Storytime with Erika
Imagination is a Wonderful Gift
When I let my imagination fly, boy, it can come up with great stories!
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A Romantic Dystopian Novelette
Caleb lost his soulmate, Valerie. Could it be possible to find her in a parallel universe? If his father succeeds to open the portal, will he find the same person in the alternate universe or a stranger? How far is he willing to go in finding the happiness he lost?
Will he find his soulmate, Valerie?
Caleb felt slight dizziness for a moment and shook his head to clear his vision. He found himself in a cemetery looking down at the gravestone with his name on it. It must be the right universe. I’m dead here. He rejoiced and felt Midnight squirm in his arms and jump to the ground. “Where did you disappear so fast?” he mumbled looking around but didn’t see the cat, only a slight shimmer as if the air was thicker at the small area where he stepped through the portal. He touched the small locator fastened to his wrist.
Feeling great anticipation and hope, he started walking in the direction where his and Valerie’s house was supposed to be, side by side. It took him only a few minutes to reach the street, where he found both houses exactly the same as in his universe. Then he heard Midnight’s loud meow from Valerie’s garden, but he didn’t see the cat anywhere.
The front door opened, and Valerie stepped out holding a small bowl. “Here Whiskers, I have a special treat for you.”
Caleb’s heart skipped a beat seeing Valerie all grown up. She was a lanky teenager when I saw her last. She’s more beautiful than I’d ever imagined she would be.
He heard a meow again and watched as Valerie looked around, confused. “Where are you, kitty?”
The cat meowed again, sounding close by, but was nowhere to be seen.
Caleb didn’t ponder the fact that he didn’t see the cat, or Valerie didn’t notice him standing only a few feet away. “Val,” he called out.
She froze and looked in his direction. “Caleb?”
“It’s me, but from a parallel dimension.”
“Who said that?” she cried out and started trembling. “Nobody is here. I’m hallucinating!”
“You’re not. I’m here! Look at me. I came from a parallel universe to find you. Please, look at me!” Caleb begged.
Valerie broke out in sobs and turned to go back into the house. “Either I’m going batshit crazy, or I’m schizophrenic. I read about that. I’m about the right age when the first symptoms appear. That must be it,” she mumbled between sobs.
“Val, I’m here.”
She slowly turned and took a step closer. “It’s Cal’s voice but nobody is here. I must be having auditory hallucinations.”
Shaking her head, she turned toward the door again. Caleb moved toward her. He reached out and touched Valerie’s shoulder. Her body shook as she turned and took a step back. “Is this a sick joke? Who’s there?”
Caleb knew something was terribly wrong. “You can’t see me.” When he looked down, he couldn’t see his own body. “I can’t see me either! Val, I’m here but I seem to be invisible.”
Valerie scrubbed the tears off her cheeks. “That’s impossible! I… I can hear you, but I can’t see you. This can only mean two things. One is schizophrenia, and two, you’re a ghost.”
He shook his head. “No! There is nothing wrong with you and I’m not a ghost. I’m from another dimension.” Caleb reached out to touch her, but she pulled back as soon as she felt his touch. “You’re scaring me. What is happening to me? Who are you? It’s Caleb’s voice, but he’s dead.”
“My dad built a machine and I came through a portal from a parallel universe to find you. My Valerie… my soulmate, she died in the universe I live in and I saw the grave of your Caleb in the cemetery.”
“Are you sure I’m not hallucinating? Are you really here?” Breathing in deeply, doing her best to stay calm, Valerie pinched her arm. “Ouch!” she cried out. “At least I know it’s not a dream. Are you supposed to be invisible?”
“No, this is not how it’s supposed to be. Dad said everything is supposed to look and feel normal once I came through the portal, so I’m sure something went wrong.”
They heard a meow again, and Valerie jumped when she felt something soft brushing against her leg. “What is it?”
“It must be Midnight, my cat. He came through the portal with me like he’d gone through many times before.” Caleb rationalized
“Midnight? Is he a black cat with white whiskers?” Valerie asked, feeling a little relieved. “He’s been around for weeks, but he comes only for short visits.”
Caleb chuckled. “So, you’ve been feeding him. He’s been getting a little porky, and he’s never hungry after his trip through the portal.”
The front door opened a crack and a young girl poked her head out. “Val, who are you talking to?”
“Nobody,” Valerie replied quickly. “Just Whiskers—you know, the black cat that’s been hanging around.”
“I don’t see any cat.” Lianne stepped out and scanned the garden and driveway. “Come in. Alice made chocolate pudding, your favorite.”
“In a minute.”
“Okay.” Lianne turned, walked in, and then closed the door behind her.
“I have to go, Cal,” Valerie whispered. “Will I see… or rather, hear you again?”
“I’ll come back, promise. As soon as my dad fixes the machine. Now that I’ve found you, nothing could keep me away.”
Valerie smiled with hope in her heart and went inside.
Caleb started walking toward the cemetery. “Midnight are you coming?” he called out. He heard the cat’s quick footsteps behind him and felt him brush against his leg. He reached down and picked up the cat. Just in time, because he felt a slight dizziness. When his vision cleared, he was back at his dad’s lab.
Halloween story for middle-grade children
Nikki and her impish cousin, Jack, find a mysterious black pumpkin in the forest on Halloween. A wise talking skeleton, Wishbone, tells them that the ghosts of the Trinity of Wishmothers are trapped inside the pumpkin and can’t be freed without their wands. The children offer their help, so the skeleton takes them on a journey to the world of Creepy Hollow. This is a fun, humorous and touching story for kids, with plenty of character interaction woven into a backdrop of scary danger, heroic action and lessons to be learned.
When Nikki, Jack, and Wishbone emerged from the other side of the Ectomagic Gate, it closed behind them without a sound and vanished as if it had never been there at all. Nikki was a bit disappointed; she had expected something more spectacular, such as magical sparks or a shimmering doorway. But Jack couldn’t have been happier, for they had entered a lovely cemetery with bright green grass, colorful flowers, and trees of all kinds growing everywhere. Even though it was autumn, everything was still in full bloom. Delicate, silvery spider webs graced the leaves and branches, from which hung Jack O’Lanterns and strings of twinkling lights, like the kind of lights you would use to decorate Christmas trees, except that these were green, purple, and orange in color. A bright, warm sun shined down upon the headstones that marked each and every grave.
Nikki glanced at the dark blue sky and saw only a few clouds floating above the graveyard. But when one cloud floated down to the ground and melted into one of the graves, she realized that those weren’t clouds at all. They were ghosts, and with their appearance, the colors of the cemetery faded to bluish-gray.
“Welcome to Wormbelow,” Wishbone said to Nikki and Jack.
“I thought this was Celestria, the Realm of Spirits,” said Nikki.
“Oh, but it is,” Wishbone told her. “Wormbelow is just our nickname for it. Almost everyone who dwells here calls it that. But its proper name is Celestria.”
“Why do you call it Wormbelow?” Jack asked.
Nikki rolled her eyes at him. “Duh, Jack! What lives below the ground?”
Jack frowned thoughtfully and scratched his head. Then his eyes went wide. “Worms,” he said, smiling. “Worms live below the ground.”
“Took you long enough,” said Nikki.
“Wormbelow is a more fitting name,” Wishbone cackled. “The bodies of everyone lay below ground, but their ghosts flow above freely as celestial beings. I think that’s where the name, Celestria, came from.”
“This place is totally awesome,” said Jack. He pulled out his phone. “I’ve got to take some pictures.” He took a picture but when he tried to post it he couldn’t. He mumbled, “What’s going on? I don’t have a single bar. Check yours, Nikki.”
