Ravenwood, Chapter 20 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Eight:

Yellow Fairy, 3:

Nola caught up to me at the edge of the empty lot where I stood and peered down at a gaping hole.

“How? How is this possible?” She turned in a circle and sounded stunned.

“I don’t know.” I looked around at brush and trees. The hot wind had flattened them. The trees lay on their sides, their upturned roots clogged with damp soil, and their branches stripped of their leaves. All around us looked like a warzone.

“It’s like the mill exploded and every piece of it vanished,” I said.

Nola agreed. “There’s no sign of it anywhere. No glass, no boards. Do you think he…?” She swallowed. “The bully. Do you think he did this?” She looked around at the uprooted trees, probably searching for pieces of his body among the chaos.

“No. This is magic. Big magic.”

But whose? The witch who had rescued Vree from Alice Lake? Or the woman in white?

I needed to think, so I sat on the ground, drew up my legs and wrapped my arms around them, and said nothing for several minutes. Nola sat next me and hugged her own legs. All the while, she watched the toppled treetops as birds and squirrels returned from wherever they had gone during the disturbance.

“What kind of bird is that?” she asked, breaking the silence between us. She pointed at a maple in front of us.

A yellow creature about a foot in size flitted from branch to branch. It had a girlish, humanoid body covered in short, furry blonde hair.

“It’s a fairy,” I said. “A pixie, I think.”

“Don’t pixies have big heads and eyes?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t know much about fairies. But that’s definitely not a hummingbird.”

Nola studied the creature for a moment, then said, “You know, it makes sense that she’s covered in fur. It seems silly to think they live outdoors and fly around naked or wear gossamer robes like in the movies. I never bought into the idea that someone made tiny fairy dresses on tiny looms and sewing machines to keep them warm and dry.”

I agreed.

Nola looked thoughtful. “Every fairy book I’ve read say they only appear at dawn and twilight. I guess they were wrong.”

“I think there’s a lot we don’t know about fairies. Or other things, for that matter. Including Ravenwood.” I stood, offered Nola a hand, and helped her to her feet. She brushed dirt from her backside.

The fairy flew into the deepest and darkest shadows of the empty lot. The ground shook hard again. Green light filled the hole that had been the mill’s cellar.

The ground beneath my feet crumbled and sent me falling on my backside into the cellar. I rolled to my feet when I reached bottom and sucked in earthy air. Nola shouted my name above me.

The air changed to a miserable chill that stabbed my body like a thousand icy knives. The green light grew around me and exploded into a flash of blinding light. A fist of heat hammered me to the ground.

An emerald dust cloud rose in the air around me. I choked on it, then buried my face in my hands and breathed through spaces between my fingers.

When I finally raised my head, the green light was gone, but a small cloud of green fog no taller than six feet swirled in a sphere along the ground and moved toward me.

It stopped when I scrambled to my feet and told it to stay away.

Vree Erikson stepped out of the fog and faced me. She held out a hand and said, “Don’t be afraid.”

I hesitated.

Was it really her? She wore the same clothes she had worn the day she vanished.

My mind filled with questions, but my heart leapt to see her again. She looked more beautiful than I remembered. I took a step toward her and stumbled. She rushed at me, nearly upsetting me further as she embraced me hard.

When she released me, the yellow fairy flew to her and hovered next to her face.

“Take me home,” Vree said to her.

In a moment, Vree and the fairy vanished.

“But where is home?” I called out.

No answer came.

I climbed from the cellar and looked for Nola. She was gone.

I stopped typing and wondered about the mill and other events that had happened in Ravenwood. Little made sense, which, for the most part, was exactly how life was. So why would Ravenwood be any different?

More Ravenwood stories coming soon.

Ravenwood, Chapter 19 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Seven:

Yellow Fairy, 2:

Nola led the way into the big, musty building by moving some loose boards in the wall. The only light came from some broken windows and the missing slats along the upper walls. Whatever machinery had been inside the mill was gone. It was easy going while Nola led me across a long wooden floor to a flight of shaky wooden steps leading to a loft.

I paused at the foot of the stairs. “Do you really come here by yourself?” I asked.

“It’s not as creepy upstairs,” she said. “We’ll be able to see better up there.”

She bounded up the stairs.

The stairs creaked but stayed in place. I followed at a casual, careful pace until rodents squealed and scurried behind me. Then I took two steps at a time.

