Wow! I’m jumpin’ with excitement! I’m PUMPED! Noted author Sherry Ficklin just texted me letting me know that she has published my short story “Creature of the Night” on her Tumblr page. If you would like to read it follow this link: http://authorsherry.tumblr.com/post/100862961092/creature-of-the-night
I want to apologize for my lack of posts for the past few months. Had some medical issues that are hopefully taken care of. I’m up to chapter twenty in the book and have done a few images based on the characters in the books. Some are rough character sketches and others are more realized. Hope you like them!.
This particular chapter is pretty much a stand alone story, but it does tie in to the main narrative of my book. I hope you enjoy and please comment!
Tracy Ford was hesitating. He was stalling but couldn’t help himself. Beyond the door in front of him undoubtedly lied grief and he knew it. He had been through a lot in the past month. Hospitalization. Interrogation by more government agencies than he had ever known existed. Quarantine. Testing. Then more recently, legal teams, and then to his surprise, training. He allowed his thoughts to drift back to that warm summer day, twenty-six days ago. He had come to call it simply ‘That Day’.
That day was normal in every way. He was on his way home after a relic hunting trip with some of his buddies. He was pleased with the amount and quality of their discoveries in that big field the day before. Tracy and his friends liked to call themselves ‘amateur archeologists’. They enjoyed nothing more than scouring a field or riverbed, and digging up whatever their metal detectors indicated was buried in the ground at their feet. Mostly they found detritus from Civil War camps. Odds and ends left behind as they moved location to location, battlefield to battlefield. Bullets. Belt buckles. Metal buttons. A variety of interesting items were out there if you only took the time to look. It was all good.
Tracy was looking forward to getting home to a nice hot shower and spending time with his widowed father. Tracy was a good son, who had supported his parents in any way possible. It had been rough for a time, watching the cancer eat away at the mother he loved so much. It had been rougher still letting her go. Now he tried to help comfort his father who was still feeling the loss. He heard the sirens well before the firetrucks turned the corner and went racing past him, lights flashing, the wail drowning out everything else. Tracy immediately turned the corner from which they came, backtracking their route until he arrived at what he liked to call the ‘Far House’, overemphasizing his southern accent. Tracy was a firefighter and this fire hall was his second home. “What’s up?” he asked Justin who had been left behind to man the firehouse. “Big residential out on Old River Road! Might be bad!” he said as he watched Tracy grab his gear and throw it into his jeep. “I’ll find it!” Tracy yelled at his co-worker as he did a quick three point turn headed in the direction he had seen the firetrucks flying to.
He might have been off duty, but he wanted to be ready and available just in case they needed his assistance. He took the turns at alarming speed, eventually hearing the wailing sirens, easily following the sound to the source. He could see the smoke rising well before he got there. It was a big one. A huge, old two story home, flames pouring from every window, all of which had been broken by the fire’s pressure change. “Need any help?” Tracy asked the man feeding out firehose, as he struggled into his firefighting gear. “Maybe.” Terry said, “That old place is a tinderbox and it’s not going to be easy to put out.” Everybody out?” “Not sure. The old lady is out, but isn’t sure if her husband is here or not. His truck is here, but he might be over the hill in the back of the house, at their barn, or he might still be inside. Todd and Brian are inside now searching for him in case he is still in there.” As he finished pulling on the last of his gear, Tracy was watching the front of the house, where he was relieved to see Brian emerge from the front door, helping an elderly man through the rolling, thick, black smoke. “Where’s Todd?” Tracy asked Brian, racing to help him maneuver the old guy to the waiting EMT truck. “Not sure. He went upstairs to search while I checked the downstairs. It’s a big house! I found the old guy in the kitchen, on his knees. He’d been trying to put out the fire with a small extinguisher and was about to pass out from the smoke. I just grabbed him and aimed for the door. I guess Todd is still looking or on his way out.”
Before Tracy could reply, all heads turned to a loud groaning, then a cacophonous roar as the house began collapsing inside. “I’m going in!” Tracy yelled as he raced to the front door. As he entered, he saw liquid fire rolling across what was left of the first floor ceiling. Everything to the right of the central staircase had fallen, burning beams a maze as he fought to get around and through the blazing debris. Tracy caught a glimpse of bright yellow and headed for it. “YES!” Tracy thought as he saw that it was Todd’s protective clothing and vaulted over the angled beam between them. “Gotcha, Bud!” Tracy told Todd, as he helped him to his feet. “Let’s get the hell out of here, before the rest of the place drops!” Todd nodded, but before they could move any further, Tracy heard the moaning above him and knew it was too late. The roof of the house dropped, raining hellfire all around them.
Tracy really didn’t fully remember what happened next. He had seen the cell phone videos taken by rubbernecking neighbors, but it was still hard for him to believe what occurred. According to the videos, the entire roof collapsed, forcing mountains of smoke out to form billowing clouds as black as the pits of hell. You could hear his fellow firefighters , yelling and screaming racing toward the house, to be pushed back by the explosive heat and smoke. Chaos was in the air, charging the scene with frantic activity. Then it got weird. Views from several phones showed a massive, electric blue, translucent bubble growing outward through the smoke. It expanded until it encompassed all that was left of the house. Then with a sound not unlike a popping, bubble gum bubble, it imploded with one final bright flash, and suddenly the fire was out. Gone. All that was left was a burned shell with an odd, white mist wafting away from it on the slight breeze. The many faces caught on video were looking back and forth in terror and confusion, no one knowing what they had just witnessed.
