I first heard of Edward Masterson the day of the birds, though I forgot about them through much of what happened after. Indeed, in the moment, their strange flight was only a disturbing inconvenience, as it turned my father back from his walk to the village on laundry day.
My father was a gentleman of small, regular habits. He walked to the village twice each week, to gain news of the wider world and have two pints of ale before walking back. In winter, he had Mr. Simmons, who served as our steward as well as sometime butler and valet, drive him. But in the fine weather of late spring he would set off walking, in his plain suit but with his sword polished and ready should he meet any ruffians.
The rest of our little household—myself and Mr. and Mrs. Simmons; my poor mother had passed when I was young—would plan much around this simple outing, for the house was too much work for the Simmonses alone. My father made no objection to my helping with light chores such as dusting, but he had recently been infected with the disease of matchmaking, and he feared for my prospects should I develop a working woman’s hands and complexion. His solution for our overworked staff was to simply hire more help as needed, but I often snuck into his study to review our account books and there was no surplus for such luxuries. Thus, I learned to separate want from necessity, and while other women my age were dancing at assemblies or practicing their needlework, I was scrubbing floors and learning to make pastry. I learned, and I learned as well to not reflect upon my circumstances, lest I fall into melancholy—and many days there was simply no time for such indulgence. As soon as my father left, I put aside my role as Caroline Daniels, landowner’s daughter, and became Caroline Daniels, maid, stableboy, or whatever we needed me to be. Laundry especially was a daylong affair, and more than once we had sent Mr. Simmons out to delay my father so we could get the last damp pieces inside before he returned.
My father left, drawing the door closed behind him. I waited in the hall, seeing in my mind’s eye his stout figure striding down the drive. Now he would pat his pockets, ensuring he had a shilling but little more, for he had once been robbed on his return and had a fine watch and several shillings taken off him. Now he would think about that watch, and touch his sword in reassurance. All was well and nothing was forgotten; he could enjoy his journey in peace, and we could set about our work. I counted to fifty, then with a deep breath seized the first laundry basket and began dragging it back to the yard—
—when I heard the terrible sound of the door swinging open again, and my father bellowing for Mr. Simmons. At once I dropped the basket, smiling brightly. My smile faded, however, when I saw the spatters on his hat and coat, including a red smear on his face.
“Are you all right? Did you fall?” I rushed towards him, thinking to stop any bleeding with my apron.
“Quite all right,” he said. “Only the birds are going mad.”
For a moment I stared at him, believing I misheard him, but then I saw movement in the sky past his shoulder. Birds of all sizes and shapes, flying at odd angles to each other but all heading inland. As I watched two collided, then set at each other with horrific shrieks and bared claws. Feathers drifted down as they fought.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s quite late in the year to be mating, and there are gulls up there. They usually stay close to the shore—” My father suddenly broke off, frowning at the laundry basket. “What are you doing with that laundry?”
“I was looking for a petticoat,” I said quickly. “I cannot find it anywhere.”
He gave me a suspicious look, but I was saved from further inquiry by Mr. Simmons appearing. As he fetched my father a fresh coat, I slipped past him and went out onto the drive. Dozens of birds filled the sky, and save for when their paths provoked a conflict, they were doing so in near silence, as if they needed all their strength to fly. But what were they flying towards—or were they fleeing something? I scanned the horizon: there was not so much as a cloud, not a hint of an incoming storm.
Above me two more birds crossed paths, and the larger one viciously raked the smaller. It tumbled to the ground, then carefully righted itself and began limping forward, still heading unerringly inland.
“Caroline, dear, don’t distress yourself with such sights.” My father took my arm and led me back to the house.
“But what could be causing it?” I asked, still craning my head. “Something has frightened them, something worse than a storm.”
“They were probably startled by an animal—perhaps we have a wolf again. I’ll ask in the village,” he said. “Oh, and I forgot to tell you! I will be stopping at the Fitzroys’ on my way home. I was thinking if Diana spends the season in town again, perhaps you could join her? A stay of some weeks will help you become more comfortable in society, and develop your acquaintanceships further.”
And there were so many replies I wished to make, all at once. The Fitzroys were our closest neighbors, and Diana my oldest friend. Having both lost our mothers early, and without siblings, we had been for a time closer than sisters. The memories of our girlhood, pretending to be the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, or the tragic princess Caroline, still filled me with longing. But the Fitzroys’ finances had flourished where ours had declined, and I took no pleasure in the prospect of marriage. A season with Diana promised only embarrassing shortfalls and uncomfortable encounters.
