To those of you who continue to stop by... and from looking at the visitors' map y'all continue to drop in from many places around the globe. Which is pretty darn cool for this old blue collar, forklift driving lumberflinger.
This blogpost is another story by my daughter, Robin. The girl has talent I tell ya. Of course, she grew up w/ books and loves a good story. Books books and more books and what does she do in her spare time? Write... go figure.
Robin submitted this as an assignment in her creative writing class... not bad for a junior in High School (and a blonde junior at that...).
Let me -- and her -- know what you think. Her previous story "The Blue Swing" was published here on the Donut a while back:
The Blue Swing
This story is called "Feathers."
(©Robin Erickson, 2008)
Beep, beep, beep. The monotonous tone of the checkout scanner was putting me to sleep. I looked up vaguely from my register to ask just one more shopper if they would prefer paper or plastic. Paper. Cans of soup, a loaf of bread, various lunch meats and a carton of eggs went into the bag. Thank you for shopping at Save-Way, have a nice day, I parroted over and over to what seemed like the same person, over and over.
There was the perfect way to describe this day: over and over. I’d been lost in my head all day, or, if we were to be honest, all month. Ever since my parents dragged me to this lame town. I missed my city, with its small dramas and big buildings, and people dressed to make you look. I sighed. Break time. I sat on a wall outside, unscrewing my thermos and sniffing the soup inside. Still hot, thank God. The steam rose and drifted out into the parking lot, making a catching swirly pattern against the stillness of the dark clouds. My mind was going into overdrive. There was no sound here. I gazed around; my outward appearance would’ve never given away what was in my mind. I matched this place perfectly. My plain brown hair was pulled into a lopsided pony tail today, and too lazy to put on my contacts, I had on my wire framed glasses. The black pants and shoes required for my job stood out from the white snow, and my blue button up shirt plainly said ‘boring nobody, please ignore’. Well, in reality it said ‘Chloe Mitchelson, welcome to Save-Way!’, but that was beside the point.
“Hey, you!” I nearly jumped out of my skin. I twisted around, with barely enough curiosity to see who was shouting at me. There was an old, bent over man standing outside his car staring directly at me. I gave him a blank look. “Do you work here? Hmm?” He didn’t pause for an answer. “Well get over here and help me unload these groceries!” I didn’t move.
“I’m sorry sir, I’m on my break. Someone inside would be glad to help you.” Ugh, my voice irritated me. It came out so soft and meek sounding. He shrugged at me, and headed back into the store. I looked back at my soup; my interest in the situation had been lost immediately. Finishing my lunch and storing the thermos in my bag, I hopped off the wall and trudged my way back through the cold snow and inside for another three hours of work. Sigh.
“Shh. She’ll hear you.” Trin whispered to me, just outside of Chloe’s window.
“I was just saying!” I frowned. Trin was still young, much younger than me, and had been appointed my companion for experience points. Having Trin around was not the most helpful thing for my task, but it was alright. It was at least entertaining. And entertainment was not something that came around very often in our world.
“Hmmph, ‘just saying’. This whole speaking thing is soo irritating.” Trin complained.
“I know, just let it be. You’ll get used to it.” We fell silent. I had to admit, this world was beautiful. The snowfall made everything glow, especially in the night, with a piercing cleanliness and silence that almost physically pressed on your mind. “Ready?” I whispered absentmindedly.
“Let’s do it.” Trin spoke with a bit more effort.
And we both faded. In the same instant that we had been standing outside, we were now standing in Chloe’s bedroom, an arms length away from her sleeping body. I blinked. “Let me concentrate now,” I thought to Trin. Half a second later I was in Chloe’s mind, seeing what she was seeing. Basically, I had entered her dreams.
We were in a small room from her childhood, maybe inside a grandmother’s house. In a corner there was a small rocking chair, child size, facing the door. Chloe sat in it, but was only partway visible since she was the dreamer, and not completely aware of herself. I, on the other hand, would appear fairly solid. Actually, I was curious to see what form her mind would turn me into. Frightening or welcome? I turned towards a mirror on the wall which appeared for my use. Interesting, she had put me in a female form. Striking red hair and green eyes rested on my pale face, Chloe had made me beautiful. My curiosity satisfied, I spun on my heel and faced the girl. She seemed to notice me for the first time, and looked up, childish eyes wide.
