Sunday, November 27, 2016


Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.

Part  3
“A land of orchids”
By R. Peterson

You and I are about to go someplace special … together. No bags need to be packed, no airline tickets purchased and no passport; I have everything you will need, well almost everything. You will need a glass of water (half-filled) sitting next to your computer. You won’t spill it … trust me. Go get the water now before you continue … I will wait.
A writer has the greatest job in the world; you can go anywhere … do anything … all it costs is imagination. When we return … you will be different … and so will I. This was written in your past … therefore I am speaking to you in my future … how cool is that? I can’t promise you the riches of the world … only that you will feel really good for a short time … please trust me.
There is balance in all things in our universe … love and hate, pain and euphoria, friends and enemies … our quest is to shift the balance radically in our favor … and we must not … so we will not fail. This is the journey you and I have waited for all of our lives. If you have read Deep Reader parts one or two then you are probably ready to go again. There are terrors and dangers ahead … but also joy and love … one does not exist without the other. This isn’t like some pragmatic self-help, one-way-highway-book that promises if you’ll only smile … things will get better. To Hell with someone’s idea for making money off from other people’s troubles. This goes in the opposite direction … very quickly … and it is all about magic, imagination … and flying with our minds.
            I will ask you to do very simple things as you read. When I ask you to do something it will be in bold print like this. Don’t worry … the things I ask you to do can be (must be) done in secret to have the desired effect. This is about you and me … no-one else. If you find yourself reading ahead without doing what I asked please back up a paragraph and read (do) again. This is very important. If you trust me, I will take you to the very depths of your mind to retrieve something that you have lost … or perhaps you never knew you had. When we finish, you will be on an emotional rocket-ship, soaring higher than any drug in the world will lift you. Are you ready? Blink once … and we will begin.
            It is the cool of the evening after a long, hot day. Warmth still radiates from the soil, but a slight breeze blows from the south … and you have caught your second wind. We stand at the edge of a vast forest. Darkness descends over an ocean of trees but at the same time a full moon rises in the east and illuminates a well worn dirt pathway. Wiggle the toes on your right foot and then wiggle the toes on your left.
Our journey has begun.
            Most people get tired when they do any kind of exercise … but not this time. Each step you take into the forest along this well-worn path sends a tiny pulse, an euphoric electrical current, up your leg and so every step brings you more and more restless energy. After a few steps … it feels so good you want to run … but not yet. Keep walking. The ground beneath your feet feels so wonderful that you stop and take your shoes off. You are beginning to feel so marvelous… and you are trying not to smile … but you can’t … so go ahead … and let it go. Smile now … ever so slightly … and ever so quickly. You walk through dark sleepy shadows and across bubbling streams filled with tiny goldfish. The bubbles tickle your nose and the fish do the same with your toes … and you laugh just a little … without making a sound. The moon becomes a multicolored spotlight illuminating the most pleasant props … from the ever-changing stage of our dreams.
 We leave the forest behind now, as the path winds through meadow after meadow filled with rare Moth Orchids. The fragile-as-a-whisper white petals on the magical flowers shimmer in the moonlight. The only sound is the chirping of crickets … and a small noise, just out of audible range, like muted singing. Touch your earlobe with your finger.
If you are in an office and supposed to be working … they will never know … and I will never tell. Don’t worry … it’s only me and you.
            Your hearing is now becoming magnified, doubled … and then tripled ten times what it was … now a hundred times. You can hear the blood pumping through your veins like a raging river. It roars like a waterfall as it rushes from an artery and enters your heart … but that is not what we want to hear. Rub your earlobe several times with your finger.
We must tune out the sound … so that another becomes clearer. Everything is quiet now … but you begin to pick up other noises … tiny voices becoming louder. The sound is coming from a beautiful orchid … you are drawn to it … you stop walking … and lean in for a closer look. The scent is like a meadow after a summer rain … and it also reminds you of something very pleasant from your dreams.  Take a deep breath … through your nose.
You still feel exhilarated from walking … pulsating sensations of pleasure still race up and down your legs … but now a slightly painful lump is forming in the back of your throat. It is not a bad feeling … it is the way you feel when someone that loves you very much is doing something special … just for you. Slowly count to three in your head.
The painful lump in your throat is stronger now, but it still feels marvelous. Does that sound strange? If you’ve ever listened to John Mellancamp sing Hurts So Good … then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you are not familiar with the song … just relax and go with the flow.
You can almost see tiny things moving on the flower petals. Bugs? No this is something magical. Softly scratch the skin beside your right eye. Your eyes have now become magnifying lenses. The things you saw moving on the orchids were clouds. Your eyes are now magnifying lenses as you zoom through the clouds and tiny tree-tops and then fields appear … becoming larger as you get closer. Two winged creatures (fairies?) stand beside a wagon pulled by some kind of caterpillar. In the distance, a large door stands carved into the side of a mountain. The creatures are loading drops of dew, shimmering like pearls, into the back of the wagon. You take a deep breath and hold it … as you listen to the tiny voices.
“Are you sure the door can’t be opened?”
“Only water will make the hinges move.”
You release your breath and move past them … unseen as a breeze toward the stone door. The doorway carved into the side of the mountain is magnificent. Ancient runes form double arches over a crescent moon shape etched into granite, an ancient language lost to the ravages of time. There is no handle, there is no lock. This door can only be opened with magic. Take the glass of water that you set beside your keyboard earlier and drink it now!
            A clap of thunder splits the sky above and suddenly there is darkness. Rain pours from the sky in never-ending torrents. You hear a roar like a freight train jumping a railroad trestle at high speed. A huge wave of water appears between two mountains and rushes into the valley.  There is no time to run. Take a deep breath and hold it.
            You are submerged in water and are swept toward the door along with hundreds of tree trunks and other floating debris. Cold grips you like a frozen glove. The stone door bursts inward and you are swept by the raging torrent into a narrow winding passageway. There is only darkness and then suddenly you see light above you. Wiggle your fingers and your toes.
