Category Archives: Novellas

they come to her at night

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The night was a strange paradox of light and dark. It was too dark to invoke images of the bright beautiful things. It was too light to provoke imaginations of the blissful obliviousness. The night was a white heat of the sleepless senses that kept taking in all seen and heard even after the provocateurs were long gone out of sight. This was maddening and becoming madder and striking the notes of all madness. Iris couldn’t sleep as the night was getting deeper and darker, and it was consuming every part of her in a great white incandescent flame like a funeral pyre that once engulfed Dido’s forsaken body and unfortunate heart. The senses that kept her awake besieged her glass castle without mercy and started to screen the scenes of sadness and more sadness as an apparition of the past narrated the story buried in its tomb without an epitaph. She was wide awake at the bewitching hour, and she was helplessly defenseless against the force of the hour.

Since she was a little girl, Iris has been going through the same nocturnal rituals of waking up at 3:00 AM on time, precisely, continuously, as always. Every single night was every single rite of this uncanny performance of sleeplessness – that is, exactly at 3:00 AM. When she wakes up, the electronic digits always show 3:00 AM with glows that seems to grow lighter the more she looks at it in fearful awe. Fearful because Iris has learned that it is the hour when the gates of the underworld, the netherworld, the world beyond are open, and the regions of faeries and wandering spirits roam the earth as witches fly to the devil’s banquets. Hokum it may be, but the bewitching hour also seems to include Iris as a coterie of the supernatural for what’s worth. This secret is hers and hers only in fear of being branded as a weirdo or a witch’s apprentice even. Yet, because Iris’s soft heart cannot bear a secret too long for its painfully tender fullness of emotions and feelings to keep it to herself, it now agonizes her sense and antagonizes her sensibility. And it was this night that got her to a paroxysm of inquisitiveness, inadmissibility, and ineffableness, enveloped in the mysterious veil of incredibility so enigmatically eerie that it almost felt infatuating with the unknown.

The magical hour was now in possession of the waken Iris with wide eyes, and the effect was smeared into every part of her body without a miss like ink instantly and ferociously diffusing in a glass of clear water. She did not like it, but her opinion was useless under the power of the supernatural hour. Iris wanted to break the spell and doing so would require her of facing another unknown mysterious force. Her Catholicism would defy her magical assumption on the incredible symptom, but Iris knew that her religion itself entailed the magical qualities of belief and that it was only natural for her to connect the dots between the two belief systems as a solution to her ghostly malady. That’s it. She can’t take it anymore, she can’t have it any longer. Forget the religion, and think primal. Iris has made up her mind to start her investigation of the supernatural phenomenon that she has been going through to find whys and wherefores.

the changeling

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If she is pretty, she is never lonely because she is wanted and loved. This much is truth, no? Beauty works a miracle in the eyes of a dull man without imagination and of a cruel man without tears. Oscar Wilde, who always had something to say about beauty, affirmed that it’s better to be beautiful than to be good because beauty captures your attention. So, if you are bereft of beauty, then you must work very hard to get people to know who you are. Beauty is indeed a joy for all seasons, rain or shine, and is also a privilege to be loved first before loving.

Judy always must be in love with someone who didn’t even know of her existence because the feeling of love would transform her from a plain Jane to a sultry Cleopatra as if a pixie had cast a glamour spell on her, pitying her denied sense of pleasure and detachment from a constellation of lovers. Judy, despite some flattering feedback on her appearance from onlookers, was always discontent with what she saw in the mirror that seemed to reflect her what she didn’t want or couldn’t see in her true self. She felt that her features were in want of spectacular beauty that would make herself loved, and her solitary disposition dipped in an exclusive flavor of selectiveness doubled the inaccessibility of the worldly sensuousness that even not so pretty or homely women were allowed as their feminine rights.

