Aura

I start a lot of stories. Some are to express a feeling in a moment and once the initial need has been itched, I abandon the story. Some stories are left unfinished because of lack of time or ideas. This one was put aside because after writing a descriptive exposition, I had forgotten how I was going to continue. Maybe I will take it up again. If I can determine what is going to happen, that is. 

***

There was a booth set up at the fair one year, a small tent set apart from the others. Its edges were ragged and the stripes, once a brilliant blue and green had faded over time until the blue and green wove in and amongst each other until it was impossible to tell where one color ended and the other began. A small handwritten sign, almost obscured by the large, overgrown bushes which dwarfed the tent, welcomed all those who believed to finally see.

Curious as to what the cryptic sign meant, my friends and I paid the admission and waited within. It was cramped inside the small tent, and despite the heat from the electric fireplace humming in the corner, I remained chilled to the bone while my two friends removed their jackets, hats and gloves, shedding them much as a snake would its skin until the floor was littered with garments. 

While the other girls chatted in hushed voices, I looked around the tent at the meager furnishings, the worn fabrics draping the sides of the tent from floor to ceiling and the various photographs lining the wall and cluttering the tables. From the corner of my eye, I saw a blur of movement, but when I turned there was nothing there but the gentle swish of the fabric as it moved in time to the swaying of the tent.

That’s when I saw it. Off to the corner and almost obscured by a long drape of fabric, a tall, round table stood apart from the rest. In the center stood a single wooden picture frame, devoid of any photo. It was odd, the empty frame, and I reached to examine it in more detail when she walked in.

She was a small woman with deep brown eyes and curling black hair which hung down to the middle of her back.  Faded denim jeans clung to her hips and thighs and she wore a worn, blue, cotton t-shirt which proclaimed ‘I’m psychic. I knew you’d read this.’ When I looked down, I was surprised to find her barefoot in the middle of November.  The small toes which peeked out from the edges of her jeans were painted a startling purple and adorned with small, metal bands, the only jewelry she wore.

Walking past us, she approached the large, circular table dominating the room. From underneath, she rummaged in a storage container of sorts and soon items appeared on the table: a camera, several small fabric bags, a candle and a crystal ball. She arranged her odd assortment of items on the table, and, as a finishing touch, lit the single candle. When the warm glow of the fire flickered and took light, her back stiffened and her arms stilled at her sides.

“We have company,” she whispered. Her eyes scanned the room but seemed to pass right through us. Before any of us could speak, she motioned to the chairs circling the table. “Please. Sit.”

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2018

The Perfect Girl

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I cut open a Barbie when I was seven, peeling apart her chest cavity as she lay there smiling up at me, her vacant blue eyes offering no reproach nor encouragement. The scissors rent her body in two and I was surprised to find her empty. I asked my mother why she didn’t have a heart.

Economics. It was cheaper to build a mold with a hollow inside than to include human-like organs, especially as they were inside were no one would notice.

I was crushed. How could someone with such a vital personality be hollow? Mom explained it was my imagination that brought her to life, that I controlled who and what she was. Such control held no appeal for me, so I put my dolls away that day and focused on achieving the dreams I had enacted for my doll.

Perfect grades.

Perfect job.

Perfect house.

Perfect family.

I cook and clean, read and write, dance and sing, support and nurture, provide and improve, teach and assess, exercise and motivate, advocate and serve, invent and create, calm and soothe, build and repair, and I do it all with a smile on my face. I am as perfect as an imperfect human can be.

I wonder what my seven year old self would find if she cut my chest open. Would I lie there with a vacant stare, a smile plastered on my face as the scissors tore through sinew and bone or would I fight against the intrusion, screaming proof of my humanity even as my chest cracked open to reveal a hollow nothingness?

 

 

Silence is Golden Excerpt

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It was a silver medallion no bigger than a shilling. At one end of the coin someone had punched a hole into the metal and looped a silver chain through it. Alfred peered closer at the marking on the disc and sent a questioning stare to his friend. “St. Christopher?”

“The patron saint of travelers and a fitting gift for an adventurous young man. May it guide you and keep you safe in your journeys.”

He stared at the engraved image of the stooped figure of St. Christopher, his gnarled hand clutching a staff and a child clinging to his back. The edges had been worn to a smooth finish that rolled like polished glass between his fingers, and he knew he held a cherished memento. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? This seems like an odd talisman for a Protestant minister to have. Perhaps it has sentimental value for you?”

William regarded the tiny piece of silver in his outstretched hand and took it into his own, running his fingers over the smooth edges. “My mother was a Papist from the Scottish Highlands. After her family was evicted from their land, they immigrated to  England, where my mother met my father, William Blackburn, Senior, also a minister. My mother loved my father, so when they married, she converted and was a dutiful Protestant the rest of her life. But she didn’t give up all of her beliefs.”

