Saturday, December 03, 2005

Heart Of The Gravamina

Gravamina: The part of a charge or an accusation that weighs most substantially against the accused.

I’m sailing to the End of The World on a ship called Gravamina, and she’s perfect for this Journey because she knows Death.

She is herself as dead as the Black Waters I sail across, as dead as the Crew that still haunt her decks and tend to her needs. She is as Dead as the Corpses that lie in the Catacombs I stole her compass from a week ago.

“ Finding the Gravamina won’t be as hard for you as it is for others. You’ll need the Heart of The Gravamina to find the Caravanserai,” the Hanged Man’s Skull whispered to me from his shelf in my library. “ But tell me, why do you want to join the Caravanserai?”

I walked to the shelf and turned the sectioned skull towards me and looked into his empty eyes and said, “ Because I’m tired of you, I’m tired of this house and I’m very tired of pretending to be something I’m not.”

“ You trail Death behind as if it were a train on a woman’s gown Azi Dahaka. When the Caravanserai become wise to you…they’ll destroy you and then you’ll join me here on this shelf and we’ll have nothing for company except each other’s Sins.

I took the Hanged Man’s Skull from the shelf and wrapped it carefully in linen decorated with a language no living person has ever spoken. “ You wish,” I told it. Then with the Skull, and nothing else in my possession I went into the world to find the Heart of The Gravamina.

The Hanged Man’s Skull told me on our long journey to the Catacombs about the Heart of The Gravamina and why it entombed and the rest of the Gravamina rots in a Grotto below the City.

Then he told me to listen because the Heart of The Gravamina doesn’t beat like a drum.

The Heart of the Gravamina screams.

“All Ships are alive, you know that Azi Dahaka and the Gravamina was alive too…maybe more so then any of her Sisters

Once long ago something dark and wicked boarded The Gravamina and killed her crew.

Now, it was assumed it was the Plague, but of course it wasn’t…it was a Demon and it drained the blood and life from every living thing on board the Gravamina and with no crew the Gravamina drifted and dreamed.

And then she went mad.

Like most Insane things the Gravamina was very good at pretending to be normal and after she was repaired and sold and even re-named she sailed and reacted to her world, as any Ship should

But then she started killing things.

She took the lives of her crew, the fish that swam around her as she sailed the Seas and when she was bored she made the food and water and wine go bad that had been stored below her decks.

Then one day a young sailor whose mother was a Witch and whose father was a Demon from the Mountains boarded the Gravamina and she tried to kill him to…for sport.

But he knew what to do and he tore her Compass from her chest and he took it to the Catacombs and he buried it.

He buried it alive.

The fool.

So the Heart of the Gravamina Screams in anger and rage and the rest of her dreams and rots and then one day a woman named Azi Dahaka went down into those tombs and brought it back out.

Azi Dahaka put the Compass back into her chest and the Gravamina’ s Sails captured a long dead gust of wind and her Crew came from the darkness and now they are all sailing to a port where this is dancing and music and art and poetry.

And Souls.

Lots of them.

And Azi Dahaka is very, very hungry.”

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Chamber of Horrors

Welcome to the Chamber of Horrors!
As you know, we at the Soul Food Cafe have been using this building as a place to teach Horror Writers how to be...horrid? At any rate, this was a Victorian Era Medical School at one time and if you'd care...if you'd dare, stay right here in the shadows and listen to Dr Delphine Heller and a few other voices tell their stories...
And in case you're curious, the door to this room doesn't lock....

What remains today of the Asylum
( Back Right- The Infamous "Plague Church "


Isn't it just amazing that we have come here to learn to make up stories when all around us are the remains of one of the most notorious Medical Schools of it's time?
This particular book has already been written and is just sitting here, waiting to be read.

You know, I think it's time time for a story.



So please step this way and follow me.

Here we are in the vestibule; do you like the marble effigies? Stolen of course from religious places and cemeteries. When you're as rich as the owners of this school were, they didn't call it stealing, they didn't call it grave-robbing.

They called it the procurement of antiquities

The School itself was once run and owned by a husband and wife team; Dr Johnathan and Delphine Heller. I'm not kidding about the last name. Can you imagine trusting your body and life to a Dr Jack Heller?

And his wife!

Delphine Heller, she was a pioneer in the study of Psychiatry and she believed there wasn't a malady of the human brain that COULDN'T be cured by surgery. Delphine's belief in scalpels and other sharp medical instruments bordered on religious mania.

Her patients in the insane asylum behind the school use to say she was crazier then all 200 of them put together. They also use to call her " De fiend ".

They were right on both counts.

They may have been insane, but they weren't stupid.

If you follow me, I'll take you to the surgery theatre. Awful place, the floors in here are wood and if you drop anything on the floor...write it off. Even after all this time you couldn't credit what sort of nastiness has made it's way into the woodwork.

That's in general I suppose.

This school is not a good place.

Upstairs are the labs. To your right are Dr Johnathan's offices. His books, instruments, specimen jars, charts and journals are exactly as he left them.

Here, let me get the lights. Yes, those are real body parts. Pretty standard fare. Only...well, there seems to be an awful lot of them. More then you'd need for study. Don't you think?

I call this Dr Heller's trophy room.

It seems like that man couldn't perform the most simple of surgery without taking something more then was required. Eyes, hands, feet...and other things as you can see.

Follow me here to his wife's offices...which should be full of books, notes, maybe even pictures of the unfortunates she treated. But her rooms. Well, look for yourself.

These offices are twice the size of Johnathan's and they are full of these...curiosities. These things would be more at home in a circus sideshow or a medical museum then in offices for a psychiatrist.

On this wall, let me get those doors..they slide, there. Physical deformities of embryos..human, animal...some, well, we're not to this day what they are. You will also find if you care to look...are more, medical oddities.

Some of those heads and hands have been altered. Parts sewn on, sewn together, body parts created, in other words, by a surgeon.

She has shelves and shelves of medical instruments that appear to be one of a kind. Tools designed to reshape bones of all sizes, scalpels with specially designed blades and oddly shaped needles.

What the Morgue?

Oh my friend, I was hoping someone would ask me about that.

This elevator is old, but don't worry it works just fine.

The Morgue, was someone's pride and joy and I'm pretty sure it was Delphine's pride and joy. It screams her you'll see.

The morgue is twice the size then the entire school above it. As you can see this is the place where those things in the jars were created. This is the heart of this place.

Now, my astute authors look at the autopsy tables...notice anything strange? Look closer...go ahead you won't see it from way back there.

What, you don't see anything?

You wouldn't see what I'm looking at right now anywhere in any morgue in the world.

They're not necessary for the work down here.

You didn't notice the straps on the autopsy tables?

Hey, don't you all run up the stairs like that, someone is going to get hurt!


What, now you all want a tour of the Sixth Floor? After that baloney down in the Morgue when you all tried to trample each other to death? I had visions of it on the evening news: Students perish in freak accident in a Morgue.

Well, forget it.

Oh, stop begging. But I mean it, the first one of you to turn tail and run winds up in a jar. Got it? Okay, then lets go.

As you can see the Sixth Floor was where the chapel was...well, actually where it is because as you see, everything is still here.

The altar and all of this artwork and effigies are from a church in the Carpathian Mountains once known as the Plague Church. Yes, that’s what it was called and if you think that’s strange takes a closer look at the effigies and the carvings on the altar.

Very good, I'm glad you noticed...none of the human figures have eyes.

Do you wonder what Delphine said, when she took her place at the altar and preached the Sunday sermon? I mean, what on earth there was to say to over 100 deeply psychotic and criminally insane individuals?

Perhaps Delphine answered that question all those years ago in her own special way.

In her logbooks she blocked this time off not as " Sunday Services " or " Church ". Nope, she wrote in " Alternative Therapy Session "

To answer your question, I'm not sure it one is because this wasn't the sort of place you were released from...ever. Delphine’ s Asylum wasn't a place you came to in order to be cured. No, you came here because you couldn't be cured.

Anyway, this is the legend of the 6th Floor.

Years after the Asylum was closed people insisted that the "Alternative Therapy Sessions" were still happening every Sunday evening, and if you were unlucky enough to be here when they started you would go mad.

You would become just as crazy as the ghosts that still haunt the Chapel.

They're supposed to be here still, sitting in the pews, waiting for their treatment.

Some are in straight jackets, or other types of restraints that were popular in those days. A few of the patients wear cages that fit over their heads and rest on their shoulders, some are brought in coffin like contraptions called ' Lunatic Boxes ' and others, the truly insane walked in and eagerly waited for " Church " to begin.

It's widely believed that Delphine’ s Congregation has actually grown over the years because sure as the Sun comes up each day one fool after another feels the need to bust into the school and come to the Plague Church and attend services with Delphine’ s Congregation of the Mad.

Once a group of girls dared their friend to come up here at sunset and sit in that front pew and wait for the Session to begin.

She was sitting right there when she heard the opening and closing of doors and feet shuffling along the corridor. At first she was positive it was her friends playing a joke on her. So she sat facing the altar and refused to turn around, she didn't want her friends to see how much they had frightened her.

Suddenly those heavy doors swung open with a hiss and a horrible stifling hot breeze rushed up the aisle. With it, as if it were woven into the heat, she could hear whispering and every once and awhile she caught a phrase or two and heard laughter and giggling.

Within minutes the entire Chapel was full.

So she wasn't surprised when someone sat next to her...because she was sure that the empty space to her right was the last empty space left in the entire chapel. To her credit she wasn't terribly startled when felt something encased in canvas and metal scrape then rest against her upper arm and shoulder.

She did however bite her lips so hard to keep from screaming they bled.

Suddenly the Chapel was quiet and the girl caught the heavy scent of lavender and heard the rustle of a skirt and heard the sound of light footsteps come up the aisle from behind her. From the corner of her eye she saw light gray fabric and a woman's hand adorned with small thin gold bands on all the fingers of her right hand.

