RIP, Beau.

RIP, Beau. After 48 hours of vigilant attendance and hospice care, and after every attempt to save him including veterinary house calls in his final hours, our beloved canine family member passed away Sunday afternoon in the company of his three humans. No longer limited by the constraints of their material bodies, he and his caprine brother, Casper, are hanging out together again in a sacred and transcendent space in our hearts. ♥

Mid-September News

I’ve been on a writing hiatus since the beginning of August in order to facilitate moving my family into a new home.  Only this weekend are we finally moving things from storage to the house. Tomorrow will be the third and final day of loading and unloading a 20-ft truck and not enough room in our small house for all of it to stay. It’s time to simplify and rid ourselves of so much clutter. A yard sale will happen next weekend, and probably the following weekend or two as weather permits. We have way too many things to go through to do it all at once.

While I intend to write intensively in October, in the mean time I will publish some poems here over the next few days that were written earlier in the summer.

I’m officially back on duty as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Orcas Island Public Library (FOIL). After a leave, I can now attend the monthly board meetings and volunteer again during the week. Next month is our annual meeting for all  members and there’s a bit of work to do.

Remain resonant for some poems to follow!

m.

Music Among the Synchronicities of My Life

About 18 years ago (September 8, 2000 to be exact) I planted my feet on Orcas Island for the first time with my lovely wife (at that time she was my future wife), Mariah,  for the sole purpose of hearing a Seattle musician perform at Susan Osborn’s performance venue then known as the ‘The Living Room’. We were merely groupies at the time, following local performances but not having really known the piano-playing songstress before then. Her name was and is Mary Lydia Ryan and I now consider her one of my dearest friends still on Earth today.
 
[synchronicity alert] As of August 1st, Mariah, Thian and I have just moved into our new home which happens to be the house next door to that former venue, The Living Room, which is now an art gallery for local visual artist and painter, Jacqueline Kempfer.

Another crazy thing [synchronicity alert] is that one of my favorite muses among new age composers since the 1980s is Suzanne Ciani, who also happened to perform at The Living Room, although I was neither then nor afterward in a position to hear Suzanne perform live. (Suzanne, if you are reading this, you are always welcome to perform in my living room, right next door to your last venue, using my GEM Promega 3 digital stage piano which I always offer to Mary Lydia Ryan when she performs on Orcas!)
The house next door is a multi-unit construction and is now owned by a nice woman named Robin who I just met a few days ago. That’s easy for me to remember because at the time I was trying to break into the new age/ambient/electronic music radio scene with my CD in 1995, I often came across a woman named Robin Spielberg, who as another solo piano artist seemed to be in the charts a lot in New Age Voice, a publication of radio station playlists. I admit I am not familiar with Robin’s music. [synchronicity alert] Mary Lydia Ryan, however, is familiar with Robin’s music because she has performed with her at the Whisperings Solo Piano Radio All Star Show in California a few years ago and they are now friends on Facebook.
 
Wait, there is more! You can join in the synchronicity.
 
Mary Lydia Ryan often visits Orcas Island, in some years more times than others. She will be playing at the Village Green stage in Eastsound this year on Sunday, September 2, 2018 at 5pm. Share with friends so that we can encourage a long set of music and an encore of sumptuous songs as well as solo piano compositions. It’s Labor Day weekend and a picnic is in order. I’m more than happy it’s only three blocks away.
Hope to see you there!

News update…

After one personal crisis after another, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My family finally has a home – albeit much smaller than ideal – on this paradise of an island where we live. So, among other things, we are moving this week.

My children’s story book is coming along and hope to publish in November.

I have two active short story series I’ve posted which I need to complete.

New poetry will be coming in September.

And I’m planning an article on imagination and manifesting reality with a book recommendation.

Stay tuned!

PS: Now, if I had written “Remain resonant!” – would you have picked up on that? I like the sound better. Although the imperative use of the verb is naturally demanding. Perhaps I could use the optative perspective in the subjunctive mood: “May you always remain resonant!” That works for now.

May you always remain resonant!

Short Story Series 4: Just a Matter of Time – Part 1

William Devereux was a piece of work, like the eccentric and rare breed of clocks that he hand-crafted in his small town shop. He also repaired time pieces for the townsfolk. He worked year-round, from dusk to dawn, walking to and from work specifically during the twilight hours which changed throughout year. It was the light during that time which charged him the most emotionally and that was precisely necessary to keep him most passionate about his work. If for any reason he had to travel later in the morning or leave early, his entire day would be a fairly moody one.  Behind the counter in William’s shop, was a desk where he most often worked on smaller clocks and watches. And to the left was an old Victrola on which he only played the music of Satie. He loved all kinds of music, of course, but Satie was his only choice when creating or effecting repairs.  To those open to complexity in a character, he was charming and charismatic. To others without the empathy to try and understand him, well, he could be an unpleasant piece of work.

