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Short Story


By Peter


 


Mary Norton had never done anything exceptional in her life that she could brag about, except, perhaps earning a college degree and entering a field of counseling , choosing to devote her life to helping others with their problems, while, in fact, ignoring her own.  She was born and reared in Washington State and had a mostly enjoyable childhood, that is, except for one factor, and that being her sister.  Elaine was six years older than Mary and as such chose to not recognize her younger sibling.  Mary had always suspected that sisterElaine had some sort of physical or mental disorder because of her erratic behavior.  She isolated herself in her room and had few outside contacts as far as Mary could remember.  At some point in time Mary remembers that Elaine suddenly vanished from their home, and nothing was said about it by either parent.  Mary never gave it much thought because she was too young to know about or care about such events; she was too concerned about her own survival at school, with all the pros and cons of public education. 


As time moved along, Mary made it through her school years, and considered herself lucky to escape with not too many bumps and bruises, although she had very few friends and mostly stayed by herself, not wishing to attend many school functions unless she was almost forced to do so by a close friend or two.  Even at those events Mary found a niche in which to seclude herself so as not to be noticed.  Her college years were not much different only this time she used her studies as an excuse not to get involved in extracurricular activities.  She just wanted to complete her studies and get on with her career, that is, if she was able to find a job after graduation.     Well, as it worked out, Mary did graduate, and because of her devotion to her studies, found it easy to land a job with the State in helping indigent and wayward clients with little or no education, seeking help from the State for their survival.  Needless to say, Mary had very few fun days at work, because her clients were always in need and in a sorry state of affairs.  She also dealt with family abuse in many of the homes of the clients she served; depressing at best. 


Nora, a co-worker, befriended Mary, probably because they both had to deal with the same problems, day after day, with little relief or pleasure in their lives.  Neither Nora nor Mary had wanted to get married and raise a family, so they hung out together, enjoyed a meal or two at local restaurants, and otherwise shared horror stories about their work, and merely survived. 


Somewhere along the way an incident happened in one of Mary’s clients homes where parental abuse was suspected, but Mary always had difficulty pinpointing the problem because the young boy involved never seemed to realize that the abuse he suffered at the hands of his step-father was different or unusual from any of his classmates, plus, he was afraid to talk about it with Mary because of threats made to him by his step dad.  Sadly, an incident occurred at that home where the young boy, Tod, lived in which his step dad disciplined him to such a great extent that Tod suffered severe brain damage and was hospitalized and declared brain dead.  Of course Mary assumed the blame for not following through with her belief that Tod was being abused until, of course, this final act occurred bringing about his final demise.  Well, because of Mary’s meek behavior at her place of employment, many of the workers chose to take their own shortcomings out on her, and the mental abuse was overwhelming; Mary needed an escape and she consulted with Nora for help.


As fate has a way of presenting alternatives, on occasion, when a change is needed, so it was that Mary was called home by her mother for some interesting news that needed to be brought out in the open.  During her meeting with her mother, Mary was told that her sister Elaine, upon her sudden departure from home, had ventured northward into Canada and had been living a seriously isolated life in a cabin in an isolated village north of Vancouver.  Mary didn’t think this was earthshaking news, until Mom told her that for the past one and one half years there had been no communication in either direction, and that Mom suspected that Elaine might have met her fate at her isolated home.  Mary didn’t know how to accept the news until Mom asked her to help investigate her sister’s silence.  Mary told Mom she really had to think about it because the last thing she wanted was to venture out into an unknown environment in search for her sister who throughout her life had nothing to do with her; how could one blame her for her hesitation?