Judy was sitting like a pillar of melancholy at the dinner table embarrassed by the ordinariness of her appearance in the presence of handsome Fred who made Judy feel like an awkward wallflower that nobody would pay attention to. You would say she obviously lacked self-confidence, but self-confidence is also built upon the kind of feedback you get from others. Judy was a firm believer of existentialism which says that experience exceeds essence and of Robert Cooley’s sociological theory of “Looking Glassed Self” that you become the way how others treat you. Or you might say what she lacked in appearance could be compensated by her intelligence, wits, or those other “inner” qualities, all of which she did possess. But let’s be honest, my dear readers. Beauty is the power and the wisdom of women regardless of leaps of times, distances of places, and differences of races. Any man- rich or poor, bigoted or liberal, young or old- loves a pretty woman and will act on his best behavior with kindness. Likewise, Judy, who was not drop-dead gorgeous, always kept herself guarded with a stern look at the sight of a man who might be unkind or curt. However, Fred was different. He was being very affable to her with a genuine smile. This time Judy wanted to claim her right of happiness and make her existence visible to her figure of love, so she secretly wished for a glamour spell to change herself from an insignificant wallflower to a beautiful rose that would make Fred crazy about her.

 

Spellbound

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When they got to a ranch below Santo Christo Mountain, the golden chariot of Apollo was about to finish its daily race in the sky hippodrome, making a way for the staging of the nocturnal goddesses in Moon and Evening Star dresses. The earth was changing its mood from vivaciousness of a pretty young starlet to sensuousness of a beautiful mature actress with sultry duskiness of impending sunset. The wild plain looked as if it were waiting for the sensual pleasure that the goddesses would bring to the rough and tough arms of the ruggedly handsome wilderness for their nightly play of love when the celestial blanket of Uranos, the god of the sky, softly covered the body of Gaia, the goddess of the earth, to ravish her divine being all night long. As a constellation of stars was starting to appear in the heavenly vault, the tribe of adventure was also starting to call it a day’s journey and hurrying their horses to the gate of the ranch. They were all hungry and tired, but the spirits were still resisting saying good night to the world. What they really wanted at that time was a sumptuous repast, consisting of fresh fruits, hot meals, and warm bread with butter and jams. Soup and drinks would complete the repast if the host would turn out to be a generous one. Raphael, who was the hungriest of all, knocked on the door and waited for a welcome response. A high hope for blissful heaven, indeed.

“I am coming!” answered the voice from the other side of the door with the playfulness of an adultescent grown man, which might sound impish to the quiet ears of those who fiercely protective of privacy. That’s how it sounded to Judy and her canine companion Nena who started barking as the footsteps from the other side were coming closer to the wandering tribe. Looking at Nena incredulously, Judy began to feel nervous about who would open the door because Judy had an acute sense of detecting any sign of supernatural and natural beings from this world and the world beyond; it was an uncanny ability that she inherited from her also unusual mother estranged from her own family for the unreasonable reason. For they had persecuted her for being a witch, condemned to eternal damnation, because it was against their Catholicism they believed in a medieval fashion, and even put her in a mental ward for being crazy. Yet Judy knew that her mother was from a long and mysterious line of ancient sibyls existent in all cultures even before the birth of Christ and believed that the reason she and her mother had been born into such scurrilous, Scythian family of hypocrites was a mysterious reason she had to figure out by herself. And she believed that this adventure with the offbeat trio was part of this mystery. What’s more, the irritably vivacious man’s voice from the inside must be a tessera that the Fates had intentionally put in an inscrutable puzzle that had challenged Judy to solve – all alone.

The wooden door was opened when Judy fell into the moments of mental vertigo, and there appeared a tall, good-looking man with blond hair and very pale blue eyes that sparkled even in darkness like the fluorescent lights on the deck of Flying Dutchman. Judy was properly aghast at the extraordinary sight of the beauty and instantly forgot all, including Rufus, Ben, and Raphael who were not as surprised as the lass by the sight the comely fella. But Nena was still barking at him more fiercely than before as if the man had been a malevolent spirit in a handsome actor’s hide. Nena was barking harder and longer as though to wake up Judy from a portent evil spell. The beautiful man, the mysterious owner of the ranch, looked at the scene in silence and smiled at them like a spectator of an amateur comedy on stage. The night was still very young.

