By Kevin Urban

Sitting in my motor wagon in front of the Alexandra Orphanage, at Haverstock Hill, London. It’s 1905, and I wait, wondering where these decades have gone. 

With adoption papers, folded in my hand, I watch the many destitute faces that peer from the windows of what is a children’s prison, a reminder of my boyhood. It has been so long now, since those days, that my youth seems like a dream, a happy dream. 

Now, my mind, filled with so many memories, it is difficult to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. My actions, and those of my master are interwoven in such a way that I often wake feeling that I am him. And, like all dreams, no matter how horrific, or magnificent, once awake, the feeling of now soon takes over, and what I must do to live steps to the forefront of my mind.

I live, or should I say, exist in a troubling way. An existence that is to serve the Baron. In doing so, I have become a vessel of his thoughts, wisdom and desires. My place is one of necessity. My vocation, something of a caretaker, and undertaker. I have learned to cope with his impending needs. And though every instance fills me with an impulse to run away, the desires that fill him seize my mind, spellbound by the power that he has and which envelopes me; a strength I feed from and that feeds from me. Yet this servitude to his existence, that has garnered me great status, is also a curse.

Looking back to those happy dreams, I wonder if there was any path other than the one chosen for me. The circumstances, no matter how unfortunate, were not uncommon for a child of my age. In those days, that now seem story-bookish, an opportunity arose for me and my siblings that would have been impossible to decline. In that way, I have conceded that perhaps I chose this life. 

The fantasm of my existence is still something of a mystery to me, however, I have totally accepted this. In this ambiguity, I live out a life that has repeated many times over. How much of it my direct involvement and how much fed to me by my strange bond with the Baron makes me pause to consider. This torture alone drives me to ignore those thoughts. My sanity has become the product of accepting my fate, of not questioning what I have done, or what he has done. And though my siblings have since passed away from old age, perhaps the primary strangle-hold the Baron had upon me, has been broken. Yet, this is now my life.

My face, etched with the scars of having lived as long as I have is only a mask I wear. It inspires fear. This, combined with my abnormal strength is monstrous, but serves me with the needs of the Baron, which have become more frequent since my predecessor expired. Burkhardt, who I feared more than any man, I now have empathy. It is only in these latter years that I feel I knew him, and maybe how he possibly felt toward me.

My journey started when Burkhardt transported me, my sister, and my brother from an orphanage many years ago in a horse-drawn carriage down a wicked road.


Leafless winter trees arched over the path, lifeless yet alive, as my siblings and I approached the Baron’s estate. My sister Gretchen’s thirteen-year-old face looked cheerful as she tested the bow in her hair. Peter, eleven, played with a curtain’s tassel that swung from the carriage window.

Miss Ostrom, the orphanage housemother, slapped Peter’s hand with a ruler. “Don’t force me to take you back,” she said and then skewered us all with her eyes. “Behave!” Her thin lips tightened, showing her teeth.

My fear of her shook me like the trot of the horses over the ruts of the road. I was older than the others, but still a boy, and looked forward with hope toward the secluded mansion that drew nearer.

We turned into a deep circular driveway. The wheels grinding as the horses galloped through the gravel, their hooves crunched as we came to a halt. The ponderous coachman’s exit rocked the carriage. His steps threshed through the small stones with the stride of a tall and heavy man. We climbed out and he stood before us. His cheekbones stabbed outward like the hips of an old horse, under deep-set irritated eyes. He turned his slouching, powerful shoulders and walked toward the mansion. His bodily proportions demonstrated great strength.

“Children? Prepare to greet your new master.” Miss Ostrom nodded. Her pointed chin guided us. The ruler she held in her grip was a menacing promise, which had struck my knuckles many times over.

I tilted my head back and viewed the magnitude of the gothic fortress. Dark lichen-splotched sandstone blocks rose skyward. At its highest, the walls seemed to lean over me against the passing clouds. The windows mirrored the blackened stone like the many eyes of a waiting spider.

Three Doberman Pinschers appeared from the right side of the mansion. They whined with excitement, stopping near the Coachman at the bottom of the stone steps leading to a platform before the door. The largest of the dogs took sight of me. Its elation faded with a low baritone growl.

“Good, Petra.” The driver patted the beast.

The Coachman ascended the stairs with sculptured lions on either side. He pounded an iron ring suspended on a reinforced door; the reverberation quieted the animals.

The entrance opened wide, revealing a stout, apron-clad woman. Near her, a frail elderly man rested in a wicker wheelchair that reclined like a chaise lounge. Behind him, a magnificent staircase spiraled upward. The Coachman walked inside and stepped behind the chair. He took it by its rear handles. His slightly bent posture fit perfectly with the chair as if formed into it. He pushed it forward. The large spoked tires squeaked with a pitch from which the dogs retreated.

Miss Ostrom ushered us to the doorway. The smell of sour cabbage soup drifted out.

She extended a hand. “This is Baron Roskavarni. You are fortunate to have such a wealthy master to take you in.”

A thin-skinned hand emerged from under a blanket stretched over the Baron’s knees. His crooked finger motioned us in. “Come close, let me look at my gifts,” his voice crackled.

We stepped through the door as the aproned woman stretched out a muscular arm toward Miss Ostrom. For once, since the death of our parents, I felt free from her grip.

“Have the stable groom take her back,” the old man commanded. He glanced up and back at the Coachman. “You’ve performed well, Burkhart.”

The burly woman pushed Miss Ostrom out. She pulled the door shut, the light faded, and the bolts latched.

The Baron clasped his palms as if sitting before a feast. “Take the two young ones for supper, Magdalena.”

The stoic aproned woman nodded in agreement.

The Baron pursed his lips with discernment, reading me through cloudy cataracts. “What is your age, young man?”

“Fourteen, the April last,” I answered as the woman drew my siblings away to the left wing of the house. I watched them vanish through a great sitting room decorated with portraits and heraldic shields.

The Baron inhaled as if sniffing a blossom. “Ah, to be fourteen again.” His milky marbles rolled in their sockets, calculating as he wrung his hands. He lifted a pointed finger. “Der Transfusium!

Jawhol, Herr,” Burkardt answered, and bore into me with a hawkish gaze. “This way, Erik.” Burkhart ordered. Then, turned the wheelchair to the right heading down a hall, poorly lit and cold. We stopped before two large wooden doors that swung wide as the chair pushed through them.


We entered a dimly lit room. Mahogany bookcases filled the walls, but which could not accommodate the hundreds of other books that stood in dust-covered pillars. Sculptures and leather furniture surrounded me. A strange musty odor filled my nostrils, something ancient and decayed. 

