BURNSTONE

By Anita Marie Moscoso

Based on The Soul Food Cafe Writing Prompt:

Urban Myths

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One of my favorite places to visit here in Washington State is the Tymbal Cemetery and Funeral Home in the city of Burnstone.

Tymbal is a pauper’s cemetery from the old days so it’s not great shakes. No fancy monuments, no fancy gates but there are trees and they’re covered with ivy which is nice because the trees have been dead for years and they don’t put leaves out anymore.
 
The sad thing is everyone forgot the Cemetery was there and for awhile the City of Burnstone Streets Department used Tymbal as a storage place for their work trucks and they used the Funeral home as office space until someone realized all those garbage trucks and lawn mowers and a bunch of other maintenance tools were leaking oil all over unmarked graves.
 
So before you could say ‘ desecration ‘ the City decided to build a new maintenance facility for the Street Works Department and without as much as a backwards glance they left the graveyard to choke on weeds and nettles and blackberry bushes.
 
Looking back, it was sort of odd the way the weeds came back so fast.
 
Anyway.
 
About a month after the big move a young woman named Tamus Bloodroot slammed her car into one of the dead trees near the cemetery entrance and she never left.
 
They found her car, they found the door open and they found a large pool of blood about three feet away from the crash sight.
 
But they never found Tamus.

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The day after they found her car stories about an injured woman, who was identified as Tamus, asking for help at the side of the road started up. Some people said they actually stopped for her and picked her up and talked to her and she always said the same thing, “ can you help me now. “When they turned to reassure her that’s what they’re doing she’d be gone.
 
You can imagine Tamus Bloodroot’s family was pretty upset that they’re daughter had become an urban legend and people were suppose to be talking to her ghost.

” I doubt ” her Father had screamed into the face of a reporter doing Halloween stories for the evening news one year, ” that if my daughter could come back from the grave she’d spend all of her time asking drunken teenagers for rides to the hospital.”

That was true, in life Tamus wasn’t the sort of person who asked for anything, she’d tell you exactly what she wanted and if you didn’t come across…heaven help you. The girl had a temper and the holes in her bedroom walls and her trail of broken relationships were solid proof of that.

Life went on after that… even Tamus Bloodroot went on, people never stopped seeing her and they all knew she was out there asking for help.

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Bryony Middleton and his family live out on Cemetery Road. He’s lived out there his entire life and he knows that stretch of road so well he could drive it with his eyes closed.

That’s something he did almost every Saturday night after and evening on the town with his friends. He’s sort of famous around here for that, you might not know Bryony’s name or anything about him but you’ve heard of the ‘ guy who drives passed the cemetery in his sleep on Saturdays’.
 
Anyway it was one of his 10 or was it 12 kids that said to him after finding him and his truck at the end of their driveway one morning ” if you’re going to drive when you’re sleeping Daddy, at least wear your seat belt.”
 
Not to be mean, and Bryony loved his 10-12 children a lot even if he forgot their names and didn’t know exactly how many of them there were, but on more then one occasion Bryony was heard to say, ” Geeze, my kids, you know they’re okay as far as rug rats go but they sure aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, if you get my meaning.”
 
But this time Bryony’s kids were right and on that winter evening out on Tymbal Cemetery Road his kids were the sharpest tools to be found in any shed anywhere on the planet.
 
The roads were iced over when Bryony left the ” Corner Tavern ” only he didn’t notice. I mean he was sliding and tripping a lot…but you know he’d chalked that up to the liquid refreshments he’d indulged in for the past four hours.
 
So Bryony got into his truck and tried to buckle himself in, but he couldn’t make the lock work so he put the belt on and tied it closed and then he took a roll of duct tape and somehow managed to tape himself to his seat.

I’m not kidding I wish I were. Like I said, Bryony loved his kids and he’d do any for them even if they only had a handful of brain cells between them.
 
Then he turned the key in the ignition (he always left it in because it was pretty hard for him to fit that key into that little hole after a long evening out) and he took a sloppy left and turned out onto the unlit road, marked as Old Burnstone Highway but known unofficially as Cemetery Road by the locals.
 
He was halfway home and nearly asleep when he came to Tymbal Cemetery and saw the Funeral Home with the tape on it’s cracked windows.  Bryony mistook it for his house and in a panic he jerked the steering wheel and sent his truck into the ditch that surrounded the cemetery.
 
Like I said, Tymbal’s is a Pauper’s Graveyard and there are no frills about it. The people out there were forgotten in life and they were forgotten in death too.

So the residents of Tymbal’s have numbers, not names and they have pine boxes made at the Prison in Fallen not fancy caskets with brass handles. And there is no fence surrounding the cemetery just a ditch cut into a “V” shape and it’s lined with jagged sharp rocks that were once the face of an old Mansion that burned to the ground about 100 years ago.
 
The Old Mansion was wasn’t a good place and it’s owners were sort of an embarrassment to the City so after the fire Burnstone hauled off a mountain of debris and they decided to put it to good use.

Anything they could salvage went into the construction of The Tymbal Funeral Home and Cemetery.
 
The ” fence” is what Bryony hit that night. His truck went into the ditch head on and then it flipped and rolled and finally stopped almost in the middle of the graveyard.
 
Taped and tied to his seat Bryony was bruised and beaten and good thing he was sitting upright because if he’d been in any other position he’d probably have choked on his own vomit, of which he apparently lost a lot of that night.
 
When he was done he considered his options.
 
He could cut himself loose but more then likely he’d end up stabbing himself to death because at the moment one of his eyes was swollen shut and the other, well you know Bryony should probably be wearing glasses but he doesn’t.

Plus the crash had done nothing to sober him up he wasn’t sure he could find the business end of the knife if he wanted to.
 
