Stars Will Bring Me Home

I wrote this story a year ago, but in the light of recent events, I have this need to share it again.

This is for Cecil the lion…and for five elephants slain in Kenya on Monday…and for countless extinct species….but mostly, this is for kindness and humanity.

Because, we are the only guardians of our own future.

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***

“My dear friend, it is time we part our ways.”, a lion said to a little girl.
She looked up into his golden eyes, her small hands braiding a sun-kissed mane: “But why? I don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want it either, my tinny human. But some things are not meant to last.” his soft growl beget her heart to skip a bit.
“Please, don’t leave me.” she whispered, tears brimming her eyes, then softly tumbling across her freckled cheeks.
“Do not cry, little one. You will always remain my one true friend, but now I must be yours. I hear them coming for me, frightened human souls, trying to catch and tame what is untameable.” He slowly rose from the ground, stretching his back, inhaling the wind heavy with whispers of death. “Remember my dear, although I am a cat of a different coat, my claws are still sharp.”
She flung herself at him, trying to encompass his neck with her small arms, burrowing her head into his fur, trying to memorize the feel, the smell of him. “What can I do? There must be something. I know I must let you go, but I need to know I’ll see you again.”
“You will see me in every sunrise over the savannah, in every stretch of grass caressed by gentle wind, in every herd of antelopes with heads held high and noses searching for danger…You will see me in every shadow of a tree, when the sun is high above…You will see me when the rains come, when the lightning splits the sky, when this dry valley turns into a pool of life…But above all, you will hear me…When this quiet corner of the world is bathed by the silver of moonlight, when all once cherished is forgotten, when humans are hidden behind their walls and all the land once more belongs to those wild in heart…Then you will hear me, you will hear my roar.”, his voice rumbled like a distant thunder, yet soft like the gentlest drum. Turning to the east, his mane dancing to the soundless music of wind and shadows, his gaze fixed on the horizon, he sang to her: “Promise you will grow up to be the best you can, to keep us safe from harm,  fierce creatures that are chased by those who don’t know us. Promise you will become our guardian, in the times ahead, when our furs and our tusks will be more valuable than the sight of us freely roaming this land. Promise you will never forget a little cub you found in the tall grass – hungry, tired, alone. For I shall never forget a little girl who made me a great lion.”
“I will never forget you, I promise.” her whispered words followed his retreating form, her heart breaking in harmony with his every step. In a blink of an eye, he was gone, golden beast hidden in a sea of green. As the retreating rays of cheating sun stole the daylight, small voice shouted to the sky, to the stars blinking above, to the world: “I promise!!!”

