Short Stories

The Dark Tide – Part 10

This is a work of fiction.

“Before we go,” my wife said, “why did that man want to kill me?”

I told her about the bicycle cart accident just as the mother bird had been landing.

“My daughter,” my wife said when I’d finished speaking, “would you please help me pull him out of this house?”

“Are you sure?” she said.

“Yes. He belongs with his wife and although he tried to kill me, I don’t want to leave him trapped here.”

I listened to the splashing and sounds of effort that my wife and daughter made, and soon, the head of the man who had cursed me broke the surface.

“Dad, can you lift Mom and me up, please?” I did. The young bird reached out and grasped the body of the man who had cursed me with the claws of her other foot, and then took firm hold of me. She took off, and flew us up out of the flood. As soon as we were over dry ground, she landed in a clearing.

“Thank you,” I said. She chirped and let go of me.

My daughter picked some berries, and we all ate, then the young sitting bird flew us to where the female Leader of Worship and the children were. I was spent, so I washed myself, dressed the wounds in my sides, and lay down.

When I awoke, it was the middle of the night. I heard a sound that was both familiar and strange to me. I had fallen asleep in a small shelter that my daughter’s love had built. I went outside, and saw my daughter sitting on the ground with a candle burning beside her. In her lap, there was a piece of paper, and in her hand, a pencil.

I didn’t look but asked, “What are you sketching?”

“I’m designing my wedding dress, and Mom said she’d make it.”

“When is your wedding?”

“It will be in the deep and dark of winter, back up at the mountain top. There will scarcely be any daylight, but the sun will shine from our hearts, and we will know the darkness not. On the way up the mountain, we will leave the man who once cursed you near where his wife died.”

“I miss your sketches,” I said, afraid I was going to break down and weep. “They were destroyed when I fell into the cascade.”

“When I fell from the cliff, I had a bag strapped to my back,” she said. “In it, I had clothes, food, and a large case. In the case, I had the originals of every sketch I’d ever made. Nothing was damaged, so I still have them now. I believe I gave you 287 of them, and I’ll copy them through the long days of summer, until you have them all again, and then I will make even more for you, for Mom, for my love, for the children and their mother, and for the child in me.”

She did. The summer passed us by in a frenzy of activity. I harvested fruits and vegetables, my daughter’s love caught meat, my daughter caught fish and sketched, and the female Leader of Worship took care of her children. Autumn came, leaves fell, and the air grew cold and fresh.

One day, there was a light fall of snow, and we all agreed that it was time.

The female Leader of Worship knew how to preserve bodies with leaves and roots, and I had made a coffin out of wood, and the man who had once cursed me had lain in it for the duration of the summer. Now it was time to lay him to rest. The young father bird took the coffin handles in his claws, and my daughter’s love climbed into the small wooden seat on his back, and most of our possessions were loaded into the bags that were strapped to the seat. The young sitting bird was outfitted with a large bicycle cart on her back, and in it were my wife, my daughter, the children, their mother, and I. We took off separately, lest my daughter’s love meet us, and the birds flew steadily during the day, stopping only to eat and drink, and landed at night. We slept in the bicycle cart, and my daughter’s love doubtless slept on the ground.

One frigid day, we arrived at the cleft in the mountain, and found the coffin containing the man who had once cursed me exactly where I’d asked the young father bird to leave it.

I grasped the handles on my side, and my wife and the female Leader of Worship took up those on theirs.

Once we had walked to the correct spot, we stopped, and put the coffin down.

My wife said, “Man who once cursed my husband and attempted to drown me and trap both of us forever, I have liberated you, and I have brought you here to be with your wife again. I forgive you.”

“I forgive you,” I said. “I call you neighbor.”

“Neighbor,” the female Leader of Worship whispered. “Be free.”

We left the coffin and went back to where my daughter was with the children.

“It is done,” I said. “Let’s go on up.”

It was strange to see the temple again. It stood so proudly on the highest point of the mountain, and although I wasn’t sure if I still believed in the gods, the place filled me with a kind of awe.

My wife and I went to our old house, and my daughter, the children, and the female Leader of Worship went to clean out the temple and make it ready. My daughter’s love stayed in another house on the other side of the temple.

Seven days later, a long, dark night gave way to a cold, clear morning, and the time was right.