As Mary took up the problem with one of her two close friends, Nora, she was advised to head north and that she would be happy to go along with her because of their friendship and also the safety in numbers; two being better than one.  On their first extended long weekend, the two packed their bags and headed out into the unknown north-country wilderness.  It was like a mystery adventure for the two of them, and they gave one another encouragement along the way.  At the Canadian border they were given directions to their destination, but were also cautioned that where they were going was isolated and wild.  The two accepted the challenge and ventured out with a map showing approximately where the home, or cabin, could be located.  Three hours later, after coursing through winding roads and desolate ghost-like villages, they came upon what appeared to be the village they sought.  Feeling completely lost, the two adventurers stopped at the first house that came into view and rapped on the door.  A haggard elderly lady opened the door a crack and wanted to know why she was being disturbed.  After hearing Mary’s story, the elderly lady pointed down the road and more-or-less identified Elaine’s house.  As they struggled on, they arrived at what they hoped was their destination.  Mary led the way, and approaching the door gave it a big bang with her clenched fist.  Nothing.  Once again.  Nothing.  The two walked around the grounds in search of any clues, and finding none, decided to try all the doors and windows to gain entry.  They were successful, and once inside found a totally disheveled mess.  There was a nice wide fireplace, a small but utile kitchen, an upstairs with two bedrooms, but the floors were strewn with clothing, empty alcohol bottles, trash, and some unidentifiable substances.  The two searched for any notes that might have been written by Elaine, but found none.  The two took it upon themselves to clean out the place and restore some semblance of order to an otherwise gross mess.  They also needed to visit the woodshed and start a fire, for although it was not yet winter, they were in the northwest, and weather was mostly unpredictable.  It took some time and a great effort, but the two felt proud of themselves in what they had accomplished in such a short time; the home, or cabin, was now livable.  The two stayed for the four days, living on the food stored in the pantry, and sort of enjoyed their retreat away from the madding crowd.  There was never any sign of Elaine, and upon visiting several other homes, none of the neighbors knew anything about Elaine; most didn’t even know the cabin had been occupied; that’s how alone she was.  She was virtually unknown, and that’s probably how she had wanted it.  When it was time to leave, the two left several messages for Elaine and asked her to contact Mary when she arrived back at her cabin; fat chance of that happening.


Back at work Nora and Mary endured their labors and toiled along with their clients into their woes.  In addition, Mary suffered abuse from other not-so-friendly co-workers who blamed her for Tod’s death.  Mary found it more and more difficult to even show up for work, let alone performing her duties with her full concentration.  She was beginning to believe that she was the one responsible for the death of Tod, and it became too much for her to endure.  She put in a request for a leave of absence using as an excuse her mental anguish over a child’s death.  With some effort, the leave was granted, and Mary packed her bags and headed north.  She wasn’t sure what she would do if she found her sister Elaine living in her home, but she didn’t want to face that problem until she came to it.  She confided in Nora and encouraged her to visit any time during her leave in order to get away, and also to keep Mary company during the long, isolated, and cold days and nights.  It was just about time for the snow to begin its encroachment upon the land.  Mary, thinking about how isolated that location was, decided to adopt a pet dog whom she was sure would be great company during the long days and nights of darkness.  She named her pet dog Wags because his tail was always in motion.  Upon arriving at her sister’s location, Mary once again found no motion inside, so she repeated what she had done when she and Nora last visited, and gained entrance.  Once inside, Mary did a careful search and found everything exactly as she and Nora had left it.  The notes were still in place, undisturbed.  It was obvious that if Elaine had been back at home, she chose to ignore the newness and the notes.  Mary decided, with few other alternatives, to pack it in and remain at her new location until directed otherwise.  It didn’t take long to feel the total isolation of the sparsely settled north, and if it hadn’t been for Wags, Mary thought that she might lose control of her mind.    Time and again she thought she heard strange sounds outside the cabin, but she was often too afraid to investigate.  On one occasion, she thought she spotted a woodsman, but the figure was too far out to identify.  Had it not been for Nora and their almost constant communications, Mary might have given up and gone back to Washington State, but that thought was also dreadful and depressing.  On one occasion, when her stack of firewood was growing thin, she ventured out only to discover a heavy coating of snow engulfing the property, bending the branches of the trees, and otherwise boxing her in.  She had to struggle to the shed to gather her wood, and it was not without difficulty that she stumbled and fumbled.  Wags also showed some anxiety because he was always running around the grounds as if chasing a phantom.  Mary was very nervous.  Following wags on his ventures, neither were satisfied that there was nothing there; there was something, it was simply not visible to them at the time.  Fear gripped her more and more; the snow fell heavier and heavier, the days grew darker and darker, until she felt completely trapped.  She wasn’t sure if Nora would be able to visit because she wouldn’t be able to drive to the cabin.  On one dark night Mary was startled out of her sleep, Wags was barking, so the two occupied a place near the open fire pit, comforting one another.  Mary thought she saw an image at one of the windows, but was too afraid to investigate.  Wags took a look, but all he could do was bark, put his tail between his legs, and return to the safety of Mary, who was all but safe.  During the daytime, which was in fact dark, Mary tried her best to make out an image off in the distance.  When she was able to spot a figure, it was enormous, and it never moved.  In one of the figure’s hands was held what looked like a giant sword.  Mary could take it no longer, so she chose to venture out to her closest neighbor.  The neighbor, being hesitant to open the door, did so at the command of Mary.  Even in plain view, the neighbor was hesitant upon letting Mary into the confines of her home.  The male of the house half listened to Mary’s stories of strange sightings, but added that in such a location, strange things do happen, and the mind does wander off at a tangent, creating images that are really not there.  Mary had a difficult time convincing this guy that what she saw was real.  And each time she inquired about Elaine, she was given the same story.  Very few neighbors ever got to visit face-to-face with her because she never looked normal, as they put it.   In reality, no one wanted to get involved; they merely wanted to live their lives in comfort in their chosen isolation, and ignore the possible realities that there might be a strange creature roaming around the woods and village.  On one occasion when Nora was able to make it to the cabin, the two were interrupted by loud thrashing outside near the woodshed.  Looking out a window, and  holding one another for comfort and safety, they saw a flash of what appeared to be a large man, but just as quickly the figure vanished as quickly as it appeared.  Mary was determined to solve this mystery now that she was a little braver having Nora and Wags close by.  She searched from a window and once again caught sight of an enormous man just standing there with a large sword-like object in his right hand.  Mary demanded a finality to this mystery and chose to face her tormentor.  She entered the kitchen, chose a very large knife, and told Nora to guard the fortress because she was going to meet this man once and for all and find out who in hell he was and why he was forever stalking her.  Nora thought she was insane, and perhaps this was true, but nevertheless, she could tolerate no more and decided that if this was to be her final day on earth, then so be it.   She bundled up as best she could, stormed out the front door and charged up the hill toward the figure.  When she arrived at where the figure was, it was gone.  Looking around in every direction, she finally found herself face-to-face with what looked like a giant of a man.    


