Monday, March 20, 2023

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.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Second Kidnapping of Persephone

Hello Everyone!

     For this month's post, I thought I would fall back to my passion for Greek Mythology. The story is called "The Second Kidnapping of Persephone". With the first months of spring approaching, I thought it was a good fit. As you might guess, the story was written for my short story groups prompt "A Kidnapping".

     I hope everyone enjoys it. Please leave feedback and let me know what you think!


James J Meadows III

"The Second Kidnapping of Persephone"

     “How long have you been waiting for me?”

     The woman’s voice, though light as air, seemed to startle Aeneas. The warrior leaped to his feet as though bit by a snake. Turning his head in all directions, he looked around, apparently trying to spot the source.

     From a grove of tall Cypress trees, just a short distance from where Aeneas previously sat day-dreaming, emerged a long-haired woman. She wore a wreath of fresh flowers around her head and a long green dress, whose great tail merged with the earth as though nothing more than an extension of its surface. Upon seeing her, Aeneas knelt low to the ground, his massive frame more closely resembling a rolling boulder than a prostrate servant.

     “My lady, Persephone,” he said. “I have waited for you since the crops of summer faded and before the snows of winter blanketed the land. I have done so many times before and will continue to do so for many years, hence.”

     “You really ought to get a life,” she replied.

     Giving a sigh, she turned away from him, her gaze falling upon the budding flowers and rolling brooks dotting the land around her. Aeneas straightened back up and rose to his feet.

     “You, of all people, should understand that my life is to serve,” Aeneas answered. “What your mother dictates, I do. Right now, she dictates that I wait here to bring you home.”

     “Whose home?” Persephone answered, not looking at him. “Surely, not mine. No! You wait to take me back to my prison, where I must spend the long seasons awaiting my return to my husband, my children, and my kingdom.”

     “You know as well as I do that your return is necessary,” he said. “You bring hope to the people. You bring the spring to the darkness of their winter.”

     “I end the winter of their discontent by bringing the spring of my own,” she said. “And I have no more choice over my fate than you have over yours.”

     “Your mother is strong-willed,” he agreed.

     “My mother is a control freak!” She retorted, turning upon him. “You know it! Perhaps not as well as I do, but you know it, nonetheless.”

     “Your mother loves you,” he protested.

     Persephone gave a harsh laugh.

     “Yeah, the way a python loves his prey,” she said.

     She mimicked the motion of giving someone a big, smothering hug and squeezing with all her might.

     “And long as it doesn’t try to wiggle free, all is well, right?” She asked.

     She dropped her arms, giving a grim smile, at the expression of horror on his face.

     “Is it a crime for a mother to want to be around her child?” he asked, giving her a side-way look.

     “Considering that she doesn’t even pay attention to me half the time, I suppose so,” Persephone answered, turning away. “I’m like a living security blanket. She wants me around, but ninety percent of the time, she doesn’t even do anything with me.”

     “You get to spend time with your sister,” he hinted.

     Persephone gave a scoff.

     “Are you trying to talk me into going or out of it,” she asked. “Despoina thinks she is the ‘Master of the House’ and everyone needs to serve her every whim and desire. If I could find a self-less bone, anywhere among the gods, I’d insert it into her body, so she’d have one.”

     Apparently, Aeneas had heard enough, for his face turned red, and his body assumed a fierce, intimidating manner, seeming to grow in height to match his fury.

     “You can complain all you like,” he said. “But you will come! You have no choice! It is the law, a law we are all bound to - even your husband and your father.”

     “Father,” she repeated, smirking. “Talk about being bullied into a decision. He would have sided with me if he could. Goodness knows he couldn’t stand his mother’s controlling demands and endless manipulations, either. Then again, he ended up marrying Hera, so I guess he didn’t do any better. Still, he tried looking after me.”

     “Looking after you?” Aeneas protested. “He let you be kidnapped!”

     “He let me escape,” she retorted. “Seriously, if I didn’t want to be there, would I have swallowed those pomegranate seeds, knowing full well that eating them meant I would have to return.”

     “You were tricked,” Aeneas said. “You were just a child!”

     “I was old enough to know what I was doing,” Persephone argued. “I know the stories you tell, the stories everyone likes to tell, claiming I was defenseless and naive. What do you expect people to say, when my mother provides their harvest! That’s the benefit of having all the power among a group of people that need you. She can tell them anything she likes. They’ll believe it, too, as long as she continues feeding them. But she can’t deceive me, I was there!”

     “This is nonsense,” Aeneas said. “We are wasting time. You will come with me!”

     “And what if I refuse?” Persephone replied. “What if I turn right back around and go back!”

     Whirling toward the trees, she made to leave. Aeneas was faster. He seized her by the arm, pulling her around to face him.

     “You are mad,” he said. “Are you really going to tell me that you want to go back there? Are you really going to claim that you’d rather be there than here?”

     “Of course, I will!” she argued, vainly trying to yank her arm free of his grip. “Do you think it’s a coincidence that while my return to the upper world brings my mother such joy that spring spreads across the land, spring only comes to the ‘Land Down Under’ when I return? My sorrow at leaving my husband and children brings winter to the lands below as surely as my mother’s sorrow brings winter to the lands above!”

     “You will come with me,” Aeneas ordered, tightening his grip.

     Still holding her arm, he turned away from the forest, pulling her after him.

     “And who’s kidnapping me now?” She protested, struggling against his grip, as he dragged her along.

     Aeneas gave no response. Face resolute, he continued to pull her behind him, marching toward Olympus.

     “I see,” she said. “Is that what this story is to be then- the second kidnapping of Persephone?”

     “It is, if you make it so,” he said.

     He stopped walking and spun to face her.

     “By your will or against it, you will come with me!” He declared.

     “And why is that?” she barked.

     “Because this is about more than just you and your controlling mother,” he said. “It’s about more than you and your kingdom below! It’s about more than your children, your husband, and even your desires!”

     Persephone stopped struggling as she listened to him. Noticing the change, he released his grip, staring into her eyes with unwavering conviction.

     “What is it about then?” she asked.

     “It is about the world,” he said. “It’s about the people in it. They need the spring as surely as the people below need the fall. The seasons created by your sojourns make their agriculture and society possible. Without the cold, icy regions melt and waters cover the land, drowning the crops and burying the fertile fields. Without the heat, the crops refuse to grow, for they lack the warmth to live.  Either way, without the seasons, there are no people. And, without people, we are nothing!”

     “So, you’re saying I need to suffer to make the world work?” Persephone replied in disbelief.

     “Sometimes that is how the world works,” he responded. “Sometimes, that is the only way it works. In life, you have to endure the harsh seasons and bad times, for the greater good, knowing that, in time, the good times will return. If you are patient, you will see that, soon enough, you will be able to return to your home, your kingdom, and your family. Until that time, though, you must make the best of the difficult times. Besides, if you’ll just change your attitude a little, you might find the bad times are not as bad as you think. They may not be as good as you want; but, at least, they aren’t as bad as they could be.”

     Persephone sighed.

     “Very well,” she said. “Take me away, if you must. I will not claim to go willingly. But, I will go – for the sake of the people!”

     Aeneas smiled.

     “A decision truly worthy of a queen,” he said. “Now, let us depart – your mother awaits.”