I sat in the temple with my wife on my right, and watched with joy as my daughter, dressed simply in a pale yellow dress, marched up the aisle to the rhythm the children beat out on small drums. My wife and I added stamping feet to the glorious sounds. Just as my daughter reached the two pillars of stone, a man stepped into the space between them from where he’d been waiting in the hallway beyond.

The female Leader of Worship whispered the lines, and the children spoke them in high, clear voices.

Together, the children called the names of both my daughter and her love, and then said, “Do you love each otehr?”

“Yes, we do,” they answered as one.

“Do you want to be married forever, until death and beyond?”

“Yes, we do!”

The female Leader of Worship said, “In the light of the sun, in raindrops or fresh snow, in moonlight, in prosperity and in adversity, in all seasons, forever in time, you are married.” She spoke their names: Matthew and Felicity.

I got up and walked over to my newly made son-in-law.

“I am your father-in-law, Curtis,” I said.

My wife said, “I am your mother-in-law, Anna.”

“Thank you,” he said. “What may I call you?”

“Are your parents still living?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “but I still call them Mom and Dad in my thoughts, so you must have different names.” We nodded.

“Call us Ma and Da,” my wife said.

The female Leader of Worship walked over to us.

“I have an announcement to make,” she said. “From now on, I am a Leader of Worship no more. I will conduct only births, weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies of family and friends, but I will not perform rituals of the gods ever again. My name is Sophie. Call me mother, neighbor, and friend from now on. My children, please say your names.”

“Melody,” the female child said.

“Oliver,” the male child said.

We all cheered. Then we left the temple.

For most of the year, we live in the valley, just high enough not to be caught in spring floods, but each winter, the birds, who now have young of their own, come and fly us up to the mountain top. There, we play in the deep snow and dance in the sunshine of the place that will always be our home. After a few weeks, the birds fly us down again, long before the terrible storms that herald the coming of spring.

My daughter has six children now — three of each. We are as one family, and all the adults nurture all of the children and vice versa!

Of the gods, we think and hear very little. The temple is no longer a place of fear, but of time, becoming, and of life.

Part 1 of Time Gone By will be posted on Friday, July 3.

Writing Advice

A Couple of Great Reasons to Write Fiction

Lots of us love to read fiction, but have you considered writing some? Here are two great reasons why you should.

The news is often frightening, confusing, and bad. Some people post on blogs or social media, some write physical letters or e-mails, and some, like me, turn their fear and uncertainty into fiction. Here are some examples.

There are many novels where Hurricane Katrina is part of the setting.

If we go further back in time, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables explores what was happening in France in the early part of the 19th century.

Current events are things people want to talk about and explore, and fiction is a safe way to do that. You can get into many characters’ heads, and explore events from various points of view.

You may end up in The Zone. There’s very little that is better than finding yourself in The Zone. Time is great. It jumps, and suddenly, hours have passed. Blank pages fill with amazing things and nothing from the outside world troubles me while I’m in The Zone. I live other people’s lives, feel their emotions, have their thoughts, and run their businesses. I can be a child again, a baby even, or live what I haven’t yet — to a ripe old age. There are universes out there to find, planets that need you to imagine them into being, and the plain old rich experiences of characters’ daily lives. For me, it’s like being immersed in Essential Oil of Inspiration. It’s pure life. It’s raw existence. It’s infinite, but it’s fresh and exciting every time.

A couple of days ago, I started wondering what The Zone looked like. I’m not sure, but maybe a little like the castle on a cloud from Les Miserables, but instead of rooms full of toys and children to play with, there are rooms filled with settings impatient to be described, plots waiting to unfold, and characters craving their own creation.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, there is a Zone for nonfiction, but it’s different.

NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Process

What I’m Doing This November

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and last year, I wrote one novel and started another.

This year, I’m going to write one novel, but every day, I’m going to post what I’ve just written to this blog. My regular features will be suspended during November, so if I’m in the middle of a piece of short fiction on Fridays, it’ll resume on the first Friday in December.

I won’t have much time to revise, so there will be typos and probably plotholes in the story.

I can’t wait for November 1!

Short Stories

The Dark Tide – Part 9

This is a work of fiction.

It took longer than four hours to reach the place where the young sitting bird, the children, and my daughter’s love were, because we had to stop along the way for food and water.