Nikki took her phone out of her pocket, stared at the screen and said with a disappointed look on her face, “Me neither. Not a single one. There’s no reception here.”
“Hey, look!” Jack showed Nikki his phone. “I took the picture but now it’s just a blur. What’s going on?”
Wishbone chuckled, “This is Creepy Hollow. We don’t have such things as Wi-Fi, cellular towers, or the internet here. And you can’t take pictures, either. This is a secret place. Nobody in the outside world, other than you two, is allowed to know about it.”
“That’s bad!” said Nikki, wondering and worrying what they would do if they had to call home for help. She frowned and put away her phone.
Jack was disappointed, but he shrugged and took it all in stride. “So, Mister Wishbone,” he said, putting his now useless phone back inside his pocket. “What do we do now? What do you want me to do with this pumpkin? It’s getting kind of heavy.”
“See that building over there?” Wishbone asked, pointing to a small, rectangular building made of gray stone, and sitting between a pair of willow trees to their right. The building had a brass door with small, stained-glass windows on both sides of it. “That’s called a mausoleum. The Trinity of Wishmothers lives there… or rather, they are buried there.”
Once again, poor Jack looked confused. “What’s a mausoleum?” he asked.
“It’s like a grave,” Nikki explained, “except that it’s above the ground, not below it.”
Jack nodded. “Oh, I see. Their bodies are buried in there but their ghosts are now stuck inside the black pumpkin.”
“You can set the pumpkin down, near the entrance, Jack,” said Wishbone.
“Okay,” said Jack, happy to set the heavy pumpkin down. As an afterthought, he removed his empty messenger bag and set that down near the pumpkin. He didn’t want to carry the bag around anymore, either.
At that moment, two tall, dark figures emerged from the darkness of the surrounding trees and slowly walked toward them.
Jack and Nikki looked at each other, uncertain whether they should be afraid or not. One of the figures was a black cat that walked like a man, and the other was a young woman who looked like a Goth vampire.
Wishbone, still being held by Nikki, shook his whole bony silver body, sounding just like the wind chime that he was. “My friends are here,” he said happily.
“Wishbone, you’ve come back!” cried the man-like black cat who wore a brown vest over a blue shirt, blue-striped brown pants, and dark brown boots. A large pouch dangled from his leather belt. “Curse that evil Hobgoblin!” He wiped tears from his bright golden eyes.
The woman’s silver eyes flashed like 4th of July sparklers. She lowered her head for a moment and wiped the tears from her eyes.
She likes him, she likes him a lot, Jack thought. And I bet Mister Wishbone likes her, too. In many ways, the woman reminded Jack of his classmate, Cassandra, who always dressed in black clothes. He had a huge crush on her but was too shy to ask her to come to his birthday party.
“I missed you, my friend,” the pretty Goth woman told Wishbone. “After we heard what that awful Hobgoblin did to you, I went to the Seer Witch. She said you’d be found on the Other Side by children who would bring you back to us.”
Her long, black gown trailed behind her, and her long black hair flowed past her shoulders.
“Yes, I’m back, but look at me now.” Wishbone sighed, gave an admiring glance to the young woman and thought: She still wears the turquoise headband I gave her. She didn’t forget me. And she still paints her nails black. He fought back the feelings of sadness and hopelessness that were creeping up on him.
It’s believed by many, that crows are a symbol of bad luck and death, but by others, crows are the symbol of life, magic, and mysteries. They also symbolize intelligence, flexibility, and destiny.
In this short journal, I reveal some of my observations and experiences with having the privilege to know a crow family for decades, and I also share a great memory of watching and raising a litter of orphaned fox pups.
I’m a writer. Am I telling you a true story or is this a figment of my imagination? You decide. I wrote this story only for the purpose of entertainment, but I hope you will be able to relate to my observations, feelings, and experiences, and appreciate these intelligent, majestic birds as much as I do.
Happiness and Good Health
For about four years, we saw only Julia and Julius with one of their offspring on the property. As Grandma’s rhyme said, three brings news of happiness and good health, seemed to be coming true. We had great jobs, our daughter thrived in school and became interested in art.
Although my neighbor’s young pig made a mess of the flower garden once when he escaped from the pigpen, their Guinea Hens had kept the property clear of ticks and bugs. They scoured every square foot and feasted on the tasty bugs and grubs.
Moreover, that summer we had a once in a lifetime experience.
We enjoyed a lazy afternoon in the backyard. My hubby had gone inside to watch a sports event on television.
I stayed outside, enjoyed the perfect weather, and listened to the birds’ excited chirps. They must have found a tasty bug or grub. I didn’t want to know what it was they had caught. It was enough for me to know they were happy.
Two squirrels, which lived in the attic of the old cottage in the backyard, chased each other up and down a pine tree and across the branches of an old oak. I marveled at their ability to climb fearlessly and jump into the air with a precise destination in mind. They both landed on a thin branch of the oak and continued their chase. I had no idea if they were fighting, or just simply playing and enjoying themselves. They didn’t sound angry; they seemed to be making happy sounds, but since I hadn’t learned to speak squirrel, I could only guess.
Soon, Julia had enough of the loud chatter and scared the squirrels away by cawing and flapping her wings as she swooped down, chasing them. I had a feeling that Julia enjoyed the chase and after the squirrels hid in the bushes, she cawed her victory song perching on her favorite tree stump.
I heard my frequent visitor, the tiny emerald hummingbird. He was whirring over my head toward the flowerpots. He sounded like a giant bumblebee as he flew around me. Then he hovered by a flower drinking its sweet nectar. He visited a few more flowers before disappearing as quickly as he had come. I went inside to get my camera, hoping to take pictures of the beautiful, tiny bird on his next visit.
As I sat on a comfy lawn chair, waiting to get a picture of the hummingbird, I saw Julia circling over the clearing by the old cottage in the backyard and heard high-pitched, yapping sounds. The yaps became a consistent chorus. I tried to figure out what kind of animals were making the noise and why Julia was so fascinated by them, so I went to investigate. Step by step, I crept toward the corner of the building. Hiding behind an oak tree, I peeked out.
To my utter surprise, I saw a group of adorable fox pups.
Their sweet and curious little faces melted my heart instantly. I was so happy when I realized that the camera was in my hand. Ever so slowly, I lifted the camera to eye level and took the first picture of the adorable pups. They were looking toward me without fear; they didn’t view me as a threat. I was rooted to the spot, afraid to move a muscle. I didn’t want to scare them away and Julia must have had the same thoughts, she quietly perched on a low branch watching the pups.
My legs started to cramp up, but I didn’t budge. Four little foxes! I mused. They’re the cutest. Oh my God! Look at those little faces. I enjoyed the sight immensely.
Then two more pups appeared. They rolled leisurely on the dry leaves and stretched their baby muscles. Sniffing each other, they clumsily played with each other’s tails. Their movements weren’t precise and often they missed the target as they swatted at each other or tried to bite a leaf or twig.
And then I counted seven pups.
The magnificent seven popped into my mind. I was so disappointed when I realized that one little pup hid by the time I was ready to snap the shot. She lay down behind the one sitting in the right lower corner.
Suddenly I heard a sharp, barking sound from the bushes.
The little foxes’ ears perked up, and they looked in the direction where the warning bark came from. Within a second, they were gone, retreating into a hole that was dug under the building.
As slowly and quietly as I could, I moved away from the tree, thinking that, to them, my footsteps probably sounded like the rumbling of a bulldozer. However, I couldn’t help my clumsy human feet, which made loud noises as I walked back to the house.
They made a nest under the cottage. Seven baby foxes! They’re just simply adorable. I promised myself that I wouldn’t bother them, but I couldn’t help making plans to take a few more pictures as they were growing up.