***

The car stopped at the side of the road and she jumped out. Worn boots sank into dirt, reminding her of long bare-feet walks on the Skeleton Coast last spring. “Always chasing after lions.”, her father teased her for years, not knowing how his words cut her to the bone. She made her way to the jeep, where a ranger was waiting for her.
“Hello, Doctor. It’s just up ahead, over the ridge, some three hundred feet in the bushes. We marked the way, but kept our distance, as you instructed. Let me show you the way.”, the ranger started walking towards the marked path.
She waved her hand, stopping him: “It’s all right. I’ll go alone.”
“But…”
“Etuna, please.”, passing by, she squeezed his forearm and he acknowledged her with a nod.
Familiar heaviness settled on her shoulders, demanding more effort with each new step. It was a road she traveled too many times, always fearing who will be waiting for her at the end. As she stepped closer, a sudden gush of wind parted the grass before her. There he was, lying on a ground. Matted fur that lost its golden shade years ago, ribs protruding, sides covered with scars, once glorious mane now brown and tangled. But to her, he was still beautiful, unchanged from all those years ago, from that golden sunset when they parted ways. Slow rise of his chest was the only sign of life, his eyes closed, his body flattened to the ground.
“Hello, my friend.”, she whispered, sitting down beside him.
He opened his eyes, low rumble greeting her.
“Here, let me help you.”, she gently lifted his head and slid beneath, resting him on her lap, her hands combing his knotted mane with practiced ease. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Hello, my tinny human. In the end, It was always you and me.”, he spoke softly, his eyes squinting in the late summer sun. “Could it be any other way?”
“No, it couldn’t.” she smiled, looking down to the valley, green ocean spreading as far as the eye could see, its surface broken by islands of colors and life. “I saw you, just as you said I would. Everywhere I looked, there you were, every step of the way. And every time I faltered, I felt you pushing me further.”
With his eyes still closed, he turned his head to her: ” And I saw you. Last spring, on the Skeleton Coast, with your little one. You looked happy.”
“The lions were back. After all these years. I was happy.”, caressing his forehead, she sighed: “So,you were there. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped you were somewhere close. I imagined walking on that beach alongside you, watching the ocean, defying the wind. Every large paw print I saw, melted my heart. My daughter was hoping she would see you that day.”
“You told her about me?”
“How could I not? Every night I tell her a story about a lion and a girl, about their friendship and their adventures. You know, she found a cub last month.”
“So, the story continues.”
“Imagine that, the story continues. But it will be easier this time.” She gently took his head in her hands and whispered to his ear: “Open your eyes. See.”
With an effort he unhurriedly opened his eyes, his gaze encompassing the landscape of life before them. Herds of zebras and wildebeests on the edge of the lake, single line of elephants making their way through the tall grass, hippos splashing in the river, lions lazily sprawling under the trees, mountains in the distance hiding where the desert meets the ocean.
“You kept your promise.” he whispered, as a sudden tremor shook his weakened body.
“I kept my promise. And I will never give up.”
“I am so tired.”, he lowered his head deeper into her embrace. “It was a long journey, but the stars brought me back.”
Tears blurred her vision, falling quietly onto his mane: “Rest, my friend. You are home.”

***

Tucked away safely, unobserved by all the life around them, with the warm earth bellow and the blue skies above, with the sun and the wind playing the ancient game of hide and seek, the lion and the little girl said their goodbyes.

Status

Shame

How to explain this strange thing that happens once in a while? This quiet obsession with a movie, that lingers for far too long. It lights up your darkest corners, it enwraps your burning soul in a veil of shadows. Fire and ice, darkness and light…they dance a strange dance, coming to the edge, but never going over, fiercely guarding their domain, while trying to dominate one another.

Do you recognize yourself in a story? Do you fight the same demons? Or are you simply touched by exposed flaws of a human being…By his struggle to survive, to feed the beast that roars hungrily in his mind. Are you in awe by this display of a raw talent, in front of the camera and behind. Are you ashamed to admit the truth? For you know you are not him, but you share his darkness. What is this wild thing that has you in its iron grip and doesn’t let you go?

And do you even need to know the answer?

Life In A Nutshell

Time for another entry in Friday Fictioneers challenge, courtesy of Rochelle Wissof-Fields. If you want to give it a try, check the info on her blog. 100 words more or less, inspired by a photo, here we go….

still-life-with-doug

 Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

“Honey, will you come here for a moment?” Mr.Pillsbury asked his wife of 50 years.
Mrs.Pillsbury entered the room with the same sway of  hips that made him a prisoner of hers years ago.
“What is it darling?…Oh, you finished it…Are those the same shells?”
“Yes, my dear. Our first unofficial date…we were twelve the first time I asked you to marry me.” Mr.Pillsbury pulled his wife closer.
Her laugh filled the old house: “We got there…eventually.”
“Let’s take another walk by the sea…look for some new shells.”
“All these years…I still love you.”
He kissed his wife and whispered: “Good.”

I crawled out of the dark hole this week. I blame it on a sunny weather. Hope it lasts…both the weather and my mood.

Quiet Thursday

There is something in the work of Leanne Cole that speaks to me. I find this strange connection both puzzling and entertaining. Every other Thursday she posts an image, trying to inspire fellow bloggers to write a story, a poem…to search for that hidden muse, lurking in her exceptional photos. This week she added a twist:

This photo is the end of the story, and you have to write what lead to this.”

