Ravenwood, Chapter 21 [fiction]

Do Overs, Part 1:

I stayed away from Ravenwood over the winter and didn’t visit again until almost the end of the school year, 1973. Baseball season was in full swing (pun intended) and so were preparations for final exams. I was feeling academic overload when I sat down at my typewriter that Saturday afternoon and decided to peek in on Ravenwood.

“She calls to you. She comes in many disguises. That is the way of Trickster,” a woman’s voice said as I entered the town at the eastern bank of Myers Creek beneath Cherry Street’s cement bridge. No one was there.

It was a warm sunny day, seventy degrees, and the perfect day to fish. I bobbed my fishing line and remembered the day I had met Vree at this spot.

The boy gave me the once-over after he slid down the creek’s embankment and entered the narrow strip of grassy underside below the steel bridge. “Hey,” he said to me, friendly but with a note of suspicion.

I said it back, then left him alone until his hook and bait were in the deep middle of the creek and a few cars had rumbled by overhead.

“Fish here often?” I asked when the disturbed dirt and dust had settled.

“Yeah.” He played his line. “Never seen you around before. Are you new to the neighborhood?”

I considered how to answer his question. “Just visiting,” I said.

He seemed okay with that, so I told him my name. He told me his: Liam Burkhart. “But my friends call me Lee.”

I smiled that he wanted us to be friends.

Liam

After we traded introductions, we did not speak again until I reeled in my empty hook, went to my tackle box, and closed it up. My head was full of thoughts about Vree and practically everything that had happened after I met her.

“Are you leaving?” he asked when I headed up the embankment.

“Looking up some old friends,” I said.

“Can I come along?”

I said okay and waited for him to reel in his line and catch up. We crossed the bridge and walked up the street. He said, “Who are they? Maybe I know them.”

“Dave and Amy Everly. They live on Myers Ridge.”

“I live on Myers Ridge,” Liam said. “Dave and Amy are my neighbors.”

I grinned. This was good news. I gambled my sudden happiness by asking, “Does their cousin, Vree Erikson, still live on Myers Ridge?”

“Do you know her?”

“We met a couple years ago.”

“She’s also a neighbor. She’s at a softball game.”

“Is she playing at the complex?” I asked. “I’d like to see her again.”

“Come on,” Liam said.

The ball fields were less than three blocks away. Liam led me to Vree’s game and we sat at the top row of the bleachers behind home plate. A pretty girl with curly brown hair sat a few feet to my right. She clapped and cheered for the team, New Gospel, to win.

“Who’s winning?” I asked her.

She stopped cheering and addressed me with a cool look. “Bottom of the seventh,” she said. “Nazarenes are up five to four.”

“I’m Steve,” I said, smiling at her. “Aren’t you Amy? Amy Everly?”

Amy

She squinted at me. “Do I know you?”

Apparently not.

“We met … briefly … a couple years ago.”

“He came to see Vree,” Liam said.

Amy pointed at home plate. “That’s her at bat.”

The teams wore no uniforms, just T-shirts and jeans. Most of the girls wore ball caps and had their hair in ponytails, including Vree. She began the final half-inning by fouling a pitch from the Nazarene Church’s ace pitcher, Jenny Blake. Amy told Liam and me that Jenny had been throwing hot strikes all game and was still striking out batters.

Vree fouled the second pitch, which cleared the backstop and practically landed in my lap. Unlike the last time, I threw the ball back onto the field.

Vree

With two strikes under her belt, Jenny Blake’s next pitch came in low. In her excitement to get a hit, Vree swung at the pitch and missed. The ball scooted under the catcher and zipped straight to the backstop. Vree, aware of this, never hesitated. She raced to first base as the catcher caught up with the ball and threw to first base. The speedy Vree beat the throw.

The next batter headed to the batter’s box.

“Just make contact, Kendra,” Amy yelled.

“Trying for the long ball,” the third baseman yelled out to her teammates. Then to Jenny, “Throw her the heat.”

Kendra hit the first pitch—bang—into deep centerfield. It cleared the chain-link fence for a home run.

We stood and cheered, then I turned to Amy and asked, “Do you still play guitar?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Why?”

“I remember you had a band called ARC.”

“No. I have a band called The Amys.”

“Really?”

“Yes. We have some songs on the town’s radio station. You should give it a listen.”

“I will,” I said to her fleeting backside as she sprinted down the bleachers.

On the ball field, the teams had lined up along the third base line in a game ending ritual of touching hands and saying “Good game.”

This was it. Game over. Soon, I would meet Vree for the first time all over again.

To be continued.

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.

 

Ravenwood, Chapter 16 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Four:

“Believe in things much greater and far more mysterious than we can explain,” Nancy Pennwater Stephenson said to me.

She had just exited the front door of Vree’s house after speaking to Mr. and Mrs. Erikson. They followed her out and seemed to have no problem believing that Vree had gone back in time.

“Why aren’t you upset?” I asked them. “Why aren’t you angry that she’s in the past and dead again?” I went to the sinkhole, stood over it and gazed inside. The rain had stopped a few minutes after Vree had fallen into the hole, but new storm clouds threatened to unleash their burden on us.