            You slowly rise to the surface. Release your breath.
            You are floating in a cavern so vast that water vapor has turned into clouds, they swirl across the ceiling above. A shore with trees looms in the distance. Each breath you take makes you more and more buoyant. The water is now warm and very pleasant on your skin. You feel completely relaxed. Wiggle your toes.
Slowly you glide toward the shore. You are drifting in a sea of ecstatic pleasure and you don’t want it to stop. A shoreline with flickering lights appears and you walk onto a beach. The sand tickles your toes like an army of ants armed with hummingbird feathers and you want to laugh … but you resist. So you grin.
            The flickering lights are thousands of fireflies … and they line both sides of a trail winding up the side of a mountain. You stick out your arms and try to touch the tiny lights as you walk up the trail. Spread the fingers of both hands as far apart as possible.
            Each time a firefly touches one of your fingers … the sensation is incredible. Tiny pulses of pleasure run through your fingers to all parts of your body. Relax your fingers.
Dense vegetation on both sides of the trail is getting thicker. Several times branches snag and then release you as if they were somehow alive and trying to stop you from reaching your destination. You feel a large root come growing up out of the ground at an incredible rate and it tries to wrap around your leg. Lift your right leg off the floor and quickly put it down.
            You jump over the root and suddenly you are staring into the dark entrance to a cave. Fear sweeps over you as you notice two glowing lights inside the cave. As you move closer you notice that they are eyes glowing with hate and malevolence. You stop and are afraid to venture any farther. Close your eyes and remember the happiest day of your life. When you have imagined it as vividly as possible take a deep breath and open your eyes.
            The terrifying eyes have disappeared. They have been replaced by two massive white candles. Set in elaborate golden holders, they are pillars of wax that rise from the floor to chest height. Between them, a round table covered with a red cloth and a fine layer of frost. The air is crisp and your feet make a crunching sound as you walk toward the table. The cave is like being inside a giant walk-in freezer. Three tiny coin-sized objects are placed side by side on the table. They all look to be made of … glass?
The first is three tiny diminishing white circles placed on top of each other like a miniature snowman. Eyes and a smiling face are etched into the top ball. You notice that a black stove-pipe hat on top is actually a bottle lid. You very much desire to drink what is in the bottle. You have thirsted for what is inside the bottle … forever.
The second is a music box, and looks to be also made of glass. A tiny silver key protrudes from the side. Your ears vibrate in anticipation of the delightful magical sound the box will make. It is the sound you have always needed … hoped for … and always wanted to hear.
The third object is a tiny picture frame, lying face down on the cloth. A lost memory from the dusty corners of your mind whispers that the magnificent picture in the frame … is what you have wanted and prayed to see all your life.
Each of the objects is a king’s treasure of impossible worth. You can only choose one. A drop of water drips onto the floor and you realize the coin-sized objects are made of ice … and they are melting. From somewhere in the vast chamber a bell chimes. At three strokes all the objects will vanish. You close your eyes and try to decide whether to take the bottle, the box or the photo … and the object that you most desire appears in your mind. The bell chimes again. You open your eyes and grab the object you imagined. It is not made of glass but of ice … it is quickly melting. The object is wet and slippery. Close your fingers into a tight fist to keep it from slipping away.
The bell chimes a third time and everything inside the cave is melting. The table legs collapse and the two remaining objects shatter on the floor. You run across the sand. Everything is heating up. The ants that tickled you toes have now become fire ants burning your feet with torches. Heat waves rise in the air and you feel the object slipping inside your fingers. Squeeze your fingers as tight as possible.
The growing tree root that tried to grab your leg before has now become hundreds … a mine field of tree roots trying to snag your feet and make you drop your treasure. Lift one foot and then the other … and you jump over every grasping root.
The flickering fireflies have now become mosquitoes biting your face and hands. You can’t slap them away without releasing the magical object in your hand. You can feel it melting! Squeeze your fingers together tighter!
You reach the water’s edge but the water is now almost scalding hot. The magic object will never survive the swim. You decide to run around the lake. You can feel the object getting smaller. Wiggle your toes on both feet. You are now running like the wind. The rushing air helps cool your hand but the object is less than half the size it was. You must not lose this treasure. Squeeze your fingers tighter!
The stone doorway that the flood waters crashed open looms in the distance. You can feel yourself growing. If you don’t make it to the door in time you will be too large to fit through. Wiggle your toes again. You are now traveling at the speed of a bullet as you squeeze through the doorway … just in time.
The two fairies who had previously loaded dew-drops into a wagon are now very large and thundering down a road toward you. The caterpillar pulling the wagon is like an out of control locomotive. Close your eyes and grit your teeth.
The wagon rumbles over you the huge wheels barely miss rolling over you and the ground shakes. From the distance you can hear laughter … and it is not nice. The frozen object in your hand is only a quarter of the size it once was … you must hurry. Water runs down your arm. Squeeze your fingers tighter!
You are now running across fields of clover. You look upward and see not clouds but the bottoms of Moth Orchid flower petals. Take a deep breath and then another.
As you breathe-in air you begin to float. Each breath you take … makes you rise higher and faster.
The object in your hand is no larger than a frozen drop of water when you find yourself lying in the meadow. Your face is just inches from the white Moth Orchid blossom. You sit up and look around. You feel wonderful. The world is now a much more beautiful and exciting place. Slowly open your fingers.
The object in your hand has dissolved to almost nothing … but magic is very powerful. The tiniest bit can change my world and yours. You feel the slightest breeze on the palm of your hand as the object you chose drifts slowly away. It is not lost. You have given it life. You have been on a journey into the dark depths of your mind to bring that one special wish to the surface that has been locked away forever. Only you know what it is. No matter what you chose … it is now free … to come true. Did you feel it? Did you feel the ethereal vapors leave your hand?
If so … then congratulations … you are the Deep Reader.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

FROGS part 2

Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.

