Ancestors are Family, Too

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 “It’s not fair!” Eileen shouted.

 “Don’t raise your voice to me, young lady,” her mother, Eleanor, responded. “I don’t care if all your friends are planning to stay out late on Halloween. You still have to be home by nine o’clock. That’s already an extra hour on a school night.”

 “But I’ll be the only witch-in-training who’s not able to stay out late. No one is going to want to interrupt their Halloween fun to bring me home early.”

 “The key point is you are in training,” Eleanor emphasized, “and you’re more likely to get into trouble with everyone thinking they can experiment with spells late into the night. Halloween is four days away. That gives you plenty of time to find someone that will bring you home. If you don’t find anyone, then I’ll pick you up. Now I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

 Eileen gave a huff in useless defiance and headed to her room. “I’m old enough to stay out late,” she thought. “After all, I just turned fifteen.” As the night wore on, she hatched a plan to prove she could take care of herself. She would execute a spell to raise the spirits of her ancestors and send them to scare her mother. “When she sees how good my abilities are, Mom will have no choice but to agree and let me stay out late.”

 The next day, just after dusk, Eileen stood in the middle of the graveyard laying out items she would need to cast a spell. “I’ll show her I’m old enough to stay out as late as I want to,” she thought to herself, as she remembered the argument with her mother.

 A cool breeze made Eileen shiver as she finished arranging things on the grass. The small fire she started on an iron plate did not give off enough light by which to read the spell, so she turned on a flashlight. Eileen had a moment of doubt as she picked up the book of spells. After taking a deep breath, she opened the book and started the incantation. After saying each stanza, she dropped a different talisman into the fire.

Worms devour without a sound,

that which is buried beneath the ground.

Spirits dwelling in peaceful slumber,

come together in frightful number.

As demons roar and angels quake,

rise my ancestors, awake!

 Smoke from the fire began swirling around and around, doubling in volume with each revolution, and rising in the air until it stood a good twenty feet above Eileen’s head. Fear began to make her nauseous, but the power of what she released kept her transfixed, watching the spectacle. Crackling sounds came from the cloud of smoke then lights flashed from within. The cloud began to swell then contract, then swelled one more time, until an explosive sound shook the headstones throughout the graveyard.

 Eileen screamed, dropped to the ground and covered her head. After a few moments, she realized there was no sound except for her heavy breathing, in and out. She jumped when a woman’s voice with a cockney accent invaded the silence. “Hallo. Who are you?”

 Cautiously rising and looking up, Eileen saw a gauzy apparition floating above her head. The spirit was an old woman dressed in Victorian clothes.

 “I . . . I’m Eileen. Who . . . who are you?”

 “My name’s Morna.”

 Recognition came to Eileen. “You’re my great-great-great Aunt Morna. I recognize you from the painting in our house.”

 “You’re my niece, you say. Well tell me why in the devil you woke me up.” The ghost flew down and put her face a few inches in front of Eileen.

 Jumping back, Eileen replied, “I wasn’t trying to raise just you. I meant to raise all my ancestors buried here.”

 “Well then, you must have done something wrong now haven’t you?” Aunt Morna put her hands on her hips and shook her head accusingly.

 “I . . . I didn’t have quite all the right objects for the spell so I made some substitutions.”

 “Substitutions? Blimey! It’s a stroke of luck you didn’t unleash the hounds of hell now, isn’t it?”

 Feeling embarrassed, Eileen turned her head away. Her big plan to show her mother she could handle herself was falling apart due to this miserable failure of a spell. Then she thought, “Maybe I don’t need a whole flock of ancestors.” Perhaps she could salvage the plan by getting Aunt Morna to scare her mom.

 Steeling herself up, Eileen turned back to the ghost and said, “Aunt Morna, I command you to fly to my house and give my mother a good fright.”

 Morna responded with a raucous, cackling laugh. “Command me, she says. Give her mother a good fright, she says.” Again with the cackling laugh. “Why should I do a daft thing like that?”

 “Um. Well. You see, my mother won’t let me stay out past nine o’clock on Halloween,” Eileen blurted. “And, um, you know, I wanted to show her I’m old enough to do what I want.”