My brain was already making plans. I could see the side of the cottage from behind the doghouse, so I would be able to see when the momma fox was away on a hunt. Then I could hide behind the tree and take pictures of the babies. Perhaps they would get used to my smell, and they wouldn’t move away.
I told my hubby what I had found and showed him the pictures as I downloaded them. Zoltan was amazed and tried to think of the best way to approach them to take more pictures so we wouldn’t scare the momma fox away. We were looking forward to watching them grow.
Little did we know...
Cozy small-town mystery
When Danielle finally quits her boring accountant job and opens an Antiques & Stuff store, her life changes for the better. But soon, her happy life starts to spin out of control when the snobbish new owner of the Couture mansion brings a seemingly worthless painting into her shop. The ownership of the painting is questionable, and the town’s future is threatened by the plans of the ruthless, rich owner who wants to build a leather factory on the estate, too close to town.
An unexpected visitor arrives, and he may possess the much-needed solution to everyone’s problems in this quaint little town.
Danielle didn’t have any customers all morning and the locksmith finished changing the lock within a few minutes, giving her plenty of time to work. She finished cleaning the signature part and the full name was visible and matched the signature she found on numerous paintings from the artist on the auctioneers’ websites. This confirmed that the artist was indeed who she thought he was. She covered the painting on the easel and was ready to turn the “out to lunch” sign on the door when Mr. Jones rushed in exasperated.
“I came as fast as I could. Did Mrs. Van Bramer get here yet?” he asked out of breath.
“Because… because I kinda told her about the silver-haired man and she was convinced that he was going to steal her painting from your store because he lied…” The mailman blurted out trying to catch his breath and continued. “And she’s convinced that the portrait is worth a lot of money, and she said she wouldn’t let him, or you, steal it from her.”
“Me? Stealing? How could she say that?”
“Oh, you should’ve seen her! Under that fancy looking exterior hides a very mean woman.” He turned toward the door as they heard a car stopping in front of the store. “Here she comes,” warned the mailman as Mrs. Van Bramer stormed through the door.
“I want my painting back!” the elegantly dressed woman shouted, her face distorted with anger. “I knew it! That scoundrel was lying to me. He called me yesterday and said he might be able to sell the painting for a few hundred, but I told him that I gave it to you. But now that he tried to steal it, I’m sure it’s worth a lot more and he knew it. I want it back, right now!”
“Uhm…” Danielle took a small step back. “I do think it’s worth a lot of money, too.”
“I knew it! Give it to me. I’ll have it authenticated and sell it.” The blonde woman pushing Danielle aside scanning the walls. “Where is it?”
“It belongs to the Couture family, you should give it back to them,” Danielle protested.
“What do you mean?” the woman snapped. “They left it in the house and the house is now mine with everything in it.”
Mr. Jones cleared his throat and said in a shaky voice, “By the law, it might be so, but you gave it to Danielle yesterday when you brought it to the store, remember? You told her to sell it or keep it— it’s hers.”
“What?” the angry woman shrieked. “Because I thought it was a piece of junk. Had I known it’s worth something…”
Mr. Jones raised his voice. “Your word is your word, and I’m a witness to it. You gave it to Danielle, and you said so. Not once but at least three times.”
Danielle tried to ease the tension. “You gave it to me, so I’m going to keep the painting until I can talk to the Couture family.”
“So that’s where we stand, young lady! You’re a thief just like that weasel expert. You’ll hear from my lawyer, today!” Mrs. Van Bramer shouted and hurried out the store pushing Sarah aside who was about to enter with takeout bags in her hands.
“Who is that? What’s going on?” Sarah turned her head looking after the seething woman who yanked the door of her Bentley open and barked at the driver to take her back to Manhattan as fast as he could.
Danielle explained everything as Sarah stared at her astounded. “What are you going to do?”
“First, let’s eat, I’m starving. I’ll call the real estate office later; they might have the phone number or at least the address of Mrs. Couture’s son in France. I’ll contact him and tell him about the painting.”
“Sounds like a good plan.” Sarah nodded and looked at the old mailman. “Would you like to join us for lunch? I brought plenty.”
“I would love to!” Mr. Jones smiled. “Thank you very much.”
After lunch, Danielle took the portrait to her bank with Sarah and rented a vault. She knew Mrs. Van Bramer would file a lawsuit claiming rightful ownership and she wanted to keep the painting safe until the court made the decision.
When she got back to the store, she felt like her unfinished painting was calling her. She worked on in until late that night. “You’re done. Now I’m satisfied. All you needed was a friend to hold hands with,” she told the oak tree in the painting.
A supernatural fantasy novella
A powerful curse cast thousands of years ago by the Grand Vizier. Tanakhmet cursed Prince Akhmose to never enter the Field of Reeds, the heavenly paradise. Why did he want him to linger as a restless ghost among the living, forever?
By reading the hieroglyphs, Layla, a young Egyptologist, inadvertently breaks the curse and frees the ghosts of both Prince Akhmose and the Grand Vizier whose thirst for revenge is stronger than ever.
With Layla’s help, can Prince Akhmose finally cross into the afterlife?
Or perhaps, because of the charms of the mortal woman, he doesn’t want to…
Available in eBook and audiobook, as well as in Italian and Spanish
Present time, chapter 5
The old church bell chimed twelve times, the sound echoed through the silent museum, weaving its way into Layla’s half-dark studio. Akhmose stretched and sat up feeling groggy and disoriented. He looked around the large room that was lit by the full moon through the window. Where am I? What is this strange place? he thought, feeling confused. How did I get here?
He looked toward the window. The pale moon and the chirping sounds of the night birds and insects spoke of serenity. Akhmose stood up and started walking toward the window but felt as if he was walking on air. Looking down at his legs, he realized that his feet didn’t touch the ground. Startled, he concentrated on standing with feet firmly on the ground. When he descended, he felt the floor under his bare feet. What is going on? Am I dreaming?
As his eyes adjusted to the moonlight, he looked around and saw a sarcophagus in the middle of the room. How strange. This place doesn’t look like a burial chamber. He walked back to the sarcophagus and dropped his hand to the surface, only to watch his fingers sink into the solid wood with no resistance. Yanking his hand back, he stared at the large sarcophagus in total confusion. He could see the face painted on the exterior, and at that moment, he realized that the sarcophagus was made for him. But I’m not dead. I’m dreaming. He sighed in relief. That’s it! This place is not a burial chamber and can’t be the beautiful place of the afterlife, the Sekhet-Aaru. And besides, even if I were dead, the sarcophagus shouldn’t be closed, not until my body was placed inside.
“Where am I?” His voice echoed in the room, but it was only met with silence. Panic started to set in, not knowing why he was brought to this strange place. He buried his face in his hands and felt the smooth skin and muscles beneath. My body feels solid and real, yet everything around me feels as soft as clouds. Why?
His steps made no sound as he walked toward the walls. Shelves upon shelves were filled with papyrus rolls but they looked old and faded. He saw strange symbols painted on small paper squares, but he couldn’t read them. None of the figures made any sense. He felt anxious and lost.
Then, he saw colorful hieroglyphics. They were so clear and real and beautiful. Whoever painted them must have been schooled by a really great teacher. He tried to unroll one of the papyri open, but his hands kept sinking into it. He gave up and turned away.
Suddenly, a bright light beam swept across the floor and then the walls. He froze as his eyes followed the light. Was it a sign? What caused this strange bright light? It looked to be as pure as the sun, but how could it be seen at night? Was he in the realm of the gods? Heavy footsteps approached, and he moved toward the sound. A large man in strange clothes held a torch that didn’t burn with flames. That’s no torch with fire! Akhmose decided. How could they trap the sunlight in that small cylindrical object the man is holding? The strange man looked old and worn, paying no attention to him. Akhmose crossed his arms and commanded, “Tell me what this place is!”