Nancy came to me and said, “It’s okay. We did what we could to save her.” She turned and said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Erikson. “I have a room at the Alice Lake Motel,” she said to them. “Call me if you need anything. I’ll help as much as I can … whatever I can do.”

“Vree was pregnant,” I said. “How does someone get pregnant without having sex? It’s biologically impossible for the human species.”

“It will make sense when the time is right,” Nancy said. She got into her Sunbird and drove away.

“Go home,” Mr. Erikson said to me. He was tall and his hair was the same blonde color as Vree’s. “We’ll let you know of any changes.” He led his wife indoors.

I kicked a clump of sod into the sinkhole. How could they be so nonchalant about Vree’s death?

Thunder boomed. Electricity filled the air. The sound of a thousand bees came from the sky. My hair stood. Lightning struck an old oak tree less than thirty yards away. I stumbled, almost fell, then caught my balance and stood upright.

Green light swirled deep inside the sinkhole. I stood close to the edge of the hole and jumped. I did not fall. I went nowhere. I stood on top of the sinkhole and defied the law of gravity.

I stepped off invisible ground and jumped again. Again, I stood on top of the sinkhole.

What was going on?

I needed to talk to someone.

Dave was in a wicker chair on his front porch when I crossed the road to his house. He nodded and said “uh-huh” and “okay” while I paced the wooden floor and recounted everything that had taken place. When I finished, he gazed at me for a moment, then said, “Well, that’s certainly interesting.”

Amy opened the screen door and stepped onto the porch. “Are you on drugs?” she asked me.

“No,” I said, offended.

“That is the biggest cockamamie story I have ever heard. Maybe Dave believes it, but I don’t. Not for a minute.”

“It’s true. Why would I make it up?” I turned to Dave and admitted that I didn’t know what to do. I sounded frantic.

“There’s nothing you can do,” he said.

I groaned. “There has to be something.”

“Like what?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know.”

A shriek came from inside the house.

“Mom?” Amy fumbled with the door. I followed as she and Dave ran to the living room. Mrs. Everly stared at the TV set on the floor. Her eyes were wide.

A rough impression on the TV’s snowy screen resembled Vree’s face.

“Holy crap,” Amy said.

The air crackled. My neck hair seemed alive. I scratched at it.

Dave scratched his neck too. He crouched in front of the screen.

Vree’s image vanished. A woman in black tap-danced on a white stage.

“Channel ten,” Dave said.

“A Canadian station,” I said.

“Yes.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s going on?” Mrs. Everly asked.

“Vree’s missing,” Dave said. He jumped up and said to me, “Come on.”

I followed him outdoors, to Vree’s house. We stopped at the sinkhole and peered inside. The green light was gone. He said, “You tried to jump in the hole so you could follow Vree, but there was a force field that kept you from entering.”

“Right.”

He got on his hands and knees and put a hand in the hole. “There’s no force field now.” He sounded disappointed.

“And no green light,” I pointed out.

“You said the green light came twice.”

“Yes. The first time was after Vree fell in the hole. A creepy baritone voice said ‘We have her’ and the light vanished. The second time was when lightning struck that tree over there.” I pointed to the oak.

Dave looked at the sky. The storm clouds had gone away but the sky was still overcast. He stood. “I think I know what happened. The lightning energized a wormhole through time and sent Vree to the past. But I don’t know how she became pregnant.”

“Magic,” a woman said behind us.

To be continued.

Ravenwood, Chapter 15 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Three:

The next day, Vree and I sat in lawn chairs behind her house on Myers Ridge. I shivered from the unseasonable forty-degree weather despite a rich July sunshine that hurt my eyes as it glared off the back of Vree’s house. I turned away and rested my gaze on her. She wore the same white sweatshirt she had worn the night a hellhound pushed her from Myers Ridge.

“Every drugstore test has showed positive,” she said. Her voice was hoarse from crying. “How? How can I be pregnant? You have to have sex with someone.” She wrung her hands. “I’ll get an abortion,” she said matter-of-factly.

I shook my head. “Your parents will find out. You have to have their consent.”

“They’re going to find out whether I get an abortion or not. I can’t hide pregnancy from them.”

“There has to be a mistake.”

She was quiet for a moment. Then a sob erupted from her. “What am I going to do? I’m too young to be a mom.” She shook. I leaned close and embraced her. She wept against my shoulder. I held her tight and stroked her hair. Strange warmth of brotherly love and sorrow for her cocooned me. I wanted to protect her, to help her find a way out of her predicament. But how?

“I need to think,” she said. She pulled from me and stood. I followed and looked at the sky filling with a low front of rain clouds coming fast as if they were alive and late for something important.

“Do you think Nancy has told my parents?” she asked.

“They wouldn’t believe her.”

“She has the book.”

“Did you read it?” I asked.

“It shocked me.”

“Me too.”

Vree frowned for a second. Then she looked at me wide-eyed. “Do you believe time travel is real?” she asked, then laughed and called herself stupid. “Of course it is. The old woman is my daughter from an accident that sent me to the past.” She laughed again, louder, and paced in front of me. “This is all crazy. I’m crazy. How can my so-called-daughter be here when she hasn’t been born yet by a girl who is pregnant and has never had sex?”