By R. Peterson

Forlorn, the wolf watched as Sarah, the washer-maid, and Prince Dristig danced arm in arm out of the enchanted forest and toward his father’s castle. “This stupid fairy tale didn’t end at all well for me,” the wolf grumbled. “Just my luck … stuck in the forest with nowhere to go! Why! The writer of this sad story was so miserly with his words he didn’t even give me a proper name!” The wolf kicked the witch Dolda’s silver goblet and the vessel sailed through the air and banged into a large Elm tree. The wolf watched as the cup rattled down the trunk and into some bushes. A bit of red cloth caught the wolf’s eye and he went to investigate. The hopeless writer had left in a hurry, no doubt following the prince and his soon to be bride to a much more exciting place, and had forgotten his large bag of words hidden behind the tree.
Rejoicing, the wolf remembered how he had watched the stingy writer pull a word from his sack, treating each one as if it were made of gold as he turned it over carefully in his hand. The literary hack had often placed his words back into his precious bag without even putting them onto paper! “Well I’ll fix that!” the wolf growled as he thrust his hand in the forgotten sack. “Nonsensical!” the wolf cried as he read the word. “I don’t know what it means but at least now I’ll have a proper name!” Then after howling at the full moon for a bit, moons are always full in fairy tales, Nonsensical wandered deeper into the forest because he was hungry … and he could smell a pig.
Only a few yards from each side of the path he was walking on, Nonsensical could see all kinds of creatures scurrying in the opposite direction. Each carried a bundle or a barrel strapped to their back … but there were no pigs. He watched as a fox stopped to adjust a monstrous backpack that was slipping. “Where are you going?” the wolf asked.
            “To Nodnol,” the fox said. “I’ll let you come with me for just ten shillings and I’ll even allow you to wear this very attractive bag on your back.”
            “What’s in the bag?” Nonsensical asked.
            “Oh the usual traveling fare,” the fox said removing the huge bag and rubbing his shoulders. “A few rabbit bones, some dried meat … and of course flies.”
            “Flies?” the wolf asked.
            “Of course I’m packing flies,” the fox said. “No one goes to Nod without them. They’re worth more than gold with all the hungry former-frogs hopping around looking everywhere for something to eat.”
            “I thought the kissing broke all of the spells the witch cast.” Nonsensical muttered stupidly. “Are the men still frogs?”
            “Only their appetites,” the fox said. “One you get used to eating flies … nothing else satisflies.” He was obviously proud of his pun and grinned. “Do we have a deal?”
            “I don’t have ten shillings,” the wolf said.

Good grief! You wolves strike a hard bargain,” the fox said dragging his bag toward Nonsensical. “Put this on your back and you can come along … and pay me later!”
Just as the fox was about to tighten the straps, the wolf saw something bulging inside the bag … so he bit it. The cloth tore and the bag fell off his back. A furious swarm of flies, as big as house, buzzed into the sky like a storm cloud.
            “What have you done?” the fox snapped. “I spend three weeks at a county landfill catching my fortune! Now it’s all gone!” He disappeared into the forest leaping and snapping at everything that buzzed.
            “I’ve ruined my chance to go to Nod for free,” Nonsensical howled as he hung his head. “Now what am I going to do?” And the poor wolf slunk away into the forest more dejected than ever.

Some things never change. A tall witch, ugly enough to be Dolda’s sister, stood stirring a large caldron over a smoking fire as the wolf approached. “Cousin!” she exclaimed. “But thank you for saying I look like her.”
Nonsensical could smell pork and his tail raised and his nose twitched. “Hungry are you?” the witch smiled. Her voice sounded like a goat chewing open a tin-can filled with tomatoes.
            “I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten,” the wolf muttered. “The writer who created me had no talent for detail in his stories.”
            “That’s a pity,” the witch said. She rustled at least thirteen cashmere, silk and lace petticoats under a blackish Dublin mourning dress, trimmed with tiny silver lilacs and rubicund pearls. The garment fit her bony Romford-hips like a wet horse-blanket draped over a starving Yorkshire cow as she batted crow-wing lashes over gleaming south London chimney-sweep eyes and capered around him in a Drogheda sewing circle. The wart on the very end of her magnificently long Windsor poker-nose, gleamed like a dark pepper-cherry ready to be plucked. “I was brought to life by a spectacularly gifted Dictionarian!” she boasted. “The Queen of her Waltham Forest Writers Group!
She thrust a silver spoon toward him. “Why not try a sip?”