His face burned when the man refused to reply, or even glance in his direction. How dare he? He was Akhmose, brother of the Pharaoh of Egypt! He took a step closer to the man trying to avoid the bright light. Standing in front of the man, he shouted, “Can you hear me?”
The stocky looking man didn’t even blink. What’s wrong with this man? Those who own this place, why are they employing the blind and deaf? Akhmose sighed and leaned against the wall. He had given up on trying to get the man’s attention. All his life, few dared to ignore him, and even fewer who were not punished for said transgressions.
His gaze was drawn to the moon and smiled. He was in a place where nothing was familiar except the moon staring down at him. He tried to relax and ease the building tension. A troubled mind attracts confusion, but a level head draws the solution. His father had told him many times and it had always worked for him. He tried to make it work for him, again.
The bright light from the stranger’s torch landed on him briefly, and he wondered if the light was meant to harm him. He jerked backward by instinct, but when the light swept his body, he felt nothing. No heat on his skin, no burns from the light. It was nothing like the sun. Lost in his thoughts, Akhmose didn’t notice the man walking in his direction. When the stranger was a foot away from him, he didn’t stop. Before he could move, Akhmose felt the man go through his body—it felt like a gust of cold air.
The stranger drew a sharp breath. “A window must be open somewhere. It’s drafty in here,” he mumbled and shivered. Akhmose watched in horror and couldn’t understand a word he was saying. The man shined his flashlight on the shelves and continued his monologue, “This place is giving me the heebie-jeebies. I wish I could get a normal day job.” He quickly turned and started walking toward the door.
Surprised, Akhmose reached out and touched the man’s arm. “What did you do? How did you do that? How did you walk through me?” He pulled back in horror as his hand and fingers sunk into the man’s arm.
The guard yelled in fright, “Who’s there? Is there anybody there?” His eyes widened as he looked around the empty room. He turned and ran as fast as he could, his footsteps echoing down the long hall.
Akhmose followed the man who spoke in a strange tongue. He saw another man walking toward them in the long corridor. Sharp light wavered from his torch as he moved his hand.
“Earl! There’s a ghost in here! I’m getting the hell out of here.” The stocky man pointed at Layla’s workshop with shaky fingers.
“Don’t be stupid, man!” The taller man shook his head and groaned. “What are you going on about, there’s no such thing as ghosts.”
The shorter man stuttered, “No? Then you never had one touch you.”
The taller man groaned and shivered. “Okay, let’s get out of here.”
I’m in a strange world and I don’t understand what these people are saying. Why am I here? Am I a ghost? Akhmose watched the men flashing their lights everywhere. He wondered who they were. They wore the same black outfit and looked more like watchers than thieves.
Akhmose shook off the uncertain feeling and began wandering. I must find someone who speaks my language and explain to me what I’m doing here. He walked from room to room and passage to passage until he came upon a large door. When he tried to grab the doorknob, his hand and arm floated through it. It was a strange experience. Am I really a ghost? I can feel my body, but everything around me feels as if made of clouds. Feeling more curious than scared, he pushed his foot through the thick door and when he didn’t feel pain or pressure, he rushed his entire body to find himself on wide, stone steps.
It must be a temple, Akhmose looked back at the building with tall pillars. He walked down the stairs and looked around in awe. Everything looked strange. He had never seen anything like it. The buildings were almost as tall as the pyramids and clustered together. He had never seen so many large buildings together. Marveling at the lights, shining from the top of long poles, he wondered. There are so many people walking about. Why aren’t they sleeping? Only watchers and evil people move around after sunset. At least in the world, I knew. Suddenly, he felt a rush of great power dragging him. Everything turned into a blur.
The Magic of Healing
If you like fantasy stories with lots of mystery, legends, obscure clan traditions and beliefs, life in a secret society, love, time travel, read a chapter from Protected by the Falcon, the first book of The Ancestors' Secrets Series.
Book 1 if FREE September 6-10, and the series is available on Kindle Unlimited as well as in audiobooks. Enjoy!
I limped to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and removed the tape to examine my toe. It was still throbbing and bent at a revolting angle, and I knew it had to be straightened out. So, I sat there, considering the possibilities of which orthopedic surgeon to consult, and then, it hit me. The memories that were trying to come back to me in my dream started flooding my mind.
I remembered what happened when we were in the grocery store with Mom and the old lady slipped and fell in the aisle. I ran over before my mother could catch me and touched the lady’s hip that she was clutching in pain. After I had touched her, my hands became hot and red. When I took my hands off her, she stood up and then did something other people had done before. She started to go down on her knee. It almost reminded me of the special greeting to address royalty we rehearsed with Mom. I remembered the shock and disbelief in the woman’s eyes, and a look of fear on her face as Mom reached down and helped her up. “Not yet. She’s not ready yet,” she explained to the lady who nodded, still looking at me.
My mother rushed me away quickly. I glanced back, pulled by Mom’s urgent hands, watching the lady standing between the isles and shock still lingering on her face. “You mustn’t do that again, you hear me?” Mom yanked my hand and looked deeply into my eyes. I cried and didn’t understand what I had done wrong.
It confused me, but when we got home, we had a long debate about my ‘gift’ and why I couldn’t let anyone find out about it. Mom began her lecture. “You have a gift of seeing what is broken or wrong in people’s bodies, as well as being able to heal them. It’s not easy to explain, and there are consequences. In order to give, you must take, as well. You are too young to understand, promise me that you will not try this again and keep it a secret until you turn twenty-nine. Then, I will teach you how to use your gift properly and safely.”
I obeyed reluctantly, although I hated the term ‘gift.’ It didn’t feel like a gift if I couldn’t use it.
Mom went on to explain the details. “Everyone on the female side of our family had the gift, but it’s dangerous to use the healing power at a young age, before your body and your nervous system became fully developed and stabilized to receive the little ones.”
“I don’t believe this! I fumed silently. There it is again, the reference to the ‘little ones’ and I still don’t know what or who they were. I remembered how my Mom warned me, “If you try to use your gift too early, it would eventually paralyze you.”
She was right, of course. I found that out, first-hand. My fingers were paralyzed for days after that incident in the store, and it scared me enough not to try it again. I must have pushed the memory to the back of my mind and eventually forgot, although I didn’t really forget—my subconscious just refused to let it resurface.
I remembered Mom telling me, “The women down the line of our ancestors were called healers, midwives, and witches in the Dark Ages. Some of them were burned at the stake if their powers were found out. They all tried very hard to act normal and only heal using known methods of the time, but they couldn’t help slipping up and were occasionally discovered. Can you imagine what would happen if someone knew what you were capable of? There would be a circus of religious caravans and research labs with probing lab tests, and countless machines, trying to analyze the unknown phenomenon.”
No, I definitely didn’t want that. She also told me what would happen if I tried to share my secret with anyone. I didn’t believe her, but I found out when I tried to tell Bela about it. As I started talking, I felt extremely painful cramps in my stomach as well as sharp, excruciating pains in my head. I couldn’t concentrate on anything until I gave up the idea of talking about it. Then the pain stopped as fast as it had started. I learned after a couple of tries that it wasn’t worth the pain and also that I would become mute if I attempted to discuss my gift. I understood then why Elza couldn’t tell me things. She had the same built-in block that prevented her from talking about things she wasn’t supposed to share.
