Project Information15 Jan 2009 03:54 am
Posted by crows on January 15th, 2009 filed in Project Information
Comment now »

Welcome!  Carousel is collaborative community fiction.  Register by the link on the right.  All are invited to participate.  Please review the Instructions for Use page before posting!

Hosted by Halflit, a community for creative writers.

Uncategorized04 May 2009 10:46 pm
Posted by vayleen on May 4th, 2009 filed in Uncategorized
Comment now »

I’m reviving this.

Story27 Feb 2009 04:13 pm
Posted by Grasshopper on February 27th, 2009 filed in Story
2 Comments »

“Margarete, this is my sister Rowan, you can call her Tiny for short. Tiny, this is Margarete, the most awesome of women, yourself aside, to have ever graced my presence.” Rook spoke in his best announcer voice as Rowan walked into the foyer before him, and received a thump to his chest as she stopped and elbowed him. “Hey!”

Rowan glared shot a venomous glare at her brother as she moved to hug Margarete, “I’d appreciate you not calling me Tiny, Roo is just being a pain. Pleased to meet you.” She ignored Rooks exasperated and innocent looks pointedly.

Margarete stepped back slightly and offered a hand, “Yes he does tend to do that, and at the oddest of times too. If not inopportune. I’ve noticed if you take a firm hand with him though he does what he’s told.” She managed to hide most of her amusement but a slight curve of her lips and a sparkle in her eyes gave away the lie in her last line. “So I wonder are there going to be more of us digging into things better left undiscovered?”

Puzzlement registered on Rowans face as she glanced back toward her brother, “What do you mean? We’re just here to spend some time away from the city, somewhat indefinitely…” Rooks laugh was deep and from the soul, it took him a few moments to actually recover and say anything in his defense.

Straightening he looked at his sister innocently, “Ah well what good is a vacation without adventure!” He turned a sly eye toward Margarete and caught movement at the top of the stairs as Charlie began his decent. “Some folk like to make trouble and pretend they’re not. Not me, I’m all about ownin up to the trouble I make.” His grin belied his lie and he turned to Charlie who was now near the bottom of the stairs, “Margarete this is Charlie, Rowans roommate. Charlie this is my good friend Margarete, she’ll be staying with us as well.”

Charlie descended the rest of the step thinking it better not to completely tower over the others and reached out to shake hands with Margarete, “It’s a pleasure.” Feeling somewhat reticent having not expected anyone else to be showing up.

“Likewise.” She offered the same simple sentiment in return. “Now then Rook, you’ll be taking my bags and showing me my room so I can properly socialize over tea yes?” She inferred that the rooms would be up, and began ascending the steps without waiting for Rooks acknowledgement.

Rook shook his head moving to and lifting the two large trunks Margarete had. He said to Charlie under his breath as he passed, “Ever the patient one her.”

“Rook if you’re going to denigrate me you can at least have the gall to speak up, or be quieter. Sometimes your myopia can be so very frustrating.” She moved all the way to the top of the stairs, each step sounding just a mite louder then her footfalls had been previously. Rowan glared at her brother a little harder this time thinking that he had hurt his friends feelings.

Rook on the other hand just shrugged, his smile only slipping slightly and bounded up the steps heedless of the bulk of the luggage. He wasn’t sure if he really had struck a chord or not, though he was fairly certain she was putting on a show. All the same he nodded his head down the hall and led her to her room without saying anything initially. He couldn’t gauge if she was boring into the back of his skull, or keeping the silence just to mess with his head. “I’m sorry if…”

She sniffed and made a face at him full of mock irritation, “Sorry? You? Of all people… sometimes you’re so easy to play.” She swept into her room, which was a door down from Rowans, taking one of the luggages from Rook she walked into her room. “Oh and of all things, how could you place a lawn gnome in the yard before the front door?”

Rook chuckled to himself, silly for him to bother worrying, Rowan had that effect on him though. He’d have to watch out for that. Dragging her second luggage in he placed it at the foot of her bed and turned for the door, “Well then do make yourself comfortable, I’m going to tell my other guests that you’ll be cooking some manor of lamb for supper. Till then it’s just about tea time, I should get the tea ready.” Grinning like a jackal he rushed off leaving Margarete glaring at the empty space he’d occupied.

Story22 Feb 2009 10:35 pm
Posted by Jodotha on February 22nd, 2009 filed in Story
1 Comment »

“You drive like a country bumpkin,” Margarete admonished genially, her full cheeks dimpling slightly, as Rook drove his rusty old mini down the lane. 

They’d been discussing the usual – progress on their collective studies, updates on friends and colleagues, that sort of thing.  Though Margarete was several years older than Rook – she’d never wanted to ask exactly how many, but she imagined a difference of five to six years – their minds still had a very useful, and often quite comfortable, way of complementing each other.  It was fortuitous that they’d discovered each other’s work quite separately through their related studies and a mutual respect had already been established between them before ever even meeting.  On a lark, Rook had decided to spend the summer studying with her. She’d already been at her thesis for a couple years, and Rook found it absolutely fascinating – a fact that she secretly found quite flattering.  It didn’t take much to get her talking about the history of folklore and it’s basis in scientific evolution, but as the scenery became more rural, they’d found a sort of comfortable silence between them; Margarete lost in the eerie beauty of the Scottish lowland, and Rook content to rummage around in his own thoughts.