Queen of hearts

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Boldness can take you to unpathed trails and to undreamed lands, transferring all your yesterdays into all your tomorrows in one fell swoop. For we are such stuff made on dreams, hopes, and wishes however far-fetched they may seem. You live only once, so why not roll with it as you wish? And this touch of adventurism can make your soul emboldened to do things that you wanted to but couldn’t because the grit buried under the flotsam and jetsam of your aborted dreams and discouraged expectations begins to bloom in your secret garden of the mind.

With the mysterious aura of haze vanished beyond the endless horizon, Judy suddenly felt a sense of destiny filled with adventures in the wild that set its unsullied beauty and quiet sovereignty apart from the crowded theaters of Reality where spectators and players hoot and holler for the most beautiful, powerful, and successful only she could not feel allied. And within this sanctuary of nature, this wondrous sense of go-aheaditiveness felt real but unbelievable. Rufus, Ben, Raphael, and Judy were all together in this joint adventure that was forming a kind of mental alliance among them, which was also felt but unseen. Forget Reason! For their faculty was more physical than metaphysical, less reasoning than instinctive in response to any such fantastical experience that delivers a burst of sensation to their beings spreading like a prairie fire sweeping every part of their bodies.

“Gee, I wonder what it was. I know there’s something in the air because my gut feeling never failed me,” said Raphael, the Talker. “Yeah, I felt it too. Otherwise, the dog wouldn’t have barked at the thing in the air so persistently. You know, dogs and cats have special eyes to see ghosts and things we can’t. But whatever that was, it’s gone. Let’s get on with it and leave.” With this sententious statement, Ben started climbing up the saddle that was placed a bit too high for his stocky figure on his Californian mustang. His artistic inclination made him a believer of supernatural beings, but his work experience as an itinerary musician made him a practical dreamer with a view to match in the real world. But of course, his ability to cope with existential strains of daily life paled by comparison when it was juxtaposed with Raphael’s shrewdness pleasantly blended in his avuncular charm. While Ben was struggling to make it to the top of the saddle, Rufus was being pensive about the present and the future with a dream to make it big with the Aztec gold so that he could set up his younger brother Joe with a general store in their hometown. He was secretly in agreement with Ben that they should just forget about the free magic show to continue their journey for the buried treasure. My dear reader, you should not regard Rufus as a materialistic, footless young man hell-bent on being rich because once you get to know him more, you will want to be his best friend. Must I go further to affirm his character reference?

Judy was looking and listening to this funny trio like Artemis, the goddess of hunting and the Moon, watching the comedy of the mortal from the top of Mount Olympus and thought they were indeed a curious band of wayfarers in quaintly old-fashioned attire and even more antebellum deportment and parlance, which piqued her historical curiosity feeding on her love of good old Westerns and stories of pioneers and gunslingers. To her big beautiful brown eyes, Rufus, Ben, and Raphael looked just like the characters from one of those Westerns starring Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Steve McQueen, and Lee Van Cleef. No, not John Wayne, Paul Newman, or Henry Fonda because they possessed no natural screen charisma surrounding their physical appearances as well as the mental force that could only be generated by real-life experiences and natural endowments. Judy was hooked on these characters still discussing and arguing about what to do next in front of her without regard to the pretty lass. If these men were a bunch of perverted thugs, she could have and should have known it at the first sight of them because she prided herself on her Sixth Sense inherited from her mother who was also spiritually gifted. All seemed intriguing and fascinating, thought Judy, who was on one-weeks’ vacation from her job as a secretary at a busy law firm. So, she approached the trio now all on horseback to offer herself as their scout. This gotta be fun. Judy secretly entertained the thought of being a frontier scout and thought her course had already been set for the Wild West.

the California musketeers – double trouble

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Your present fears are less than your horrible imaginings.  What you see now is what you get with, deal with, and live with. It’s no way around, and if you run away from it for an instant reprieve, you know it will come to you again sooner or later. This is it, thinks Judy. I must take it and bear it with a grin. These men, the trio looking like characters from a western movie, appearing from the wild high noon haze, she does not fear, but their impending intents of coming to her with mysterious questions she doubts. Surely, doubts are healthier than fears because fears can crush your strength, and the weakness emanating from within can double the strength of the foes. Judy is secretly asking God to come to aid her and make haste to help her as the images of the trio are entering her trembling irises of the big beautiful brown eyes and fill her eyes in entirety.