I wanted to say all these things, and that I had seen far worse than a wounded bird in my life, for had I not seen my own mother die in childbirth? But such was not the speech of a dutiful daughter, and I quailed at the thought of disrupting our affectionate relationship. I was still struggling for words when he kissed me on my forehead and shooed me back inside, as if I was still a little girl.
Monday, March 28, 2022
Four Tips for Polishing Your Work – Without Hiring an Editor by L.S. Johnson #QueerGothicRomance #Queer #Gothic #Horror
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Cover Reveal Wrath by S. Peters-Davis #CoverReveal #PNR #Suspense
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Guest Blog- Favorite Paranormal Characters with Denise Howard #PNR
Monday, March 21, 2022
Character Confessions from The Frelsarien: Battle of Eirbor by Lynette Charrier #Fantasy
The other Artaic race on Eyon is the gnarts. They are basically the opposite of the Skjarts averaging about 5'3” for the men and 4'9” for the women. The word Gnart apparently means Fish-Human in Tharian. According to the Avatels the gods combined humans with fish. Like the Skjarts, this gave them two new species; Gnarts and Gnarajor. I haven't seen a Gnarajor before since they live in the ocean. Fishermen say they are quite a problem. Sometimes they call for help from the water just so that they can pull in anyone who comes to help. I don't know how true those tales are, but I think I'll stick to the land either way. The Gnarts on the other hand are incredibly sweet people and a blessing to society. They come in different shades of green, blue, and purple. Purple is the most rare, but the noble gnart families are predominantly this color, so even though they are less common, I've met more purple Gnarts than anything. They have distinct Fin-like ears. Under their jaws are three lines that I assume were gills at one point but have been closed up saying they are now land species. Their irises are nearly twice the size of humans and have an iridescence to them. Their hands are pretty similar to humans but they have slight webbing between their fingers, almost as if that is something that is also evolving to eventually go away.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/sY8fe_d2hSc
Idun’s eyes flickered open. She had been dreaming again.
A throbbing pain pounded within her skull. She groaned and rubbed the back of her head and felt a large welt. Her bruised fingers glided around to the right side of her head, where she found another welt. She sighed while slowly propping herself up and looking around. Her eyes were still hazy, but she could just barely make out the silhouette of a woman sitting across from her. Idun rubbed her eyes before reopening them.
“I doubt that will help,” the woman said, just as Idun came to that very conclusion. “You have a concussion.”
To her surprise, Idun recognized the voice.
The woman stood up and moved towards her, taking her seat on the bed next to Idun. There were two of her in Idun’s eyes, but she could still make out the features of her lifelong friend. She didn’t look like herself. Her long, curly, brown-black hair framed a smooth face, free of acne, and unhidden by glasses. But the most striking difference was her weight. The last time Idun saw her, she was skin and bones and likely less than one hundred pounds. The Ayla sitting in front of her looked… healthy.
“Jesus! How long have I been out?” She wondered if this was still part of the dream.
“Idun! Language,” she snapped.
Idun chuckled and put her head back down on the pillow. “Seriously, though, how long have I been out?”
“Almost twenty-four hours.”
A confused expression crossed Idun’s face, and she looked up from her pillow. “Can’t be. Don’t take this the wrong way, but there’s no way you look like this after just twenty-four hours. And my hair doesn’t grow this fast either,” she said, holding up a lock of auburn hair which was now longer than the length of her arm.
“These are our Frelsarien bodies…” She said as if that were obvious. She waited a moment as if to see if this triggered a memory, but it didn’t. Idun had no idea what that meant. “So, you really haven’t been briefed on this?”
“What?” Idun picked her head off the pillow and looked up at the blur which was Ayla. “What are you talking about?”
“Where do you think we are?” Ayla questioned.
Idun looked around the room, which, from what she could tell, was made completely of stone and decorated in red. “I don’t know…”
Ayla sighed. “What is the last thing you remember?”
“The last thing I know for sure wasn’t a dream.” Idun had to think for a moment. “I climbed that cliff just outside of town.” She rubbed the back of her head again. “I must have hit my head when I fell, though. I had this weird hallucination about being chased by the grim reaper.”