” Poor Daddy, ” he could actually see one of his many children saying to his unborn grandchildren ” he survived the worse car accident ever and he ended up stabbing himself to death trying to cut himself loose from his car seat. No, he wasn’t trapped. Somehow he taped himself to his seat. No I can’t explain it. I loved my Dad but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed if you get my meaning.”
 
So Bryony figured all he could do was sit there and more likely then not someone would see him from the road in the morning. Resigned to a long cold smelly night he was about to try to catch some sleep when he saw the woman standing next to his car.

She was facing away from him and the way she was standing was wrong.  Her shoulders were twisted and one of her arms seemed to be hanging a little lower then the other. At first Bryony thought she was tilting her head to the side like she was listening for something, but then he realized her head wasn’t tilted it was flatter, much flatter then the other side of her head.
 
All Bryony could think to say was, ” heck of a night, ain’t it? ”
 
” Can you help me now? ” she said to no one ” can you help me now?”
 
She started to turn and Bryony knew, he just knew that the front of that woman was going to look worse then the back and he didn’t want to see that.
 
So Bryony did all he could think of to do. He turned the key, gave his battered truck some gas and there is a Heaven because it screamed (more then likely it was Bryony doing the screaming) to life and Bryony drove it blindly through the cemetery and towards the road…and the fence.
 
Only he never hit the fence, he never even made it out of the cemetery because before he hit the ditch he hit a tree and when he did the world around him exploded.
 
It was three of Bryony’s kids that found their dad and his truck the next morning. No, he wasn’t dead; Bryony is made out of tougher stuff then that. Plus, I’m sure that with his dietary habits of fried food and alcohol he’s pretty much preserved himself alive.
 
Which was good because Bryony had a story that people from all over the county wanted him to tell over and over again.
 
First of all the woman in the Graveyard, Bryony figured, wasn’t saying ” Can you help me now ” she was saying ” Can you help me down ” and he figured that out because on the night Tamus Bloodroot hit the Tymbal  ‘fence’ she wasn’t duct taped to her seat the way Bryony was so she smashed through her windshield and was thrown up and out of her car…
 
And straight up into a tree covered with Ivy.

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That’s the story of Tamus Bloodroot and that’s how it ends…with parts of her raining down onto the hood of Bryony Middleton’s truck.

The story about Old Burnstone Highway hasn’t ended. Earlier this year it earned this label as the most dangerous stretch road in the entire state of Washington.

It’s not a main highway and you can’t find it from any major roads but over 300 people have died along it this year alone. I mean, people from Arizona and Texas visitors from other countries in rental cars have met their end out there and if they don’t die in the wreck they can’t explain why they were there…at dark.

The ones that survive the road never say though that they were lost.

And they never say they won’t be going back there again.

Never.

THE WITCH OF WHITE ASH MOUNTAIN

BY ANITA MARIE MOSCOSO 

Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Writing Prompt:

Unbottle Your Emotions

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The Grave of Calisaya Stoneroot is lost back up in the hills of White Ash Mountain here in Washington State and not a year goes by that a story  doesn’t show up on the evening news or the front page of a local newspaper  with the headline:
 
” Remains of Hikers Found ”
 
And somewhere in the story you will find that these Hikers weren’t going to White Ash to admire the scenery. They’re out there looking for the grave of the infamous Witch of White Ash Mountain.
 
I know this story by heart and here’s how it goes…

 
     
 

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Rocella Coffin was the law in White Ash back in 1964, she was  also short and dark and bad tempered  as were most of the Sheriffs in the Duwamish Bay area. To be specific none of the Sheriffs in Ballast County are known for their sense of humor but at times they do laugh and some joke and some smile all except for Sheriff Coffin.
 
Sheriff Coffin held her spot as the Ballast County” least likely to be amused by anything law enforcement official ” with a grip so tight it’s unlikely anyone would ever be able to pry the title from her hand.
 
That title, however, became Coffin’s for all eternity when Avery Bowen showed up the day after the execution of Calisaya Stoneroot.
 
Avery pulled into the Sheriff’s station and forgot to stop his truck. It only stopped because the Sheriff’s car (her own car, not her patrol car) was in the way. Avery wasn’t hurt but he was bleeding and he was sort of running around in circles and no matter how loud she yelled he wouldn’t stop.
 
Sheriff Coffin didn’t even read him his rights.
 
She just pulled her gun and shot him right between the eyes, right there in the parking lot in front of the Sheriff’s Station. When she was done Rocella stood over Avery’s body and said down at his pale white face, ” I told you to settle down, now start over.  ”
 

Avery looked up at her and said, ” she’s back Sheriff, and I saw her walking up the road not even an hour ago. Calisaya Stoneroot is back.”
 
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Rocella dragged Avery into her office and pulled a pair of tweezers from her desk drawer. She took a look at Avery’s wound and dropped them back in and he saw she had a crochet hook in her hand. ” Sit still ” she told him.
 
Avery obeyed and he felt Rocella pull some of his skin away from his wound with her fingers and then with one smooth move the hook was in and out and in her hand was a small piece of mashed gray metal.
 
” Tell me what you saw, and I suggest you don’t fool around with me because the next thing I’m pulling out are the silver bullets. Got it? ”
 
Avery tried very hard to focus his eyes and he nodded, ” I saw her down on Middleditch Road, walking kind of slow and funny and …”
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If Avery hadn’t been so distracted by picking at the bullet wound in his forehead he would have found it a little amusing that Calisaya had been hung just the day before on November 5, 1964 at dawn for Witchcraft.
 
You read that right. Not 1664, 1564, 1264.
 
1964.
 
 
1964: That was the year Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in Prison and China detonated it’s first atomic bomb and US Surgeon General Luther Terry affirmed that cigarette smoking caused cancer.
 