I had no answers.

Raindrops fell on us.

“She said I fell into green light.” Vree stopped pacing. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

The rain quickened.

“I’m going in now.” Vree headed to the backdoor thirty yards away. A moment later, the ground vibrated. I stumbled backward against my chair, which kept me from falling. Vree had stopped walking. She held her arms out, like a surfer riding a wave. The ground trembled again, harder than before, and opened beneath her.

She scrambled to get out of the ground swallowing her.

I ran, lunged, landed on my stomach, and missed one of her outstretched hands by inches. The hole widened and threatened to take me too until I crawled backward.

Thunder boomed where storm clouds churned and rumbled.

Heat blanketed me as a bolt of lightning struck the center of the hole. There was an explosion in my skull as a plume of green light erupted from the hole. Electricity filled the air. My head throbbed; fire tore inside my lungs. Heavy rain fell and cooled the air. I fell to my hands and knees, scrambled to the edge of the sinkhole, and called Vree’s name.

I did not care if the hole widened and I fell in too.

Green light emanated inside, far at the bottom.

Vree had fallen into the green light.

“We have her,” a deep voice said.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“She is not yours to have. She will forget you.”

“Why? What’s going on?”

The light faded. The hole went dark.

I called out to the voice, demanded it to answer me.

It did not.

To be continued.

Ravenwood, Chapter 14 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part Two:

I hoped the crowd didn’t notice my nervousness when I took the stage and played the harmonica intro to ARC’s first number, a cue to the band to take the stage. Vree was last from the storage room behind the stage as she followed Amy, Dave, Riley, and Cheryl to the instruments and microphones awaiting them. I nodded at her when she passed, but she seemed far away, likely lost in nervous thought.

Amy took lead guitar and microphone, and was especially loud through the first set of songs. An hour later, she and the rest of us were on our last number. The music hammered the pine floor beneath my feet, vibrated up my back and down my shoulders, including the sore one Nancy’s book had caused.

It was the only time I thought of the strange woman during our performance.

Behind me, Cheryl attacked her drum kit; her sweat rained on me. Next to me, Riley played a Moog synthesizer and was the only one not wearing blue jeans or any of ARC’s monogrammed T-shirts. She wore a yellow miniskirt instead and had her manicured fingernails highly polished for the night’s event. Next to her, Dave expertly fingered his electric bass guitar while at the front of the stage, Amy and Vree sang harmony to a wave of arms and hands rippling across a sea of teenagers clogging The Roundhouse’s dance floor. Glittering strobe lights spun across them until our song came to a climactic crash of guitar, organ, cymbals, and drums.

Sudden houselights bathed the room in brilliant white light. I squinted out at the eruption of applauding kids who slowly emptied the floor, except where autograph seekers hurried to the stage’s only exit, adding to the crashing waves of squeals and noisy talk boxing at my numb ears.

I put away my harmonica and shoved its leather case into a front pocket of my jeans, then turned and caught Vree looking at me before she followed Amy off the stage. I hurried after her into the crowd of autograph seekers.

A redheaded girl in a lime green T-shirt with ARC stenciled on the front pushed up to me when I stepped onto the dance floor. She looked older than the rest of the girls in the crowd, and I figured she was a college girl from the campus over at New Cambridge.

“I love your band,” she said as she lifted the front of her shirt and asked me for an autograph. She was braless.

“No pen,” I said, but the girl held a black marker in front of my face. I hesitated, felt my face reddening, and smiled nervously at a linebacker-sized muscular guy behind the girl. He glared at me, lifted his meaty hands, and clenched them into mammoth fists at me.

“Sign my twins,” the girl cried out.

“You’re not at a strip club,” Amy said to the girl. “Put those away.”

“You can sign, too,” the girl replied. The crowd cheered her on. The guy’s stare remained fixed on me until Vree stepped up, lifted her own T-shirt, and revealed a pink bra.

“The only breasts Steve touches are these,” she said. Then she pulled down her shirt, whirled, and took me by the arm and led me around the stage to the wobbly round table inside the restricted equipment room.

Giddy from the event, I dropped onto an ancient footstool beneath a rattling air conditioner above me and laughed.

“You would find that funny.” Vree’s blue-green eyes peered down at me wonderingly. I nodded.

“Thanks for rescuing me,” I said. “I owe you.”

Suddenly, she kissed me on the lips.

“Get a room,” Amy said as she and the rest of ARC surrounded the table. They attacked a large red bowl of popcorn in the center, and then applauded when Vree’s auburn-haired mom arrived with a pitcher of root beer and plastic glasses filled with ice cubes.

“I heard what happened,” Mrs. Erikson said. She pointed at Vree who had taken a seat next to me. “Don’t entice the crowd, young lady. I don’t need any fines.”

“But, Mom,” Vree whined, “that girl and her anthropoid boyfriend started it.”