So, I have a ‘gift,’ but I have no idea how to use it. I tried hard to remember what I did to that lady. According to my recollection, after I touched her, I felt the warmth, shooting from my fingers. I recalled the feeling of wanting to make her better and wished her pain to go away. I sat there feeling foolish, as if I were playing with the idea of magic, instead of fixing my broken toe, as a good doctor should. As I stared at my crooked toe and I noticed, startled, that I was humming a rhyme under my breath.
Pain or fracture, you can touch,
Fingers warm and glow. You’ll watch.
Make it better, make it gone,
You won’t need a magic wand.
Little ones can do so much,
They will give you magic touch.
Wish it hard and do not stray,
Pain and hurt will go away.
Whoa! Could there be something to these rhymes? Was Mom, teaching me all along by giving me instructions through these simple and easy to remember verses? I’ve always been a realistic and logical person, not dense when it comes to learning, but now this whole experience made me feel as if I was slipping from reality into a fantasy world, and I had to learn everything without guidance.
Feeling stupid, but curious, I touched my toes with my fingertips and concentrated on the pain—hoping, but not expecting that it would go away as the rhyme had instructed. To my surprise, my fingers instantly became warm, and then turned hot. The glow came as soon as the warmth started to rise in my fingers. Strangely, I was more amazed than frightened, and then felt something I couldn’t explain. My mind was in turmoil and I felt a rushed and frantic searching from deep inside me. I didn’t know what I was searching for, it was a dizzying sensation, but not in a physical sense. Suddenly, I felt content and satisfied, as if I had found something that was lost.
“Now look what you have done! You have to ask permission!” I heard an angry voice in my mind, and a misty face of an old woman swam before my mind’s eye. It couldn’t even register how much the sight and hearing the voice scared me when I heard a sharp yell through the closed door and my vision of the old woman abruptly ended. I looked down at my hand and watched the red glow disappearing as I felt my fingers cooling back to normal. I lifted my hand and gaped at it with increasing anxiety. There was no sign of burn or even redness on my skin. I looked back at my toe, noting with surprise that the pain was completely gone.
The woman who yelled in the locker room started cursing like a drunken sailor.
“This goddamned chair! I stubbed my damn toe. It hurts like flipping hell.” I recognized Lisa’s voice.
I called out, “Are you okay? I’ll be out in a second. I’ll take a look.”
“It’s okay, take your time. I’ll have Zoltan take a look,” she said, and I heard the door slam a second later.
I averted my attention back to my toe. Alarmingly, it was aligning on its own. I couldn’t tear my eyes away as I watched the crooked toe’s slight movements, which were out of my control. I heard tiny crunches as the broken bone edges rubbed together. To my utter surprise, I didn’t feel any pain while the bones were moving. I heard little clicking and snapping sounds, after which I felt a slight pull in the tendons and muscles. Even the dark purple bruise faded, and my toe seemed as straight and healthy as it was before it was broken. I had mixed feelings of shock and delight, but mainly I was frightened. This is totally wicked, I mused, wiggling my toes carefully. There was no pain at all.
I was bewildered and whispered under my breath, “Only two minutes ago I had laid my hand on my broken toe, and now it is healed. This is exciting, almost unbelievable. Is it really possible that I can heal with a touch? People didn’t talk about my Mom as a doctor; they referred to her as a Healer and this morning my mark changed. Is it possible that my mark is the sign of the Healer and mom’s mark was too? This word had a magical or supernatural ring to it… I have to explore this, and if it’s possible, use it.” Hearing my voice made the weird experience more real.
Suddenly, I remembered the paralysis I’d felt after touching the old lady when I was a child. I waited for it to come again, anxiously staring at my hands and moving my fingers. I felt fine, not even a tingle, I guess Mom was right. My body wasn’t ready back then, but I think it might be ready now.
I was really freaked out and nothing made sense, yet I was excited at the same time. I couldn’t explain the vision of the old woman either. Why did she say I had to ask permission? Who from and why?
“Dr. O? Are you in there?” I heard a knock and Robert’s timid voice outside the door. He’d never entered the locker room before; something must have happened.
“Yes, I’ll be out in a second,” I responded.
“It’s okay. I didn’t mean to bother you. It’s just that I have to go back to my office, and I thought… I didn’t want to leave the ER unattended. I apologize.” he stuttered.
“I’m okay Robert. I just need a minute.”
“Okay then, I’ll be in my office if you need me.”
Despite all that had happened, and that I was still in a daze, my sense of duty was strong. I took a couple of deep breaths to calm down and splashed some cool water on my face. It wasn’t easy. It took me a few minutes to get my racing thoughts and emotions under control. So much had happened in a short time that my head was spinning. I knew I had to get a grip; otherwise, I would lose it. I had to do something normal, something familiar. I couldn’t afford to freak out.
I opened the door and walked to the station to look at the charts, and when I composed myself enough, I headed out to examine my first patient, Mrs. Molnar. She was lying on a stretcher half covered by a crookedly hanging curtain. Part of the material was ripped; perhaps someone grabbed it for support when falling. They said she was waiting for me. I wondered how she knew me. According to her chart, she was a seventy-year-old woman in good general health who complained of abdominal, mid-chest and back pains with nausea.
I reviewed the X-rays of her abdomen on a portable computer before making my way to her bed. She clearly had a small bowel obstruction. When I pulled the curtain and looked at her, I saw that she had the mark of the Hunor, so I greeted her in our fashion.
“Oh, I’m so glad to meet you,” she gushed. “I was so happy when I saw in the Collective that you were coming of age yesterday, and I heard you were working in this hospital. Please heal me fast. I’ve been in so much pain for two days now, but I was afraid to travel all the way to the closest Healer in Boston.”
I was afraid to dwell on what she said—I knew I’d lose my mind if I did and began examining her, laying my hands on her abdomen to palpate. Suddenly, images started flooding through my mind, as if I were seeing a scope sliding between her intestines and moving around her liver and stomach. Startled, I broke contact.
As soon as I released her, the images stopped. What now? Am I hallucinating again? Something is wrong… I was close to losing it, but then I’ve tried to calm myself and tried very hard to think rationally. Questions and thoughts began jumping in my mind like popped corn in a hot kettle. I saw the pictures in my mind only when I touched her, but I didn’t see them when I touched my toes. Perhaps it comes with my freaky ability like a magical diagnostic tool of some kind? This is crazy! I wish someone would just wake me up from this nightmare. Maybe I’m in the psych ward, tied to the bed and heavily medicated.
Mrs. Molnar snapped me out of the miserable state, “What’s wrong?” she asked, alarmed. Her small face wrinkled with concern.
“It’s nothing,” I replied, although I was utterly confused, “Please give me a second.”
I turned away from her, took my phone out of my pocket and pretended to look at it. My mind was racing. I couldn’t make any sense out of what was happening to me, so I used my method of calming myself to gain control. I let fear rule me for five seconds. Okay, just go with it. I prompted myself. Fear is not your friend. Fear is your boss for five seconds. One… two… three… four… five. Fear, you’re done! The control is mine now. I had a mental picture of a steering wheel, and I grabbed it in my mind. It worked again; I could calm myself enough to pay more attention. Instead of being frightened, I became curious. I took a few deep breaths, put my phone away and turned back to focus on Mrs. Molnar.
I laid my palm back on her belly and instantly saw the same pictures in my mind. I probed and moved my hands slowly over her whole abdomen. I realized that what I was seeing was something like a 3D picture. I moved my hands slower now, going over the kidneys and ovaries. They looked healthy. Then I slid my hand over the small and large intestines, and there was a blockage exactly on the spot I saw on the X-ray. I could see it in my mind much more clearly than in the X-ray image. This was a live picture I was seeing as if it were a perfectly clear movie made with a live camera. The liver, pancreas and the stomach looked healthy. Am I totally losing my mind, or is this for real? I must question my sanity, but I feel fine. Then what is this? I questioned, but then I decided to let it happen and explore further to see if I could make sense of it. I’ll try to keep an open mind because I want this ability to be real.