My daughter ran ahead to warn her love that he mustn’t be seen or see the female Leader of Worship or me (his seeing the children had been necessary), and then my daughter and I left the female Leader of Worship covering her children in hugs and kisses, and went to where the two young birds were. The father bird was tiny.

“He hasn’t been getting enough protein,” my daughter said. “I think he must have been orphaned three or four days ago. If nobody had found him, he’d be dead now.”

The young sitting bird walked over to us.

“Hello,” I said. “I’m happy that you and the young father bird are well.”

She chirped softly. She sounded so much like her mother had, it made my heart ache.

“Young sitting bird,” my daughter said, “we’re loath to ask this of you, but we need your help. My mother’s spirit has been trapped in the river, and we . . .”

She looked at me and I said, “We’d like to rescue her spirit and put her body somewhere nice. Would you fly us there, please?”

She chirped softly, stood tall, and looked over her shoulder at her back.

My daughter strapped a small wooden seat to the young sitting bird’s back, although there were no bags attached, and my daughter and I climbed into it.

“We can’t go very high or fast,” my daughter said. “Young sitting bird, if you tire of flying or fear anything, you must make a sound and land.”

She chirped.

“Thank you,” I said.

She chirped again, and took off.

She flew slowly, and my daughter directed her toward the river.

We were passing above a clearing when the young bird made a terrible sound.

“What’s wrong?” my daughter and I said in unison. She held still in the air for a moment, and then she reached back with her right foot, and tore a grayish brown feather from her tail. She grasped it in her claws and pointed it at something on the ground. I looked, but didn’t see what had upset her. My daughter’s sharper sight allowed her to see it, and she gasped.

“What is it?” I said.

“A vampire snake,” she whispered. “Is it the same one?” The sitting bird made a two-tone sound. “Maybe,” my daughter said.

Without warning, the young bird dove toward the ground. My daughter and I both cried out in fright, and gripped the seat as tightly as we could.

As we got closer, the scene resolved into a grassy spot with a tiny stream flowing through it. A huge dark red snake lay with its head on the bank, but the rest of its body was in the water. The bird flew us down until we were about a house hight about the stream. The snake hissed, and I pressed myself hard against the back of the seat.

Was it long enough to reach us?

I heard a soft splash and looked into the water. A small snake was riggling in the stream by its mother’s tail.

The young bird dove straight down into the stream, and then she was carrying us aloft again, and I saw the young snake hanging suspended from her claws. Before I could catch my breath from the plunging descent and stunning rise, she spun herself around and zipped through the air as fast as wing and muscle could take her — and us.

She took us back to where the young father bird was, dropped the young snake a few step lengths in front of him, and he punched upon it. She looked at us over her shoulder and chirped apologetically, turned slowly this time, and flew us toward the river.

It was very hot, and I think the young bird was tired, for we flew very slowly along the river, looking for the place where the flood had surprised those living on the flat, fertile land.

A while later, the bird chirped softly and landed us.

“Do you need water?” I said. She did, and so did my daughter and I.

We took off again and continued along the river. I recognized some landmarks, and then I saw it. Up ahead, a wide grassy area extended on both sides of the river, the place where I’d built my house, and it was still submerged.

My daughter looked at it, turned to me, opened her mouth as if to speak, and then closed it, for what could she say? I nodded.

I pointed out the house into which the man who had cursed me had taken my wife, and the young bird brought us slowly toward it. The water had come right up to the roof, and I was grateful that I would not have to look at the face of the man who had cursed me, staring sightlessly from the barred window.

“How are we going to get in?” my daughter whispered. “I didn’t realize the water would be all the way up to the roof. I thought floods were . . . shallower.”

“The chimney,” I said. “I’m afraid this is going to make us all unhappy, but it’s the only way.”


“One of us has to be held in the young bird’s claws.”


“Since I can’t swim, it should be me, and I’ll lower you down and help you and your mother’s body up.”

“It hurts so much.”

“The pain will be nothing compared to the joy of knowing that her soul has been reborn. Let’s go. It won’t take long.”

I asked the bird to return to the bank and land, which she did. I stepped down, and looked into her eyes.

“Please hold me as still as you can and fly with us directly above the chimney of that house.” I pointed to it.