I blinked, “who are you?”
The gorgeous red haired woman spoke. “I am whoever you chose to make me, child. Perhaps a girl from school? I would not know.” She sat down on a chair that had not been there a second before. “Look at your hands.”
I looked down, saw nothing at first, and suddenly seemed to be more aware of myself. I saw my hands, with my familiar row of rings and dirty nails. With my sudden consciousness of myself, the strangeness of this situation seemed to clarify itself. I was unexpectedly afraid. I didn’t know where I was, or who this person speaking to me was, or how I came to be here, but I wanted to find out. “What’s going on?”
The woman smiled at me. “You are in a dream, I am merely your guest, although I admit I’ve come uninvited.” I was still confused. She seemed to sense that, “My name is Felix and I am an Angel.”
“Oh. I’m dreaming.” I looked around the room with a new understanding. “Cool.”
“You must wake up.” She said it bluntly, “we must speak with you.”
And she took my hand.
I blinked my eyes open, and stretched. A glance at my alarm clock told me it was 1:23 in the morning. Rolling over to fall back asleep, I heard a whisper behind me. I tensed; there was somebody in my room. Very slowly, I turned my head to see if it was a family member, but I couldn’t see a thing. My hand found a light switch and I switched it on; my eyes saw someone in the corner, a stranger. I screamed, but not a sound came out, someone had stuck out their arm from behind and put their hand over my mouth. I struggled away, but soon there were another pair of hands holding my arms. I kicked and tried to bite or scream, get my arms away, something, but the grip on my arms was strong, and I could not break it. Finally, I collapsed, breathing hard. They seemed to sense that I was done resisting, and slowly let go, letting me fall into the fetal position on my bed, receding into myself.
“Chloe,” two voices said in unison; whether they were male or female, I could not say. I raised my head. My voice didn’t seem to want to form any words, so I just looked. They didn’t seem threatening, so I uncurled myself and took a more defensive sitting position, waiting for an explanation.
Finally, I seemed to find words. “What the hell are you doing in my room? Who are you?” I managed to sound angry.
“As I stated in your dream, I am an angel,” the form on the left spoke. He, she, it, whatever seemed to sense my disbelief. “My name, once again, is Felix. My companion,” and here he gestured to the figure on his right, “is Trin.” They waited, looking at me. Or I assumed they were looking at me. The more I watched, the more I realized that they didn’t quite seem to be there. Or they seemed more there than anything I’d seen before. Or... Oh, this was confusing. They had a solid shape, I could see defined limbs and torsos and heads, but all at the same time, if felt as if they weren’t there, like it wasn’t all of them. It was almost like looking at the footprint of a cat instead of the whole cat; but as if you knew the cat was there, you just couldn’t see him. You could only see the print.
“I don’t understand.” Was I hallucinating? This couldn’t be right, “what do you mean you’re an angel?” I was hesitant.
“Mm. Watch,” and Felix spread his wings. “I do not like to use many words. Perhaps I can show you.” He glanced at his partner, and she in turn spread her wings. They were like shadows, but not shadows in the sense of darkness, shadows in the sense that I felt these wings must be much bigger, much more intricate, and this was their base form. Then, the two angels exploded with light. Light filled every part of everything I could see, filled the corners, chased away every piece of darkness, and not only that, but the light was piercing solid objects. My walls appeared to glow, filled with light, I could feel it on my skin, in the air entering my lungs. And the two beings creating this light looked as if they were holes in the very solidity of the universe, repelling any bit of matter that was earthly and solid. I could only stare, my mouth open.
But then it ended, the light was sucked in, the wings disappeared, and all that was left were two indistinct human forms at the end of my bed.
“We need your help,” Trin stated, and as she said it, a strong feeling of acceptance filled me. My whole world had turned on its head in that moment and it seemed as if there was only one option for me. A few seconds later I was standing between the two angels, the three of us hand in hand, and we vanished.
And where did we appear, but in my small town’s library! I still wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not, so I shook my head, trying to rid my eyes of sleep. “What are we doing here?” I directed the question at Felix, who seemed much more comfortable with speaking. Trin had the look of a High School student visiting their dream college for the first time. Half awe, half excitement, and half timid. Yeah.. Three halves; but angels had to made from more than we were, so I thought it would work.