A single wide band of sunlight entered at a sharp angle from a partly opened curtain. It lit the room and held captive infinite specks of dust. Our movements hurled invisible whirlwinds, sending this nebula into chaos. I realized no person had been in the room for quite some time. My eyes focused beyond into the darkness. At the rear of the room, an apparatus of chaotic design stood like a contradiction to the elegance.

Burkhart turned the Baron around and wheeled him back, setting him next to a system of glass cylindrical chambers on polished brass pedestals. Tubes hung from a suspension above them, and over an armchair on the other side. Burkhart stepped past me. He closed the doors, locking them. I stood, pondering his intentions.

Schnell! Schnell!” the Baron demanded like a spoiled child as Burkhart marched toward me with the fortitude of an angry schoolmaster. From under my arm, he lifted me like I was a coat to be hung up.

He seated me with a harsh thrust into a chair, then secured me with a belt across my chest. He bound my wrists to the arms of the chair, leaning over me. A putrid odor emanated from his body. A sinking dread filled me. 

“What did I do wrong?” I cried, but received no answer.

Burkhart stepped away and pulled down a lever on the strange apparatus. A mechanical winding sound intensified, as armatures with bizarre lights flashed from behind. It cast our twisted shadows against the wall in front of us, like spirits escaping our bodies. Burkhart’s ghostly apparition rose upward and back across the ceiling. Its phantom arms flailed like tentacles as he operated the strange contraption.

The Baron writhed with pain when Burkhart slid long needles connected to tubes into the old man’s arms. Burkhart then turned to me with needles in hand. I wrenched against the straps with all of my strength, knowing his intentions.

“Good,” Burkhart sighed. “Show me your veins.”

I could only look away as he punctured each of my arms. 

In between us and under the glass cylinders, an accordion-like bladder rose and fell with respiration. A suction tugged at me with each gulp of air it commanded. 

The chamber next to me filled with bright red blood in spurts that matched the throb of the breathing machine. The Baron’s was a vile brown that oozed like gravy. A tube extending from it led to my right arm. My mind swirled, and all went black.


I awoke shrieking from a nightmare, looking about the room, unsure where I was. The glow of a candle now replaced the swatch of natural light. The Baron stood. No longer a sickly man, he rubbed his arm above a clenched fist. “You are a rhapsody of vitality, Eric.”

“What did you do to me?” I demanded with the little strength I had.

He rolled a shirt sleeve down and gave a knowing nod to Burkhart, who exited.

A horrid image flashed before my eyes; a boy, boney and limp. His body tossed into a shallow pit, like a rag doll. His limbs twisted like the strands of a wet mop. Facedown, he flopped before shovels of dirt splashed over him.

“Agh!” I exhaled. My eyes searched the room for an explanation. A trickle of sweat bled from my scalp.

“Shush.” The Baron placed a finger to his lips. “I see you are already experiencing my memories. Oh, Erik, the things I have accomplished, and you will live them over again as Burkhart has.”

The sound of a chamber orchestra played in my head. A vision of an elegant woman wearing a gown flashed before me. She smiled with a promise of love. Then the music stopped, and she lay across a bed. A scream filled my ears. Bare bosom, and with bulging eyes, veiny hands clutched her neck.

“Stop choking her!” I cried, as my eyes must have stared somewhere beyond.

“Ah, the Viscountess Von Schlägl, perhaps?” The Baron said as he frowned with pity. “I am not proud of everything I have done.” Then he shrugged. “Some of which I have forgotten… It has been so many millennia.” His sadness faded. “But, I feel your youth and optimism coursing through me now.” He raised a fist. “Fantastisch!”

The Baron paced. “I understand Petra has taken a dislike to you. I doubt you could reach the gate before she had you by the throat… But, if you made it… Boys are clever that way, you would end up in the hands of Miss Ostrom once again, which would lead you back to me.”

“Please, don’t hurt my sister and brother.” I sobbed, looking downward.

The Baron paused. “Yes, little Peter,”—He glanced to his side—”He would have to take your place if you vanished.” The Baron blinked with satisfaction. “And, sweet Gretchen, she’s almost a woman, you know.” He leaned toward me with crystal clear eyes. “Don’t give me a reason to use them!”

I bobbed my head in agreement, fighting down the sickness of his rotten blood that flowed through me.

“That’s better,” the Baron answered. “You need your strength, or should I say… I need it.”

My jaw gaped and my innocence flew from my throat with a prolonged, howling shriek that echoed through the mansion.

The child in me died. I slumped in the chair. My limbs, like those of the trees, hung lifeless yet alive as the Baron removed my straps.

“This is only the beginning.” He took a deep breath. “Ah, cabbage soup, it purifies the blood.” The Baron placed a gentle hand upon my shoulder. “You will come to accept it as they all have. Now, you must eat, for we will be together for many years, and one day… You will take Burkhart’s place.”



A Death At The Moreno

Everything was grand at the Moreno Spa and Garden, a landscaped resort abounding with broad leaf and flowering plants. Crystal clear pools flowed from one to the next, some obscured by vegetation and some open. The largest of which was the Opal Pit. A seemingly bottomless aquifer which opened like a crater and, at its deepest, where the light was dim, its angle turned somewhere unknown.

The Moreno, as the regulars referred to it, opened each day at nine o’clock am. Many patrons gathered, hoping to seize the best spots, or occupy their favorite pools. Snobbery was not in short supply, and a position at the line’s front demanded that you glance backward to the peasants in the rear with a raised eyebrow. 

Cedric Balsworth, a lanky, brown-haired man with a pencil mustache, swiveled his head, looking out over the gathering crowd in line with a toffee-nosed expression. His long forehead provided a hint of the intelligentsia. This could not have been further from the truth. 

He scanned the crowd until his eyes met those of Kitty King, who stood mid-way in the rear. Wavy locks of strawberry blonde hair curved around her neck stopping above an upmarket, metallic gold swimsuit. Her sumptuous breasts pushed upward. Cedric’s eyes faltered between her penetrating stare and her cleavage, like watching a child play with a Yo-Yo.

Kitty’s head made a sharp tip to the left. Cedric mimicked her motion, tipping his head, which was of course in the opposite direction.

“No,” Kitty mouthed the word, while rolling her eyes.

Cedric recounted his action, looking upward. He turned until his body was facing forward again. There, in front of him, a swanky, high-heeled Gloria Ellerman, stood waiting with a single oversized bag over her right shoulder. A large blue and white striped wide brimmed sun hat shielded her from the site of Cedric’s periscoping head.