“And I took care of it,” Mrs. Erikson said. She turned her attention to Amy and Riley sitting side by side. “That last song was quite impressive. It got everybody dancing; including me.” She beamed. Then she snapped her fingers as though she had remembered something important. “There’s an elderly woman at the bar who wants to talk to you,” she said to Vree. “I can send her in, or you can go out there.”

“I’ll be out in a minute,” Vree said before her mother headed out into the noisy room of teenagers.

I thought about the claims Nancy Pennwater Stephenson had made. “Don’t go,” I said.

Vree stood and dodged Cheryl who hurried past her to practically dive on a duffel bag near the exit door. As Vree walked out the front door, Cheryl withdrew a large bag of green onion potato chips. Amy and Riley applauded as she hurried back, ripping open the bag and sending several chips flying to the floor.

Dave watched, almost transfixed by their frenzy. “Save some for the rest of us,” he said. The girls ignored him and shoved potato chips into their mouths. I turned away and wondered about Vree.

When she returned minutes later, she looked lost in serious thought.

“Are you okay?” I asked as soon as she sat. “You look—”

“I’m fine. Okay? Fine!”

I was surprised that she had yelled at me. What had Nancy told her to upset her?

Vree tapped my shoulder and whispered an absurdity at me. Then she stood and hurried out the back door. I let her go and said nothing to the others who saw her leave.

To be continued.

Ravenwood, Chapter 13 [fiction]

Changing the Future, a Story, Part One:

A Fourth of July gig at The Roundhouse had Amy’s band, ARC, scheduled to play at seven o’clock that evening. Vree’s parents were the new owners of the old roller rink that had been converted to a dance club, and they were happy to have a house band that featured their daughter.

I played an okay harmonica and Amy asked me a few weeks ago to play during some of the songs that night. She even listed me on posters as a member of the band after I agreed to play.

A half-hour before starting time, I went in search of Vree. She liked to sit inside the walk-in refrigerator before performances so she would stay cooler longer on stage. I sat with her and practiced tunes on my harmonica.

Ten minutes before seven, Vree left the refrigerator to use the toilet one last time before the show. I stayed behind, closed my eyes, and listened to the muffled sounds of teenagers filling the dining hall beyond the kitchen. I didn’t hear the refrigerator door open and close, or the old woman take a seat on the stool next to the shelves of lettuce and tomatoes. My mind was on my music when she coughed.

My eyes flew open and I sat up on my stool.

“Are you Steve Campbell?” she asked, then sniffled and took a Kleenex from her white sweater wrapped tightly around her, and brought it shakily to her blue nose with a wrinkled, blue-gray hand. Her painted nails matched her bright red lipstick. “Of course you are,” she said between dabs with the Kleenex. “It’s all in the book.”

“What book?” I asked.

“Don’t think me insane,” she said. “You are my father.”

“What?”

“It’s true.” She shivered for a second from the refrigerator’s cool air circulated by a large, slow-moving fan overhead. “My name is Nancy Pennwater Stephenson. My father, the man who raised me, was a physician—Henry Pennwater, from Pittsburgh. He was vacationing at Ravenwood in 1904, at a cottage at Alice Lake, and was hiking along a ridge line behind the lake when he discovered a young woman injured and in shock. She went into a coma before he could get her to the local hospital. He later transported her to a private facility in Pittsburgh where she resided in a coma for nine years. That young woman’s name was Verawenda Erikson.”

“Is this a joke?” I glanced at the door, waiting for someone to enter and yell “Surprise.”

“It’s no joke.” Nancy returned the Kleenex to her pocket, then pulled a large, black leather purse from the floor and placed it on her lap. “Before I show you this book, I need to explain who I am and why you must believe me.”

I glanced at my Timex wristwatch. I had five minutes left before I needed to take the stage.

“Your parents gave you that watch on your fifteenth birthday,” Nancy said. “Or, that’s what Vree told me.”

“How do you know Vree?” I asked.

“I told you. She’s my mother.”

I said nothing. Ravenwood was a weird place, but this was too weird.

Nancy said, “During her first months while comatose, it became obvious to the hospital staff that their mysterious Jane Doe patient was pregnant. I was born seven months later via caesarean delivery.” She took a black leather book from her purse and held it to her breast. “Henry took me in and raised me. He took Vree in, too, after she awoke from her coma. She suffered amnesia until last year while she was dying.”

“Dying? Wait a minute—”

Nancy held up a hand. “I wrote down everything she told me when her memory returned. It’s all here, just as she described it to me, including how the two of you used to sit in this very same refrigerator before her band went on stage.”

How did she know this?

“Who are you?” I asked.

Nancy held out the book. “The answers are in here. Please read it. I’m trying to save her life. She must stay away from Myers Ridge.”

“But she lives there.”

“I know. Please read the book.”

When my hesitant hand finally took the book, a hard slap of static electricity stung my fingers and shot pain through my hand, down my arm and into my shoulder. I recoiled from the offering and dropped the book. Tears actually welled in my eyes.

“I have to go,” I said, no longer interested in being a part of this woman’s craziness.

“I’m sorry about the static shock,” Nancy said. “It’s all about electrical fields and time travel—things I don’t understand.”