Felix looked at me, or so I assumed, and said, “I think the easiest way to explain things is if I use my usual form of communication.. It is much faster. To you it will seem much like a dream.” I nodded. Felix walked up and placed his dim hands on top of my head, gently, as if he were feeling for something. He muttered a small ‘ahh’, as if he had found what he was looking for, and I felt my eyes close. Suddenly images were pouring into my head, quickly, all of them jumbled in no particular order; but soon I could sense them organizing themselves into a pattern. A story, maybe. Then the ground lurched, and I was no longer a physical thing, I was immerged completely and totally in my thoughts.
First I saw a world that was beyond description, so much so that my mind seemed to reject the impossible images, turning it into a mess of every color and shape and sense I had ever experienced, but within that mess I could see the blurry shapes of Felix and Trin. They were with another Angel, Zachary, and they looked on guard. Then, in an instant so immediate I felt something close to vertigo, they were surrounded by many more Angels.. And yet, these weren’t Angels. They didn’t give off the same feeling; they felt darker, more tangled, not as complete as the other three. I was shocked as I realized these darker beings were people mimicking the form of Angels, making a mess of the beautiful structure with their incomplete ‘costumes’. One of these counterfeit angels seemed to give a signal, and they all fell in on Zachary, catching him, controlling him, making escape impossible; and in another second, they were gone.
The next story of memories I saw were those dark angels restraining Zachary in a dark room, every way in or out was guarded carefully by a man. And I recognized these men. Each and every one of them lived in my town, they were my neighbors, or my teachers, even a bus driver or two. The weapons they were holding looked as nothing I had ever seen and I didn’t even want to guess at what they could do. My vision seemed to expand as images of that room grew smaller and I saw that it was the basement of the town’s library.
And then my eyes opened, and my own flood of memories and thoughts reentered my head. Questions began to push through my mind, each one wanting to be immediately answered, but I chose the most obvious one. “How do we rescue him?”
This is when Trin spoke, “that is why we need you. They took Zachary,” she seemed to stumble over speaking the name aloud, “they took him to find out the secrets of life. They want to be rich, to be powerful; they want to know the thoughts of all their enemies so they can overthrow them. They want to be unstoppable.”
“But what do you need me for?” I questioned them.
“Because they are waiting.” Felix spoke now, “they are expecting a daughter to bring them the final tool needed to retrieve the information from Zachary.” Here he shuddered, and I realized he was keeping from me the way he expected them to do that. I didn’t ask. “We need you to pretend. You are a daughter they will not expect, and they will not question you because of that. We need you to get in that room, because we cannot go in ourselves.”
I stood for a minute absorbing that information. Then I asked my final question, “What do I need to do?”
“You must go cloaked in the darkness their costumes are made of, which we will provide you. But this darkness will press on your thoughts, and make it difficult for you to keep on track. That is partially the reason we chose you, we can sense the strength in your mind.” Felix paused, then continued, “Trin will give you, for lack of anything better to call it, one feather from her wing. Keep it inside your jacket. They will see the energy it gives off and think it is the tool they need. If you are confident, they won’t question your entry. Tell them you must speak to Zachary. When you approach him, expect a struggle. He is a powerful being. Just tell him acceptance is key. He will understand.”
I was confused, but I didn’t question him. “What do I do with the feather?”
“The stuff our wings are made of is the most powerful substance you can imagine. They will have Zachary’s under control with a mind drug, otherwise he would have been able to escape immediately. The feather will cut through anything like butter, and it will allow you to create hallucinations in these men’s minds, once you gain their trust.”
