Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Fairy of Avery Loch


My short story for this week is another one inspired by a short story group prompt. The prompt for the week was "Tone Deaf" and I found the prompt a little challenging. So, I would love to get some feedback on the story. It is called, "The Fairy of Avery Loch". Let me know what you think!

James Meadows

The Fairy of Avery Loch 
by James J Meadows III

The fairies of Avery Loch aren’t known for their benevolence. Neither are they known for their animosity. Rather, like most denizens of the unseen realms beyond the laws and limitations of human reason and comprehension, they are known for their bizarre tendency to see into a person’s heart; delivering their usually unsolicited blessings and curses based simply upon what the person deserves or needs, rather than what the person necessarily wants. Still, to the good and pure in heart, the fairies of Avery Loch traditionally pose little danger or threat, if they take any interest in them at all.

Perhaps it was for this reason that Arthur McGuill felt neither nervous nor apprehensive about spending a bright sunny day camped out beside the cool waters. Flute in hand, he strolled down the lush green slope of Wallace hill, to the lake’s edge, where he sat down upon an old fallen log. There, in the warm sunlight of a gentle summer’s morn, he lifted the small flute to his lips and commenced whiling away the hours with his first and only true love: music.

From his earliest memory all the way to his twenty-fifth year of life, which he enjoyed now, music was at the heart of Arthur’s existence and his one respite from the loneliness which haunted his days. For unlike his friends and family, who had either passed on or moved to new lands, music was always there for him.

He heard the melodies of laughter, the symphonic songs of the birds, the harmony of the winds flowing through the mountains, and the crashing cymbals of thunder in the storm. He strove to model this majesty in his songs, filling his tunes with his glorious medleys of the world’s splendor. As he played the current tune, he visualized the beauty and serenity of the morning, expressing the glory of the dawning day with each flowing note.

Suddenly, Arthur became aware of a figure watching him. He lowered the flute and turned to greet the stranger, only to have his breath catch in his throat at the sight of her. Yes, it was a her, and she was beautiful. She wore a long flowing white dress, whose untarnished silky strands glistened like daisies in the morning sun. Her body was slim and fragile, with delicate unblemished skin, smoother than a glassy pond on a warm windless day. Platinum hair streamed from her head down to the grass behind and her thin red lips wore a peaceful expression. Her most remarkable feature, however, were her eyes; a deep dark reflective grey, promising depths of unimaginable feeling and unfathomable intelligence. He knew those eyes belonged to no earthly woman.

She was kneeling on the ground with her hands in her lap. Upon seeing him stop, she smiled and nodded to him.

“Please, go on,” she said. “Play some more for me.”

The voice was sweet and light, child-like in its innocence; reminding Arthur of youthful days spent rolling in the clover as the clouds passed overhead. He found himself unable to resist the request, if only to reward the blessing of hearing her speak, and further the hope that he might hear it again.

He lifted the flute back to his lips and started again. Even as he played, he found it impossible to take his eyes off her. He gazed into her stormy eyes, imagining the swirling white of morning fog, the cool touch of gentle mist, and the soft crunch of dew covered grass beneath his feet.

Arthur watched the young woman listen. Her eyes closed, her body swaying with the music. When he finished, she burst into a series of giggles and applause!

“That was so beautiful,” she said. “Play me a new song.”

Arthur never considered refusing the request. He had to play another song, if only to hear the sweetness of her laughter one more time and delay her departure for another moment. He lifted the flute and began playing a new song. He looked at her flowing platinum hair and envisioned a gentle brook trickling down the heart of a cool mountain forest, rolling over rocks and across fresh leaves, providing drops of life to tired, thirsty animals coming to savor its vibrant waters; on its way to merge with the fathomless depth of a brisk sparkling lake.

The girl again closed her eyes, smiling gently and releasing a peaceful sigh. When he stopped playing, the woman opened her eyes, gazing deeply into his eyes. He stared back enraptured, wanting more than anything for her to ask him for another song; praying she would stay.

She reached out, placing her hand on his arm.

“Please, play me just one more,” she said. “Play me the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.”