You read that right, it was 1964, and back in the hills of White Ash Mountain a woman died laughing with a noose around her neck and she was buried with that terrible wide grin on her face and her mouth was stuffed with garlic and her eyes had been sewn shut.
 
Not that anyone in the town thought it would do them any good; they’d figure Calisaya would be back before dawn.
 
They were right.
 
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The towns’ people of White Ash had for the past 20 years tried everything to rid themselves of Calisaya Stoneroot.
 
First they tried bringing in that Priest from Seattle.
 
The Sheriff from Duwamish Bay and two of her friends that worked the Sideshow came to watch Father Thomas bless the Cemetery the Witch and her Demons were living in and Sheriff Coffin thought it might actually work; the Witch and the demons rode out of the Cemetery Gates like the Devil himself was chasing them.
 
Later Sheriff Coffin realized Sheriff Blitzer and her friends snorting and snickering and stupid comments were probably what really drove Demons and the Witch away.
 
Four days later Stoneroot was back.
 
Another year they even tried to burn Calisaya at the stake and Blitzer and a woman with bad skin  actually brought Snow Puffed Marshmallows and skewers and handed them to Rocella and her Deputy with the advice, “ you might as well get something out of this cause that won’t work either.”
 
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Calisaya, over the years, went from tormenting farm animals and turning the water in the wells to blood and making the crops and the fruit trees go bad (which turned out to be a favorite of hers) and casting curses and playing petty tricks on the Towns People to grave robbing.
 
That was the last straw as far as Ballast County was concerned.
 
They sent word down that White Ash cut out the theatrical executions and do something about Stoneroot or they  (Duwamish Bay, Fallen, Ninebones Cross and Abandon) were going to do something about them.
 
The Valleys and Mountains of Ballast County were full of barren dead places where it reaches over 90 degrees in the summer only it’s still so cold you’d get frostbite if you weren’t covered up.
 
The ground in these barren places are full of a fine heavy dust that’s almost impossible to wash from your clothes and if you aren’t careful it’ll work it’s way into your skin and cause a nasty infection that acts like leprosy.
 
That dust is all that’s was left of the people and the places that Ballast County ‘did something about’ when things got out of hand.
 
Sheriff Coffin had no intention of letting the town of White Ash become another open grave.
 
 No matter what it took.
 
Even if it meant going to Duwamish Bay itself.
 
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The Duwamish Bay Curiosity Shop is famous for a lot of things: it’s genuine Egyptian Mummy, it’s collection of shrunken heads, it’s electric chair (you could sit in it and get your picture taken) it’s ” funeral tools from across the ages” and it’s jars.
 
People drove from all over the state to look at ” The jars” which where kept behind a door riddled with bullet holes.
 
Inside of those jars are things like the three- headed cat, an alligator with human face, tumors and eyes and brains and limbs and hearts and medical experiments gone bad. 

 Most infamous of all in this collection is the ‘devil baby”. 

The Devil Baby not only had horns and a tail but an eye in the center of it’s forehead and sometimes that eye opened and sometimes it was shut and no matter where you stood in the store you knew it was watching you.
 
The Shop was also famous for it’s Soda Fountain but on that day Sheriff Coffin wasn’t in the mood for a Strawberry Phosphate.  She read over the menu anyway and next to it on pressed tin sign was a sign that said:
 
                                         

OVER 2000 AMAZING ARTIFCATS
   25 ARE GENUINE FAKES
FREE SUNDAES FOR A YEAR
   IF YOU GUESS RIGHT
 

“ Want to take a guess?” Ignancia Guzman the Shop’s owner asked from behind the Counter.
“ No. “
 
“ Go on, take a guess…I got all day and from what I hear you don’t.”
 
“ The Baby…” she snapped.
 
“ Nope, you’re wrong. Everybody wants that baby to be fake. That’s how come we don’t have to cough up the free ice cream. It’s that baby bless it’s dark little heart. Nobody wants that baby to be real.”
 
It was true; Rocella felt her chest tighten when Ignancia told her about the baby. “ Look Mrs. Guzman, I need to get rid of a nasty tempered Witch who’s developed some weird culinary habits. Can you help us?”
 
Ignancia looked up at the ceiling like she was reading something up there and Rocella had to fight the urge to do the same.
 
Finally Ignancia said,  “ Oh, this is going to be good, come on follow me, we have to go into the Workshop”
 
Rocella followed Ignancia behind the Counter and they went back into her Workshop and when the door clicked shut behind them it occurred to Rocella the door hadn’t been there a minute ago.
 
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As Rocella drove back up to White Ash she went over the instruction again, “ You can’t write these down you know. You have to memorize this so don’t blow it. “
 
“ You know why Calisaya is bothering you all up in White Ash and not us down here in Duwamish?” Ignancia asked
 
“ I don’t know she likes the View?”
 
“ Don’t be stupid, it’s because you’re all old world up there. All that garlic and chanting and potions. She’s a modern woman and none of that is going to work on her. You have to think, how do you trap and kill a modern witch? “
 
Rocella shook her head, “ Come on Mrs. Guzman, the Sun is going to set soon and the Auditors will be heading up soon. “
 
Ignancia handed Rocella three sheets of what she thought were paper. But as the Sheriff took each one from Ignancia’ s hand she saw what they were, she could feel what they were and worse they were still warm. “ I don’t want to know “ Rocella said.
 
“ Don’t be such a baby. Now listen. You go to that tree by your courthouse. You go up on a ladder this has to be at least 7 feet up and you nail this first…”
 
“ Spells? I thought you said the old world…”
 
“ It’s not what you think. This is strictly modern and legal. Don’t look at me like that … it is. See, this is a Summons for her to appear, the minute this goes up no matter what she has to come forward.

 This is a warrant for her execution you nail this up second.

  This time I think you’ll find your rope will do it’s job and so will fire. I’d go with the rope it’s so dry out right now you wouldn’t want to start a forest fire, would you?

