Friday, 27 February 2015

4Q Interview with Christopher Graham. The man behind The Reading Ape.




This week the 4Q Interview is fortunate to have Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) as a guest. Hundreds of folks in the writing world know of Chris but not much about him. He is an unselfish, relentless worker on behalf of authors and writers the world over. His popular website, thestoryreadingapeblog.com is home to countless articles about authors, writing and editing advice, a place to meet indie authors and readers, see book promos and a lot more. He lives in Manchester, England with his extremely patient wife.

He is not a published author.

4Q: I’m interested in knowing how the story reading ape came about, why did you decide to give so many writer’s a boost and how did you come up with the name?
CG: I've been a reader for as long as I can remember – often, it was just the books that kept me going otherwise life alone in the middle of a desert was not exactly interesting after you'd gazed in wonder at the stars every night and 'found' your fellow denizens crawled, slithered, stung or bit you (and those were the HUMAN kind lol).
I always made sure I had a good stock of mixed reading material with me, often going to UK with an empty bag and going back to the Middle East with 20+ Kgs of second hand books...
The idea for setting up a blog for authors came after I'd joined Goodreads (I'd found their app on my first eReader in December 2012) – while there, I often saw authors requesting to be hosted as guests on blogs, or to have their books promo'd on them.
So I checked out what was involved in blogging, what the best blog provider was, etc. then wrote and published my very first post – you can see it HERE

The NAME of the blog resulted from a statement once made by Sir Terry Pratchett in his book 'The Science of Discworld II: The Globe' “The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo sapiens ('wise man'). In any case it's an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.”
I extrapolated from that to story listening apes and modernised it to story reading apes, leading eventually to the blog name.
A google search soon found a Great Ape reading 'The Origins of Man' book and I re-worked the image to make my Header and Logo.

4Q: Tell us about your writing.
CG: My 'writings' are the occasional article and story on my blog, from which it can easily be seen that I am definitely NOT an author lol.
Anyone interested can see the stories at the following links:
Or my most popular Blog Post:
My most re-tweeted post:

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or fond memory of growing up.
CG: I have lots of great memories from childhood ranging from listening to my Grandfather telling stories in the evening ( he was a wonderfully expressive teller who made all the voices and facial expressions while he acted out the stories), to my Mother teaching me how to read.
Both of them instilled in me, a love for stories and helped develop my imagination so I could LIVE INSIDE the stories I read...

4Q: Aside from the being the story reading ape, what advice can you offer indie authors?
CG: Keep writing, refining, improving and sharing the stories inside you and always remember Only YOU can live your dream – NO-ONE else can live it for you.

 




I want to publicly thank Chris for not only participating on the Scribbler but for giving my novel and my blog a huge boost. I am indebted to him for hosting me on the story reading ape blog.

Chris' online links are below;


Twitter  -  LinkedIn  -  Google+  -  Goodreads  -  YouTube
You can find his book reviews on:
Barnes & Noble
Amazon:   UK  -  USA  -  Canada  -  Australia




Next week on the Scribbler two regular authors will be featured. Maggie James will share Chapter 2 of  The Second Captive. You read the Prologue and Chapter 1 previously here.




The tail end of the week will feature returning guest Katrina Cope with an excerpt from her novel Scarlet's Escape. Two exciting authors with teasers.



 

Friday, 20 February 2015

A short story by Allan Hudson. Reaching The Pinnacle - Part 1



True events inspired this story. As it is told, well, it didn't happen this way but it could've. Grandfather and granddaughter hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire that night, the young lady shares what's on her heart.
Copyright is held by the author.
 
