is our gain.” Said Francesca in a kindly tone. “Gabrielle, could we all sit down for a cup of your nice tea, so we can all get to know each other better?”
After tea had been served in cups and mugs to everyone sitting around the table, Cassie realized that everyone else had told their story except for her. And then she understood. They were all waiting for Francesca to arrive, so they could all hear it at the same time.
Cassie sat quietly in her chair, feeling very nervous about what was expected of her. Francesca took a sip of her tea and looked at Cassie over the edge of her teacup. Then she placed her cup on the table and folded her hands, and looked directly at Cassie.
“We welcome you to our little family, Cassie. And we would very much like to hear your story. Obviously, something happened that caused you to run away from home. Could you tell us about it?”
Cassie now felt even more nervous. Like Kali said, it was hard to know who to trust. But they all had been very kind to her and had welcomed her without judgment, fed her, gave her a warm place to sleep. Although she had just arrived a few hours ago, she already felt at home. Much more than she ever had at her real home.
Cassie looked down at her hands that she clasped together uneasily. She took a deep breath before answering…
“I left home because I turned my parents into Child Protective Services.”
Cassie stopped and looked up when no one said a word. Nevan gestured to her as encouragement.
“My parents, whose lives revolved around drugs and alcohol and seemed to forget that they had 6 kids to take care of. My mother was so stoned she gave birth to the last baby at home and didn’t even remember it. I took care of the baby. I didn’t go to school. I didn’t talk to anyone. When I ran out of formula and diapers, and they wouldn’t go to the store to get anymore, I felt like I didn’t have any choice. The baby was only 2 weeks old.”
She stopped momentarily when she felt her eyes well up with tears.
“The only food the other kids got was at school. It just didn’t seem right.”
The girl who had been using the tarot cards spoke to her for the first time.
“Didn’t CPS ever come out to your house before?”
Cassie remembered that she had said her name was Rain Brie. She looked at her and nodded.
“Lots of times. There should be a file a mile high!” Cassie almost smirked at the irony… Lots of visits by authorities who did nothing but write things down in their files.
“One caseworker even told me that I should be “grateful,”” Cassie made the quotes gesture with her fingers, “that I had both of my parents to live with. Most kids were not quite so lucky, she said. Yeah, right… lucky. Lucky that mother slapped me around because I didn’t take care of the kids good. Lucky because my uncle raped me, and my father beat me with his belt. Lucky because I was the one who always was blamed when the kids made a mess, or made noise, or talked back, or whatever…”
Cassie put her head down on the palm of her hand with her elbow propped up on the table. She felt angry, hurt, sad, all at the same time. Rain got up from her chair and walked around the table to where Cassie was sitting. She knelt down and put one around Cassie’s shoulders and the other on her arm.
“It’s okay, Cassie. It’s okay to be angry and to cry. We do understand. Many of us have been in the same place.”
That was all it took. All of those mixed emotions finally started pouring out in what felt like buckets of tears. Others reached over to pat her arm or stroke her hand.
“I packed my bags, called CPS, and went outside to hide behind a tree. I wanted to make sure they came and got the baby. I saw them bring my mother out. She was fighting them and screaming threats. All she was dressed in was a pair of underpants, and my dad’s white shirt. A cop pushed her into the backseat of the police car, and she started kicking at the car windows and screaming some more.
I’m glad the other kids were at school and didn’t have to see this. Then a first aid car drove up, and they went into the house with a stretcher. First, a paramedic came out with the baby, all wrapped up in a blanket. I’m glad it was the pink one that I left on her crib. Then they brought my dad out on the stretcher… he was so stoned he couldn’t even walk out on his own.”
Cassie dried her eyes and wiped her nose with a tissue someone had handed to her.
“I guess they went to the school to pick up the others. I sure hope so.”
Cassie looked at the faces, all watching her around the table. She started to cry again.
“I feel so guilty about leaving my brothers and sisters. But I just couldn’t take it anymore!”
Cassie suddenly stood up and pounded on the table.
“People like that don’t deserve to have one child, let alone six!! It’s just not fair!!”
Francesca stood up and walked over to Cassie. Rain backed away to give her room. Francesca put her hands on both sides of Cassie’s face.