The girl snapped her eyes shut... or really maybe that's when her mind snapped.

Alternative Therapy began.

So what happens when the doors suddenly swing open and the new convert emerges?

Go on, have a seat...I'd be glad to share what I learned that evening all those years ago with each and every one of you.

Okay, I meant what I in the sweater, come back here. I told you what I'd do to the first person that made a run for it.

I warned you all, didn’t?


What on Earth are you people doing in here?

What tour?

We most certainly do not give tours of the Asylum...let alone the Chapel. Now all of you come out of there at once! Here now, what's this? Let go of me and quit that babbling and for heaven's sake quit that crying. You are all far to old for that.

You, young man, what's going on here?

A woman? With a scalpel?

Ah, I see you've had the misfortune of running into our Mrs Everett. Well, don't expect me to feel sorry for any of you. We were very clear when we opened this school which part of the properties were for your use and which areas were off limits.

If you got chased around by a psychotic ghost that's your problem.

Now follow me, we have to get out of here before the Midnight Shift comes on.

Okay, here we are, safe and sound and back in the school and safely tucked away in the library. I'm going to have Miss Bayloche the Librarian explain somethings to you.

May I suggest that this time you listen.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I'm Miss Bayloche and I'm the school's librarian. Which is probably why I've never laid eyes on any of you. Hmmm, not in the mood for chit chat are we?

That's just as well. Let me get straight to the point.

This school is not a safe place, but you'll do just fine if you understand a few things.

One is the original staff is still here.

Mrs Everett, the Hellers, the teachers and lab workers. They are all still here and they are all still very busy doing the same things they did over 100 years ago, I'm very sorry to say.

One of the worst members of this staff is a very unstable woman who is the head nurse...her name is Elizabeth Telrico and she is perhaps the most worrying to the present day staff because she's in charge of the Midnight Shift.

Simply put, the Midnight Shift is the heart of this school.

At exactly the stroke of Midnight all of the lights in the Asylum blazed on and you could see the Midnight Shift come up the path from the north side of the Asylum.

They walked across a footbridge and came in through the back entrance.

Then the doors and windows would slam shut just as the last member of the night staff entered the building. You could hear the echoes for miles around, I've been told.

Now most of the day staff were locals, they never really met the night staff and tried very hard to keep it that way.

No it's not a mystery why.

Go ahead and take a look out the window, it faces north.

You can see the trail the Midnight Shift used, the bridge they crossed. That piece of property doesn't connect to the road. It's fenced off.

It's the cemetery.



I will not allow ghost hunters into this building. That's out of the question. Have you people finally lost your hold on sanity?

Do you think for a minute that the ghosts would be the hunted in this situation? I don't know who these people are you've invited but get rid of them...all of them!

What do you mean, it's too late. Go down there and tell them...oh this is just wonderful.

Is running around kicking your mortality in the backside what you do to amuse yourselves? What do you do when you really want to have a good time... play a little Russian Roulette?

Fine, bring them up to the Library and do it quickly, things have been a little to noisy in the Isolation Ward lately.'ll find out the hard way if you don't do what I say at once!

So you are the ... how quaint the Gaslight Society Ghost Hunters. Yes, charmed I'm sure. My name is Miss Bayloche.

To make a very long story short these eight students are all that remains of 25. The others left a week ago after running into the Night Staffers.These remaining eight are suppose to be here to study writing, music and art. They've done none of that. But they've paid room and board till the end of next month so they're here for at least that long.

Their instructors leave them to their own now because all they want to do is talk ghosts and demons and about the living dead.

That's it in a nutshell.

Oh the mean of the School itself.

Well, it was founded by two serial killers one of which was a demon and the other a creation of the demon itself, the Asylum was run by a psychotic and it's Night Staff were residents of a little place called Leaning Birch...which I'm sure you've been informed is the town's cemetery.

Every evening at Midnight a Shift occurs between the world of the living and the world of the dead and the School, or parts of it return to it's former self. Our problem is that now after each shift has occurred parts of the old school are finding their way into the new school and staying.

Furnishings, cups of tea on desks, a room here and there...and things in the Morgue.

Yesterday the kitchen was in full use, food was being prepared, the tables were set...the days paper was even propped up against a bowl of steaming oatmeal.

Well, we don't use that as a kitchen, it was closed off over 100 years ago and the paper for your information was dated 1905.

Things you see from the past are shifting into the present and I don't know why, it's never happened before. It's your standard Chamber of Horrors fare. Boring to individuals of your expertise. So, I guess you'll be...


Why of course you are.

This place is one of a kind? You don't say. The racket? It's the door leading to the Isolation Ward. From the sounds of it, it's just been torn off of it's hinges.

Welcome members of the Gaslight Society to the Chamber of Horrors.


How many times do I have to tell you I came back as the School’s Librarian because I wanted a nice safe place to settle back in? I've been out of practice for a very long time and I had to brush up on my studies.

It was peaceful, quiet and with each day I felt...hmmm, more involved you might say.

The next thing you know I'm hunting around a morgue for lost students, I'm settling in staff and
trying to set up housekeeping under ridiculous circumstances then I find myself pulling out some old medical equipment (oh don't look like that, I'm referring to the straight jackets) for some Ghost Hunters who decided to try to dive out a window in my library and haven't been quite the same since.

From the looks of them right now, the kindest thing to do was let them fly.

I had to put them in the Isolation Ward; it's the safest place really. Nothing in there can hurt them. I just wish you wouldn't have done that damaged to the door because I've had to restrain all eight of them in there.

It was no easy task...look, one even bit me.

So it's you and me now, until the next shift anyway.

The rest? They're all tucked away safely, the students, the Ghost Hunters (sorry, no I'm okay I was trying not to laugh and I choked a bit there) the curious and the very, very stupid. Tucked away and waiting for... well, you know, help.

Ignore the yelling, I do. It's good practice; it's only going to get worse later.

Yes, it's a good thing the Midnight Shift kept the place up all these years.

They better have, the lazy brutes.

So now let me see here, the beds are ready, the treatment rooms and the equipment are in perfect working order.

Why even the Plague Church is ready.

Now there's a happy surprise.

Everything is ready and I think it's time to begin our rounds. Shall we start with the Isolation Ward? No, you first Jonathan. And do quit calling me by that silly name. How long exactly have you been in that room? It's me; it's your wife...

It's Delphine.

Come Darling, you first...

I insist.
© anita moscoso text 2005


The Amazing Benandanti performs at the Chamber of Horrors Sideshow at a Marina in a town called Duwamish Bay.

The Sideshow has been in the same building for over 50 years and its star attraction has performed there since the first day the doors opened.

Over the years other performers have aged and died, moved on or disappeared.

All except for the Amazing Benandanti.

It was SUPPOSED to be sideshow secret along the Marina; the original Amazing Benandanti had a look- a-like daughter who in time took over the act. Of course, she's billed as an Immortal who learned her magic secrets from the Egyptians or Druids, or sometimes she was supposed to have been a student who studied Magic under Merlin himself.

The Amazing Benandanti is a Death Defying Escape Artist...tie her in chains, put her in a tank of water and watch as she escapes from a watery grave; she also performs a routine she calls " Chasing the Rabbit” which involves an Electric Chair once used in the most infamous now abandoned Prison in the state of Washington: Maplewood.

The Chair is her favorite part of her entire act because as she will tell you, there's no such thing as going over the top when you're suppose to be getting electrocuted. It appeals to her sense of theatrics, which are after all in the true spirit of the Sideshow.

Her eyes roll, her body convulses, blood trickles from her eyes and ears, wisps of smoke make their way from her slightly parted lips and then her blood red eyes change back to dark brown, she turns her wrists, the straps snap off and she stands and then takes a deep bow.

Among her other acts are the Escape from the Gallows and the Revenge of the Condemned.

Some nights as a treat for her self as much as for her audience The Amazing Benandanti summons ghosts, demons and other strange creatures that are part animal, part human. They are vaporous images but solid enough to touch.

That part of the act is always somewhat unpredictable and because of that The Amazing Benandanti doesn't like to perform it very often because one night a creature that was part horse and part crocodile nearly took her head off.

She will tell the crowd, as she prepares to open the doorway to not talk to the apparitions. They will ask you a question and if you answer...she won't be able to guarantee what happens next nor will she be able to guarantee your safety.

Sometimes because it's a simple pleasure and she enjoys it The Amazing Benandanti sits out front and performs little slight of hand tricks for people walking along the Boardwalk before her first show of the evening. She gives lessons and patiently explains how to make coins disappear and reappear again. There are magic scarves and dancing rope tricks that she can teach you to perform. She keeps all of these props in a well-worn, heavily stickered travel trunk.

Reach in, pull out a prop and the Amazing Benandanti will teach you magic too.

The Amazing Benandanti, like all good Sideshow performers does have her secrets. One is, she's never in over 50 years surrendered her billing to anyone. Her ego would never allow that. There has only ever been one Amazing Benandanti, which is more then enough as anyone who knows her will be glad to tell you.

The second is The Amazing Benandanti isn't really a Magician.

Kincross Benandanti is a Werewolf, but like a lot of us she has her talents too. And one of those talents involves seeing into the next world.

That's how she came to see the riders camped on the railroad tracks. Not by, but on the tracks themselves. They were phantoms of course but that didn't mean they couldn't cause damage. The grass and shrubs along the tracks were starting to die and the air started to smell a bit stale and old.

Not that anyone noticed, these tracks ran below street level and were not exactly the type of place you paid attention too even when you did look down. The tracks were littered with trash and pigeons and crows roost wherever they can land. It wasn't pleasant to look at and the smell coming up to the sidewalk above was foul.