So here it is, another of my crazy stories, hope you enjoy it. I even took her post title Quiet Thursday and made it a part of the story.

still-life-tea-breakfast-paper

 Copyright – Leanne Cole

Thomas Whitfield was a quiet man. If truth be told, no one really knew him.
In a small town in the middle of nowhere, everyone knew everyone, from the day they came into this world until the moment they became dearly departed. It was not unusual for people to leave, to run off in a hope of a better future. But it was unheard of for a stranger to settle down.
So, when the town’s only train dispatcher, young Ducky Thompson ran of with the postman’s wife, the elder Mrs.Nucklecheck, not only did it provide the locals with a months worth of gossip, but it created quite few problems with the train schedule. The trains were derailed, the routes changed, the whole town was in uproar. It took an entire week until the replacement arrived.
Mr. Whitfield came to Pipe Falls on a quiet Sunday morning, with two bags and a little corgi named Thatcher. He settled in quickly, being one of those friendly, but not overbearing folks. The locals observed his daily routine… early morning walks with Thatcher, quick lunch at noon, afternoon drink at Mrs.Woodward’s tavern, bike rides before the night settled in. Thatcher was a star in her own right, following her human companion on their everyday business, making friends with kids and other dogs, wagging her tail and her funny ears at anyone who would look her way. Yes, Mr.Whitfield and Thatcher became town’s favorites very quickly.
There were talks. He was a widower. No, he never married. No, his wife left him. No, he left her. There were no children. No, he left his child with his parents. No, his wife took his son when she ran away. The truth was, no one knew the truth. At first, the mystery peaked their interest. But as with all things, with time they gave up.
Months passed by and the town settled into its own quiet day by day existence. The rummers reached Pipe Falls of Mrs.Nucklecheck leaving young Ducky for some Polish Count, which left the poor fellow quite heartbroken. The news gave no solace to Mr.Nucklecheck, who concentrated on training his son Edgar for a postman job, trying to forget his wife with whom he shared a bedroom for 24 years.
No one thought it curious when Mr.Nucklecheck and Mr. Whitfield started spending time together. After all, they were of the same age, both without wives, with many things in common. They would spend afternoons at Mrs.Woodward’s tavern, talking about the weather, sports, cars…the usual stuff. Sometimes the old widow would join them, sharing funny stories about late Mr.Woodward. After awhile, Mr.Nucklecheck and Mr.Whitfield started to share their evening meal in the Nucklecheck residence, often accompanied by young Edgar, who would listen with eyes wide open the stories about big cities and far away lands that Mr.Whitfield shared with the Nucklechecks. It was a pleasant time they spent together and throughout the winter, Mr.Nucklecheck felt his resentment and bitterness over his wife’s betrayal disappearing slowly.
When the spring finally arrived at Pipe Falls, it was like someone lifted a curtain after a long, dark winter. Everything came to life. Flowers bloomed, birds resumed their singing competitions, colors sneaked back into the nature and people’s clothes. There were talks of a circus coming into town after 20 years, as a part of their annual spring fair. Mr.Nucklecheck planned his early retirement, with young Edgar more than ready to take over his postman duties.
It was a quiet Thursday morning when Mr.Nucklecheck set down at the dinning table, newspapers and glasses awaiting for him. He thought to himself how kind his son is, leaving a steaming cup of coffee and a fresh crumpet for his old father. “I raised him well.” he murmured to himself. That’s when he noticed a letter. Puzzled by the discovery, he took the paper in his hand and read it.
“Dear Pa,
I am sorry to leave like this, but I knew you would try to stop me. Thomas and I are in love, and nothing and no one will come between us.
Love, Edgar.”
With his heart clamped in an invisible grip, sharp pain traveling from his hand to his chest, Mr.Nucklecheck’s last thought was: “Damn, we’ll need both a new postman and a new train dispatcher.”

Stars Will Bring Me Home

This week’s The Daily Post writing challenge Leftovers, reminded me of a story lurking in the corner with many unfinished drafts. I finished it some time ago, but still thought it was not quite complete. But, sometimes you just need to let them fly and find their own place under the sun. So, here it is – my little leftover.