I spun and hurried out the door. It banged against the outer wall. The kitchen was empty of Mrs. Erikson’s usual staff. They were in the dining hall serving sodas and popcorn at the bar.

“There will be lightning and an earthquake,” Nancy called out. “Vree said there was an earthquake before she fell.”

I dodged past the stainless steel table with pots and pans hanging overhead. I rubbed at my shoulder as I went.

“It’s going to happen again, unless you change things,” Nancy said as I charged into the busy dining hall. “Change the future for us all.”

To be continued.

Ravenwood, Chapter 12 [fiction]

High School:

By ninth grade, high school became center stage for me, as well as Vree. That winter, she signed up for her school’s softball team and I signed up for my school’s baseball team. Only Vree ever developed into a star player.

Unlike my high school, which was built in the 1950s, Ravenwood High was a fancy building of brick, cement, and safety glass built in 1969. Located at Jefferson Avenue northeast of the center of town, the school housed grades 7 through 12, a big auditorium for plays and concerts and pep rallies, and a long and tall gymnasium for physical education classes and basketball and volleyball games.

Ravenwood High School
The school counselor and medical offices were in the heart of the building, giving students convenient access to all services. The administrative offices were in the east wing, and the main entrance and major corridor were centrally located to accommodate students, parents, and the community.
Slim gray lockers lined pastel colored hallway walls, and during the school year smells of food wafted from the huge cafeteria until 1 PM, and cookies and cakes scented the west hall all day where the Home Economic classes were located. Rally banners hung near the sports trophy case in the main hall and depending on the time of year, boasted demands for victories in football, basketball, wrestling, track, cross country, and baseball. Soccer, softball, swimming, bowling, golf and tennis were new sports added to the school’s athletics program and did not rank important enough for banners.
Behind the school was a spacious football field complete with fancy stadium-like lights, roomy bleachers, and soon-to-be-installed professional grade turf. Next door was the baseball field. It too had fancy lights and roomy bleachers as well as brand-new concrete dugouts, pitchers’ bullpens, and a well-tended mound. Dave played on the baseball team. He, too, was a star player.Ravenwood High’s colors were Navy Blue and White, and it proudly displayed the Fighting Eagle as its mascot and “Committed to Excellence: Wisdom Giveth Life” for its motto.After Vree made her softball team’s junior varsity squad, I wrote a few softball stories about her until June came and our schools emptied for another summer. We both graduated to tenth grade and I spent the first few weeks recuperating from nine months of academia overload. I would not write another story about Vree until July 4, 1972.

Ravenwood, Chapter 11 [fiction]

Hellhounds, a Spooky Story:

Vree Erikson, the pretty girl who lived atop Myers Ridge, became my favorite fictional person to write about during the 1971-1972 school year. It was also when my stories took a turn for the unexplained.

After our Halloween meeting at Dave and Amy’s place, I saw her again one November Saturday night in 1971 when I sat at my typewriter after supper and went to visit her, Dave, and Amy. We all wore jeans and sweatshirts and Dave wore a yellow windbreaker jacket. They waited at the campfire and a circle of lawn chairs behind the barn at Dave and Amy’s place. Vree and Amy sat cross-legged in lawn chairs on the other side of the fire, whispering and giggling. When Amy saw me, she actually patted the empty chair next to her and told me to sit. I chose the empty chair next to Vree and sniffed at the aromas of hotdogs, wood smoke, and Vree’s perfume that smelled like oranges. Her long blonde hair looked golden in the firelight, and she had on white furry mittens that seemed to make her all the more beautiful.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Dave said to me from across the fire, seeming to awaken from a trance after Vree gave me a whittled stick and a hotdog to roast. “Take a look at the Myers place and tell me what you see.”

I had to turn around since old Myers Mansion languished behind me, inside a thicket of property below the side yard. The place was barely visible in the darkness. No moonlight broke the cloud cover above us, so I squinted at the dark and spooky shapes of the long-ago abandoned house.

“What am I supposed to see?” I asked. I knew that a famous Broadway playwright named Joseph Myers had built the once prominent house ninety years ago before he and his wife disappeared.

“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. “Always with the ghosts.”

“Actually, apparitions of some dogs. Three of them as plain as day.” Dave held up three fingers for us to see. He said to me, “They vanished when I told the girls about them. But I saw them again right before you came.”

“Dogs can be ghosts?” I asked.

“Myers bred hunting dogs,” Dave said between large bites taken from a roasted hotdog. “Then one hot summer day he and his wife and dogs froze to death inside the house. So, yeah, dogs can be ghosts, just like people can be ghosts.”

Amy groaned. “If they really froze to death, where are the photos or the newspaper articles?” She turned to me. “No one knows how or why Joseph and Emma Myers vanished, but the police concluded they died in a plane crash during a trip to the Caribbean. Joseph was a pilot and owned his own airplane. The plane vanished during the same time they did.” She looked back at her brother. “But you go on believing your make-believe nonsense.” She popped a peppermint Life Saver candy into her mouth and offered Vree and me some.