It seemed somewhat incongruous to Rook to see Margarete in such a rural setting – she wasn’t a “fair beauty” like one expected to see out among the heather, though she carried her own appeal, regardless of what she may think.  Rather, her dark hair and full figure, clad in tailored and refined clothing seemed to belong in a more civilized environment. In his mind’s eye, she was always in a library – her proverbial thinking cap firmly in place – or perhaps a museum, or possibly even tracking down old stories in nursing homes – but never outside of an urban environment.  It was odd – He rather liked the effect though; it was almost like looking at her again for the first time.  Add to that how excited he was to finally get to share his work with her, especially after piggy-backing off her research all last summer.  He smiled in anticipation – she would get a kick out of his gear, especially since it tied in with her own studies so very well.

“Rook, stop!” she said suddenly, her hand involuntarily shooting out to Rook’s shoulder. He skidded to a stop, swerving quite uncomfortably in the mud that still made up the country lane.  He felt his breath catch in his chest as adrenalin poured into his system, and was about to demand an explanation when the answer appeared before him.

A fox, shiny red, had regally stepped foot across the lane, paying little head to the comparatively massive auto that sputtered just a few feet away.  Rook smiled at Margarete’s reaction of pure, innocent enchantment as the fox was followed by four little kits, the last one nearly butting its sibling’s tail in an effort to keep up.

“Oh my,” Margarete breathed, her dark eyes alight.

Halfway across the lane, the vixen stopped, seeming to peer at the two of them. Rook tensed, and felt Margarete hold a breath as well.  The vixen’s eyes were a piercing gold, seeming far too intelligent for such a creature, and yet not out of place at all.

The moment was broken when the cry of raptor, flying above, not yet having noticed the mother and her babes.  With an odd tilt of her head, the fox bid farewell to the astonished humans, and quickly disappeared in the brush alongside the road.

Silence reigned for a few seconds more before Margarete let out her breath in a deep sigh.  “I feel as though I just dipped my proverbial toe into my very own research,” she said, a bit breathlessly.  Realizing how naïve and silly that sounded, she felt her cheeks heat up.  “So, which way is it then?” she said quickly, shaking her brush with the foxes off and returning to her usual manner of disciplined reason.  Rook looked at her somewhat oddly as she asked the question, his expression clearing only when she gestured to the sign post they’d managed to stop alongside of.

“Oh, look at that,” he said, his confusion morphing to understanding and then amusement.  He turned to Margarete with a glint in his eye.  “According to my sister, we should go left.”

Now it was Margarete’s turn to look somewhat puzzled.  “Is that wrong?”

Rook chuckled as he put the car into gear and took the right fork.  “Only if you want to get to my house.”

Oddly, he could have sworn he saw a pair of golden eyes peering at him from across the road, on the left, as he drove away, but when he surreptitiously glanced in his side view mirror, there was nothing but the bushes and mud.

 

Rowen heard the front door slam at the same time her brother called her name.  Unfortunately, this was also at the same time she’d been pouring a bit of milk into her tea.

“Crap,” she muttered briefly as her brief jump caused a bit more milk to slosh into her tea cup than she would have preferred.  Shrugging, she licked the side of the cup, sipping a bit as well to keep the over-filled cup from spilling further.

She almost risked spilling the tea entirely as Rook swept into the kitchen, nearly colliding with her.  “Rook, you moron,” she hissed, barely saving her precious liquid.

He only grinned.  “What was that?” he said playfully, putting a hand to his ear.

Rowen did her best to glare over the rim of her cup, which she was holding delicately perched by her lips.  “I said, ‘welcome home, you deserting, clumsy excuse for a brother.” Her austere expression quirked into a similarly playful half-smile.

“Oh, God, I thought you said moron,” Rook said, grinning cheekily.  Rowen sipped her tea without comment, though she set the half-empty cup down on the counter with a pointed look in Rook’s direction.

“So where were you?”

“Where’s Charlie?”

As their words collided, Rowen finally broke into a grin, shaking her head.  With a pause and a gesture from Rowen, Rook asked his question again.

“He’s upstairs, wringing out his knickers,” Rowen said, a tad smugly.  “He had a bit of an argument with the mud. Repeatedly.”

Rook laughed at that.  “You are too wonderfully harsh, dear sister,” he said with an amused shake of his head.

“Rook?” Margarete’s voice echoed from the foyer, “Where in this God-awful piece of beauty did you get off to?”

Rowen quirked a brow in Rook’s direction.  He shrugged, an impish look on his face.  “Margarete’s here.  What amazing timing, yeah?”

Rowen rolled her eyes and, abandoning her tea, walked back out into the foyer to greet his brother’s guest.

Story09 Feb 2009 12:04 pm
Posted by crows on February 9th, 2009 filed in Story
1 Comment »

An hour and fifteen minutes later, Rook stood in the hotel lobby with his hands folded behind his back, eyes roaming the somewhat shabby décor detachedly. He focussed his attention on hearing the sharp report of Margarete’s low heels come quickly down the hallway and around the corner. The German woman stopped up short and swept her cool gaze over him from toe to crown before approaching at a more conversational pace.

“Master Rook,” she smiled languidly. “Not like you to be so punctual.”

He chuckled. “We have to get back. Rowen will skin me if I’m out too long. She’s off with her roommate at the moment exploring the countryside and, while I know Rowen could be out there until next Halloween, Charlie didn’t strike me as the woodsy type.”

“Roommate. Not a beau?” Margarete arched a well-shaped brow.

“No, I don’t think so,” Rook laughed of his sister.