 Now, this little puppy is the dealmaker.

This is her death certificate. You just sign here and there and here “ Ignancia said as she flipped the heavy pages up one by one and I think you’ll find yourself short a citizen before morning.
 
But if this comes down, if someone is dumb enough to pull the nail out and this paperwork is disturbed. Well, it won’t be good for White Ash. Won’t be so hot for me either.”
 
“ Fine, you got a pen or something cause I have to be going…Oh let me guess” Rocella said as she sat down hard on a wooden barstool and tilted her head to the side. “ Don’t get any of it on the Uniform. I just had it cleaned.”
 
Ignancia pulled a scalpel from a little black bag and as she found Sheriff Coffin’s artery and nicked it open she asked, “ hey Rocella, how’s the family?”
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So did it work? You’re probably wondering.
 
Well, White Ash is on the Map, and you can go there if you want and see for yourself.
 
It’s small and old fashion and the Sheriff is bad tempered and has this funny scar on the side of her neck that bleeds at the wrong time (birthday parties, funerals when she’s in Court and swearing and using profanity isn’t something you don’t want to do at the tops of your lungs)
 
As for Calisaya Stoneroot, you know there isn’t a Halloween that’s gone by for the past 40 odd years since her execution that a bunch of weirdos from Seattle and as far away as Bellingham don’t descend by the hundreds on poor little White Ash looking for the grave of the Witch of White Ash.
 
Was she real?
 
If proof is all you want all you have to do is go to the tree besides the court house and look up and there on one of the branches is an old frayed piece of rope still gray and covered with moss and further up still are three pieces of something that looks like parchment nailed firmly to the tree’s trunk.
 
Just make sure you leave White Ash before the sunsets.
 
And before the residents of White Ash start thinking about dinner.

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HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

by anita marie moscoso

Inspired By The Soul Food Cafe Writing Prompt

The Deserted Farm House

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Back along on Deception Road is a little farmhouse that no one lives in.

After the house was built and then put up for sale the orchard out back died, the little vegetable garden died and all of the pumpkins and squashes and tomatoes rotted right on their vines.

Even the flowers in the window boxes shriveled up and turned to dust within a day or so after they were set out and all the little farmhouse could do was slam its doors open and shut and make the clock in its kitchen strike twelve over and over again.

The man who built the farmhouse, Travis Janosik, use to stand out at the road and wonder what the hell was going on in there, why was it that nothing could live near that place without giving up the ghost.

There was nothing about Travis that would make you say, ‘you know that killer house? The one on Deception Road? It was built by Travis Janosik” and the person you would be talking to wouldn’t reply, “ Well of course it was a strange house. Look who built it.”

No, the house turned bad all by itself and this bothered no one more then Travis. What bothered him most of all  happened when the house was two years old.

That’s when someone actually bought it and moved in.

The ‘someones’ who bought the farmhouse were the Korbar Family.

Travis use to drive out to Deception Road and park across the way from the Farmhouse and watch it. He’d see Darius Korbar working the vegetable garden or see him sitting on the porch with one of the many children he and Mrs. Korbar had and they acted like any other family living in those hills.

Unless of course you really watched them the way Travis did.

At first he had no interest in the Korbar family. His interest was in that house and what it was up to now. It didn’t have to settle for killing plants and the odd field animal that got to close to its walls. Now it had the Korbar children who scuttled around the property in their ill-fitting clothes.

At least that’s how it looked but then Travis realized it wasn’t the clothes that didn’t fit right, it was the bodies inside the clothes that weren’t right.

The children’s heads were to large for their small bodies and their hands and feet didn’t seem to be the same size and when they talked Travis felt the hair rising up on his arms and the back of his neck and that’s when he’d cut his daily vigil off.

Once Travis saw Mrs. Korbar come down the front steps with a tall glass in her hand and make her way to the garden to where Mr Korbar was working. She handed him the glass and he kissed her cheek and then she made her way back up the steps and Travis watched her but didn’t notice that as she climbed the steps her head was tilted slightly backwards and her back was straight as a pole and she never bent her knees.

It was like she was gliding up the steps and not walking up them at all.
Towards the end of the summer the gardens were dead and rotten and Mr Korbar was out there working it like it as if it were alive and thriving. The ground was water logged and moldy with green slime. The vegtables were rotting and decayed and you could actually smell it when the wind shifted.

On top of the fact that Travis was watching a man harvest from a garden full of rotten vegetables he was also sure that some of that smell was coming from Mr Korbar too.

Travis promised himself after that visit he wouldn’t go near the Farmhouse on Deception Road. Something was wrong with it, something was wrong with the people living inside of it and Travis was certain if he didn’t stop going over there something would be wrong with him too.

Of course, it was too late because that something had already happened to Travis and he found himself standing at the end of the drive leading right up to the Farmhouse the next day.

He was in plain view and Mrs. Korbar must have seen him from one of her windows because he wasn’t there for long before she came down the steps and met him with a basket of rotting carrots and maggot filled tomatoes on her arm.

“ We never got the chance to thank you for building this wonderful house Mr Janosik. Its perfect and we love it so.”

Travis was looking into the basket of dead and decaying vegetables and he said, “ How could you love it so? Nothing can live inside of that thing…”

And Mrs. Korbar said, “ Well, Mr Janosik nothing does…”

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BINDERWEED

by anita marie moscoso 

So as to not confuse you Dear Reader I should probably warn you this story starts at 

THE END
 
On the Doctor’s desk in the village of Ninebones Cross is the skull of a hanged man whose name was Lesser Thornapple.
 
Lesser was hung in 1864 for three murders and for a few that the people in the town of Bronson were pretty sure he did but couldn’t prove and for the ones they were sure he would commit in the future.
 
