WHEN THE SICKNESS IS YOUR SOUL

By Anita Marie Moscoso

 From The Soul Food Alphabet Project

“F” is for Fire Filled Forge

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And if your hand or foot offend you,         
  Cut it off, lad, and be whole;
But play the man, stand up and end you,
  When your sickness is your soul.

 

A Shropshire Lad

A.E. Housman

 

When Morgan Gamble was 12 he pushed a classmate over a railing as she was trying to collect leaves on a class field trip for a project. The Project was a little booklet of local native plants and the little girl- Ona  Crocata, fell to her death to the rocks below the bluffs.

In the spirit of true American Justice the police talked to Darren Marks, the bad kid who lit fire crackers in the bathrooms and smoked his dad’s cigarettes during recess behind the gym, they talked to Crystal Barker who’s Father was in jail and they talked to the Simon Ledbetter, one of the Park Maintenance staff who spent his weekends at Peace Rallies at the University in Feverfew.

The Police were about to resort to using a Ouija Board if need be to talk to a few of the executed criminals who took their last breath up at the Prison in Fallen (the next town over) because that made more sense then to even think about questioning Morgan Gamble, who was not only seen walking up the path to the cliff tops with Ona, people actually saw him running down the path after Ona hit the rocks below.

Morgan Gamble played baseball and was a Boy Scout and his older brother was a first year Med Student and his high school age sister a cheerleader. His Mom’s name was Betsy and his Dad was named Skip and they had two cars and one of the biggest, newest houses built in the newest and best new town of Ransomville.

Why on Earth would you spend time talking to a boy like Morgan who came from a family like the Gambles about the Murder of a little girl with perpetually tangled hair and socks that didn’t match and clothes that her Mother bought at the Neighbors In Need Charity Shops?

In the end a lot of people thought that, so Ona Crocata’s death was ruled a suicide.

After all, it was decided what else could it have been?

The stars that filled the sky lined up for Morgan Gamble: he got to grow up and get married and have a wife and a home of his own while Ona Crocata, wrapped in a simple white sheet and dressed (the dress had actually been carefully draped and pinned around the little girls smashed and ruined body) in her Mother’s best Easter dress turned to dust and bone in her simple pine casket at the Leaning Birches Cemetery in Larkspear.

Despite the fact the Sun and the Heavens smiled down on Morgan his eyes were closed to all of it. He didn’t see it; you don’t need to have open eyes to look into yourself 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Ona Crocata eyes were always opened.

And they were always looking out.

Morgan’s wife was named Ginny and the only difference between Ginny and his Mother were their voices. Betsy Gamble talked high and fast and Ginny Leonard-Gamble talked high and ultra fast so listening to the two of them at the same time was sort of like listening to a table saw running none stop for hours on end.

Morgan didn’t care as long as that high pitched whine wasn’t heading in his direction.

Only last Monday not only did that high pitched intolerable whine head his way it ran down his throat and he almost choked on it. The Whine was magnified a hundred times over and the sound levels could only be compared to standing next to a jet when it takes off.

God, what was that noise?

Then he remembered- Monday night was The Book of The Month Club night.

On book club night Ginny and her friends sat around in their living room and talked about plot lines and drank some wine, they talked about character motivation and then they drank more wine by the time they got around to talking about what the book meant they were all blasted which was good because the only thing worse then listening his wife’s book club talk was listening to them talk sober.

At least this way they were sort of amusing.

It made up for the screaming headache Morgan got when they were around.

Morgan managed to make it from their indoor garage with minimum pain when two little words drifted up from the living room to the entrance way as he closed the living room door.

“Dog Girl”

His face turned red and he looked up and around to make sure he wasn’t the one who had said those words out loud.

Then he heard it again only much louder this time, “Dog Girl”

He followed those two words into his living room and smiled his best toothpaste ad type smile to his wife and her friends and said, “You all sound like Junior High school girls…what’s this Dog Girl talk?”

“It’s our book of the month “Ginny tried to say “it’s a ghost story.”

“About a Dog Girl? What is that some kind of New Age Hippy Chick in search of her inner animal or something?”

They all laughed like they were suppose to and Morgan preened like he was suppose to and then Mr. Good Humor Man left the room, “No really, what kind of story is it?”

Ginny saw her husband’s face turn to a cold hard mask right in front of  her friends for Pete’s Sake, how could he? So she tried to focus her eyes and get serious so she could get him out of the room.

“ It’s about this little girl who was murdered, when she comes back as a ghost she doesn’t know she’s dead and when she figures it out she kills her murderer.”

“Really.” Morgan held his hand out for the book. “Why is it called Dog Girl” was she ugly or something?

Ginny shook her head and the motion almost made her get sick. “No, that’s what he called her before he shoved her over the railing…Dog Girl.”

Morgan looked at the book and on the cover was a Walnut Tree growing over the edge of a cliff. “ No one could’ve known that, what it felt like to put his hand against the small of her back and feel that little push… no one except for Dog Girl and …”

“Morgan!” Ginny shirked as Morgan quoted the book “you’ve done it, you actually read a book!”

“How does she kill him?”

“He starts to see her everywhere, at the Park, playing with his children, in the Mall. She becomes as real to him as anybody and it makes him crazy.”

“Sees her?” he asked

One of Ginny’s friends chimed in, “He sees her everywhere. So he goes out to the Cemetery to find her grave and dig her up and it’s gone. Dog Girl is gone and so are her grave and tombstone and all.”

“ So, “ a high pitched voice grated against Morgan’s brittle nerves “ he goes out to his garage closes the windows and puts rags under the doors and such and starts his car and dies from carbon monoxide poisoning.”

“And just when he thinks he’s finally free of Dog Girl he sees her through the exhaust just outside of the driver’s window and he knows just as he dies it’s only the beginning. Dog Girl is never going to leave him…ever.”

Morgan nodded and for the first time in years, maybe for the first time in his life he looked outside of himself and all he saw was Ona “Dog Girl “Crocata.

He decided  it would be best if  he got use to her now because he had the feeling that was all he would be looking at for a very long time.

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The 477

 By Anita Marie Moscoso

based on the Soul Food Cafe Exercise:

Creative Conjuring

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We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea

The Garden of Prosperine
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Clover Boonan takes the bus to work, she’s taken the same bus..the 477 for the passed ten years. Before that it was called the “S-4” but it was the same route and much like the town of Larkspear it hadn’t changed much in a very long time.

 She tries to sit somewhere in the middle and she listens to tapes she recorded herself; they don’t follow any musical style or artist. They’re just sounds and voices and phrases that the Mortician likes to fill her head with before she turns the key to the Prep Room at the Funeral Home she’s worked at for over 20 years and disappears from the world of the living into the home of the dead. 

When she was about 12 Clover wanted to be a writer, she wanted to write about demons and ghosts and cemeteries and the living dead. She wanted to dress in black and never smile and she wanted to live in one of those old Victorian style Mansions on Basam Hill. 

Then one summer, after she turned 18  her Mother’s friend offered her a job at the Leaning Birches Cemetery in Larkspear.

Had Clover thought it was cool in those days to smile she would have.

Instead she looked up from her book (must’ve been something by Anne Rice…of course) and she shrugged, “Sure.” Was all she’d said from under her heavy black shadowed eyelids. “ I think I’d fit in there.”

 That of course turned out to be so far from the truth it was a joke. 

The  Morticians Clover worked for were two brothers that inherited the Funeral Home from their Father.

Hunter and Calvin liked to sing Elvis and Frank Sinatra Songs while they worked, they attended every single Science Fiction Convention to come to town and they always dressed up as the bad guys from a show called “ Doctor Who” 

“ You know Clover, “ Hunter suggested one day “ you’re looking a little pale around the gills. Why don’t you go out and walk through the Memorial Park? All that sun, all that white marble. That’s put some color on you really fast.” 

“ No thanks” Clover said from the supply cabinet where she was taking inventory. 

“ Hey Clover” Calvin said with no room for debate “ why don’t you go out to the Memorial Park and do some maintenance? Rake up the leaves, clean up the dead flowers. That sort of thing. In fact, you should probably hop to it before you loose the Sun.”

Then Calvin opened a package on his desk and pulled out a little toy space ship that hoped you would live long and prosper when you pushed a little button on its  underside.

He held the toy up to his brother, “ Score.” He said with awe.

 Score. “ Hunter echoed back with reverence.

Clover was odd and pale and wore too much black but in the end she found out it was impossible to be around Hunter and Calvin Larkspear and not end with some color in your life.

It took a few years but Clover made it all the way through Mortuary College, she attended Comic Book Conventions and she even got it into her head that she might start writing some day.Mysteries were her thing now and the only horror books she read anymore were true crime novels.

Over the years she couldn’t read or watch a horror movie with out laughing out loud, so she have them up ages ago.

But when she put her headphones on and took that bus ride to work it was music she thought about. She loved the way the notes went together and the stories the songs told and she loved the voices, those lively colorful voices that wanted to tell you their secrets.This was the world she was in the day the lady in the gray linen shirt dress got on the bus.

The woman dropped some change into the fare box and carefully made her way down the aisle as the bus pulled away from the stop. As she walked towards Clover Boonan, something about the dress yanked out of her day dream of rock stardom and to the little black belt that circled the woman’s dress.

It looked like one that Clover use to own.

The edges of the belt were finished off with purple thread and because of that the belt had been considered flawed and she had bought it for less then dollar.And the dress…that dress looked like one of four shirt dresses her Mother had donated to the Funeral Home last winter.

 The Home had a closet full of donated clothes that they dressed  Jane and John Does in.

 Jane and John Doe were people the County brought to Leaning Birches, which had some years back devoted at least 20 acres of the Cemetery to the surrounding cities less then fortunate citizens to be buried.

Calvin and Hunter had started the “ Closet” because the idea of burying people in sheets and plastic bothered them.

“ I’ve buried Gold Fish with more dignity then this, “ Hunter had mumbled one day as he prepared John Doe 21704 for his casket.

 The next day the brothers brought in some clothes and the closet grew from there.

Anyway, Clover decided it was nothing, the belt and the dress weren’t unique. But the thought raced around her head all the same, “ no they’re not unique but those things are yours Clover. You know it…that’s your Mother’s dress

.The woman took a seat across the aisle from Clover and she smoothed her dress out before she sat down and Clover  just knew the woman was going to look over at her and smile.

She looked  forwards and tried to concentrate on her tape where a man was growling into her ears that he could do dirty deeds for cheap.

Clover could smell the faint sweet odor of Jasmine, her Mother’s perfume. The thing of it was Clover’s Mom has worn that scent for so long she can’t smell it on herself anymore and she has a tendency to wear too much of it now. So all of her Mother’s clothes, no matter how many times you wash or dry clean them the always smell like Jasmine Delights by Lucia.

Lots of ladies that age wore that scent, Clover told herself,  lots of women that age wore that style of dress and lots of them had that hair style too.  Clover did hair and makeup at the Funeral Home and of all the things she had to do that was the task that worried her the most.

“ It’s cinchy Clover,” Hunter explained on the afternoon she had finally run out of excuses for not doing  hair “ it’s a pretty basic style just take the small barrel curling iron and make three curls on the top, two on each side and brush it out.”

It was  called it the Granny  Brush Out and even though it turned out it was an easy do Clover usually had to cheat and use bobby pins to hold the waves above the ears  up.

Clover’s eyes shifted to her right, and of course right  above the woman’s ear were two crossed bobby pins with a tiny bit of cream colored thread to hold them in place.

As the bus slowed down and pulled over to the next stop Clover hoped the woman would do what most of them did when someone got on the bus, the seated passengers  looked out the window. And the Grey Lady was no exception. She turned her head too as the next passenger started towards the back of the bus and when she did Clover’s eye went to the woman collar bone.

Just under her white linen collar it was there, just like clover knew it would be because she was the one who put it there.

The little line of puckered skin held together with string.

Clover had made that incision herself and she had gently reached inside of this woman and found the artery .

And then Clover embalmed her.

She was sure of it as the woman turned and looked at Clover and smiled and when she did Clover decided she knew this woman.

Clover after all had shaped the woman’s mouth into a small smile with her own hands and she had brushed her hair and put blush on her cheeks and colored her pale lips with a soft shade of red.

The Gray Lady was a dead Lady and she was riding the bus with all of the other morning commuters like she belonged there. She fussed a little more with her dress and her hair and then she reached up and pulled the yellow cord and the bus slid to a stop.

She got up and before she could pass Clover, Clover reached out and touched her hand, still bearing traces of the power she had dusted on to give the woman’s hand’s some color. “ Where are you going? “ was all Clover could think to ask.

The Gray Lady looked down at Clover and smiled and she leaned towards Clover a little and said, “ I’m just visiting dear, just like everybody else.”

“ Just Visiting. “

INTO AN ETERNAL NIGHT

By Anita Marie Moscoso 

Inspired By The Soulfood Alphabet Project:

“ D” Is For Descent Into The Underworld

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Tory Devenish was eight years old when his Father married Cascara Pomeroy. Sixteen years later, to the day, Tory Devenish would be sitting in a pale green room eating his last meal and sitting across from him in a chair that was bolted to the floor was Cascara.  She didn’t say a word. She just looked at the clock, turned her face back to Tory and smirked. 

“It should be you at the end of that rope Cascara not me…it should be you.”

Cascara laughed until tears ran down her face but she didn’t make a sound.   

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 Tory use to enjoy it when Cascara came to the house to visit. Tory would wait for his father to leave the room and then he’d whisper “I hate you Cascara” and then he’d stick out his tongue.

 Sometimes he’d even try to spit at her but Cascara would look down at him and smile that dark empty smile and she never said a word.

 “I told Cascara I hate her,” Tory told his Mother on one of her infrequent visits. 

 “You did?” Mara Beth asked, her eyes wide and sparkling and with a wider and even brighter smile. 

 “Yeah, then I did this…” Tory stuck his tongue out and shook his hips from side to side and Mara Beth laughed and swept Tory up in her arms. “You’re a silly boy Tory Devenish.”

 Tory looked into his Mother’s face and that’s when the thought came to him for the very fist time. “I think Cascara is a Wicked Old Witch.” 

“She’s an ugly old witch!” Mara Beth laughed in agreement. 

Tory’s heart warmed and burst and his Mother’s smile flared and burned bright and golden and consumed him until there was nothing left of him at all.   

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 It was after that visit that Tory really let Cascara have it. 

 Cascara’s dog disappeared, her herb garden died over night and the dry soil smelled like liquid laundry detergent long after the dead plants were cleared away and Tory would mouth the word “Witch” when his Father’s back was turned and he’d screech it out  at Cascara when he wasn’t home.  

“Are you accusing me of being a Witch?” Cascara asked him once and Tory stuck tongue out and sang over and over again, “Cascara is a Witch, Cascara is an ugly Witch.”

 Cascara never got mad and she never yelled. She looked at him with her slightly crossed dark eyes and smiled at him with all of her teeth and she laughed. She laughed and laughed and she never seemed to take a breath. 

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Years passed and Tory went from being spiteful little boy to spiteful teenager and one day he turned into a spiteful young man with a nose ring and jet black hair with blue and gold stripes above his ears.  

 “You know Tory, “Cascara said on that last afternoon he would be a free man “since you came into my life I can’t remember the Sun. Isn’t that funny? It’s like I’ve been locked in a dark room since my Wedding Day.” 

 Cascara seemed to be talking more to herself then to Tory. “Since I married your Father you have buried me alive in your bile and spite. Why, I’d go as far as to say you’ve killed me with your poisonous nature. I’ll bet there isn’t a court in the land that wouldn’t find you guilty of my murder.” “Now there’s a thought.” 

“What?” he snorted. 

 “You at the end of a rope, twitching away with a hood on your head. Wow, it would almost and I mean almost makeup for the years of Hell you brought into my life.”

 “You’re sick,” he said.  

Cascara went to the phone and he saw her hit the speakerphone button.A flat impersonal voice asked for the nature of the emergency and Cascara screamed, “It’s my Stepson…oh my God! He’s got a kni-“

Cascara jabbed the off button and walked out of the sunroom and into the kitchen. Tory could see her lean over the sink and when she came back into the sunroom he saw the knife in her hand. 

“ Put that down you crazy old bi-“he started to say. 

  “You said it yourself Tory, I’m a Witch, and I’m an evil old witch. Who’d have thought that a vapid little worm like you would have noticed or cared about anything outside of himself.”  “I’ll be damned.” She said with genuine surprise. “No, “she said “I take that back…you’ll be damned Tory Devenish.  

Then his Stepmother pulled the knife across her neck and as the blade whispered against her flesh Cascara was looking at something behind Tory and she winked at it. 

Tory spun around to see what it was that her dead eyes where taking in and he saw what she saw. 

It was her plastic cat clock with the tail that was supposed to move from side to side.

 It was 8:25pm.  

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The Police collected dozens and dozens of statements that seemed to tie Tory to Cascara’s murder. After all, he had spent the past 16 years telling anyone who’d listen he wished Cascara was dead.  

 “ He was preoccupied with Cascara,” a neighbor said “ he couldn’t stop talking about her and how much he hated her guts and he wouldn’t shut up about her being a witch.”

 There was a trial and his Father died from a heart attack right before the verdict was read. Tory hadn’t his seen or spoken to his Father since the night he was arrested for Cascara’s murder. He hadn’t seen his Mother either, he hadn’t for years.

  So in the end all he really had was Cascara.  

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Tory is waiting in the pale green room with the stainless steel table bolted to the floor and he’s eating his last meal (cheese pizza and Buffalo wings) and sitting across from him is Cascara Pomeroy.

It’s 11:30pm and the executioner is at the door Tory stands up as the door swings open and Cascara leaps to her feet and she looks back at the clock and smirks.  

Tory watches the clock flip back minute by minute until it reads 8:25.

Then he looks down into his plate and back up at Cascara and she starts to laugh her dark silent laugh and it descends and echoes forever into an eternal night.

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DIARY OF DELIRIUM

By Anita Marie Moscoso 

THESE STORIES WERE WRITTEN FOR THE RIVERSLEIGH PROJECT BETWEEN JANUARY 2006 AND MARCH 2006

VISIT THE SOUL FOOD CAFE

TO SEE HOW I  CREATED MY “RIVERSLEIGH”

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MIDNIGHT CONVERSATION IN RIVERSLEIGH

There’s something buried in the Gardener’s Shed and why would someone bury something that wasn’t dead yet?

The thing in the shed isn’t buried very deep, so if you were to crawl over the dead fall in front of the door and were able to push your way through he matted cobwebs and you didn’t mind the smell of rotting leaves and small unburied creatures you’d see there under the window a slightly raised mound of earth.

Were you to look at the raised mound long enough and the light somehow managed to find it’s way through the little panes of glass covered with dust and dirt you’d think someone was lying there on their side with one arm cradling their cheek and the other laying comfortably on their side.

Wouldn’t you?

If you brought a flashlight and the beam was bright you might think you could see something wrong with the entire left side of the sleeping figure’s face. You might think that maybe that the face was gone, smashed in by something like that shovel in the corner.

Isn’t that right?

They might wonder what you were doing back there in a rotting shed behind the Manor House in the dead of Night, they might see you take the shovel and try to smooth and pound that little raised mound of Earth flat.

That’s what they’d see wouldn’t they?

So I must ask you again, why would you bury something that is not dead yet? Go ahead you can tell me. Just keep your hands were I can see them.

MADNESS AT RIVERSLEIGH MANOR HOUSE

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Do you know what’s buried under Riversleigh Manor? Do you know why it gets so dark there at night even when the lights are on and blazing?All you have to do is follow the shadows.

At nightfall the shadows break away from the corners and come from under the beds and out of the closets and they creep and crawl and hiss along the cold hardwood floors. They pass over sleeping faces and pull at hands and feet silly enough to stray from under heavy blankets and quilts sewn by women dead for over a hundred years.

They search the attics and basements and linger over places like the front hall where Mrs. Undercroft was found dead and cold with small purple flowers clutched in one hand and more of them falling from her lips.

They pass quietly over the desk where Mr Undercroft took the life of his daughter Elizabeth. He crushed the back of her skull with a small stone gargoyle carved from marble and he held it against her wound as it fed.

Then the shadows move to the attics where Mrs. Undercroft’s daughter Bedelia was kept. The darkness liked Bedelia Undercroft and spent hours with her as she gave reading and math and music lessons to children born from Bedelia’s insane and unstable mind.

There were no children with Bedelia in that room.

That’s what the residents of Riversleigh would say; there were no children up there with Bedelia.

They’d cover their ears and chant over and over “ there are no children up there, there are no children up there”. They said that louder when they heard the laughing and chuckling and small voices dutifully repeating Bedelia’s lessons.