Frowning, Nonsensical pulled back just a little, his keen wolf’s nose could detect that something was not quite right. The simmering liquid contained plenty of blood - his favorite, but there was also a flavor of deceit which he did not like at all. “What’s in it?” he asked.
            “A measure of mice and a pinch of nice,” the witch cackled, “toad stools and dog drools, tree sap and lizard crap, blood and bone and all that makes a home for a hungry wolf!”
            “Why not!” Nonsensical howled, flapping his tongue toward the spoon. “How do I know if I like eating … if I’ve never tried it?”
Just then, a wagon being pulled by a dozen terrified rabbits burst into the meadow. A large brown bear with a whip in his right paw and a smile on his bushy face tried to steer clear of the witch’s caldron but one wheel caught an edge and the entire boiling pot spilled on the forest floor. Nonsensical was quick on his feet and leaped in the air but the witch’s elegant gown was splattered and ruined.
            “You ignorant lurching oaf,” the witch cried. “Do you know what you’ve done?”
            “The best I could mum,” the bear driving the out-of-control wagon yelled. “I’m in more than a hurry I’m almost into a frantic!”
            “What could be so important that you come between me and my tricking of a wolf?”
            “Flies!” the bear growled. “I’ve got to get this bag to Nod while the price is still high!”
Nonsensical and the wolf both stared. Sure enough, a large bulging and bouncing bag in the back of the wagon looked like it was ready to buzz away.
            “This whole story has gone mad!” the witch declared. “I’ll fly to Nodnol and sort things out! Now where did I leave my broomstick?’
She leaped, cantered and crawled away in the direction the wagon had vanished and that was the last the wolf seen of her … for a while.
Nonsensical’s long nose twitched. He could still smell pig and it wasn’t coming from the witch’s puddle. His keen eyes ran through the forest and he spied a tiny cottage made of straw next to a pond filled with mud. “Aha!” he declared.

Remember the story of the three little pigs and how they lived in houses made of straw, sticks and bricks? Well that wasn’t true at all. They live in hundreds, perhaps thousands of wood-rail pens, squealing beside reeking mud-pits like all pigs do. The house’s walls were made of straw and the thatched roof was like an enormous circus tent. A large cork was jammed into the roof’s only chimney.
An obviously very disgruntled and very portly woman with a belly full of bacon and a nose as sharp as a king’s dagger sat at a spinning wheel. She was as dirty as a joke told behind a church. Her dangerous, mean little eyes were like two holes poked in a rotted pumpkin. She sat on a sagging porch cursing as she furiously pumped with her foot trying to spin piles of moldy straw into … something.
“My poor, dear, sweet … rotten little betrayer!” she grumbled as she used a large yellow hat to bat away a cloud of flies. “It worked for her so beautifully … why not for me? That little tart, who claims to be my dear sister, who was somehow able to spin this same straw into a fortune is by now probably off to a gleaming castle of her own! Most likely she’s dancing to a polka-band, that really good one from Nod, and eating cupcakes … and here I am stuck in this dreadful story!” She glanced up and spied the slinking wolf that was approaching before she went on … slyly of course, “…waiting for a poorly-imagined wolf to ask what’s up!
            “Duh, what are you doing?” Nonsensical stammered.
            “Why I’m weaving you a … bonnet,” the fat woman sneered. “So you can climb into my rumpled bedclothes and gobble up my pretty young   granddaughter, Red, when she comes for a visit!”
            “Really? What color did you say?” The wolf was delighted.

Only this story’s clumsy writer kept the fat woman from jumping to her feet and boxing the wolf’s long ears … and it wasn’t easy. “I’m too busy trying to make my fortune to teach a howling imbecile like you about fairy tales,” the fat woman attacked with her tongue. “Now be off before I sick a dozen pigs on you. These oinkers prefer corn … but they will eat a sassy wolf … if he’s wet and sweaty from a run.”
            “I’d be glad to go … if you could only tell me where,” Nonsensical told her. “I’m lost without fingers and signs to show the way!”
            “Bring me a cup of cold refreshing water,” the fat woman pointed with chipped and broken fingernails to a rocked-in well in the shade of several trees with a bucket, crank, and rope, “while I think.”

The fat woman thought and then she thought some more as the wolf dropped the cup he was carrying down the well and had to go look for another. She stopped her spinning and used two hats, one green this time, to attack the pesky insects. Morning was coming and sunshine always brought the flies in even greater numbers because of the reeking mud puddles. When the wolf returned she had a plan. “You can huff and puff like most wolves can’t you?” the old woman asked when Nonsensical returned with her water.
            “I’m sure I can,” the wolf said. “Otherwise what would be the point in you asking?”
            “A clever one aren’t you?” the fat woman sneered. “I must have a word with the writer of this story … but for right now you can help me get rid of this plague that has loomed over my happy home ever since I went into the bacon business!”
She then waddled from mud-pen to mud-pen holding open a large bag that small farms come in, while the wolf huffed and puffed and blew clouds of breeding-flies into the enormous sack.
            “What do you do with the flies now?” the wolf asked as they finished the last pen and then walked the three miles back to the house. It took both of them plus an ever-complaining  little Red Hen to drag the enormous bag.
            “Why I stuff them down the chimney,” the fat woman blurted. “Didn’t you see the cork?”
The wolf was reluctant to tell the fat woman about the price of flies in Nodnol. He knew that new-found wealth would make her snobbish and snooty and even lose the few friends she had … but she sensed he was keeping a secret from her and coaxed (beat) it from him with both hats and a broken fence-post.
            “Looks like me and you are going to be partners!” The fat lady shook his paw and he told her his name. She placed the yellow hat on his head and she wore the green one.
            “I’ve been called fat, mean and sneering in this story, but I’ve never had a proper name!”
The portly woman complained as she harnessed a tired old cow to nine wagons piled high with bags of flies.
            “I can fix that!” Nonsensical told her as they lumbered away from the deflated house that had just lost its buzzing treasure. An explosion of squealing and oinking and the sound of a wooden fence that surrounded a corn field being broken into kindling, bid them farewell as they moved ever so slowly toward the writer’s word bag stashed behind the old elm tree.