William had always dreamed of living in an apartment above the shop where he would make a living. But, at a young age he had inherited a beautiful cottage on the river and didn’t want to part with the coziness and the pure sense of home which it provided. At the same time, he needed his shop downtown to take advantage of whatever business the tourist activity would bring. As it was, he didn’t mind the walk when he discovered how vitalizing is was to traverse the cobblestone sidewalk for the half-mile it stretched between his cottage and the park on the edge of town – his ‘quarter hour of bliss‘ he would call it.

One fine autumn morning William was walking the river path by the park when he was instantly struck by a vision of beauty about 50 feet away from him. This vision stopped him in his tracks. A woman who had been sitting on a bench arose, brushed off her skirt while turning her face toward William and smiling. But, she was intending to walk the other direction and thus she went, walking at roughly his pace 50 feet ahead.

The vision that William had seen however was not the woman’s gorgeous red hair as she flipped it to one side with her arm. Nor was it her attractive figure and legs whose contours were revealed by the Valentino haute couture dress she was wearing. William only saw her silhouette and the aura she exuded, a dazzling radiant light of colorful spectra. You see, William suffered from the most severe myopia and the focus of distant objects could not be corrected by wearing lenses. The glasses he did where when working in the shop were to help him see close objects within a few feet from his eyes. He didn’t require a walking cane, however. And for the most part, he was fine with not seeing details when it came to the subject of people.

William wasn’t antisocial. He understood that humans were a social species and he thought it virtuous for the individual to be social. He truly wanted to participate with others – to socialize; however, whenever he did he was sorely disappointed by the shallowness and thoughtless vanity displayed before him. More often than not, such attempts were a waste of time. And time, after all, was not just a matter of business for William; it was a philosophical passion, one he wished so desperately to share. Whether with a conversational friend or a lover, for William a quality relationship would require a harmony of minds and shared respect of time.

To be continued…

A Family Book or Book of Kin (or kinda sorta)

We live as we breathe, moment to moment, and our actions define us. To serve mankind, what we do now is all that matters and history is only important insofar as we have learned from it, from our mistakes in the past, and those of our ancestors. Any thoughts we have which may potentially serve mankind in the future may be instilled in our children. To that aim, we have two paths. The first is that we must lead by example and teach by our manner of living – by our manner of loving – during the formative years of their lives. The second is to leave them a documented history of their family, their culture, and the philosophies their parents have lived by in bringing them into this world. Consider this a documented legacy a reference for our descendants and anyone else if it has been made public.

Vladmir Megré, author of the Ringing Cedars book series, has made an effort to spread the idea of a ‘Book of Kin’ or “The Family Book” presented to him by his Siberian recluse, Anastasia. In the series the ‘book of kin’ in ancients days (referred to as Vedic times) implied a ‘living’ book exemplified by creating a space of love for a family where deeds can reveal as much as words. But, Anastasia (through Megré’s authorship) also inspires the idea of starting physical books now to preserve the future of our children. In my quoting a brief excerpt from Book 6, “The Book of Kin” and omitting a little from the dialog between ellipses , Anastasia says,

“The books read by Man today include many that are devised with a specific aim in mind — namely, the distortion of history and of the meaning of life. Many false dogmas are especially designed to disorient Man in space. This is not easily discernible all at once. But clarity comes directly a son reads a book of his forebears, which his father and mother have continued personally for him…

…the Book of Kin. In it a mother and father will write for their son and daughter about what is the most important thing that needs to be created for happiness in life. The children will continue to record the Book of Kin. There will be no wiser and truer books for families anywhere on the Earth. All the knowledge of their pristine origins will be poured into it.”

“But how, Anastasia, how can knowledge of one’s pristine origins turn up in a book which people are only beginning to write today? Where are they to find such knowledge? You said that the culture of our forebears, their books, were all destroyed.”

“Those that will begin to write already have this knowledge concealed within themselves. It is preserved within each one of us. When people think deeply and begin to write not just for anyone, but for their children, all the knowledge of their pristine origins will be revealed within them and come to light.”