What happened next is what made Tracy Ford instantly famous. Two figures burst from the rubble, one carrying the other in his arms. The prone figure was Todd, but the other was something never seen before. It was shaped like a man, but could not be a man. Looking like nothing less than a moving glass statue, it gleamed in the sunlight, a thin, shiny, man shaped sheath enveloping a brilliant, swirling plasma of yellows, oranges and reds. It took several steps forward away from the wreck of the house, and then collapsed onto the smoke blackened lawn, spilling Todd onto the grass. The shock paralyzed firefighters all broke as one and rushed toward their downed comrade. As they raced forward one man went down, then another, suddenly on their backs, startled. “What the hell?” one exclaimed. “Ice! Ice?” another said, “There’s ice everywhere!” spreading his arms to indicate the area all around them. What had once been firehose drenched lawn was now a solid sheet of ice, growing to a perfect edge that mimicked, perimeter of the strange bubble they had witnessed earlier.
Proceeding with a bit more caution, two men reached Todd and helped him up, carrying him toward the awaiting EMT’s. The rest were in a semi-circle, cautiously staring at the strange figure still laying prone before them. They all took several involuntary steps backward when the figure suddenly, but slowly raised it’s impossible head, pushing up on its impossible arms, lifting itself to it’s knees. Various cuts of the several videos showed all of this. The expressions of everyone filmed, revealed a combination of bewilderment and fearful dismay. The inconceivable thing in front of them struggled to rise to it’s feet, the strange energies contained within it shifting and flowing under that odd, clear skin. It rose unsteadily, face down, shaking it’s head as to cast off it’s dazedness. It finally looked up, turning it’s blazing white eyes on those standing around it and the it said weakly, “Get back.” Then more forcefully it repeated, “Get back!” Tracy had remembered this part as he had watched the videos. He remembered feeling a fullness throughout his entire being. A terrible pressure was building inside him, and he felt as though he would explode. From his toes to fingertips, he felt the pressure increasing, threatening to burst him from the inside out.
“GET BACK!” he yelled one more time, firefighters scrambling in retreat as he threw his arms skyward, a massive eruption of napalm like fire forming a prodigious pillar that exploded into the heavens. He later learned that the spike of fire could be seen from over a mile away. For what seemed an eternity, he expelled this inferno, until it finally lessened. then winked out and suddenly the strange creature that had been there moments before was gone and all that was left was a very weak, very tired, very naked Tracy Ford. That’s when he passed out.
The next couple of weeks were a blur of frantic activity. First the hospital stay, complete with armed guards. This is where he learned that the public had been shown the incredible footage of the events of that strange day. The hospital had been surrounded by a sea of sattelite dish equipped news vans, circling helicopters and a flood of reporters. Next came the transfer to some military base he had never heard of, where he was poked and prodded by a never ending river of doctors, nurses, scientists and theoreticians. He had agreed to this, because he wanted to get a little peace and he really, really wanted to find out what the hell had happened to him. Tracy had seen some of the weird videos that had been popping up ever more frequently of other people that seemed to show them using strange powers, but he figured they were all misinterpreted or flat out fakes. A woman with wings? A lizard man? A guy throwing a John Deere tractor half the length of a football field? “Bullshit!”he had thought. He didn’t think “bullshit” now. He knew better.
He learned that testing of the event site had convinced the scientists that the bubble that had been formed was Tracy somehow absorbing all the heat energy in the area which snuffed out the fire and left him a walking shell of energy, not unlike the roiling surface of the sun. It also left everything it touched frozen solid. Luckily, for some reason, his holding Todd had protected him from the worst of the freezing, and becoming a flash frozen firefighter. Todd had a few minor burns from the fire and a broken left arm, but the worst had been a bad case of hypothermia, which was treated quickly and effectively, much to Tracy’s relief.
He was not able to control absorbing heat energy. It was not as radical as at the first event, but being around him was like being in a walk in freezer. He was absorbing the ambient heat energy everywhere he went. People had to dress in arctic wear to work around him. After so long of this, he would feel the pressure building and he would be placed in an open field within the confines of the base and there he could relieve the pressure by shooting streams of fire from his hands. This scared the hell out of him. They had no idea how to help him get rid of this power or even how to control it. This scared him even more. How could he ever hope to live a normal life if he was a constant danger to everyone around him? They tried to deny him contact with the outside world altogether, until he threatened to “napalm the shit out of them if they didn’t get him a damned phone.” They got him a phone. After contacting those closest to him and assuring them that he was ok, he kept in daily contact with his father and his girlfriend, and he also contacted a good friend who was a lawyer and began gathering information on whether it was legal to keep him incarcerated or not. He wasn’t ready to leave yet, but he didn’t want anything standing in his way when he decided it was time to go.
Then came the night he heard a tapping at his window, which was quite startling since he was quartered in a second floor billet. He went to the window, raised the shade, drew back the curtain only to find himself to be face to face with a man floating in mid air. He opened the window, wide eyed at the sight before him and the man said, “I can help you if you want.” After a brief, condensed explanation, he agreed to go with this flying man. Of course his disappearance had later sent the base into a frenzy when it was discovered he was gone, but he didn’t care. He needed help and this floating man sounded like his best chance. It had been. He was flown by the man to what appeared to be a very nice home, that was surprisingly only about 30 miles from his hometown of Newport Tennessee. In this case appearances were definitely deceiving. This house was actually a complex with underground facilities unlike anything Tracy had ever imagined. There he was told the whole story about how there are many different realities. Universes that are alike in many ways and vastly different in many other ways. He learned how the flying man and a few others with him were from one of those other realities and had been principal in the event that had unleashed what they had called “The Godseed” into this universe, changing it forever. Tracy learned much to his surprise that the comic books he had read as a kid, were actually relating tales from this other universe. He learned a lot of things over the next week spent in the compound.