“Cassie, listen to me. You have done nothing wrong. It’s not your fault. A sixteen-year-old child should not have to deal with that kind of responsibility.”
She pulled Cassie against her ample breasts in a strong hug. Cassie melted into sobs and returned Lady Francesca’s hug. It was the first time in a long time she felt safe enough to hug anyone.
Francesca moved slightly away from Cassie and turned to look out the Sanctuary’s store front’s large windows.
“Well, my children. I’m sure Cassie is very tired and terribly overwhelmed. I think she would appreciate being able to get some much-needed sleep, oui, mon petit?”
Cassie wiped away the tears from her eyes and nodded.
Gabrielle and Kali rose and came to both sides of Cassie.
“We will make sure that Cassie is made comfortable, Francesca.” Promised Gabrielle.
The girls gently turned Cassie and guided her towards to doorway and staircase. Cassie stopped and turned back to look at Lady Francesca.
“Thank you, Lady Francesca. Both for your understanding and your hospitality.” Said Cassie.
“It’s my pleasure, Cassie,” said Francesca. “Us lost ones need to stick together and help one another as much as possible. Sleep well, my darling. I know things do not seem very positive right now for you and that you are scared. But I promise that things will improve.”
Cassie stared at her for a moment, wondering how she could be so sure. But she had this uncanny feeling that Lady Francesca did. It was like she could see into the future.
Cassie followed Gabrielle up the stairs while Kali was right behind her. The three walked silently to Cassie’s bedside.
“Do you have some that you like to sleep in? I suggest that you don’t sleep skyclad”, said Gabrielle, slightly giggling.
“Skyclad?” asked Cassie.
“Naked. Clad only with the air, the sky.”
“No,” answered Cassie, “I usually slept in my clothes because I never knew when I had to get up with one of the kids or the baby…” Cassie paused, “Or one of my parents.”
“No problem,” said Kali… “I’ll be right back.”
It what seemed like just seconds, Kali had left the room and returned. Over her arm was a soft white nightgown.
“Here, try this on… I think it will fit you well”, said Kali
Gabrielle helped Cassie pull off her dirty tee shirt and jeans and let the nightgown cascade over her arms, head, and shoulders. The nightgown smelled heavenly,
Like every happy memory, Cassie had in her lifetime. It was as soft as a cloud and seemed to glow softly in the darkened room.
“Cassie, would you mind if we washed your clothing?” asked Gabrielle cautiously.
Cassie shook her head no. Gabrielle discretely picked up Cassie’s two bags and started for the door.
“Sleep well, Cassie. You’re safe here. Let us know if you need anything at all”.
Then Gabrielle went downstairs.
Kali pulled the blanket and bedsheets back and gestured for Cassie to get into bed. Cassie did as she was told. It felt so good, and so new, to have someone care, to have someone take care of her for a change.
“Gabrielle is right, Cassie; you are safe here. We won’t let anyone hurt you. We won’t leave you. Giraud will have breakfast ready for you when you get up…” Kali looked out the window and smiled.
“Well, maybe not breakfast since it’s almost dawn. But there will be a warm meal for you when do you wake up. Gabrielle will bring your clothes back to you, clean and folded; she is terrific about that. There is a shower around the corner, with shampoo and a heavenly lavender and chamomile shower gel… we all love it. You will feel so much better after some sleep and a nice hot shower. Okay?”
Cassie just nodded, barely able to keep her eyes open anymore.
“Thank you, Kali. Please tell everyone else, thank you too, okay?”
“They know, sweetie… now go to sleep.”
Cassie was asleep even before Kali had left her bedside. Kali stroked the side of Cassie’s face and turned to go downstairs.