I intend to create my own version of a ‘book of kin’ which as of now will most likely take on a three-volume format. The first volume will be a family history including the heritages of my mother’s and father’s families (their family trees), biographies of my mother and father, and their individual philosophies as presented by their ways of living during my lifetime. The second volume will be my autobiography, as extensive as I can make it with all that I can recall which I think is pertinent for future generations to consider. (I will, for example, not include the brands of toothpaste I used throughout my life.) The third volume will be about my philosophy starting with the nature of the universe from my perspective, and proceeding from that dance of physics and metaphysics, to the subjects of love, morality, religion, politics, education, and all of the complex conjugates that result from this interconnected web we have tried to dissect and classify.

The first volume of my “Book of Kin” will probably not take very long depending on how much other writing I am doing. The other volumes by their very nature will be evolving until my death. However, I do wish to establish a reasonable goal of completing the first edition within five years.

Galactic Centers: A New Perspective

On July 13th 2018, SKA Africa, the new radio telescope array in South Africa released this most detailed and exquisite image of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way to date.

Photo: SKA South Africa

The image width corresponds with a distance of approximately 1000 light-years.

See the SKA media release for how the image is made from the data.

The black hole with a mass of 4 million times our sun is roughly the bright spot located in the middle of the image and appears to be 200 light-years across. Looking at it in detail one cannot help being just awestruck by the smoke-like wisps of energy/matter which seem to be on the order of 1 or 2 light-years in diameter.  Just what these filament-like structures are is still a mystery to the scientists.  I find the spatial sense and dynamics of it all to be most humbling.

While studying these images a hypothesis occurred to me. It isn’t a new thought, but I had never before tried to formulate it insofar as publishing an article about it. So here goes.

I haven’t studied the physics of wormholes and never really doubted that they exist somewhere in the cosmos. Fundamentally, they are bridges between two points in the fabric of space-time. What if all of the galactic centers in the known universe are connected, not by other structure like wormholes which have some form and definition in themselves, but by some other intrinsic quality of space-time. Just as a klein bottle has only one surface (the inside and outside are all one surface), could it be such that the very center of every galaxy is one and the same point – one source of everything? The monad?

…food for thought and the subject of future exposition!

 

Blueberries & Rosemary and an unrelated spontaneous poem

Blueberries & Rosemary

Quite by accident, I discovered that I like the combination of blueberry and rosemary. When I popped a blueberry in my mouth this morning, my hand must have grazed some rosemary from Ian Lister’s memorial service. It was lying on the table next to me before I realized it was there. When I bit into the blueberry, the first sensation was a delicate rosemary note which lightly danced on my tongue as I masticated.  (I said, ‘masticate’! Geeze…grow up!  Anyway…) The two just blended smashingly. I think Remy would be proud. (Remy, from Ratatouille? The rat who was thinking that saffron would totally make his smoked Tomme de chèvre? Nevermind. Anyway…)

One day when I have a kitchen again, I’m going to try making some savory gluten-free griddle cakes with blueberries and rosemary – no added sweeteners. What seems most delicious would be to serve them up with a little cashew ‘cheese’ spread. If they turn out well, as I expect they will, I shall call them Ian’s bread in honor of him.

In Latin class, we often bring in potluck snacks. Sometimes, just cookies or chocolate. Occasionally there is a mix of things and Ian was no stranger to experimenting. I think he was the first person – if not the first, he did it anyway –  to dip a banana chip in Mexican salsa. Listen you mustn’t be too shy. After all, Remy’s mental mentor…(that sounds funny – ‘mental mentor – mental because he was a figment of Remy’s imagination – anyway) …his mentor Gusteaux once said (and I stand by it): “You must try things that may not work. And you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true. Anyone can cook. But only the fearless can be great.” Only the fearless can be great! That’s because truly fearless people are made of pure love, baby! And food must be always be prepared with gratitude and love. (Alan Watts has a nice little speech about the preparation of food and I wholeheartedly agree with him.)

Speaking of food…here’s a poem:

Saffron colored pre-dusk light
Scattered along a metal and glass skyline
Betrayed the hustle & bustle of a city
Making an abrupt pronouncement
At the edge of gorgeous plain.
A wall of confusion swirls
Between the fresh desert air
And the chemical odors
Of a modern city.
I teeter on the edge,
Born and raised on the artificial,
The cold and pointless,
The lies, and empty stereotypes,
A world more filled with vice than virtue.

Oyster of the sea,
Teach me how you pearl a grain of sand.
Where do you find the strength and perseverance?

Lotus of the pond,
Teach me how to find hope and life in the mud.
Where do you find the faith that one day
You will feed on light?


© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 2: Down by the River – Part 5

[…continued from Part 4]

On the way to the Paketka Asylum, I passed a few patrol cars from the Sheriff’s Department, no doubt going back to town from Billy’s house. At the asylum no one was expecting me and I wasn’t sure that I would get to see Julia. The lady at the front desk told me that visiting patients was arranged by appointment only. When I said that Billy Kegan was supposed to have called and was planning to bring me with him, she told me they did not receive his phone call. However, because Julia happened to be sedated in the common area at that time, I was allowed to visit with her in a more or less public place. An orderly escorted me to the common area assuring me that she wouldn’t say much and, when she did, I wouldn’t understand her. But, I had to try. There were only about a dozen patients who provided no safety threats and were permitted to access the common area where there were two orderlies and a nurse regularly stationed. I was told there was about twice that number of patients, all permanent residents.

“That’s her at the window looking at the river. She’s been happy there almost every day for years. Good luck,” said the orderly.

She looked old for her age. Her hair appeared half gray and she was only around 36 or 37, a few years older than I.  Walking over to her, I leaned in from the side so as not to frighten her. She was muttering something under her breath and I couldn’t make it out. I looked out the window as well ; it was a nice view of the river, with a plain on the other side, and multicolored foliage painted on a deciduous forest in the distance. Pastoral, it was good for the patients here I surmised.

“Beautiful view,” I said softly as I gazed forward.

Then she turned her eyes torward me and continued muttering.

“Hi, Julia. I’m a friend of Billy Kegan’s.” I dared not to tell her about his death having just discovered his body this morning and my not knowing anything official for certain. It would only upset her.

To her muttering, I asked, “I’m sorry, did you say something, Julia?

Then she increased her volume ever so slightly. I could begin to make out syllables, but her voice was very hoarse. Whatever she was saying, she was repeating with an occasionally recognizable word.

After several repetitions I made an amazing discovery: I heard words that sounded just like Latin and Hebrew. I spoke neither language, but recognized several words because of my ancient world studies. What I could hear distinctly was “KHOHshehkh {unintelligible sounds} anima, chant {unintelligible sounds}, darkness {unintelligible sounds} EHven, YAKtah stone {unintelligible sounds} MAHyeem, {unintelligible sounds} TENebri {unintelligible sounds} water.”

I suspected EHven, KHOHshehkh, and MAHyeem to be the Hebrew words, for stone, darkness, and water, respectively. YAKtah (properly spelled iacta) is the Latin imperative for throw and TENebri (tenebrae) is Latin for darkness. Putting together just the words I could hear distinctly, I understood:

Darkness mind, chant, darkness stone, throw stone water, darkness water.

Dammit if that didn’t make perfect sense to me. I immediately grabbed my cell phone and discretely recorded everything she was saying.

I asked, “Julia, where is the book? Where can I find the book?”

Her answer really sounded like gibberish, and she only said it once before returning to her repeating pattern in a quiet mutter. If she were speaking words arbitrarily or in a predictable pattern using only English, Latin and Hebrew, Joseph, my linguist colleague in the city could translate it.  It’s no wonder people thought she was incoherent. And as I don’t think there’s been one Jewish family in this town during my whole life, it’s no wonder that her Hebrew went unrecognized. Incoherent my ass!

After thanking Julia – gosh, I then felt even more sorry for her – I went home. I needed to call my colleague and attempt to play the recording over the phone to him. By the time I actually made contact with him, it was later in the evening. With no doubt after a few minutes, Jospeh was able to decipher three distinct phrases: “buried the book, under the willow, nearest the river.” My task was clear: find the willow tree nearest the river between the quarry and the church, and dig. Of course, it was dark by then and so I was determined to set out at daybreak.

I didn’t want to look conspicuous at all, so I walked with a backpack that carried a folding army shovel. I was concerned, too, that I might not be able to identify the correct tree, especially if there were more than one close to the river’s edge. Fortune was smiling on me, though, as there was only one tree about halfway between the old quarry and the church. There didn’t appear to be anyone around to see me, but I couldn’t be sure so I had to dig quickly. At first, I dug through a few inches of dirt all around the tree approximately two feet from the trunk. That much only took a few minutes. There were raised roots on one side of the tree, so that limited my ability to go deeply to the side of the tree facing the river. Lo and behold, that is where I found the book about a foot deep. It was a black leather-bound journal wrapped well in nylon cloth, a bit aged and dirty, but not too fragile. I took a quick peak to see if it contained anything about the magic stones. It must have – it had Latin and Hebrew script as well as some sketches and symbols not familiar to me. I had to show this to Joseph. I rewrapped the book, dropped it in my backpack, and began to fill in some of the dirt around the tree. Afterwards I looked around to see if anyone was watching and thought to myself, “If anyone asks, I was looking for mushrooms!”