So Lesser went to the Gallows and they hung him as the sun came up, which is the custom in the town of Bronson and no one there expected this was the last they’d hear of Lesser Thornapple and they were right.
 
100 Years Later
 
 
The night that Doctor Stavesacre and her assistant took Lesser from his grave it was raining and she was in one of her moods that Lesser would soon call her ‘bad hair days’.
 
Only two things truly annoyed Azi Stavesacre.
 
One of those things was not getting her way. The other was anything that kept her from getting her way. Tonight both things were nipping at her heels and she wasn’t angry, she wasn’t furious she was mad.
 
Truly and strictly by definition: Mad.
 
As in insane.
 
“ How many of these things have we opened tonight Henbane?”
 
Henbane looked over his shoulder and let out a sob and said, “ a lot Azi, an awful lot.”
 
“ And this is the best we could do?” she asked as she pointed into the last grave.
 
“ Its all we can do Azi, the rest of the graves were empty.”
 
Azi Stavesacre, Dr Azi Stavesacre the type of Doctor you went to if you had a silver bullet lodged in you somewhere or a stake in your heart or you were burned or had been maimed and were about to die…yet again was not a patient woman.
 
In fact she wasn’t a woman at all.
 
But lets get on with Lesser’s story, shall we?
 
Azi jumped down into the open grave and then she leaned over Lesser and carefully
pulled the shroud back from his upper body. “ Geeze Henbane, they didn’t even bother to cut the noose off. Look it’s still there.”
 
Henbane looked down to where Azi was pointing and shook his head.” Now that’s just not dignified.”
 
Azi straddled Lesser’s chest and pressed her knees against his shoulders.“ People are pathetic Henbane. There’s no two ways about it.”
 
Then she cut off Lesser’s head.
 
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Lesser remembered Azi taking him to a little place in a town called Duwamish Bay and carefully handing him over to a small dark woman with short black hair. The woman’s name was Ignancia and he saw at once that Azi’s little rough edges and her general
unpleasant personality seemed to smooth out at least temporarily as the two women talked.
 
Ignancia who was the owner of the Shop, which was full of curious items including a mummy and a three-headed cat in a jar, lifted him carefully up to the light and nodded. “Sure, we can clean him up I think he’ll do just fine for you Azi.”
 
“He’s a hanged man Ignancia.”
 
“ The condemned work harder, you know that Azi.”
 
“ But they buried him with the noose still around his neck.”
 
“ You don’t say.”
 
“ I just did,”
 
Ignancia lifted Lesser up to her face and her dark eyes looked down into his dead ones and she said; “ now that’s very curious. When he comes around see if you can get him to tell you why.”
 
Lesser sat on the Doctor’s desk for over 10 years before he said one word and when he did Azi told him to shut up, she was working. He saw that yet another Were creature had been skewered with yet another silver arrow and the Werecat the Doctor was treating had already clawed Dr Stavesacre down the side of her face and had chewed off two of her fingers.
 
It was a good thing Azi couldn’t bleed Lesser thought or the examination room would be full of those Vampires who were out in the waiting room suffering from Garlic Poisoning.
 
So after ten years of saying nothing Lesser finally made a sound, and that sound sent Azi to her desk, dragging the were-cat by its neck with her.
 
She opened her desk drawer and dropped Lesser into it.
 
“ Bite me.” She snapped
 
And from the drawer Lesser tried to do just that.
 
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Ignancia came by a few weeks later with her sister to invite Azi to tea. It was a tradition. They pretended to drink tea and act like ladies and when they were done they were usually drunk and Azi’s hazel eyes would turn to their natural shade of yellow and they would all pretend like they had the flu for the next few days.
 
“So, how is Mr Thornapple working out for you?”
 
Ignancia’ s sister Akela asked who was Thornapple and Azi said, “ The ungrateful dead man I rescued from an eternity of solitary confinement.”
 
“ Oh, you cut off some poor slob’s head so that you could turn him into your own private guard dog.”
 
Rescue.” Akela didn’t chuckle or snicker. When she laughed she really put effort into it “ you kill me Azi, you really do.”
 
“ Well, he’s not working. That’s the problem. Lazy dog just sits on my desk and does he warn me that danger is near? Hell no. Let me make that clear to you ladies HELL NO. I had a Werecat go crazy when I tried to pull some silver out of it’s chest and look” Azi held up her hand, “ it doesn’t hurt when you loose them but it sure as heck does when they grow back. Then I had to deal with all those little beasts at the same time.
Damn kids.”
 
“ What they do?”
 
“ The Benandanti kids rubbed garlic all over the Hellebore’s shrouds and the Hellebore’s dropped Wolfsbane into the Benandanti’ s well.”
 
“ Kid stuff…”
 
“ Yes well, I had to deal with a bunch of rowdy teenage vampires and werewolves tearing my reception area apart as well as have an insane Werecat try to eat my arm
and does Thornapple say anything before Armageddon rides into my office?
No. Unless you count laughing as a word.”
 
“ He laughed?”
 
“ Loudly, very, very, very loudly.”
 
Ignancia lowered her voice, “ what did you do to him?”
 
“ Nothing…nothing. He’s in my desk drawer. Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t touch him. Really!”
 
Ignancia leaned back and nodded, “ I don’t believe you.”
 
It’s a fool who doesn’t know their own friends and Ignancia Guzman was nobody’s fool.
 

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Azi was wrapped in a soft warm alcohol woven blanket when she stumbled into her office and pulled open her desk drawer. She reached in for Lesser and then dropped him down onto her desk from at least two feet up in the air and when he landed his teeth snapped together and then it was Azi’s turn to laugh.
 
“ I’m supposed to apologize.” She slurred imperiously.
 