Reaching The Pinnacle
 

Jeb Davis is almost out of breath. The last half a kilometer of hiking up the mountain has been at a 25-degree angle. And it’s starting to get steeper. Mount Carleton in northern New Brunswick is not for cream puffs. He stops where the trail evens out for a meter or so near the exposed root of an enormous birch tree that has to be as old as his great grandparents if they were still alive. The bark on top of the root is rubbed away from countless soles. With one hand on the trunk, he stoops over to catch his breath. He adjusts his backpack with his other hand, hefting it a bit higher, and looks up the trail to check on his granddaughter. Thirty meters farther up, she is going full steam. He chuckles. It has always been so. Mindy Kane does everything at full throttle.
She doesn’t know he’s not behind her and she’s still talking. He can’t discern what she’s saying, but her voice comes back to him like vapor through the trees, a rhythm that’s part of the forest.
A chorus of black-capped chickadees with their two note song provides a natural harmony. Breathing deeply he inhales the scent of damp, dying leaves that only autumn can bring. He watches her as she hikes under yet another huge birch tree with a canopy of mighty limbs. Yellow and lime-colored leaves cling to more than half the outstretched arms. The stream of early morning light passes through the half-naked limbs, dappling her lithesome body and bulky pack. She must’ve asked a question and realized something wasn’t right when silence ensued. She stops and looks back. Jeb can see the teasing twinkle in her eyes even from this far. She yells out, “Whatsa matter, old-timer? Can’t hack it anymore?”
He’s smiling when he scolds her.
“Watch your mouth young lady. Respect your elders. Listen, Mindy, you said breaks every thirty minutes. We’ve been chugging up this ruddy hill for almost…”
Standing upright, he checks his watch.
“…forty five minutes. Now get down here and give your Gramps a break.”
He looks around to see another root growing out from the other side of the tree. It forms a knuckle about a meter and a half across, perfect for two regular sized bums. The ground is littered with fallen leaves – creating yellow and orange flooring. The sun shatters when it hits the tree, creating an inviting tumult of rays and shadows. He has to climb a small embankment about hip high, made of hard-packed dirt and smaller roots. When he finally plops on the exposed wood he wiggles out of his pack. Mindy drops hers, pulls a chrome water bottle out of a side pocket and jogs back down the hill. Scooting up the lip in a skip and a jump, she rounds the tree and, spying the makeshift seat, she says, “Shuffle over there a bit, Grampy.”
Before he can reply she offers him the water.
 
“Ah thanks, Mindy, my mouth is as dry as the bark on one of these trees.”

Sitting, their sides touching, she leans into him as he takes a long swig.
“I’m glad you decided to do this, Gramps.”
Wiping dripping water from his chin with his forearm, he switches the bottle from his right to his left hand and gives his granddaughter a sideways hug.
“I’m so pleased you asked. It’s been a long time since just the two of us have been on an overnighter. What…maybe 7 or 8 years? You were at university.”
Jeb drops his arm to sit forward. He sets the water bottle on the ground, leaning against the root. Mindy huddles forward, placing her elbows on her knees. Her head is in a narrow ray of sun and she appears golden.
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long. That was when we went to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. That was an awesome trip.”
With her chin in her hand, she turns her head toward Jeb, her wide smile defines happiness. Jeb is sitting similarly, elbows on his knees. They’re about the same height so they’re eye to eye. Jeb melts under her stare; she’s looked at him that way since she was a baby. He knows her. Fine lines crinkle his temple when he scrunches his brow.
“You’re up to something, aren’t you, Mindy?”
She frowns back.
“Of course! But you have to wait until I’m ready to tell you.”
Jeb is ready to offer a guess when she cuts him off. “Don’t even try to guess or I won’t tell you at all.”
He stares at the ground, defeated.
“Okay”
Changing the subject as he offers her the water, he says, “So, what do you think? Another hour to the top, right around noon? We’ve been at this for almost three hours now and it usually takes an old duff like me about four or five, but you… you’re almost running uphill.”
They both laugh at his worn out joke. He can see she’s raring to go. He’s amazed at her stamina – always has been – but as a police officer, she has to remain fit. He deems himself in damn fine condition for his 71 years, but he’s no fool and knows he can’t keep up.

“You take off, Mindy. Do the home stretch like you enjoy. I’ll meet you at the campsite. After we’re set up and eat, we can do the last half a kilo to the top. I think the old forest ranger’s station is still there.”
She jumps up, brushes a couple of vagrant leaves from her behind.

“Okay. You sure you don’t mind?”

“I haven’t minded before. I’m good. I might stop once in a while to admire the splendor and beauty of our natural surroundings.”