Following the instructions offered by the flying man and his associates, Tracy was able to actually gain real control over his new abilities. He also learned that with this new mastery, he could do even more than he could ever have imagined. They taught him how to contain the energy he consumed until he was ready to release it. He learned that by focusing the energy, he could become weightless and using directed bursts, he could actually fly at jet like speeds. He could also focus the power within him into kinetic energy, which translated into astounding strength. He was most pleased to learn he did not have to be a danger to those he loved.
Now he stands in front of this door, hand slowly turning the knob, bracing himself for what he knows is waiting for him when he crosses that threshold. Enough was enough. It was time. He threw open the door, stepped into the large room and announced quite loudly, “Hey Dickheads! I’m back!” Many heads jerked and swiveled in Tracy’s direction and he was greeted with a series of overlapping insults. “Fuck you too, asshole!” “Suck it, Tracy!” “Were you gone? We didn’t notice, you lazy ass!” “Have a good vacation, Jerkwad?” and more, one drowning out the next. Then he was surrounded by a bevy of firefighters, wives, girlfriends and other assorted friends, hugging him, slapping him on the back, just welcoming him home. And he was home here at the ‘Far House’. He had called to let him know he was coming and assured them that there was nothing to fear from him. They had taken him at his word and had all assembled here to show their love and concern for him. These were his people. These were his family.
After the initial tumult resulting from his entrance, everyone gradually calmed into a normal state of casual disorder. Tracy was the center of attention of course, fielding questions flying fast and furious from everyone present. “Chill out!” Tracy demanded, a big, goofy, grateful smile on his face. “Calm down and I’ll give you the whole scoop. At least what I can tell you, ok?” With only a little good natured grumbling, the gathered group began to settle down. And then he told them. Pretty much everything. He didn’t give up much about who had finally been able to train him out of respect for their privacy, but he was able to satisfy the vast majority of the curiosity that had previously filled the room. But not all of it. They still had some questions.
“So, you’ve got a for real superpower. We’re seeing a lot of that kind of thing lately. Any idea why?” One face asked. “Yeah, but I can’t tell you just yet, but there’s going to be a public announcement in jus a couple of days.” “Bullshit, Dude!”, said another face, “You can tell us. Hell, you HAVE to tell us! We can keep it on the downlow for a few days. Right, guys?” This was answered with a chorus of “Hell, yeah”s” and “You know it’s.” Tracy thought for a moment and after weighing it, decided that he could trust these people with the secret of “The Event”. “Do any of you know who I’m talking about when I say ‘The Protectors’?” “Yeah!” one blurted. “That’s like that super-group, with Superman and Batman!” “No dumbass!” countered another. That’s DC. The Protectors are Thunderbolt comics. Apex, Black Beast, Asguardia and the Blue Bolt! Don’t you know anything?” “Blue STREAK.” corrected Tracy. “Yeah, right. Blue Streak.” conceded the man. “Well, believe it or not, they’re real.They’ve come here from another universe. I’ve met some of them.” Tracy grinned. This was followed by a symphony of ‘Bullshit’s and other accusatory denials. “No bullshit!” Tracy said. “I’m serious as a heart attack. They’re real and are going to go public in just a couple of days. They were part of the events that led up to people now being able to get super powers in our universe. It’s kind of technical, so I’ll just say nothing is EVER going to be the same again!” This revelation silenced the room. The quiet was broken by Todd who said, “I’ve got a question. Are you aware that the video of you that day is the most viral thing ever, and now the entire world has seen your naked dongle?”
Tracy was taken aback a bit by this, as his friends all hooted and whistled like friends do when ragging a buddy. After a moment taken to gather his thoughts, he finally replied, “That’s ok. I’ve got a great dongle!” Which was followed by more hoots and whistles. “You think so? Looks more like a dingle than a dongle to me!” said another. This was met with uproarious laughter. “Hey!” one interjected, “You’ve got a superpower. Got a superhero name to go with it?” Sheepishly, Tracy admitted, “I’ve been thinking about one, but I haven’t’ come up with anything I like. It’s kind of corny when you think about it.” “Well sheeit, boy! We’ll help you out! What do you all think Tracy’s superhero name should be?” “The Tiny Blazing Penis”, said Brian, everyone laughing as they all started having fun with this. Not being able to help himself, Tracy turned to Brian and said, “If you don’t give it a rest, I’ll suck the heat out of your penis and give you frostbite of the dongle!” Silence. It was too late and he knew it. He had given them the perfect set up. “OH MY GOD!” said Brian, “Did you hear that? Tracy just said he wants to suck my hot penis!” Hilarity ensued. Another said, “I think that means he should be called “The Big Flamer!” People were choking on their laughter now. This was the grief he had expected. The good type of grief given to you by your best friends. “Fire Man!” offered another voice. “That’s lame!” Came the quick reply. This was how people who relied on each other expressed their camaraderie. Guys were like this normally, but amongst those that lived together, trained together and relied on each other with their very lives, humor was a necessity. Laughter kept the spirits up and the inescapable fear at bay. This was his family, behaving like his family. “The Heat Sink”, was offered. “The Human Torch!” “That’s already taken, knumbnuts! “You guys are hopeless!” said Tracy, laughing loudly. “Well, if you’re so much smarter than us, why haven’t you picked a name already, hot shot?” came a reply to his laughter. Tracy jerked his head up, lifting his hand to quiet them down. “Hot shot?”, he said slowly. “Hot Shot!” he said with more resonance to his voice.