‘Howdy! Lass!’ Raphael, the talker, begins the talking. The two other men on the stead behind Raphael display the look of curiosity and amusement. They are pleased to see a pretty woman with a matching cute little dog in the middle of the wild. Quite an exotic kind of a bird, Rufus and Ben think in harmony. But the exoticness comes not from the demarcation of the race but from a uniqueness of beauty: innocence and sensuality are delicately concocted in her big brown expressive eyes decorated with long, thick Persian black eyelashes like black silk curtains. And the crown of her beauty seems to be bestowed on the tall slim figure that renders her graceful and respectful. There’s something about her, which sets her apart from the women they have seen in saloons, music halls, ballrooms, and any place where flowers of society gather and mingle to be wooed and wed. ‘The lucky bastard’, think Rufus and Ben, both of whom envy Raphael with admiration for his way with ladies. In terms of looks, Raphael is an epitome of your ordinary amigo: slightly chubby in a frame, a round smiley face that looks impossible to grimace decorated with a neatly trimmed mustache, all amicability personified that will save him from malicious gossips and wrongful accusations. Hence, Raphael is the talker of the trio and a sort of mother and father to Rufus and Ben with his practical sense of reality and survival skills.

‘We are headed west toward Doritos. Do you know where it is?’ Raphael asks the lass as friendly as possible. Judy incredulously looks up the mounted man with a mustache and a sombrero and thinks that he looks very convincingly like Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s faithful servant. There’s something about the man, thinks Judy. The diction, the ambiance, and the deportment are rather anachronistic or incongruous even to the social media era where people flag their selfies on the internet as if they were on a popularity contest and compete for likes and comments as emotional security and collateral for their forged so-called self-confidence. My Dear Reader, don’t misunderstand that it’s immoral of you to hang your beautiful pictures on a digital platform for popular admiration. It’s just that this act of self-promotion serves as a springboard for testing your marketability and your mobility as a result of winning the competition for likability based upon looks and frivolous comments that do not mean much, much at all. Amid this train of thought, Judy warms to this amiable man and decides to answer him. ‘This is Wildwood Park, sir. And I am sorry that I have never heard that there’s a place called Doritos, except for a brand of chips.’ Upon answering, Judy could not but burst into a peal of laughter. It is a sight to behold – the face of Raphael grimaced partly and bewildered partly, all in dazzling chemistry of emotions that is hard to describe. So much so that this display of indescribable human emotions on Raphael mollifies Nena’s agitation and puts the tempestuous waves of her emotions at ease. Now Judy feels refreshed and happy.

Rufus and Ben are within an earshot of this dialogue between the pretty lass and Raphael and cannot but be disappointed by the fact that they are once again on the wrong track, which seems to be forever chasing after a phantom of the dead Union soldier obfuscating them lest they should find where the buried treasure is. Where’s the Aztec gold? When can they find it? Maybe the miasma of frustration and agitation that hovered over Judy must have been transmitted to Rufus and Ben on the stead because now their faces mirror the symptoms of the malady of broken hearts. Then suddenly, Nena now recovered from the plague of uneasiness, springs forward and wags its chubby tail and bark toward the firmament as if it were looking at a thing invisible to your and my human eyes. Nena keeps barking and looking at the puzzled crowd behind as though it were trying to explain to them that there is something in the air that only Nena can see but we can’t see. ‘What is it, Nena? What do you see?’ Judy knows that dogs and cats can see supernatural things because their eyes can look through the souls of the living and ghosts of the dead. Judy tries to follow the direction where Nena is looking and barking and sees a gossamer trace of haze vanishing into the air like the vestige of a propeller plane soon to be effaced across the skies. The more Judy tries to scrutinize it, the faster it disappears. And Nena keeps barking, looking in front of the curious crowd. What is it that the dog is seeing? They all look at the barking dog and become curiouser and curiouser.