Shaking her head, Margarete swayed toward the door. “I swear. That girl needs to at least find herself a boyfriend once in a while.”

“I certainly don’t think so,” Rook replied haughtily, relieving his friend of her bags and following her out the door. Margarete always looked polished, but he could tell she was tired.

“You wouldn’t, big brother. Now then, where can a woman stop for a cup of coffee and a cigarette between here and Transylvania or wherever it is you’re playing house?”

Meanwhile, north of the ending trickle of the main road, Charlie and Rowen returned to Rook’s house.

“What!” Charlie exclaimed defensively. “My legs hurt! I’m not used to all this running amok that you do.”

“You city boys are sissies,” Rowen giggled as she kicked off her muddy boots on the veranda and padded inside, leaving Charlie to pick at the dirt-encrusted laces of his shoes. He muttered incomprehensibly behind her as she stopped a few paces in from the door, turning her head this way and that. “Rook’s gone,” she mused more quietly.

“Is he? Did you check for his car?”

“No, I can just tell.”

Eying her strangely, Charlie grunted as he tugged his shoes off and stretched his toes out.

Rowen had gone over to a credenza to the side of the doorway that she hadn’t noticed the day prior. On it rested a carving of a leaping fox, its head turned up toward the onlooker as if to smile, ears alert. Its eyes were little pieces of round green jade, and the wood was worked with long lines and polished as smooth as water. She ran her hand lightly over the fox’s back, feeling the almost impossibly fine texture worked in for the fur and remembering the vixen and her cubs from earlier in the day.

Also, strangely, another memory welled forward in her mind’s eye. When she was a child, the family had taken a trip to Scotland all together. She remembered very little of it, having been only four and Rook nearly six. The greyness of the weather remained in her mind, alternating between rain and suffocating fog. Their mother had been upset that they weren’t having ‘real vacation weather’ but father had laughed his round laugh and said that this was good authentic Scottish weather to be relished.

She and Rook had been indifferent to the chill, happy to run the energy out of their tireless legs. They’d been staying in a house, somewhere… in her mind’s eye, Rook’s dilapidated manor had taken its place visually but she couldn’t be sure if that was genuine memory or simple construction. Could it have been the same plot of land? Had her family known this woman that Rook purchased the property from? She felt suddenly hungry, knowing so little about any extended family or friends of her late parents.

“For heaven’s sake, John, she could have been attacked by a fox or something! They’re all over the country side,” her mother’s voice trembled with fear turning quick to anger as she clutched her daughter close. Rowen’s wet clothes clung to her body and the cold began to seep in, strangely only now that she was inside not far from the old stove glowing in the kitchen.

“She’s fine, Mary,” his father had replied calmly, trying to divert her mother’s panic. “We have her back now, that’s all that matters.”

Rowen could still feel the warm breath on her hair, the shallow pant of small, animal lungs as she sat on the ground and cried because she was lost. She and Rook had been playing hide and seek, which he normally one, though this time she’d hidden too well and couldn’t find her way back. When she’d turned, she’d been inches from the red and white furred mask of a vulpine face, green eyes glittering inquisitively.

Hopping lightly back from her, the little beast had let loose a short, sharp bark into the gloaming. That bark had guided her hand-torch wielding father toward her into the forest, though John declined from sharing that with Mary, and never saw the fox himself. Rowen, by her turn, had never told anyone that she’d seen it either, though it had been within arms reach of her.

The memory was so dim as to make her doubt its validity, as though it had been, perhaps, a dream or some other collusion of unrelated happenstance.

“Rowen?” Charlie stood right behind her, now, peering over her shoulder at the sculpture.

“Sorry,” she said hoarsely, and cleared her throat. “Just… I think maybe my family knew the old woman that used to own this place.”

“The bat that believes in ghosts?” Charlie said skeptically. Rowen laughed and turned around to push him.

“No! I mean, yes, but I think maybe we visited her once when I was a kid. I have to ask my brother.”

“Where’d he go off to, anyway?”

“Not sure. I’m famished though, last one to the parlor makes lunch!”

She sprinted off to the kitchen as Charlie rolled his eyes and trudged after her, knees aching.

Story02 Feb 2009 08:40 pm
Posted by Grasshopper on February 2nd, 2009 filed in Story
1 Comment »

returned to examining the evidence that they had indeed come down the right fork which clearly they did not go down the previous night. Except there were no signs in the mud of the left fork that there had been anything passing that way for a week or so, the mud having a more or less unbroken lumpiness. “Charlie you know we took the left fork right?”

Charlie shrugged and shivered slightly from the damp cool air and being mostly soaked, “Don’t get so worried about it. It was hard to see it was so miserable last night, maybe we both just thought we went the same direction. Memory does funny things in groups.” He slogged over to where she stood and looked at the fork with some slight irritation on his face showing he wanted to believe what he said, but wasn’t sure he did.

“But the note Charlie, both of us remember the note.”

——-

Margarete stretched out languidly, barely altering the massive pile of blankets that covered her. She couldn’t for the life of her remember why she was awake, so she decided to go back to sleep. Except the phone began ringing again as soon as she closed her eyes and began drifting back into slumber. Who in the world would have this number? She’d just checked in last night and hadn’t called anyone. She was content to just lie there and let the phone ring, it was far too early in the day to be getting up, how inconsiderate people could be sometimes.