Cedric looked back toward Kitty with a questioning expression. Kitty made a slow and deliberate nod up and down. Cedric reached up and twisted one end of his mustache, while taking a deep breath. He balled his hand into a fist, against his mouth. There was a pause, while Kitty readied herself. In that moment, a cacophony of hacks and coughs erupted from Cedric as he bent forward, leaning on Gloria and stripping her bag from her body. Everything Gloria and Cedric held, fell into a pile on the ground. Gloria turned, her face contorted with disgust as Cedric leaned on her hacking. 

“Cedric!” Kitty shouted as she rushed from the rear of the line. “Are you ok, my dear?” She grabbed at the items on the ground, holding them in her grasp as Cedric regained his composure. 

She rolled up Cedric’s towel and handed it to him, then Gloria’s bag to her.

“You had better get right into that dry sauna, Mister Balsworth,” Gloria said with a wagging finger.

The line moved and without another mention of it, Gloria walked forward, but not without a confident glance backward at the waiting crowd. At the entrance window, Gloria riffled through her bag. “Where’s my purse?” She whined as Cedric and Kitty showed their passes and separated into the men’s and women’s entrances.


Inside the Moreno Spa and Garden, a man-made waterfall poured from a rocky crag where guests could stand underneath, as in a tropical paradise. The water flowed into the adjacent Opal Pit and beyond into smaller pools.

People walked about the garden, single or in couples, some passive nature-loving, and some seeking romance. Most, in a state of utter relaxation. A tiki bar near the Opal Pit served exotic drinks, brimming with kabob’d fruits and paper umbrellas, designed to express the excess and beauty of a lifestyle indulged.

The spa served as the perfect escape from domestic life. It was the second home of Cedric Balsworth when he recovered from his fourth divorce. For Kitty King it was a hideaway after federal authorities imprisoned her husband for tax evasion and a brief respite for Eduardo Calazans when he wanted to avoid responsibility. 

The son of a wealthy taxi company owner, Eduardo carried himself with shoulders back and a raised nose, snobbish and dismissive. He always wore an unbuttoned bowling shirt. His body was lean, yet unmuscular. His physical characteristics showed a life unaccustomed to hard work.

As the sun rose higher in the late morning, Eduardo took off his shirt and reclined in a lounge chair. He removed his aviator sunglasses, sat up, and looked around. He adjusted a zipper on a yellow striped bowling ball bag, next to his chair, then stood and walked toward the Opal Pit. 

Cedric waited on a flagstone patio just a few steps from the tiki bar. Kitty appeared next to him. Given a start, Cedric reached for his pencil mustache with a flinching hand. “Oh, Kitty!”

“So what was the take?” Kitty spoke from the side of her mouth.

“Two-hundred and twenty-three dollars and twenty-eight cents, three credit cards, and one ticket to see La Bohème, eighty dollars a ticket I happen to know,” Cedric answered waggling his eyebrows. 

“La di dah,” Kitty replied. “You take the ticket, I get the cards and we split the dough. Deal?”

“Well… Why don’t we split the cards?” Cedric answered.

“Cause all you’re gonna do is get us caught. You haven’t got the slightest clue on how NOT to get caught.” Kitty lit a cigarette and took a puff. “You go see La Boner, or whatever the hell. I’ll go see La Nordstrom.”

“It’s La Bohème, an opera by Puccini.” Cedric’s lips puckered.

“An Italian?” Kitty’s mouth dropped open. “That figures, he’s dead, and he’s still taking everyone’s money.”

“Ok—deal.” Cedric crossed his arms pouting. 

Kitty stepped close to him, standing on her tip-toes next to his tall frame. “There’s a turd in the punch bowl,” she said, blowing a lock of strawberry blond hair from her face with a puff of smoke. 

They looked toward the Opal Pit, where Eduardo made a splash.

“Hm?” Cedric said, pinching his narrow chin that exaggerated his large forehead.

“What do you mean, hmmmmmm?” Kitty replied.

She took a drag from her cigarette and blew a cloud toward Cedric’s face.

“You know that turns me on.” He closed his eyes until the smoke passed. “I said hm, not hmmmmmm,” Cedric answered. “Hm is questioning. Hmmmmmm implies sarcasm.”

“Well, then?” Kitty waited, propping her elbow upon her other arm. Her cigarette smoldered with a pinstripe of smoke in the space between them.

“I don’t know,” Cedric answered. “That was the purpose of the, hm.”

Cedric turned with narrowing eyes at Kitty while a cloud of smoke erupted in his face once more.

“I’m ready for a drink,” Cedric said, staring through the smoke. “How about a Negroni to start the day?”

“Which of your hoity-toity drinks is that again?” Kitty asked. “I was thinking a beer.”

Cedric counted with his fingers as he spoke, starting with his pinky. “One part Gin, one part Campari, and one part Sweet Vermouth.”

“Sounds good enough,” Kitty answered.


At the tiki bar, Cedric held two fingers in the air. “Due Negroni per favore,” Cedric commanded, with an Italian accent and a confident smile toward Kitty.

“I’m from Ecuador, not Italy,” the athletic, square-jawed bartender answered.

Kitty interrupted, “Yes, Huarton, we know, but Cedric can’t seem to get anything right until after his first drink.”

“Yes, sorry Horton,” Cedric added, twisting his mustache.

“It’s Huarton, not Horton,” the bartender snapped.

“Yes, yes, so right, so right.” Cedric shook his head.

Kitty looked out over the Opal Pit as Eduardo returned to his seat. He sat for a moment, then stood. She leaned back against the bar as her eyes widened. “Will ya get a load of that?” She said aloud as Eduardo neared the pool once again. “I swear it’s getting bigger every day.”

Cedric’s mouth dropped open with amazement as he watched Eduardo cradle the crotch of his swimsuit with his right hand. “Good god! The man has a tumor.”

Kitty lit another cigarette and took a puff. “I’d like to perform an operation on that.”

Cedric turned toward Huarton. “Quick, man, I need that drink.”

Kitty looked on, pursing her lips, as Eduardo jumped in. Cedric twisted both ends of his mustache as he waited.

“Here are your drinks,” Huarton said, and then stepped away.

Cedric tossed the paper umbrella from his glass and took a gulp. “You’re a shameless beer wench, Kitty.” A cloud of smoke engulfed his face. Cedric blinked. “Nice try, but it won’t do. I thought you hated that dirtbag.”

“I do, I do,” Kitty answered. She turned, lifted the umbrella from her glass, and took a sip.

“Well, if I’m not enough for you… Why don’t you just say it?” Cedric said as his glass clacked on the bar.

