Porcelain Souls

My grandmother collected dolls. Flea markets, Garage Sales, Storage Units. Never new, Always old dolls. Oh, and porcelain to be specific. Not those Raggedy Ann or Andy dolls. Not the Cabbage Patch Kids. Porcelain. Some of their faces were cracked or washed away. They would stare at you with their lifeless eyes. Others had pieces missing like hands, feet, or parts of their faces. In fact, not many in her hoard were devoid of blemishes.

When I would ask why she kept the broken ones, she would just smile. “We are all a little broken, Gwen. That doesn’t make us any less beautiful.” But I was never satisfied with that answer because she would never fix them. Sure, she would brush their hair (if they had any), wipe their faces off with a paintbrush to dust. But the weirdest thing was when she talked to them.

If I remember correctly, I was seven at the time. My mother was working out of town in Minneapolis for the summer and my father was on vacation with some friends from work. My younger twin brothers – Jimmy and Cole – and I were forced to stay with our grandmother for a week. The worst part was that her home was just as old as some of the dolls. Hundreds of years old. “It’s got character,” she would tell us. We just rolled our eyes.

First night, of course, I’m laying in bed. My five-year-old brothers are in another spare room across the creaky hallway. I can’t sleep. It sucks. Right outside the door, I hear footsteps. At first, I think they’re my brothers, but I peek through the crack in the door and see them fast asleep. Not only that, the sound of footsteps stop when I got to the doorway.

By that time, my heart is racing. What’s worse? I hear giggling. Not just the voices of children, but adults too. I race down the hall to my grandmother’s room and I hear her for the first time.

“What life you had is no longer full of pain,” she cooed. “You are free of your body now your spirit may roam.”

I cried my eyes out and, when she saw me, she carefully placed the doll on her shelf and swept me up in her arms. She shushed me when I tried to speak.

“I will explain everything dear,” she promised. “In the morning.”

I didn’t sleep that night. The footsteps and laughter scared me to the core. My bones were shaking because I was so frightened. And my grandmother’s explanation did not make anything better.

My brothers were outside in the yard when she called me into the sunroom. There were three very specific dolls sitting on a wicker chair. My grandmother sat in her rocking chair and asked me to take a seat across from them.

“You’re old enough now,” she started. Her voice was high-pitched, like a tea kettle with boiling water screeching out the spout. “It’s time you know what I do here. Your father never understood this because he does not have the gift. But you, my dear, do.”

I looked at her in complete confusion. No one had ever made a mention that grandma had a gift, nor that I had the same one. What gift, anyway?

“Dolls have been used in many cultures over many time periods as a way to house a lost soul,” she explained, giddy with excitement. “When someone died, their spirit would enter a doll created for them and in their likeness. To look like them. These days, they are sold as toys. No one has respect for what they are truly meant for.”

She paused, took a sip of her Earl Grey tea, glanced at Cole and Jimmy, and continued.

“No respect from people these days. I have seen these mistreated things and I felt the pull to collect them. These people deserve the same respect in death as they did in life. Silly me, I take it upon myself to give them that respect.”

“But they’re creepy,” I said.

My grandmother frowned. “The shells are somewhat worn and weathered, but they house the beauty of a person’s life.”

“How do you know if they’re good or bad?” I couldn’t help but to keep staring at the three dolls she had picked out to present to me.

“I chose these for a reason,” she said. “Because out of my entire collection, these are the three that have given me the most trouble.”

The first doll had blonde hair and blue eyes. It was a girl, dressed in a pink lace dress, but something felt weird about it. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The middle one was a boy with a hat and old farmers clothing. He was missing his left hand and his face was cracked. One eye was green, but the other, someone had painted red. And the last doll was an old man that looked vaguely familiar.

“Not all spirits are good… Some are demonic in nature. I have made the mistake of obtaining these and I cannot seem to give them away. Well, one I have to keep due to specific events. Let me tell you their stories… as they have told me while you sleep…but….”