For nearly a week Kincross had been watching the three of them as they appeared at each sunset. Earlier in the evening they were almost transparent and as people above walked by they reached to the back of their necks or pulled their jackets a little closer to their bodies. Some of the people even stopped suddenly and turned around, like they expected to see someone following them.

By the time the moon raised the Riders were as real and solid looking as nightmare creatures made flesh can get.

One evening, as she stood on the bridge that looked down onto the tracks she watched the three riders come to life with more speed then they had on previous days and she wondered, what exactly were they?

She was puzzled and wondered how to satisfy her curiosity about these things. In the end she took her years of predatory experience, considered several options she learned in thousands of years of war experience, reached down, picked up a bottle and threw it at the head of the tallest figure.

It made contact with a thud that made Kincross wince and she said with genuine feeling " that has got to hurt "

Then the tall one looked up at her, directly into her eyes and hissed, it opened its mouth wide and thick yellow green mucus oozed out from the corners of its thin-scarred lips.

It was drooling.

That's when she ran.

Kincross was so distracted by what she had seen that earlier that evening she managed to make herself look like an amateur at her 10:00 show.

When her executioner pulled the lever on the trap door of the gallows and the very real hangman's noose tightened and yanked up just behind her ear, the language she used as she was snapped back up was not good. “

Hey, " she said to loudly " you’re suppose to nod before you do that so I can make myself ready…”

Her friend Clara the Alligator woman said, from under her executioners hood, " mouth Danti! "

" Well, I'm sorry Clara " she croaked the rope is pulling my shirt up for Pete’s sake and something is tearing in my neck. "

" It's supposed to be breaking your neck stupid! " Clara said starting to loose her temper " for Pete's sake shut your mouth and start choking! "

So before the act fell apart The Amazing Benandanti kicked, choked and struggled for air...she was giving a very good impersonation of not only a dieing woman, but a dying woman in agony, much to the delight of her audience.

She went rigid, and then limp and the rope creaked and sounded as loud as gunshots as she swayed back and forth from the end of the noose.

Very slowly as if she were in slow motion on film, the dead woman twitched, kicked and seemed to slither up back up through the trap door. It looked like an invisible hand was pulling her; rope and all back up towards the scaffold's arm. Then while she seemed to be hanging in midair facing the audience her eyes snapped open.

And flamed red, red as coals in a fire. "

Ladies and Gentleman, " cried Jesse the Cyclops from the side of the stage " the death defying Amazing Benandanti! "

Kincross lowered back onto the scaffold and worked the rope away from her neck and took her bow and when the curtains snapped shut on the stage Jesse gave her a thumbs up. "

Good work ladies, I really liked the part when you vomited all those four letter words when you're suppose to be dieing at the end of the rope Danti. Are you going to make that a permanent part of your death scene?' "

" Hey it's that touch of reality that makes the act "

" Sure, sure. " Jesse the real life Cyclops said, " Like this place has anything to do with reality.

That's the way it was at the Chamber of Horrors, which was part of a permanent Sideshow act down the street from the Guzman Curio Shoppe.

Reality was only a theory here on the Marina.

Jesse really was a Cyclops, all 7 feet and one eye in the center of his forehead of him. He was a friend of Kincross' from the very, very old days. He had been living in Olympic Peninsula in Washington state for several years when Kincross found him...and offered him work.

He wasn't sure exactly who set up the Sideshow, but it was a good place to be if you wanted to hide in the open. Which was a relief from hiding in the shadows. Ask anyone who’s tried it. It’s enough to make you crazy.

So mixed among the fakes was Jesse, Wintra and Summer the Conjoined twins who's real talent was seeing into the past, but for the Sideshow they performed Victorian parlor music on violins and other stringed instruments, and Clara the Alligator Woman. There was nothing supernatural about Clara's skin condition, but at east she had a job and could walk around in the open.

Among the medical curiosities displayed in glass cases, the human oddities and artwork a woman with scaly skin was hardly noticeable. Which is why she worked so many acts. She in her 45 years went from living in a mental institution to being a stage performer. Clara had always wanted to be an actress and as far as she was concerned, her mission had been well accomplished.

Now we come to The Amazing Benandanti.

Kincross was a faker of sorts, nothing she did was magic...exactly.

In fact she couldn't tell you if she was human or monster, she couldn't tell you how old she is. She came from the Mountains, but she's not sure which ones. None that are standing now, that she's sure of.

Then in one evening in less then 10 minutes her life last.

Kincross was watching the Sunset yet again and the sight of it going through the same old routine almost cost her sanity when she was captured and forced into a place where all she could do was sleep and dream.

It was a relief really.

After she was rescued from the Catacombs by the Franciscan Monks who discovered her sleeping beneath their Abbey where she had been imprisoned by a rogue witch and her vampire companion she promised herself more then a new life. She promised herself to become something else altogether.

That's why she ran away and joined the circus, that's why she almost ignored the Riders at the Railroad Tracks.

But old habits die-hard and that's why she threw the bottle...

Only these Riders, as she was about to learn were about to create some changes of their own.

When the Moon was full three days later on Halloween Kincross was going to find that out exactly what it was they were about to change.

The last week of October is a very big thing on the Marina.

The Guzman's Curio Shoppe displays its newest finds at Halloween, it's a tradition.

Their stock, things like shrunken heads, exotic plants and mummified remains of all sorts are spiffed up and their cases draped in orange and black crepe paper streamers. Akela, Ignancia’ s Guzman's sister, could not only be counted on to bring back treasures and curiosities like the Mummy of the Egyptian Priestess that made the entire Marina famous, she could tell the best stories and could entertain people for hours in the Soda Fountain in the front of the Curio Shoppe.

That included the performers from the Chamber of Horrors.

Wintra and Summer, Zymo the Missing link, and sometimes Jesse would sit among the tourists and locals and listen to Akela tell stories about a city made up of immortals who's souls died leaving their corpses to wander their city in a dream state for all eternity, a town called Leaning Birches where Death itself lives, an Insane Asylum haunted by a demon doctor and her husband, who as Akela tells the story was still haunt the Sixth floor of the abandoned Hospital that still stands in the town of Resolution just outside of Lawton. Akela also tells stories about Headhunters and witch doctors, curses and hexes.

Only Akela’ s stories are much more then simple scary stories and they are always more fact then fiction and she leaves no doubt about that as she spins one tale after another.

She also tells stories about Werewolves when she's sure Kincross isn't around because she can't get halfway through them before she hears a gravelly sounding voice go into hysterical fits of laughter and say, " Kade, you are SO funny! Come one, tell us a good one. You’re holding out on us, you know you are. “

A few doors down the restaurants; souvenir shops and art galleries display pumpkins, offer free candy and some host costume parties. The Arima's Amusement park, famous for it's hand carved exotic carousel horses, mermaids and other fantasy animals are polished, the normal carousel music is replaced by recordings of funeral music and the electric lights are replaced by lanterns giving the friendly animals of the carousel a darker look.

Their eyes seem to follow you as you walk by and their wooden muscles seem to ripple under the half cast light.

The vendors selling treats along the Marina replace their usual fare with candy corn, orange cotton candy, as well black cat, bat and pumpkin shaped cookies and confections like black and orange popcorn balls. The soda pop is replaced by Devil's Blood, Nightmare Ambrosia and of course, Witch's Brew. There is an endless supply of caramel apples coated in not only in caramel but marshmallow, exotic chocolates and then all of this is rolled in nuts or candies in the shapes bats and ghosts.

But something was happening those few days up to Halloween; there was an unfriendly bite to the night air, the fog that rolled up from the Duwamish Bay wasn't a fine mist, it was heavy and smothering and seemed to extinguish anything unfortunate enough to end up in it’s grasp.

On these evenings as you walk down the boardwalk or along the brick and cobblestone sidewalks and streets your footsteps seemed to echo to loud and for too long. No matter how fast you walked it seemed to take forever to get from one short block to the next.

One night, after the Sideshow had closed for the evening Clara and Kincross decided to walk down the boardwalk to the Curio Shoppe to visit with their friend Ignancia. Her sister Akela was in town and both women were anxious to hear some of Akela’ s new stories...before she took to relaxing with her wine and thin cigars that had been soaked in rum and began to change the stories to more fiction then fact.

Which left the listeners with a pale imitation of what really happened.

Akela’ s stories were best told by candlelight and tea and before her mask of bravado hid whatever she may have been really feeling at the time her adventures were happening.

Halfway down the street it was Clara who asked Kincross, " Did you hear that? "

Of course Kincross had heard it.

Heavy footsteps in almost perfect timing with their own. "

No. " she lied.

Clara stopped and demanded, " you did too hear that! "

Kincross grabbed Clara's hand and started walking " of course I did and there’s more than one back keep walking and shut up. I'm trying to think."

" What abo..." Clara felt something press against her chest and shove and she was pushed over a rail and into the black night waters of the Duwamish Bay

When Clara broke the surface of the icy waters she could hear the sounds of a terrible storm.

The winds howled, there was the sounds of thunder and lightning and the sounds of voices lost in the middle of the storm. Then she saw a terrible figure standing on the rail above her, it held out it's arms and it howled against the night sky. Then it turned it's misshapen head towards her and pushed away from the rail and then it was coming down towards her.

The force of the figure hitting the water pushed her back and then under the water. A heavy clawed hand grabbed her by the back of her jacket and lifted her dead weight straight out of the water and swung around like a rag doll.

After it had turned her around she was peering down into a pair of blood red eyes and jagged teeth so white they gleamed blue. The face was a shadowed by a heavy brow bone, and In the fog shrouded night down here in the water it was hard to tell if it was a human face or an animal’s face but you knew it didn't belong in this world.

" Danti! " Clara cried in relief " you're alright! "

When they got to the Curio Shoppe Akela handed Clara a towel and a flask of something. When she put it to her lips to take a drink the alcohol seemed to disappear as it hit the space between her mouth and the flask's opening.