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Stars Will Bring Me Home

“My dear friend, it is time we part our ways.”, a lion said to a little girl.
She looked up into his golden eyes, her small hands braiding a sun-kissed mane: “But why? I don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want it either, my tinny human. But some things are not ment to last.” his soft growl beget her heart to skip a bit.
“Please, don’t leave me.” she whispered, tears brimming her eyes, then softly tumbling across her freckled cheeks.
“Do not cry, little one. You will always remain my one true friend, but now I must be yours. I hear them coming for me, frightened human souls, trying to catch and tame what is untamable.” He slowly rose from the ground, stretching his back, inhaling the wind heavy with whispers of death. “Remember my dear, although I am a cat of a different coat, my claws are still sharp.”
She flung herself at him, trying to encompass his neck with her small arms, burrowing her head into his fur, trying to memorize the feel, the smell of him. “What can I do? There must be something. I know I must let you go, but I need to know I’ll see you again.”
“You will see me in every sunrise over the savannah, in every stretch of grass caressed by gentle wind, in every herd of antelopes with heads held high and noses searching for danger…You will see me in every shadow of a tree, when the sun is high above…You will see me when the rains come, when the lightning splits the sky, when this dry valley turns into a pool of life…But above all, you will hear me…When this quiet corner of the world is bathed by the silver of moonlight, when all once cherished is forgotten, when humans are hidden behind their walls and all the land once more belongs to those wild in heart…Then you will hear me, you will hear my roar.”, his voice rumbled like a distant thunder, yet soft like the gentlest drum. Turning to the east, his mane dancing to the soundless music of wind and shadows, his gaze fixed on the horizon, he sang to her: “Promise you will grow up to be the best you can, to keep us safe from harm,  fierce creatures that are chased by those who don’t know us. Promise you will become our guardian, in the times ahead, when our furs and our tusks will be more valuable than the sight of us freely roaming this land. Promise you will never forget a little cub you found in the tall grass – hungry, tired, alone. For I shall never forget a little girl who made me a great lion.”
“I will never forget you, I promise.” her whispered words followed his retreating form, her heart breaking in harmony with his every step. In a blink of an eye, he was gone, golden beast hidden in a sea of green. As the retreating rays of cheating sun stole the daylight, small voice shouted to the sky, to the stars blinking above, to the world: “I promise!!!”

***

The car stopped at the side of the road and she jumped out. Worn boots sank into dirt, reminding her of long bear-feet walks on the Skeleton Coast last spring. “Always chasing after lions.”, her father teased her for years, not knowing how his words cut her to the bone. She made her way to the jeep, where a ranger was waiting for her.
“Hello, Doctor. It’s just up ahead, over the ridge, some three hundred feet in the bushes. We marked the way, but kept our distance, as you instructed. Let me show you the way.”, the ranger started walking towards the marked path.
She waved her hand, stopping him: “It’s all right. I’ll go alone.”
“But…”
“Etuna, please.”, passing by, she squeezed his forearm and he acknowledged her with a nod.
Familiar heaviness settled on her shoulders, demanding more effort with each new step. It was a road she traveled too many times, always fearing who will be waiting for her at the end. As she stepped closer, a sudden gush of wind parted the grass before her. There he was, lying on a ground. Matted fur that lost its golden shade years ago, ribs protruding, sides covered with scars, once glorious mane now brown and tangled. But to her, he was still beautiful, unchanged from all those years ago, from that golden sunset when they parted ways. Slow rise of his chest was the only sign of life, his eyes closed, his body flattened to the ground.
“Hello, my friend.”, she whispered, sitting down beside him.
He opened his eyes, low rumble greeting her.
“Here, let me help you.”, she gently lifted his head and slided beneath, resting him on her lap, her hands combing his knotted mane with practiced ease. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Hello, my tinny human. In the end, It was always you and me.”, he spoke softly, his eyes squinting in the late summer sun. “Could it be any other way?”
“No, it couldn’t.” she smiled, looking down to the valley, green ocean spreading as far as the eye could see, its surface broken by islands of colors and life. “I saw you, just as you said I would. Everywhere I looked, there you were, every step of the way. And every time I faltered, I felt you pushing me further.”
With his eyes still closed, he turned his head to her: ” And I saw you. Last spring, on the Skeleton Coast, with your little one. You looked happy.”
“The lions were back. After all these years. I was happy.”, caressing his forehead, she sighed: “So,you were there. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped you were somewhere close. I imagined walking on that beach alongside you, watching the ocean, defying the wind. Every large paw print I saw, melted my heart. My daughter was hoping she would see you that day.”
“You told her about me?”
“How could I not? Every night I tell her a story about a lion and a girl, about their friendship and their adventures. You know, she found a cub last month.”
“So, the story continues.”
“Imagine that, the story continues. But it will be easier this time.” She gently took his head in her hands and whispered to his ear: “Open your eyes. See.”
With an effort he unhurriedly opened his eyes, his gaze encompassing the landscape of life before them. Herds of zebras and wildebeests on the edge of the lake, single line of elephants making their way through the tall grass, hippos splashing in the river, lions lazily sprawling under the trees, mountains in the distance hiding where the desert meets the ocean.
“You kept your promise.” he whispered, as a sudden tremor shook his weakened body.
“I kept my promise. And I will never give up.”
“I am so tired.”, he lowered his head deeper into her embrace. “It was a long journey, but the stars brought me back.”
Tears blurred her vision, falling quietly onto his mane: “Rest, my friend. You are home.”