“I’ve had enough.  Who are you and what do you want with me?”


There was no answer, but upon those words, the figure hoisted the object in his right hand, which was indeed a large sword, and swung it at Mary’s head.  Because of the unstable ground, the giant slipped and fell backward hitting his head on an outcropping.  Mary seized the opportunity to retaliate, withdrew her large knife and thrust it at the jugular vein on the left side of the giant’s neck.  Instantly, blood began gushing out with each heartbeat.  Mary left the knife in place and just stood there observing.  The snow was now a deep red color, although it looked dark black because it was too dark to see clearly.  She dared feel for a pulse, but doing so, felt a slight beat, yet, the giant was bleeding out.  Mary examined the body more closely and removing the wrap around the giant’s head found something unusual.  The person didn’t appear to be male.  Mary, amazed, felt more thoroughly, and found that this figure was indeed, a female noting under the thick padding, firm breasts .  Mary reeled back and just stared as life ebbed out of the fallen body.  When she was sure the figure was no longer alive, and half frozen herself, she struggled back to the cabin.  Nora was out of her mind with fear, but felt relieved to see Mary.  Her hands and wrists were covered in blood, but Mary told her it wasn’t hers, but that of the figure she left for dead on the hill.  The two snuggled close to the fireplace all night, anticipating the morning when Mary planned to revisit the site again.  As daylight arrived, with just a hint of light, Nora would not let Mary leave alone.  So she, Mary, and Wags trudged through the snow to where the figure had fallen.  Mary had not forgotten to arm herself once again with a knife, similar to the one used to slay the monster.  When they arrived, the ground was saturated with what Mary knew was the drained body of the monster she was sure she had killed, but, the body was gone.  There didn’t appear to be any additional tracks in the snow, and there were none where the body had fallen.  Frozen in abject fear, the two of them just stood there, trembling, searching for an answer; it was yet to come.  Elaine?