“Thank you, boys. I think that’s it. Hot Shot is cool! That just sounds like me.”, and that quickly it was decided. Tracy Ford would be known to the world as “Hot Shot!
I’ve always drawn. By no means would I consider my art of professional quality, but I am what I consider a talented amateur. Most of my life drawing was how I expressed myself. It was my escape. Now I find myself exploring writing for the same reasons. Having done it for a while now, I find that many of the lessons I learned teaching myself how to draw apply to my writing as well. A good picture requires a good basic layout as a story requires a good, basic plot. Once that is decided, you concentrate on detailing the picture to project the elements that will make it recognizable. Same with a story. It has to be fleshed out to make sense. Then you apply the fine details that will define the picture, making it uniquely yours. Writing is the same. However, just as with artwork, you can overwork something to the point of destroying it. That’s not good. A couple of months ago, I sat down to draw a portrait of Dawn Wells, Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. It started out quite well, but I just could not get the image I saw in my head down on paper. I kept working it and changing it, and working it again until it became one of the worst portraits I had ever done. Instead of looking like Mary Ann, it looked like a bad drawing of a bad porcelain doll that kind of looked like Mary Ann. I hated it. I knew I was capable of better, but had just not performed to my expectations. My drawing has taught me that while detail is important, you use what you need. No more. No less. That’s when it works.
I’ve always considered myself an honest man. Those who know me, know me as an honest man. But recently I realized that since I’ve started writing fiction, by it’s very nature, I have had to become a liar. Fiction is primarily lying. It really is. If a writer hopes to create fiction that is believable, he or she had best learn how to LIE, LIE, LIE. Not only that, but they have to be damned good at it to be taken seriously. Every story I tell, every character I create, every bit of dialoge I write…all lies. You know what? Despite always being proud of my reputation as an honest man, I’m enjoying the hell out of lying my ass off! I never knew I had it in me!
The following is just a taste of what I’m doing in my novel. It will have a variety of flavors, ranging from horrific, to humorous hitting pretty much every thing in between. “Paper Gods” will have one major story per book, a variety of sub plots, with numerous side stories that will help build my world. The following is one of those side stories. I hope you enjoy “The Queen”. If you you do, please comment and share! Thanks! Oh yeah…The picture I posted with this is not related to the story, but I find I get more hits when I add a picture I’ve drawn! Yeah! I’m that petty! If it helps, you can think of the woman in the picture as the character “Denise” in the story.
It had been one of the best days ever for Denise Mcgee. Finally, after a bit more than a year, the papers were finalized and Winnie was now officially their daughter. Denise and her husband Randy had spent many, many hours dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” to make this happen. The McGees were a wonderful couple, who missed being able to give as parents since their two boys had grown up and moved out. Denise and Randy were doting, loving parents that had raised their children well. The boys had grown up into fine young men and were now following their own life paths which looked bright and full of great promise. Trent had finished college, married and had followed his job to Dubuque Iowa, and Bobby had joined the Marines and was stationed in San Diego, both places far from their childhood home in Columbus Ohio. Denise and Randy were extremely happy for their boys, but that didn’t stop the house from feeling too big and too empty since they had departed on their life journeys.
The McGees had tried to keep occupied to combat the loneliness, Denise with the church and a variety of hobbies, Randy still played drums in the basement with some of the buddies he used to gig with locally. Denise was pleased when her husband became interested in the whole “super power” thing that had filled the headlines since people started showing up who displayed real, strange, impossible abilities. Randy had taken to watching all the new programs focused on these “Enhanced”, as the media had dubbed them. Simon Cowell had scored a huge hit with “America’s Got Powers”, Vince McMahon’s “SPWL” or “Super Powered Wrestling League” was a rating’s bonanza, not to mention the cornucopia of documentaries and news programs dedicated to the phenomena. Randy was addicted to them as well as scouring YouTube and other web sites for glimpses of new Enhanced. Denise was a little conflicted by all of this strangeness. It scared part of her, all of these people with powers that could be potentially dangerous, but the christian in her knew that it all had to be part of God’s ultimate plan, and knowing that comforted her.
Despite their varied interests, the McGees still felt something missing. With the boys gone, they just didn’t feel they were being fulfilled. Then she saw the news story about that poor, poor girl and had begun following it and the more she learned the more she felt moved to become a part of it. At first it appeared just another terrible story of domestic abuse leading to murder, but as the details emerged, Denise became interested. According to the news reports, a local woman had killed her boyfriend when she caught him abusing her daughter and had a complete mental breakdown in the process. The slaying was described in terrifying detail in one paper’s bold headline: “Death of a Thousand Cuts!” Details were skimpy, but the incoherent woman had been institutionalized and the daughter placed in the care of Child Protective Services. That’s where Denise met Winnie.
As part of her work for the church, Denise often visited the many displaced children living under the governments watchful eye. The church sent representatives to minister to these lost children, to offer them comfort where they could. All of them had sad stories that broke Denise’s heart, but it was different with Winnie. The staff had informed Denise that this was the little girl from the horrific murder from a few weeks earlier, but neither they or the news reports had prepared her for this. When introduced to Winnie for the very first time, the girl had wrapped her arms around Denise and hugged her mightily. The arms were not tapered like most kids, Denise noticed. They were just a bit shorter and rounder than other children her age, the joints a smidgen thicker. The child drew back and looked Denise squarely in the eyes, her own eyes just a little too close together, a little too small, and they eyelids drooped somewhat towards the outside. The face was just a little too round, and that warm smile was punctuated with deep, mirrored commas at either sign of her upturned mouth. “Hello!” said Winnie brightly, with a voice a touch huskier than it should be, the word slurred just a bit by a too thick tongue. “Downs Syndrome.” Thought Denise, collecting herself before she showed actual surprise. “Hello, right back!” she said flashing the girl her brightest smile! “I’m Denise and I think we’re going to be wonderful friends!” And they were.