Having returned home, I called Joseph and begged him to come and look at the book. He said he would oblige, but he couldn’t get there before the evening. He had work to do and the city was an hour-long drive away in the best traffic. I had to settle for whatever he could offer. I also had to settle my nerves because, by that point, I was shaking. I wanted to talk to someone, someone besides Sarah as I didn’t want to alarm her any more than I needed to, and I also wanted to protect her from knowing too much; it may have put her in more jeopardy than she and Corey were in already because they are my family and my meddling was getting serious. Needing to let someone else in on what I was doing, I had no choice but to talk with Barbara at the diner. So, off I went for brunch.

The booth in the corner nearest the front window of the diner was my new spot. Barbara was serving that morning. “Where’s Carla,” I asked?

“Her day off! I have to give my own daughter a break once in a while,” she smiled.

“Yes, please,” was my answer to the silent question of Barbara raising the coffee pot and her eyelids as her head tilted toward the table and coffee cup.

“Can you sit just for a minute?”

“We are kind of busy – can I stand so the customers don’t think I’m goofing off?”

“Yeah, of course. Listen,” I got a little quieter, “I need to let you know about some developments regarding the kids, the magic stones, and the church.”

“Oh, I heard about Billy, poor thing.”

“It wasn’t suicide, Barbara.”

“I don’t want to hear about it, Blake.”

“OK. For now just know this: Billy’s original story was true, he found evidence to corroborate his story and I now have the book the kids were using regarding the magic stones. I’m going to get to the bottom of it now with the help of a friend.”

“You have evidence?”

“I don’t have Billy’s evidence, no. I have the journal that Julie used when the kids had their tragic experiences.”

I really don’t know what it is you’re getting into – and I don’t want to know any more, Blake.  You best watch your back. And I would not trust the Sheriff or anyone on good terms with him.”

At that moment, Charlie, the owner of the hardware store who lied to my face, walked into the diner.  He briefly scanned the room, took notice of Barbara and me, and kept scanning. Then he took a seat at a two-person table across the room. Both Barbara and I watched him come in. Then, Barbara turned to me and said, “Watch your back!” With that she walked away, grabbed a menu for Charlie and proceeded to his table.

It was an awkward brunch having him there and, so, I was determined to get out at soon as possible. I ordered a slice of pecan pie to go with my coffee, ate it, and ran. On my way out of the diner, I heard “Mornin’, Blake, or is it afternoon by now?” It came from Charlie’s table. I turned my head toward him but kept my forward momentum to the door as I replied, “Good afternoon, Charlie.” I was smiling, but I was thinking that there’s a place in hell for him only he doesn’t know it yet.

Nervous and not knowing what to do with myself, I didn’t want to pace around the house until the evening. Surely that would make Sarah and Corey nervous, too. So, I went to the library to see if I couldn’t rediscover what Billy did from an 1880 newspaper article. I asked Tricia, the librarian, to help with the microfiche. When I asked for the year 1880, she came back from storage with a troubled look on her face.

“It’s odd, Mr. Harding, but the microfiche of the newspaper from that year is missing.”

“Would another library have a copy,” I asked?

“I doubt it. It’s a local paper. You can always try the office of the Paketka Tribune. It’s more likely than anyone else that they have their old editions on microfiche.”

I arose excitedly, “Thank you, Tricia. You’re a doll!”

In small towns, even wild goose chases are quick. Minutes later I found myself talking with the publisher of the Peketka Tribune a few blocks away. I had never met him before. An older gentleman of class, he had very helpful manners.

“Let’s see, Mr. Harding. This cabinet has all the microfiche going all the way back to 1865 when the paper was first started after the Civil War. Now…that’s strange. Maybe more than a coincidence, but…our copy of that year is missing as well.”

“Is there any evidence that your office had a break-in during the last few days,” I asked?

“No sir. But, not to worry Mr. Harding.” He motioned me to follow him. “I understand you are a historian?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ve always been an amateur historian and that interest and the integrity of documenting it correctly is why I am in the newspaper business today. I happen to have a personal collection of the Tribune on my computer. The library hasn’t digitally scanned all of its microfiche yet, but for me it was a personal priority. Let’s go into my office.”