***

Tucked away safely, unobserved by all the life around them, with the warm earth bellow and the blue skies above, with the sun and the wind playing the ancient game of hide and seek, the lion and the little girl said their goodbyes.

Oblivion

Who knew I would be so inspired by other people’s photos. First I got sucked in Friday Fictioneeres Challenge where we write 100 word story inspired by a new photo every week, and now Leanne Cole posted a photo on her blog Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY challenging people to write a story or a poem.  I still can’t decide what I like more, taking photos, writing fiction or poetry, musing on everyday soulsearching, talking about my favorite artists, scientists, people in general…so I take the healthiest approach and do it all.

Here it is, my latest outburst of words inspired by this beautiful photo…Hope you’ll enjoy it.

park-chair-yarra-river-gap

                          Copyright - Leanne Cole

Oblivion

Tucked away safely
In the corner of the world
Hidden in the shadows
effortlessly curled

Skin hard as stone
Darkened by scorching sun
Bones fragile as glass
No will or reason to run

Paper bag with bottle
Gripped in a desperate hand
Cigarette in another
Death by popular demand

Eyes closed in surrender
Shoulders hunched in defeat
No one to observe
This heart skipping a beat

Sun creeping gently
Melting shadows with the kiss
One more soul forgotten
Oblivion is bliss

Feast of All Saints

Another short story as a result of The Daily Post prompt Familial Feasts: “Yesterday was Father’s Day in many countries. If you could dedicate a holiday to a more distant relative, who would it be — and why?” I must admit, once I started writing, the story took me to a different direction. But what can you do, when your muse comes calling, you better listen to her.

Feast of All Saints

Hunched back, cane in her left hand, rosary in her right, black scarf tied around her neck…she is making a slow progress from the bus station to the cemetery entrance. People passing her by, carrying flowers and candles, rushing…almost beliving those who are waiting for them might lose their patience and leave. But not her, she is taking her time, slow steps challenged by the years that burden her shoulders and knees.

Milano 12
A young man stops at her side and greets her: “Hello, ma’am. May I help you? Here…lean on me.”
She smiles at him, drops the old worn rosary to her pocket and puts her trembling hand on his: “Thank you, young man, you are very kind. It seems these days people are always running somewhere.”
“Well, not you and me.” he smiles, as they pass through the gates. “Today we take our time, as much as we need.”
The old lady, curious look in her eyes, stops for a moment and leans on her cane: “I must say, you are a bird with strange feathers. And I’ve seen many birds in my life.” She points a crooked finger at his towering form and chuckles: “If only my dear husband could see us, I bet he would have few chosen words for you. It was his biggest concern, how I would manage without him. He always thought me a fragile creature, made of glass. Imagine that.”
“So, you are visiting your husband’s grave?”
“If only. They are all waiting for me, my child. My husband, my parents, my brother, my sisters…those are the easy ones, expected. But, my children…those are the ones that break my heart every morning I wake up…Ah, here we are! Here, let me rest on the bench. You know, my Xavier built it, he always said that I would outlive him and that I needed a solid bench, so I could come and talk to him. That’s what he said he’d miss the most – my voice. But listen to me, an old woman babbling…Come, sit down for a minute, tell me your story.”