I moved my hand on her belly, and different images began flooding my mind. I saw a young and happy housewife with a hard-working husband and a house full of children. She cooked, did laundry, and cleaned the house day in and day out. It made her happy and content to care for her family. Then the children grew up, moved away, and her husband died. She was left alone, though still happy to see her children and grandchildren on holidays. She was happy at other times, caring for her cats and dogs, a house full of them. Whoa… how is this possible? I thought feeling amazed. It’s like a movie, a short version of her life.
I was dumbfounded and must have stood there like an idiot, because Mrs. Molnar impatiently snapped at me, “What’s wrong? Why don’t you do your thing and heal me already?”
“I’m sorry, but everyone seems to know more about me and this supposed ability I have than me,” I griped, trying to stall for time.
“Please tell me your mother prepared you!” she exclaimed.
“Unfortunately, no. She didn’t have a chance.”
“Well, the power is in you, you were born to do it. Just put your hand on my belly and let your instincts guide you,” she instructed.
This was too much. I had to go into my time capsule to think before I lost my mind. I called it ‘my time capsule’ when I slowed time around me. I wondered if I was really ready to heal others. Suddenly, a rhyme popped into my head.
Touch someone and see inside,
Only you can do.
Hands to brain to eyes the sight,
Bright and shiny flow.
Twenty-nine you turn tonight,
Many failed as so they tried.
Only healers have the glow,
Only you can do.
I should really pay attention to these rhymes, I thought. I don’t think I’m losing my mind. It’s all in there, in the rhyme. Mom said, “Physically and mentally ready.” So, does that mean I’m ready now to receive these images, and I’m ready to heal? Maybe that was her reason for grooming me to go to medical school… so I would be ready to see these pictures in my mind, and I would know what they were?
Safely, in my time capsule while everything stood still around me, I took a stroll down memory lane. I remembered my mother taking me to see autopsies when I was nine years old. At first, she showed me organs; later, when it didn’t gross me out, the whole body. She explained the human anatomy in minute detail. She had me go through the organs and then smaller and smaller parts under the microscope until I fully understood the physiology of every part of the body. I could imagine the shock it would be for an untrained person to see intestines, liver and kidneys in their mind if they didn’t know what on earth they were seeing. On the other hand, I didn’t know what the short version of Mrs. Molnar’s life story had been about. It was like a movie playing fast forward.
Thoughts and questions ran through my mind. Is that part of the healing too? Maybe I must see what the patient’s life is like in order to make a full connection. Well, let’s see if I can heal her… I did it to myself; perhaps I can do it to others. Could it be that easy? Touch and heal? Nothing fancy. My stars! Either it is that easy, or I have become a total lunatic. We’ll see if I’m a healer, or if I belong in the mental ward.
I snapped time back to normal. Mrs. Molnar didn’t notice I was far away in my thoughts and looked at me expectantly. Although I put on my brave and confident face, I still didn’t know what to do. I just wanted to heal her as I had my broken toe.
“Okay, here we go, but I warn you; I don’t know what I’m doing.” I exhaled sharply. She looked a bit scared but didn’t say anything.
I closed the curtain around the stretcher tightly, and then placed my hands lightly on her abdomen and made a wish to heal her. Again, I felt an urgent search and turmoil inside. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my mind saying, “You didn’t ask, but you have my permission to take what you need. You’re new. I forgive you, but next time, please ask and show respect.” I saw the face of an old man winking at me playfully surrounded in a blue mist from the other side of Mrs. Molnar’s stretcher.
“Thank you and sorry, I’m indeed new. I don’t really know what I’m doing.” I answered in my mind. Somehow, I knew the old man would hear my thoughts.
“It’s okay dear, but next time, don’t forget to ask.” The voice faded in my mind, and the vision disappeared. I felt satisfied and calm. I had no idea what it was, or whom it was, but in order to save my sanity, I didn’t dwell on it. To my surprise, I remembered another rhyme.
You can heal, but there is more,
Careful what you’re wishing for.
Find a passing, ask permission,
Take and give to fill your mission.
Keep it balanced otherwise,
Someone greatly pays the price.
What does this mean? I questioned in my mind. I understand the beginning, but what is this take and give? Who or what are these misty faces popping up and reminding me to ask permission? Find the passing, keep the balance. Oh, gracious Mother; it’s just too much!
I didn’t know what to make of it, so I concentrated on the physical happening instead. I pushed my anxiety aside and wished to heal her. Soon, my fingers warmed up and started glowing. After a minute or so, my fingers cooled down to normal temperature, and I slowly lifted my hand off her belly.
“Well done Dr. O.” My belly doesn’t hurt anymore. I feel warm and healthy,” she announced, wide-eyed, her pain alleviated.
“I’m glad I could help, but I still don’t know what I did, or if I did anything at all. This is all new to me,” I confessed.
“I really thought that your mother prepared you how to use your gift, but now I see why she couldn’t do it. You’re different than other Healers,” she said, with concern.
“I’m beginning to remember things that happened when I was little. She said she would teach me, but she passed away when I was nineteen.”
“Yes, I know, and I didn’t mean to surprise you like this, really. I wasn’t thinking when the pain started; all I wanted was to be healed fast. I should have known you needed time to learn and accept who you are. Had I thought of that, I wouldn’t have come to see you so soon. I’m so sorry dear.” She shook her head.
“I wish she were alive…” I whispered.
“Yes, I just moved to this area, but I heard she was an excellent Healer and a good person,” she went on. “Sorry you have to find out about your gift this way, it’s easier for others. You did an excellent job, though—I feel perfectly healthy. Thank you so much.”
I was in deep thoughts; I’m in a crazy world where reality meets fantasy. My rational mind tells me it is impossible, but what if… just what if the healing really took place? How could I explain this miracle in her chart? I must make it sure she’s alright, I have to order another X-ray, but in case it comes back clear, I don’t know how to explain it to the radiologist without confusing the hell out of him and rousing suspicion. I decided to send her for a CT, if it would come back clear, they would think that something was wrong with the X-ray machine.
I turned back to Mrs. Molnar. “I’d like to have a CT scan if you don’t mind, I want to make sure that the healing took place.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. You have confirmed that I had a blockage, so I’ll just sign out against medical advice and you can put it in my chart that I wish to go to another hospital.” She came up with the solution quickly.
“I don’t feel comfortable with that. What if I didn’t heal you? This is a serious condition.”
“You did, I assure you. All my symptoms are gone, and I feel healthy and energized. You should continue what your mother did, you know. She had an office and people didn’t have to visit her in her at home or in the hospital. When you’re ready, the collective can help you to set everything up. Just let me know.” She gave me her phone number and made me promise to call or visit her sometime in Kingston.
I was certain it would be a big mistake letting her go without making sure she doesn’t have the obstruction anymore, “Can I take another look?”
“Sure, go ahead.” She pulled her gown up.
I touched her belly and instantly began to see the 3D images again. As I moved my hand on her abdomen, I received the clear pictures of healthy organs, in my mind. I paid close attention to her intestines, with no sign of the obstruction.
“I don’t feel the blockage anymore, but I still would like to do the CT scan.”
“Okay, do it if it makes you feel better, but you will see I’m fine.” She insisted.