Bedelia gave art lessons to her Phantom school children and their dark and twisted images of screaming faces and twisted bodies with to many or not enough limbs were tacked to the walls under little green tiles decorated with the alphabet and ducks.

But the darkness knew those little students that attended Bedelia’s classes, and it was the darkness that took the students away when their lessons were done. Even the Manor’s soon to be gardener Mr Erasmus Undercroft (at the time he was simply known as Uncle Erasmus) would stop by and watch Bedelia teach her little pupils about bones and hearts and curses and poisons and fear.

Mr Erasmus Undercroft who took lives and souls for the pure pleasure of the act (and he knew several dark acts) was stunned and humbled by the wealth of knowledge Miss Bedelia had at her fingertips.

And then one day after giving a long and difficult lesson in something Bedelia called
Sin Eating the carpet under her feet began to buckle and twist and she was pulled down through floors and then the ceilings over and over again until she reached the foundation of Riversleigh.

“ Bedelia, Bedelia teach me what you know,” something said into her ear.

Bedelia couldn’t really answer because her mouth was full of sour dark earth. But she opened her mouth and from the back of her throat she hissed, “ yesss… I’d love too.”

And she taught Riversleigh everything she knew.

She hasn’t stopped teaching Riversleigh and she never will.

So now you know what’s buried under Riversleigh and that’s why it’s so dark there  no matter how many lights are blazing.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

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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STORIES FROM FARAWAY

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STORIES FROM THE “FAR AWAY TREE PROJECT”

by

ANITA MARIE MOSCOSO

FIRST PUBLISHED AT THE SOUL FOOD CAFE

january 2006-march2006

VISIT THIS PAGE TO SEE

HOW I CREATED MY OWN

“FARAWAY”

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BEWARE OF FARAWAY

Hidden from the safe roads and safe streets and quiet parks and green forests and the sunlight is my hometown…its called Faraway and no one comes here on purpose.

Maybe it’s because everything here is covered with dust…the people, houses buildings trees and plants. I guess it could be because no one speaks loudly here, no one is awake here. Faraway is the place where nightmares live and once you’ve been to Faraway you can never really belong anywhere else again.

So what do we do here, Faraway from the rest of the world?

When the sunsets we like to go out to the Middle of the Desert where the Wells of Angra Lei are and we drop stones down into them and listen to them fall and fall and fall and sometimes we swear you can hear them hit the bottom…but of course that’s not true.

These Wells have never held water and they are out here, away from anything alive for a reason.

The air that comes up from the Wells of Angra is so poisonous one whiff could melt your heart in your chest and your poor eyes would run like rivers down your cheeks. Nothing has ever come up from those wells except for Death…and why should that surprise you?

It has to come from somewhere…Death you see comes from Faraway.

My Mother use to visit the Wells during the daylight, she would lean over the sides and whisper things down into the Wells and sometimes she would laugh and sometimes she would curse but she did it by daylight.

She was also very, very insane.

She was you see, from Faraway and nothing here is familiar or safe. Nothing Faraway is what you think it is.

Living in Faraway will change you.

Being from Faraway will damn you.

Like it did to my Mother…and what it did to me.

And what it will do to you, if you’re not careful of Faraway.

FARAWAY AT MIDNIGHT

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There is a woman who is voiceless from wailing and wasted from weeping and Death visits her from Faraway at Midnight.

Death finds her in her long dead garden tending to weeds and thorns and sticker bushes and poisonous plants and as she harvests and picks and adds each deadly plant to her basket woven from human hair Death shudders and hides in the Shadows and is grateful the Woman can’t see him.

All the same she knows Death is there and when she senses it, she reaches into her basket and lifts one of the plants to her lips and pushes it into her mouth. She chews and swallows and screeches into the darkness, “ Where are you? Why aren’t these working…someone tell me why this isn’t working! “

Death would squeeze it’s eyes shut if it had eyes, so instead it raises it’s pale cold hand to it’s empty eye sockets and covers it’s face the best it can. It’s fingers press against it’s mouth and it does this to keep from calling out, from screaming because the Woman who is voiceless from wailing and wasted from weeping is a corpse and a shell and once long ago she murdered a man.

He was the husband of a woman who came from a place called Sawajinn, and a very long time ago the former resident of Sawajinn cursed the woman who is voiceless from wailing woman over her husband’s poisoned body

Her curse was simple and horrible.

The Weeping Woman would never die; she would never meet her own Death.

Instead she was cursed to meet her victim’s Death.

His Death comes from Faraway every night at Midnight and watches her from the upper branches of a dead twisted oak tree. Of course his Death can’t take her, it only visits her and then it leaves her at each sunrise.

Before it leaves Death shows her something it carries in its left hand.

It shows her a small bottle of white powder and it holds it up and the Woman sees it. She knows what it is, the little bottle once belonged to her, after all.

She puts her hands out and calls, “ Please, please give it to me, take me with you. I can’t live like this anymore! “

Death can see her in the half light and it can see the maggots and flies tangled in her hair, crawling from the corners of her eyes. It can smell her flesh rotting on her bones and it can hear the skin on her legs and back splitting apart.

I’m not your death. But I’ll visit you, I’ll never stop visiting you.”

“ I can’t.”