The loft ran the entire length and width of the mill, sectioned into rooms with closed doors and a dingy hallway that ran along the middle. The only light came from a few holes in the roof.

Nola opened the last door on the left and went inside. I followed and entered a boxy room where daylight from two dusty windows filled the room and revealed cobwebs festooned from ceiling corners. Dust covered the wood floor, and Nola’s bare feet stirred it into the light as she retrieved an acoustic guitar from the left corner of the room where a rolled up sleeping bag also sat. She kicked aside the sleeping bag, picked up a spiral-bound notebook, and unfastened a ballpoint pen from inside the top coils.

“In case I think of any new song lyrics,” she said.

I went to the nearest window and looked through my binoculars out over treetops and Myers Lake. Behind me, Nola strummed a chord. Then her fingers plucked an unfamiliar tune from the strings while I gazed at a red squirrel scampering across a pine branch.

She stopped playing and said, “You can sit, if you want.” She had rolled out the sleeping bag and sat cross-legged on it.

The words were barely out of her mouth when heavy footsteps downstairs startled us. “Someone’s here,” she said, wrapping her arms around her guitar.

The heavy footsteps stopped. Then the stairs creaked as the person below began their ascent.

“Maybe it’s Alan,” I whispered.

The footsteps came up the hall and stopped outside our room.

The boy who entered was not Nola’s brother, but a short and stocky teenager with black hair cut close to his head. He had on a gray-blue T-shirt, black jeans and black leather boots. He surveyed Nola and me with big ebony eyes and a deep scowl between his eyebrows.

“Get out,” he demanded. “You’re trespassing.”

“No we’re not,” Nola said. “You’re the one who’s trespassing.”

Quick as a flash, the boy was over her. His right hand shot out in a fist and whacked her forehead.

“Don’t hit her,” I said and hurried to him. His fist found my abdomen. I doubled over from the pain and gasped for air.

Meanwhile, Nola jumped to her feet, charged at the boy, and swung her guitar at him. The instrument struck a raised forearm with a musical thud and sent him staggering backwards against the wall.

“You need to leave,” he said. “Now!” He pushed from the wall and glared at Nola. “Or do I have to get mean all over again?”

Nola held her guitar like a baseball bat. “I have every right to be here. This is my grandmother’s property.”

“I don’t care.”

I sucked at the room’s stale air, breathing hard. “Hey,” I said, “what’s your problem?”

“Shut up!” The boy pointed a finger at me. “You two have one minute to leave this place.”

“Fine,” Nola said, lowering her guitar. She went to the sleeping bag and picked up her terrycloth skirt.

“Take the sleeping bag and that book of crappy poems with you,” the boy said.

“It’s not crap,” Nola grumbled. She put down her guitar and rolled the bag with her notebook zipped inside it. As she tied the strings of her bag, I went and picked up her guitar and thought about whacking the jerk over the head with it.

“You have less than a minute,” he called out. “I wouldn’t piss around if I were you.”

“You shouldn’t swear,” Nola said.

The boy pointed at her again. “You’re almost out of time.”

Nola’s posture slumped as she and I left the room without saying a word. We hurried down the hall and I almost missed a step on the stairs. Outside, she said, “He has no right to be here or to bully us.” She threw her sleeping bag on the ground. “I should have punched him. You should have punched him. We both should have punched him in his big ugly mouth. Just who does that jerk think he is?”

I rubbed my sore stomach and tried to think of something to say. Nola was on the verge of tears.

“He’s just a punk,” I said before the ground trembled beneath our feet. A white flash came from the front of the old mill. I jumped, startled. A hot wind from the mill pushed at us and knocked me on my backside. Nola fell with me. She reached out against the wind and found me. We embraced as debris of grass and leaves flew over us. For several seconds, I thought the world had ended in an atomic blast.

When the wind stopped, I sat up. The old cider mill gone.

To be continued.

Ravenwood, Chapter 18 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Six:

Yellow Fairy, 1:

I had no more dreams about Ravenwood and I stayed away from my typewriter for two months. Soon, it was time to go back to school. Tenth grade started with the usual business of settling into new classes and adjusting to new activities and turning them into routines. I started a new writing notebook and my thoughts about Vree and Ravenwood started again, as well, so I visited her old place one sunny September Saturday morning. But she and her family were not there. An old man and his wife had moved in, along with a German shepherd that did not like me snooping around.