 “Stay out past nine o’clock? On Halloween? I never heard such rubbish. Not a minute past five o’clock for my daughters on Halloween or any other night. And mind you, if boys are around there had better be a chaperone.”

 “A chaperone?” Eileen felt horrified at the thought of having to have an adult around whenever she was with a boy.

 “Now you hear me girl, you gather this stuff up and go on home to your mother. Make sure you mind her, and stop this nonsense about raising your ancestors, or casting any other spell by yourself till your training is done. Do you hear me?” Morna raised herself up high and pointed a crooked finger at Eileen.

 With her earlier sense of rebellion fading, Eileen responded “Yes ma’am.”

 “Good.” With that, Morna started twirling till she was nothing but a tornado of smoke. Lights grew bright in the middle, and the vortex snapped into the ground leaving not a trace behind.

 Eileen quickly gathered up her things and went straight home. She entered the house through the living room door and found her mother sitting on the sofa reading a book. Eileen thought about trying one more time to change her mother’s mind about the Halloween curfew, but she thought she saw a scowl come across the face of her Aunt Morna in the painting above the fireplace. So instead, she kissed her mother on the cheek and headed off to bed. “Goodnight Eileen,” said Eleanor as her daughter left the room. After finishing the chapter of her book, Eleanor rose to get ready for bed. Before she turned off the light, she whispered “Goodnight, Aunt Morna.”

Star Trek Heritage: Chapter One, Pt. 1

She was having trouble concentrating with that incessant beeping coming from the proximity sensors, but she didn’t stop working. The Borg Cube was closing in. They hadn’t sent any members of their hive onto the ship, but that was hardly reassuring. The rest of the crew aboard the USS Heritage was currently unconscious and that left Ensign Meva Skogland the lone soldier.

She wasn’t entirely sure why whatever knocked out the crew hadn’t affected her, but she thought it might have something to do with her being in decontamination at the time the Borg ship had appeared. She’d have to remember to ask Doctor Syversten about it when this was over…assuming they all survived. What a terrifying thought.

Meva’s hands flew across the console as she assessed the damage to the ship, checked weapon and shield statuses, and monitored the Borg Cube, which was now currently maintaining its’ distance. Whatever the Borg had done had disabled the Heritage’s warp engines, so they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Everything else, however, seemed to be functioning properly, the most important system being life support.

Meva had never seen a Borg ship in person before, had never seen the Borg themselves at all, but all the reports said the same things. The Borg disable a ship, send over their hive minions to leech data from the ships computers, and assimilate all members of the ships crew. Not necessarily in that order. Then they move on. Another ship. Another crew. Gone. Assimilated.

So…why weren’t they doing that? Why were they just sitting there? Sure they had disabled the ship just like previous reports said they would. But they hadn’t started the rest of it.

“Shit. What am I supposed to do with this?” Meva muttered to herself. Speaking out loud to herself made her less out of control. She was just an Ensign who worked in the Science Department. She was fresh out of the Academy. Everyone else on board, literally everyone, outranked her. Except now everyone else was out cold, which left only her.  And she knew procedure. They trained you for hostile situations. But you weren’t prepared. Not entirely.

Of course she had basic training in the use of the weapons systems. Everyone on the ship did. Every good Captain insisted on it and Captain Miles was a good Captain.

“He’d be a better Captain if he was awake.”

Meva wasn’t confident in her ability to use the ships weapons systems against this particular enemy and survive. She needed a plan. She worked in the Science Department. Maybe she could science a way out of this. For now it seemed she had the time. The Borg were just sitting there. It was creepy.

“Alright then. Let’s see if we can get these warp engines running. Or at least get it to impulse power. If I can’t do that maybe I can figure out how to wake Syver. Or the Captain. That would be nice.”

Meva grabbed a Data PADD so she could continue to monitor the consoles on the Bridge and headed for Engineering. There were crewmembers all over the place. Many had simply fallen wherever they had been standing when the attack came. Some sporting bruises from hitting the walls, the floor, each other. Some were lying in odd, and obviously uncomfortable, positions. She wished she could help, but with no proper medical training she didn’t even know where to begin.