Denise had felt the connection almost immediately. While she had always empathized with any of the children she met here, the bond she felt with Winnie was overpowering. She and this little girl with the beautiful blonde hair, and the sparkling eyes only grew closer and closer with each visit. Denise took it upon herself to learn as much as possible about the life Winnie had lived before being placed here. She gathered much information from the staff, but she also learned a lot from Winnie herself. After interviewing friends relatives and neighbors, the authorities had put together a thoroughly depressing story. Winnie’s mother was a pill hound, who lived by sponging off a string of boyfriends, none of which ever lasted very long. Between government assistance, and the check she got for Winnie’s disability, they had lived a spartan life, moving countless times to keep ahead of rent demanding landlords. The mother got the majority of her pills from friends who shared and swapped legal prescriptions, which for the most part kept them off the legal radar. The mother had been bi-polar, alternating between an overly possessive mother, to hating her daughter for being “messed up” and holding her back, according to her twisted logic. She had told people on numerous occasions that Winnie was a punishment from God and if it weren’t for the government check, she would gladly hand her over to the state, which is ironically just where Winnie ended up anyway. Denise was infuriated at the very thought! How could ANY mother have those kind of thoughts about their own child! It was maddening!
Denise was both surprised and delighted to learn that God had compensated for Winnie’s Downs Syndrome by gifting her with a talent far beyond her years. Even at this age of eleven, Winnie had shown remarkable skill at drawing and painting. When first shown the artwork, almost all done on the back of leaflets and advertising flyers, Denise had trouble believing that these beautiful, intricately detailed drawings could possibly come from those stubby little fingers. Denise had taken a few art classes and knew enough to know that this girl wasn’t just talented, she was a prodigy! Unicorns. Faeries. Elves. Leprechauns. A veritable plethora of fantasy creatures, all lovingly and immaculately rendered, limited only by the inadequate supplies used to create them. Denise learned that Winnie preferred to do her artwork alone, perhaps because it had been her escape from her mother’s shifting moods and inevitable periods of unconsciousness. Winnie told Denise that her art time was her “‘Magination” time. Winnie explained that while drawing, she would make up stories about her creations and that she loved them all and they were her best friends! Denise found it both sad and yet somehow encouraging that this girl who had suffered through so much had instinctively found a way to deal with her unfortunate circumstances and had persevered.
Winnie also sometimes talked about her mother’s boyfriends. Winnie told her, “Mommy liked lot’s of men. She made me call them ‘Uncle Bill’ or ‘Uncle Gary’, but I’m not stupid. I knew they weren’t my uncles. They were her boyfriends!” Winnie said that most of them came and went pretty quickly, but one had stayed for a long time. “That was Uncle Jerry and I loved him so much!” Winnie gushed. Winnie explained that “Uncle” Jerry wouldn’t let her mommy do the pills and things were really good for a long time. “When Uncle Jerry was there, we always had milk for the Lucky Charms! Mommy never had to take the landlord to the bedroom to ‘gotiate the rent’ either.” She explained. “Uncle Jerry was a truck driver and he would take me out in his truck!” She said, her thick voice only slightly distorting her words. “He would take me for rides in his big, giant truck! I loved riding in Uncle Jerry’s truck! We would be up SOOO high, and I could look down and see the tops of the cars and everything! Being up in the air like that made me feel like I was a princess in my throne!” She glowed as she told how Uncle Jerry had bought her a REAL art pad, with clean, white paper on BOTH sides! “Then Mommy started doing the pills again while Uncle Jerry was gone on the road and thing started getting bad.” She had heard them arguing, Jerry begging her mother to stop over and over. Finally one night Jerry had come to Winnies room, cradled her in his arms and told her that he had to go away for good. He couldn’t live with her mother when she “got like that”, and if he left, her mother wouldn’t let him see Winnie again. Winnie told Denise that made her cry really hard and Uncle Jerry cried really hard too! The last thing he said to Winnie was “I’m gonna try to get you some help!” he hugged her tight, then a choked, “I love you, Winnie!” Then he was gone. It was only a few days later that Uncle Jason had moved in, but Winnie didn’t like talking about Uncle Jason. Not at all.
After learning all this, a tugging at her heart that was also nipping at her mind finally found clarity in one demanding thought, “We need to adopt Winnie!” She brought Randy to meet this special little girl and they had bonded instantly, Randy playing with her and making her laugh uproariously. The paperwork was started, they attended religiously every meeting and conference asked of them. They jumped through more hoops than Wham-O made in a year! But now, tonight, it had all payed off. Winnie was their daughter, tucked safely in her new bed, sleeping soundly with Denise in the big chair next to it. She was lovingly watching the girl slumber, simply content in being a mother again. The day had been a long one, signing the final paperwork releasing Winnie from government custody, gathering up Winnie’s meager belongings and stowing them in the SUV. From there had come a whirlwind of shopping. They had pretty much set up Winnie’s room earlier, but they wanted their new child to pick out any item she wanted to decorate her room. Not surprisingly, they ended up with a truck full of fantasy items. Unicorn statuettes. Fairy night lights. Every fantasy land movie they could find on DVD. The works. Winnie was ecstatic. She just glowed all day. She beamed when they let her pick out her favorite foods and snacks from the grocery store. They let Winnie pick out where to eat and she chose a chain pizza place, where they had pizza with all of Winnie’s favorite toppings including the “‘Chovies” that neither Randy nor Denise liked very much. Naturally the contented couple didn’t mind suffering through the salty tidbits on this wonderful day. They were all in their own little heaven. The McGee’s were all tuckered out, but Winnie was exhausted. Even her joyous excitement at seeing her new room, complete with a real artist’s desk and easel, complete with professional quality pencils, pens, paints, papers and canvases couldn’t keep the happily weary child up long.