Kitty smirked. “No man’s enough for me, dear, so get over it.” She turned, facing the pool.

Cedric took another large swallow, then a deep breath, and turned around to face the Opal Pit. A minute passed, and Eduardo climbed from the water.

Kitty and Cedric both stood silent, their mouths open in question as Eduardo returned to his chair. His bulge had vanished.

“Hm?” Cedric questioned.

“Hmmmmmm,” Kitty hummed with narrowing eyes. She twirled a small paper umbrella between her right thumb and forefinger. “That’s strange. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Cedric stood with a blank expression. “Who would bring a bowling ball to the Moreno?”

Kitty shook her head. “Let’s go somewhere private.”


Kitty and Cedric took their drinks to a small pool known as The Lilac Lagoon. The purple flowers of its namesake had since withered. A thick green leafy hedge now surrounded it.

Kitty lounged chest-deep in the water, elbows back over the flagstone edge, with a glass in her hand. Cedric sat, his legs submerged below the knees. For a few minutes, neither spoke.

“I wonder what he took from his shorts?” Kitty said.

Cedric’s eyes shifted toward Kitty and then away. “You know, Zara used to say, ‘demons lurk below calm waters.'”

“Your second wife?” Kitty asked.

“No, third.”

“Sorry, I keep forgetting. So, what does it mean?”

“It means, Kitty, that I don’t want to swim to the bottom of the Opal Pit, you conniving cat. I know what you’re thinking.”

“Who said anything about the bottom?”

“Ha! See? I was right. I don’t suppose you’d like to try it?”

“You know I can’t get my hair wet.” Kitty shot back.

“And you know I can’t go down for very long,” Cedric replied.

Kitty turned her head. “Ain’t that the truth,” she whispered.

Cedric’s eyes darted to Kitty. “What was that?”

“I said, ain’t enough vermouth… This Negroni needs more sweet vermouth.”

Cedric smacked his lips. “Tastes alright. I was thinking more gin.” He smiled.

“Light me a cigarette. My hands are wet,” Kitty said. “And tell me again why I keep you around?”

“Because I’m a dirty scoundrel and you’re a buxom wench.”

Kitty laughed, then looked around. “Make sure nobody’s near.”

Cedric lit a cigarette and placed the pack on the ground. He took a puff, then stretched his neck, swirling his head about. “The coast is clear.” He handed the cigarette to Kitty.

She held it in her teeth as a smile grew on her face.

“What is it, my little kitten?” Cedric asked. “I see you preening your claws.”

Kitty stared off. “I just had a get-rich idea.”

A wry expression grew on Cedric’s face. “This isn’t going to turn out like the pet ransom scheme you dreamed up, is it?”

“Will you stop harping on that?” Kitty rolled her eyes. “I said the dog had a red collar, not a red color.”

“Well, I did what you said, and it was a disaster.” Cedric nodded.

“Who would paint a dog red?” Kitty asked rhetorically. “Oh, just forget about that. Now listen.”

Kitty inhaled deeply on her cigarette. The lit end crackled. She exhaled and stared through the cloud of smoke with bedroom eyes. Her teeth peeked with a sinister smile. “Remember the airport jewelry heist a few days back?”

“Yes?” Cedric questioned.

“The guy got away in a taxi.”

“Well, that’s a poor choice.” Cedric guffawed. “There’s never one when you need it. How could you guarantee a ride in such a hurry?”

Kitty tilted her head sideways. She looked at Cedric with half-open eyes and mouth, then scraped the ashes of her cigarette on his thigh.

“Ouch!” Cedric flinched. “What was that for?”

“Don’t be a schmuck.” Kitty took another puff. “Eduardo’s father owns that cab company.” She stared at Cedric wide-eyed. “Get it?”

Cedric’s eyes blazed with possibility. “Yes, yes, I get it…” He paused, then raised a finger. “The jewel stash is in the Opal Pit, and we’re going to get it!”

“That’s right, my darling Cedric.”

Cedric’s jaw muscles clenched and his chest writhed with deep breaths. He gulped his drink, then set the glass down. He glared at Kitty, who looked on in anticipation. “And now you’re going to get it, my little pussycat. I’m coming in.”


Kitty and Cedric returned to the tiki bar with their empty glasses. They looked out over the inky, placid water of the Opal Pit.

Kitty pointed. “This is where Eduardo rose to the surface each time.” She pointed at the side opposite from the waterfall.

Cedric nodded. “A small tunnel leads to the Blue Hole pond from there…” His eyes narrowed. “It’s not deep. You can swim through, but it gives me the creeps.”

“Is it dark?” Kitty asked.

“Only in the middle.”

“Well?” Kitty poked Cedric with her elbow. “The sooner the better, Eduardo’s gone.”

“These things take time.” Cedric’s eyes focused on the pool, biting his fingernail.

“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”

Cedric turned to Kitty. “Did one of my ex-wives say that?”

“No, Miles Davis, now hurry.”

Cedric stood firm. “We haven’t decided how we’ll split it.”

“Even of course.” Kitty nodded.

“But I’m doing all the leg-work,” Cedric demanded.

“Leg-work? When this is done, I’ll give you some leg-work. Now get kicking. Besides, who do you think is going to fence this merchandise?”

“Fence?” Cedric asked.

“Yeah, move, squeeze, shuffle, sell the goods. I’m the one taking all the risks.”

“Well, now that you put it that way, I guess fifty-fifty is fair, but we still need a plan. Where are we going to put it? He made at least three trips, and who knows how many before that?”

“Leave that to me,” Kitty answered. “Right now, just see if something is there.”

Cedric took a deep breath and began stretching his arms. A voice came from behind them.

“Here you go, my love birds.” Huarton placed two drinks, sweating with condensation on the tiki bar.

Kitty and Cedric turned.

“Hm?” Cedric smiled.

“Hmmmmmm.” Kitty’s eyebrows knitted.

“On the house.” Huarton bowed his head.

“Why thank you,” Cedric replied.

Kitty and Cedric placed their empty glasses on the bar and picked up their drinks.

Kitty pulled Cedric away by the arm. “Let me show you something, dear. The gladiolus near the warm spring…” She paused as her eyes shifted. “They look just marvelous.”

Cedric furrowed his brow. “Since when do you—”

Kitty touched her cigarette to Cedric’s arm.

“Ouch!” Cedric cried. “What was that for? I’m looking like an abused stepchild.”

“Be quiet.” Kitty glanced around. She pulled Cedric further away. “Huarton knows something,” she whispered.

