Saturday, September 12, 2020

Finally

 


I was unfazed by the chill in the evening air; my skin was hot, my face flushed with fear.

My eyes darted across the street and back, searching for a familiar face; they were all strangers.
“I didn't do it.” I whispered it, no one noticed.

I shook my head in disbelief. They were all staring at me. A sea of blue uniforms and red flashing lights. My head was spinning.
“Mrs. Anderson, I advise you not to say anything else.” Some lady I didn't know shouted out from the blur of faces. She would be my attorney. I had no idea how I'd find her, but she already believed in me.
“I didn't do it.” I repeated it louder this time.

Tears were flowing freely down my cheeks and my shoulders began to shake uncontrollably.

I glanced sideways at the body. His body. They thought I killed him. What did they know?
With my hands behind my back and metal clamped around my wrists, turmoil swept through the crowd.
It was shocking and strange and frightening; Death sprawled out in their street. Their once quiet suburbia subjected to a new horror.

A female officer guided me towards a patrol car, “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law....” her voice became muffled and I shut out the rest.

I couldn't hear anything but the roar of screams inside my head. He was dead.
“I didn't do it.” I repeated it over and over.

I was rehearsing. And celebrating.
He was dead.

Finally.


©2020 Lola Autry


Picture Credit: 123rf



Monday, February 24, 2020

Our Is Not to Reason Why





“I'm ready to die.” It was matter of fact. She was sure.
“No, you're not.” I pleaded with her. We'd come too far for her to let go now. It had been six months, and they'd told her she had three.
“Yes dear, I've lived a long life, I've done everything I ever wanted to do... it's time.”
I squeezed her hand.
“No, I won't let you go.” Tears streamed down my cheeks, I couldn't choke them back.
Machines started beeping, her eyes fluttered and closed as her hand went limp.
I screamed. I was still shrieking when the nurses came running into the room.
I'd prayed, and I'd fasted, and I'd promised the world for her to live. I'd done everything. Everything except sell my soul. I'd failed her. And now she was gone.
The lights dimmed and everyone slowed to a standstill enveloped in darkness. My skin was burning, and I felt ill.
“No!” I bellowed angrily into the shadows, “You can't have her!”
Blinding light filled the room forcing me to my knees. I didn't dare look up, I could feel His presence.
He was not there to bargain. He would not listen, He never had. His will not mine. Never mine. I couldn't accept it. But He allowed me to fight.
The room was still and silent, frozen in time, He was granting me a moment. A moment to process, a moment to say good-bye, a moment to make a choice.
“Take me.” The words tumbled out of my mouth without a thought.
I looked at my grandmother and she opened her eyes, crystal blue and clear as a summer sky.
“It's not your choice, it's mine,” she spoke softly but her voice was strong and firm, the voice of calm reason I'd heard all my life.
It didn't matter. She was all I had left, I had no one else. He had taken them all over the years. One by one. And each time, I'd grieved and dealt with the loss. But no more.
I saw no purpose for my life other than the one now presented. He knew.
“You will not be alone.” His soothing voice was inside my head.
The room was darkening once again and I collapsed to the floor. As I lost consciousness, the bright light dissipated, and my grandmother closed her eyes again.
When I awakened, I was in a hospital bed, aching all over. I struggled to remember, but could not.
I was startled out of my attempted recall as a nurse with a wide smile came in carrying a swaddled newborn.
“Good morning, mama! You did a beautiful job. Want to see her?”
My memories flooded back. Now I understood. He was right, I would not be alone anymore.
I held out my arms and took the infant, snuggling her close.
“You had us worried for a while, but God knew what he was doing.” The nurse patted me on the arm. “Yes,” I shook my head, “He sure did.”
I smiled down at my new hope, and whispered softly, “Welcome to the world little Ruby.”