The fumes wafted up and burned Clara's eyes.

" What is this? " Clara asked raising the flask a second time but careful not to have her eyes open this time as she drank...or inhaled. "

Who knows, but it'll get you drunk fast. "

" Amen to that " Clara said and tossed the flask to Kincross.

Ignancia plucked the flask from Kincross' fingers and threw it back to her sister, " We need them sober, and we need to know what it was they saw. "

" Grave Robbers " Kincross said yanking the flask back and taking a long hard swig " three of them...nasty brutes too. I tried to finish one off. He must've just eaten. " She took another long swallow and snapped " this isn't working. "

Ignancia went to her cabinet and pushed at the latticework along the top. After she pushed in and pulled a drawer came of the center of the scrollwork. Without looking in she reached in and pulled out a small blue bottle and that smelled faintly of curry powder. " Here, sniff it. "

Kincross shrugged and did as she was told.

Then she ran out the door and the sounds of her getting sick into the Bay were brutal. When she came back in she said through clenched teeth and narrowed watering eyes " gee thanks."

" You have to kill those germs, you don't know what those things have been getting into. " Ignancia told her.

" I do, I could smell it and taste it I'm afraid. And we have a problem, a big one."

Akela laughed. " It looks like Ghouls have infested our Cemetery and are probably robbing them for food. And it can’t be good news for you or Jess because technically you count as the.... not of this world too, so you're on the menu and anybody else who can I say it; were born of exotic the Twins and I don't know, what could be a bigger problem then that? "

" It's what they ate for their last meal. "

" Which was " Akela said through a line cloud of blue cigar smoke.

" Vampire "

So the night before Halloween Kincross, Akela, and Clara went out to Leaning Birch Cemetery to meet newest residents of Lawton Ridge.

Leaning Birch Cemetery is a well-known place on the entire West Coast; it's famous because of its size and somewhat notorious history. Leaning Birch had started out as a graveyard for suicides, the executed and the poor. Babies who only lived for a few hours or days are here as well as the deformed and defectives.

This is where the forgotten were laid to rest.

It's a maze of graves, marble and stone mausoleums and crypts dug directly into the hillside.

The Cemetery was built in the forest and in time it had become a city and more then once hikers and the curious had gone up there and been lost for days. Some where never found.

These three women were very familiar with this place and getting lost here wasn't something that concerned them.

" Why do we have to come out here at night, " Clara was whispering to herself, " why not during the day when there are people around and you can see where you're going if you have to run."

" Because last shows at our last show is at 10:00... you know that. " Kincross looked over at Akela and rolled her eyes heavenwards. Sometimes it was all too apparent to Kincross that Clara had been in an institution. At times when Clara started talking out of her head like this it was all to painfully clear that being locked up in that asylum had damaged her, poor thing.

They came to the first section of the Cemetery just as the Moon came up.

Akela waived the Lantern from one grave to the next, " what do you think? " she asked Kincross.

" This Graveyard is dead. " she shook her head and grabbed the lantern from Akela. She began to walk up and down the rows. She walked briskly past new headstones, old weather worn headstones, past mausoleums then up the brick path to the Oak Tree Columbarium. And you could tell from the tilt of her head she was trying to catch sounds and was finding nothing. "

What do you mean it's dead? " Clara asked, " it's a graveyard. "

Kincross was over the top of the hill and Akela was running to catch up with her " Akela, what did she mean? " Clara had a horrible feeling in her middle and her head was starting to pound because Danti was scared and that was something in twenty years Clara had never seen her friend affected by.


The graves near the Columbarium, where the cremains were housed was the oldest part of the Cemetery. Here in the center of the Cemetery were the oldest graves, the most ornate mausoleums and statues of angles, children, lambs, benches and hooded figures. All of them hand crafted and after all this time they had not cracked, or been worn away by the elements.

A barrier surrounded this part of the cemetery; you could feel it when you came here. This place was the heart of the cemetery.

" There's nothing here..." Kincross had dropped the lantern and it rolled down the brick path towards Akela. " There's nothing here...” her voice echoed like it would in a tomb.

Akela saw Kincross stop under a giant twisted tree. Only one side of it seemed to have grown and the other looked stunted. From a distance it looked as if it were reaching over to the ground beneath it. " Oh no." Kincross whispered.

Then she called out, " come here, but not to close. You have to see this. "

Clara and Akela came up to the tree where Kincross was and on the ground was a dying Vampire. Its face was a twisted mass of cuts; its head was split open from the bridge of its nose to the back of its skull.

Kincross knew that unlike her self this creature could feel pain and she also knew that something intended for the Vampire to suffer.

" Here to finish me off Benandanti? " it asked through it’s ruined mouth " execution right? Will you break my neck and trap my putrid soul in my eyes forever? Or will you leave me here to suffer until the..."

" The expression is, until the cows come home. " Kincross shook her head " we didn't know you were here. We had no idea. "

" It would have stayed that way Benandanti, you may not believe that, but it's true. You can only stand Death for so long, understand?

" Kincross nodded, " I do. "

Akela shone the light into the vampires face. Under normal circumstances the Vampire is no oil painting. By nature their faces are ruddy and red and a little bloated. They're eyes are milky white and their hair dull and dry. It's their teeth that look good, they have sets of them, and like sharks and they're so sharp they can go through bone. Those teeth shine so white they glow.

The Vampires don't spread their sickness or curse like you hear in the stories. They're regular people who die and for some reason that no one knows...they come back as this.

When they do the Benandanti come.

Akela was surprised to learn, after seeing more then one fight that these creatures knew each other by name. They understood each other’s language...knew each other’s histories. There was a balance between them and if Akela had to live to be 500 she intended to understand it one day. "

Who did this, who destroyed this place? "

" I forgot, your family used to guard the Cemetery in Kincross...for centuries. I can see why you're fond of this place. It's quite beautiful. "

" Yes, yes, tell me who did this. "

" You saw the Ghouls, right? "

" Yes, by the tracks. "

" That's where the gate is, that's why you saw them there. But they're not Ghouls anymore. They're not robbing the graves for food, like before. They're not hunting the living dead for sport or trophies even. They've been changed, something has happened to them. "

" What? "

" They're turning human.

" Kincross motioned Akela and Clara back and leaned forward. " I can help you, maybe I can fix this...what's happened. I studied in the House Of The Dead. I know what to do.

" The Vampire shook its head. " Just do what you do Benandanti, execution. Do you swear? "

Kincross nodded. " I'll...put you to rest, when we're done. "

" Thank you Benandanti "

Kincross drew her fist back and slammed it between the vampire's eyes. Because it's face was so damaged already the skull almost split in two and from the center of the forehead where the soul lives a mist leak out, it crept from the corner of it's eyes and felt it's way to the ground and was gone.

" Shovel " Kincross choked " get me a shovel.

" The sun was just starting to rise when they got home to the Marina. Clara put her hand on Kincross’ s arm and Akela thumped her a few times on the back. " You did alright Kincross "

" What do you suppose he meant, they're becoming human? " Kincross demanded.

" I don't know but I bet it ain't for love. And the cemetery, are you sure it's dead? "

" All those ghosts, the things that live there...they've gone. Where could they go Akela? Do you know what happens to spirits that wander forever? They go nuts. No offense Clara. "

" None taken "

" Something scared the dead from their graves and drove them out of the only place on Earth they're safe. They're risking their sanity. They are willing to risk oblivion because of what? Ghouls who are turning human? What the hell happens when a ghoul becomes human? "

Akela was the one who noticed the trees that lined the hill above the Marina. The smile she always seemed to have on her face and the light from her deep brown eyes dimmed.

Every green thing up on the hill was dead or dieing. There wasn't a bird in the sky, and the air smelled stale and old even though there was a constant breeze coming off the Bay. It was like walking into a long closed room in an abandoned house.

The Sun was shining bright; it was going to be a beautiful autumn morning.

Only to the three women standing on the Pier, it felt like the darkest hours after Midnight.


Kincross and Clara The Alligator Woman were out on the Pier last Saturday before their 7:00pm show at the Chamber of Horrors performing slight of hand tricks.

Kincross was dressed in a simple black dress and over her shoulders she wore her black cape with the purple lining and on top of her head at a slight angle was her top hat and she was also wearing her favorite rainbow colored sunglasses.

Clara was wearing her favorite yellow dress and her Alligator markings seemed to shimmer and glow light green under the light gauze fabric.

" Did you hear about the Malloy Sisters? " Clara whispered, " Do you know what they're doing now? "

Kincross shrugged, " Eating their young? "

" I'm serious..."

" Well, so am I " Kincross said.

Kincross’ hand gracefully swept up into the air and from her fingertips a dove appeared and perched on two of her fingers." Those Malloys are one seriously ill family." Kincross held her hand open, palm up and the dove was gone.

She twirled her hand in a circle, opened it and the dove was back.

" If you can't get this thing to stop pecking my hand I'm turning this thing into a chicken nugget. " Kincross whispered so that the little girl watching them couldn't hear.

When the girl walked away Clara said quickly " they've been taking people up to the Bridge Islands. " Then she ducked her head and winced.

Kincross snapped her head forward and the novelty glasses slid down her nose. " They are NOT. "

Clara nodded and with a snap of her wrist covered the dove with a red scarf and then Kincross threw it up into the air and the dove was gone. " I think we should tell Sarah. "

Kincross pocketed the scarf and hissed ‘ ouch’ between her teeth. " Sheriff was very clear to us, we have to take care of our own." It looked as if she were flicking dust from her left shoulder but when Clara saw that small gesture Kincross almost looked ashamed.


" But."