“Yes, like how to make an excellent Negroni.” Cedric waggled his brows.

“No. Something about the stash.”

“How could he?” Cedric asked.

“The same way we did. Besides, he could have overheard us talking. We can’t waste any time and pour out your drink when we’re out of sight. I bet he’s trying to get us drunk.”

Cedric looked down at his glass. “I thought that’s what we were trying to do.”

“It’s time to go to work.” Kitty looked at him sternly.

“I hate those words,” Cedric answered.


The water of the small Blue Hole pond flowed from a tunnel connected to the Opal Pit, only twenty feet away. Above the ground, Bougainvillea vines spilled over a fence around it. Crimson red flowers erupted from the vines like a lava flow. Kitty and Cedric crouched behind the fence with the tiki bar in sight.

“Get ready to climb in,” Kitty ordered. “We’ll have to wait until Huarton takes a break.”

Kitty and Cedric spied on the bartender as he went about his work, polishing glasses and stocking the bar. After a few drinks were served. Huarton made a phone call and then left in a rush.

“He’s gone. Now’s our chance. Let’s go,” Kitty ordered.

Cedric stepped from behind the thorny flowered hedge. He eased into the Blue Hole, took a deep breath, and then descended underwater like a sinking ship while holding his nose. A few feet below the surface, a four-foot wide tunnel opened. The light from the Opal Pit on the other end, guided Cedric as he swam.

Ten feet into the tunnel, a crevasse held a large, white object. Cedric reached in and tugged, pulling on a rope that revealed a canvas sack, cinched shut. It sank to the floor of the tunnel from its weight. Cedric’s eyes bulged, straining to hold his breath. He let go and swam back to the Blue Hole.

Cedric burst through the surface of the water, gasping for air. His mustache drooped like whiskers on a wet cat. “It’s there, Kitty, it’s there,” Cedric called out.

“The stash?” Kitty whispered through vines.

“Yes,” Cedric winced, catching his breath. “In a heavy sack.”

Cedric’s eyes lit up as he turned to see Eduardo and Huarton standing together in swimming suits and pointing. “Good God! They’re in cahoots. Can you see Kitty? Eduardo and Horton—”

“Get it before they see us,” Kitty interrupted.

Cedric took a deep breath, submerging once again, and swam through the tunnel to retrieve the sack. Kitty watched as Eduardo approached and jumped into the Blue Hole.

Small air bubbles dribbled from Cedric’s lips and danced above his head on the surface of the tunnel as he pulled the sack. He then turned to see Eduardo in the pond, staring at him through the opening. Cedric scrambled through the remaining length of the tunnel toward the Pit, pulling on the long rope.

He stopped at the end, his limbs spread out to the sides of the tunnel, as small bubbles escaped from his lips. He stared into the ominous expanse of the Opal Pit. Light shone through the surface, white, then a deep dark blue fifty feet below. At its furthest depth, rocky outcrops obscured the direction of the aquifer that disappeared through meandering underground caverns and currents.

Above, Huarton scaled the side of the waterfall. He stood straight, chest out, and then leaped into a swan dive.

Cedric crouched at the precipice of the tunnel, frozen. The sack pulled at his arm. Before him, an explosion of bubbles tore through the white surface and a torpedoing figure emerged. Huarton swam toward him. In that instant, Eduardo grabbed Cedric from behind. Cedric jumped into the vastness. Eduardo followed, holding on to the sack.

Though each man swam upward, the weight of the jewels held them in suspended animation. In between Cedric and Eduardo, Huarton closed in, joining the struggle.

A large air bubble belched from Cedric’s lips as he mouthed the word, “HORTON”.

The three men spun and flipped, each pulling at the sack. Cedric let go. His cheeks bursting, defying the impulse to breathe. Eduardo and Huarton continued their tug of war. The weight of the jewels pulled at them as their arms and legs thrashed, clawing at the surrounding water. Huarton rotated his body, spinning like a crocodile on a carcass, wrapping his body in the rope.

Cedric reached the surface, took a breath, and then looked down into the water as Eduardo released his grip. Huarton, unable to use his arms, kicked violently. The heavy sack pulled him toward the dark blue.

Huarton smiled, having the sack to himself. Then, a grimace of horror waved over his face, before an explosion of silver bubbles erupted from his mouth. His body descended, flinching once or twice, then relaxed, fading into the murky darkness until he passed a rocky ledge. There, he vanished as if sucked into a vacuum cleaner.


Two days later, a crowd gathered around the Opal Pit as scuba divers emerged with the body of Huarton.

“Someone must have called for help after seeing him jump in and not come out,” Kitty said to Cedric as they watched.

“Do you see a white sack?” Cedric asked.

“No, I don’t, but I see Eduardo on the other side of the pit.”

Eduardo watched. He looked across at Kitty and Cedric, then left.

Kitty blew a puff of smoke. “You know what that means?”

“That the jewels are gone forever?”

“Eh, eh. It means you’re taking scuba diving lessons. Eduardo’s thinking exactly what we are.” Kitty flicked her ashes. “Put down your drink. I know a surf shop that rents that stuff.”

“I’m not going back in there!” Cedric demanded. “I nearly died, and you know I can’t stay down for very long.”

“Hm.” Kitty blew a puff of smoke into Cedric’s face. “That’s all going to change, my dear. Your deep-diving lessons are about to begin.”

Cedric’s eyes narrowed. “Hmmmmmm?”


Winter — An End And A Promise


The Transcendent Authors created the third volume of the Seasons Series, Winter—An End and a Promise, a compilation of many genres. They consist of: paranormal/mystery, military fiction, film noir, comedy, drama, literary fiction, fairy-tale/morality, science fiction, contemporary fiction, action/drama, crime/drama, tragic fate, domestic fiction, and horror romance. There is something for everyone to open and enjoy.

The Joy

I returned from the war in Europe. It was over. Yet strangely, the numbness that accompanied me through the hardest times still lingered. The blankness of emotion that was, in some ways, a shield against the insanity still enveloped me. 

Only in my dreams did an unsettling feeling arise, a drowning sensation that woke me from my sleep. A dream that always ended the same, trapped in a tank like a fish, staring out into a room distorted by a force that held me prisoner.  

I traveled home without a feeling of purpose. Rather, an internal drive like a homing-pigeon tugged at me.

I looked out from the bus window. Numb from the horror of war. 

Shell-shocked, that’s what they called it. 

The view from the window of the bus resembled the landscape of the French countryside I traveled through. And though some soldiers laughed freely, there were others that stared out of their window in quiet contemplation. I was neither of those. 