Soon, I knew what my daughter meant; it did hurt a great deal, and she wasn’t catching me but picking me up as tenderly as she could. I gritted and ground my teeth and bore it. Slowly, the young bird glided toward the chimney, and when we got there, I reached up, grasped my daughter, and lowered her down, until she took firm hold of the wood of the structure. Why hadn’t we thought to bring vine ropes? I opened my mouth to say that we should go back and get some when I heard a voice speaking from within the house.

“My daughter!”

“My mother!”

I tried to see into the chimney, but my daughter was in the way of my sight.

“Mom! How?”

“Oh, my daughter! How did you know?”

“My father brought me here to rescue your spirit. Mom, how?”

I tried to keep the pain from my voice as I said, “Let’s get everybody out of here and then we can talk.”

The bird chirped and settled me down onto the roof, which was bathed in about a finger’s depth of water. She let go of my flesh, and held only my clothes, and the torment in my sides abated somewhat.

“Mom, how?” my daughter said. There was no point in trying to insist that she wait for the story until after we were all safe.

“When I was a child, I used to dip my head into the bath water and hold my breath for as long as I possibly could. When the man grabbed me, I had no idea what he had against us, but when I realized that we were going into the water, I took a deep breath and didn’t move. I wasn’t strong enough to fight, and I hoped that my breath would hold out long enough. It wouldn’t have, except I got a little air when he hoisted me up the stairs. He wasn’t doing such a great job of keeping my head below the surface there, so I got some air. The water was rising, and I didn’t think I stood a chance, but then he stopped dragging me, and let go. I looked up and there was the chimney. With the last of my failing spirit, I kicked my feet and swam upward, until I popped into the chimney and took in a lungful of sweet, fresh air.”

“How come you stayed here?” she asked.

“If the flood had risen much more, I would have had to leave via the chimney, but I preferred to wait and see if the water went down. I’d much rather walk out of here through a wet house than go up and face a river I didn’t know or understand. The only problems would have been time and water.”

“What?” my daughter said.

“I was starting to get thirsty, but I had no intention of drinking water fouled by a dead man. Eventually, thirst would have driven me upward, but I was able to get into my bag, and my water bottle was clean, but now it’s empty.”

“Let’s get out of here,” I said.

Part 10, which is the last part, will be posted on Friday, June 26.


A Letter to Self-Publishing

Dear Self-Publishing,

Please, don’t tear this up before you read it. I know you get a lot of hate mail, but this is a love letter.

I think you are probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the book world. I’ve seen some of the letters you get, and they’re not pretty. No, I won’t recap them; you already know the content. What I wanna do here is tell my Readers why I’m an Indie Author and intend to keep it that way — the Indie way.

Before I start, I want to say right here and now that if traditional publishing is your cup of caffeine, that’s great. Go for it. This letter is not hate mail for traditional publishing.

I requite control. Am I a control freak? I don’t like to think that about myself, but when it comes to my writing, I do like to maintain as much control as I can, so I suppose I am a bit of one. I think that’s the biggest reason why I’m an Indie Author. It can be frustrating to be your own PR department, marketing department, writing department, inspiration department, and did I mention blogging department? All the work is on you. The pressure to meet self-imposed deadlines is real. I’ve made promises to write stories by a certain date, not to an Editor, but to you, my Readers. Barring illness or other unusual circumstances, I must deliver on those promises. Subscribers to my YouTube channel will be the first to see animations of my book covers. If I posted them on Twitter first by mistake, my subscribers would have the right to be mad at me, and I might receive some angry messages. Doing what I do is a full time job, and it’s not without its headaches and frustrations, but it’s replete with high points, wonderful people, and nobody tells me what to do. I am my own boss. My Readers are my conscience. We all win. I’m not stressed and can write up a storm, I do what I say I will because I want my Readers to like me and read my stuff, and there aren’t as many “middle people” to mark up the prices!

I don’t receive rejection letters. Nobody’s going to send me a message saying, “Sorry, but your book just doesn’t meet our blah blah blah.” That’s not for me. I personally find rejection one of the worst things in life, and I work very hard to avoid feeling it. Feel free to psychoanalyze me. I’d love to know what that means, but I may or may not agree with you. A negative review is something I’ll have to deal with, but at least it can’t physically prevent me from publishing a book.

I love being an Indie Author, and I plan to keep on being one.

Yours truly,

Hyacinth Grey