Her touch was warm and soothing, radiating through his body with an almost intoxicating affect. When she removed her hand and sat back, it was like a void opened in his soul. He almost found himself begging her to put it back. Instead, he lifted the flute to his lips one last time.

He paused, trying to picture the most beautiful thing he could think of. Then, he began to play. And what he played was her. He played the melody of her voice and the beauty of her laugh. He played the warmth of her touch and the depth of her eyes. He played the serenity of her sighs and the passion of his desire to not spend a moment away from her.

As he watched, tears filled her eyes. Though she smiled, her smile appeared sadder now and she held both hands gripped tightly over her breast, as though shielding her heart, lest it break.
When he finished the song, he looked around. To his surprise, it was nighttime, and the moon shone bright in the sky. Without a word, the woman rose and turned to leave.

“Wait,” he called after her. “Don’t leave!”

She froze but did not turn to look at him. He tried to think of something to say, anything to make her linger longer.

“I have played a melody for you,” he said. “Won’t you sing a tune for me?”

“You would have me sing, so I will stay,” she said, her voice soft and mournful. “I understand, for I long to stay with you. But your world and our world are forever separate, and our moment together is as fleeting as my song would be.”

“Then I would have your song be the only song I ever hear, and our moment be the only moment I ever experience, for I cannot bear to be apart from you.”

He fell down on his knees, imploring her to stay. “Please, I have given you the one gift I have to give, grant me this boon.”

The woman turned around and knelt before him. She placed her right hand in his hand and her left hand on his cheek.

“As you wish,” she said. She leaned forward, and gave him a tender kiss on the lips, flooding his body with warmth.

She broke off the kiss, pulling back and facing him, her hand still caressing his cheek, as she smiled at him. For a moment, that seemed to last an eternity, they gazed into each other’s eyes in rapture. Then, she sang a single note; only one note; a long simple note anyone might sing. And, yet, in that one note, Arthur heard the sounds of all the songs he’d ever heard and felt the fullness of all the emotions he had ever felt. In its steady hum, time seemed to stand still, revealing the beauty behind all beauty, the majesty within all nature, and the purity within the heart of the all purest loves to ever love.

At last, the note ended. Arthur blinked. The woman was gone. From that day on, Arthur never heard another song. Every note on every instrument whether high or low, sounded in his ears as a single note; the note sung by the woman. Any song sung by any singer was merely a monotone hum, repeating her note again. The wind in the trees, the fire crackling in the hearth, and the waves lapping across the shore, no longer made their lofty tones, only repeating her song over and over again to his ears.

Yet, whenever Arthur heard that note, he smiled. For he felt the touch of the woman’s hand on his cheek and the warmth of her kiss in his skin. And when he opened his eyes, he saw her face, gazing back at him with love.

Many said it was a shame for him to lose his music and pitied him. But Arthur was content, living out the rest of his days in peace and joy. And it is said, that the descendants of Arthur McGuill, if they sit in silence and listen closely, can still hear the fairy’s note ringing in their ears, extending its blessing and joy throughout the ages, to the end of time.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My Grandmother's Pendant

Greetings Everyone,

I apologize for my absence the last couple of weeks. Between the wedding, the honeymoon, and all the stuff that needed to get done afterward, I have been a little busy. But, I'm back on track now.

My newest story is based upon a prompt from my Short Story group. I hope  you enjoy it. The name of the story is "My Grandmother's Pendant". I'd love to get some feedback and hear what everyone thinks!

"My Grandmother's Pendant"
by James J Meadows III

Backpack on my back, book in my hand, and small tears clinging tenaciously to the corners of my eyes, I set off down the long tree-lined path without so much as a look back at the house I once considered the closest thing to heaven in this lonely world. The house belonged to my grandmother but I would not see her again. Nor would I ever see the numerous family members, including my own mother, who had traveled from their various towns and states to attend my grandmother’s funeral. No, they were all behind me now. I was running away.

                It was likely, perhaps even more than likely, considering how much my grandmother always said we were alike, that my actions were modeled in some small part after her own. My grandmother had run away when she was a child too. For her, she was fleeing the abuse of an alcoholic father; for me, it was a cocaine addict mother.