“That is amazing! Thank you!”

Minutes later, I had every Paketka Tribune edition from the year 1880 on a thumb drive dangling from my key chain as I drove home.

Once home, I scoured the images for hours. The text of the articles was not searchable as I only had images of  individual pages. So, I had to determine when the rector of the church died and I started reviewing the daily papers from there.  Finally, I found the article Billy was talking about. It revealed that the rector’s body was found in the river trapped between two boulders in the middle of the stream of rapids. It also mentioned a man with the surname Brackman who was found dead at his home days before the rector. The rector was questioned by authorities because the two had been seen arguing in public. Brackman’s journal with his name in it, a book mostly about the magic stones, was found in his basement after several searches of his home. However, shortly afterwards it went missing. As I continued to study the article, the doorbell rang. It was Joseph. I welcomed him in, offered him a drink and got right to business.

“Here’s the book. Having been buried for 20 years, it’s in remarkable shape.”

“OK. I’m seeing but not believing. It’s very much fantasy – a magic tome scribbled in Latin, Hebrew, and some English. There are a lot of sigils and glyphs here I don’t understand. But for the most part it’s an instructional book,” Joseph said straightforwardly.

“What kind of instructions?”

“Well, let’s start here. This first section, mostly in Hebrew, is an origin story about a red sandstone cave; it’s associated in this book with Gehhinom, a purgatory of sorts in Judaism, cleansing fires…not hell…but like hell. This book says ancient people who, having believed that Gehhinom existed in some spiritual plane, established a cave to specifically absorb the the sins of ancient peoples while they were alive. The sandstone comes from this cave…hmm…interesting. Fantastical, but interesting nonetheless.”

“What is?”

“Well, it says this stone has the property to not just absorb the darkness of sinners which is what the cave was supposedly used for, but it can…and I’ll translate loosely here…’absorb all darkness catapulting the soul of a man to the heights of ecstasy.’ ” He paused a moment and then continued, “Woah! It also says here that if not done precisely according to the ‘instructional commandments,’ the darkness already in the stone from millennia of absorption, will be directed back to the person using the stone. “

“That make sense now!”

“It does,” Joseph asked confounded?

“Joseph, kids using this book 20 years ago created a tragic circumstance. They believed these special stones they found would remove their negative thoughts and leave them feeling high, even in a state of godlike potency. That’s what they believed! They tried to follow the instructions in the book even though they were aware that incorrect disposal of the stone would mean a backdraft of darkness many times in magnitude. That much is the rumor that has circulated over the years…in small circles, mind you.”

“You believe this, Blake?”

“I’ve met the two surviving kids, now adults. Their damage was limited, psychological and physiological. You’ve heard the recording of how the girl, Julia, speaks now. Another kid killed his friend and then died himself in a senseless suicidal act. I now have proof here in this article that it happened just as the legend says, despite the townspeople keeping it quiet. The Sheriff back then – still Sheriff today – covered it up.”

“You really think so,” Joseph asked?

“On the night Billy – the boy who survived – called me to tell me about this article of evidence supporting his original story, he supposedly committed suicide. The microfiche at the library and the newspaper disappeared overnight. Look…Joseph, I have a lot of other details I just can’t share because I have to act on this right now. I need to get this story to the State Police and the FBI, I’m not taking any chances.”

“Blake, the fact that you cannot read this…and you somehow know what it says…implies it’s true!  Do you know what this means?”

“What?”

“In the hands of kids, this book was a serious danger. But, to someone who can read it…there is a whole lot of power here besides a feeling of perfectly high ecstasy. The stones can be wielded as weapons against ones enemy.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Joseph?”

“Look at this next section, mostly in Latin. The symbols are starting to make since to me. There are magnetic compass directions, astrological factors. Now, I see. The kids probably misunderstood the symbols which outline precisely when and where the stones needed to be discarded. There’s a drawing here of boulders in the river, on either side of a very deep crevice. It says here that the crevice is 25 deep and at the bottom is another type of stone that the text calls a ‘base stone’ It also says ‘like lodestone, but not lodestone.’ It says it has a ‘field of energy, but not electromagnetic’, that absorbs – no, the word here now on this page is vescitur – it ‘eats’ , or more apt, ‘devours dark energy’ when the red sandstone comes into close enough proximity to it…and there are some esoteric geometry symbols here. Blake, the important thing to take from this is that one should not simply toss the stones in a crevice, but instead ensure that they contact the base stone. Do you see what those kids did wrong?”

“No, Joseph.”