I placed my hand on the pane of glass. It filled me with a fear that I could not explain except to say that it resembled my dreams.


Finally, after an overnight train ride and another trip on a bus, I reached a small town. I disembarked the bus and friendly faced man reading a newspaper looked up with a smile, “Ian.”

He folded the paper under his arm and stood straight from the car he leaned against. The side of the car read “TAXI,” in large letters.

“Well, isn’t it a pleasure, boy,” Said he, as he walked closer.

I smiled, more from reflex than friendship. I knew him, yet I didn’t. He grabbed my bag and placed it in the rear seat, and then opened the passenger door. I only knew to sit, but nothing else.

“Boy, they’ll be happy to see you.” He smiled, and we drove away through what I knew to be familiar streets, but again, I could not remember.

“We got a new clock there, in front of the bank,” He said as he took a toothpick from his mouth and pointed. The convex windshield distorted the objects as they passed by its furthest edge. A sickening feeling stirred in me. 

“Your mother will be overjoyed.”

Mother, yes, my mother, I remember now.

For the first time in two years, I smiled, then looked at the driver, “Yes, my mother.” Then, back through the windshield. My smile faded.

We stopped in front of a home. “This one’s on me Ian. I doubt you’re loaded with cash.”

“Yeah, right, thanks, uh…” I hesitated and then stepped from the car.

The driver, whom I could not remember his name, pulled my duffle bag from the rear seat and dropped it on the curb.

He tipped his hat, and there was a moment of silence. “Well, it’s good you’re back. Ya look a little tired,” He said with a smirk. “I suppose I’ll see ya around.” With that, he sat in the car and drove away.


I stood near the street and gazed up the pathway to the house. Again, this home and street of my childhood provided no memory. 

I grew up in this house. This is where I lived.

A sudden fear rose in me, suffocating, drowning. I closed my eyes to stop nausea that lumped in my throat. 

Something bad happened, tied, screams, splashing caustic liquid. 

I struggled to breathe as I felt pushed below the surface of a murky tank of evil-smelly water.

My eyes sprung open. My heart raced as I felt something of apprehension to approach the front door, yet there was that drive to move forward. I knew this to be my truth, the purpose of my journey.

It’s my imagination, I thought with a shrug.

I approached the home. The quiet street, the trees, the gardens, all the colors were as I imagined, but only at the moment I saw them. A breeze blew past with a faint sense of familiarity, of knowing what it was, but without memory. Zombie-like, I stepped forward with an emptiness. 

In front of the home, I stopped. The house was picturesque, as if unspoiled by the world that had pulled itself apart.

Two years of fighting in a war, what did it do to me? 

For a moment, I pictured a boy that cheerfully waved goodbye to a family so many years before. When exactly that was, I was unsure. Something blurred their faces, their bodies were formless.

I took a deep breath and stepped up to the front entrance. As if out of body, I watched my hand rise and knock upon the door. A tingle of anticipation quivered through me with a notion of the old wooden door creaking. I closed my eyes and imagined the exact time it took for the door to open. I waited, and there was a call from inside the home, “Coming.” 

A woman opened the door, flowery dressed and bosomy, gray-haired and scarfed, with a kind smile and wearing glasses.

Had things changed?

Our eyes met. And though I could see the regret on her face, I knew it was because of the pain in mine. 

She stepped back and pulled the door wider. Her head tilted sideways with an encouraging grin. 

I dropped my bag inside the door as I entered, but felt nothing as the woman embraced me. I followed her direction, and she closed the door behind me. 

“Oh dear, you’ve lost it, tsk, tsk.” She sucked her teeth. “Your skin is lifeless, and your eyes have sunken. You look near death, my son.”

“Mother?” I questioned.

“Yes, my boy, you still remember a bit.” 

I looked at her, straining to make a connection. 


“Oh, you’ve nearly lost it. We’ll just have to get you that joy back. Oh, I’m so happy you’re home. I’ll make you something to eat, my dear. Just come in and relax.”

She pulled me by the arm and lead me to a sitting room. 

“That war is over. It’s over.” She demanded.

My eyes teared. The sound of her voice, the aroma of the home, all meant something, but what?

“Mother.” I repeated with certainty.

“Oh, my dear boy, yes?” she asked with a coo in her voice. 

I stood silently, satisfied that she confirmed it. 

“Just relax. No worries now. I’ll have you back to your old self in no time.” 

She scampered to the kitchen. Her hefty hips rumbled under her flowery dress. She muttered unintelligible sentences that included names I had once heard, “The Taylors sold their house and that Conners girl was asking about you since her brother Tom returned home.” She continued about uncles and cousins that I could make no connection between.

I replied short and cordial, “Oh, ok.”

“I’ll be down in the cellar,” she called out.

“Alright,” I answered as her steps faded into an underground space I faintly remembered. I followed the circumference of the room with my eyes and reacquainted myself with the furniture and photos. I stepped near the mantel. Above a fireplace that showed no sign of use. A picture of two men and a boy caught my attention. I put my finger to the boy’s face. 

It’s me. Yes, they must be my father and uncle. 

Next to this photo was another, and then another, sequentially older. The black and white photographs provided an impulse of memories but seemed superficial.

Bungling movements in the cellar space below grabbed my attention. I walked to a doorway in the kitchen and called down, “Mother. Do you need help?” 

“No, no, I’ll be right up. Stay up there. Just take your things to your room. I’ll’ just be a few minutes.”

I stepped back through the house that led me to a small hallway with many closed doors. I opened the first. It creaked open to reveal a boy’s room.

This is my bedroom.

In the doorway, I stopped to look, then walked in. I dropped my bag on the floor and looked around the room to see a baseball, a model boat, some books on a desk, and a bed that was neat and unused. 

The old days, the old ways, the joy, yes, joy. I remember that word.

I sat on the bed and stared at the neatly placed things about the room, the ball, the bat, the boat. Each item had a story I could not remember, but there was an impulse to remember. 

Why are these things important to me?

I held the boat and looked at it. It was a child’s toy. That was all. I set it down and looked at each object with the same emptiness.

“Oh, Ian darling? Help me set the table.” My mother called.

I turned and walked back through the house, wiping my brow, blinking and dazed, then put two plates on the table from a stack she handed me.

“Better set two more. Your father will be home soon and your uncle George might stop by.”


Yes, my father, why didn’t I ask earlier? 

I remembered the picture on the mantel.

“I can’t wait. How is dad?”

“Oh, he’s just fine. He hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Oh, joy!” I said aloud.

Mother turned with a bright smile. “Yes, you remember now, son, the joy. Here, sit, have some soup, and feel the joy come back.”