                The sun had yet to crack the distant horizon as I walked through the gloomy shades of early morning. The company at the house would probably not wake for at least another couple of hours and no one would check on me for at least an hour or two after that. Being the only teenager in the family, I had gotten my own room. I made sure of it. I knew I was going to run away after the funeral was over. There was no reason for me to stay now that grandmother was gone. She was the only person who ever seemed to really care about me. I only hoped my attempt to run away could be as successful as hers.

                My grandmother ran away when she was fifteen years old, the same age as me. She was missing for almost two days before she turned up at her doorstep dressed in strange clothing, missing all her belongings and wearing a bizarre pendant around her neck. Grandmother never told anyone what happened to her while she was away and never explained where she got the clothes and the necklace. She simply claimed it was a good luck charm.

It must have worked because from that day on, her father, apparently broken-hearted after his daughter left, gave up drinking. He never touched another beer or harmed her again. Shortly thereafter, grandmother also published her first book; one of many fantasy stories, filled with bizarre magic, strange creatures, and parallel worlds, that would transform the teenager into a best-selling author and celebrity. It was one of these books that I held in my hand as I walked away from the house where my grandma had lived and died, still wearing that necklace even on her deathbed.

I wished I had such a good luck charm. In fact, my grandmother, who had always promised to leave a special surprise for me when she died, had bequeathed the necklace to me. Unfortunately, as seemed to be my luck, the necklace had disappeared. No one could find it, though people swore she was wearing it at the moment she passed away. Somehow, someone must have taken it off while her body was being prepared for burial and the necklace had gotten lost.

The end of the lane was approaching as faint sunlight began to crest the distant hills of my grandmother’s plantation. I knew I needed to hurry my pace. The town, and its rickety old bus stop which was my pen-ultimate destination, lay several miles away. I needed to reach it before anyone could catch me. The gate at the end of the lane was open and I was just about to dart through when I heard a voice call out to me.

“I will not say running away is a bad idea,” a woman’s voice rang out from the base of a nearby tree. “However, I will say that the time has come for you to return home.”

I spun around, my head turning in all directions as I sought to find the speaker. I spotted them at the base of the last tree on the right; a tree which had often caught my eye in the past for the strange way it seemed to stand out from all the others. Its exterior was darker than the rest, with numerous knots, cracks, and large roots protruding from the ground; upon which sat a solitary figure in a brown hooded robe. Upon my turning around, the stranger rose to face me.

            The mysterious newcomer, who I presumed to be a woman, based upon the voice, wore her hood so low that none of her features were visible inside the dark shadows formed by the hood and still rising sun. Likewise, the robe, which stretched all the way down to the tiptop of the freshly mowed lawn, obscured all of the woman’s features. I could make out only her lips, which smiled at me with an amused expression both strangely familiar and foreign.

                “Who are you?” I asked.

                The smile grew. “You know who I am,” she replied.

                This answer, both cryptic and troubling, combined with the stranger’s bizarre appearance, made me extremely uncomfortable. I wasn’t in the mood to play games to begin with and, if I had been, I certainly wouldn’t be doing it with some cloaked stranger trespassing on my grandmother’s plantation at five thirty in the morning.

                “No, I really don’t,” I replied, a little irritated. “And, if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere that I need to go.”

                I started to turn around when the stranger spoke again.

                “Yes, you do,” she replied. “But you are not going where you think you are going.”

                The words caused me to freeze in my tracks. A feeling of apprehension gripped me and I turned around nervously.

                “What do you mean,” I asked, trying to hide the fear in my voice.

                “I mean, you are not going where you are going, but instead you are going where you are going,” she replied.

                “That doesn’t make any sense,” I replied, my fear battling with my curiosity, as the bizarre game continued.

                “It will,” she said. The woman extended a hand from the cloak and help it out toward me. “Take my hand.”

                Fear gripped me. Though the woman didn’t seem any taller than me and didn’t sound any older than me, she had a strong, commanding voice, that didn’t leave much room for questions. Even though she had taken no direct hostile actions toward me, I felt frightened. A part of me wanted to run.