The phone it seemed had no intention of shutting up, the damned kvetch. Attempting to swim through the mountain of blankets only managed to prove to her how lissom she was not. As soon as she thought her arms were free and she reached for the phone and ended up sprawled out on the floor beside the nightstand. Throwing a wild tantrum she freed herself just enough to pick up the receiver and scream into it, “What the hell do you want?”

There was a brief bit of static like a delayed connection, long enough to giver her pause to think if she wasn’t angry, but she was so she didn’t even register it. “Hey Margarete, just checkin up on ya to see when you’ll be showin up.” It was Rook, couldn’t he at least have waited till a decent hour to call like 9 or 10?

“Do you know how damned early it is? I told you I’d be there around noon. How’d you get this number anyway? You stalking me?” As per normal her rage disappeared in a matter of moments. She normally didn’t get angry at all, but she loved her sleep.

“Hon, it’s almost eleven. You’re usually up long before now.” Rook’s grin filled his voice pleasantly. She had always enjoyed his accent too, was too terribly bad he decided to leave off the research they’d started in Germany to move to this little hide-away of his. “As to the number, you told me where you were stayin you great ninny.” She pressed the fingers of her free hand into her forehead. ‘Doesn’t mean you’re supposed to call me and wake me up…’ Then she registered the time he’d told.

“Oh right, and I’m supposed to believe you over my own…” One look at the clock caused her etiolate. Almost eleven indeed, there was less then a minute till. “…eyes. Ok so I slept in. Which does happen on occasion.” Her emphasis on ‘does’ was an attempt to cover the shock in her own voice. Margarete hadn’t slept in since before highschool, and here she was, a graduate student working on a thesis, waking up three hours later than her normal routine. She liked routine. Why did she feel so tired and lost at the moment?

Rook chuckled over the line, “Must be the beds in that there building, told ya you should have just come out the rest of the way last night.”

“I didn’t feel like trying to give a cabby directions in that onslaught you could have come into town to get me ya know.”

“And leave an empty house for my sister to find in the dark and gloom?”

“Everyone likes the dark and gloom don’t they?”

“Only those that spend their waking hours deep with in macabre books, and dark library basements. Need me to come pick you up? Rowen is off showin her mate about and exploring my property.”

‘Less cab fare for me.’ She thought as she responded. “Can’t say no to such a splendid offer. I’ll even let you buy me some coffee when you get here. You sure they won’t get lost in your fallow fields?”

“You know they won’t be fallow much longer, I just need to get the right gear…”

“And stop getting distracted.”

“Good point, so shall we convene in the lobby in about an hour and a half? That be enough time for you to get checked out?”

“You’re going to make me wait over an hour? The torture.”

Rook laughed heartily, “See you soon Margarete. I’m glad you decided to come.” He hung up his end. Margarete slowly hung up hers and fell back into the pile of blankets that surrounded her on the floor. Her body told her to take advantage of the time and get more sleep, but something told her she’d not be waking up before he got here if she did. Standing up and stretching again, she slowly went about waking herself up. Something she was not used to.

Story31 Jan 2009 11:57 am
Posted by crows on January 31st, 2009 filed in Story
2 Comments »

As if she didn’t hear him, Rowen looked off after the family of foxes as they disappeared quickly into the underbrush. An unexpected shudder in his diaphragm caused Charlie to draw in a deep, abrupt breath which he held, cool and damp, in his lungs as he watched Rowen stand in silence. The air around him pressed heavily, suffused with the expectation of some new otherness to burst forth, something to which the episode with the fox was only a tiny precurser.

Rowen tossed her head and looked back over her shoulder with a grin in the dappled sunlight that punched through the high cloudcover at intervals. “What was that? I wasn’t listening.”

Charlie blinked at her. “Nothing,” he said, chuckling and shaking his head to shake the strange episode off.

“Well, then what are we waiting for?” She turned and picked her feet up, traipsing along the slightly higher, slightly dryer patches of the dirt road. Charlie didn’t start off after her immediately, struck with an image suddenly more vivid, as if painted directly over the fabric of morning. Rowen’s svelte figure clad in the slouch of a bomber jacket currently sliding nearly off one shoulder, the easy surety of her steps, the flash of her unkempt hair in the sun like a blonder cousin to the earthier hue of the mother fox.

“Weird,” he whispered to himself intensely, kicking himself into motion after Rowen and jogging clumsily up the track. Running turned out quickly to be a less than entirely sagacious decision as he slipped and wheeled his arms, swearing as he all but toppled into the mud. Rowen stopped and looked back at him again just in time to see the graceless recovery and laughed before wheeling again and taking off at a sprint down the small rise she stood at the top of.

“You harlot!” Charlie shouted after her, taking a more keen eye to his feet and climbing the rest of the hill. He didn’t remember the track being this hilly or this long when they’d driven to the house the night before, but he’d been extremely focused on the churning road and lashing rainfall at the time. Cresting over the hill, Charlie slid more than ran down its other flank but remained upright, coming to a waving-armed stop where Rowen stood on the side of the road, examining the tracks in the slurry of muddy water collected at the bottom of the hill.

She giggled, “Charlie look, this is where we almost spun out and went off the side of the road.”

“I can see that,” Charlie replied flatly, immediately filled with a plethora of reasons why he didn’t find that funny. As he stood still, though, the sun warmed the back of his coat and it became difficult to see what had been so bad about it at the time. “Are we almost to the split so we can rest once and for all which side of it your brother lives on?”

“He lives on the left!” Rowen exclaimed firmly. “I’m so sure we turned left. Like the note said.”