‘This is one hell of a first assignment,’ she thought as she headed for the turbo lift. She sincerely hoped that the turbo lift didn’t malfunction. She didn’t need to be trapped in an elevator on top of everything else. Then they would all be screwed. ‘As if we aren’t already.’

Meva Skogland had been so excited to be given the chance to serve her first Starfleet assignment aboard the Heritage. It was the ships’ maiden voyage through space and a spot aboard was as coveted as a spot aboard the Federation Flagship Enterprise.

She reached the nearest lift and, surprise surprise, it wasn’t working.

“Great. The Medical Bay it is then.”

Heading toward Dr. Syversten’s office she tried to remember anything she may have learned at the Academy that might help with this. The Kobyashi Maru maybe. Except she failed that test. Everyone did. If she couldn’t wake Syver then she knew it was over.

She reached the Medical Bay in record time. Just like the Bridge and the hallways the bay had personnel laying and sitting wherever they had been. She found the Chief Medical Officer sitting in his office chair, his head lying on his desk like a kid who had fallen asleep at school.

“Doctor?”

Meva shook the doctors shoulder, as if that would do any good. It didn’t. She began looking through drawers and in cabinets. Assuming everything was properly labeled, which it always was, she was hoping to find anything that might be used to wake someone up.

While she searched for something, anything, that would help she continued to monitor the Data PADD. There was still no change from the Borg Cube and Life Support Systems were still functioning. Good. She still had time, but that could change at any moment.

Finally she found a stash of hypo sprays. She looked through them until she found one labeled ‘Epinephrine’.

‘Well, this will either wake him up or give him a heart attack.’

She read the label of the hypo spray, checked Syversten’s medical record in the ships’ computer to make sure he wasn’t allergic to anything, and then, taking a deep breath she stuck the hypo spray into Dr. Syversten’s neck and waited. It didn’t take long. The Doctor’s head shot up as if he’d just had a bucket of water dumped on him.

“What the hell…” he muttered. He was looked groggily around the room.

“Doctor. Are you alright?” Meva asked.

“Ensign Skogland? What’s happening?”

“The ship was attacked, Sir. I think. A Borg Cube sent out some kind of energy pulse that shut down the warp engines. It also seems to have rendered the crew unconscious. Everyone except me anyway. And now you. I was going to try to get the engines back online, but I can’t get down to Engineering. Thought I would try to wake you up instead. I’m really glad it worked.”

“The Borg? They’re here? Why haven’t they taken the ship yet?”

“I don’t know, Sir, but they’ve been here for several hours now. They disabled the ships ability to move, but haven’t done anything else. I’ve been using the time to try and either get the ship away from here or wake up someone who can. That’s where you come in.”

Dr. Syversten got up and looked around. “What did you use to wake me up, Ensign?” he asked.

“I used a hypo spray labeled Epinephrine. I only have Starfleet’s basic first aid training. I was kind of guessing and hoping it worked.”

“I’m very glad you guessed correctly, Ensign. Were you able to wake anyone else?”

“No, Sir.”

“Alright. Well, the best course of action then would be to wake the Captain and the rest of the bridge crew. They’re better trained to handle these sorts of situations. That will give us the time, hopefully, to start taking care of the rest of the crew.”

“Hopefully is right. The Borg haven’t fired on the ship yet, which goes against every report I’ve ever read about them. Granted there aren’t many so we’re probably missing information. We need the Captain.”

“Okay. Let me grab what I can from here and we’ll head to the Bridge.”

Carousel Dream

2016-08 PicMy heart beat fast as we approached the carousel. Dad teased me. “I don’t think you’re tall enough, yet. You haven’t been eating all your vegetables, Lindsey.”

“I have so,” I protested. “And I outgrew another pair of pants. I have to be tall enough now.”

He laughed. “Here’s the ruler. Let’s see how you measure up.”

I moved quickly into place, pressing my back flat against the panel and forcing my feet to not stand on tiptoe. “Am I tall enough?”