©2020 LoLa Autry

This story is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Ruby C. Land. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Light




     John Wilde escorted me across the vast expanse of a manicured lawn towards a brick building twice as long as it was wide. He held the door open for me and I entered somewhat reluctantly. I expected more from the interior of a so called 'cathedral'; it looked more like a school auditorium with rows of gray metal chairs. Almost every seat was filled with a white robed occupant staring blankly ahead; or at least they were, before the door slammed announcing our arrival and every head turned to study us. John and I walked quickly to the front and took two of the four empty seats directly facing the podium. No one spoke. Their weird silence made me question my decision to come here alone. I'd known John thirty years ago when we were in elementary school; I hadn't seen him since. But when I called, he was pleasant and accommodating.
I'd seen him on the news a few times, always standing beside the Prophet; John was in deep. In spite of his cordial attitude, I was shocked when he'd agreed to set up a day of visitation and an interview with the reclusive leader of The Light. The mainstream media had never been allowed inside the gated compound. The one stipulation of my invitation, was that I wasn't allowed to speak to anyone other than John or the Prophet during my stay. And I had signed a statement that I had come to The Light of my own free will. I wondered if that had been a wise decision. These people were obviously insane.
The lights dimmed and organ music played softly through the sound system. Heads bowed as a red robed figure strode across the small stage before us. He stopped at the podium, the lights came back up, and the music stopped. He smiled, and everyone beamed. Even I felt the electric charge coursing through the room.
He was an exquisite creature with crystal blue eyes and a full mane of wavy dark hair; the crowd was mesmerized. I caught my breathing which had quickened.
“Good morning my children.” He spoke with an accent I couldn't quite place.
In unison they responded, “Good morning Brother.”
I leaned in whispering to John,“So, where is he from? Does he have a degree?”
“We don't question Brother Malachi,” he snapped.
“I wasn't. I'm questioning you.” I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief. This guy had them all brainwashed. I breathed deeply and calmed my heart. I would not get taken in.
John cleared his throat and handed me a colorful tri-fold pamphlet.
“This should answer any questions you have. We find that after you've been integrated into the community you won't find the outsiders questions to be relevant. Look around, the Master has created all of this for us. It is Utopia for his chosen. And we, in appreciation, have chosen him.” His voice was soft, but the intonation was firm.
I pressed on. “So there is still free will?”
His face screwed into a half smile.
“Oh yes, there is always that. And you can change your mind about us at any time, you are always free to leave. Just as Brother Malachi is free to ask you to leave, should he deem your 'investigation' to be in violation of the Moral Code.”
I studied his face. He was testing me.
The others watched me with their cold vacant eyes. I was keenly aware of their steely stares pressing into the back of my head. I wondered if all it would take was a wave of the Prophet's hand to have them attack me.
“So what's next then? I get my robes and trade in my heels for some Jesus sandals?”
My playful mocking tone was lost on his stoic demeanor.
“First you have a private session with Our lord. Oh, and don't call him that. You must address him as Brother Malachi, or as Prophet LeFevre. He prefers the latter from... non-initiates.”
I almost choked. Brother Malachi was no less than their savior.
This was exactly what I'd been waiting for; the reason for my visit. Several former members had made accusations of sexual impropriety in The Light; never specifically referencing Malachi, but the local papers had made it pretty clear it had been one of the higher ups. I'd been reading about the The Light for the past year. There had never been any concrete evidence, and never any formal charges filed, which was typical of cults like these.
I'd done a smattering of freelance investigative reporting, so I figured, why not? If I could get the right angle, it promised to be the expose of the decade.
“Well show me the light.” I whispered back, chuckling softly at my pun, until John shot me yet another icy glare. It was clear he was one of them.
The organ music resumed in the background as Brother Malachi began his spiel. I hoped his monologue wouldn't last long.
Electronics were forbidden in the compound, so I'd brought a pen and notepad. I listened intently, jotting down random quotes. Nothing I hadn't heard before, but the delivery was hypnotic. I realized I was getting lost in his words and began to consciously block them out.
When he finished speaking, he was ushered off the stage by two burly men in black robes.
John stood up and asked me to follow. We exited the same way we had entered, and followed a stone path to a small white cottage behind the cathedral. Brother Malachi was seated in a gold velvet chair by a fireplace with no fire. It was cold and I shivered as he glanced up at us. I stepped towards him and he arose and held out his hands to me. I took them reluctantly and he guided me to an identical chair opposite his.
“Let me look at you,” he spoke softly as he took my face in his hands.
I recoiled slightly, but said nothing.
After a few seconds he dropped his hands from my face and stepped back. There seemed to be a faint indigo light around him; or had I imagined it? My breath was shallow and my heart raced; I felt dizzy.
“Please, sit.” He motioned to the chair behind me. I didn't make it. I collapsed onto the floor in front of him. His smirk was the last thing I saw.
When I awoke, I was resting on a hospital bed in their infirmary; white robed novices rushing around and speculating in hushed voices.
I felt his presence before I saw him.
“Amber-Lyn. I have chosen you.” He was speaking inside my mind.
I nodded yes without thinking. I couldn't remember what my name was, but I was pretty certain it wasn't Amber-Lyn.
“What... what have you done to me? I... can't stay here. I want to leave.” I tried in vain to sit up but I was strapped to the bed.
He glided closer and touched my hand. This time I was certain; there was a bluish glow surrounding him. I was physically paralyzed as an electric current pulsed through my skin and up my arm. As it worked it's way through my body my mind fought against him. But he was stronger than me; his aura flowed into me like a drug, and my resistance fell away. I belonged here, to him.
I was one of them now, peaceful and happy. Happier than I had ever been.
I had no doubts, no fear, no questions. I had been shown The Light.