I felt cold even though it was the middle of winter. The room was freezing but there was no AC. “But what?”

“When I speak their story, they will come to life.”

I don’t know how far I ran before the cops brought me back. Why would my grandmother summon demons and force me to deal with it? As a seven-year-old, I had no clue. Either way, the second night was when I saw them for the first time.

It wasn’t the three that she had left in the sunroom that came to visit me that night. It was five medieval-dressed dolls, boys and girls, with swords and shields. I felt their little shoes hop onto my bed and walk over to my pillow.

“Gwen!” one whispered. “Please don’t be scared of us.”

When I opened my eyes, there they were. Moving dolls. Alive and filled with expression. I felt like I was in a cartoon. I even tried pinching myself.

“She’s awake!” they exclaimed. “Sorry to scare you before. We were protecting your brothers from the Evil Ones.”

“The dolls in the sunroom?” I asked. Even as I kid, I was really considering my sanity while speaking to these dolls.

They nodded. “Your grandma doesn’t understand. We just want to go to the light. She won’t let us go. But the Evil Ones need to be banished first. You are the only one powerful enough to help. Please.”

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. I’m only seven! But then I sighed and asked them, “How do I help?”

As they pulled me into my grandmother’s room, they explained the steps. “Let her tell you the stories, one at a time. When they come to life… you demand that they return to the fire.”

“What if they don’t?”

“Keep saying it until they do.”

This is traumatizing for a child to witness. Not only am I about to confront my grandmother because of some talking dolls, I have to exorcise demons out of a few of them. Apparently, my grandmother knows that these dolls move as she greeted them at the door.

“Where have you five been?” she scolded. “I was worried about you.” But then she saw me standing in my pajamas.

“They told me to come help them. Tell me the dolls stories.”

“The three in the sunroom?”

“The three in the sunroom.”

She quietly led me down the hall past my brother’s room and mine. We made our way down the stairs with the five medieval dolls following close behind. Through the dimly-lit living room kitchen. Finally, we were in the sunroom.

“Sit down Gwen and company,” she said and found her rocking chair. “I chose these three because the others have told me you can get rid of them. Trust me, I have always felt that you were a strong medium. It runs in the family, you know. Mainly through females… and since your father was my only child, I hoped that he would have a daughter. And here you are! Your abilities have exceeded anything I could ever do.”

I had no clue what she was talking about. How do you sense abilities in someone who has not even done anything with them? One of my favorite personality traits is my stubbornness. It has gotten me through a lot and this event was what started it all.

“Nellie Smith was a beautiful young woman,” she pointed to the only female doll on the chair. The moment my grandmother spoke her name, the porcelain head tilted ever so slightly. “Rich too. But she was born in a time where witchcraft was looked down upon. In such an affluent town, she would brew potions in secrecy… Until one day, her own father found her in the forest, performing a ritual. To keep the Smith name clear and pure, he had his own daughter burned at the stake for Witchcraft.”

I don’t remember gasping, but the dolls said that I did… very loudly. The moment Nellie’s cause of death was mentioned, a black cloud appeared around the doll. “But I did not die without a fight. Through the pain of the skin on my legs bubbling and charring, I yelled out a curse to my town. To all those who ever underestimated me and their families. I cursed them.”

My grandmother chimed in. “We are related to her father.”

But I did not have time to waste. “I demand you return to the fire!” I yelled as the doll jumped off the chair and started to run towards me.

“If she touches you,” one of the dolls screamed. “She’ll kill you!” The medieval doll with a red beard jumped in front of me as Nellie jumped towards me.

“I demand you return to the fire!” I screamed again, but it was too late. Both dolls lay on the floor, motionless as they should be. The knight had sacrificed himself to save me. Someone I did not even know from a time I never lived in… died… for me.