“The note he didn’t write?” Charlie raised an eyebrow, balling his hands up in his pockets and glancing around. He didn’t feel the least bit nostalgic for California out here; the grey precipitation in London put him in that funk often.

“Oh shut up. He’s just being a wanker about it, that’s all,” Rowen waved her hands emphatically, turning to stroll down the track. This time, Charlie went with her and they walked side by side, habitually in step over the uneven ground. “Are you sure you don’t have it?” She turned to look up at him sidelong. “Are you sure you didn’t pick it up with your stuff?”

“Pretty sure,” Charlie frowned. “I’m not surprised you can’t find it, though, you’re not exactly the queen of organization,” he ribbed with a grin. “It’s probably in the pocket of your other jeans or something.”

“It’s not!” Rowen feigned exasperation well. “It’s not in the car, either, where I thought it was.”

“Well, it couldn’t have gone far overnight.”

Rowen pouted. They took a couple more steps. “Well,” Charlie began, clearing his throat and making his voice sound as pretentious and egotistical as he could. “If you’d just let me, the man, take care of the navigation, we wouldn’t be in this pickle, now would we?”

Snapping her head around to needle him with a glare, Rowen screwed her shoulders up, balled her fists, and exploded in a flurry of motion to shove him and fly off down the road. Charlie didn’t hurry to keep up with her, the fork in the road visible just around a gentle curve in the track. It was the mis-estimation of this curve that had caused the near disaster Rowen pointed out evidence of at the bottom of the hill.

Charlie strode up to Rowen’s tip-toed peering to the place where the lost note had been taped. Then she stepped back and looked this way and that before pointing at him.

“What?”

“You’re on the right.”

He blinked.

“The right fork,” Rowen stepped forward, gesturing for emphasis, and Charlie rolled his eyes.

“Really? Do we really need to do this?”

Rowen waved her arms exasperatedly. “Oh, like you’d rather sit at home and bemoan the distance between yourself and Santa Monica beach.”

Charlie sighed heavily. “Can you blame me for that? I’ve lived there since I was eleven.”

“You really miss it that much?” Rowen wrang her hands. She had a vulnerable streak a mile wide. A profound quiddity of her person was the hatred of being alone, and despite periodic disharmony about his lifestyle, they’d quickly clicked when he’d arrived in London, a bewildered college sophmore. She could forgive Charlie anything because he studied twice as hard as he played.

Charlie took a deep breath of the good air, quirking a smile. “No, Rowen.”

Her face softened, her mercurial expression shifting again as she

Story27 Jan 2009 11:29 am
Posted by vayleen on January 27th, 2009 filed in Story
1 Comment »

Rowan and Charlie tracked through the muddy wet road, Rowan often getting ahead of Charlie, as he only had a vague idea on how to hike, and his boots would get stuck more often in the mud than hers.  He was a city boy after all. Rowan, on the other hand, was slowly being hypnotized by the rolling hills, fresh air, and the thrum of life wild beneath her feet. In London, she would often find herself in a vacuous rut, when she couldn’t see the excitement of city life anymore, and only saw the dull, gray, rainy days, identical and  repeating one after another like train cars.

 

“Hold up, Rowan!”

 

“Belt up, ya tosser!” Rowan called back, but she stopped to let Charlie catch up anyway.

 

Rowan stared out at the Scotland lowlands, of which the recent restoration projects of the country’s natural flora and fauna were still underway. For reasons she understood, Rook felt at home there. For reasons she didn’t understand, he felt at home there despite its apparent creepiness. But that was a mystery she was determined to solve, and she would start with the Mystery of the Fork in the Road.

 

If Charlie could keep up.

 

Rowan looked up at Charlie when he finally reached her. Some days, she could read her roommate like a book. On others, his face was so blank and composed it would drive her crazy trying to figure out what he was thinking so she taught herself not to. They had to make other various adjustments rooming together. Charlie had to get over his compulsion to organize everything he saw, including her personal belongings, which was most apparent when she chose to store her books in large, leaning piles on the floor instead of the actual bookshelves. On those, she’d store obscure things like rocks, shells, pencils, or anything she happened to find in the street that was fascinating.

 

Rowan had to get used to his early bird tendencies and occasional promiscuity, which simmered down in the time they roomed together, but that might be partly because Rowan didn’t notice it, and made a point to be occupied elsewhere when she knew Charlie had a date. It was something about him she didn’t understand. She was only promiscuous if it counted for books. If it did, she was a shameless wanton.

 

Overall, it was a pleasant arrangement, and he really was her best-friend despite the differences in the beginning.

 

“How much of this land is Rook’s?” Charlie asked when they started walking together again.

 

“Can’t say. Maybe 150 hectares? That’s a bit over 300 acres to you yanks.”

 

“So half a square mile. Not bad.”

 

“Sure, he’s an emperor in his own right, in this fine kingdom,” Rowan said lightly.

 

They laughed for maybe a second before a flash of red caught Rowan’s eye and she turned to her right to look. A few meters up, a red fox was preparing to cross the road.

 

“Charlie, stop!” Rowan said, grabbing his arm before he could startle it.

 

The red fox climbed down into the road and started to trot across it. To Rowan’s delight, the vixen was followed by three little kits, trailing after their mother like ducks in a row.

 

“You don’t see something like this everyday in London,” Charlie muttered.

 

Rowan looked over at him. He turned, smiling crookedly at her, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes before he turned back.