© GardenSummerland 2018


Photo: Copyright 123.rf

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Yesterday




     Leanne hadn't left her house in over seven years. She hadn't even been outside on the porch or the back patio. She'd forgotten what the air smelled like; the smell of fresh cut grass and the stench from the meat processing plant that should've been shut down ages ago.
     She walked carefully along the new sidewalk, observing the turquoise houses. Just yesterday there had been nothing there. Just a wide expanse of weeds and wildflowers growing unchecked. Wasn't it just yesterday?
When had it changed? No, it wasn't yesterday.
     She shook her head and tried to remember the way. She counted four pink houses in the row, and one yellow one. The rest were greenish-blue with white shutters. It made her sad. Maybe she wouldn't go back home. Maybe she would keep walking; walk and walk and walk until she fell down from sheer exhaustion.
     The row of houses seemed to go on forever. She couldn't go back home now; she had no idea where she was. She shivered and pulled her gray cardigan tighter around her. 
     Her flip flops made a smacking sound with each step and she tried to remember the rhyme her father had told her when she was a little girl.
     That was yesterday too. But she'd already forgotten.
     He had told her what to do when she felt like this. She could see his face and hear his voice, but now the words were jumbled inside her head.
     “If you get lost, find a policeman.” He'd spoken gently and patted her on the head. She had been five then.
     A tear rolled down her cheek as she remembered the happy times with her father; living in his car, playing at the beach and collecting shells. He'd bought her cotton candy at the fair with money they'd gotten from collecting bottles, and they'd walked hand in hand to the end of the pier to watch the sun set.
     That was yesterday too. But she'd never forget that. It was the one thing she could remember forever.
     The sidewalk ended, but the row of houses never would. She sat down and pulled a half eaten moon pie from her sweater pocket. She wished she had an orange soda. The moon pie was a bit stale, but the sweetness took her back to her childhood; when there were no yesterdays, only tomorrows.

© Garden Summerland 2018

Photo Cred: Sasin Tipchai 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Freak