“Those dogs died,” Dave said. “Whether they froze to death or died because they starved to death when Myers didn’t come back from vacation, they died.”

His words silenced us. Then Vree spoke up.

“Grandma believes a witch killed them and hid their bodies somewhere.”

Dave sat forward. “She told you this?”

“I read it in one of her old diaries by accident. We were cleaning her attic. She took the book from me before I could read anything else.”

“I can’t believe she would write such a thing,” Amy said.

“Well, it’s true … the diary, I mean. She wrote it. I saw it. She believes a witch killed her parents.”

Again, we were silent, only a lot longer this time.

I glanced at where a field of rolling land ran a half-mile behind the house to the steep-sided cliffs overlooking Alice Lake. I had drawn the field, the cliffs and lake, and the houses and people here. They were my creations, but I knew little about them.

Who was this witch Vree spoke about?

I pulled my overcooked hotdog from the fire and ate it without a bun or any dressing, and snuck glances at quiet Vree sky gazing. A stick snapped behind us and caused me to turn partway around. The dark shape of a human figure stepped into our circle of chairs. She passed her right hand in front of her face and the fiery hues of the campfire brightened, revealing a stunning woman. Flame glinted from her long black hair, her bronze face, and her long, sweeping black dress tied off at the waist. A white lace collar hung around her neck, and pearl buttons sparkled in a row between her ample breasts.

She stopped at the fire and seemed to float to the grass. She tucked her legs beside herself and covered her bare feet beneath her dress.

No one said anything. Vree still gazed at the sky, Amy looked asleep, and Dave seemed mesmerized by the fire again. Even the flames had stopped moving.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “I don’t want to trespass on your gathering, but you beckoned me.”

“Who beckoned you?” I asked.

She looked at me with mesmerizing and penetrating eyes—blacker than either her hair or dress or the rubies set in the gold rings she wore on eight fingers and two thumbs. “You did, young sir. I could not deny your invitation or resist warming at your fire.” She smiled for a moment, stretching bright red lips over the whitest teeth I had ever seen.

“I didn’t beckon anyone,” I said.

“Of course you did. You’re the one I seek.” She smiled again. Then, “May I rest a moment?” she asked. “The air is almost breathtaking tonight.”

“Who are you?” I asked again.

“And why do you mistake me for—” she leaned closer to me, “a gypsy? No … you think me a witch.”

“Are you? A witch?”

“Yes,” she said, drawing the word out like a hiss. “I am a witch. So was my mother. She came here from Brazil and I was born on the lake during a full moon. This land was my home for many years until an accident and anger destroyed my life.” Her words and dark gaze held my attention. “Now I’m but a spirit conjured from Yalendora.”

“I have never heard of Yalendora.”

“Yet you created it and everything and everyone here.” She scowled at me. “You’re but a child with a creative imagination, but you let it run wild, hither thither. You have much to learn about the place you generate from your untamed cleverness.” She stopped scowling. “Know the land and the people here—their secrets—and you will know me and you better.”

She stood as easily and gracefully as she had sat.

“Where there is good, there is evil,” she said. “Yin and yang. Beware the evil you conjured here tonight.”

“Evil?” I sat back, her words like a blow to my chest. “What evil?”

“The evil you brought to life, cursing this land and threatening to take the life of one of you tonight.” She vanished.

The fire crackled as it came back to life. Then Dave seemed to awaken from his trance and said, “What were we talking about?”

“Ghost dogs,” Amy said, shaking her head for a moment before opening her eyes. “Always ghosts.”

“Look,” Dave said. He pointed at the Myers property. “Another ghost. It has to be Joseph Myers!”

The glowing apparition of a human figure walked in front of the trees hiding the old mansion. Then the ghostly image wavered and disappeared.

“Tell me you saw that,” Dave said.

“Saw what?” Amy asked.

“That ghost that was there. A human ghost. It glowed just like the dogs I saw earlier.”

Dogs barked savagely from the Myers property, as if cued by Dave’s words.

“They sound like hellhounds,” he said. “The spirits of dogs can come back as hellhounds to guard properties from trespassers.”

“Another stupid tall tale,” Amy said.

“I hear them,” I said, though not very enthusiastically. I hoped this wasn’t the evil the witch had meant.

“Really?” It was Vree who spoke. She stood and peered at the trees. She gasped when a pack of nine dogs charged from the thicket and lined up in front of it, looking at us with angry faces, each growling low and guttural. There were white hounds with black and brown patches, some rough-coated terriers, and a shorthaired pointer that stood in the middle and was taller than the rest. They stood out as if they were beneath a noon sun. And their eyes glowed fiery red, which caused me to stand and take a step back.

“Let’s get to the house,” Dave said, stumbling from his chair and almost knocking it over.

“We should go,” I said, standing up and reaching out and pulling on one of Vree’s shoulders.

The growls rose in both pitch and volume moments before the dogs charged up the hill in unison, coming at us.

“Run,” Dave yelled.

Amy turned and looked at me. “What’s going on?” she asked. Her face bore a pained expression. “This can’t be real.”

Vree screamed and I stopped writing.