Us vs Them 2014
I thought it was just a dream, but it really was a visitation, to a parallel universe, in a different realm, in a higher dimension. A place that the people who lived there called “The Place”. And my home was called “Your Place”. And I was a Stranger in a Strange Place. At first, I thought this was another planet, but I realized it was much more than that as I looked around and wandered around. Was this the otherside, what some people called Heaven, and others called Nirvana, and still others called The Summerlands? There was no war in this world, no politics, no religion, no marriage, no money. People worked at what they did best and what interested them. Everything was shared with the community at a central market place. There was no greed, no jealousy, no anger, no aggression. The calm and peace amongst the residents here were incredible, but the intense energy was even more. People came to the market place and took home what they liked, what interested them, what they wanted. Everyone knew that in the end, it all balanced out. Computers and electronics were important for education and entertainment. When something went wrong with them, the owner would simply ask a tech to fix it, who would enter quietly, fix the problem, and then go on their way. The most surprising of the culture here was the idea of sex. Sexual expression was the primary way of interacting with one another… it was for fun, for entertainment, sometimes just simply a way to say thank you. There was no stigma attached to it, no matter how it was practiced. This amazed me most of all. Where I came from, people were judged the most harshly about what they did or didn’t sexually. The people here engaged in sex as casually as we hugged someone or shook their hands. There was no need to keep it behind closed doors because everyone here was also very psychic. Which meant they knew what you were doing anyway. Because of their psychic abilities, there was no lying, no stealing, no physical attacks. The concept of forcing oneself on another was so foreign. No molestation or rape ever occurred here; everything was by complete consent by all parties involved. The people of my world, most of them anyway, would be shocked in the different directions these sexual desires manifested. Of course, I knew in my world, aspects of these kinds of sex acts happened too, but they were kept very quiet with few people talking about it, even among themselves. Here it was just the opposite. Everyone would know if there was an aggressive act on anyone; their psychic abilities made sure of that. On the infrequent occasions that someone did commit a crime like this, the only punishment was death. There was no discussion about it, no defense, no courts, no lawyers. There was also no denial about it. The person admitted their guilt, and death was carried out quickly, but with great reverence and respect. This brought up the idea of death and birth here. Was death grieved? If there was so much sexual activity, was their birth rate very high? Who took care of the children? The people who acted as my guides, and these changed often, at first looked at me like I was speaking a language they didn’t understand and then nodded when they finally did comprehend my questions. They all soon realized that I couldn’t read their minds like they could mine, so they would have to use their voices to explain their traditions to me. When one guide handed me off to another, they would communicate this need to them, so eventually, they would stop looking at me so strangely. Death was something they took quite seriously, even the death of someone who died as punishment. They grieved the loss of the person as if they had lost a part of themselves, for that is how they saw it. Each one of them is a cell in the larger body, the body of the whole community, perhaps even the body of a Higher Power, and of God, as that was how they saw themselves, as God. It is not a God as a deity off in some lofty place, but each of them as God him or herself and as a part of the whole God. Some people in my world consider this to be a concept called the Christ-consciousness, with “Christ,” meaning “knowing”, but not necessarily in regards to one person. When someone died, either because of the rare crime or it was their time, they celebrated the soul returning to the otherside, reuniting with their friends and family there, and preparing for a new journey. They see life in “This Place” as a journey, a vacation. So it was then that I learned this was not Heaven as I often imagined Heaven to be, but more like an aspect of the otherside.. each one stepping stone of life experiences that souls take each time they incarnate somewhere. My dimensional world, one of the lower dimensions, was just one of many… how many no one could tell me. The afterlife is simply a place souls go between physical incarnations in the different dimensional worlds. When I first arrived in this world, I was naked, mute, and blind, much like a newborn baby. I had no idea where I was or why I was here. I “awoken” sitting on the grass in a park on a sparkling sunny day. No one seemed to be distressed to see me sitting there, with no clothing on, feeling frightened. Most people just looked at me and smiled and nodded and went on their way, until two people, a man and a woman, stopped and looked down at me knowingly. They seemed to know who I was and why I was there, even if I didn’t. The man reached down to me with both hands and pulled me to my feet. He wasn’t much taller than I was but had solid muscular arms and a narrow torso. I was surprised that although I felt like an infant, all of my memories and thought processes were intact. This man appeared to be in his 20’s and was wearing what looked like pale green hospital scrubs that matched his large vivid green eyes. His hair was brown and curly and flowed down to his shoulders. He gazed into my eyes, and I was mesmerized by him. He didn’t say anything, just smiled at me, but gave me the impression he was waiting for me to speak to him. When I didn’t, he looked at the woman who was standing at his side. She was just a little shorter than me with very long gray hair that fell over her shoulders as she bent down to run her hands over my arms and legs. I sensed immediately that she might be a doctor of some kind. She also seemed older than her companion. She wore a long gray dress and had a black tattoo on the side of her neck. They looked back and forth to one another and back to me before realizing that I couldn’t communicate with them in their normal manner. The man spoke first and said, “We know who you are and why you are here.” The woman then asked me, “Are you feeling okay? Does anything hurt?” At first, I wasn’t sure what these comments and questions meant or why they were asking me these questions. Then the woman spoke again. “Sometimes when you astral travel, it can be hard on both the physical and ethereal bodies. It will take you a few minutes to become acclimatized to this new realm.”