I crossed the road and walked past the house that used to be Dave and Amy’s home. Where were they? Why had everyone I knew vanished?

The hilly road led me to a four-stop intersection at a high point on Myers Ridge. A white dune buggy sat in the middle.

“Need a ride?” the driver asked. He was dark-skinned and shirtless. His long black hair, gathered in a leather tie at his neck, draped across his right shoulder and fell down his smooth, muscular chest. He climbed from the buggy. “All yours. Learn all you can about the Great Mysterious.” He turned and walked away in the direction I had come from.

“Hey,” I said. “What’s the deal?”

He stopped and turned. “Follow the fairy.” He pointed at the clouds. A silver and turquoise bracelet gleamed on his wrist.

I looked at the sky and saw no fairy.

“What’s your name?” I asked, returning my attention to the broad-shouldered man.

“If you have to ask, then you need extra help.” The man pulled a tan leather bag from a front pocket of his blue jeans, undid the drawstring, and reached inside. His large hand stretched at the leather before it extracted something small.

“Fluorite, to grow your mind,” he said, coming to me and handing me a smooth stone with purple and blue striations. “Keep it at the head of your bed when you sleep.” He placed a cool right palm against my forehead. “She calls to you,” he said. “She comes in many disguises. That is the way of Trickster.”

“Who?”

He removed his hand. “Trickster is both a creator and a destroyer. In our world, Trickster is a contradictory and ambiguous being who is also a spiritual force that teaches us about the Great Mysterious.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“You must go,” he said, turning away.

“Go where?”

“Follow the fairy. She’s yellow, not so easy to see when the sky is so sunny. Use the binoculars.”

A large pair of black field glasses sat on the passenger seat.

We said nothing more to each other as he left me at the intersection, so I used the binoculars to scan the sky for his yellow fairy.

I soon gave up, shoved the stone in a front pocket of my jeans, and sat behind the wheel of the custom-made vehicle. It had an automatic transmission and drove like a go-kart, picking up speed fast and zipping toward the bottom of Myers Ridge.

I drove to a beach and stopped at the water’s edge. Something yellow zipped past my left ear.

Was it the fairy?

If so, I could not see which way it went.

I searched the sky and soon rested my gaze on a white bird.

A seagull?

No. A crow. A white crow.

A splash from Alice Lake took my attention away from the bird. A boy fell to his oars to control the rocking boat. Someone had jumped overboard. My binoculars revealed a girl swimming toward me. Once the rocking stopped, the bare-chested boy rowed to where the girl had exited the water at the shoreline.

She was drenched and dripped water from her long auburn hair and her red, one-piece swimsuit while she stood over me, quizzing me about the vehicle I sat in.

“Yes, it’s mine,” I said. I stared past her while the boy finished beaching the rowboat.

“Hey,” he said, hurrying up the sandy slope. “Nice looking ride.” He tossed the girl a white terrycloth skirt.

She caught it and said, “It’s his.”

“Cool.” The boy tugged up the waist of his dark blue swim trunks and nodded at me. “Seen anything interesting?” he asked. His gaze rested on the black binoculars hanging from a black leather strap around my neck.

“A weird looking crow,” I returned.

“I like the Stellar’s Jay,” he said, running a hand through his thick, dark hair.

The girl groaned. “And I like penguins. But anyone with a brain knows they’re not native to Pennsylvania.”

The boy sputtered. “Did I say they were?”

“No, but Pennsylvania only has the Blue Jay.”

“No kidding, Miss I-think-I-know-everything.”

The girl emitted a whispered expletive and crossed her arms.

“I’m Steve,” I said.

“Nola,” the girl said. She scowled at the boy. “He’s my stupid little brother, Alan.”

Alan rolled his eyes. “Who’s the idiot who jumped in the water instead of waiting for me to row ashore?”

Nola’s jaw muscles tensed but she said nothing while she toweled her hair with her skirt. I told them about seeing the white crow. “I thought it was a sea gull, but it was definitely a crow and not an albino one, either. It didn’t have pink eyes.”

“That means it’s super rare and super magic,” Nola said. She had climbed into the buggy and sat on the passenger side. “I’ve read about them. White crows don’t show themselves to humans unless they have something to say. And some Native Americans say if a white crow flies overhead, circling you, it means something important is going to happen in your future.”