 

“Look, Rowan!” he whispered.

 

The mother fox was already across the road, when a forth, smaller kit started crossing the road behind his siblings. For some reason, the little fox seemed to sense them, and instead of running he hunched up, covering his eyes with his paws.

 

“I can’t see you, you can’t see me?” Charlie said, bemused.

 

“Go on, little thing, your mama’s gettin’ away!” Rowan said, shooing it with one hand, then moving her fingers to imitate walking, as though the kit were a puppet she was trying to control.

 

“He can’t understand you, Rowan.”

 

“His mama can’t count, Charlie, he’s going to get lost if he doesn’t get a move on!” Panic seeped into her voice, much to her annoyance.

 

The little fox removed his paws from his eyes, but he didn’t move, frozen in place. Rowan looked into to kit’s dilated, caramel-colored eyes. She suddenly felt like she could feel the little one’s fear, primal and debilitating, unlike anything she had ever felt in the modern world.

 

In a brash move, she walked to her left and called out to the vixen. “Wait!”

 

Charlie stepped back out of her way, dumbfounded.

 

To their amazement, the vixen stopped and turned back towards them. They could hardly see the other three kits in the long grass. The only indication of them was the clashing movement of orange in the green grass around the mother’s legs.

 

“You forgot one!” Rowan called, pointing, as though the fox could understand her.

 

The vixen looked over at where Rowan was pointing. It was impossible for the red fox to see the kit from her perspective, but the vixen started moving back towards them anyway.

 

As though she understood Rowan.

 

Both of them watched as the mother fox moved cautiously back onto the road, moving carefully around Rowan and Charlie and up to her petrified kit. She sniffed him, then nudged him with her nose towards his siblings. Before she disappeared back into the long grass, she glanced back at the two astounded humans, specifically at Rowan.

 

“You’re welcome,” Rowan whispered.

 

The vixen left.

 

“Well,” Charlie said after a moment, “that was something… different.”

Story25 Jan 2009 04:57 am
Posted by Jodotha on January 25th, 2009 filed in Story
1 Comment »

“Tut-tut,” Rook muttered with a feigned disapproval, “You’re not really going outside like that are you?”  It had been less than an hour since breakfast, and Rowen was practically chomping at the bit.

She rolled her eyes good naturedly at Rook’s incredibly cliché onomatopoeia.  “Like you’re one to talk,” she answered tartly, “Do you even own a mac?”  She smiled wryly as she slid on her own rainy-day gear.  “We’re not going far, anyway,” she added belatedly.  She glanced past Charlie, who was eying his own raincoat with some distaste, to the window near the front door.

The weather was clearing, but it still looked perfectly damp, cold, and somewhat dreadful outside.  Rowen smiled in anticipation, but tempered her odd sense of adventure tactfully when Charlie looked her way.  He smiled, one side of his mouth curling up in a sly sort of crooked smile as he bent over to fasten up his wellies.

Rook caught the exchange and chuckled.  “Don’t worry, Charlie m’boy,” he said in a somewhat patronizing tone, “If you make it through today, you get an extra biscuit after supper.”

“Great, hard tack, perfect,” Charlie muttered, throwing a significant look at Rowen, who bit her lip to keep from chuckling.

“He means a cookie, love,” Rowen said -as if that made a difference- exaggerating her British accent.  She turned to her brother.  “Roo,” Rowen said in chiding tone, “Be nice.”

Rook broke into a wide grin.  “But where’s the fun in that?”

Charlie stood upright, boots secure.  “Where indeed?” He offered dryly.

Rook eyed him in a speculative sort of way, a bemused expression on his face.  A moment of silence followed, somewhat awkward, as Rowen and Charlie finished readying themselves for their small adventure.

Rowen clasped the last fastener of her coat and turned to her brother.  “Are you sure you can’t come?”

Rook shook his head.  “Can’t – had a spark of activity show up last night, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Charlie’s head bobbed up.  “Last night?”  He eyed Rook suspiciously.  “How…serendipitous…”

Rook turned to his sister’s roommate with a malevolent smile.  “Yeah…right along with your arrival, Yankee.”  His smile widened into a leering grin.  “You scared?”

Charlie rolled his eyes.

Rowen chuckled.  “Fine then, ghost chaser,” she said, taking Charlie’s arm, “Go enjoy your gizmos.”  She opened the door and stepped out, ushering Charlie along with her.  She turned to grin at her brother.  “But I expect there to be some serious enlightenment happening here while we’re gone.”

Rook grabbed the back of his sister’s coat just long enough to give her an affectionate kiss on the top of her head.  “Cheeky.”

 

Rowen sighed with open delight as she and Charlie stepped out into the crisp, and wet, Scottish air.  “It’s lovely, isn’t it?”

Charlie smiled at Ro’s unabashed enthusiasm for the otherwise-dreary landscape.  “I suppose it could be,” he answered, sounding rather philosophical, “Though I could do with a little less wet and a little more sun.” He grinned at her to show he was being facetious.

“Well, chalk this up to educational experience,” Rowen said, grinning back at him, “You know, build character and gain wisdom and all that rubbish.”

“Sure, sure,” Charlie said, thrusting his hands in the pockets of his coat.  “So, then, what’s the purpose of this little adventure?”

“I thought we might walk down the road,” Rowen answered, her tone a little too light, “You know, see what we see sort of thing?”

Charlie nodded and they began walking, their boots squelching through the mud, creating an odd sort of rhythm.  “So…” he finally said, after they had gone down the lane silently for a few minutes, “Your brother seems….interesting.”