Lesser’s black empty eye sockets seemed to be paying attention so she went on. “ It was wrong of me to dump you in the drawer, it was wrong of me to not even ask you your name. I’m sorry, okay?”
 
“ You robbed my grave.”
 
“ Oh, hell, there are worse things you can do the rob a grave like I don’t know, let me think…. oh yes here’s one Murder. That’s pretty darn bad too, isn’t it Lesser.”
 
Azi dropped herself into her chair and scooted it up to her desk. She reached for Lesser and when they were nose to, well, eye to eye he said, “ I never killed anybody Azi. I was innocent.”
 
He saw Azi sober up and felt her grip tighten around him. “ What?”
 
“ I was innocent. I never killed anyone Azi, but I know who did those awful things
and I never told the truth. I couldn’t.”
 
“ Damn it. That’s why you were down there still, you condemned yourself.”
 
“ I don’t know anything about that.”
 
“ Look, why’d they leave the rope around your neck. Do you know?”
 
Lesser didn’t answer and  Azi shook her head, “ People just mystify me Lesser, they really do.”
 
“ When do you plan on asking me about the graves Azi, all of those empty graves. You haven’t mentioned them once.”
 
“ I’m asking you now then, what happened to those graves. Why were they all empty?”
 
“ A friend of yours moved to Mourning Ridge, did you know?”
 
“ What friend?”
 
“ Delphine Heller. She’s back Azi and I’m pretty sure she was tearing that cemetery apart because she was looking for…”
  
“ Me.”
 
That one word echoed lonely and hallow in the dark office and Lesser was surprised because if he had to name a truly shunned creature it wouldn’t be  Azi Stavesacre.   
Lesser watched the face of the Witch Doctor and what surprised him was what he said next. “ Put me in the window Azi, I have work to do.”
 
And that Dear Readers is The beginning of my tale.
amm

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THE STRANGE TALE OF OLIBANUM FRANKS AND THE WORD THIEF

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This is a a story about a man named Olibanum Franks who met a very dangerous thief and bully on a night like this…

It was snowing on the night Olibanum Franks disappeared from his cottage on the cliffs and Olibanum who thought electricity was an uncontrollable monster just waiting to strike him down lived alone in that house by lamplight.

On that awful night there must have been some sort of accident with one of those lamps or maybe a candle because that little cottage on the cliffs burned down and from the valley below the burning trees looked just like the candles that Olibanum used to read by when the Sun went down.

All they could do in the little village of Ninebones Cross was to watch and hope the fire didn’t spread down the hillside and take them the way it must have taken poor Olibanum up there on the cliffs.

Four days later it was safe enough to go up to Olibanum’ s cottage and they didn’t find a trace of their friend; not a bone or a button or even the melted remains of the little silver rings he wore on his left hand.

So with nothing to bury the Villagers wondered what kind of funeral should they hold for their friend and in the end they didn’t have a funeral because none of them really believed Olibanum was dead.

He was just gone.

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Of course Olibanum wasn’t really gone, but he knew if he didn’t get away from the crazy woman sitting in front of the computer soon he would be.

Olibanum remembered the fire and he remembered the roof caving in on his head and he even remembered the smell of his own flesh beginning to burn.

And then there was a bright light and he was lying on his back and looking up into the very unwell face of Tamara Osterick and when she smiled he knew he was in trouble.

Lots and lots of trouble.

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At first Olibanum wouldn’t say a word, he went to the window and looked out into the strange world that this strange woman had brought him into. She lived in a tall building and the people and cars below were the size of children’s toys. But looking out into this awful world was much better then looking into the face of that awful monster that brought him here.

He didn’t want her to talk to him; he didn’t want her to look him. Because when she did she got into his head and that was somewhere he wanted to keep her out of as long as he could.

So as long as Olibanum’ s eyes were opened and he was looking around the woman at the computer wrote and the screen filled with words and images and she ignored him.

She didn’t care that she was stealing from him…that she had stolen him from Kamala. She just wanted the words; no matter what she had to do she wanted the words for her own.

He was nothing except for letters and words and punctuation marks to Tamara Osterick and that was how she treated him.

It was only when he sat down and closed his eyes that she seemed to take notice of him. “ You’re not helping either one of us by refusing to cooperate Ollie.” She stopped typing and looked up at him and then she shuddered.

“ Geeze, the first thing we’re going to change is that hair cut. Really, is that the best Kamala could come up with at the end of her long and prolific writing career? A crazy man who cuts his own hair and lives on a cliff and gets blamed for murders being committed by vampires?

“ I’m not crazy. “

“ Dude, you’re crazy she wrote you that way.”

“ No, she didn’t.”

Tamara laughed “ look at me, I’m arguing with a character a dead woman made up. Is that a riot or what Ollie?”

And all Olibanum could do was back up against the wall and try not to panic. But it was hard too because that woman was about to murder him and there was nothing to stop her from doing it.

Nothing.

All he could think to say was “ Don’t call me Ollie.”

But of course Tamara wasn’t listening.

She was too busy stealing…and losing her mind.

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Olibanum couldn’t know it but his world was gone; Ninebones Cross, his burned out cottage and all his friends. Gone and the woman sitting across from him was the reason why.

There was no way for him to know, but he did and the quiet gentle man that lived on cliff in a small cottage and read by candlelight felt it…and then he began to change.

He watched the screen fill up with words and words and more words and as they appeared Olibanum could feel himself becoming less. He could see his reflection in the mirror over Tamara’s couch and his hair was changing. It was lighter and longer and his eyes were dark green now. He held his hand up and saw that all of the silver rings Kamala had given him in her first book were gone. She’d written it into the story just for Olibanum because he had suffered so much in that story. As she ended the story she thought the gift of those little rings was the least she could do for him.

He remembered the sound of her fighting with someone she thought of as EDITOR over what was called a  “throw away scene.”