And as the Sunlight works it’s way into the shadows cast by deadly sweet blossoms and fragrant green leaves dripping with deadly venom Death leaves for Faraway and the woman who is voiceless from wailing and wasted from weeping begins her wait for Death to visit at Midnight.

NIGHTFALL FROM FARAWAY

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In my hometown, which is a place called Faraway, a man named Mr. Nightfall stands under a pear tree full of light green poisonous fruit and waits for the Sun to set.

Mr. Nightfall is my neighbor and our streets, like all the other streets in Faraway are lined with deadly fruit trees and deadly gardens. All these dark shady places are kept and tended by people with pale faces and empty eyes and here in our town Faraway no one is Sane and no one really lives because no one is really alive.

When Mr. Nightfall comes from Faraway sometimes he brings storms and in that wildness all you’ll see, all you’ll hear is Mr. Nightfall. You’ll know he’s coming and worst of all you won’t be able to stop him.

When Mr. Nightfall crosses your path and he settles over your town you’ll know he’s there because your skin will start to feel to tight and you won’t be able to pull air into your lungs.

Everything will seem…very Faraway.

That’ when you’ll know Mr. Nightfall is close enough to put out his cold, dark hand and lay it over your shoulder.

Once I followed Mr. Nightfall to a city with stores and cars and a coffee stand where the woman who served me wore a picture on her chest of a creature with stars in her hair.

 I asked if the creature in the picture was from the Well of Angra Lei and the Woman squeezed the cup of coffee so tight at the sound of my voice that the top popped off and the scalding hot coffee filled her eyes and mouth and she didn’t cry out. Not even a little

The woman had turned to stone, her face was frozen into a mask and her eyes had rolled up into her head and I could hear her someplace deep inside screaming and screaming and screaming and she will never stop.

They never do when they are taken Faraway.

Mr. Nightfall didn’ come back for me, he never turns back but he did call out to me and I followed him through the town and the entire time he cursed and spat and hissed like one of the cats that’ not really a cat from back home in Faraway and he said, “They know I’m coming.”

“Of course they know you’re coming Mr. Nightfall, don’t they always?”

“No, not like this they haven’t known me like this for centuries I don’t like this Miss Praecox. No I don’t like it at all.”

This time the people in this little town by the sea knew Mr. Nightfall was coming. There were candles in windows and there wasn’t a soul on the street. They were locked behind doors and the curtains where drawn and they knew they were very aware Nightfall was coming.

As Mr. Nightfall crossed the city I stopped here and there and looked in windows and when I could I found people and I touched them, carefully, quietly with my left hand and I told them my name and their minds stopped liked old clocks.

I could hear it loud as thunder as gears and cogs and wheels that turn their minds
ground to a halt and I could hear what they took with them to Faraway.

My name.

” Enjoying your visit Miss Praecox?”

” I always do Mr. Nightfall.”

He reached out to pat me on the head and thought better of it, ” Just like you’re Mother, we were a team in our day to. We worked well together.

The Praecox have always done their best work with Nightfall.”

” So what’s happened here Mr. Nightfall, where is everyone?”

He held a newspaper up and showed it to me. I couldn’t read it of course and he ran a cold dark finger under the headline and read it to me.

” Hurricane Force Winds Strike Seattle, Power Outages State Wide, locals ready for Nightfall and freezing temperatures. They were ready for me this time. Lord I hate the press”

” Killjoys” I said with feeling.

” Well, there’s always tomorrow, isn’t there Miss Demetia Praecox?”

I agreed because everyone knows Nightfall comes from Faraway and sometimes it brings madness with it and it always will.
                           
 

A STRANGE CHAPTER FROM THE STRANGE STORY OF

RIVERSLEIGH MANOR

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Mr. Erasmus Undercroft tends the cemetery in a place called Faraway.

He’s the Chief Gravedigger, the Lead Mortician and sometimes the Sole Mourner and Mr Undercroft smiles no matter what his duties are on any given day.

This is Mr Undercroft’s Home and he always welcomes visitors.

So go ahead and take a walk down that little white gravel path that runs like an artery choked with blood through this dark place in Faraway and you will come to a chapel with no windows that sits in the back of Mr Undercroft’s Cemetery.

It’s hidden among the nightshade and Wolfsbane and bright white flowers that smell faintly of smoke and no matter the time of day it’s always Nightfall here.

After you’ve made your way this far go ahead and enter the vestibule and you might see a dark blue casket with bright silver handles sitting all alone in the center of the Windowless Chapel.

If you are feeling overly confident go inside the Chapel itself and look down into the the casket and laying there in his finest, blackest funeral wear is a tall thin man who’s pale thin hands are crossed over his narrow airless chest.

That man is Mr. Erasmus Undercroft.

Let me prepare you; he will be smiling and his eyes are shut but you know he can see you all the same.

Once long ago before Mr. Eramus Undercroft came to Faraway he lived in a town called Riversleigh.

He tended the gardens at Riversleigh Manor until the day the Servants all disappeared and upon discovering “ something horrible in the Shed” the Riversleigh Family was scared enough to leave their home in the darkness and by foot to the next town which was twenty miles away.

The only living thing the Police found at the Manor was Mr Undercroft standing alone in his Gardener’s Shed smiling.