The metal disc spun in the air before them. “Before I left for France, she gave this to me with the promise it would keep me safe. She said even though we would never see each other again in this life, the medallion would reunite us when it was time.”

“If you will never see each other again, how can you be reunited?”

The disc stopped spinning, and William looked at him, a sad smile on his face. “My father died while I was in the war. When I returned, I learned through interviews with my old neighbors that my mother left home after my father died. She was coming to find me in France but never made it. For years I have wished to find where she might be.”

Grabbing Alfred’s shoulders and turning, William pointed off into the distance at the vague shape of a building. It was difficult to see through the rain and fog, but he observed the rising profile of a humble bell tower. “A church?”

“I took a walk yesterday after the noon meal and found myself there. I rambled into the courtyard and behind the building, where I found a small graveyard. I was tired and discouraged. My quest to find my mother seemed hopeless, and in pursuit of her whereabouts I had lost my way, becoming someone I no longer recognized. With your words ringing in my ears and the evidence of my failure a heavy weight on my soul, I fell to my knees and prayed. The medallion around my neck  warmed. I grasped it from my chest, looked up, and saw it. Her grave.”

“Whose grave? Your mother’s?”

“Yes. As impossible as it seems, I found my mother’s grave among the other headstones of the tiny church.”

“You were reunited,” he whispered, awed by the strange turn of events leading his friend to this location. “What a coincidence!”

“Or an act of God. However you want to put it, I found her. My search is over, and here I will stay.”
 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Loop

So We Ran

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I found her lying on the cracked linoleum floor, soaked in a pool of her own blood. The door thrashed on its hinges as the wind whipped through the tiny kitchen to blow the papers she had stacked with painstaking precision around the room. A blizzard of fluttering white swarmed my mother, the rarest of winter roses, who blossomed beneath the papers’ hurried flight, her body blooming in vibrant, rich pools encircling the fragile remains of her broken shell. 

Her eyes were still open, and her pupils dilated until the irises were nothing more than brown rims around fathomless black pools. Fear hung heavy on the air, its metallic tang fueling my own anxiety until an erratic thrum pounded through my veins, urging me to flee.

I knelt beside her and took her hand. Her eyes rolled in her head, but my whispered “Mama?” focused her gaze on me. She squeezed me hand and whispered, “Run,” then took a shuddering breath, a wispy fragment of remembered humanity, and died. 

I took the stairs two at a time, woke my younger sister, grabbed our emergency packs we stored underneath our beds and fled into the enveloping darkness. 

We ran. We ran through the night, past towering pines and over beds of fragrant sweet grass. No one who followed would notice the path of our hurried flight. We were surefooted and silent as does. Even the animals  avoided us, perhaps because we still smelled of fear and grief, so we ran unhindered farther and farther into the forest. The dense foliage hid us from circling helicopters, their angry buzz becoming less incessant the deeper we ran. Even the search dogs’ barking grew fainter, their scenting abilities confused by our masked scent. Day after day, we ran.

At least with our feet in motion flying across the fragrant forest floor, we could pretend for just a little bit longer she hadn’t died. We could imagine a childhood free from paranoia, locked doors, furtive whispers and from hiding in plain sight. We could convince ourselves she had been a normal mother who taught us to bake instead of how to load and shoot a weapon in less than a minute, or that family trips had been to the mall and not survival training deep in the wilderness. That photos on the wall were of family members and loved ones, not a complicated web of key government officials and their biographies she had forced us to remember.  While running, we could pretend her mania had been the over protective instincts of a single mom and not symptoms of a deeper disturbance.

Because to stop running was to give up hope. It was admitting the monsters she had warned us about weren’t real, a truth more frightening than the evil who trailed us even now.

Running held back fear. Running kept us alive. It was the only thing we knew how to do.

So we ran. 

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017

A Valentine’s Day Interview: Tavis and Amelia

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Me: Good-day. Thank you for meeting with me, Lord and Lady Stanton. In honor of Valentine’s Day, my readers have a few burning questions for you.

Tavis: It’s our pleasure, though why the details of our lives would be of any interest baffles me. Ask away. We’ll answer as honestly as able.

Amelia: (sticks out tongue at Tavis) I will be completely honest, thank you very much. I rarely tell so much as a Little White Lie.

Me: Who’s older?

Amelia: That’s easy. Tavis is about five years older than me.

Me: Alright. Who expressed their interest in the other first?

Tavis: Amelia.

Amelia: Your nose is growing, Husband. It was you who pinned me to the ground outside my father’s stable, and it was you who insisted on a moonlit waltz.

Tavis: Ah, but you so conveniently forget how you pressed your wee body into mine, closed your eyes and begged me for a kiss.

Amelia: I said no such thing!