With that, Trin plucked a feather from her wing with a slight pained expression, and gave it to me. I stuck it in one of my inner pockets. Anticipation seemed to fill the Angels as they each walked up to me, and spread their wings. This time, no light filled the room; I felt no power, only a cloud of something dark forming inside me. Or around me; or maybe both, I couldn’t particularly tell. And then the two Angels stood back, examining me, obviously keeping a little distance. They didn’t like the darkness. Neither did I, actually, it was pressing on my heart with an odd feeling. There was no more speaking between us, only a nod from Felix, and a wistful look from Trin, before I made my way for the dark staircase. I had to breathe carefully to keep my concentration, whatever darkness that was clouded around me seemed to be trying to pull me into a form that I absolutely was not. Whether it be angel or villain, I didn’t like it. It was too much. I stopped and closed my eyes firmly, trying not to think of the dark, my feet finding their own way down the stairs. Once I was at the bottom, I opened my eyes and found myself in an eerie state of calm. Fear was building in my chest… What was I doing? I should be in bed, I shouldn’t be here. This wasn’t right. I was just the checkout girl in a small forgotten town! I had no part in this; it was too big for me. I turned halfway around, finding myself heading back up the stairs, when I broke.
I slumped down against the wall, a sob barely concealed in my throat. I couldn’t do this. How could I, when these men had already captured one being so much stronger than me, and the other two couldn’t get him back? I would be killed, I was sure of it. Who would believe I was here to destroy a beautiful Angel? Even I couldn’t fathom it. I was beginning to give in to the hopelessness, when I heard footsteps coming towards me. I straightened up immediately, something inside of me corrected itself, and I felt confident again. I could do this.
Standing up, I spoke before the advancing man could fully see me. “Hello? I am here, by the staircase.” I found myself sounding slightly arrogant and proud. Well, that would work, I supposed.
The man stood before me now, leering, big and powerful. I tried my hardest not to shrink back into the shadows. “And what’re you here for, darling?”
“I am the daughter you are expecting. I must see…” I realized they probably would not know the Angel’s name, and it would seem odd for me to, “I must see the Angel.” I looked at him defiantly, almost daring him to say no.
He just looked at me, probably measuring me up, deciding if I was fooling him or not. He seemed to come to the conclusion that I must be the right girl, and at least if I wasn’t, I seemed harmless. “Come with me,” he turned and stomped down the hall.
I followed with as much strength as I could manage, not looking anywhere but straight ahead. After a few seconds, we reached a door with two more men standing by. “Derek, Thomas, this is the girl.” He nodded his head in my direction. “She says she needs to see the Angel. Was that part of the plan?”
The two guards, Derek and Thomas, just looked at each other with blank expressions. Apparently they weren’t too involved in the whole arrangement. Just doormen. “I don’t see the harm,” the guard on the left said, “She can’t make a mess of things, even if she’s not supposed to be here.” He smiled at me, and then looked meaningfully down at his weapon; he was sending me a strong signal there. I just blinked, an unimpressed expression on my face. Inside, of course, every instinct was screaming at me to turn and run. This was a bad situation; but instead of listening to sense, I followed the first man through the door, and into a dimly lit room.
Inside was a strange arrangement. Zachary sat, slumped, in the middle of the room; his head was down, his wings folded sloppily. Around him were men arranged in a circle, keeping a careful distance between them and the Angel, all of them holding the strange looking guns. I took three seconds in my head to collect myself, took a deep breath, and started walking towards Zachary. Immediately his head whipped up, and he snarled, staring straight at me. My hope dwindled a bit then. How was I supposed to get anywhere near him to tell him the safe words? I couldn’t say them from here, the men would hear me. Silently I stared into the Angel’s beaten eyes, begging with all the feeling I could muster, for him to trust me. I held images of Felix and Trin in my head, trying to throw them into the air for him to catch, if it was possible to do such a thing with thoughts. It didn’t seem to be working. Zachary slowly stood up, strength in every controlled movement of his body, and stared straight at me with an obvious meaning. Move any closer, and you die, the look said. A chill passed through my whole body, from head to toe, as I did something I never meant to do. Almost involuntarily, I took a step towards him. Zachary lunged immediately, the men surrounding us all gasped and stumbled backwards, unsure of what to do. I shut my eyes tight, and braced myself for whatever impact was coming, ready for the pain I was certain was just seconds away. And then I heard a ripping sound; ripping, tearing, urgently, and I felt warmth. Warmth at my chest, and slowly surrounding my entire self.