She and Dave and Amy were my creations. So were the witch and ghosts … everything in and of Ravenwood.

But the bottom line was there was much about my creations I didn’t know.

Ravenwood had started as a safe haven for me to go to—an escape from reality. But Ravenwood was a living and breathing reality inside my mind, and a living and breathing reality to the people who read my stories.

It was up to me to take control of that reality. To harness it and make it my own.

But how?

Ravenwood had a life of its own that came to me in dreams and during moments of contemplation. I could only record it and hope for an interesting and entertaining outcome. Whenever I had changed events in past stories, they seemed lifeless—dead events that were no more than lies.

Vree screamed again. The hellhounds chased her and Amy. They followed Dave toward the backdoor.

Three glowing hounds appeared at the doorstep, placed there by some twisted magic. They snarled and blocked entry into the house, which was lit up inside and looked safe and inviting.

Dave dodged left and Vree and Amy followed him into the field behind the barn.

“We’re heading for the cliffs,” Amy said.

“Just run,” Dave cried out.

Vree glanced behind her and reported to the others, “The dogs are following us. They don’t look friendly … their eyes are still glowing red.”

“Just keep going and don’t be scared,” Dave said. “There’s a patch of hobblebush near the cliffs. They can’t follow us through it. It’s like poison to them.”

“What’s hobblebush?” Amy asked.

“Some people call it Devil’s Shoestring. The roots are poisonous to hellhounds and other demons.”

Vree pressed him and Amy to hurry. The growling hellhounds had closed their distance behind them to less than thirty yards.

In a puff of green smoke, a white hound appeared on the path in front of them, blocking the way.

Dave stopped and stared wildly at the green glowing dog. Amy stopped behind him, but Vree left the path and ran from a Hungarian Pointer that had decided to charge from the pack.

She plowed blindly into brambles and thorny weeds that slapped and poked and grabbed her, snagged her mittens and scratched her hands, and scarred her clothes. Her drumming heart climbed into her throat when she realized she could not outrun the dog chasing her. Her inhales and exhales sounded like whimpers and moans.

She stumbled when she entered a clearing atop a steep cliff of Myers Ridge. There was nowhere else to go.

The Hungarian Pointer hellhound entered the clearing and stopped. It lowered its head and raised its rear end in the air like a wolf that had just pinned its prey.

“I’m not your enemy,” Vree yelled as she backed to the edge of the cliff.

The dog charged. Vree flinched and lost her balance, stumbling backward over the steep precipice.

She plummeted on her back through icy air and into the icier waters of Myers Lake. Her aching throat released a yelp of surprise as the water enveloped her like a brutal winter blast. Her world darkened as she sank into shock and more darkness.

When she came to her senses, she took off her mittens and swam. Her sweatshirt and jeans encumbered her arms and legs as she kicked and swam toward the silver moonlight that rippled on the black surface above.

Her lungs ached to release the little breath she held. She fought an intense, overwhelming urge to breathe.

How many times had she dived into the lake and swum these waters with ease?

But never with barely any air in her lungs or when the lake was this cold.

Her movements slowed with every thrust of her arms and kick of her legs.

The surface was still out of reach. She could hold her breath no longer. She was going to drown.

A shimmering outstretched hand broke through the water’s surface and came for her. It bore five black ruby rings, blistering from the gold of each ring. The hand grabbed her by the wrist. The fingers felt like hot steel as the hand yanked her upwards. Water roared past her ears.

The pain in her chest was severe. She needed to open her mouth and fill her lungs.

But not now. Not yet.

She broke the surface. Icy air hurt her exposed skin. She sucked in a huge breath of air, gasping, choking, and wheezing for more.

The hand released her. She dropped to all fours on a large flat boulder and retched lake water. Her body shook from the cold that burned at her bones.

Strands of her long hair clutched her face, and other strands dropped water onto the rock. More water fell from her sweatshirt, which clung to her back and weighed against her shoulders.

She stopped sucking in air and raised her head.

“Your cousins are safe,” the witch said. She was as dry as when she had sat at their fire earlier. “I saw what happened, but I was too late to keep you from falling.”

Still weak and exhausted, Vree shivered wet and cold at the witch’s bare feet. “Who are you?” she asked, forcing the words through a mouth that trembled from the cold burning inside her.

The witch was quiet while she studied Vree with a troubled scowl. Then, “I am someone who was at the right place at the right time.”

Dave cried out Vree’s name from atop the cliff. The witch placed the palms of her hands atop Vree’s head for a moment, then helped her to stand. Ice water fell from Vree’s clothes.

“Answer him,” the witch said; “you are safe now.”

Warmth filled Vree. She turned from the witch, called out, and told Dave that she was okay. “I owe you my life,” she said, turning back. But the witch had vanished. “Thank you,” she said to the emptiness, then left the boulder and headed to the footpath that would lead her away from the cliffs.

When she reached the road home, the way lay in darkness. But she had traveled the road many times. And though she knew the way, this time was different. This time, she knew it led her on a journey to something important in her life. Something life changing and probably dangerous.

She swallowed, took a deep breath, and started up the hill.

The End … for now.