Tavis: Sometimes actions convey more than words ever could.

Amelia:  Unfair! What woman could resist you in your black evening clothes and all that dark, brooding masculinity. If I did ask for a kiss, albeit unconsciously, I blame your irresistible good looks. Is it my fault I am no stronger than the average woman?

Tavis: I rest my case.

Amelia: Ridiculous man. What’s your next question?

Me: How long have you been married?

Tavis: A year.

Me: And how long have you been acquainted?

Amelia: A year and two weeks.

Me: Were you, ah, caught in a compromising position necessitating such a hasty marriage?

Tavis: Mean you did I tup the lass soon as I saw her?

Amelia: (blushing red) Tavis! You’re embarrassing her!

Tavis: No, I’m not. It’s you who is embarrassed, my sweet wife.

Amelia: Can we not discuss (whispers) our tupping?

Tavis: (to me) My wee wife is beyond mortified, so I’ll only say the tupping happened after we married at Gretna Green and that is was verra satisfying. That should be enough for your avid readers.

Me: Moving on, who has more of a barbed tongue?

Amelia: Do you mean forked because Tavis tells a lie as smoothly as any charlatan.

Tavis: (runs a frustrated hand through his hair) Necessary lies. Lies to keep you safe. I told you all after the danger had passed.

Amelia: Only after I was kidnapped and almost made into a bigamist.

Tavis: I’d have ne’er let you marry that snake. Besides, I saved you right enough.

Amelia: Who saved whom?

Tavis: Fine, we both saved each other.

Amelia: (kisses him on the cheek)Better.

Me: Kidnapping? Bigamy? Care to elaborate on that?

Tavis: No need to spoil the ending for those who haven’t read our story yet.

Me: Good point.

Amelia: Are we almost done? The baby is due up from his nap soon, and I’ll have to go feed him.

Me: A nice introduction to the next question: how many children do you have?

Tavis: Just the one, a boy born this month.

Me: Are there plans to enlarge your nursery?

Tavis: Think you I am a man of little sense? My wife is beautiful and the tupping is beyond satisfying. Of course we’re going to expand our nursery.

Me: As we are on the subject of marital activities, who takes up most space on the bed?

Amelia: Me, definitely!
Tavis: Aye, the lass enjoys sprawling most indelicately across the mattress and anyone who happens to be there. Many a  morn I’ve awakened with her knees pressed into my back and me almost falling onto the floor.

Amelia: I don’t hear any complaints.

Tavis: And you won’t. I happen to like how you sleep and have passed many hours watching you slumber. Like that night we stopped at the crofter’s cottage.

Amelia: You had kissed me senseless and then stormed out leaving me to wonder what I had done wrong.

Tavis: It’s what you did right that forced me from the hut to sleep with the horses. I almost lost the right to call myself a gentleman after that kiss. Or before for that matter. I don’t know how many nights I stayed awake staring at you across the fire, dreaming up ways to get ye into my bedroll.

Amelia: You hid it well, for I never knew what you struggled until after we wed.

Tavis: Aye, well you were mighty perturbed with me for the pace we kept after I stole you away from your da and took you across England to Gretna Green.

Me: One reader does ask who is the better rider

Tavis: ‘Tis me, though Amelia has quite a fine seat herself.

Amelia: Since Tavis has begun breeding horses, I’ve had to learn simply to keep up with him. I’m a much better rider than I was when we first married.

Tavis: (winking) So you are, lass. So you are.

Me: Final question, who wears the pants in the relationship?

Tavis: What an odd question. Amelia wears dresses, and fine ones, too. Are you casting aspersions upon my ability to adorn my wife in clothing suited for her station as Countess of Stanton?

Me: I just meant-

Amelia: And even then, Tavis, you wear trousers but rarely. He much prefers his kilt and then he only wears that (fanning herself) and no other garments underneath.

Tavis: Lass…

Amelia: In fact, the kilt he’s wearing now is one of my favorites, and if I remember correctly from when he dressed this morning—(flushes and clears her throat) Oh, is the baby crying?

Me: What? I don’t hear anything.

Tavis: (rising) No, that’s definitely the baby.

Amelia: (grabbing his hand and rising) You’ll excuse us, please? The butler will show you out.

Me: But I have some more questions!

Amelia: Another day? Come back later when we’re not so busy with the baby and …other things.

Me: When will that be?

Tavis: Never, if I have anything to say about it.

(C) Sara Ackerman, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

The Gypsy Curse Part 3

One week later, Amelia and her sisters were in the fields near the forest playing hide and seek, and she had been it for the last quarter of an hour. She hated being it because she could never find anyone. Five minutes of half-hearted searching later, she gave up, too bored to continue.  With an unladylike plop, she slumped to the ground and leaned  on a fallen log, grateful the sun was shining. The gentle rays helped chase away the nagging fear  plaguing her all week. Flinging an arm over her eyes, she slipped into drowsy relaxation.