I slowly started to understand what they were saying. My last memory was being asleep in my own bed. A young girl that I estimated to be a young teen walked up to us carrying a bundle in her arms. She smiled shyly at me and reached towards me, handing me what turned out to be a long white robe. “Thank you,” I said.. the first words I had said since being found on the grass. She seemed startled to hear my voice and just nodded and bowed her head to me… and turned and walked away. The man and woman helped me into the robe and then stood back, looking at me expectantly. “There,” said the man, smiling, “that should make you feel a little better.” They both put their hands on my back and guided me to the footpath. We walked a while with no one saying a word, but both of them nodding, smiling, and again looking back and forth between each other and myself like they were having a conversation that I could not understand.
Red Riding Hood and The Book of Life: It’s Not a Fairy Tale 2015
Every year I participate in NaNoWriMo… short for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been doing this for 18 years and although I rarely reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days and I never finish my novel, it’s okay. The ultimate goal is just to write. So I do that every year. I have 18 plus novels started and maybe one day I will finish one.
This was my novel in 2015, and this is the first chapter of Red Riding Hood and The Book of Life: It’s Not a Fairy Tale and some artwork that inspired this book, including one of my Polyvore sets (how I miss that site).
She was down on one knee, her leg pressed against the damp soil, her head down to her bent knee, both hands clutching the earth as if she was holding on for dear life, and it felt as if she was. The trees swayed back and forth as the planet shook violently around her. She feared that one of the trees will fall on top of her, and her journey would be over even before it had begun.
She stayed where she was for several minutes after the quaking had ended, afraid that if she moved it would start again. Finally, when she was sure that all was still, she tentatively looked up and around her. Other than a layer of pine needles all over, nothing else had changed. All of the tall and strong trees still stood tall and strong.
Zandra finally stood up and had to catch herself to get her balance… the shaking had not only rattled her nerves but also her equilibrium. Again, she looked around. Still, nothing had changed. Although she could have sworn that in just the last few minutes, it had gotten darker. She was quite sure that it had been daylight before the earth started shaking. It couldn’t have gotten to the dark of night this quickly. Could it?
She was totally disoriented now… She looked around her, slowly twirling around in one spot. She had no idea from which direction she had come… only knew whatever way that was, she didn’t want to go back. But now all she could see were trees and branches for as far as the eye could see. She didn’t even know if it was day or night, the canopy of branches above her blocked out all sunlight. Her next decision would have to be… Which way to go?
Studying the trees, bushes, and rocks closer, she tried to see if she could recognize any pattern that looked familiar, of what she saw before the quaking started. But while it was obvious that nothing had changed, it all still looked brand new to her. It was like she had never been here until this very moment. And that thought didn’t help in the least about what she was supposed to do next. The thought of going back in the direction she came was disturbing to her. She wanted to avoid going back to her village at all costs.
She stood tall and straight, put out her arm straight in front of her and pointed her finger forward, and then closed her eyes and spun around quickly, just a few times, so she wouldn’t get dizzy again, and then stopped. Whatever way her finger pointed, that would the be the way she would go. She waited a minute or so after stopping before she opened her eyes; first one, just barely squinting, and then the other. It didn’t look any different than before she spun around and finally shrugged. This was now her new destiny and she would face it head-on.