" No buts about it Clara, if Sarah has to bring the law we could all wind up in psycho wards or in jars somewhere in a medical lab. You want that? "

Clara shook her head, " Danti, the people the Sisters are taking aren't, you know from here. They're...they're people Danti. "

" I'll go talk to them. "

" Danti..."

Kincross crossed her heart and held her hand up, " talk, just talk I promise on my Mother's grave..."

" Very Funny, "

" Okay, I promise all I'll do is talk. You can come and keep me honest"

The Alligator Woman shook her head, " I won't go near those creatures, but I'll tell you where you'll find them..."

The Malloy Sisters were exactly where Clara said they would be. They were having Tea like respectable ladies at the Glass Gardens Tea House on Weller Street. They were sitting very dignified and refined towards the back of the room by a salt-water fish tank filled with Seahorses.

When Kincross saw them she grimaced. The Malloy Sisters didn't smell like the Sea, they smelled like the grave.

" Ah " said one with red hair, " the Amazing Benandanti, Magician Extraordinaire and Werewolf Less Ordinary. Tell us, dog to master do you ever have the urge to chase cars or buses? " She asked daintily.

" No, but I do still have, on occasion, the urge to roast Sea Witches over an open pit and feed their lying carcasses to the gulls. " Kincross replied in the same mocking tone.

" We don't lie, Benandanti. It's just like the sign at the Pier says we simply provide a service, Sunset Boat Rides to the Islands. We own boats now, we sail them; that’s what we do for a living…”

“ For a living. Now that’s funny.” Kincross chuckled.

“ We've...become modern.” the bald headed sister with tattoos ringing her head said through clenched teeth. “ We don't practice the old ways anymore.”

" Well, see to it that you don't become unmodern otherwise I'll have no choice but to bury you so deep the maggots will never find your bones.”

" Don't threaten us Benandanti, it's not good for your health to threaten us. " said the Red Headed Sister.

Kincross leaned across the table and opened her hand. In her outstretched palm was a book of matches with a dragon on the cover. " Don't mess with me ladies, I've cooked your kind faster then you can say, what's that smell...I'm warning you whether you like it or not. I don't like the idea YOU are going up to the Islands and I don't like the idea YOU aren't taking money for your ahem, good deeds. And I have every intention of finding out why you've become such civic minded ladies...all of the sudden. "

" Just reuniting loved ones and doing good works...” the Tattooed Sister laughed.

" Yes Benandanti, more then anyone you should believe in redemption. You know it's possible; you strive for it every minute of your pathetic wasted life.” The youngest sister with long white hair said just above a whisper.

Kincross sat back and spread a napkin across her lap, she poured herself some tea and then raised the cup to her lips and drank. Then she helped herself to an almond cookie and popped it into her mouth.

" You know, I don't like you being anywhere near the Bridges and I don't trust you being so close to the dearly departed. So if I find out you're going onto those Islands yourselves, if I hear about " accidents " involving tourists being lost at Sea if I see one Shade...just one down here in Duwamish with your names on their lips I will find you ladies and after mere second in my hands I will have you wishing you'd never made it out of Croatan. Got it? "

" We're never going back there, " hissed the Youngest Malloy Sister " nothing can make us go back there. "

" Oh ladies, I will personally take you back to Croatan know I can. "

" They're just sunset trips to the Bridges Benandanti, we sail at Dusk and bring you back by Moonlight. That's all we do" the Red Headed Sister said slowly and she stared hard into Kincross’ face as each word sunk in.

Kincross chose another cookie tossed it back into her mouth and then raised the teacup to her lips again and bit a chunk from the side of the small cup. Steaming hot tea ran down her arm and pooled at her elbow onto the tabletop.

She chewed and ground the heavy glass with her mouth open and the Malloy Sisters saw her teeth, her long sharp teeth pulverizing the cookie and glass to dust and then she spat it all out on the floor at the Sea Witches feet.

" You're liars ladies, that's what you do. I guess it can't be helped it's in your nature. As for me? I'll grind your bones to make my bread...hell I want to because that’s what is in my nature. That can't be helped either. Remember that next time you go on a Moonlight Cruise up to the Bridges and you start feeling nostalgia for the old days. Keep it clean ladies...I'm warning you. "

The Sisters flat dark eyes stayed flat and expressionless, which was good because that was the Malloy Sisters version of keeping their mouths shut.

They were listening to every single word.

Kincross wiped the corners of her mouth with her napkin and when she looked up her blood red eyes were glowing in the semi-darkness of the tea room." Ladies, I wish you smooth sailing. "

The Malloy Sisters watched Kincross leave the Tea Room; they also ignored the nasty gesture she made at them through the windows as she walked by.

One sister reached out and pulled her hands back across the heavy oak table as she stood up. When she lifted her hands there were deep gashes in the wood.

Then together they left the Tea Room and seemed to drift like shadows in the gathering fog to the Pier.

© anita moscoso

Sunday, October 30, 2005

There's A Party At the Chambers!

Halloween is upon us and to start off the fest-er-tivities you could toddle over to these sites for a little bit of fun:

Then grab your lantern and say a prayer and head ( off...cackle cackle ) on over to the Chamber of Horrors and see what the Writers, Artists and Poets of the Soul Food Cafe have cooked up for you:

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Writing Excercise: Horror Style!

This looked like fun it could be a bit of Halloween Fun soI pulled it off the comments are in italics.

Instructions: If you want to play around with developing character without taking the plunge of building fictional people from scratch--if, for example, you want to learn about character-building but aren't ready to start writing a story--a good source of names can help. The phone book is one, but it has no other details. In this exercise, we'll use a cemetery as a place to find the beginnings of interesting characters.

1. Find a cemetery near your home and go there with a notebook and pen. Really old cemeteries are often the most interesting, especially if you're into historical fiction.
( Google is great for this too )

2. Wander around and look at the names and dates on the headstones. Read any inscriptions you find. If you find any really intriguing names, jot them down in your notebook.
( I found my name once...Anita Marie kidding, freaked me OUT! )

3. Find a good place to sit and write. If you've written down some names and dates and inscriptions, you may want to go home or to the library to write. If it's a nice day and there are places to sit, you may want to write in the cemetery itself.

( Nah, no one will think you're being a ghoul, but if its not a place you want to be don't go! )

4. Choose a name and think about what that person might have been like. When did they live and how old were they when they died? If there was an inscription on the headstone, how might it relate to the person's character? Perhaps a tombstone might say "In memory of a loving mother." Was the character you're creating in your mind really a good mother, or might her children have chosen those words in order to keep up appearances? Were any other family members buried nearby? How might their lives have touched your chosen person's life?

5. When you're beginning to get a good idea of what your character might have been like, write about them. You might choose to write a short biography, or maybe you'd rather put your character in a scene and see how they might act. Remember, you're not trying to figure out who this person really was; instead, you're creating a character based on a name and some dates, and maybe an inscription. The character will be made up based on what ideas that name and dates and inscription create in your mind.

Notes: This exercise is similar to the idea of making up lives for the people you see in public places. Instead of seeing a person for whom you can make up a name and other details, though, you have no idea what the person looked or acted like; you have only a name to go on. This is meant to be a fun way to exercise your imagination and learn a little bit about how characters can be made to seem real. And who knows, you might learn some local history in the process.


Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please.
Joseph Conrad
(St. Thomas Church; Canterbury, England)

Good Night Sweet Prince
and a flight of angels sing to thy rest.
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

As the flowers are all made sweeter
by the sunshine and the dew,
so this old world is made brighter
by the lives
of folks like you.
Bonnie Parker
(Crown Hill Cemetery; Dallas, Texas)

Here lies
Ezekial Aikle
Age 102
The Good
Die Young.

Hillaire Belloc (1870-1953)
Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged,
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if
the car was on the way down. It was.

Monday, September 05, 2005

October 31, 2005

October 31, 2005

" They were so wrong about the Cemetery, they were so wrong about the 13 Steps, " my Grandmother told me on her Deathbed. She said this very forcefully, which shocked me because she was hopped up on Morphine and about 2 hours away from dieing.

She was laughing her usual laugh, which always reminded me of a cat's growl, and I took that as a sign of health.

I'm not sure why.

I had been begging since I was a little girl for my Grandmother to tell me about the Cemetery of 13 Steps and she just out right refused. " It's all Hogwash "she'd snap, " its a little private cemetery that a very nice family buried their own in and there's nothing evil about it. So for Pete's Sake drop it will you? "

" I think there's a interesting story there. " I insisted.

" I think the young people around here need to find a new place to get drunk and look for ghosts. "That's what I think" she'd sneer and then she'd pop open a beer and drink herself blind.

When my Grandmother was about 13 she use to go up to the Manzoor Family Cemetery and tend the garden that use to be there. In those days there were only about 6 graves and they were back up on a little plateau lined with Hazel Nut Trees.

My Grandmother used to like to work under the trees because Owls perched in them at night and she said she use to find little bones from mice and other prey littering the ground under the branches.

She'd call them treasures and she kept them in a canning jar tinted light green. She'd given me the Jar when I sold my first Novel and I thought it was right she had it back now.

As far as I knew it was the only childhood memento she truly cherished.

When I put the Jar at her bedside her eyes, which had somehow changed color before they became glassy and unfocused during her last week of life blazed on when she saw that Jar, that's when she told me about the Steps, that's when she told me the truth about the 13 Steps.

" It all changed up there the day Mrs. Manzoor and her children died in that accident. The youngest his name was Broody, he ran out in front of that Ice Wagon, it was pulled by a horse you know. Well, Mrs. Manzoor ran after him to snatch him out of the way and she didn't realize it but her daughter was right behind her...probably trying to help. Maybe reflex, maybe its because that little girl knew death was all around them and was going to the safest place she could see...her Mother's side."