Ravenwood, Chapter 10 [fiction]

Music:

Music means a lot to my cast of Ravenwood characters.

Amy Everly is musically talented—she is exuberant about music—and has a need to express herself. “Strives to excel at music for self-expression” best describes Amy—music means everything to her. When she is down, she recharges by writing and playing songs on her mother’s piano and on her own Gibson acoustic guitar. She sings with a beautiful soprano voice.

Her mom, Sunni, keeps a piano in the living room and she taught Amy how to play (Dave had no interest in learning, only listening—he often falls asleep at night while listening to his mom play).

Amy also became musically talented because music was important to me and I wanted a character who had the time and talent to put together a rock band. I wrote lyrics and kept them in my notebooks. I also kept notes about Ravenwood and my characters in them. In one of my notebooks, I wrote, “Within the realms of poetry and music lie many possibilities. Dig deep. There is an Arc of Topological Space to be mined.” That year, Amy put together ARC, a basement band that soon turned into a garage band when Sunni complained about how loud the music was beneath her study room and library.

*

ARC:

ARC was “A” for Amy Everly (lead guitars, lead vocals), “R” for Amy’s friend and classmate Riley Lewis (rhythm guitars, keyboards, vocals), and “C” for their friend Cheryl Sherwood (drums, percussion).

ARC’s music began as cover versions of standard Top 40 rock of the 1970s for a while until the group began writing music and composing their own songs.

Riley

Riley Lewis was a minor character brought onstage during scenes with the band. She played rhythm guitars, keyboards, and sang harmonies. She was constrained in character, but not a bit shy. She had blue eyes and blonde hair that was straight and always past her shoulders, never short.

Riley’s nicknames were “Rile” and “Riles.” In ninth grade, she was 5’ 5” and 95 lbs. and was very striking in appearance. Her usual dressing style was the conventional shirts and jeans uniform worn by teens all over America, but she favored colorful clothes and sometimes wore skirts and dresses. And she was the one who wore the occasional fancy perfumes, makeup and lipstick, and painted her fingers and toes. She would become the HS prom queen her senior year and eventually marry the captain of the football team.

Riley’s poetry sparked ARC’s evolution, and it was the basis of the band’s earliest songs. She teamed up with Amy and the two wrote most of ARC’s music catalogue from 1972 to 1975.

Here are my two favorite poems written by Riley in 1971 and turned into song the following year.

Woodland Birds:

Crows talk
Noisy devils they
Jays squawk
Raucous rascals they
Birds walk, Some hop, And birds track bird tracks, hey.

Ruffed grouse
Aggressive take-offs they
Woodcock
Bursting thickets they
Birds fly, Some soar, And wings beat wing beats, hey.

Woodland birds call woodland bird calls
Listen
Hear chicken-like birds drumming on logs
And snow bank divers bursting from bogs.
Woodland birds live woodland bird lives
See them
See perching blackbirds watching it snow
On tree branch beauties grooming below.

Woodland birds, They speak to me
Woodland birds, Some answer me
Woodland birds, Fly up to me
Woodland birds, Are part of me.

Woodland birds call woodland bird calls
Listen
Woodland birds live woodland bird lives
See them.

Dreamers:

Visions come in sleep, To dreamers on the hill
Hands so soft and warm, Chase cold from daffodil.
Lovers smile like children, Caught stealing off with pie
Laugh with thoughts unheard—
These dreamers, you and I.

We are the dreamers, Yes we’re the searching ones
We’re always fitting pieces, To learn if there’s a plan;
Not sure why we do it, But when we hear the call
We know we’re getting closer, To answers for us all.

Dreamers dream a world, With groundwork of good will
Build a better place, Better, better still.
Power falls like liquid, Sent flowing out to sea
We will be as one—
As equals, we will be.

We are the dreamers, Yes we’re romantic souls
We’re always climbing higher, To get a better view;
Not sure why we do it, We find it hard to stop
We’re always working harder, To make it to the top.

Cheryl

Cheryl Sherwood, or CJ as her friends called her, was ARC’s drummer and percussionist. She played the same story role as Riley: very minor. She had chocolate brown eyes and hair. She wore her hair long and straight to the middle of her back. She often wore baggy tops, T-shirts and blue jeans, tennis shoes, clogs, and sandals. She wore flip-flops at home and around town during the summer, as well as shorts and swim tops. In the winter, she liked wearing sweats indoors, and favored a furry parka and knee-high boots outdoors.

CJ was the highly intelligent member of ARC (she was offered advancement at school but she refused to leave behind her friends), which made her seem older than she was. This aspect seemed like free admission to hang with older students, which she did as she got older.

Among her ARC band mates, CJ was the quiet one and wild one rolled into one person. In her quiet mode, she was thoughtful and artistic, a trait similar to Vree Erikson, Amy’s cousin. However, she was also the girl who partied at the older kids’ houses, was sexually active with a senior boy when she was 16, and seemed to be in a constant identity crisis. Her drum kit was her therapy couch. Often after school, she went into a transitory snap and beat on her drums until she came out feeling better about herself.

More about my Ravenwood characters is on the way. Stay tuned.