He’d heard her yell, “ No, its staying in there. I know it doesn’t make sense! But if you take it out I take a walk and I take those four books you want with me!”

And in the end the rings stayed and Olibanum had something in that forest of words that Kamala grew over 30 years of writing just for him.

Now Olibanum didn’t have his cottage on a cliff, he was being moved to an apartment and his hair was blond and neatly trimmed and he murdered women for fun. That’s what he picked up as the Monster re- wrote and butchered away at Olibanum’ s life.

Tamara’s thoughts weren’t as clear as Kamala’ s. They were dark and twisted and Olibanum didn’t like them rolling around in his head. But the more she wrote the more clearly he could hear and see them.

They were making him crazy.

“ Will you answer just one question for me?” Olibanum asked, “ What happened to Kamala?”

Tamara stopped typing and Olibanum saw her shoulders shake and he thought she was crying.

“ Freak accident, she was electrocuted  “ Tamara choked “ her radio fell into her tub and fried her up like calamari.” And then Tamara laughed so hard she vomited all over her desk.

But she didn’t seem to care.

She just kept laughing.

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So Olibanum’ s friends were dead and he was pretty sure his world was gone and pretty soon he would be gone too. Rewritten by this horrible woman and her dark thoughts.

And then he got an idea, he was inspired and he realized it was probably Tamara’s idea so it wouldn’t be like murder at all.

It was more like suicide.

With that squared up and neatly justified in what was left of his eroding brain Olibanum asked Tamara  “could you open the glass doors Tamara? I’d like to feel the night air before…you know. I change. Just one last time. Please. I’d open the door myself, but I might… I don’t know… break.”

Olibanum held up his hand and Tamara could see both his hands were missing fingers and his left wrist had no flesh on it at all.

Then Tamara looked up into Olibanum’ s changing face and she felt sorry for him. Until she was done writing he was going to look like a poorly made rag doll and that of course he might stay that way if she never finished her story.

Oh well.

She opened the door and went into the kitchen to get some supplies to clean up the mess on her desk. When she came back out into the living room Olibanum was gone.

Tamara raced out onto the patio and looked down over the railing and then her feet left the ground and she was over the railing and as the ground rushed up to meet her Tamara’s last thought was ‘ the world is melting”

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The Villagers of Ninebones Cross found Olibanum wandering next to the remains of his burned out home. His face was scared and one of his eyes was gone but he was back and that was all that mattered.

“ Where did you go Olibanum? What happened to you?” they all asked.

And Olibanum said, 

“It was snowing on the night I disappeared from my cottage on the cliffs and because I thought electricity was an uncontrollable monster just waiting to strike me down I live in alone in that house by lamplight…”

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DATURA MANZANILLO WALKS ALONE

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Datura   Manzanillo walks alone and she started walking alone back in 1964.
 
That was the year she murdered her husband because she got tired of him.
 
She was tired of his jokes and the sound of his voice and the way he buttered his toast.
 
That was the worst; the careful way he sliced that thin shaving of butter from the cube and the careful way he smoothed it over the bread, which was of course a certain shade of gold.
 
 Nothing else would do.
 
God she couldn’t stand it, he’d actually concentrate over those slices of bread the same way a heart surgeon would over an open chest. No, that’s going to far. The heart surgeon probably didn’t put that much effort or concentration into his work the Stewart did.
 
So one morning after listening to him blah, blah, blah-she didn’t actually remember what he said because she’d learned to shut off the minute he opened his mouth years ago she saw him start his toast.
 
“ God, no “ she said “ please not the toast, sweet Lord not the toast. I can’t take it anymore.”
 
But Stewart, who was actually a nice person if you asked anybody else and really had no idea that a monster had been sleeping next to him for over 20 years thought she was teasing and he actually laughed. She remembered him asking her if she wanted some too and when she said yes and he turned away from her to reach for more bread Datura Manzanillo came up behind Stewart with a knife and she said, “ I wasn’t kidding Stewart.”
 
And when Stewart turned around he saw how serious she was.
 
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There was a trial and Datura remembered the way the Jury tittered when the story about the toast came up. It didn’t matter though, it was a cheap laugh and in the end they sentenced her to death.
 
If she had just stabbed Stewart to death they may have spared her life. But she’d cut and hacked and at some point nearly took off his head. The jurors didn’t laugh when they heard that. One looked positively green and the rest looked at her with pure unadulterated disgust.
 
The jury only had a glimpse of the real Datura when they heard the details of her crime, poor Stewart saw her for what she was in all of her glory and if anyone thought a rope around her neck would end anyone having to suffer through that again they were woefully mistaken.
                                   
Datura remembered her execution and she remembered when they cut her down from the hangman’s noose. “ Don’t let her fall, “ someone had said, “ if you drop her you get to clean up the mess “
 
She remembered that no one came to her funeral and she remembered the way the Undertaker had looked into her flat dead eyes and said,  “I sure wouldn’t want to be you right now. “
 
” No, you wouldn’t want to be me ” she wanted to say back, but instead she smiled her dead woman’s smile and then they buried her.

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She thought at least she’d go to Hell or something…but where did she end up? Right outside the cemetery they buried her in. She wondered if she would see Stewart and she guessed not. They wouldn’t bury him in the same place they buried her now would they?
 
Datura Manzanillo spent years and years walking that short walk in front of the cemetery and she didn’t mind, though she did wonder why she was here and not anywhere else.
 
Then one day it all changed
 
She’d hung around for years, in all of that time she couldn’t actually see anyone but she could feel them…living people passing around her and by her and one day a woman actually stopped and turned around and she really saw Datura and Datura finally saw someone else.
 
After that first time it happened more and more often.
 