I opened my eyes to find Zachary smiling at me, “acceptance is key?” he guessed gaily. I looked down to find the source of the ripping noises, my jacket was torn to pieces; and the warmth was coming from Trin’s exposed feather. I almost laughed with the relief that was washing through me, and with wide eyes looked into Zachary’s face. He almost seemed familiar to me, not in appearance, but as if he was a personality I had known my whole life; it was like staring at my own soul. I was in awe. He cocked his head to the side, indicating that I should look around the room, which I did. The men with the guns were all just standing, staring at nothing in particular, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening. I looked at Zachary with curiosity. “I am making them forget you ever came. They think it is still as it was five minutes ago, when I was sitting alone. May I see the feather?”
“Yes, of course. I don’t know what I was supposed to do with it anyhow.” I looked as he took it, and cut through some invisible binding around his wings. He shook them out, looking relieved and delighted, and then he did an odd thing. He plucked one of his own wing feathers, and pressed it together with Trin’s, whispering at it, making it glow. Then he took my hand, pushed up my sleeve, and pressed the combined feathers into my exposed wrist. I gasped with the strangeness of it. It wasn’t pain, it was definitely a good feeling, but it was almost as unbearable as pain has a habit to be. “What did you do?” I was staring at my wrist. There seemed to be a faint outline of a feather, and the two from his and Trin’s wings had disappeared.
“I’ve given you a gift. You now have the power to shift atmospheres. Not as strong as ours, you cannot change someone’s whole view of reality, but you may change the feeling of a room, or a situation. You can make someplace happier, or someone see you as frightening, or beautiful. It’s a great gift to have.” I gaped at him. I could feel the power of the gift in my veins, and I could feel how to use it. It was an amazing sensation. He smiled at me again, “let us return to my companions.”
And we were again standing in the library, this time on the upper floor, with Trin and Felix next to us. They leapt up immediately, overjoyed, pressing themselves into Zachary, making sure he was not harmed in any way. Then, they turned to me with the happiest, most thankful and polite expressions I had ever been given. “Thank you,” they seemed to say it a million times in one. I nodded, suddenly overwhelmed by exhaustion, ready to collapse back into sleep any minute.
“I’m glad I could help,” I stifled a yawn. It seemed my adrenaline had worn off, leaving me worn out and barely awake. They took notice to this immediately, and rushed to touch my shoulders, taking me back to my room. I blinked, no longer surprised at this mode of transportation, and sat on my bed. “Well…” I said, not knowing how to finish my sentence.
All three of them looked at me, but Felix was the first to speak, “thank you Chloe. We are indebted to you now, more than you could know.” And Trin hugged me. After one more curious look at me, those two disappeared, which left me and Zachary alone in my room.
He had an intent look on his face, staring out my window. Turning, he looked at me intensely, “aren’t you going to go to bed?” he questioned. “You must be half asleep already.”
Surprised that this is what he had to say, I blinked. “Well… I mean… I suppose I am. Aren’t you leaving though? To join Trin and Felix?”
Oddly, Zachary laughed. “Oh, they didn’t tell you, did they?”
I shook my head, “tell me what?”
“I’m not leaving. They must be getting back to their usual jobs, but mine is here. I am your guardian Angel. That is probably why you felt I was so familiar when you saw me back in the library. It’s also partially the reason you were the one to rescue me. An odd switch of events,” he mused, “the guardian Angel being guarded in turn by his human. I’ve rarely heard of such a thing.”
I looked at him. “My guardian Angel? For my whole life?”
Zachary seemed to be in a very pleasant mood, for he laughed again, “yes, Chloe, your whole life.”
“Oh. Well what will happen to you when I die then?”
He looked amused to be explaining these things. “Ah now. I will find another human to guard. And so will you, as when you die you will become an Angel in your own right. Perhaps not a guardian though, we all have different jobs to do.”
I just kept staring. I was almost too tired to be having this conversation.
“Felix used to be Trin’s guardian angel. And before that, he was mine. That is why we have such a strong bond. But enough of this, you do need to be going to bed,” he said, almost parent-like, as he saw me yawn.
“Yes, I suppose I should…” My eyes were half open now. I fell back on my pillow, feeling content, involuntarily rubbing my new feather tattoo. I think I must have muttered goodnight to Zachary, but I fell asleep almost immediately, and when I woke up, my Angel was invisible again.