" They were crushed together under the wagons wheels and then if over turned and God what a sight that was. Mr. Cooley the Ice Man, the horse Pedro, the children, Mrs. Manzoor. All ended up at the bottom of the Gully. They were just a tangle of wood and bodies. It wasn't easy to untangle them all. I think they used Axes, I think it was that bad. Then of course they had to pull that entire lot up the hill by rope and pulleys. Awful sight, something you can't forget no matter how hard you try. "

I didn't like the look in Grandmother's eyes, her voice was saying one thing and her eyes, well, and they weren't saying the same thing. I was looking into two faces, that’s
what it felt like. Her voice sounded sorry, her eyes, well they just looked alive.

The desire to clamp my hand over her eyes was strong and they itched to go to her face. So like a little kid I sat on them instead.

" What happened after that? "

" Bad things, people died out there, later it was car accidents, suicides, some people well you'd see them walking along side the road past the Cemetery and then they'd just be gone right before your eyes. "

" Mrs. Swenson said she saw Irma Liston, this was in what, 1946 I think walk past the cemetery and then she said she just wasn't there anymore. Thing is, no one ever saw Irma Liston again and Mrs. Swenson lost her mind and cut her wrists up at the Manzoor Cemetery. "

" So the Cemetery killed people. "

" Don't be stupid, of course it didn't. "

My Grandmother was looking over my shoulder and she laughed a little again and went on," Then the stories started about the 13 Steps to Hell being in the Cemetery. You could walk down these little gray steps that went down into the ground, and led into a tomb and an evil witch with white hair and no eyes was suppose to be down there. You'd bring her a little offering and she'd let you pass and then you'd see the devil and he'd give you powers. It was all a trick of course; it made things easier...for me. People are curious animals you know. "

Grandmother yowled her laugh and her eyes; they were shining " of course the Devil's a Liar you know. "

I watched her face, which was already changed by Death and from no where the thought came to me," why I'll bet she's looked like this all along."

" No I don't know that I don't know the Devil I'm glad to say. "

Grandmother chuckled long and deep and I almost screamed. Something inside of me was desperate to cry out and I wasn't sure why.

" It wasn't the Cemetery where the steps where. That was the lie. One of them anyway. The 13 Steps were on the other side of the fence by the Hazel Nut Trees. I found it when I was looking for my treasures. They were like a little trail of breadcrumbs you know. I followed them. Down the little gray steps that went below the work shed.

There was a garden down there, full of treasure..."

" Bones. "

" That's what I said, are you stupid? I wanted them...all of them and I made a deal with the Gardener I met down there. I would bring the seeds and he would give me the treasure. He told me he loved my treasures, he'd hold my hand and tell me how beautiful they were and how proud he was of all my work. "

" So I waited out on the road rain or shine day or night, and I found them one by one...and he gave me the treasure but you know...the Devil's a Liar. I tended his Garden for him and in the end why, I found out he didn't care about my treasures or love them the way I did. No, the treasure he wanted was Souls you know. Greedy, corrupt ones..."

" Those poor people..."

" Oh no, he didn't take those Souls he took mine...and its been his for a very long time in the Garden...."

The words snaked around in side my head and nested in my heart...she'd been in the garden " for a very long time..."

I backed up against the wall and my Grandmother turned her head towards me and smiled and smiled and the light in her eyes went out and her mouth went slack and on that Halloween Night someone died right before my eyes.

I'm just not sure who it was.

This is dedicated to my Grandmother the late Virginia Godfrey
It Might Seem An Odd Choice To Some
But She'd Have Loved It.
That's Why It’s Her Story Now.

© anita marie moscoso 2005-text

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Coming Soon: Day of the Dead

Saturday, August 27, 2005


cham'ber of hor'rors
1. a place for the exhibition of gruesome or horrible objects.
2. a group of such objects, as instruments of torture or murder.
3. any collection of things or ideas that inspire horror.

WELL OF COURSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Ill leave it to your imagination but these items are from the Shelves of the Mutter Museum....go ahead, just THINK about it.

Broken bones
Pott's Disease Skeletons
Skull Collections, including the Muniz collection of trephinated (holes cut in them)
"Brain Of A Murderer" - John Wilson hanged in Norristown, PA
Longitudinal slices of the head, showing brain
Brain of animals arranged from tiny frog to man, often with eyes attached
Large collection of baby deformities.
Hearing apparatti of mammals in butterfly collection-like cases.
Wax Renderings of Eye Disease Problems

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Witching Hour

Last year, following in ABCFamily's shadow, I did a 13 Days of Halloween in my journal. It was a fun two-week long exercise. This offering is one of the entries I did for it. Enjoy! But, if you are out walking on the night of October's Hunter Moon and lil chills zing up your spine all of the sudden while the lil hairs on your neck stand at attention, don't be too alarmed by the voices you're hearing. After all, it is the Witching Hour, and you should be safe at home anyway. Just pray these women aren't hexing you.

The Witching Hour by Jessica Galbreth

The Witching Hour is the hour of midnight on a full moon. It is at this time that the witches' spell casting powers are at their fullest. It is a time of change and transformation. The history of this may be traced to the ancient times of the worship of goddesses associated with the moon and fertility. As the moon waxes in its phases so do the powers of those, until they culminate at the full moon.

Sometimes, this moon in October is called the Hunter's Moon or Wolf Moon. (Any pagans reading this, please correct me.) The moon is very powerful in pagan beliefs, and I think it's said it affects emotions...? Usually herbs are collected and harvested at night while the moon is high. It is believed when done thusly, the herbs are at their best, infused with the moon's power.

Sometimes, other spells are performed during the day. Here is a spell to heal a broken friendship: If you have had a falling out with a good friend this simple spell will clear away the bad feelings and create a situation where peace can be made and the past put behind. It will in no way mean that the spell will force your friend to come running to you. It will simply pave the way for differences to be forgotten and your friendship to resume its happy path. You will need:

  • Two twelve-inch white candles
  • One twelve-inch yellow candle
  • Some yellow ribbon and white ribbon
  • Two Tarot cards to represent you and you and your friend
If you are female choose queens and if you are male choose knights. However do not choose the swords cards. Hearts are recommended. This spell is to be done only on a Sunday or Monday at exactly midday. It should be done on a bright, sunny day, never in the rain.

Using a heavy duty pin engrave the name and birthdate of your friend on one white candle and your name on the other. On the yellow candle engrave both your names and birthdate together. On the yellow candle also engrave the following words: "Preese ito na lionide."

Find a peaceful spot in a grassy place under a tree. Place the yellow candle in the center with the white candles on opposite sides twelve inches apart. With your left hand light the yellow candle. Then light the candle on your left, which will have your name on it. Then light the candle on the right, which will have your friend's name on it.

Wait until a piece of dripping wax from each of the candles has touched the ground. Then say these words: "(Your full name backwards) ete tiato el liso reto mio li qi (your friends full name backwards)." Repeat three times. Extinguish all three candles with the little finger of your left hand your candle first, your friend's candle second and the yellow third.

Tie all three candles in both yellow and white ribbons entwined. Bury in the ground.

Though this spell calls for the day, from my limited understanding a lot of spells are performed under the full moon when a witch's power is at its highest. During the Witching Hour...

"Tis the witching hour of night,
Orbed is the moon and bright,
And the stars they glisten, glisten,
Seeming with bright eyes to listen
For what listen they?"

~John Keats~

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fear by Anita Moscoso

( Fear by Goya )

People read the stuff I write and will beat around the bush for a few seconds ( the polite ones anyway ) before they ask...where do you get these ideas from? What scares a person like YOU?

Well, I made a list ( which is a actually from a writing excercise ) and here it is:

Anita's List of Fears

Having my Mummified remains turn up in a thousand years in a musuem where a bunch of people will stand around it and say things like, " If that's preservation I hope to God I never see decay "

Full Moons Creep Me's like having a dead Sun up there

Head Hunters: I'm terrified of kidding. My number ONE fear of all times is to end up like this

One of my favorite Sideshow Attractions of all times: To bad I'm afraid of it... The Fiji Mermaid. Go ahead and just try to prove it wasn't true.

Having my Family do this to my Grave...they would too!

So there it is, the things I'm afraid of.
I'll bet Satan rides a snow plow to work before a lot of people ask me a silly question like that again!

Anita Marie

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Birth

“Why did you choose tonight, of all nights, to come into the world,” She said as she smoothed her hands over her heavily pregnant belly. She moved slowly from the kitchen with a stub of a candle lighting her way.

Outside it was still raining heavily and the wind was howling. It had already brought down trees and power lines in the area. Her husband was out in the weather, trying to get the local midwife. The power had gone out just as they sat down to dinner. They sat down to a candle lit dinner, probably the last for sometime, with the baby on its way. She had had niggling pains all day; this hadn’t been a concern to her as the baby was not due for another three weeks.

The pains had become contractions during dinner; she knew that this wasn’t a false alarm. She got her husband to run her a bath thinking it might help. The contractions became stronger and more frequent. She asked him to call the midwife; the baby would be born tonight. He picked up the phone, there was no dial tone. There was no way of contacting the midwife. He started to panic, what did he know about delivering a baby? What if something happened? She was calm, she told him he had to get help, the doctor or the midwife, but he would have to go.

She watched him leave, a bolt of lightning turning the night into day as he drove the car down the drive. She locked the door behind her and walked back to the kitchen, to get a candle, feeling her way along the wall. She had to stop a few times, clutching her belly as the contractions shuddered through her. She was standing at the sink when another contraction gripped her. She held tight to the counter until it passed. It was then that her waters broke.

She knew that it would not be long now. But would her husband and the midwife get back on time. She knew that it was unlikely. She carefully made her way to the bedroom, her path lit only by the stump of candle that she carried and the occasional lightning bolt.

She lay on the bed and talked to the baby between contractions. “Please wait … just a little … longer … your daddy … will … be back … soon … with help.” She was feeling ill; she didn’t know what to do. She began to cry.