Dad put his hand to his chin. “Hmmm. Let’s see. I don’t know. It looks pretty close.”

Mom came to my rescue. “You’re tall enough, Lindsey. Happy birthday.” She gave me a hug.

“Oh boy! Can I take a ride now?”

“Yes, go ahead,” Mom said. “We’ll watch you from here.”

I got in line and watched the carousel spin ‘round. Craning my neck, I searched for the object of all my birthday wishes. She came into view. Hair, long and black, tied up in strands of beads. Arms, gracefully placed to lie across her body. More beads, draped around her neck and down her chest. Tail, circled so that her tailfin covered her stomach. The mermaid was beautiful. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to ride her so badly I could hardly wait.

The mermaid slipped out of view as the ride slowed and came to a stop. I followed the people in front of me as we made our way to the entrance. Finally, it was my turn. I gave my ticket to the man at the gate then ran as fast as I could to get to the mermaid. People scrambled this way and that as they tried to find their favorite creature to ride. I dodged left and right, trying to not get stepped on, as I hurried around to where I thought the mermaid stopped. My heart sank as I saw someone else sitting on her back.

I sighed and settled for riding a bird, a dumb old bird, for my first ride on the carousel all by myself. Four more times during the day, other kids outran me. Now, it was getting late and my parents were going to let me ride the carousel one more time before we left the park.

“Please, please, please, please, please,” I repeated in my head as my dad and I made our way through the crowd. “Yes!” I said out loud as I saw I would be the first person in line. Letting go of Dad’s hand, I started to run.

“Hold on,” yelled Dad. “You’ll need this.” He held out a ticket. I hurried back, grabbed the ticket then ran again towards the gate.

A line of kids grew behind me as I wished for the ride to hurry up and finish. At last, the carousel began to slow. The mermaid came into view and stopped right in front of the entry gate.

I tapped my foot waiting for the riders to exit. Finally, the attendant came to the gate. After handing him my ticket, I flew past him. Reaching the mermaid, I put my foot on the metal stirrup and hoisted myself up. My heart dropped when I thought I couldn’t get my leg over the seat, but I stood on tiptoe and managed to swing into place. An older girl came by and said, “Hey! That’s my ride. Get off.”

I wrapped my arms around the pole. “No, this is my turn. Go ride one of the birds.” Before the girl could say anything else, the attendant came by and shooed her on to a nearby ostrich.

Relaxing a bit, I put my hands on the pole and waited for the ride to start. After everyone was hitched in place, the carousel began to hum. Music began to blare over ancient speakers, and the carousel started to move.

After the first go-round, I waved to my dad. As the carousel turned some more, I gently touched the hair of the mermaid and traced some of the beads. At first, I didn’t notice the air turning a shade of blue-green. Or that the color seemed to be wrapping around me causing everything to fade from view.

When I did notice, I started to get scared. I wrapped my arms around the pole again. “Did the hair of the mermaid move?” I asked myself. I closed my eyes tight then felt the pole disappear and the seat drop from beneath me. Screaming, I waved my arms wildly trying to grab something to keep me from falling.

Hands caught my waist. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” The soft voice came from in front of me. Tears fell down my face as I opened my eyes and saw the mermaid facing me. “Hello, Lindsey.”

Her long arms stretched out as she held me up, and her tail gently raised and lowered behind her back. I looked at the mermaid’s face. Her eyes were kind, and happy, and a little sad all at the same time. My breathing started to calm and I sensed that I was floating. As my fear eased up I was able to say “Hello.”

The mermaid smiled. “You’ve tried so hard to be with me today. I want to wish you happy birthday and give you a gift.” She removed her right hand from my waist and reached for one of the strands of beads circling her neck. My heart thumped in my chest as she put the necklace on me.

“Oh thank you!” I said, wrapping my arms around her in a big hug. “Purple is my favorite color. Thank you so much. Can we spend the day together, please?”

“No, not today, but I hope you’ll come visit me again.”

“I will. I promise.”

She gave my cheek a pinch then turned her head away. Her tail came from behind her to lift me up. I felt the softness of her give way, as she returned to her position on the carousel and became hard wood and paint again. The blue-green of the air faded away, and I saw my dad wave as the carousel went around.