Zandra pulled her red cloak from the forest floor and spun it around her head to shake off the pine needles and pulled it over her shoulders. This was the cloak her grandmother made for her and it was very warm and comforting. One of the few things from her past that she brought with her. Her shoes were sturdy brown leather boots with strong lacing up the front and thick heels. They would protect her feet and give her some traction in the muddy ground as well as some height. On her fingers, she wore silver rings, each one a gift from someone important in her life, but who were now long gone. Her silver earrings of stars and moons were a promise from her mother that the universe would watch over her and keep her safe. She did feel safe and warm and just a little excited about the adventure ahead of her, and just a little scared about the unknown and just a little melancholy about leaving it all behind. But she knew she couldn’t stay there. Her mother had warned her before she died… Telling her to get out while she still could, and her grandmother urging her to go now. So go she did.
Once again, Zandra looked around her to make sure the direction that fate had selected for her was the right one. She then picked up her gray satchel and slung it over her shoulder and headed in that direction. She had no idea if it was north, south, east or west, but she hoped that she would find out eventually. Not that it really matter all that much. The main goal was to get as far away from the place she left.
Her satchel carried the sum of all of her possessions. A book of poetry that her father had given to her when she was a child and before he had disappeared. A journal and pen that she took everywhere with her and in which she had written for as long as she could remember. Her lucky crystal that she believed would guide her to where she needed to go. Some food for those times when she was unable to find a friendly stranger who might share their meal with her. Some healing herbs, such as Kage, Xudane, Drowsy Hellebore, and Dragon Thumbleweed, herbs she learned about and how to use from her mother and grandmother, and always carried with her in case she became ill. Fortunately, she had always been a healthy child, although many thought a bit too chunky, but what did they know?
As Zandra walked, her mind wandered a bit, but she was always brought back to the present by noticing the trees around her. Since it was now well into Autumn the leaves on the various trees were changing colors, and she noticed that they were much more brilliant here than they were in her home village. The first color that got her attention was the color that looked like burnt embers in a fire… and shades that matched the variations of a cardinal in flight, sometimes as deep as cinnabar or deeper still like the claret her father use to sneak her sips of when she little. It seemed to then fade into a pale sunlike hue that matched the goldenrod growing in her grandmother’s garden. Changing quickly into lurid tones and back again to the deeper shades of later day, until finally shifting to the rubious strands of the setting sun.
Zandra noticed the various trees and the names she learned from her mother and father and mostly from her grandmother… the Hollow Cedar and Humble Magnolia, Monk’s Viburnum and Silver Bush with the shimmering leaves, and her favorite Iavender whose leaves ranged from vivid purple to burnished red and glistening gold. She spent many hours walking the woods with her grandmother as she told her stories about the trees and years of yore.
She got so engrossed in looking at the colors of the leaves, that she didn’t pay much attention of where she was going until she realized that maybe she was going deeper into the thickness of the woods instead of staying more out in the open. It was getting darker and darker and she thought that maybe she needed to find a place to spend the night. Since she didn’t know exactly where she was going in the first place, how would she know if she was truly lost?
Zandra stopped and looked around her. Where would be a good, safe, secluded place? She finally found three trees close together that might make a good shelter. She shrugged out of her backpack and took off her cloak. Searching around the trees, she found some loose bare branches that she placed across the trees horizontally, kind of like a ceiling of a house. Then she found branches with dusky gray-green pine needles still attached and placed those over the bare branches to serve as a roof. Her new little home looked pretty cozy. She placed more pine needle branches on the floor of her shelter to protect herself from the cold, damp dirty ground and crawled into the shelter, pulling her satchel and cloak behind her. The warm cloak would work wonderfully as a blanket for the night. After she was sure that the shelter would serve its purpose, she crawled back out to look for rocks, wood, and tinder to start a fire. Finding what she needed, she set up a nice firepit in front of the shelter and started a fire the old fashioned way, one that never failed for her. In her pack, she pulled out some dried meat, a piece of cheese, and a hunk of bread and settled down to eat a late supper in front of her roaring fire. She was quite sure she was very alone in the woods.
She remembered this poem that her grandmother taught her.
“Walking a path between the trees
Will take you where ever you please
As long as you go forward or back
As one goes toward light and the other to dark.”