For the next doll, I stood up, ready to move if it tried to attack me. I would not let another life be taken. “He can’t go to the light now,” my grandmother said sadly, picking up the little armored doll. “But his sacrifice was not in vain. Are you ready?”

I nodded. The four remaining dolls watched in anticipation for the next story.

“Lawrence Callford… Farmhand in the Twenties. He never told me much about his life, but maybe he will tell you.”

The second doll twitched and it’s red eye blinked. “I don’t mean to brag, but I enjoy cutting animals open to see what’s on the inside.”

“So,” I whimpered. “You killed animals?”

The doll nodded and crossed his arms. “Yeah, and people. So what? I got what I deserved, didn’t I? Death?”

“But you aren’t entirely dead.” Perhaps my observation should not have been so cold. The frown that appeared on this demonic doll still terrifies me to this day.

“How did you die Lawrence?” my grandmother asked softly.

“Drawn-and-quartered, I was,” it said shortly. “All the families of the idiots I killed got to ride the horses that pulled me apart.” It pointed to it’s missing hand and cackled. It’s laugh sounded more like a cough, but still just as creepy. “Didn’t pull me completely apart though. Just lost me hand in the process.”

I took a deep breath. “I demand you go back to hell. Go to the fire!” I didn’t care how many people this evil soul had killed. I just wanted this to be over.

“Not until I finish what I started,” he growled. “I must cleanse the world of idiocy.”

I’m not sure how, but I ignored him. “Go back to the fire. I command it.” Just before the doll went limp mid-jump and crashed to the floor, I felt a hand on my throat.

As I tried to claw at it’s grasp, it only tightened. But I couldn’t fell the hand with my own body. There was nothing there. Until, the dark figure of a monster appeared in front of me. When it hissed at me, a long snake-like tongue licked my cheek. It burned like a hot iron.

“Ssssayyy that again,” it taunted. “I dare you. Ssssseee what happensssss.”

I was completely glued to the floor. Fear and the weight of the creature kept me firmly in place. Suddenly, my lungs filled with air. My grandmother used a special knife and plunged it into the scales of the Demon. It spun around, screeching like a banshee and shoved a claw into the old woman. I cried so loud that it woke my brothers up. Two of the dolls rushed upstairs to keep them in their room during the scuffle.

“Go back to the fire!” I screamed with tears running down my face. “Get out of here!”

Just as quickly as it came, the Demon was gone. My grandmother lay slumped on the floor. Her breathing was shallow, but she was alive. I started to help her up when the third doll lunged at me. I ducked in just enough time for it’s tiny body to soar over my head and roll on the floor.

“Chandler McGregory,” my grandmother sobbed under her breath. Her calm demeanor changed drastically to pure fear and I knew exactly why. Chandler McGregory was my Grandfather’s name. Her husband.

My grandfather was a horrible man. My father did not talk about him much… well, at least to me and my brothers. My mom told me that Grandpa Chandler was abusive to his wife and son, drunk or sober. She also mentioned that he had ties to the Mafia, but said nothing more than that. We never really found out how he died, either. That is, until he told me himself.

“Grandpa?” The doll stopped. “Why are you trying to hurt me?”

“Not you,” it croaked. “Your grandmother.”

“What? Why?”

“Because… she killed me and put me in this doll.”

I hope you enjoyed my short story! I have a good prompt for everyone who would like to give it a whirl!

Coming of Age

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Every child in our tribe dreams of the day when they take their test. The Old Ones; our parents, siblings, and family all speak about their test with pride and fearlessness in their eyes. But their words shake from time to time and I am not sure if the other Younglings notice, but I have.

Every child in our tribe dreams of the day when they take their test. But not me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid. Five moons in the jungle while our markings heal will show us our true spirit. The animal who chooses to be our guide will be permanently marked on our chest, over our heart, our spirit center.