I sat. In front of me, she placed a bowl of soup and a spoon.

“Now, when you’re done, don’t forget to drink the broth. Drink it all down like a good boy.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” 

I held the spoon I felt I had held countless times before. The curve of the neck and shaft fit into my hand with body memory. I submerged it into the murky broth and lifted a spoonful to my lips, and closed his eyes. A briny, sour aroma wafted up into my face before I sipped. The taste was unique, yet familiar. It was singular in dimension, yet salty, meaty, and ambiguously decayed. My first instinct was to choke it off. I opened my eyes only to see my mother patiently waiting for me to swallow.

“That’s it, take it all down.”

Her request drove me forward. In her guiding moments, I had another and another spoonful until I was tipping the bowl for its last drops. 

I sat the bowl down with a clack, “Oh, I’m full. That was wonderful… The joy.” I said as I held my hand over my belly.

“Yes, yes, that’s right. Now, why don’t you lay down and I’ll call you when everyone gets here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I mumbled, then stood.

My numbness retreated as I walked back to the bedroom. There I sat on the bed before laying down and picked up the boat. I held it close to my face with curiosity. Deep inside the ship’s deck, I could visualize myself with others as if I was there, all of us together aboard a boat. Each one of us going about tasks. Casting lines, steering, and hoisting sails. 

Yes, I remember it now.

I set the model down as a queer smile grew on my face. I lay myself back and fell into a grand slumber the moment my head sunk into the pillow. I dreamt a twilight night of dreams. For once in years, my thoughts were not those of drowning but of hopes and desires. 

I awoke and sat up cheerful, alert, and optimistic. The light from the window had shifted. I knew a considerable time had passed.

What dreams.

I placed my hands over my abdomen with fingers locked. I looked around the room at the things of my childhood and smiled at the bountiful memories they brought. Then, stood and walked to the bedroom door. Beyond, I heard the gleeful laughs and conversations of many people. I pushed the door open and ahead of me was my father, uncle, from the photo. Young ones danced and ran about.

“Come here, my boy! Come here and give your dad a hug!” a barrel-chested man sang in a baritone voice.

Eagerly, I hurried to him and indulged my father’s whim and received not just one hug, but another from my uncle as well. All felt warm from the gaiety of the moment. My mother commented on the spirit of it, “Oh, it’s back in you again. It’s back.”

Everyone beamed with happiness and told stories of family splendor. I looked into my mother’s face. She was as happy and young as I had ever remembered her. I now recalled her radiance and everlasting beauty, the same as when I was a young boy. Everyone sang in harmony, “oh the joy, oh, the joy.”

My father entered from the basement with champagne bottles. They poured glasses for all, even the young ones had a taste. My mother ladled soup into bowls around the dining room table and everyone sat sipping the soup and then stood drinking champagne and still others danced about.

So filled with merriment, I spun off into the kitchen, where I found my champagne glass empty. I turned to look for a bottle and then entered the cellar where I remembered father had brought them up. I could not recall the way, but carefully I made my descent down the dark steps. A cool wet breeze blew from the rear and I followed the earthy moist ventilation. I fumbled for a light switch and recalled a dangling string with a cap on its end, a light that hung from the center of the cellar’s one large room.

Upstairs, the festivities carried over into the space below. The lumbering steps of my family resounded and the words of “Oh the joy,” were ever-present, like a chant.

I found the string and tugged it. The flash of light was blinding, and I covered my eyes. As I slowly opened my fingers, my sight adjusted. In horror, I shook from what I saw. At the back of the room, gargantuan pickle jars lined the wall. 

Electrified with fear, I shrieked. A paroxysm similar to looking out of the taxi window, but ten times greater, overwhelmed me. As horrifying as it was, I could not look away. From inside the jars, looking out, were tortured faces floating within the murky brine; contorted expression bent in the glass’s curvature.

What kind of monstrous experiment is this? This can’t be real.

Slowly, the faces looked familiar. My legs weakened, and I turned away when I realized these were the faces of everyone I loved. My father, my mother, my uncle, and cousins, and worst of all, myself. All stared back at me. Many had open mouths that held a drowning scream and the one like me floated with hands clawing at the glass. Strangely, the figures appeared younger and dressed in clothing from an earlier time.

I held my hands out in front of my face to question my existence. 

If my parents are here… then who is up there, and who am I? 

I spun from dizziness and struggled to stand. My ears rang as my heart pounded in a panic. I turned completely away in disbelief. In doing so, I turned to see my mother and father standing before me at the bottom of the steps in solidarity, hand in hand.

“You weren’t supposed to see this yet,” my mother said. “This is the joy. This is all of their happiness and life bottled up, preserved in jars that will keep us alive for many years to come.” 

Slowly, they stepped toward me. I was torn between nearing them or walking back toward the jars. I froze and closed my eyes. Then, with nowhere to run, my legs folded, and I slowly crouched to the floor, quivering, hoping this was a dream. As I held my breath, they cradled me in a smothering hug and lifted me up.

“Everything is going to be fine, son,” my father said. “Let’s go back upstairs.”

 They steered me toward the steps, matching my weak small steps. My mother’s calm voice spoke words of encouragement. Again, I felt numb, not from emptiness, but with the truth, with the completeness of everything, which finally made sense. We climbed the steps as my mother’s warm hand led the way. My father grabbed two bottles of champagne. His firm hand pushed me from behind. Something of a calmness happened between us. Above, we reentered the dining room. There I was, once again, surrounded by what appeared to be my loving family. The young cousins continued to play, and I pretended to play along as best I could. We toasted to life and everyone around me reveled in the moment’s joy and slowly I resigned to the idea that I was one of them, whatever that was.


Follow My Frozen Heart

My face freezes as I peer out from my mountain cave overlooking the village. The cold seizes me with shivers as my breaths quiver from sadness and anger.

The village glows through the falling snow that ever thickens. I can’t tell if I am numb from cold or grief as I peek down below at the cozy cottages resembling the embers of my fire.

Where my home sits at the edge of the forest, there are no lights. I can picture my mother laying in her bed. 

If only I had said I loved her.

My small fire pops and crackles with white flames. I sit back and poke the wood that glows orange through charred patches.

My cave is only big enough for me, but there is only me. The sides are rough and the opening is narrow. I stare out through its mouth and into a starless black. Around it, the windswept shards of accumulating ice point horizontal like teeth. Bit by bit, they grow and threaten to close as hunger and loneliness gnaw at me.

They must be searching for me. 

They won’t look far. Only a fool would leave the safety of a home in this weather, but I did.