Ayla stood up to pour Idun a glass of water, then walked back and placed it in her hand. “Idun… that wasn’t a hallucination. It wasn’t the grim reaper, though,” She said, with a laugh.
Idun brought the cup to her lips but stopped, giving Ayla a confused yet doubtful glance. She opened her mouth to ask her to elaborate, but Ayla beat her to it.
“It’s called the soul splitter. It separated our souls from our bodies on Earth and brought them to our bodies here on Eyon.” She waited for a moment to study Idun’s expression again; Which happened to be one of disbelief. “Does any of that ring a bell?”
“Not even a little one.” Idun tipped back her cup and then placed it down on the table. “I’m actually pretty sure I’m still asleep.”
Ayla reached over and pinched the skin on the underside of Idun’s arm.
“What the heck!” Idun propped herself up with a jolt.
“Well, you’re not asleep,” Ayla giggled.
Idun scrunched her eyebrows together and massaged the back of her arm. “And you’re not Ayla...”
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Maria DeVivo’s Top 10 Vampires in Literature, TV, and Film
Dan reaches over to his bag and pulls out his math book. In the front pouch, I notice a small novel with a black cover. “Hey,” I say, nodding my head in the backpack’s direction. “Whatcha reading?”
“Uh, nothing,” he answers, shrugging his shoulders.
I put out my arms and tap my fingers together like a baby grasping at something. “Lemme see it!”
“Nah. It’s really nothing,” he repeats, but he’s unconvincing, and it makes my curiosity burn a hole in my brain.
Kit’s curiosity is piqued as well, so she stands up and moves behind the chair with the backpack. “Now, now,” she sings. “No secrets here, Dan!” She grabs the bag from the chair and pulls out the book. “The Satanic Bible?”
Dan quickly shoots up from the chair, snatches the book away from her, and cradles it to his chest as to hide the cover from us. “Shhhh…” he admonishes as he looks side to side, assessing if my mother was in the vicinity or not.
I hold out my hand again. “What are you reading that for?” I ask. “Give it here.”
Reluctantly, he turns the book over to me, and I examine the cover, the spine, and the back like an investigator studying a piece of crime-scene evidence. Only, I don’t have on rubber gloves. I’ve known about this book. Heard about it. Knew the story of the author, Dr. Anton LaVey, and his Church of Satan. Practically, every youth ministry I had attended had mentioned the evil of this piece of literature at some point in time: If you even look at the book, you can be possessed. Being in its presence alone can have a profound effect on your heavenly soul. Dare not open or read the pages for fear of infiltration by a powerful demonic force. But as I actually hold the book for the first time in my life, I feel … nothing. No fear. No wonder. No spooky taboo. I press the book in my palms trying to feel for any ‘other-worldly’ vibrations or indication that if I open it up I will be damned to hell. But no. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. And more lies and deception from my past teachers come into clear view. “Dude. It’s just a book.”
“Yeah, I know it’s just a book,” he huffs, grabs it from me, and shoves it back into his bag.
The three of us sit back down in silence for a few minutes.
“You okay, man?” Kit asks, concerned.
Clearly, he’s not.
“Where’d you get it?” I ask.
“Why’d you get it?” Kit emphasizes.
Dan looks behind him and scans the kitchen again. Then, he moves his upper body slightly across the table as if to beckon me and Kit to huddle in. We oblige him and he speaks in a soft, hushed tone: “Thomas. This guy from my school. He got the connection with that Ricky kid and the Knights of the Black Circle.”
“The Knights of the Black Circle?” I ask. “What’s that?”
Dan glares at me and holds up his arm revealing the faded black circles drawn up and down his arm, over and over and over. I had thought they were just silly drawings borne out of boredom, but…
“They wanted him to read the book and know some stuff before they accepted him,” he continues. “Thomas said he could probably get me in, too, and told me what passages to study and shit.”
Kit’s pretty eyes widen, and her bangs touch her eyelashes again. “He knows the Acid King?”
A sneer forms on Dan’s lips and he nods. “Uh huh.”
“Wait,” I protest. “What are you talking about? Who are the Knights of the Black Circle?
What’s an Acid King?”
“The Knights…” Dan explains, “they’re a group. Local. They do stuff. They know stuff.”