She nods at his formal delivery knowing she’s just been told that he’ll be taking his good old time. Ever since he’d seen The Lord of the Rings, he was always quoting Gandalf about how he “means to arrive when he should.” She, on the other hand, thrives on pushing herself. The solitude of the forested hillside absorbs her stress and she forgets about upholding the law. Truthfully, she doesn’t like putting the tent up with Jeb; he’s too slow. She can have it up in ten minutes on her own, whereas with him “helping” it usually takes a half hour.
“Yeah, you do that, Gramps. Watch out for killer squirrels!”
“Oh! And I have something to tell you, too! But…!” He wags his finger at her, reminding her she knows the rest
“You crafty old dog!”
“Don’t call me an old dog. Now get outta here.”
He turns back to the leaf-covered vista before him, where he sees the downward slope of the terrain through the thinly scattered trees. The brush is kept trimmed four meters on each side of a narrow brook that flows three meters on the other side of the trail. The path follows the rill for another fifty meters before it twists northeast on its way to the pinnacle. He pushes his pack out of the way, rises and turns on his seat so he can watch her go uphill.
She is already halfway to the large tree where she left her pack, at a serious strut. The way she carries herself reminds Jeb of her father; she has the same physique. Of course, that vision is from when he was younger; they haven’t seen him for twenty-five years. The lovely oval face and cinnamon-colored eyes that can be so intense are from her mother, Heather – Jeb’s daughter. The determination and grit are her own. Watching her shoulder her pack and latch the loose nylon straps, he can only think how proud he is of her.
Jeb’s mind drifts as he stands to shoulder his own pack. Thoughts of Mindy’s father trouble him even with the passing of time. He wonders where he is. The family hasn’t heard from him for such a long time. Couldn’t stay off the bottle; probably drank himself to death. As Jeb climbs down the short bank to head up the trail, he can still remember the last time he saw him.
Norton Kane was a self-employed carpenter, living in a rooming house down in the east end of Moncton. He’d work for seven or eight days and go on a bender for two or three. A highly skilled craftsman when he was sober, he was always in demand. All he owned was an old Ford truck, his tools and enough clothes to fill a medium-sized suitcase. A year earlier Jeb’s daughter had had enough. Caring for two boys, aged six and five, and Mindy, only two, she threw him out for good.
Norton had stopped at Jeb’s place early one morning, a Saturday that was grey with an overcast sky. The first day of spring didn’t bode well. Norton’s knock on the door woke Jeb up. Opening the back door to admit his son-in-law, he had to step back from the reek of cheap booze. His hair and clothing were disheveled, his manner pleading and his swollen eyes filled with despair. He needed $200.00. He was starting a new project on Monday, a set of stairs in a new house by the golf course, he’d pay Jeb back next week. Jeb knew he’d never see the money again, but he didn’t dislike Norton, who had started out an honorable young man. He gave him $100.00 and wished him an abrupt goodbye. Norton didn’t even say thanks.
Two days later, Heather got a call from an angry homeowner demanding to know where his carpenter was. The gentleman had arrived at his house late afternoon to find the work site as if work is still in progress. Norton’s truck was parked in the driveway, rear hatch and driver’s door open. Tools were set up in the garage, with the wide doors rolled up. Sawdust and building materials were lying about. The door to the house was open but Norton was nowhere to be found.

No one ever saw him again.
 
 
To be continued....
Please visit on Tuesday, Feb 24th for Part 2.
 
This story was originally published in SHORTS Vol.2 Available from amazon.com $1.99.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
February 27th the 4Q Interview is back with none other than the most generous man in cyber space. When it comes to supporting authors and books, Chris Graham ( the reading ape ) goes beyond helpful.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Guest Author Mohana Rajakumar of Qatar



Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace 
Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011. 
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers. 

After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohadoha.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.

 
 
 
 
 
                              Love Comes Later
 

                                                Prologue

Abdulla’s mind wasn’t on Fatima, or on his uncles or cousins. Not even when he drove through the wrought iron entry gate, oblivious to the sprawl of family cars parked haphazardly in the shared courtyard, did he give them a thought. Despite the holy season, his mind was still hard at work. Mentally, he clicked through a final checklist for tomorrow’s meetings.  I can squeeze in a few more hours if Fatima is nauseous and sleeps in tomorrow, he thought, rubbing his chin. Instead of the stubble he had anticipated, his whiskers were turning soft. A trim was yet another thing he didn’t have time for these days, though longer beards were out of fashion according to his younger brother Saad, who had been trying to grow one for years. Beard length. Just another change to keep up with.
 