Rowen giggled.  “Yeah, that’s one way to describe him.”

Charlie smiled, enjoying her laugh.  “No, I mean it,” he said, “It’s quite interesting watching you two…verbally spar…”

She looked at him sideways, “That’s right – I forget you’re an only child.”

“A blessing and a curse.”

Rowen thought for a moment about how different her life would be without her brother.  Easier, perhaps, but lacking some sort of core vibrancy that their relationship kindled.  They were too integral to the other – rather like Moses and Aaron in the Exodus. 

“Well,” she finally said, thoughtfully, “at least you didn’t have to worry about losing your dollies to your brother’s wild experiments in voo-doo…”

Charlie stopped pace for a second.  “He did what?”

Rowen laughed, pleased at her roommate’s reaction.  “He did.  I was eleven, he was twelve.  Our parents couldn’t decide whether to take away his books or give him more…”

Charlie shook his head in delighted disbelief as he quickened his pace to keep up with Rowen, who had continued moving and was a few strides ahead of him.  “That’s incredible,” he said, meaning it sincerely, “The only thing my parents seemed to fight over was money.”

“Is that where your stingy-ness over the costs of our utilities comes from?” Rowen said with a tilt of her head and a cat-like smile.

Charlie laughed, a somewhat sheepish expression on his face.  “Could be.”

“Good thing you managed to find me and my one-of-a-kind rent controlled flat, yeah?”

Charlie grinned appreciativly.  “You have no idea.”

They walked along in companionable silence, Rowen paying far too much attention to the road itself, and Charlie, in turn, paying attention to Rowen’s odd focus.

“Is this….?” Rowen frowned slightly, looking about her, “Is this the same road we drove down last night?”

“What?” Charlie echoed her frown.  “I would assume so?”  He looked at her oddly.  “Why wouldn’t it be?”

Rowen looked away, absently trailing her hand through the damp drizzle.  “Never mind…”

Charlie shrugged, offering his crooked smile once more, “As you wish, madam.”

Story22 Jan 2009 08:31 pm
Posted by Grasshopper on January 22nd, 2009 filed in Story
2 Comments »

Rook was up early, definitely before his sister who had a habit of sleeping in regularly even when she didn’t fall asleep exhausted. Charlie had come downstairs about halfway through breakfast being prepared, the scent of waffles pulling him from sleep and dispelling any vestiges of sleep. Charlie looked like he wanted to help the copper haired chef but Rook would have none of it, telling him to have a seat and chill in the brisk morning air till breakfast was done.

In between cooking each waffle Rook rooted around in the cupboards and fridge, stopping randomly to pop an olive into his mouth from one of the jars.  He also seemed to remember something in the middle of stirring batter and turned to open the casement for the single window in the kitchen. The intent of course was to let in light for the single flower sitting in the window sill. While the only effect of opening the window was to show a lighted gray sky and a continuous drizzle, the single blue flower gave the spacious kitchen an illusion of modesty.

Strangely enough for as dingy as it appeared outside the window, opening it seemed to have brightened the room considerably. Rook placed a good sized pile of waffles before his sisters’ roomie not long after Charlie sat down, who began to eradicate them rather methodically. “This is one hell-of-a breakfast.” He said between bites while licking the milky white cream from his fork. There was a hint of nutmeg, cinnamon and hazelnut in it giving the cream a very pleasant flavor. Charlie grinned happily, “Where’d you learn to make waffles taste better than normal waffles?”

“Oh you know, tricked an Each Uisge into giving me a recipe book from a master cook that he intern had fooled into one of the lochs.” Rook chuckled and sat down with his own plate beginning to eat with a hearty appetite. There was a large loch bordering his land up to the north, and a smaller one setting just behind the manor a few hundred yards away. Rook wondered idly if he would even stand a chance in an encounter with an Each Uisge, not noticing that his stack of waffles were slowly becoming an artful display of a horse as he ate.

Charlie cocked his head to the side and looked at Rook oddly, “An Axe Ishka? What’s that?” No doubt some mythos. Strangely enough as skeptical as Charlie was he had rather enjoyed Rowen’s brother’s story last night.

“Ah, tis a water-horse, of one particular kind. They tend to be the meanest, so you gotta keep your wits sharp, and never trust a horse offerin you a free ride out here. Especially if there is water nearby, or any scent of water for that matter.”

A sleepy voice emanated from the doorway, “Rook, don’t go scarin the boy with such talk, he might not want to go swimming with me in the loch later.” The last half of Rowen’s comment was muffled by a yawn that erupted in the middle.

“Ah well I could be telling him about the story here about where a young toddler was kidnapped by a local haunt in a neighboring castle ruin, and was later found on the shores of the Loch. They say that a fellow saw a horse near the water, and when he came to investigate only found the babe, nice and warm under a pile of dried seaweed. He looked about for the horse but all he saw was a single set of ripples out in the otherwise glass smooth water. Mayhaps we have one of them supposedly benevolent spirits.” He winked at his sister.

Charlie chuckled at the recount, thinking to ask more about the story later, and looked over at the latecomer, her hair a disarray and sleep still filling her eyes, pulling at her eyelids. No Rowan was definitely not a morning person. “Good thing you finally got up, I might have eaten your helping of breakfast.”

“I’d have let him too, he looks half starved. What sort of caregiver are you, to let your housemates go without food. For shame little sister. For shame.”