The headlines of the town’s newspaper declared:
” Where are the Servants of Riversleigh? ”
The mysterious question has been answered by
Grisly Find in the Gardner’s Shed…

“ What did you do to them Mr. Undercroft?” the Law had asked, “ What did you do to all 35 of those poor Souls?”

Mr. Undercroft opened his hand and dropped something onto the table and smiled his cadaverous smile and said, “ Why I sent them Faraway.”

On the table were teeth, 7 teeth and from then on for a very long time Riversleigh Manor was called “The House of the Seven Teeth” and no one locked the doors of Riversleigh
Because nobody would go near the house that went on living after everyone in it had died.

Eventually Mr. Undercroft went Faraway too, but before he left he stayed for a short time in a place called the Prefontaine Asylum for the Criminally Insane in a town called Ravenswood.

When the staff there disappeared and the Patients were found wandering the treacherous hillsides it was quickly noticed that all two hundred of them were all missing their left eye the people of Ravenswood decided it would be best to not go looking for Mr. Eramus Undercroft.

They hoped and hoped he was Faraway…and he was.

That was long ago and now in the shade and fog shrouded village of Faraway Mr. Eramus Undercroft drives a black hearse that is so dark it’s invisible when the sunsets and the sun always sets when it knows Mr. Undercroft is out. He digs graves and feasts on the poisonous fruits that grow in Faraway and when it rains the little droplets of water hiss against his skin.

Mr. Undercroft’s best friend is a man called Mr. Nightfall and when he’s lonely he calls on Miss Praecox and they picnic in the ruined Cemetery Mr. Undercroft calls home.

Across the street from the Cemetery is a little house painted light blue.

It looks empty and should be empty but of course it’s not.

It’s the home Mr.Anthropophagite and Mr. Undercroft has admired Mr.Anthropophagite for a very long time. He just wishes that his pale friend wouldn’t do his own special brand of gardening at the Cemetery.

When the Wardens of Sawajinn come to Faraway in search of Mr.Anthropophagite who lives there inside the Blue House of Shadows it’s Mr. Undercroft who sends them away with little cloth bags full of presents from Mr. Undercrofts days at Prefontaine.

Nowadays Mr. Erasmus Undercroft rides out in his dark black hearse at Midnight and he looks for things to take Faraway.

When he brings them back he turns them loose in Faraway and sometimes he buries them and sometimes he feasts on them and the juices turn his teeth black and make his eyes
Water and the tears eat away at his face like acid.

Mr Erasmus Undercroft is the Chief Gravedigger and Funeral Director in Faraway and he buries the things best forgotten, the things you hope are Faraway.

Only sometimes for fun and it amuses him every single time Mr Erasmus Undercroft brings them back from Faraway.

When his passengers leave his car and swarm and ruin and corrupt everything in their paths you will hear in every storm, fire, war, and plague ridden town he visits…one sound above all the rest.

It’s screaming you’ll hear, and if you listen close you will find it’s not many voices its always one voice and it is not screaming it’s laughing.

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 This additional story was inspired by a project that just started at the Soul Food Cafe:

  http://www.dailywriting.net/

it’s called the ” SOUL FOOD ALPHABET 

and can be found at:

http://www.dailywriting.net/Alphabet/Main.html
 

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The science of alchemy is the science of the conversion of things into other species”Dominicus Gundissalinus, scholastic philosopher.

(flourished ca. 1150)

Faraway at Riversleigh

Riversleigh Manor has been left in darkness and behind the Black House in the Gardner’s Shed Mr. Undercroft, The Undertaker from the town of Faraway is packing a bag.

His pale blue face is smiling and his hair is combed back and his suit has been cleaned and ironed and on his work table among the dusty jars and rusted pruning shears and dirt encrusted garden trowels are shiny sharp tools with curved hooks, thin razor sharp edges, jagged edges and bone handles. As he packs he takes inventory of the clean tools with his long skeletal fingers, not his eyes and when he’s done he carefully folds the tools up in a white linen  cloth decorated  in blue ink.

Then he places the bundle into his black leather case and snaps it shut.

“Leaving us Undercroft” a voice says from the window, “leaving us?”

Undercroft doesn’t look up because he knows there is nothing to see. Instead he looks down and says to the rotted floorboards “not for long, don’t worry I’ll be back.”

“What a shame. We do hate you Undercroft.”

“Likewise” Erasmus Undercroft snaps as he pulls the bag off of the table “likewise to be sure.”

As he leaves the little shed behind the Black House the darkness follows him.

It always does.
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Erasmus watches Riversleigh disappear; she’s hidden herself behind an orchard that has been pretending to be green and alive.

No more pretending now.

He can see the windows crack, the marble fountain in the Courtyard crumble and the curtains turn to dust on their rods. Doors are slamming shut and rusted tumblers are falling into place and locking themselves.

Erasmus can hear the floorboards settle and spilt, he can hear support beams crackle and snap and struggle to hold themselves together. He can feel the Riversleigh’s foundation buckle and crumble and turn to dust under the house.

After its done Mr. Undercroft places his hat on his head, and smiles at the dead house and waves a little before he turns and walks into the hills.
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It could have been days, or weeks or years or minutes before Mr. Undercroft arrived at the Abbey. On that first night the  Black Monks of Fallen passed him on the road up to the gates and he nodded a greeting and they laughed back and one called out, “Good luck to you Undercroft “
Erasmus startled at the sound of his own name. He wasn’t use to being seen…felt but not seen and he frowned a little and started to think…
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Mr. Undercroft found his place in the Abbey, he’s in the Catacombs.