                At the same time, however, there was something strangely familiar about the woman. I couldn’t place exactly what it was, but there was something compelling about her; a strange energy which seemed to pull at me, making me want to comply with her request. Perhaps it was her confidence; maybe it was the gentleness with which she spoke; perhaps it was the strange familiar smile lining her lips, but whatever it was, something about her appealed to me.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked

“I am taking you home,” she responded.

“You’re lying,” I replied.

“Of course I am. I am also telling the truth. Either way, take my hand.”

“Why won’t you tell me where we are going?”

“Because if I told you, you wouldn’t go,” she said. “And you must go.”

“Why wouldn’t I go, if I knew?” I asked.

“Because you wouldn’t believe me. And because it is dangerous. And because you don’t trust me.”

“You’ve already admitted you’re lying to me,” I said, with some exasperation. “Why should I trust you?”

“You shouldn’t,” she replied. “And you won’t. But you’ll come with me anyway.”

“Why won’t you give me a straight answer,” I asked. “Why do you speak in riddles?”

“Because sometimes riddles are the only direct answer,” she said.

“You’re confusing.”

“And yet you understand me,” she replied.

“If I understand you, then why I am so confused?”

“Because you don’t understand yourself,” she said.

“What don’t I understand?”

“You don’t understand why you’re going to go with me,” she answered.

This was true. For although I felt suspicious and distrustful, there was still that strange compulsion tugging at my mind; almost like an overwhelming sense of curiosity, so great it held me spellbound.

“Are you forcing me to go with you?” I asked.

“No. You’re going to choose to go with me.”

“Why would I do that when I know you’re lying to me and I know I can’t trust you?”

“That is what you don’t understand.”

“How do you know that I’m going to go with you?” I asked.

“That is what you’re going to find out.”

“And then what will happen?” I asked, beginning to feel stupid from the mix of bizarre riddles and answers that answered nothing.

“Then you’ll understand,” she replied.

Feeling both completely bewildered, and without fulling understanding why I did so, I extended my hand to take hers. She led me to the other side of the tree. There I saw, to my astonishment, a circle of tiny mushrooms. I was sure they hadn’t been there a couple of days ago and, if they had been, they should have been destroyed by the mowers yesterday. They must have popped up overnight.

“A fairy ring,” I said, gazing in astonishment.

“Step inside, and close your eyes,” she said, gesturing toward the middle of the circle.

“What will happen?”

“You will go to where you going,” she replied.

“Where is that?” I asked.

“To a place you wouldn’t go if you knew you were going. To a place you are glad you did now that you have,” she replied.

I didn’t understand but something told me I wasn’t going to get a better answer than that.

“What if I don’t go,” I asked.

“You will,” she answered.

“Why should I?”

I saw the shoulders of the cloak rise as though the woman were giving a shrug.

“What have you got to lose?” she answered.

The last statement was perhaps the first thing the woman had said which made any sense to me. If I was truthful with myself, which I had tried not to be so far, I was attempting an almost impossible get-away with little money, less food, and hardly any prospects of help. My only hope was that some bizarre miracle might happen like happened to my grandmother. I supposed whatever bizarre twist of fate was happening right now was as good as any other I could expect.

With a sigh of resignation, I stepped into the ring and closed my eyes. As I did so, the woman called out to me.

“One last thing,” she said.

I spun around to face her, only to discover that the woman had taken off her cloak. The face that stared back at me was one I knew only too well. It was my own.

Yet it was also not my own. It appeared more confident; more sure; more proud; more of everything that I wasn’t at this point in my life. She was wearing different clothes than my own but still had the same backpack on her back. What caught my eye above all else, though, was the necklace around her neck. It was grandmother’s lucky charm.

“Remember our grandmother,” she said. “And do her proud.”

As she finished the words, I felt a tingle, like a burst of electricity shoot through my body. I found myself unable to move or speak as every inch of my skin burned and pulsed with strange vibrations. As if responding to these vibrations, weird dancing lights and thick swirling white mist encircled me.

Through the haze, I watched my other self turned around and start back toward the house. The next second, white mist obscured my eyes and everything vanished.