You can’t take it back.

He deserved it. I had to do it. Everyone owed him. They should thank me, but they’ll hang me.

The fire.

With my last stick, I push the glowing parts together and then throw it in. I pull my feet close, my knees to my chest, and hide my face beneath my collar. My fingers clench, hidden in my coat sleeves. I shiver and weep for my mother, who I will never see again.

Oh, mama, I miss you.

“It’s not fair!” I cry out, but nobody can hear me as I sit against the back of my hideaway and look into my small fire that shimmers. It wavers from the gusts of frigid air that carries ice crystals from the storm. 

Blackened lines and spots are etched into the burning sticks. They resemble archaic writing on ancient scrolls. Their stories unfold as the heat scorches and shrinks the branches, releasing their memories.

I stare into the fluttering flames that dance upon the shrinking pieces of wood and drift into my memory of what happened.


My father made a life for us, herding goats. My mother made cheese. Now, at fourteen, I tended the goats and milked them while my father only sat and watched us. 

As we prospered, he disappeared at night. My mother said nothing, but became distant and sulked. A coldness grew between them. I often awoke to angry shouts that ended with a slammed door, and my father’s steps disappearing outside. My heart ached with a pain I could not understand.

My mother loved me, I knew this above anything else and I was her little boy. Though I was becoming a man, I cherished her touch on my cheek and the love she cooked into every meal like I was still a child. 

I escaped on mountain strolls, tending the goats. With only a walking stick and a knife, I would visit my secret place and daydream. Here I could vanish from the pain.

Upon my last return home, a large man stood at the door. Gundersen, the fat financier, stood with a smile of sadistic pleasure in a large fur coat and boots. My mother crumbled to her knees as she wept. I stood speechless as he held out a note of promise in front of our faces. My father borrowed against the farm and lost it.

A stabbing pain struck my gut as my mother released a horrid unnatural cry. Distraught, her eyes stared wildly and she stumbled to her bedroom, holding her arms over her chest in pain. Gundersen left and promised to return the next day. 

I stood alone in our cottage, petrified. The fear of Gundersen’s return was a nightmare.

Where will we go? What will we do?

I fell asleep, waiting for my father, who never returned.

The next morning I awoke to the bitter cold. Snow set on the window sills as a frosty powder misted in under the front door. A fire had not been started and everything seemed frozen from the horrific news of the previous day.

I entered my mother’s room where she lay in bed.

“Mother,” I whispered and stepped near. She didn’t move but lay pristine and angelic. I hesitated to wake her, but we had to go on. 

I put my hand to her shoulder. It felt rigid and I pulled my hand back. I reached out again. Her body was stiff. A strange sensation quivered through me, a paralyzing fear, followed by nausea. I sank with weakness but wanted to run. The sole anchor to life, my mother, was dead.

My mind swirled and I stepped back out from the room. In a panic, I ran from the home and staggered into the nearby woods. The world spun around me. I grasped the trunk of a tree, the only thing that stood strong. My feet stung with a fringed bite as I hugged this unmovable thing. The world stopped spinning and it filled me with an impulse to return.

I crept into the icy cottage. It now appeared as a replica of the place I once lived. Everything was frozen in time. Above a dormant fire pit, a cold iron pot with the last meal my mother cooked hung from a blackened bar. An emptiness tugged at my stomach, but the thought of food sickened me. 

I could not eat and I could not enter my mother’s room but tinkered with the thought she would emerge. Again and again, my mind rehearsed the moment only to swirl downward in despair knowing that she died feeling unloved. This overwhelmed me until my agony gave way to pure and corporeal hatred. My heart froze, my life ceased. Then, as if reborn, I saw beyond this crippling sadness. Though my father was to blame, Gundersen was at the heart of my hatred. His repugnant smile begged for revenge.

The snow continued. The cottage became colder. My breath fogged with the wickedness of death. I paced the front room holding my knife as I filled with rage. Then, I wandered out into the blank slate of wintery white.

Snow crunched under my steps as I ventured through the village. The homes glowed with fireplaces while the windows flashed with signs of life, laughing, singing, and some silent shadows.

I was but a shadow now. A figment that lived through the one motivation that filled my body, revenge. All sense of fear left me. Revenge burned within me. It was a wicked warmth, burning with anger. There was nothing else.

I stopped at the home of Gundersen and stood upon the landing before his front door. With my knife in hand, I waited and stared forward. As I knocked, a baritone voice surprised me from behind.

“I am here, boy.”

I turned around to the sight of the rotund man who stirred from drunkenness. Like an involuntary reflex, my arm thrust forward. The knife slid into his belly. I had the sensation of watching it happen from outside my body. My hand retracted and he fell to his knees, facing me with a howling expression of surprise. Again, the knife lunged forward and slid upward through his throat. He gagged and swirled his arms as if catching his balance.

At that moment, the door squeaked opened behind me and I heard a voice gasp in shock. Gundersen’s body tipped backward as my hand remained where it held the knife. The hair stood on my neck as a women’s scream shrilled from behind me. Gundersen clomped onto his back. I ran from the landing and out into the cold twilight.

My snow-filled steps lead me back to my home. I stood and looked at it for the last time. Then, I turned and fled to my only place of safety, my secret cave.


Here, I sit inside this rocky crag. The wind howls as curious snowflakes enter and twinkle before dying in the faint orange glow that surrounds me.

My head droops as I cry between shivering breaths. The storm moans through the narrowing mouth of the cave. My hunger aches, as the fire dies, and my eyes struggle to stay open.

My mother’s image fades as the flames flicker. The last stick puffs and joins the other blackened figures. They crackle and finish burning their stories as the darkening cave closes its icy jaws, as I drift into a freezing slumber and follow my frozen heart.





Had you shaken a snow globe, then flash-froze it, the action, though unmoving, would still be expressed. This was the appearance of Nate Jackson. His eyes welled with a horrid vision, his hands clenched something that wasn’t there, and his mouth stretched open cupping a moan that never emerged as his motionless body lay near the entrance of a vacant lot. Something had shaken him, rattled his soul and then froze it…

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     “Mortem praeparare meum novum maximum cofectio!”Adolf Van De Groot bellows from the mezzanine above a gathering of chocolate makers in the grand hall of the Van De Groot Chocolaterie located in the heart of Brussels. 

     His commanding voice reverberates through the hallowed hall with the reverence of his great ancestors, “I have chosen you all to witness my greatest confection. Chocolate so creamy, so decadent, so perfect, it will be the joy of the world. A raging storm of flavor I have named Chocolate Thunder!”



To read more, click the link below.