As Denise sat there savoring this wonderful, warm occasion , she unexpectedly drifted off herself, falling into a deep sleep within moments. As she slumbered, a discordant series of sounds and images began flashing within her sleeping mind. The images began to coalesce until they became something more coherent. To Denise it felt as though she was the lone viewer of a very vivid movie. A movie complete with narrarator. “I am Queen Winnifred!” a lovely, strong female voice announced. “There are things you need to know. Watch and learn!” The proud, regal voice commanded. Denise was like an invisible presence standing in a three dimensional theater. A room came into focus around her and she saw a little girl, who was obviously Winnie, standing in front of a couch where a very pretty woman lay, not responding to the little girls insistent shaking of the woman’s arm. “Passed out.” Denise thought, caught up in the dream. The little girl then went to the kitchen where she found a box of Lucky Charms laying on it side, on a very cluttered counter. The little Winnie dragged a chair up to the counter, climbed on it and opened a cabinet door, looked inside and thought “No bowls.” ” I can hear her thoughts.” Denise thought, accepting the strangeness casually, as you can only do while dreaming. Little Winnie then cleared room in an overstuffed sink, washed a bowl, then set it on one of the few clear spots on the kitchen table. She walked to the refrigerator, peered in and thought. “No milk.” she considered this and then, “Maybe eat them with water?” to which she immediately told herself, “No. They taste icky in water.” Resigned to her situation, she picked up the box of Lucky Charms, looked inside and spied what could only be enough to fill her tiny hands a couple of times. She shrugged, jammed her arm into the box past her elbow, snagged a few pieces of the dusty cereal, along with a couple of the crunchy marshmallow bits, guided them to her mouth and walked back to her room where she took one long look at her mother before closing the door.
The scene began to dissolve around Denise as another took it’s place. It was the same living room as before, but Winnie’s mother was awake. Winnie was struggling to hold on to something that her mother was trying to take away from her. It was a cheap, Wal Mart quality art pad and Winnie had a death grip on it. “Let go of it!” her mother screamed. “That motherfucker Jerry bought that, and I don’t want a damned thing of his in this house! Not after calling Health and Human services on me!” She jerked the pad free of Winnie’s stubby fingers, throwing it across the room in the process. She bolted to get it, before Winnie could get it back. She raised it up, opened it, and sneered at the drawings inside, saying, “He told you that you’re special just because you can draw pretty pictures.” she said flipping through them, “Well, he was partly right.” the woman spit out as she began ripping pages out of the pad and wadding them into small little balls. “You’re special for sure, but not because you can draw. You’re special bus, special you little retard! If it weren’t for you, I could get a real man!” Winnie was wailing, tears flooding her round face. “Oh just shut the hell up!” her mother demanded. “The assholes gone and not coming back, so no more special presents for you, Miss Special Bus!” She reached over to an end table, grabbed a stack of junk mail and flung it at the girl, envelopes scattering across the room. “Pick those up and you can dig through them to find some shit to draw on. It was good enough for you before “Perfect Jerry”, she said with a sneer, “you can make do with them now. Now go to your room, do your precious art thing and leave me the hell alone.” Winnie began gathering up the envelopes, picked them all up into a small stack then went to her door, taking a moment to glare back at her mother before closing her door.
“WOW”, thought Denise, a moment of clarity in this dreamscape. “This is too much. I even know I’m dreaming.” The scene shifted again, this time to the little girls bedroom. Winnie was hard at work, her fingers making painfully slow, yet absolutely precise movements across the page in front of her. It wasn’t good paper, but it would do. It was the back of a flyer for Speedy’s Bail Bonds. She had used many just like it. Speedy knew this neighborhood was ripe for his services, so he had these hand delivered to all the houses and apartments in the area. Local kids would pass out a few for a couple of bucks, eventually tossing a pile in the closest garbage can. That’s where Winnie got this page. It was in a garbage can next to the school bus stop, and she had managed to get a bunch. This drawing was of one of her favorites! Princess Flutterby! She was so beautiful. Winnie wished she was beautiful like any of her Princesses. She had lots of Princesses, and they were all lovely. It would be nice to be pretty, she thought, but she had learned to live with not looking like the other kids. What really made her mad was when people treated her like she was stupid. “I’m not stupid!” Winnie thought. “I’m just different. I can figure stuff out. I understand lots of stuff. I just hate how I can’t get things to go from my thinking part to my talking part. It gets messed up somewhere between them.” This frustrated Winnie. She even hated the word “frustrated”. It always came out as “flustrated”, no matter how hard she tried to say it right.