“This is incredible. We must go there tomorrow at sunset. “

“NO, Joseph. Give me the book back!”

I saw his arm move towards me and the next thing I remember was waking up about a half hour later with the worst headache I’ve ever had. Sarah was standing above me with a cold wash cloth. I noticed Barbara was also in the room because, although Sarah wanted to seek help, she was smart enough not to alert the Sheriff about what had happened. Joseph, in his greed and lust for supernatural power, knocked me out and fled with the book about the magic stones. The disturbance had woken Sarah who had gone to bed earlier in the evening. Fortunately Corey was staying overnight at a friend’s house. I needed a few conscious moments to get my wits about me.

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 2: Down by the River – Part 4

[…continued from Part 3]

“While details are still sketchy on the history for the last century, there was an article in 1880 that mentioned mystery around the church and it cited the mysterious death of the rector at that time. There was no mention of what what was to become of the church in the future. But the article cited a journal kept by someone who regularly visited the rector. This man wrote of ‘magic stones’, small chips of sandstone with exotic powers that came from the quarry near the church. The man and the book disappeared just before the rector’s death. Finally! Another source than can prove what I knew. So I will tell you what I do know – mostly about the danger of the stones.

“We were young and gullible – stupid  high school students. Julia was the only girl in our group of friends and the brightest. She’s the one who uncovered some information about the stones and told us of their powers. So, we went looking for them. We followed her to the old quarry which was overgrown with bushes and trees and started walking along the river toward the church looking for fragments of red sandstone.  On the whole walk we came upon three stones and wondered what was so special about them. They didn’t seem out of the ordinary – just plain red sandstone. Julia pulled out an old book which was written in Latin and a whole mess of symbols. She was a top student in every class including Latin from an elementary age, so she translated for us with no trouble. The sandstone in this area was unusual – it didn’t come from the region. The book said it was from a netherworld or infernal some such – I don’t remember the exact description.  It said that under certain conditions the stones would absorbed dark energy. It told how to infuse the stones, or to impart one’s own negative energy promising a god-like feeling as a result. Certain conditions had to be met – chanting vibrations, geological proximity, and proper discard method. The book described a place along the river that was prepared centuries ago, supposedly by the builders of the church. Only they could tell you more about that. But, we followed the directions in the book and three of us tried infusing the stones with our negative energy. Julie, Taggart and I.”

“Who’s Taggart,” I asked?

“Taggart was the one who smashed Tommy’s head with a rock before diving into the river; he was going to look for the target zone deep below the river’s surface where the infused stones were meant to be discarded according to the book. I believe he thought that if he could recover his misplaced stone, he could cleanse himself of the darkness that was tormenting him after he threw it and missed. He never resurfaced and was presumed drowned. They never found his body.”

“What happened to you and Julia,” I inquired?

“We both missed the zone as well. My stone was the size of a pebble, smaller than a dime. I’ve dealt with a migraine every day since. Julie’s was the size of a quarter. Taggart’s was the size of a silver dollar. He always thought of himself the macho man of the group, but he was just a bully. He took the biggest piece for himself. I guess that backfired on him. Tommy didn’t even get to try, but he met a horrible fate anyway.”

“And Julia?”

“She didn’t fare so well. She kind of lost her mind. She was instantly paranoid and mostly incoherent. She was seen by psychiatrists for months and then put in an asylum by her family. They couldn’t even communicate with her. I’ve visited her over the years. Whenever she sees me, she quiets down, and mumbles. I do think she feels in danger most of the time, but I seem to give her comfort. So, to keep her calm she is drugged most of the time. I visit her once a month.”

“So this is all true after all? And the Sheriff’s covering this up?”

“The priests told me not to talk. Then the Sheriff told me, ‘This was an accident. Tommy and Taggart fell. Julie just went crazy from witnessing all of it.’ I was to change my story if I knew what was good for me. He spoke all of this in the presence of Charles O’Brien who, after the Sheriff walked away, threatened to kill me back then if I told anyone the details.”

“Charlie? The hardware store owner,” I asked?

“That’s him.”

“I’ve got to go. I think I hear someone in the building. Come meet me tomorrow morning, 9AM, at the school. I’ll take you to see Julia. If I get her calm enough, maybe we can find out what happened to the book she was holding when this all went down.”

Before I could get in another word, Billy hung up.

My wife, Sarah, overheard the phone call and was a bit concerned. At this point, I thought it wise to share with her what was going on. My interactions with people were starting to make me nervous. I had skepticism about Billy, but a great deal of mistrust about Charlie, especially since he lied directly to my face. I explained everything to her. I started with Barbara’s version, my visit to the Church grounds and what I saw, Billy’s version, and then Charlie’s story and boldface lie.