Some of them don’t come back, though. The tribe just assumes that they were not strong enough to protect us. To hunt. To battle. But no one goes to look for the bodies and the families just move on without their family. It makes me uneasy to think that… one of those missing… could be me. They would never allow me to skip this. I’m just standing on the edge of something I cannot escape. My family would disown me. Banishment would be my fate… and I would have to face the jungle alone anyway.

Tomorrow. I will rise with the birds and travel to the stream tent. Elders will be there to scar me with markings all over my back and arms with the story of our people. Throughout time, all of our kin have worn the countless tales of battle, harvest, and failings of the tribe. We all wear it proudly. It reminds us to have hope when we hang our heads in shame and to be humble when we stand above others in mastery. Hours will pass before I am ready for the blessing. Chanting through a line of my friends and family as they bless me with tree sap and I stand on the opening into the thicket.

I guess I’m lucky. My friend will be taking the test with me. Rules are, though, we must split up or the gods will frown upon our weakness and send a large animal to devour us both. And I do not wish to test the gods.

My mother is afraid. She tells me of her test and how close she came to death. Sickness from a simple wound and screams of others in the night. Out of a group of twelve, she and one other made it back alive. The others, lost in memory. And that night, she told me that I had an older brother who never made it back to the tribe after his test. It is taboo to speak of the lost but the fear in her eyes told me all I needed to know. I’m her only child now.

And then, the sun rises. Another sleepless night floats through my grasp like smoke. Ravens caw with the purple sky as I open my eyes to what could be my final days. I pay homage to the god of luck, an offering of flowers and bread. With a short bow, I meet my friend and we walk to the stream tent where a dozen Elders meet us. There are two woven chairs for us to remove our tunics and sit.

What started out as a bee-sting feeling soon subsided to numbness for a while. My heart stopped racing so quickly and I began to relax. The methodical tapping of the bamboo into my skin nearly put me to sleep. Pain no longer existed in my body. My eyes turn to my friend, who winces with each needle prick, clenching his hands. I place my palm on his fist and he relaxes.

“Everything will be okay.” I promise. “I will get through this and you will too.”

He smiles and relaxes a little, but I can sense the pain. I wish to a god to take some from him and she grants my kind gesture. A prickling feeling starts in my back, but I see my friend relaxing evermore. I nod in thanks to help him.

Perhaps I am different than the others in my tribe. The Old Ones have told ancient tales of people who connect with gods on a different level, called the Anointed. But the connection with the gods meant that they have weird abilities and can see the world through the gods eyes and feel things through nature. As I begin to wonder, I drift into a dream state and the markings are complete.

My friend and I stand between the stream and the dark trees. We make our way through the line of Old Ones who cover us with protection spells. The hum of chanting is hypnotizing. I don’t even remember falling to my knees, but here I am, crawling through the last few people in line. My mother is standing there with worry on her face, but she allows me to pass and stand at the edge of the thicket. My friend stands in a different direction and we bid each other farewell.

If I turn to look at the tribe, the gods will surely fail me. I must be strong and hold my head high but my knees are shaking as I stand and face the unknown. That was the moment I noticed something in the distance. A light? A figure? It’s moving but I don’t think the others can see it because they say nothing. Are my eyes playing tricks on me? No, because it’s getting brighter. I can feel its energy, pulling me deeper into the jungle as my tribe disappears out of view. Whatever it is, it feels welcoming and maybe a bit familiar.

 

I may come back to this writing prompt and finish it off with another picture. It was fun to write! I hope you enjoy, as always. I apologize for the extended absence but I’m working on some great things upcoming! Stay tuned!!!

 

Here’s one for you!

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(DWI) Driving While Inspired

Years have passed and they are becoming bolder. Doubtful that they’ve realized it yet, but I’ve noticed them. A passing glance. A long stare. They’ve underestimated me… well, all of us. Why they have chosen to follow me? I have some educated guesses, but I do not want to make any conclusion without evidence.