“What kind of message does that send when you go out of the house looking like that. Do you want people to call you a freak?" Lenny cocked her head to one side, and gave me that disapproving look she'd perfected.
I stared down at the floor. People already called me a freak. It wouldn't matter what I did now, I'd been labeled. And I really didn't care, it was who I was, or at least it was who I'd become. And maybe I'd done it on purpose. I didn't belong here; I didn't belong anywhere. I knew it and so did she.
“Annalise? Are you listening?”
I shook my head without looking up at her. “Yes ma'am.”
“Well then go back upstairs and change your clothes. And wipe that black stuff off of your face. You look like a Satanist.”
That was her favorite one. A Satanist indeed. She wouldn't know a Satanist if one held her down for a blood ritual. Of course for that matter neither would I. I'd lived my entire life in Colvale; a quiet little town with a grand population of just under two thousand. There was one religion and two churches. The residents all looked the same, thought the same, acted and reacted the same. Anyone with black eyeliner and an Anarchy t-shirt was a devil worshiper and a freak. That was me. A wanna be member of a sub-culture that didn't exist in my neck of the woods; just a freak, a lonely freak. It probably also didn't help matters that I was almost six feet tall with slanted golden eyes and fiery red hair that I kept cropped close to my scalp. I was their lost lamb; a project to some. Those with their plain clothes and religious zeal. I sat next to them in the pew every Sunday, waiting for God to strike me down. He couldn't miss me. The pseudo-goth in the third row amidst a sea of long print dresses and modest hairstyles. My face had been scrubbed clean, and yet the wildness within me screamed from every pore. I had no control over it.
Lenny didn't know how to deal with me, no one did. I'd been in seven foster homes since my mother abandoned me when I was two years old. I'd been with Lenny for three years; and she had more patience than most. I think on some level that she loved me, no else had even tried. Not that I'd ever heard her say it. But it was in her soft gray eyes. She cared, and it was for that reason I decided to spare her. But none of the others.
It was the second Sunday in February of last year the first time the pastor shook my hand. The iciness of my skin burned into his, stealing his warmth until he yanked his hand away. I smiled and narrowed my eyes concentrating my thoughts into his until I heard him gasp for air. I looked away and he coughed.
"Nice sermon Pastor Jim." I winked at him as the color began to return to his face and I lost myself in the crowd. I knew then that he would be the first.
Days turned into weeks and now it had almost been a year to the day, but he hadn't looked at me since. Maybe he knew what I was waiting for; he was, after all, a man of the cloth. As an educated spiritual man, he should've known the signs.

The day of reckoning had arrived; a Sunday on a full moon, a bitter cold morning with frost on the ground and even colder hearts waiting to receive their judgment. Today was the day.  

©2018 Garden Summerland

Photo/Artist Cred: Iulian Dragomir via 123rf.com

Monday, July 10, 2017

Business As Usual




“Olin Elijah Whitaker!”
I heard Miss Johnstone screaming at the top of her lungs from across the playground.
The boy sitting on top of me rolled off and got up, running away.
I couldn't move; paralyzed with fear, I was face down on the ground. I had a mouthful of dirt, and scraped knees; my pink and blue flowered dress up around my neck, my underwear pulled down on one side.
Lily Johnstone ran past the groups of children on the monkey bars and swings, barreling towards me at break-neck speed. She snatched me up and smoothed my dress as she pulled me into a protective hug.
“There now Amelie, it's all over. Olin will be severely punished. You just let it out honey. It won't ever happen again.”
I wasn't even crying anymore. I was all cried out.

I blinked my eyes trying to shut out the memory; unintentional tears rolled from the corners of my eyes. I wasn't cried out after all. But there was no comfort to be found in a county emergency room. All I felt was the cold.
And Miss Johnstone had been wrong. Time after time, she had been wrong.
The doctor mumbled something to the nurse and he left the room. I was glad. Enough people had seen me naked for one day.
I was ashamed. Not unlike that embarrassing day on the playground.
I had been seven then, I was thirty-seven now. Time had flown by, and nothing much had changed. Continual onslaughts against my person-hood; my privacy; my soul. Life had not been gentle with me. Not since Olin Whitaker.

I pulled the paper gown close around me. I wondered what had become of Olin. Probably in prison somewhere. I hoped so.
Thirty years ago he'd shown me the brutal side of human nature, and it was all I had bothered to see since. Today had been no exception.