I touched the mermaid’s hair as the ride came to a stop. After climbing down, I went to look at her eyes one more time. I could still see the kindness I saw before. “Goodbye,” I whispered.

“Come along, Lindsey,” I heard Dad say. I turned and walked down the exit to meet him. “Did you have a good time?” Before I could answer he asked, “Where did those beads come from?”

“The mermaid gave them to me,” I replied.

“The mermaid? On the carousel?”

“Yes! She came to life and gave me these for my birthday.” I smiled from ear to ear.

Dad shook his head the way he and Mom often did when talking with me. “Let’s go find your mother.” I took his hand and skipped alongside him as he walked.

Men on the Beach

2016-07 PicCarl pulled fishing gear from his minivan and laid the equipment on a cooler strapped to a trolley cart. Though he stood on a Florida beach, he wore a dark sweatshirt and matching sweatpants due to an unusually cold spell of weather. No matter how hot or cold, he always wore the same cap bearing the Navy logo. After securing his gear, Carl locked the van and made his way down to the edge of the surf. He pulled the cart with one hand and carried a fishing rod in the other. He picked a spot that looked promising, baited his hook then cast it into the ocean.

Charlie arrived soon after. He wore a yellow windbreaker, khaki pants, and a cap displaying the Army emblem. He exchanged hand waves with Carl then started fishing.

A little while later, Rick joined the other two men. He set his gear down a short way south from where they stood. He tipped his ‘ARMY’ emblazoned cap to Charlie and Carl who both tipped their hats back at him. As was their habit since they first met, the three men fished together in silence.

On their first day together at the beach, they talked a lot. Mostly tall tales about their fishing exploits. Eventually, the conversation turned to their military service. They were not surprised to find that all three served in World War II. Nor were they surprised that they all participated in the conflict in Europe. Carl asked the two army veterans where specifically they had served. After a moment of silence, Charlie replied, “Normandy.” After another silence, Carl and Rick both responded, “Me too.” They stood together for a few more minutes then went back to their fishing.

For several years now, the three men have come together on a Florida beach. They barely say a word to each other, but are bonded in a way no one can see or understand, unless they too had been on a beach, in France, so many years ago.

Fine Dining

2016-05 PicFor centuries I’ve lain buried, engulfed in sand. Tricked by tribesmen and trapped so deeply I cannot move. At first, I survived by eating the bugs and crawlers that were able to dig that far down. Barely maintaining my massive bulk, across ages, with contemptible morsels, I crave a hearty meal. Human flesh to eat and blood to drink.

My heart leapt the day muffled sound came through the sand. Silence had reigned for so long I forgot I possessed the sense of hearing. I dared to think the noise signaled that I would soon be released from my prison. Instead, the sound teased me by growing louder then softer, over and over again for decades. Despair consumed me till I realized that even when the noise receded, the sound remained stronger than before. After that, the ebb and flow of the noise stoked my thirst for revenge. So I waited.

Eventually the sand around me began to change temperature. I no longer sat in constant cold. I imagined the sun rising when the sand warmed then setting as the sand cooled. Larger creatures, crabs and sand worms, made their way to me. Better meals to boost my strength. Still, I longed to suck on the corpse of one of the warriors who put me here.

More intense and more often than I remember, hurricanes have torn at the sand above me. Today, I sense another storm starting. The sound of the wind builds. I feel the pounding of the rain. The storm dredges the sand. I am near the surface now, but still too confined to move. I feel air upon one of the spines protruding from my back. Oh glorious! With a few more rushes of wind, the rain falls directly on my skin. The wind and rain stop. No! I weep in anguish.

An hour passes. The wind picks up again with more ferocity than before. My snout escapes and my head breaks through the sand. The storm scrapes across my long front limbs. Though my hind limbs remain buried, I rejoice in the freedom I have gained.

I am weak from hunger, but that will change. My camouflage is exquisite. I look like nothing more than driftwood washed up on the shore. I will rest until someone comes to me. After all, the best meals are worth the wait.