I sent her for the CT and went to see a few patients. I was thankful for the ‘normal’ diseases that were ‘real’ and I could deal with. I knew I couldn’t have handled another case like Mrs. Molnar. After an hour or so, the flag on my computer screen popped up signaling that the radiologist saw the CT and the result is in her chart. I was nervous and excited. I went back to Mrs. Molnar to inform her of the results. “The test came back negative. All is clear. There’s no sign of obstruction.”
“Told you, didn’t I? I know my body and I know when I’m in trouble. Thank you again.”
After discharging Mrs. Molnar, I sat at my desk, thinking. Wow, I can heal! With my hands! This is just utterly unbelievable! I-can-not-believe-it, but I did it! I’ve seen the proof. The blockage was there, and then it was gone. There is so much more to explore about this gift. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibilities.
There is a lot more magic, mystery, legends, obscure clan traditions and beliefs, life in a secret society, love, time travel in The Ancestors' Secrets Series
Read it FREE September 6-10
Read the story as I'm writing it
Sometimes I’m amazed at the stories my imagination creates when I let it fly freely. This is a story of an unusual wedding that plays out in 426 in the Carpathian Basin, in a Hun village. Of course, I couldn’t time travel to witness the ceremony myself, I had had to rely on my imagination.
Wedding in the Carpathian Basin in 426
The Hun village resembled a beehive, buzzing with excitement. It was the wedding day of the chief’s daughter of the Wolf Clan to the nephew of King Rua, the strongest warrior of the Horse clan. Unlike most arranged marriages when the bride and groom meet on their wedding day, Kira and Tula knew each other since they were babies. Their families visited each other’s villages often to strengthen the alliance between the clans. To their fathers’ delight, Kira and Tula fell in love when they were teenagers.
The wedding day was the happiest yet most stressful day of their lives. They’d been prepared for the crucial test before the marriage ceremony but knowing that their clan’s future depended on their success, heavily weighted on their shoulders. Tula stood on the heavy carpet of the guest Jurta, a tent-like structure that was built in the Hun villages across the land. The wooden frame covered by heavy animal hides provided comfortable homes and protection from the elements for the people of the clan. “Are you done, mother?” he asked growing impatient as his mother fussed over his outfit.
“I’m done,” his mother said taking a step back, looking at her handsome boy with admiration.
“Son,” his father looked up. Sitting on a large pillow, he calmed his nerves by sipping alcoholic Kumis, the Hun’s favorite drink of fermented horse milk. “Our clan’s future depends on you today.” He continued.
“Not helping!” his wife shouted. “Don’t you see he’s nervous enough already?”
“I know, but…” the middle-aged man grumbled. “The unity between the two clans is vital to our survival. If the spirit of the ancestors decide to make them fail the test, we’re doomed. My clan doesn’t have enough warriors to protect us.”
“I know.” Tula’s mother sighed. “But it’s up to the great spirit of the ancestors now.”
At the other side of the village, Kira pulled the heavy leather door covering aside and glanced at the Jurtas that were lined up in a semicircle, leaving a broad plaza in the middle. She glanced up at the tall wooden pole that stood in the center of the square. It had intricate designs carved into it and was painted with brilliant colors. On top of the pole stood a giant carved falcon called Turul. It was a sacred symbol, the protector of the Hun clans, standing with wings open wide as if it were getting ready to take flight. That’s where I’ll have to prove that the right man was chosen to be my mate. Kira thought letting the door cover slide back into place. She turned and started pacing on the thick carpet-covered floor of the Jurta, anxiously wringing her fingers. Soft light coming from the opening at the ceiling shone on her green, delicately decorated calf-length tunic that she wore with loose black trousers.
“You’re going to wear a deep path on that rug!” her mother laughed, a beautiful, statuesque, dark-haired woman who slowly rose from a curved sofa-like piece of furniture. “You have nothing to be nervous about. Tula is a good man. He’ll make you happy. And besides, I told you what to expect on your wedding night, and the medicine woman trained him well. He knows what to do.”
“Mother!” Kira exclaimed, feeling embarrassed. “I’m not worried about that part. I’m worried about failing the test and turning myself into a pariah. People in the village will never let me forget if I fail.”
© Erika M Szabo, 2021
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Take a look at a supernatural ghost story
An alternative history suspense story
A curse of evil deed incites an unbroken chain of evil.
A powerful curse cast sixteen hundred years ago destroyed the lives of their ancestors for centuries. If it remains unbroken, the curse will ruin the lives of future generations as well.
Jayden’s life is in danger. When he finds a crude leather book in his grandmother's secret room that was written in 426 by a Shaman, his sister, Sofia, deciphers the ancient runes.
They learn about their family curse and dark memories of their childhood start to surface.
Is it possible to break the ancient curse and save Jayden?
Jayden hurried toward the parking garage, pulling Sofia’s luggage. “Slow down, Jay,” Sofia cried out as she lagged behind him with her carry-on bag. “I can’t keep up if you’re running like that.”
“Sorry.” Jayden looked back and slowed down a little, “I’m just so eager to show you what I’ve found. You’re not going to believe it. You’ll see!”
“What is it?” Sofia tried to catch her breath.
“It’s a rudimentary book made of leather sheets sewn together. It’s written with ancient Hun runes. I think the letters were burned into the leather. I should’ve learned from Grandma to read it as you did.”
“That sounds exciting.” Sofia started walking faster. “You didn’t bring it with you, did you?”
“Yes, it’s in the car. I’ve been angry with myself that I didn’t learn the ancient language from grandma. But because I can hardly wait to find out what the writing is about, I’ll bring it with me and hoped you could start translating it on the ride home. Here’s my car in this row.”
They reached the old Porsche that was their grandma’s car and Jayden quickly packed Sofia’s luggage into the trunk. He opened the door, they got into the car and Jayden pulled a duffel bag from under the seat. Pulling the zipper, he took out a package wrapped in old-looking leather sheets. When Jayden unwrapped it, inside was the book made of leather sheets sewn together. He handed it to Sofia. “Well, what do you think?”
She fingered the soft leather, “It’s old and still so pliable,” she mused. “Look, the Sacred Turul is burned into the cover!”
“May the Sacred Turul protect you on your journey,” they chanted the ancient line that every Hun whispered when they saw a falcon, alive or in a picture. The spirit of the falcon called Turul in ancient Hun mythology is believed to be the protector of the Huns.
Sofia opened the book and scanned the pages. Jayden started the engine and pulled out of the parking space. The traffic was heavy close to the airport, but soon they were driving northeast on the smooth highway.
“So, what do you think?” Jayden asked, pointing at the book that laid open on Sofia’s lap.
“This is incredible!” Sofia exclaimed. “Every page is clear as if it were written yesterday. The runes are written from right to left, which will take some getting used to reading, and there are words I don’t know, but it seems like a story of a girl named Elana, written by a shaman called Zoan.”
“Awesome!” Jayden called out, nodding. “I can’t wait to hear it.”
“You were busy playing soccer and chasing girls when Grandma gave me lessons,” Elana laughed as she turned to the first page and started translating.
“Yeah, I didn’t care much for learning during my summer vacation, that’s for sure.”
“Nope,” Sofia laughed while turned to the first page of the book. “Okay, let me read it.”
I am Zoan, the humble Shaman of the Roaring Falcon tribe. I’m writing down what happened to Elana in detail with the hope that the descendants of Elana could read this and break the powerful curse. The events that led to Tuana’s curse happened on the third moon of the 426th year, the day Elana was forced to leave her happy childhood behind and face the reality and responsibilities of adulthood.
Sofia lowered the book to her lap and turned to her brother, “Jay, could this be written so long ago?”
“I think so, or rather hope so. Please read on.”