Good things happen to those who wait … and sometimes to those who can’t. The dirty fat woman was wiggling like a worm on a hook as she reached into the bag containing all the writer’s words. A dozen birds, as well as two bears holding their noses, had stopped to watch history in the making. “Malodorous!” she cried and flung the awful word on the ground. “No wonder this writer wins so many competitions for the worst stories. What kind of name is that for a woman soon to be a lady and the richest in all the kingdom?”
            “If it’s any help,” the wolf told her. “Shakespeare once wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet …” He sniffed the air and then crinkled his nose. “But I don’t think he had you in mind … when he wrote that verse.”
            “Perhaps I better freshen up a bit before we make our grand entrance,” Malodorous said as she sniffed her flabby armpits. A flock of crows barely able to fly because of the stench in the air directed her to a deep pond surrounded by soap weed. The wolf kept watch for peeping Toms while the fat woman scrubbed rinsed and scrubbed, although he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to gaze on such an awful sight without being forced to with at least a knife. When Malodorous emerged cleaned of all the dirt and grime … and had dried off and dressed … she weighed one-hundred-eighty pounds less … and was actually quite pretty.

And with a song that went something like this …

            “We’re going to Nod to turn a few heads … wag a few tongues and eat some spice breads!
              Riches they say won’t buy every-thing … who gives a damn as long as we sing …”

 Nonsensical and Malodorous climbed into the first wagon and coaxed the tired cow into a stagger with a whip. The much thinner woman’s voice was quite off key and the wolf began to howl-along in perfect harmony. After several verses they made adjustments and the nine bouncing wagons, filled with flies, lumbered toward Nod.

Some people still believe that the roads in Nodnol were then paved with gold, but they weren’t at that time. They were covered with grown men hopping about on all fours begging for flies. Dolda’s cousin, a formidable witch in her own right, was stirring the vapors of rebellion. “A kiss isn’t what it used to be,” she lectured a hungry crowd, “too much lust … too much tongue … and not enough love.” She banged a large spoon on the side of her caldron. “You can pull a man from a frog … but not all of the frog will leave the man … not with such simple kisses.” She overturned the pot to get their attention and then climbed on top the upended caldron as they mostly gasped and a few croaked. “Storm the castle and make me your Queen!” she demanded. “I’ll shorten those long tongues rolling in your heads with a bit of my own magic and make you real men again!”
And the angry mob began to march through the witch’s slimy muck and toward the palace … and the sound of their stomping feet was like Germans in another age: trump … trump …trump.

Fires were burning everywhere when Nonsensical and Malodorous entered the city. The streets were as empty as a poor widow’s cupboards. Smoke from the king’s palace rose in the sky as gilded towers melted … and gold ran through the gutters. “I thought there would be more people to greet us,” Malodorous complained. A pack of dogs ran barking after the wagons and Nonsensical sat proudly on the wagon seat relishing their obvious envy.
Prince Dristig and Sarah were tied to posts at the top of a huge pile of wood in the palace courtyard along with the king and queen. “Burn them!” the mob chanted. “Where are the flies of our youth?” they demanded. “Our royals must be keeping them all for themselves and dining in splendor every evening!”

Raising her hat high in the air, Malodorous stopped the wagons and silenced the crowd with her booming voice … and a gunshot. “You don’t have to destroy the kingdom,” she yelled. “I have enough flies in these wagons to wear your tongues out. They are yours for the asking … just a penny each.”
            “She lies!” Dolda’s cousin had been wandering through the crowd secretly pinching people and making them irritable. Her loud voice was rude and accusing. “Those wagons are filled with tax notices … the king has decided that the only way out of this mess is to keep you too poor to complain!”
The people were divided. Some believed Dolda’s cousin others believed Malodorous. While they were fighting amongst themselves the witch grabbed a torch and ran toward the woodpile. “Stop her!” Malodorous cried to Nonsensical. The wolf leaped from the wagon and bounded toward the woodpile just as Dolda’s cousin tossed the burning torch.

Only the angels know how the wolf leaped so high in the air. He caught the burning branch with his teeth and then ran toward a well to put the fire out. Dolda’s cousin seized the moment and jerked Malodorous from the wagon seat taking her place. “When you get hungry enough you’ll come to me,” she yelled, “… and then we’ll see who becomes your queen!”
            She beat the cow with a frenzy and for the first time in years the poor bovine burst into a dead run. The nine wagons careened through the streets of Nodnol and the wheels became coated with molten gold from the melting towers. Nonsensical chewed away the ropes binding the king and the king immediately ordered the drawbridge to be lifted to keep the witch from escaping. It was too late! The bridge was barely halfway raised when the witch and the wagons started up the ramp.
            Molten gold does not like wood … it prefers to be carried in stone. One of the flaming wheels on the wagon the witch was driving broke away and then another. The wagon turned first sideways and then upside down … the other wagons did the same. All of the people in the city watched as the nine blazing wagons thundered up the ramp and then shot high into the air. A tremor shook the town when the bags exploded. Cloth, wheels and wood were blown outward in all directions. The shrieking witch arched across the sky like a fire brand … and the people gasped as they watched the poor cow jump over the moon.

Great clouds of flies swarmed over the city as the people danced and the men feasted. Malodorous found Nonsensical eating steak and strawberries next to a special kennel the king had erected beside his throne. “I’ve discovered I do like to eat,” the wolf told her. “It’s a little late in this story … but still better than never knowing.” He looked at Malodorous and immediately felt guilty about his own happiness. “I don’t suppose you’ll get your penny for each fly now,” he said. “I’m sorry!”
            “Don’t be,” she told him. “The streets of Nod really are paved with gold … now. The king gave me permission to pick up a stone or two whenever I wish and I couldn’t be happier … well maybe a little.”
            “What is it?” the wolf asked her.
            “It’s this name,” she said. “ … It means stinky doesn’t it?”

 Some people say Dolda’s cousin vanished into the clouds and was never seen again except by a giant with a magic harp but that’s another tale penned by a far more gifted writer. Others say she landed in the same forest-clearing where the clumsy writer had left his bag of words behind an elm tree. Several squirrels and a porcupine swore they watched the witch and heard her raspy voice as she reached her hand into the bag still cursing the writer. “Call me the witch or Dolda’s cousin through the whole story will he …” she grumbled and then a moment later … she screamed.