Atina the Smart Princess

     

There in a small village, was born a little tiny princess named Atina. Every one called her mousy, she was so tiny.  Then when she was only four years old her father passed away. Atina’s health was usually bad. It was her brother that was supposed to go to the land of the happiness first.  It was unfortunate she was born on the full moon. But fortunate, that she came, to the land of the happiness first. When twelve she studied all subjects in the land of the struggle, she learned Sanskrit, Hindi, and she was only in sixth grade. Everyone was there to help her learn the language. Usually, she stayed near her window all day studying. She wanted to learn this language, and she was focused.  When after some time the neighbors started telling her, you must study. Since you are inside so much, you must come out also. There Atina stayed in front of her veranda, her handsome grandfather cornered in the opposite side speaking with her and fixing her yarn that was tangled.  She sat knitting a sweater for her brother.  On Saturdays she went to dance class.  One day in class the teacher told her, do your last pose, she did it. Her teacher said you have really practiced. Atina felt guilty, she had not practiced at all.  After two years, Atina moved back to the land of the happiness.  Her mother fair like white also thin and tall with straight beautiful hair remarried only when Atina was sixteen.  Atina, stayed in the house, she was always called the quiet one, or the good girl. She was quite meek, and did not speak to anyone. As she Present day she met a young princess and a young prince she went here and there and tried to be friendly with everyone, But in the land of happiness, she saw people not communicating at all. Not meeting at all.   Then she met one the Indian lady, she spoke with her and told her of her life.  She told her I have moved to many places everywhere, the land of the small the land of the middle the land of the big, and the land of the hot I even stayed in the land of the struggle. The young Indian lady told her you have struggled, she saw her dance video and told her you dance beautifully, Then she told her I lived in a village there I did home schooling, I went to college when I grew up. That is the first time I went to school.  Atina auditioned for dance but was off beat, she did a workshop but missed it by one person, and was told to go somewhere else, and she did a demo of her dance and was told classes are full. Atina,  talked to the friendly teacher, He put a sign up No one responded, she was asked to maybe audition again, but earlier told she was off beat, Atina  got tired and restless,  for a while in the land of happiness she started to search deeply for happiness, She realized she had her son, who was so handsome and cute.  Her daughter was also extremely beautiful. Everywhere she went the outsiders told her how beautiful her children were. She danced with the children cooked and cleaned the Palace house she lived in.  All day she saw not a neighbor outside,  She tried to mingle with people but In the land of happiness everyone worked day in a small cube with others, when coming home they went to get exercise. They ate and slept. Atina yearned for that life,  of being independent to be able to talk to people,  To see people, to become famous,  to get her dancing out, every one of her supporters told her you can get promoted by being published. One day she went to her daughter’s school, she danced in front of the children and taught them. Then One day she read her story her poetry and showed her blog to the children. The children then wrote poetry on birds. She got an idea of how it would be to be working.  She started to let go of the idea of working and just stay with the children and take care of the Palace, The one day she went in the land of struggle and there she went in a fair, with all the supporters.  In the fair she went on the elephant ride, the camel ride, she saw the puppet show, the lady dancing on top of the glass holding a pot on her head, wearing a long skirt, and dark skinned. Then she entered the place of the palmist and astrologers, For fun she could ask a question, He quickly with looking at her birth chart, said you love everyone around you but you are innocent, and you are very  smart,  He told her people are jealous .  She knew that she had heard this from others also. That you are innocent or you are very talented. He told her you recognize the good ones from the bad ones, you know who will be close to you and who will not like you, you are smart to recognize it in their face.  Only one thing you were born on the full moon, you are under a negative planet, but soon that planet will be gone, soon you will live a good and happy life.  When Atina had come back to the land of happiness she felt it so beautiful so quiet, so at home, Her palace was a place where she felt used to now, Atina decided to forget her wished to teach dance or to write, She started to rest and sleep,  to meditate and exercise, To eat fruits and vegetables. She would only learn dance after 30 years which she had learned way back in the land of the struggle, she got a teacher. Her teacher was patient, precise and carefully watching and teaching her each hand and leg movement. Atina would talk about all this to her favorite lady , who was now in the land of the struggle, The favorite lady told her I have been through all you have been through, I know it is hard and you are so alone, you are beautiful, but you mustn’t distract yourself from the ones you see they are just the charmers, who will bring you down, they are way above and will not look at you for you have two children, you must keep your respect and not go to where they are, You must keep happy, She told her favorite lady how she had seen the charmer again and  was distracted and losing her focus. She was told to have strong will power.  Her favorite lady spoke to her daily and made her happy. As she spoke to the confidant man he told her stories, and he told her in any situation you must be happy that is the way to live life, you must never let others effect you happiness and if they do wrong, it should not make you sad.  Atina in the palace laid thinking she would get her powers, one day and would truly find her happiness even in the land of the sad.  

 

[email protected] Singh Dec. 3 2014