“Shush, my child, do not fear, all will be well.” She looked up to see an old woman with haggard features coming toward her with a lantern. “Where is my husband?” she asked of the woman. Her question went unanswered, as the old woman examined her. “Now my dear this child is ready to greet the world, push.” She was feeling weak but she gritted her teeth and pushed. The baby slithered free and let out a healthy cry. The old woman wrapped the child in a shirt and placed him in his mothers’ arms.

Her husband drove into the driveway just as the power was restored. He unlocked the front door and ushered the midwife in. He looked around; the dinner plates were still on the table. He called out to his wife but there was no response. It was then that he noticed a pool of blood on the kitchen floor and bloody footprints that led towards the back of the house. The midwife had noticed them too and was following their grisly path.

They found her on the bed, cradling the baby in her arms. The midwife set about examining the mother and child. The husband clearly upset by the scene that he had witnessed held tight to her hand and brushed the hair from her brow.

She tells him it is okay, the midwife came and delivered the child. He tries to explain to her that he has just returned with the midwife. “No” she tells him “an old woman is here.” There was no sign of anyone in the room or the house, and no sign of anyone else having attended the birth.

The midwife catches the husbands’ attention and speaks to him out of earshot of his wife. She explains that she is concerned about infection; his wife is clearly feverish and delirious. “We need to get her to the hospital.” She then returned to her examination of the child. She gasped, tied around the stump of the umbilical cord was a single strand of silver hair.

© Megan Warren, August 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I saw her at the tip mine a few times before I approached her. She was an obvious tyro – there was no plan to her digging, and she had no idea of the customs. She kept wandering over to neighboring stakes and rummaging through them.
I’ve been a tip miner for forty years, so the others came to me and asked me to speak to her. They had tried, but she just stared at them blankly and went on rummaging where she shouldn’t.
``Hi,” I said. ``I’m Grace Fletcher.”
She had a pile of stuff around her, none of it valuable – plastic bags spilling household garbage.
``Do you need some help?” I asked. ``I been at it a long time, I got plenty of experience.”
She rummaged in her pocket and thrust a laminated card at me. I saw the name Rose Hammond.
``I got my license,” she said defensively.
``I know, but you’re doing it all wrong, and well, you just need to be aware of the rules.”
``Rules?” she gave a harsh laugh. ``Rules? There are rules at a rubbish dump?”
``They’re called tip mines now, and there are always rules.” I was surprised she didn’t know. Some of the stuff from the last century is so valuable – aluminum foil, plastic bottles – there have to be rules or tip miners would murder each other over a well preserved beer can.
``What are you looking for?” I asked. ``Got any focus objects? We want to help you, but you’re getting some of the others’ backs up. You gotta realize you can’t trespass on their claims.”
``Trespassing? Am I?” Her eyes suddenly filled with tears. ``I didn’t know. I’m not looking for the same as them anyway.”
I glanced at my watch. It was time I took a break, and the cool cafeteria up on the landfill would be a better place to argue it out with her than down on the baking hot surface of the tip itself.
``Come on up to the café,” I said. ``We can talk there, over a cup of Joe.”
I led the way. She was sniffling behind me like a kid caught stealing apples. The others watched us sympathetically then went back to their tasks. At least they knew while I was with her she wouldn’t be rummaging through their claims.
At the café, I ordered lunch and sat with her near the window. I waited until she had calmed down a bit, which she did after she sipped at her coffee.
``So,” I said, ``this is the deal - we tip miners watch out for each other. You understand the nature of a claim, don’t you? It’s your area, where you can mine as deep as you like and everything you uncover belongs to you. With so much great stuff buried in these landfill sites, it’s a valuable thing, a claim.”
She nodded. ``I know, I’m sorry. But I get so desperate.”
``What are you looking for?”
``I’m looking for one thing – one particular thing.”
Slowly, over coffee, she told me the whole story.
She had been married once, but divorced for longer. She had one daughter, a lovely girl called Felicity. As a child, Felicity had been spoiled, she admitted – far more than was good for her.
``But she was beautiful, and so happy – my parents were just crazy about her. Mom was always buying her special handmade gifts. Everywhere she went she would pick up something new. It had to be perfect, there couldn’t be a mark on it. She bought Felicity the doll.”
Her voice shaking, Rose described the doll to me. It was made to resemble the child it was bought for – a photo of the child was manipulated into 3D on a computer and a head cast from that. The doll looked exactly like Felicity. And she loved it, took it everywhere.
``She’d had the doll for a year, when I began to notice things,” she said. ``Just little things at first. One of the doll’s painted nails was chipped. Felicity cut her finger in the same place. Then the doll fell off the bed and there was a mark on its forehead where it hit the floor. The school called me and said Felicity had a fall in the playground.”
I reached for my coffee. The air seemed suddenly cold.
``One of the dolls legs became loose – Felicity fell off her bike and she was limping for a while. Things like that. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mother,” she added in a whisper, ``they would have thought I was crazy, or tried to destroy it the doll. And – well, I couldn’t do anything to the doll, could I? I mean, I couldn’t – she drew in a long shuddering breath - ``burn it.”
``So what did happen?”
``I put the doll away so it wouldn’t get damaged. I was going to put it in a glass cabinet but as soon as I did, Felicity had an asthma attack – her first ever. She couldn’t breathe until I opened the cabinet. So I put the doll on a high shelf, I surrounded it with cotton wool – I tried to make it as safe as possible.”
``One day a bird got in through the window and knocked the doll off the shelf. The head was cracked.”
I waited, my mouth, I realized, hanging open.
``The hospital called me. Felicity was in a coma – she’d had a car accident. I rushed to the hospital of course – I sat by her side day after day – then it occurred to me. I went home and took the doll to a doll hospital. They fixed the crack – and she woke up.”
``And she was all right?”
``For a while. I took care of her, and Mom helped me sometimes. My parents, they didn’t come round much – Felicity wasn’t perfect any more. Then she started wandering off – sometimes she stayed out at night and I had the police looking for her. They’d find her sleeping on the street.” She looked up at me with haunted eyes. ``I tried locking her in, but she just kept finding a way out. She’s been gone for three weeks this time. The doctors told me she kept wandering because she was brain damaged, and I believed them. But a few days ago, I saw it – I hadn’t noticed before because I had so much else to think about. I’d put the doll back on the shelf, so it wouldn’t fall, and when I looked, it was gone.”
``You mean –“
``Mom threw it out, yes, threw it in the garbage because it was damaged. She didn’t know – I guess she couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, like she couldn’t bear to look at her grand child anymore. I should have told her about the doll.” She began to sob, and I sat helpless, not knowing what to say. As she spoke again, the tears continued to flow down her cheeks.
“My daughter’s soul is in the garbage – her mirror image is on that tip. And if I find the doll, and bring her home, and clean her up and put it safely back on the shelf – “ she left the rest unfinished.
With all of us digging, we found her by the end of the day. We lifted her tenderly out of the trash and carried her down to Rose, who fell on her knees, weeping, and tried to brush the dirt from her face.
We gathered around them, awed into silence by such grief.
But we never found the doll.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Melody At Sunset by Anita Moscoso

When I was a teenager we use to go out to a place called Lost Lake and walk around the cemetery out on it's North End at Sunset.

That's all that left of Preston Prison which in it's day was such an awful place that no one in town would even admit to having known anyone who worked there, let alone say you had family or friends locked up behind it's bars.

Something about those walls changed people.
© anita marie moscoso 2005-text

It changed their faces and voices and natures so much that most of the staff ended up living on the grounds because their own kin wouldn't let them back through their own front doors after they'd been working at Preston.

Check the staff records against the records of the dead at the Cemetery in Lost Lake. You'd be surprised how many of those names match.

Later after they pulled the prison down they actually buried the stones, the bricks and bars and furniture, papers, books, clothes kitchenware too. There's a grave marker of sorts over the sight. It simply says,

" Preston Penitentiary B. 1899 D. 1942 Dead By Our Hands "

People use to go up there to hear see the ghosts of the condemned wandering the ruined tombstones. They were unable to leave the cemetery and you could hear them begging for God or the Devil or anybody to help them, and they were all suppose to be doing the same thing.

They were trying to dig up the graves with their bare hands. People guessed they were still trying to escape that Prison.

I was about 18 the year my friends and I made our first trip up to Lost Lake.

We knew this ritual ( and we knew that’s what it was called ) wouldn't work at noon or dawn or at midnight; you had to be there at Sunset in black and ready to walk the borders of the small neglected cemetery as the sun came down. If you did the ritual wrong something bad happened...instead of being able to look in you let something out.

I grew up around stories where people were suppose to have tried this and we knew what happened if your timing was off or you left something out or wore the wrong color.

" Do you remember Kelly O'Hara's sister Laura? The one who walked the cemetery gates? She died from a drug overdose last week," or " Remember that bunch of seniors who walked the Cemetery Gates back in 1981? Those four guys who always use to hang out together? They all died in car accidents last week...yeah ACCIDENTS.... plural they all live in different places but they all died last Saturday..."

When we went up we did what you were told to do to the letter.

We wore black we walked backwards and we also stopped at the front and back entrances and faced the gates and mimicked locking the gates.

Then we finished and faced in and there they were, the condemned, on their hands and knees and it looked liked they were trying to dig down to their caskets with their bare hands.

Men, some women in the clothes they were buried or executed were on their knees helplessly trying to touch the earth they were no longer part of. They cried, some were screaming others just crouched there shaking their heads from side to side and they were laughing.

They were the worst.

It was the woman buried closest to the gates that I learned the secret of Lost Lake from, the Phantom that haunts me to this day and who's image I will take with me to my own grave.