Sunday, November 13, 2016


Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.

By R. Peterson

Sheriff Thomas Lang used one of his last two remaining shots to blow the brains out of the reanimated corpse biting Elisabeth Walker’s neck. As the blinding white light of mussle flash faded, she saw that Black Rose’s new graveyard had become a forest of rising dead. “Run!” he shouted.
Elisabeth shook her pretty head as she shot two female zombies lurching toward her wearing what looked like wedding or church dresses. “And let you have all the fun?”
The sheriff thought he recognized the two dead women as the elderly brides of a polygamist Mormon bishop. The man had insisted that he’d found both of his first two wives drowned in a pig trough. Two days later, this pillar of the Mormon Church had brought home a third and much younger bride. One of the corpses opened her craggy mouth and sang … and, though my heart be broken, here is a ring, as token… through rotted-teeth, pitted with holes from pried-away gold fillings, just before Elisabeth closed her eyes and blasted her again.
            “I only have one bullet left,” the sheriff pleaded. “Don’t make me use it on you and have none for myself!”
            “I said no!” Elisabeth told him. “If I ran now it would be like I killed you myself!”
The sheriff chucked a dripping zombie over his shoulder and then squelched its skull with his boot. Suddenly, he heard a horse’s neigh and turned to see Comanche gallop towards him, all flying mane and thundering hooves. Dust and gravel spurted upwards as she skidded to a halt beside him. “Get her the hell out of here,” the sheriff ordered as he tossed a startled Elisabeth onto the wild mare’s back and forced one of her boots into a stirrup. Both of her guns fell to the ground as she struggled to stop him. The semi-tame horse from Texas sped off again like a bullet, somehow managing to keep a flailing Elisabeth bouncing on her back as she plowed through a sea of rotted and grasping arms.
            “Bring him to me!”
All the corpses surrounding the sheriff stopped moving when the old black woman in the doorway pointed a claw-like finger toward him. A smiling long-dead miner, crudely scalped by Indians and with tiny green worms crawling from his eye sockets, pried the gun out of the sheriff’s hand. Tom thought his wheezing breath smelled like tobacco-plants growing in the bottom of an outhouse.
            “I selected you before I ever left Mississippi,” Rose said looking at Tom with the eyes of a black widow about to devour its mate. “The seed must be protected and who better than the father.” The old woman laughed as the hideous undead dragged him to the steps of Rose Brown’s mansion. The sheriff was amazed at how the black woman’s gibberish slave-talk had been replaced by an almost aristocratic British command of the English language. “Take him inside and make sure he is comfortable in a chair,” Rose ordered. “We have much to talk about.” She smiled. “And I have more … special tea.”
            “You’re not Rose are you?” The sheriff stared at the glowing eyes as the walking dead dragged him past. “And as for the tea … No thanks! My head is still buzzing from the last brew.”
There was almost a metamorphic transformation speeded up a thousand times. The woman hunched and turned as she watched him. For the briefest of moments, she became strangely arachnoid-like.
            “I am she who carries the seed … and I am also legend,” the thing hissed.


 “Whoa damn-it, whoa!” Elisabeth Walker yanked on the reins frantically but
Comanche refused to stop until she was beside the black stallion that Elisabeth had left tied to a clump of willows earlier. They were a mile from Black Rose’s cemetery. Elisabeth jumped off and slapped the mare’s heaving flanks.  “God! You’re as stubborn as he is!”
            Elisabeth almost turned toward the cemetery after she mounted-up but she didn’t.  As Comanche had bolted from the scene, she’d caught a last glimpse of Thomas Lang. Some of Black Rose’s risen-from-the-dead creatures were dragging him into the old woman’s house. If they were going to kill South Fork’s sheriff they would have done so right off. They wanted him alive for some reason.
Underneath her, Pegasus shuffled and tossed his head in an effort to clench the bit between his teeth and bolt. Absently, Elisabeth reined him in and muttered, “behave,” to the purebred Arabian.  Thankfully, Comanche seemed aware that her master was in trouble.
 “You get back to that stubborn mule who feeds you hay all winter,” Elisabeth slapped Comanche on her flank and the mare bolted. “If Tom escapes from them grave-crawlers he might not feel like walking all the way back to town.”
Elisabeth thought about her situation. She was without any guns and Black Rose had an army of dead keeping her from the man she loved. If she was to help him stay alive she would need vaqueros and a lot of them. There were more than forty men at her Blue Bonnet ranch that could be quickly armed. Even on the fastest horse in Western Montana it would take more than two hours to get there and back. The tall man with the shy smile would have to keep himself alive until then. “Damn you! Thomas Lang!” she swore as she gave the stallion she called Pegasus all the rein he wanted and they flew into the night. “I can handle anything as long as I know you are in my world but … If I ever lose you,” her voice choked on tears, “my life is over!”