“Oh do be quiet, can’t be letting him know I can cook as well as you now. Then I might actually have to start preparing food at home.” She shot a mock glare at her brother as she hurried over to the counter to collect her pile of waffles which were still warm and proceeded to put an ample helping of cream on top, on the sides, and more on top. Rook always whipped his own cream, and he always added extra flavor to it. Couldn’t hurt to relish as much as possible right?

“All that sugar is gonna kill you someday Rowen.” Charlie said with a smile, “Mind bringin me a little extra?”

“Get your own damned cream, I’m hungry.” She came over and plopped down in one of the chairs, forgetting for a moment that any one of them could be a pile of sticks disguised as such. Hers groaned ominously for a moment, and then unexpectedly, held together.

While she was otherwise preoccupied with the anticipation of falling flat on her bum, Charlie took the opportunity to steal some of her excess cream for his own.

Story19 Jan 2009 08:10 pm
Posted by crows on January 19th, 2009 filed in Story
1 Comment »

After another half of an hour, the dishes were done and the trio had retired to the upper floor of the ramshackle house. Charlie bid them a short goodnight and vanished into his room, and Rowen leaned in the jamb of her door, smiling at her big brother.


I’m glad you came, kiddo,” Rook said with a lopsided grin. Rowen fell into a loose hug.

 

I love this place!” Rowen exclaimed with a grin. “I knew it was right the instant you said it to me.”

 

I know you did.” Rook’s eyes turned sly, thoughtful.

 

You’re hiding something…” Tilting her head, Rowen looked up through her lashes at her sibling, frowning as she tried to read his face. He only shook his head; neither confirming nor denying. “And what was with you denying your note in front of Charlie?! He was with me when I got it!”

 

A genuine shadow passed through Rook’s face. “Rowen,” he said earnestly, dropping his voice. “I didn’t leave you a note.”

 

At the fork in the road? Taped to the signpost?” A tremor of uncertainty bolted momentarily through her; she felt her face and her hands go hot. Rook shook his head.

 

You think I’d go out in this? You knew the way, you drove here before.”

 

But I thought it was the right fork…” she whispered, the heat going out of her more suddenly than she expected.

 

Rook reached out and grasped her shoulders. “Rowen. It is the right fork, coming from the train station.”

 

She shook her head emphatically. “No! We turned left, and your place is just down the road, on the left.”

 

Ro, love, I haven’t been down to the town in a few weeks but I live here, and the road veers to the right. There’s another path there, I know the signpost you’re talking about, but nobody drives down that way… there’s nothing out there but moorland, it’s been abandoned for ages.”

 

That doesn’t make any sense.” She pulled away from him, digging in the pockets of her sweatshirt and jeans.

 

“I’m sure I still have the note. It said that you knew I’d want to take the right fork but I needed to take the left one. We’d stopped because we didn’t know where to turn, but then I saw your note and I did what it said.”

 

All the humor gone from his face, Rook regarded his sister carefully. “You’re tired, Ro.”

 

I must have left it in the car.”

 

Why don’t you get some rest.”

 

Furtively, while she continued to pat down her garments, Rook looked over his shoulder at the Charlie boy’s closed door. He thought, perhaps, that the newcomer had arranged some manner of divisive prank to play but this hardly seemed productive to that end by itself. And besides, how would he have planted the note on the signpost, if that was how she found it?

 

He looked back to find Rowen looking unhappily at the floor, her arms crossed over her stomach. Rook couldn’t help but smile and chuckle, tousling her mess of wild hair. “You look like nothing half so much as an eight year old right now, Ro.”

 

She didn’t cut the quintessential portrait of amusement. “I don’t like it, Rook. Something feels weird all of the sudden.”

 

Setting his hand on her upper back, he turned her around through the open door and followed her into her room. “It’s a weird place. There are bound to be some bumps in the night. Old house.”

 

Yea, that you’re studying ghosts in.”

 

Oh, for heaven’s sake, Rowen. You of all people are not allowed to get all creepy on me because some old witch got suckered in by an archaic old legend and now I’m following up on it for my thesis. Aren’t the most useful theories the ones proven wrong?”

 

They both knew he was only speaking to comfort her, but his laudable efforts met with a good response. Rowen smiled apologetically, not because she knew Rook to be entirely straightforward, but because he’d asserted the old protectiveness that his family role demanded and it never failed to make her feel safer.

 

Legend?” she inquired after a moment.

 

I promise I’ll tell you all about it in the morning.” Rook grinned. His diverse and often eccentric interests always kept her entertained as a child, a young adult, and even in her present life.

 

Alright,” Rowen said, sitting on the bed and drawing her legs up underneath her.

 

You’ll be alright?” he pushed his eyebrows up.

 

Of course,” she grinned, and he turned to go. Like well-tuned clockwork, she reached for the lamp on the night table as he flipped the switch to the light overhead, darkening the room against the smaller incandescence of the table lamp.

 

Sweet dreams, little fox.” Rook smiled from the doorway, a shadowy shape that faded into the hall as the door swung closed on quiet hinges. Rowen squirmed out of her still slightly damp travel clothes and into pajamas retrieved from her suitcase, the rhyme their grandmother sang to them growing up filling the startled space in her mind.


Two little foxes, time for bed,
While winter sleeps the sleep of the dead
Your footed snow and the falling light
Have finally won your race with night
The day is gone, bid it farewell
Night holds the secret I will tell.

 

 

 

Next Page »