My story does not matter. How I grew up is irrelevant. What matters is the present, the now. At least, that’s what I believe. I flew threw the ranks of my brethren because of my mentality. Hundreds, no… thousands of contracts completed by my hands. Dozens of new bloods, trained by my sweat. My initiates are the elite, nothing less. But through my skill, I have alarmed the enemy. Not just the victims of contracts, you see… but the ultimate enemy. The Reformers.

I shudder at the name. Fear? No, it isn’t fear. It’s the chill of excitement. The very same spine-tingling feeling that scatters up my back before the plunge. They have attempted to end us for a century, at least. But we have persevered and become stronger. Secret wars are fought behind the everyday humdrum that the general public seems so intoxicated by. Monotony is not in our nature as assassins, and they are definitely not in the nature of the Reformers.

Understand, we are the silent justice that keeps the tethers of society from fraying. Mysterious circumstances surrounding a death? Us. A famous criminal goes missing? Us. We are like a shadow, existing in the space between reality and fantasy.

But unlike a hundred or so years ago, when my ancestors created this force, there was little stopping them from achieving their tasks. DNA testing was non-existent. Social Media was not even a concept. The only thing that went ‘viral’ was actual viruses. They could kill with discretion and ease. Now, we must be more calculated, more careful, and more intelligent about our contracts. To me, those who are a part of the revolution now are much more skilled than those who came before us.

It was only natural for The Reformers to target us. Only because I am such a high-ranking member of my kin that I am their first prey. I have been underestimated all of my life, why stop now? I laugh at the thought of their plans, continuously foiled by my skill. Bodies discovered months after they dare to delve too close to me. Some, I let be. But when they risk contact with me, I must finish the job. Each one is the same, dumb and slow. It is not even fun anymore.

I admire the one who has been following me for the last seven days, three hours, and twenty seven minutes. Much bolder than the others, but louder than most. I’m toying with him, you see. I’m interested to see what he does. How does he go about killing his target? Perhaps I could learn a thing or two about their secret society.

This man is my age, but half the skill. And that is being generous. It was on my drive to work today that I finally met the boy. His hands shook, as he tried to conceal it. I notice everything. I always have and always will.

He sat up from the back seat, no telling how long he had been laying there. I could hear him breathing – mouth breather. Noted.

“If you want my opinion.” Pretty sure the poor boy jumped out of his skin when I spoke. “You should not enter my car until right before I close the door. That way you aren’t waiting all night.”

“I-I-I’m here to-” he stammered.

“Kill me,” I laughed. “Good luck with that. I doubt you’d be more successful than the ones before you. I’m sure you know about them?”

“No…”

“Oh boy,” I sighed. “They’re withholding information from you. What a shame… You were dead before you stepped in here. I see you don’t even have a weapon. Must’ve forgotten it, have you?”

He stopped, patted his pockets frantically, and then his face drained of all color. I tisked him.

“Not a very good Reformer, are you? Not that it matters. No one knows your name.”

We were at our destination by that point. The boy believed that I was going somewhere else, but I wanted to show him something. Bumpy, gravel roads were waiting us. The pasture smelled of death. I pulled out my handgun and pointed to the door and instructed him to get out. Know that my gun is only for show – I like to be much more… personal, but he didn’t know that.

“Where are we?” he gasped as the fog cleared somewhat and the bodies came into view.

“A recent site of our war,” I explained. “The war that has been for nothing. Only death pervades the years. Still, we fight.”

“I don’t understand -”

“Look kid,” I said. “I don’t want to kill you. You have done nothing wrong except choose the wrong side. History never remembers the losers.”

“How do you know we won’t win?”

“Because I know the skill of the Reformers, and the skill of my own people. They feed you lies about us and then expect you to be able to take one of us down. How do you hunt without knowing your prey?”

Again, he could not find an answer. I just nodded. My thoughts of murder started to arise. Adding him to the pile of bodies was one option, but turning him against The Reformers seemed more provocative.

“I’m going to do something that I have never before done.” I could see the lump in his throat when he swallowed. “I’m going to give you a choice.”