Sofia lifted the book and added, “I’m winging it here because I’m not familiar with this word átokja, but I think it is the old version of átok, which means curse. Also, there’s another phrase--akarata erősségje. I think it means powerful.”
“Just do your best and you can do a more detailed translation later.”
“Okay, here it goes.” Sofia lowered her eyes to the pages and ran her finger over the ancient runes. After she translated the sentences in her mind, she told the meaning in English to her eagerly waiting brother.
Elana, unaware of her fate gave her horse a gentle squeeze with her knees to run faster. Willow zigzagged between the jurtas that were lined up in a semicircle, leaving a broad plaza in the middle. Elana glanced up at the tall wooden pole that stood in the center of the square. It had intricate designs carved into it and was painted with brilliant colors. On top of the pole stood a giant carved falcon, standing with wings open wide, as if it were getting ready to take flight. Oh, I’m so late; my mother is going to kill me, she thought and prompted her horse to run faster. An old woman carrying firewood stopped and shook her head in disapproval. “These youngsters are riding like demons,” she mumbled, looking after her.
Elana finally reached her home. Sliding off the mare’s back in a hurry, she fastened the horse’s rein to a thick wooden pole. Her breaths came in short puffs, and her rosy cheeks glistened with perspiration. She patted the horse’s neck, gave her an armful of hay, and poured fresh water into a clay bowl from a leather bag that hung on the pole. “I have to hurry, but I’ll be back soon to rub you down, Willow. I promise,” she whispered.
She hurried up to the entrance of the tent-like building, called Jurta, with a few long strides. Parting her kaftan-like dark blue overcoat, she pulled up her baggy trousers and smoothed her tunic that her mother had adorned with delicate flower designs. Pulling the leather entrance cover aside with a heavy sigh, she braced herself mentally for the long lecture from her mother that she knew she must endure.
As usual, she was late for her herbal lessons with her mother, a beautiful, statuesque, dark-haired woman who slowly rose from a curved sofa-like piece of furniture. Soft light coming from the opening at the ceiling shone on her green, delicately decorated calf-length tunic that she wore with loose black trousers. Her hair was braided with thin leather thongs and hugged her shoulders.
Elana took off her boots and placed them by the entrance. She winced when Mara’s high-pitched, angry voice hit her like a whip. “You are late, again, young lady! Didn’t I tell you to be home by the time the sun reaches the head of the Falcon? Look!” she pointed at the pole through the door.
Elana quickly let the leather curtain slide back to cover the door, dutifully bowed, and whispered, “Yes, Mother. Sorry, Mother.”
She always wanted to please her mother, she truly did, but she could rarely live up to her expectations. Luckily, Mara’s anger and lectures were as brief as summer storms, so Elana obediently stood by the entrance and lowered her eyelids to hide the playful twinkle in her eyes. Her long, black hair, which was braided in thin rows, slid off her shoulders as she bowed her head, and she adjusted her delicately woven horsetail headband that kept the stray hairs out of her face. Elana took a hesitant step forward on the thick, wool carpet that covered the dirt floor of the Jurta.
“Where were you?”
“We were… I was… I was collecting herbs. Look!” Elana hoped that her mother didn’t notice the slip of her tongue and she could divert her mother’s attention. She quickly opened the leather pouch that contained some flowers that she had collected. Lying wasn’t in her nature but concealing the truth a little by trailing the conversation away from the sensitive subject was widely used in her tribe, especially by teenagers.
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Story in progress
This suspense story is in progress, I'm going to share short parts as I'm writing it. The parts are not fully edited yet, as I might make changes as the story progresses.
If you have ideas on which way the story should go, comments are most welcomed!
Michael Webb was born to a poor family. When he was a teenager, he swore to his mother that one day he will be a multi-millionaire. He studied and worked hard, and in his early twenties, Fortuna smiled at him when his first invention had been purchased by a major corporation. His luck seemed to stay with him and his wealth kept multiplying. He built a huge mansion on the mountaintop by the raging and restless ocean, at the outskirt of the city. He employed half the town in his multiple businesses and the workers loved and respected him for his fairness.
After countless fleeting and failed relationships, he met and married the love of his life, Claire, a shy, talented artist. They’ve spent two wonderful years together when the happiest day in his life arrived. Claire gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and tragically died due to a ruptured artery minutes after her daughter took her first breath.
Raising his daughter alone was hard, but Michael did the best he could to provide her with a happy childhood and the best education. When he was diagnosed with a progressive condition, he introduced Eva to the art of running a fair business and slowly transferred more and more responsibilities to his daughter. Ava learned fast and by the time she was in her early twenties, she ran the family business smoothly and fairly.
She fell in love with Luke Morton, a local fisherman’s son who after earning his business management degree, moved back home and was hired to oversee Michael’s businesses. He was handsome, quiet, and due to his sensible advice, Michael’s businesses flourished even more. When Luke proposed, Michael gave his blessing to the happy couple. He was in his early seventies when the twins were born and spent the next two years a happy grandpa enjoying every minute he could spend with the babies until his health deteriorated. He left his mansion and most of his wealth to Ava and donated a few million to the town to repair the roads and to restore the aging historical buildings.
Luke pressed the button on his BMW’s dashboard that opened the main gate and grinned into the security camera. “I’m home!” he said in a playful tone. “Whatever you broke, you have three minutes to hide the evidence.”
“We didn’t break anything, promise!” came the giggling chorus of the teenage twins, Jacob and Jacqueline.
Their thirteenth birthday was coming up already, but they never got tired of their daily bonding game since they were toddlers. Soon they’ll leave the nest and endure the drastic change of being homeschooled to attending college. Luke thought with a deep sigh. They’re growing up too fast.
The abundance of flowers blooming in summer glory lined the graveled driveway that led up to the mansion. The short drive up to the entrance of the well-maintained building revealed an eye-pleasing picture as well. The aesthetically placed rhododendron, rose, and azalea bushes, and Japanese maple trees lining the driveway led to a magnificent fountain right at the front door. The garden on both sides of the driveway provided the family and guests with cozy niches to relax and koi ponds to sit by.
As Luke pulled into the parking space, he started counting to ten under his breath. On getting to three, his twins burst open the red mahogany door, squealing loudly with joy. Luke opened the car door and the moment he stepped out, the twins jumped into his arms. Luke held onto them and wondered what he would have done without Jacqueline and Jacob in his life, running into his arms every evening after a long day at work.
“Daddy! Daddy!” the twins shouted and continued their usual game. “The last one to get to the door is a clown!” Jacqueline squealed, turned, and started running.
Jacob and Luke followed, laughing. As most days, Jacqueline touched the door first, shaking her long, dark hair pulled into a ponytail. Jacob, being his usual competitive self, playfully punched his sister's shoulder and murmured under his breath with a sour expression, "You had a head-start."
Jacqueline giggled and skipped inside, sticking her tongue at her brother. "A split of a second, big deal!"
The interior of the mansion was magnificent. The flight of oak stairs split after a wide landing that displayed the life-size marble statues of famous composers. The left stairs were covered with a lush, red carpet leading to the living quarters, which consisted of nine luxurious bedrooms. The right stairs led to an enormous living room where Claire’s treasured, strategically placed paintings hung on the walls. A carefully polished grand piano set in the corner surrounded by invitingly comfortable chairs, waiting for Jacob to tickle the ivory to life.
Under the happy smile, a deep, painful thorn of sadness hid in the corner of Luke’s eyes. His heart broke ten years ago when his beloved wife went missing.
To be continued...
© Erika M Szabo, 2021
Copyrighted material. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission by the author, except in the case of brief quotations, reviews, and articles.
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