Alan shook his head. “Sorry, sis, you’re a few cards short of a full deck for believing in such nonsense.”

“Buzz off,” Nola said. She turned to me and apologized. “He’s such a jerk.”

Alan laughed. “Yeah, well, I’m rowing over to the amusement park where the sane people are.” He headed to the boat.

“Care if I hang with you awhile?” Nola asked me.

I shrugged. Alan got into the boat and pushed it free from the shore with an oar. “You have fun chasing your imagination, sis,” he called out.

“What does he know?” Nola said, her gaze suddenly locked on my face.

It made me uncomfortable, so I brought the binoculars to my eyes and pretended to search for the crow.

“Let’s go to the old abandoned cider mill,” she said.

“What cider mill?” I asked.

“On the other side of these trees.” She pointed to a cluster of maples to our left.

“And do what?”

“I keep an old guitar in the loft. It’s where I go sometimes to let off steam. Its upper windows have a good view of the treetops … perfect for seeing the white crow flying around.”

Chances of seeing the crow again intrigued me.

We got out of the buggy and I followed Nola toward the mill. The air inside the tree cover was cool enough to make her wrap her skirt around her shoulders. The wide, well-trodden footpath we were on went past dense undergrowth and bushes and wound around curves made by hillocks and tangles of vines and thorny horse brier that sometimes seemed to stand in our way.

We reached sunlight and the summery grassland where a dilapidated two-story mill sat along a hillside where a stream ran down it.

“My Grandma Charlie bought the mill years ago from one of her uncles. She ran the place for a few years, but New Cambridge Vineyard made a cheaper, better tasting cider, so she closed up and concentrated solely on running her bookstore and curio shop in downtown Alice Lake.”

“Your grandmother’s name is Charlie?” I asked.

“Short for Charlene.”

Nola and I climbed to the front of the place where the field grass was not as thick or high. Gravel crunched beneath my tennis shoes where the parking lot had been.

“Come on,” Nola said as she led me to the padlocked front door.

To be continued.

Ravenwood, Chapter 17 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Five:

The woman was white—from her long hair and porcellaneous skin, to her long gossamer gown that revealed a thin but shapely body. White light glowed around her like a bright aura.

“Who are you?” Dave asked.

“Come,” she said, and lifted her arms at the sky. She and Dave vanished. So did Vree’s house and backyard—all of Myers Ridge and Ravenwood until nothing was left of earth and sky but a vast grayness.

Someone knocked at my bedroom door and my mom called me to supper.

I sat at my desk for several minutes, in front of my Remington typewriter, wondering what had happened. My head was full of questions when I went downstairs and ate. It was still filled with questions when I returned to my typewriter.

Ravenwood was there as I remembered it, but the people I knew were gone. No Dave and Amy, no band called ARC, and no Vree. Even their parents were gone.

The sinkhole was gone too.

For several days, I searched Ravenwood, looking for my friends.

I finally gave up and stopped writing. What was the point if it meant starting over and developing friendships with strangers?

By summer vacation, I hadn’t visited Ravenwood for several months, though I dreamed about still searching for Vree, Dave, and the others and not finding them.

One night, I dreamed that an amnesic young woman known as Jane Doe slumped in her oversized wicker wheelchair. Her caretaker, Rachel Pennwater, sister of Dr. Henry Pennwater, had parked her chair again in front of the parlor’s largest window so she could look out at the hilly, tree-lined neighborhood. Rachel took her there every afternoon and claimed looking at the people and gasoline automobiles that puttered along the woodland section of New Cambridge could help bring back memories of her past.

Jane’s mind was blank, though she was coherent for the moment; the regimen of drugs would begin again after supper. She wished to be painless and drug free. The medicine kept her from thinking.

She squinted past the silver-gray skylight stabbing through the large window. It was July, but the city sky looked far from being summery. Thunder sounded. A darkened sheet of low-sailing clouds threatened to pour down rain. Lightning lit up the view outdoors and for a moment, she saw a shadowy figure standing at the tall, black iron fence in front of the house. A young man, a teenager perhaps, was dressed in a long black raincoat and stood looking through the bars at her. Then he went to the entrance gate and started up the sidewalk leading to the house.

Her heart beat faster.

His features became clearer the closer he got to the front door.

He looked familiar.

She balled her hands into tight fists and waited for the sound of the doorbell.

To be continued … maybe.