Datura eventually learned that only certain people with a certain little secret festering away at their brains and soul would see her. Those people popped out of thin air and she’d come up behind them and snicker into their ear, “ I know what you’re thinking, you silly goose and we can make it happen. Come on, let’s take a walk.”
                                     
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It was difficult to say how time passed after Datura first talked to newfound friends and when it was she’d see them again. When she finally did see them they’d be leaving the cemetery and getting into these old fashioned paddy wagons being pulled by these gigantic black horses.
 
As they’d pass her they’d spit or swear and more often then not she’d hear, “ thanks for the advice you dirty hound!”
 
Datura would shrug and laugh and she’d start to do what she will be doing forever; she’s walking in front of that cemetery gate.

 So here’s a little useful advice; if you’re out walking one night and you’re devoutly praying for someone close to you to drop dead and a little voice says,“ I know what you’re thinking, you silly goose and we can make it happen. Come on, let’s take a walk.”
 
Don’t turn around and for heavens don’t stop and listen, Datura Manzanillo walks alone and she’s always looking for a little company.

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TEA TIME AT RIVERSLEIGH

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Riversleigh Manor isn’t just a house and it isn’t named for the River that runs below it that dried up and died years ago.

It was named for a family called Riversleigh.

The person who know this story best is named Acantha Deverell
and she takes her tea at Riversleigh Manor by Moonlight. If you’re really curious about Riversleigh and most of the guests here are you could join her and ask her about the Riversleigh Family.

Acantha is always dressed in black and she sits alone in the library
every night as she sips her hot poisonous drink and nibbles on her deadly dessert and admires the little fine bone china cup crafted by her own hand at her Father’s request.

The request came one dark winter many years ago on the night Mr Riversleigh rode out to Deverell Hall and demanded to see Mr Albido Deverell.

 Mr Riversleigh stood in the Great Hall and called out over and over again until Albido appeared right behind him where he was warming his hands over a cold dark fire in the massive marble fireplace.

“ Mr Riversleigh what on earth would bring you out on night like this? What am I saying? What on Earth could get you to leave the Manor at all?”

Faxon Riversleigh could barely speak, “ you know why I’m here and I want you to do something about it. That new Sheriff from that town down the river in Duwamish Bay, she’s the reason I’m here. She knows about us and she’s coming for us all.”

Albido Deverell smiled, and Faxon backed up and away from those jagged pointed teeth “ she’s from the Sawajinn Family and my friend there is no getting away from them. Not for people like us. “

“ I don’t care what family she’s from, get rid of her.”

“ And why should I bring the Law and the Warden of Sawajinn into my house Riversleigh when you’re the one with the bodies. My heavens man they’re in the walls and below the floorboards and the River…how on Earth did you manage to kill that?”

“ I did it for you Deverell, I fed you and this nest of creatures you have as a family. “

“ And in return Riversleigh…oh the things you’ve received in return have you forgotten them? You handed me flesh and bone and in return
 I handed you gold and jewels and art and immortality Riversleigh. Don’t forget that my friend… the immortality. Nothing can kill you, you and yours will never die.”

“ Oh thank you so much for that, my insane children, my wife has
turned into a living corpse that spends her time in the catacombs
below my home thanks you so much for that. “

“ You’re welcome. I’ve always liked Elizabeth.”

Riversleigh would have liked to twist Deverell’s head right off of his shoulders and he would have if he thought it would have made a difference.

“ The Warden only comes for things that bring attention to Duwamish Bay. She’s ready to take us all to Sawajinn and  I have to say, I’m not anxious to go back there. So I’ve made a deal of sorts with her” Deverell sounded very pleased with himself.

“ With the Warden?”

Deverell wasn’t smiling now “ a most unpleasant creature to deal with. She was no sport at all. We’ve come to an arrangement.”

“ What’s going to happen to us? “

“ She wants assurance that you and your family never leave Riversleigh. If I can keep my end of the bargain she won’t take me back to Sawajinn. That foul beast assured me she would take me back piece by piece and to prove her point she killed my wives and staff right in front of me.” Deverell actually choked up and cried out in agony “Do you have any idea Riversleigh how hard it is to find good help now days? “

Riversleigh knew it was pointless to yell or run or beg so he just asked, “ are you going to kill us Deverell?”

“ The deal Riversleigh is to keep you in your house and I think I’ve found a way to do that, in fact I’ve started already.”

There was a mound of ash at least four feet high in the massive stone fireplace and Riversleigh saw scattered around the fireplace lttle gold and silver buttons and small bits of bone.

“ My daughter Acantha is a talented artist Riversleigh and she’s been away learning a new craft. I must say I found it a bit unappetizing but we do what we can to support those we love. Don’t we? She’s learned to make something called Bone China. Have you heard of it?”

Riversleigh shook his head and the floor dropped from beneath his feet.

“Go down to the basement where she works Riversleigh I think you’re going to be amazed at what you can create from a little ash and sand.”

Three months later Acantha brought a set of beautiful bone china teacups and a lovely teapot to Riversleigh Manor. Mrs. Clark, the housekeeper, allowed Acantha into the Manor and she watched as the young woman carefully set the table for tea.

“ It’s a shame Mrs. Riversleigh isn’t here to see this lovely setting. I don’t know where the family is. You know how they are Miss. The Riversleighs have always said they’d never leave this place.”

The delicate cups sat in a ring around the teapot and Mrs. Clark saw that there was one for each member of the family. They were painted with small purple flowers and little raised bumps that looked like eyes rimmed the saucers.

They were strange little things but all the same the Housekeeper felt her hands twitch and she was about to reach for one of the cups when she thought she heard Mrs. Riversleigh calling out to her. Or could it have been one of the girls? How faint and at the same time how close their voices sounded!

Then the sounds were gone.

Acantha brought one of the little cups to her cheek and smiled “ They’re closer then you think Mrs. Clark.  Would you care to join us for tea? “

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