            The first thing Thomas Lang noticed inside Black Rose’s house after the dead men left him tied to a chair, was the strange floor-clock was running backwards. He had noticed the exotic time piece earlier while having tea with the black woman. Tom thought the clock was just old before, now he noticed holes all over in the wood that seemed to expand and contract like small working lungs. “It’s made from Artemisia,” Rose said, “Giant Wormwood from the black forest of Germany.” She ran boney black fingers down the body of the clock. “Small pieces are sewn together like skin to cover the clock’s workings … and yes, it is alive!”
            “Whoever built it got things all wrong,” the sheriff said. “A clock is supposed to take away time … not give you more!”
            “Emest Amsel was the greatest clockmaker in the world,” Rose ignored him. “He made clocks the heads of state all over Europe and many said an Amsel clock was more than magical.” Rose continued talking as she filled up a kettle with water for tea. “Emest was kept busy day and night creating his exotic timepieces … too busy.” She wiped her hands and sat down in front of Tom. “His beautiful young wife Anna, whom many in his village said had to be a witch because of her stunning good looks, felt that he wasn’t spending enough time with her and sought the affections of a young woodcutter named Brunan Krause.
Emest happened to wander into a barn one evening looking for a piece of lead to use as a weight. He caught the two, naked as tiny children, laughing and rolling in a pile of fresh straw. He used a pitch-fork to pin the fleeing Krause to a wooden door before he could escape, but he didn’t have the heart to slay his sobbing and remorseful wife. So he settled for cutting off one of her fingers and he used it as the counter-balance inside one of his clocks. Days went by, but the illicit liaison had awakened an insatiable desire inside Anna. She had multiple interludes with the butcher, a coachman and even a traveling showman. Each time she was caught, she was punished and another part of her body was used in one of his clocks. One day Emest caught her naked inside a carriage, frolicking with a tax collector and with all her belongings lashed to the back of the coach. They were stealing away to Freiburg and the furious Emest killed them both.  Later, the poor man was filled with remorse and used Anna’s heart in a special clock that took many years to build. The clock was so finely put together that it would run almost forever without winding, but the gears turned in the wrong direction. One moonlit night a regretful Emest took the clock to the cemetery to where his beloved Anna lay buried to show her the passion that had consumed his life.  The hands moved backward on the clock as he cried on her grave. When the hour chimes struck twelve times, Anna clawed her way up through the soil and kissed him as a wolf kisses a rabbit. Villagers found his ravaged body the next morning … but Anna and the magical clock had vanished … some said to Berlin … others said to America.”

“That’s a damn spooky yarn to keep youngsters in a house at night,” the sheriff said. “But what has it got to do with you and the dead coming back to life in your cemetery?”
“Because,” Rose said pointing to her floor clock. “This Uhr aus einem Herzen gemacht that runs backward … is the very last one made by Emest Amsel!
“You speak German too well to just be another freed southern slave,” Tom blurted. “Who are you?”
“I am Anna,” Rose said. “Anna Rose Amsel and I was once blonde haired and with eyes the color of the ocean. The endless years and the searching for centuries has turned my skin as black as night. All I have ever wanted these hundreds of years was to make the seed inside myself fertile … that I might be born again as one once more living and beautiful.” She gazed at the sheriff and then looked at the elaborate floor clock. “The Herzen gemacht is finally running down,” she said. “This is the last time it will ever chime at midnight.”


The door burst open and Ryan O’Borne stood in the doorway flanked by Jim Coots. Yet three months ago, the sheriff had witnessed the death of both men. Flesh peeled off their bones. O’Borne still had the bullet holes where the sheriff had shot him in the chest and Coots’ glistening intestines hung over his gun-belt like a buzzard’s soggy nest. “We got the straw-crib ready,” O’Borne said giving the sheriff a contemptuous stare. “We’ll light the torches when you’re ready.”
            “Looks like you and your new sweetheart are going to have yourselves a fine old time,” Coots spat out a wad of tobacco that included bits of his severed tongue and a few teeth as he laughed and capered behind O’Borne.
            “What are they talking about?” Tom asked as Rose sat down beside him with two cups of tea. An aroma like jasmine mixed with burnt almonds saturated the air.
            “When I stopped in Mississippi I found another seed and another body to transport me,” Rose said. “There are many seeds …The one on the cotton plantation gives you all your worldly desires and is transferred only by men. The one in me gives a new life and must be fertilized by a man who kills others … but with no anger. I have searched for the husband of my child for over four-hundred and nineteen years,” she said. “The drop of blood on the homestead map showed me the way to find you and tonight my long death will be over!” She thrust a cup of the tea at his mouth but he turned his head. Moments later O’Borne forced open Tom’s mouth and the vile brew poured down his throat. Tom gagged and then dazedly watched a vapor swirl across the floor. Outside he heard soft singing. When he twisted his head toward an open window he saw a group of black women all as naked as babies. They sang and held hands as they danced around the house. A flock of ghostly crows flew through cracks in the walls. He looked at Black Rose; her face was becoming much lighter and her eyes were now the color of the ocean. She was smiling. Her skin was soon the color of new snow. The gears on the clock seemed to spin faster and hummed like a metal fork used to tune a piano. Tom was untied and led outside in a daze. The straw crib resembled a huge four poster bed surrounded by torches. Rose’s hair was first the color of straw and then gold. Her voice was like birds singing on a summer morning as she peeled off his clothing … and then her own.
            “I have waited for you forever,” she whispered. Inside the house the clock began to chime the witching hour. Each strike sounded strange, like one of Edison’s new-fangled  phonograph cylinders turning backward.
“Oh God!” Thomas moaned as his desire was awakened.


Elisabeth was frustrated. She constantly thundered ahead of the vaqueros on Pegasus and then had to wait for them to catch up. It was almost midnight. None of the men with her had ever been to Black Rose’s cemetery and she couldn’t afford for them to get lost. Tucked in her saddle bags were two shotguns, a rifle, and a case of bullets. Each of her ranch workers wore Mexican cross-chest belts filled with ammunition and carried a Winchester rifle and two Walker pistols. She pushed the men ruthlessly, stopping only to let them catch up. A half mile from Black Rose’s place ancient Indian bones emerged from the ground … here and there trees were uprooted. Several of the Mexicans shrieked but continued on when the corpses were blasted into spittle by gunfire. “Es maldita obra de un sacerdote!” her ranch foreman cursed as two corpses tangled themselves around his horse legs. Elisabeth prayed that Tom was still alive … and that he wasn’t being tortured.