Milano klupa
He sat down, his elbows on his knees, his eyes fixed on a horizon, searching for the unknown: “You know that old saying that you know a true love ony when you lose it. Well, if that is true, I guess I loved one too many times. When my parents died, I managed to move on. But I don’t know if I can do it now, when I lost my wife.”
She laughed then, shaking her head: “My dear, I can tell you, that is a pile of rubbish. You know, I used to come here often, at least once a week. Seeking solace, reprieve, redemption for imagined sins. Not anymore, now I come here once a year, on this day – Feast of All Saints. Look at all these people, look at all these flowers, all the colors. It is a celebration of lives our loved ones led, of people they left behind. Life is for living, not regretting.”
“How can you be so full of life when you lost all your loved ones, when you are so….”, he hesitated, not finding a proper word.
“Old? Ancient?”, she chuckled, “I’ll tell you a secret – I am not alone. You see that gorgeous gentleman approaching us? That is my husband, well, my second husband. We met in the retirement home, and let me tell you, sparks were flying all around us. Oh, don’t be so shocked, we are old, not dead!”
He laughed out loud and put his arm around her bony shoulders: “My dear, you made my day!”
The older man stood before them and said in a stern voice: “Young man, keep your hands to yourself.”, turned to the grave and whispered: “Xavier, don’t worry, I have it under control.” , then turned back and winked at them.
“Eric, stop it, you’ll scare this wonderful young man. He was only keeping me company, it is not my fault your new hip is not working properly, making you slower than our neighbours turtle. I am sorry, I never introduced myself, my name is Gabrielle. And this is my husband, Eric.”
“Nice to meet you, Gabrielle, Eric. I am Charles.”, he stood up and shook their hands. “I took enough of your time and I see you are in good hands now, so I should leave. It was a real pleasure talking to you, Gabrielle. And thank you for your advice, I will try.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”, he leaned towards her and placed a feather light kiss on her wrinkled cheek.
She smiled and patted his hand: “Good, good. It’s always good to listen to us elders.”
Charles turned around and started walking away, when Gabrielle called after him: “Charles!”
“Yes?”
“Same time, same place next year ?”
“Sure!”
“I can’t promise we’ll be around to speak to you, but be sure to stop by and share a story. Surely, we’ll be around to listen. And besides, it would be a waste of a good bench if no one came to sit on it at least once a year.”, she winked at him.
Charles waved at them and started walking away, shaking his head, noticing a new-found spring in his steps: “Feast of All Saints, imagine that!”

Choices

Time for another entry in Friday Fictioneers challenge, courtesy of Rochelle Wissof-Fields. If you want to give it a try, check the info on her blog. 100 words more or less, here we go….

copyright-erin-leary-2

 Copyright – Erin Leary

I am screaming, trying to get back to the house, but they wont let us take her.

“Ma’am, we are just doing our jobs here. You need to evacuate, the water is rising fast.”

“I can’t leave her.”, I whisper to my dad, “You take care of them.”

He knows me, I am my father’s daughter. “I’ll come back for you, as soon as I get them to dry land.”

I turn around and make my way to the house. She is wagging her tail, jumping around.

A soldier yells after me: “It’s only a dog.”

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Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia are hit with the worst flood in recent history. Cities and villages are under water, people are being evacuated, leaving everything behind…The priority is human life, so most of the animals are left behind. It is a hard choice, some left their animals behind, some refused to leave. There is no right or wrong, we must live with our choices.
There are stories….an old man refusing to leave his dog and 5 puppies until they agreed to take them all. Volunteers coming back and rescuing dogs and cats, pigs, sheep, cows…Many soldiers and policemen helping out, others refusing to let people go back…All people are safe for now, why can’t we give our best and try to save every life.
Great tragedies give birth to great compassion, the outpour of help is tremendous. The entire region is working together, and that says a lot. We were fighting in a bloody war not long ago, today we are helping each other. That is a great news for humanity.

I wish we could extend that courtesy to our animal friends.