The warmth disappeared, and the field darkened. A shiver stole up her spine, and she rolled over, curling  on her side to continue her rest. “Oh, bother. Go away clouds. I am trying to sleep,” she muttered. The clouds, alas, were immovable.  She cracked open an eye to investigate but a looming shadow obscured her vision. It blocked the sun and inspired a grim sort of dread which beat a steady rhythm in her head. The shadow advanced, and two gnarled, weathered talons outstretched to grab her.  She opened her mouth and screamed.

The figure moved and her eyes, now accustomed to the unnatural twilight, discerned an old woman dressed in a faded blue dress with a wide purple velvet sash tied in the middle. A colorful shawl draped over her stooped shoulders and a scarf wrapped round her head, neatly framing her wild mane of silvering hair.

“Are you one of my little liars?” she asked, her thick accent clipping each syllable until the words were nothing more than a litany of jagged consonants firing in her mind.

“You’re supposed to be gone! My papa told you to leave a week ago.”

The old woman cackled and rubbed her hands together. “You know who I am. Good.”

She shrank against the log and wrapped her arms about her knees.

“I see you are afraid. That is also good.”

“What do you want with me?” she whispered.

“Not just you, little girl. I also want your sisters, too.” A delighted smile cracked her tanned, wizened  visage, but her gap-toothed smile did nothing to ease her fear.

“They’re not here.”

“They’ll come. I saw them hiding not too far away from here.”

From the forest  came a loud cracking of branches alerting her to the truth of the old woman’s statement. Her two sisters emerged from the forest and ran to her, Beatrice yelling at the top of her lungs, “Amelia! We’re coming!”

Spying the old woman, they skidded to a halt and in wary apprehension, looked at her and the old woman. Evie whimpered and ran to huddle beside Amelia while Beatrice, ever the eldest, stood  in front of her sisters. Drawing herself up to her full height, she demanded,“Who are you and what do you want with my sister?”

Amelia admired her sister’s bravado, for she saw what it cost her. Small hands clutched her skirts in a white-knuckled death grip and the usual rosy sheen which graced her young face  had been leeched of color.

“I am just an old woman passing through the forest.”

Beatrice assessed the old woman, taking in her faded garments and weathered face. “You’re a gypsy!” With her chin held high, she waved her hand in the air in a blatant act of dismissal. “Be gone!  My father has evicted  your kind for your treachery against his hospitality!”

“Our treachery, Lady Beatrice?” The old woman whispered, venom lacing each word. She advanced on the girls, pinning them against the fallen log. Soon, her wrinkled face was looming over Beatrice’s, her eyes dark and angry. “Don’t you mean yours?”

“How do you know my name?” Beatrice stammered, her eyes darting  from the old woman to her sisters behind her. Having reached the end of her courage, she held out her hand to Amelia and grasped it in her own. She pulled Beatrice down with a plunk to sit beside her.

“I knew we wouldn’t get away with it, Bea.”

The old woman had heard, and she nodded.”I know all about you three and what you did last week.”

Amelia’s lower lip trembled and she asked, “What are you going to do to us?” Because there had to be a consequence. There was always a consequence.

“I intend to make it right.” The old woman raised her arms and the clearing stilled. The bird song quieted and the gentle wind which had been rustling the leaves and feathering the grass ceased.  A terrible light gleamed from the gypsy woman’s aged eyes.

“For your lie, an innocent man was tried and found guilty of a crime he did not commit.” The once dormant wind rose and whipped through the clearing, slashing her silvered hair against her face and howling its outrage as it tore across the grass and through the tree grove. Clouds rolled up and over each other, ripping apart the sky with its upheaval.

“It was you who were too weak to tell the truth, and have forever condemned an innocent to life far from his family!” She pointed a gnarled finger at the three sisters. “And so, I curse you.”

When the last of the three had been cursed, the old woman’s arms dropped. Revenge faded from her eyes only to be replaced with sad resignation. The winds died and the clouds sped across the sky. Light flooded the clearing, but the girls could not see. Fear clouded their vision and possessed their minds.

The old woman raised her right hand and made the sign of the cross, a sad smile on her face. “Te aves yertime mander tai te yertil tut o Del.”* With a final look at the three sisters, the old gypsy woman walked to  the woods and vanished.

 

*I forgive you and may God forgive you as I do.

© Sara Ackerman 2016

World Wide Release Wednesday

Little White Lies ebook available as of today! It’s 50% off at Wild Rose Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ll be available from 12:30-2:30 CST for live chat on my Facebook page. Stop on over at https://www.facebook.com/saraeackerman/ to chat. #TWRPLittle White Lies poster 16 ackerman