To her amazement Denise could actually FEEL that Winnie was “flustrated” tonight. She was having a hard time concentrating on doing her drawing right. Mommy and “Uncle Jason” were fighting and screaming at each other and that made drawing hard. She didn’t like Uncle Jason. He was mean. Sometimes when mommy was asleep, Jason would come to her room and make her do things. Things she didn’t like. Winnie didn’t like thinking about Jason’s visits to her room. He was mean other ways too. Last week, she had found a kitten wandering outside their back door and since mommy was asleep again, Winnie had snuck the tiny bundle of fur into her bedroom where she had hidden it for a couple of days. She fed it scraps from the table and hid it in a box in her closet. Then one night her mommy had smelled where the kitten had gone potty in the box and found little Jerrycat. Her mom threw a fit! “What the hell is this.” She screamed. “I didn’t tell you, you could have a fucking cat!” “Jason!” she yelled, “Come get this fleabag and do something with it.” Jason appeared in the doorway, naked except for a pair of boxer shorts. “Well, well,” he said “What have we got here?” He grinned an evil grin and asked, “Can cats swim? Let’s find out!” Winnie was bawling as Jason left the room. She heard the bathroom door open then close, then lots of meowing and splashing and Jason using bad words. “Bring me a plastic bag, so this thing won’t drip everywhere.” he called to Winnie’s mommy. “You’re gonna owe me some special lovin’ tonight”, he said when she brought it. “That thing tore my hand to shreds!” “Don’t worry.” she replied. “I’ll kiss and make it all better!.” “That’s not the only thing you’re gonna kiss!” Jason said and they both laughed. Winnie never saw the kitten again. She missed Jerrycat.
She also missed Uncle Jerry and that made her lonely. Winnie struggled to concentrate on drawing, trying to ignore the fighting coming from the other room, but it was hard. ” I wish you were real.” thought Winnie. “I wish you were my real friend.” Then something completely unexpected and magical happened. The paper began to quiver under Winnie’s hand. It fluttered and thrashed like a strong breeze was attempting to grab it up. Then the drawing moved. Not the paper. The drawing. Just a little. Suddenly to Winnie’s shocked eyes, it lifted itself up away from the paper and just floated there above it! It was flat at first, just floating there, but then with a pop, and a burst of tiny sparkles it swelled up and there in front of Winnie was Princess Flutterby, beautiful wings gently flapping. “Hi!” said the creature, “I’m Princess Flutterby, and I’m here to be your friend!” Winnie beamed, but Princess Flutterby was glowing. Glowing like a soft, green neon tube. “Let’s keep this our secret! Ok?” “Sure!” agreed Winnie, smiling from ear to ear.
Once again, Denise watched the scene melt away, but this time she just somehow knew that the story she was being shown was about to come to climax. Winnie’s room was dark. the little girl was awakened to the sound of the door being opened, a sliver of light breaking around it’s edge. As the door swung slowly open, she saw the figure of a man, silhouetted against the bright light from the living room. It would be too much for her to hope this was Uncle Jerry come to take her away. She knew who it was and she was scared. The last time he came to her room like this, all smelling of beer, he hadn’t just made her do things. He had done things to her. Things that hurt. Denise tried to scream at the man to leave Winnie alone, but here in this now nightmare world, she had no voice. She could only watch in terror as the man advanced toward Winnie’s bed, one hand unbuckling his belt, the other holding a finger to his lips. “SHHHH!” he whispered. “Mommy’s passed out, so I decided we could have a little play time.”
“Go away.” whimpered Winnie, pushing herself back towards her headboard, pulling her blankets to cover her all the way to her eyes. “Now don’t be like that.” He said in a voice meant to sound sweet, but couldn’t cover the depravity slithering beneath it. “Leave me alone!” Winnie cried louder this time. Jason grabbed the blankets covering the girl and whipped them away, leaving the girl defenseless. His voice wasn’t even trying to be sweet when he said, “Be quiet! Just lay back and let me enjoy myself and it won’t be too bad, but if you fight, I’ll make sure it hurts! BAD!” Suddenly, Jason was distracted by unexpected light. With no warning the room had filled with dozens of flitting, flashing multi-colored fireflies. They were everywhere. They swirled around Jason in a tornado of flickering neon. “What the fuck!” he exclaimed, swatting at these strange insects. His arms began flailing in an attempt to connect with these things. They dodged him easily, swarming around him until he lost his balance and fell from the bed. As he scrambled to get to his feet, one of the lights hovered in front of his face and with a faint pop, he was suddenly confronted by what appeared to be a glowing doll. A doll that had wings buzzing like a dragonfly’s. He then heard another “pop” and now there were two impossible dolls. He reeled back as the room began to sound like popcorn in a microwave and now he was surrounded by dozens of these softly glowing, unreal creatures. They darted around him, his head and torso twisting to keep up with their speedy flight, him to slow to track them all. He backed against the door, arms akimbo, palms pressing against the cheap wood. “Get away! Get away!” he yelled, his head flipping from left to right repeatedly. The creatures all stopped racing around and the room was filled with thirty or more silently hovering, doll like, glowing figures. One slowly drew close to his face, it’s wings humming and looked him deeply in his eyes. A tiny voice that sounded like fragile chimes in the wind said, “We are the friends, subjects and protectors of Princess Winnie. We have been charged with the duty to protect Princess Winnie by the Great and Powerful Queen Winnifred. You would harm our dearest Princess, so you must die!” Even in the surreal clarity that the dreamscape offered, Denise couldn’t focus on what happened next. It seemed all the floating figures grew a bit, then they all flew as one to swarm the slapping, flailing, screaming Jason. They were all over him, around him, dozens of tiny arms flashing and slashing and then there was blood. Lots of blood. Denise sensed it more than she actually saw it, but she knew she was witnessing a blood bath. Jason screamed and screamed and screamed. The screams dwindled to a series of thin whimpers. Then he stopped. His body swayed for a moment then fell in a heap at the foot of Winnie’s bed. It was quiet for a minute and all Denise could hear was the faint buzzing of dozens of tiny wings and the heavy breathing coming from the terrified Winnie. It was quiet like this for only a few moments before the door burst open, thundering against the wall as it swung it’s full path. “What the hell’s going on in here?” Winnie’s mother bellowed as she flicked on the light. It took a moment for her dazed mind to register what she was seeing. Winnie was cowering at the head of her bed, Jason was on the floor, his body tattooed with hundreds, if not thousands of short, deep lacerations. Blood was seeping from him as if his entire body was crying crimson. The floor and walls were painted red in an abstract painting of horrifying scale. Then she saw the tiny figures flying around the room who all started to float closer and closer to her. Winnie’s mother screamed and Denise woke up.