She was down by her own grave making the same motions over and over in the dirt and pine needles; so I simply leaned over on my side of the gate and copied her a few times. Then I put my hands down into the dirt on my side of the fence and copied her movements: I wrote, " I killed Bobbie Green, December 25, 1925 gunshot. "

When I asked later I learned that Melody Green was the Warden's wife and she shot him Christmas Morning because he bought her a dress she didn't like, probably because the card attached had his girlfriend's name on it instead of her own. I wouldn't have liked the dress either, if you want to know the truth.

But I wouldn't have shot him for it in front of my entire family.

They hung her in his office at the prison and I guess it took her a long time to die.

Melody's dieing words were supposed to have been the Prison made her do it. But in the end she pulled the trigger...didn't she? I guess she realizes that now, I think they all realize it now up at the Lake.

You can't see the Prison Walls anymore but they are still there, and there's no leaving them.

© anita marie moscoso 2005-text

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ghost Town by Anita Moscoso

Domino Wilton can't drive passed those empty looking towns, or roads that branch off from the highway without thinking about her family's home in a little town called Bronson Bluffs.

They rented a house there so Domino's Dad could go back to school for a year and then he could become a teacher.

That choice meant a loss of income and her Parents decided the best way to economize was to live cheap and you could do that on the Bluffs because it was practically a ghost town and the houses were dirt cheap.

It meant an over an hours commute for her Dad to get to school and her Mom to get to work but it wasn't a hard choice to make in the end because Domino's Dad couldn't spend another hour working in the slaughter house at MacKay’s.

So one day they packed up and left for their new home on Bronson Bluffs.

For the rest of her life Domino was convinced they were the only people living on the Bluffs. No one could change her mind. Not her Parents not her Counselors or Doctors or later her husband could change her mind.

Bronson Bluffs wasn't practically a ghost town; it WAS a ghost town.

Domino remembered how the streets would be empty, the stores would be open, maybe a bag of groceries and a checkbook would be on the counter but there was no one in the store; Domino was sure of that.

Then she would turn around and look again and there was Mrs. Greene and her daughter Kirsten and a half dozen other people looking at the shelves, talking in front of the vegetable bins or buying a soda at the fountain. Domino could hear them talking as she'd walk away and their voices would fade to whispers and she knew if she turned around they'd be gone again.

Nothing on the Bluffs felt solid to Domino.

Domino and her brothers hadn't started school yet, which was not something Domino was anxious to do on the Bluffs even though she hated spending day and night with her brothers.

She hated the way her brothers were always crying or fighting and coughing and sneezing.

Her little brothers, Derek and Miles were 3 and 2 at the time. She was almost six at the time and after all these years she remembers the dark heavy circles around their eyes. How skinny they were.

" It's not their fault they're always sick, they have trouble sleeping " she heard her Mom telling her Father as they forced cough medicine down Mile's throat " they're run down. I don't know what to do. "

Domino would have gladly taken that purple spicy medicine and been sick herself all of the time then to go that school and have to sit next to those rotten smelling kids. She as much said so herself one day as they drove by the school.

" Domino! " her Mother had snapped " That's an awful thing to say! "

" Well, they do stink, they smell like rotten eggs and they talk to themselves and make those weird faces..."

Her Mother had given her a good scolding and a lecture about saying mean things and Domino refused to back down because of what she'd see from the Park.

Half a block up and just around the corner, Domino use to love to play at the Park until she started to notice the kids at the school across the street.

During recess the little kids would come out single file and head for the monkey bars or rings and tether ball pole and instead of playing together they'd wander off and talk to themselves, and Domino could see their faces twist into grimaces and she could hear their teeth chatter and click in their mouths and sometimes they knew Domino was looking and they'd fly to the fence and hiss at her in words she couldn't understand.

The last time she had gone to the Park a little girl had climbed up the fence at the school and she was saying something to Domino only Domino wasn’t listening because on her way up the fence the little girl's wrist had caught in between the links and snapped. She pulled it free with a grunt and continued up the fence and she reminded Domino of a spider inching it's way up a wall.

" Domino, Domino, Domino come here and listen to me Domino. "

Domino was fascinated by the girl’s wrist, which was now almost shaped like a "C". The little girl pulled angrily at the fence and Domino looked up, " let us out, let us out, open the gates and let us ALL out. "

" Why don't you just walk out? " Domino had asked the little girl with the dark brown eyes; so dark it looked like she didn't any eyes in her head at all. " Just walk out why don't you. "

" Let us out Domino, let us all out! "

" No! " Domino had yelled, " you stay in stay! " And as fast as she could Domino raced away from the school and the park. Why had she never noticed how dark that Park was? What were those things moving around in the trees? She kept looking over her shoulder at the school and she could hear the laughing and screeching that did sound like children playing, unless you really listened.

The sound was off key and wrong and it hurt Domino's ears just to listen to it for to long. Something wet was running down her neck and when she put her hand up to wipe it away she saw blood on her fingertips.

After that day Domino would cover her ears with her hands when she went by the school, even if she was in the car with her Parents.

There was a little Church; it looked like one that Domino had seen on a Christmas card once. It was white and had flowers out front and no windows. There was a heavy wooden beam nailed across the double doors and a little cemetery at it's back.

Domino’s family weren’t “ Church People “ and for the most part paid no attention to the sign out front inviting people to come and visit at 11:00 for Sunday Worship. In fact, it seemed that the entire town weren’t exactly “ Church People “ but Domino’s Mom did wonder why the door was nailed shut.

And why there were no windows.

They’d been living in the Bluffs for almost a month when Domino and her Dad had come home one day from a visit with Dad’s Mom, Grandma Carmen. There was a big Move-It truck in the front yard and her Mother was blindly throwing their things into the back of it.

Domino had never seen anything so wonderful in her life.

She ran around to the back of the truck and saw the bed was littered with furniture and pictures and pots and pans and if it was fragile it was broken because Domino’s Mom was tossing stuff in the back and she wasn’t obviously concerned with things like packing paper and boxes.

“ Jesus Katie, what are you doing? “ Domino’s Dad asked.

“ I’m moving us out Max, that’s what I’m doing. You can help or you can sit, but I suggest you help because if it’s not in this truck in the next 15 minutes it stays. That goes for you to by the way. “

“ Katie! Come on, why are you doing this? “

“ I went to sign Domino up for school today. “

“ Uh-oh “ Domino had said “ the Smelly kids? Did you see the smelly kids? “

Her Mom wasn’t listening, “ those things, those awful things were crawling up the walls…

“ Like Spiders? “ Domino asked.

Mom’s ears had been bleeding two little red lines ran down her neck and shoulders and she looked at Domino and said, “ just like Spiders. "

Domino's Dad was yelling now, yelling for Domino's Mom to stop it, stop this craziness of course they couldn't just take off and leave their house, leave everything behind.

" Oh yes we can, " Mom hissed, " Look behind you Max and tell me what you see. "

Domino could see it; Dad didn't want to turn around. " Why? " he asked

" You can feel it, can't you Max? So turn around, it's Mrs. Gunderson from across the street. Turn around Max and look at her. "

Domino looked around her Father's legs and then looked up at her Father and shook her head. There' were no words for her to describe Mrs. Gunderson because what Domino saw made no sense.

No sense at all.

" Don't turn around Daddy, " she said, " please don't turn around. "

But he did, Domino knew he would.

Mrs. Gunderson was walking by and she was smiling like the nice old lady she appeared to be. Only her feet weren't touching the ground and her head was lying over to one side. " Good afternoon " she said with a pleasant tight smile. Her eyes rolled back up into her head and she smiled brightly, " leaving us so soon? "

" Truck, " Domino's father said, " get in the truck Domino. "

Domino saw that Mrs. Gunderson's voice was coming out of her mouth, but her mouth wasn't moving her lips were parted slightly and Domino thought of a rag doll.

That's what Mrs. Gunderson looked like, a rag doll being shook and forced to move and makes sounds like a real girl.

Only of course a rag doll is just a doll and not a real girl.

And of course Mrs. Gunderson wasn't a real lady, she couldn't be.

Mrs. Gunderson crossed the street to her house and as she floated up the stairs to her front door Domino could hear the thump thump of her toes hitting against the steps.

The door opened for Mrs. Gunderson on it's own and slammed shut right after her.

" It's gets better Max, I drove by the Park on my way from the school and have you ever looked in the trees? "

" They're full of shoes. " Domino said with authority.

Her Mother looked down at her and her Mother asked her like she was a grown-up " Is that all you saw Domino? "

Domino nodded, " I played there a lot and I saw, the trees are full of shoes "

" The trees Max" Domino's Mom said to her father without taking her eyes away from Domino " are full of people and they're hanging from the trees by their necks. Your daughter only saw their shoes. She played there Max, almost every single day we've lived here. "

" They don't bother me, not like the kids at the school or the people in the library or that man in the attic..."

" I can't listen to this anymore, " Mom said " get in the truck."

They left town that night and on the way out they saw the School Kids playing in the schoolyard. Domino and her family watched as the Children ran and twitched and whirled, caught up in a windstorm only they could be part of.

Domino saw the shoes in the trees dancing and kicking and all the while she could hear gurgling sounds and cries and everytime the shoes dropped they were yanked back up into the dark tree tops again.

They ended up at Grandma's house and Domino heard her Parents and Grandparents talking until sunrise.

They never talked to each other about the Bluffs again, but for years later they knew the others were thinking about Bronson because Domino or her Brothers or Parents would sometimes scream themselves awake from terrible nightmares and everyone would pretend they hadn't heard a thing.

Now days Domino Wilton can't drive passed those empty looking towns, or roads that branch off from the highway without thinking about her family's home in a little town called Bronson Bluffs and when she does pass them she pushes down as hard on the gas pedal without realizing it and stares into her rearview mirror until she's sure those little towns or roads can't see her anymore.

At least she hopes they can't.
© anita marie moscoso 2005-text