“Miss Donovan, the police would like to speak to you now.” The nurse opened the door and a male and female officer entered the room. I glared at the male and rolled my eyes.
He stepped back, letting the female officer introduce herself, and then him.
“Miss Donovan, I'm Officer Denise Pettit,” she spoke softly as she motioned towards the uniform behind her, “and this is Officer Whitaker...” I bolted upright, not hearing any of what came after.
Fear struck my very soul.
My eyes pierced through his, boring into his skull. It was him. Thirty years later, and that bastard was a cop now.
I lost control and lunged off of the exam table towards him, shoving Officer Pettit out of my way.
I clawed at his face, leaving long scratches down both of his cheeks before Officer Denise tackled me to the cold tile floor.

I was handcuffed and read my rights. No one ever asked me why. They didn't care. Now I would be taken to the county jail, with no one to bail me out. And there I would suffer yet again, innumerable barrages against my person-hood.

It would be for me, business as usual.


©2017 Garden Summerland

*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, places or situations is purely coincidental. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Remedy




“Here, drink this.” It was my third attempt in an hour.
Solomon shook his head, “No. It smells funny. Take it away.”
“Come on Sol, take your medicine.” I steadied the spoonful of red sticky liquid and held it to his lips. He knocked it out of my hands.
“Dammit Sol. This stuff is expensive. You can't keep doing this.”
“I'm not sick anymore. I told you, I'm getting better. I... I took care of it.”
“Sol... really? What'd you take this time? That last 'herbal remedy' you took put you in the hospital for a week. I pay good money for the best medical care in the city. I promise, you will get better, but you have to take the medicine prescribed for you by an actual doctor. These snake oil sales pitches that sucker you in are ripping you off, and making you sicker.”
He leaned back and smiled.
“Just fluff my pillows and bring me soup Jillian. No more saccharin pharmaceuticals, okay? I told you, I took care of it.”
“You're crazy. And I can't take it any more. I have been here through it all... the hospitals, the tests, the transfusions... I've bathed you and fed you and changed you... but if you won't do what you are supposed to do, geez, if you won't help yourself, then... I'm done.”
He patted my hand.
“It's okay Jilly. You'll see. I'll be up and dancing in three days.”
Tears rolled down my cheeks. He was a breathing skeleton. In three days my only brother would be dead.
But in three days, sure enough, Sol was up dancing around. And I could have sworn he looked ten years younger.
“Oh my sweet Lord, Sol.... what have you done?” It was a miracle.
He smiled at me, grabbed my hand and twirled me around. It made me dizzy and giddy. I was thrilled. For the moment.
“I'm well Jilly. I've been cured.” He paused and a sly grin crept across his face. “You know, you don't look so good sis. I hope you're not getting.... sick.”
All at once, I felt weak as his face twisted into an evil contortion. My skin was feverish and then ice cold.
I screamed at him. “Solomon, no... how could you?”
He sighed, and a relaxed expression returned to his face. He was Solomon again. But no, he wasn't. He spoke in a gravelly whisper. “It was easy. You see, I wanted to live, and in exchange... all I had to do was offer up the three people I loved the most. You, mom and dad. A tough sacrifice Jilly, but now I'll live forever. I'm sorry Jillian... I truly am. But I just couldn't be sick anymore. It really wears you down. I was given a choice, and well, I chose to live.”
I didn't want to believe it, but I did.
“What? A choice? Who gave you a choice like that? Sol... really... who? What... It's not possible...” My head was spinning and my voice trailed off. I felt ill, suddenly not just heart sick, but physically sick, in the pit of my stomach. I ran towards the bathroom, but didn't make it. I vomited twice in the hall.
Sol was right there with me; he pulled back my hair and wiped my mouth on the sleeve of his shirt.
“Don't worry Jilly... I'm here for you. I'll take care of you like you did for me. And you'll get through it just like I did. But you'll take your medicine won't you? And you'll get better, just like you said I would.”
I couldn't fathom what was happening; it just didn't register in my mind. No....he wouldn't have, even if he could. His own family? I was his only sister, he wouldn't have bargained me away to... to what? He hadn't even said.
He stroked my hair.
“Don't you worry Jilly, you have a choice too. I know the remedy, and it won't cost you a dime.”


©2017 Garden Summerland