 

Writing Toothless 9/10/2018

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July 17, 2018 – 2:34AM

Why are there no 24 hour dentists? If I had the schooling, I would open up one. But people’s teeth… ew… but the blood… well, that’s my forte.

Can you guess what I do for a living? I bet you can’t. You probably can’t even guess how old I am just by looking at me. I get compliments all the time. Me and my friend both do. Lysanna and I go to the pubs at night and get hit on the entire time. Most of these guys would not be hitting on us if they knew how old we really were.

Have you guessed it yet? Unfortunately, my secrets will remain forever here, in my diary. How I desperately want to tell those around me what I truly am. The legends are true! Scream it from the top of my apartment building. We’re real! We exist! Please don’t be afraid… or maybe they should. Not all of us are good. Hell, I don’t even know whether I would consider myself an angel among men, as they say.

Okay, if you haven’t figured it out yet, then you really must be stupid. I’m a vampire. Yes, I know that we aren’t supposed to be real. We are. I am. There are quite a few of us, but you would never know just by looking at us. Paleness, sure. I get crap all the time from people about ‘getting sun’. Like, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT WOULD DO!? A small mushroom cloud would form over the ashy remains of my body. And I’m 976 by the way, but I look like I’m 18, maybe 20. Getting alcohol is practically impossible sometimes. Providing a birth certificate or Social Security number isn’t going to happen. My birth certificate would give me away. They would laugh. I ended up getting a fake ID to fix that problem.

So back to my current issue. As I’m sure you know, vampires drink blood and sometimes that comes from animals, other times, humans. Lysanna and I try really hard not to drink human blood. Too fatty. But sometimes people who know what I am are willing to give a donation.

One of the people that donates regularly didn’t show up one day. Texted me and said that he had a family emergency. Well I was already feeling lethargic by that point, so I was desperate. Another vampire told me, once, that drinking Cranberry juice was supposed to hold us over for a few extra hours until we could feed. Problem was, they didn’t specify how much to drink. Second problem was, I was hungry as hell.

I stockpiled on gallons and gallons of juice until Lysanna could get home from her job at the mortuary with some animal blood for me. It was about 10PM by the time I got home with it all. Drank all of it within the next few hours. My stomach never hurt so much… good thing I’m immortal.

Apparently my teeth aren’t though. Cavity. A huge one right on one of my canines. GREAT!!! It hurts like no other pain I’ve experienced and I almost forgot what pain feels like. Because I am a ‘night owl’ and not by choice, Lysanna suggested that she pull out my tooth with pliers. Screw that! But it hurts so bad.

And that, diary, is how I am pretty much the only vampire I know that has a one-puncture-wound bite. For the record, Cranberry Juice doesn’t do anything and I won’t make that mistake twice. I was stupid for thinking that it would and I guess I deserve what I got. Anyway, Lysanna is almost home and it’s time to go out on the town again! I’m going to tell people I got into a bar fight and lost my tooth that way. Think anyone will believe me???

 

Writing Prompt (1)

Poetry: The Spoken Senses

I know it’s short, but it was something I wrote over lunch 🙂

 

One who walks through fire can feel a kindred spirit,

Someone who is broken can feel another broken soul.

An experience, indescribable with words, unyielding with emotions,

Yearning for solace in the chaos and the pain.

 

But everything shifts in a mere embrace,

Chaos dissolves and pain subsides.

An unspoken understanding that love will win

In the space between the scars.

 

Invisible chains restrain us into our pasts,

Pulling, tightening with each new breath.

But soon the bonds release us,

It breaks, we fall.

 

That is when the chains are caught by one another,

Fusing together in an unbreakable weld,

They serpentine and embed into the skin

Painlessly, almost pleasantly.

 

Lingering in the wonderment and bliss

Of something as simple as an embrace.

Between two battered people, injured souls.

Perhaps one could live in this forever?