In the miles and miles of tunnels, among the bones and crypts and walls that whisper he was whistling and humming and unpacking his bag and when the door behind him swung open “Kamahra!” a voice calls into the darkness, “before we loose you down there why don’t you take the time now to come upstairs and say hello and have something to eat. You must be famished after your long trip.”

Mr. Undercroft doesn’t answer, there’s only the darkness and the sound of his unpacking, then he remembers to say in the dead woman’s voice “ Starving” Mr. Undercroft says as we puts on the dead woman’s face “I’m Starving”.

THE VON BORMANN’S CHILDREN

BY ANITA MARIE MOSCOSO

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I grew up outside of a town where there’s this small private Cemetery owned by the Von Bormann Family. The Von Bormann Family’s Home is up there on the Bluffs overlooking the Cemetery and there’s some talk about making it into a Historical Landmark.

The Local Smart Alecs started that movement. They are the types that like to go to The Clover Patch Bar and wear t-shirts with sports team logos on them and drink alcohol until they pass out.

The Blue Bloods, who do the exact same thing as the Smart Alecs only they do it in more expensive clothes would like to see the entire 100 acres shoved off the bluffs into the Straights, but you can’t always get what you want… just like Mick Jagger says.

The Von Bormann’ s were this odd family where everyone looked alike, even the husband and wife…who in all probability were actually brother and sister and they had ‘ about a million kids’ and it was said the kids wore really ratty, gray, ugly clothes even though the Von Bormann’ s were suppose to be Mega-Rich.

So the Von Bormann’ s kept having kids and the cemetery kept filling up until there was about 30 graves and the house fell apart little by little and the people in town saw less and less of the Von Bormann’ s until the sightings stopped all together.

The Von Bormann’ s were probably all dead the people in Town thought…though hoped was more likely what they were feeling.

Had the Von Bormann’ s been alive they’d have been way over a hundred when the stories started

It was the stories about the children that came first.

People saw these little kids wandering up and down the road leading to the Von Bormann’ s house in the middle of the night in all sorts of weather. Though, mostly they seemed to be seen more when the weather was bad.

So these people would pull over in their cars and ask the kids if they needed help and these kids would say yes and hop into the car. Then as soon as the car door slammed shut and the driver turned around to ask what on earth are you wondering around at this hour of the night they’d be gone.

Just like that.

Mrs. Woods said that once she stopped to help what she thought were two little girls walking hand in hand up that long dark road and when they got close to the car Mrs. Woods could see that the two little figures only looked liked children from a distance.

But they weren’t…they were twisted and small and as Mrs. Woods would try to explain ” they only looked like children, but they weren’t they were just dried little husks. ”

” Husks of what? ”

Mrs. Woods would be asked and she would shake her head and say, ” Husks, that’s all. Husks.”

Then the story about the Singing Lady in the cemetery started.

She was suppose to be dressed in old fashioned clothes and would wander from grave to grave singing lullabies. Once someone new to town actually talked to the Singing Lady and asked what she was she doing out there in the dark and she said, ” why, I’m singing to my babies of course ” and then she wandered off into the darkness.

Then a few years ago the Blue Bloods got their wish…sort of.

We had this massive rainstorm hit our town, which had started off as a massive blizzard, and we were nearly buried alive in all the snow and ice. Then something called the Pineapple Express tore in off the Pacific and the entire mess turned to water and instead of snow it rained.

And it rained and rained and rained.

Sometime during the storm part of the cliff that the Von Bormann’ s House stood on slid straight into the Straights and took part of the cemetery up there with it.

Coffins and body parts in all sorts of stages of decay started to wash up alone the shoreline.

My Dad was one of the half dozen that went up there to check and see what the state of the rest of the cemetery and the house was in.

The Von Bormann’ s House only looked abandoned. My Dad was convinced someone was watching them from that house ‘ lots of someones ‘ he told me ‘ that house was full of eyes.

Then they made their way carefully to the place where the cemetery was and they saw row after row of sleeping lambs and baby angels and little marble bibles with that prayer little kids say ‘ now I lay me down to sleep’ carved into them.

I’m not sure who noticed the names first, but they started to go from stone to stone and familiar names started to come up…one after the other.

All had once been residents of the Town and later of the Town’s Cemetery.

Now they were up here buried under children’s tombstones.

” Oh God, ” someone said, ” it’s them, it’s Mrs. Von Bormann’ s Babies. ”

This was Mrs. Von Bormann’ s nursery.

The Cemetery.

It probably always had been where her ‘babies’ came from.

Later these people from the Health Department found more of Von Bormann’ s Babies up at the Von Bormann’ s house. They were in the sitting rooms reading books and comics in front of cold dusty fireplaces and in a spider-webbed schoolroom with a blackboard and the ABC’s printed on it in colored chalk.

They held stuffed toys and had ribbons in their hair and some were even sitting on a swinging bench in the backyard.

Corpses.

Mrs. Von Bormann’ s babies.

And to this day no one knows how they got up there.

So if you come to visit me soon (and I hope you do) all I can say is watch out for those kids on the road and if you hear singing coming from the cemetery I suggest you run, not walk away as fast as you can.