Her body jerked as she awakened. Confused as to where she was for a few seconds, then she realized she was in the comfy chair in Winnie’s room. There was a soft glow coming from the brand new fairy night lights they had plugged in earlier. It took a moment for Denise to shake off the lingering fear that still clung to her from her nightmare. “Wow!” she thought, “I’ve had some vivid dreams, but that one was a doozy!” As she gradually came to full consciousness, Denise couldn’t help but consider the strange dream. “Whoa! That was wild!” she thought. “My mind must have been trying to fill in the blanks about Winnie’s life,” she reasoned, “and it dragged in her pictures of faeries and combined them with those anchovies I ate earlier and mixed up that nightmare of a cocktail.” she grinned sheepishly at herself for having been so afraid when she woke up. “Nightmares do that.” She rationalized. Denise gathered her strength and pushed on the arms of the chair to lift herself up. “Time for MY bed and hopefully no more anchovy dreams!” As she raised herself, she abruptly became aware of a soft glow coming from just above her. She fell back int the chair with a thump as four tiny figures wafted into full view. “I’m going crazy!” she thought as a softly glowing green fairy hovered directly in front of her. “Hi!” a bell like voice said to her. “I’m Princess Flutterby. These are Princess Bluebird, Princess Buttercup, and Princess Rosebud.” Each figure bowed as their names were told. Denise noticed that each faerie was glowing in a color that matched their name. “We’ve been charged by Queen Winnifred with the safety of Princess Winnie.” the pixie said, her arm slowly and dramatically indicating the sleeping Winnie. “The Queen lives in a big castle way back in the dark shadows of the Princess’s thinking part and she informed us that you have accepted the responsibility of becoming Princess Winnie’s new mother. We are required to notify you that we’ll be watching and if you are a good mother, we’ll protect you and your home, just as we protect the Princess. But…” the figure drew back slightly and then it darted forward having changed horribly! It and all the rest were no longer beautiful, waif like angels, but had transformed into twisted versions of their previous forms. Their arms were longer, their legs bent in strange angles. The hands and feet were massively out of proportion to their diminutive size. The joints were all topped with thorn like projections, with the end of each digit elongated into razor sharp, boney knives. Worst of all were the beings heads, which were no longer those of fairy tale princesses. They had shifted into baseball sized masses which no longer held a face, but rather were nothing more than giant, open mouths, bristling with row upon row of shark like teeth. “BUT…” the voice no loner tinkled like cracking icicles, but rather mimicked gravel scraping against rock in a lava flow. “…if you are mean to our Princess, if you hurt her or allow harm to come to her….” The tiny monstrosity lifted one stiletto sharp finger to the end of Denise’s nose, “…we will hurt you!” the finger flicked and Denise felt a tiny flash of pain. Suddenly the creatures were replaced with the magical, beautiful figures who had first confronted her. “Ok.” The chiming voice twittered. “Glad we’ve got that out of the way. Bye now!” They were gone in a flash of sparkling dust. Denise fainted.
She woke again in the comfy chair, dazed for a moment, then thought, “Oh my God! I’m never eating anchovy’s again!” She rose from the chair, walked to Winnie’s side, leaned over and kissed the girl lovingly on her cheek. She brushed a stray strand of hair from the sleeping girls face. She had brushed her own hair earlier along with her teeth, so she waddled groggily down the hall where she slipped into bed with her already sleeping husband. She woke the next morning to the smell of bacon and coffee drifting into her room. She decided to get her shower after breakfast, not wanting to let the food get cold and joined the waiting Randy and Winnie who were helping each other prepare breakfast. “I set the table!” Winnie erupted as she ran to Denise to grip her in a fearsome embrace. “Very good, Baby!” Denise returned the hug. “I’m proud of you.” “I’m not a baby.” Winnie frowned. “I know you’re not, but can’t you pretend to be MY baby?” “Well ok.” Winnie grinned. “But just for you.” she paused then added “And you!” “Thanks Baby!” Randy smiled back. “I’m honored!” Winnie giggled. Randy began serving up bacon and eggs, placing a plate in front of both the ladies. He looked at Denise closely for the first time since she had joined them. “What’s up with your nose?” he said pointing at it with a greasy spatula. “I like bacon and eggs,” Winnie said, but can I have Lucky Charms too?” Denise lifted a spoon to her face, looking into the mirrored concave and saw a tiny bit of crusted blood framing a half inch slash in the very tip of her nose. “Wait!” She said breathing heavily, addressing Randy who was pulling a box of Lucky Charms from the cupboard, a hint of distress in her voice, “Are you SURE we have milk?”