“Blake, do you really need to pursue this,” Sarah asked?

“Honey, our boy walks by the church on the way to school.”

“We could drive him.”

“Sure at first. But, we can’t live in fear. We need to uproot this darkness. What if there is a cover-up? That stinks up the community and I don’t want to be a part of it. The mystery needs solving. And, if there is a danger, people need to be aware of it. We must do something.”

“All right. Be careful, Blake. I’ll drive Corey to school this week.”

“I’m meeting Billy in the morning at the high school. We’re going to visit the asylum.”

“If you don’t come straight home after, please call me.”

“Will do.”

In the morning my wife drove Corey as planned. I drove out to the high school which was only a few blocks from the elementary. I waited at the entrance for one hour. There was no sign of Billy. I went in to ask Principal Hillsdale, Bob, if he or anyone else had seen Billy. No such luck. But, knowing me fairly well, Bob did offer Billy’s home address and I drove the three miles to the opposite side of town. He lived in a small house set on a more rural road where residences were few and far between. He was reclusive after all. There was a car in his driveway. Not knowing whether or not he was married, I presumed it was his. I climbed the two steps of his front porch and knocked on the screen door first, calling out, “Billy?” as the door boards clattered. There was no sound of movement inside, so I opened the screen door and knocked on the inside door, again repeating, “Billy?” The door opened slightly with my knock. It did not appear to have been forced open. Yet, it was open, unlocked and there were scratches around the keyhole on the doorknob. I then swung the door open and walked in, calling out again only louder, “Billy! It’s Blake. I came over because you didn’t show at the school. Billy?”

I started looking around for a clue as to what might have happened. The place look relatively clean, objects neatly placed in order. But, looking along the narrow hallway into the kitchen, I noticed there was an overturned chair on the floor which seemed out of place with the rest of the house.  So, I proceeded into the kitchen and that’s where I stood frozen in horror to find Billy’s body hanging from a rafter. He wasn’t swinging and his body was cold and pale. In all appearance it looks as though he hung himself last night. Using Billy’s living room telephone, I called the Sheriff’s department immediately.

Upon the arrival of the Sheriff and his deputies,  I received the third degree from the Sheriff himself.

“What were you doing on the premises, Mr. …?”

“Harding. Blake Harding, sir,” I replied. “I had come looking for Billy when he didn’t show up for a scheduled appointment.”

“And what business did you have with Billy Kegan?”

“With all due respect, sir, what business is that of yours?”

“Son, this is a crime scene on which you happened to be located. For all I know, you were the last one to see Billy alive. Is this really how you want to play it – we could talk more at the station?”

If the Sheriff is involved in the cover-up of a previous crime, I couldn’t give too much information to him, although I did feel the need to speak frankly.

“Look,” I said, “I had just made an appointment to meet with Billy to talk about the town’s history. I’m a historian – it’s my profession. Billy was an amateur, but he had more knowledge about the town than I did, having just recently moved back here.”

“Well, Mr. Harding, this is a clear case of suicide, cut and dry, and I don’t think you had anything to do with it. So, you should be on your way. But, Mr. Harding,” he paused and looked me in the eye tipping his hat upward, “some history is just that – history. Best leave it where it lies. You have a good day now!” He pulled his hat down a bit and turned around heading for the kitchen.

And with that I took my leave. As excited as Billy was last night, there is no way he took his own life. He was quite paranoid the other night when I met him – looking outside the classroom windows as if he were being watched. From this moment on, I had to be extremely careful in my every move for my own safety…for my family’s safety.

Unfortunately I could not have a closer look in Billy’s house for the evidence he had possessed to corroborate his story. He had the 19th century news article with reference to the book on magic stones. I was now faced with finding Julia on my own. Would she talk with me? If she did, would I understand her or would she be incoherent?

I went back home immediately to tell Sarah what I knew so far. Already upset with the present mystery, she did not take the news of Billy’s death well. It was not setting easily with me either. When he was younger – he was in fact threatened, by the Sheriff indirectly and by Charlie directly. Foul play was a most plausible assumption. After briefly speaking with Sarah and calming her down a bit, I set out again – this time for the asylum which was only a little farther out of town than Billy’s house. Sarah wanted to go with me, but I wouldn’t have it. I convinced her that she needed to pick up Corey from school and I would probably not be back until late afternoon.

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia