It began with a letter. The clunk of the mailman’s shoes as he delivered a letter sealed with scarlet. Genevieve snatched the letter from her mailbox. Her hands trembled. The writing of the address seemed masculine. It curved without order or neatness. The fact that a male could handwrite these days surprised her.
“Perhaps he’s an older man?” She shrugged and slit the letter. The name on the envelope wasn’t one Genevieve recognized. She did not believe its sender was ‘actually’ ‘John Smith.’ She rolled her eyes.
Genevieve slid three folded cream pages from the envelope and straightened them. The first page had a tiny emblem in the corner. She wasn’t sure what it meant. A ‘J’ with a squiggle looped over and down from the top of the ‘J’ to form a tiny ‘S’ beneath it. The third letter was a ‘T’ that she realized matched the wax seal.
‘John Smith’s’ writing began without greetings. Genevieve read a few sentences and discovered the letter was penned to someone called Moose.
“I’m not Moose, and I don’t know anyone with that nickname.” She struggled to read ‘John’s’ handwriting. After a bit, she set down the first page. Moose was involved in serious business.
She threw her coat and purse on the floor. She’d only returned from work a minute before the envelope arrived. She groaned. “Why C/O Genevieve O’Connor?” But no one answered, as she knew they wouldn’t.
Genevieve pinched the bridge of her nose. “Shower and food. Then, I’ll read more.” She gathered clean clothes and pondered the letter under the shower’s spray. After a half hour, she dressed and heated left-over Ravioli.
She grabbed a cozy blanket from a linen closet and flipped over page one of the letter Genevieve swore under her breath. Damn illegible handwriting. Can’t you print like a normal person?
She padded back to her room to towel dry her hair and to comb through some mousse. Then, she reclined on her sofa, gathering her blanket as she deciphered ‘John’s’ letter. She shivered despite her hot shower, and couldn’t help the feeling that something about this letter was amiss.
That’s how it Genevieve became lost in the forest, and ended up at a summer cottage closed for the fall. Her body trembled and she couldn’t stand the dirt, blood, and other forest offerings on her skin. The only place to wash was a large kitchen sink. There was no shower, so Genevieve stuffed the cabin’s broken window pane with a blanket and stripped.
She couldn’t get rid of the tang of blood or acrid dirt. It made her nauseous. She scrubbed her skin raw, and poured more dish soap on her hair. She stepped out of the sink careful not to slip. As she rinsed her hair, evidence of the past few days whirled down the drain.
She was tired of being alone. She yelled at the absent John Smith. He’d helped her only once before. “You’ve a lot of explaining, John.”His name was a sneer. “I’m tired of this game. I never knew Moose. I don’t know why I’m his contact: let me be, and tell your gun-totting buddies too.”
Her voice echoed in the cottage, and she was alone except for the howling mountain’s winds; its paradoxical breezes made her headache throb. Gentle winds mixed with gusts causing the windows to clammer.
Genevieve scrambled through kitchen drawers until she found the Advil. Swallowing two pills, she fell into bed. The sheets were lavender-scented and the duvet warm. Who lived here? She didn’t know. Then, a hand swept across her forehead, and she mumbled thinking it was a dream.
“John?” Her voice was hoarse, and her hands reached, and gripped a muscled arm in flannel. Genevieve groaned as his fingers combed through her wet hair. His hand rested on her forehead.
“It is you.” The room was dark and only John’s outline was visible. She knew it was him by his scent. Fresh and masculine.
“You’ve a fever.” She rolled her eyes. Genevieve was mad.
“Drink this?” A red mug lowered to her mouth.
“What is it?”
“I’m not here to hurt you, Genevieve.”
“Such a liar.” He insisted she drink it, so she did. In-between sips she grumbled and tried to sit up. He pushed her down.
“It’s Neocitran. You’re sick and you need sleep.”
“I’m sick? Whose fault is that? After everything, now you show up?” Genevieve’s eyes closed as lethargy overcame her.
“Go away, John. I’ll figure this out alone. You complicate everything.”
He sighed. She opened her eyes as he rubbed his hands over watched his face, and through his two-day stubble.
“I didn’t mean to handle it this way. I didn’t know you’d never met your brother.” He combed through her hair once more.
It bothered Genevieve that things seemed less hopeless with John beside her. She wanted him to stay but knew he’d be gone by morning.
“Just leave, John.”
“Not a chance, Genna.” She thought she imagined his last words.
Thanks to MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie for writing prompt #217. I have chosen to use the topic a walk in the forest, the male nam Uyeno, the female name Ulestra, the fruit a peach, the color cerise, and the sensation shiver.
“Stenham house was an ancient locked thing and nothing returned there except for crows.”
Lost in the forest Marybeth was charmed by the crumbling facade of the ancient mansion. She wondered what the house looked like on the inside as she slipped through the rungs of a creaky black gate.
“What’r you doin’ here, Marybeth?” her older brother Winston cried, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her.
“Mom’s worried. Said you’d been out so long she was ‘fraid you were lost in the woods for good. You know you’re too young to be out here alone.”
“What’s in there?” Marybeth asked Winston pointing to Stenham house.
” You don’t want ta go there, ” Winston said matter-of-factly. “Tommy Johnson went in there and never came out the same. He’s a touched now.”
“Well he still lives in the neighborhood,” Marybeth argued. “I see him at school. He doesn’t play with the other kids much but sits in a corner and reads. There’s nothing wrong with that. What happened in that house?”
Winston shook his head, “You’ll have nightmares Marybeth, I can’t tell you. Mom’ll kill me.”
“S’okay I’m a big girl now. I’m seven. I can handle it.”
Winston sighed,”They say a family was murdered there. An axe murder came in and hacked them all to pieces. Grandma, Grandpa, the parents, and worst of all the children. There were four of them and the oldest was eleven.”
Marybeth gasped, “That’s bad. I saw the curtains moving I think someone still lives there.”
“There was a fifth child, he was a tot. The nanny hid him but was butchered herself. Even though the little guy was adopted, he always woke up with nightmares about the murder, even as an adult,” Winston whispered.
” He lives there now, I think.”
“He decide to live there when he ‘came an adult. It was the only way he could face his demons. That’s what Aunt Sally told me.”
“Does Aunt Sally know him?”
“Yeah, they were in the same grade.”
Suddenly the front door to the delapitated house flew upon. Winston and Marybeth saw a gaunt middle aged man standing at the entrance. He motioned them over but then the crows began to fly and circle around the children, diving at them and pecking them when they tried to reach out to the man.
Marybeth screamed batting at crows as she ran all the way back home to the safety of her mother’s arms. Winston followed his sister, his screams even more terrified.
He swore to his sister, later, he saw the man at the door to Stenham mansion disappear into thin air. Marybeth believed him and decided to stay away from Stenhem house until she was older and wiser.
It’s the lushest rainforest I’ve ever seen. If one could say Mother Nature had a life force it would be here, hidden within this vibrant foliage. For me green is the color of life and I think of the exotic creatures found here and I understand why environmentalists are vehemently protecting a forest full of wild animals and their habitats.
To imagine this brilliant life force gone would be painful. There is an ache in my heart picturing the dustlands of a destroyed forest, where nothing can regrow because of how horibly the soil has eroded, stripped of trees. Seeing this century old car buried randomly makes me curious of how the car ended up here; I imagine it’s a fabulous tale. But there’s no one here to tell that story, only me, and miles of greenery. Here in the womb of Mother Nature, one could disappear.
Thanks to MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie for hosting this month’s fairy Tale prompt. The prompt is: “imagine an evil force be it witch or some other dark force has cast a spell on you. What form does the spell take, are you frozen in time as in the above image? Are you cursed in a different way?”
Berjlot was a pretty girl with her father’s white-blond hair and her mother’s curls. She also had her mother’s mysterious green-eyes and delighted the entire viking village with her presence.
Asta, Berljot’s mother, had been in labour for hours the night Berjlot was born. The baby wouldn’t come out so Astab finally told her husband Bjarke that he must allow the midwife to cut her belly open and save their babe.
Bjarke felt great pain in his heart when his wife asked him to do allow the midwife to cut the baby out. But he knew he could not lose both Asta and the baby and survive himself.
Cutting the baby out (a much worse version of a c-section) was newer concept which the village midwife had suggested hesitantly. There wasn’t anything to help Asta from the pain but some whiskey. She drank all she could and screamed in pain as her baby Berjlot was born.
Asta named her child Berjlot or “Light will save,” and soft light was exactly what Asta saw as she entered Valhalla. She bled out before the midwife could attempt to stitch her up. Chances were Asta would have died from infection anyways.
Bjarke held his little girl Berjlot proudly. She was his and Asta’s last child, her four-older brother’s were nearly men. But the baby girl was a light to her father and helped him survive the loss of his wife Asta (“divine beauty”).
Bjarke whose name meant “bear” was indeed, built like a bear and so were his four sons. They helped their father fell logs. Bjarke was now considered an older man and he would need the help of his son’s to survive.
He had a been a great ship builder but was now arthritic and in pain. He spent most of his time keeping his eye on little Berjlot who spent her days enchanting those around her, a light to the entire community.
Some of the other women taught Berjlot the necessities of life as a viking woman. Berljot seemed to easily learn how to sew and cooked delicious meals. She also helped with the shearing of sheep and weaving clothe.
Berjlot’s mother Asta, had also been an accomplished artisan so Berjlot learned the craft of jewelry making from an old women in the village named Ragna (“giving advice”).
As well as crafting fine jewelry, Ragna was a medicine women and a pagan witch. Most people were afraid to be near her but Berjlot had no choice as she was the only other women who knew her mother Asta’s craft of jewelry making.
She was a talented girl and Ragna, seeing her youth, beauty, and the skill with which Berjlot seemed to accomplish every task, became seethingly jealous of the girl. Even at her young age and artisan skill level, Berljot’s jewelry was sought after.
She was only ten-summers but Ragna was envious of the girl she knew would grow up to be a beautiful woman and likely out rank her being from a powerful family.
The witch had always despised the girl’s mother Asta for her goddess-like beauty and her gift of creating beautiful jewelry of better quality than Ragna’s designs.
One day when Berjlot had a cough, Ragna, playing the kindly old woman she always played around Berjlot said to her:
“Poor dear, I will make you a potion which will rid of you of your awful cough. We can’t have it get into your lungs. Bjarke would be devastated if he lost his only daughter.”
Berjlot accepted the purplish potion Ragna wanted her to drink. It smelled awful and smoke whirled from the earthen cup but the girl drank the potion trusting Ragna as her Oma.
Suddenly, Berjlot hiccuped. She felt a strange sensation as her body changed from that of girl into a stunning light-haired wolf. She knew her father and brothers would never recognize her in this form and so did Ragna.
Berjlot cried the tears of a wolf and old Ragna laughed at her. She made it appear as if a wolf had eaten Berjlot.
“Bjarke,” Ragna cried. “A light-haired wolf ate your daughter. See? I have her bloodied and torn dress here. There was nothing I could do.” Ragna wept and made it appear as if she was broken-hearted at losing Berjlot.
Bjarke was devastated. Berjlot was the light of his life and his health failed rapidly after losing his daughter. He was soon set out down the nearby river in his funeral pier set aflame to join his wife Asta.
Bjarke’s oldest son Dag took over the boat building business with his three brothers and his best friend Asmund (“Divine Protection”). After they had spent time in mourning for their father they and the other men from their settlement, went into the woods and destroyed all the wolves they could find –even the pups. They never forgot about their little sister Berjlot who had brought such joy wherever she went.
Eight-years passed. Dag, his three brothers, and Asmund were prosperous men in their viking community building ships and amassing a great amount of land and wealth. Asmund, in particular, was considered a fine catch for marriage but had not found a wife to his liking; Dag and his brothers had already married well.
Asmund was out walking in the forest one night when he saw the most striking female wolf beneath a tree in the moonlight. She had mossy green-eyes which were extremely unusual for a wild animal such as a wolf.
He was surprised when the wolf jumped on him when he wasn’t paying attention. He was set to bring his small ax down on the wolf when she lay down on top of him gently and peered at him with sad eyes. She talked as wolves did, pawing at him, trying to get Asmund to understand something through her barks. He laughed and petted the beautiful wolf as she slept on him.
The next morning Asmund awoke and the wolf was gone. He thought he’d only dreamed of her. When he went for a walk in the forest several nights later, he again saw the same beautiful wolf.
She playfully tackled him to the ground and barked at him, trying to make him understand her wolf song. When that failed, she lay her head beneath his chin, and slept on top of him as before.
The light-haired and green-eyed wolf barked and slept with Asmund every night he came out into the woods, always burying her nose under his chin.
One night, Ragna the old witch noticed Asmund asleep with the wolf she knew was Berjlot, snuggled half on top of him. The witch plotted to kill Berjlot once and for all and told Berjlot’s oldest brother Dag about the strange looking wolf she’d seen around the forest.
Dag and his younger brothers went to find and kill Berjlot the following night with Asmund. But when they found the wolf with the light-fur and moss green- eyes, Asmund begged them not to kill her.
He told Dag the light-haired wolf had become his pet and was docile. Berjlot approached her brother Dag and bowed, she did any trick her brother or his bestfriend Asmund told her to do.
When wicked Ragna saw the brothers had not killed Berjlot in wolf form (and instead, were going to adopt her as a kind of pet) she ran out to kill Berjlot with her sharpest knife. Ragna poisoned the tip of the knife so even if it nicked Berjlot the wolf, it would kill her.
Dag, his three brothers, and Asmund were shocked to see the old witch after the wolf they had befriended. They caught and disarmed Ragna before she harmed the wolf. When Ragna was disarmed she turned to run back to her cottage but Berjlot jumped on her, tearing out the witches throat.
Immediately, the light-haired green-eyed wolf turned into a young woman of about eighteen. She was beautiful with her long wavy-blond hair, exotic green eyes, and white skin. Dag’s three younger brothers immediately recognized their sister from her moss green-eyes.
“Berjlot is that you?” They asked, overjoyed to see their sister alive.
“Yes it’s me,”Berjlot said crying. She hugged her brothers, including Dag. They were a bit sensitive about her being naked with Asmund around. He generously gave Berjlot his cloak to cover herself with.
“The witch Ragna pretended to be my Oma,” she told the men gathered. “Ragna was jealous that I was prettier than her, and that our mother Asta was prettier than her too. She hated that I did all my tasks well, especially jewelry making. When I had a cough, she gave me a steaming purple potion. I trusted her and drank the potion and she turned me into a wolf.”
“That’s terrible,” Dag shouted, angry for his sister. “Your death is the reason our father became ill and died. I’m sure the gods are pleased you ripped out the witch’s throat.”
Berjlot sobbed upon hearing about her father’s death. When Asmund comforted her with a hand on her shoulder, she looked up at him with adoration in her eyes.
“I was almost killed when the men from the village wiped out all the wolves but somehow I thrived, even as a wolf. I thought I would always be a wolf until I saw Asmund one night.” Berjlot blushed when she said Asmund’s name.
“Each night Asmund came out to the forest, I pounced on him and tried to tell him what happened to me, but my words only came out as barks or noises as a dog would make. But he kept coming back almost every night and I slept with my nose snuggled beneath his chin.”
“Is this true?” Dag asked his best friend whose face reddened when he gazed at Berjlot in his cloak.
“Yes, it’s true,” Asmund admitted. “I fell for Berjlot. Somehow the gods made me see how noble and beautiful she was even as a wolf. She’s an even more beautiful woman then she was a wolf.”
“I would be honored if you would allow your best friend and partner in business, to be a husband to your beloved sister,” Asmund asked. To him Berjlot was a light he could not live without in his life. He loved her as a wolf and more so as a woman.
Dag and his brother’s huddled together talking while Berjlot stared anxiously at Asmund. She came up to him and snuggled her head beneath his chin, showing her affection and gaining Asmund’s comfort.
“At last, I get to see you in my human form,” Berjlot told Asmund. Both lovers were overcome and wanted to do much more than stand not touching but for Berjlot’s hair cushioning Asmund’s chin.
Dag and his three other brother’s broke from their meeting with happiness. They agreed Asmund would be the perfect husband for their sister because he loved her and watched out for her, even when she was only a beautiful wolf. Thus, they set the betrothal date to that moment and day.
Asmund offered up sheep for wool and jewels as a dowry for Berjlot and they married in a magnificent ceremony in the village. The gods had allowed Berjlot to return from the dead and for two powerful families to be joined in marriage with days of feasting and celebration for the whole community.
Both Asmund and Berjlot lived happily ever after (as best as you could in that time and place).