Tom lay drugged and naked on the fresh straw. Anna Rose no longer looked like a wrinkled black woman but a disrobed Norse goddess. “You have always been the man of my dreams,” she said.
The clock inside the house was striking for the sixth time when Elisabeth jumped Pegasus across the converted railroad flat car and began firing. A terrible lightning storm had arrived. Both the Walker pistols in her hands roared and streams of  St. Elmo's fire flashed from each gun barrel. Jim Coots was just about to shove a wad of tobacco into his mouth when his entire lower jaw was blasted away. A severed tongue sprung from the falling jaw-bone and licked the tobacco wad from between his fingers.
The vaqueros rode into the melee ten seconds later. In the blasting, smoke and  confusion Ryan O’Borne somehow got behind Elisabeth and yanked her from her horse. His huge arms were strong even as a dead man. He placed a knife against her throat and bit her ear till she wailed. “Tell them to stop!” he demanded. “Tell then to stop … or die!”
“Detener su tiro ahora mismo!” Elisabeth yelled and a moment later there was silence. The clock inside the house struck for the ninth time and something about the sound made Elisabeth shiver.

Anna Rose Amsel rose from the straw crib glistening with beads of perspiration covering her naked alabaster skin like morning dew on white lilies. “You also seek the seed,” she said glaring at Elisabeth. A naked, slack faced Sheriff Lang rose beside her. The clock struck for the tenth time.
            “You’re damn right I do!” Elisabeth whirled and blew away O’Borne’s  head with one hand even as she fired the other gun at the Norse goddess. The entire area and half of the cemetery once again erupted in gunfire. The clock struck again as the last grave crawler was blasted to bits and then there was silence. The gears inside the ancient clock groaned as it chimed one last time. A thin trickle of blood ran down the length of the swinging pendulum and then it stopped. There was a dull clunk, the sound of breaking springs and then sparks and smoke as the clock inside the house burst into flames.

Tom was putting on his pants when he saw the old black-as-a-well-bottom woman crawling toward the house. She was bleeding from a just-grazed gunshot to her arm but other than that she looked okay. Several vaqueros tried to jerk her to her feet but Elisabeth ordered them back. Others were carrying water for the house fire.
            “Are you okay?” Tom asked as he and Elisabeth helped Rose to stand. Elisabeth tore part of her shirt to make a bandage.
            “Lordy I’m don no hows any a yalls can sleeps widt all dis goins on,” she grumbled. “Halp me inta da hause … an I be fixin yall bunch a night-howlers some vittles.” She stared at the carnage and the whites of her eyes, usually two U’s in her head widened to O’s.  “Damn n tarnation!” she said looking at the carnage. “I got me a God-awful pack a wild dogs … been digging up all ma done-pass folks!”


It was a week later, when Sheriff Thomas Lang met Elisabeth Walker on what people were starting to call Vineyard Road; they were both riding to Black Rose’s place. I had some of my men stay with her over the last few days,” Elisabeth said. “They got all the bones re-buried and fixed the burnt parts of the house. She sent them all away this morning. I’ll make sure she’s got enough flour, sugar and hanging-meat to last until she gets more business.”
            “You’ve always been good to that poor woman,” Tom said.
            “Not when I shot her,” Elisabeth said. “And I feel awful. All I could think of was that you were in serious trouble.”
            “It wasn’t her you shot,” the sheriff said. “Not really. The thing that was inside her was something called a  Herzen gemacht and it carried a kind of seed.”
            “A seed?”
            “Yes,” Thomas said. “I’ll tell you all about it sometime when we’re sitting on your porch drinking our morning coffee. It was a kind of spirit that vanished when the clock was destroyed.”


Black Rose’s house was empty when Tom and Elisabeth arrived. A scrawled note on the old plank and stump table bequeathed the house and graveyard to the city of South Fork. “Where could an old woman like her have gone off to by herself?” Elisabeth worried.

They followed the bare footprints north onto Tom’s land where the Cottonmouth River vanished into a big hole in the ground. Folks were beginning to call the strange sight Magician’s Canyon after a traveling medicine wagon and magical showman who had been so amazed at the spectacle that he’d offered offered (unsuccessfully) to buy the land from Tom.

Black Rose stood knee deep in the rushing water right at the edge of the precipice as it dumped into the swirling hole. “Don’t move and I’ll pull you back!” Sheriff Lang dismounted Comanche and waded into the water.
            “You jus stays whar you is an keeps yo feets dry,” Black Rose said. “I kin do dis heer by ma selfs … an a don need no body ta helps.”
            “Now what would you want to go and do a fool thing like this for?” The sheriff stopped when he saw her teetering on the edge. He was close … almost … but not close enough to touch her.
            “Folks has been mighty kin ta me and yall two has been da best,” she said. “I’m worth about a noder year or so at best … dem I be restin in ma own coffin patch. So I don fret too much bout goin.”
            “But why, Rose? You could have a good life at the place you built.”
            “It wasn’t none a my buildin’ “ Rose said. “I’ve knowed a ting or two bout Un-kah-gah fo sum time. It mean a debil in da Injun jabberins and a do belib dey has got it insides a me.”
Rose moved her arm and Thomas could see by her swollen belly that the woman was pregnant.
She looked at Tom and smiled. “It bess be dis way … no way to know jus what be comin into dis ol world.”
            “You don’t have to do this, Rose,” Tom pleaded. “We can find another way!”
Elisabeth had dismounted and was working her way slowly behind the old woman.
Black Rose looked at Sheriff Thomas Lang one last time and her face lit up like morning sunshine. “We had us sum fine times din we?” Then before Tom could grab her …  she was gone.
Elisabeth hugged Thomas as they stared into the swirling water … and they both cried.