Change was all around him, Abdulla thought. The cousins getting older, he himself soon to become a father.  Abdulla felt the rise of his country’s profile most immediately in the ballooning volume of requests by foreign governments for new trade agreements. By the day, it seemed, Qatar’s international status was growing, which meant more discussions, more meetings.
 
He slid the car into a gap in the growing shadow between his father’s and grandfather’s houses. It would have to serve as a parking space. The Range Rover door clicked shut behind him as he walked briskly toward his father’s house, BlackBerry in hand, scrolling through his messages. Only then did the sound of wailing reach him, women in pain or grief, emanating from his Uncle Ahmed’s house across the courtyard. He jerked the hands-free device out of his ear and quickened his pace, jogging not toward the majlis where the rest of the men were gathering, but into the main living area of Uncle Ahmed’s, straight toward those unearthly sounds.
 
The sight of Aunt Wadha stopped him short. Disheveled, her shayla slipping as she howled, she was smacking herself on the forehead. Then came his mother, reaching her arms out to him with a tender, pitying look he hadn’t seen since his pet rabbits from the souq died. But it was Hessa, his other aunt – Fatima’s mother, his own mother-in-law – who sent him into a panic.  Ashen-faced, her lips bleeding, she was clutching the evil eye necklace he had bought Fatima on their honeymoon. At the sight of it, the delicate gold cord in Hessa’s hands and not around his wife’s neck, Abdulla felt his knees buckle and the BlackBerry slip from his hand.
 
“What has happened?” he said. He looked from one stricken face to another.
 
Numbly, he saw his female cousins were there. At the sight of him the older ones, glamorous Noor and bookish Hind, both women in their own right whom he hadn’t seen in years, jerked their shaylas from their shoulders to cover their hair and went into the adjoining room. In his haste, he hadn’t said “Darb!” to let them know he was entering the room.
 
“Abdulla, Abdulla...” his mother began, but was thrust aside by Aunt Hessa.
 
“Fatima,” Hessa screamed, staring wildly at him. “Fatima!”
 
Rather than fall onto the floor in front of the women, Abdulla slumped heavily into the nearest overstuffed armchair. Fatima...
 
They left behind gangly nine-year-old Luluwa, Fatima’s sister, who resisted when they tried to take her with them. His father, gray-faced and tired, entered. Abdulla slouched and waited, the growing dread like something chewing at his insides. His father began to talk, but on hearing “accident” and “the intersection at Al Waab” he remembered the Hukoomi traffic service SMS. Then he heard “Ahmed”, and a shiver of horror ran up his back. The driver had been Ahmed, his uncle, the father of his wife.
 
Later that night in the morgue, in the minutes or hours (he couldn’t keep track) while he waited to receive her body, Abdulla flicked his Zippo lighter open and struck it alight. Holding it just so, he burned a small patch on his wrist just below his watchstrap. Even this couldn’t contain his rage at the truck driver who came through without a scratch, at his uncle, or at himself.
 
The morgue was antiseptic, mercilessly public. The police advised against seeing her, insisting that he wouldn’t be able to erase the memory of a face marked with innumerable shards of glass.
 
Surrounded by family and hospital staff, he couldn’t hold her, talk to her, stroke her slightly rounding stomach, the burial site of their unborn child. Any goodbyes he had hoped to say were suppressed.
 
He would mourn the baby in secret. He hadn’t wanted to tell relatives about the pregnancy too soon in case of a miscarriage. Now it could never happen: the need to visibly accept God’s will in front of them would prevent him from crying it out, this woe upon woe that was almost too much to bear.
 
Fatima’s body was washed and wrapped, the prayers said before burial. His little wife, the round face, the knowing eyes he’d grown up next to in the family compound, and the baby he would never see crawl, sleep, or walk were hidden to him now for all eternity. The secret she was carrying was wrapped in a gauzy white kaffan, her grave cloth, when he was finally allowed to see them. The child who would have been named after Abdulla’s grandfather if a boy, his grandmother if a girl, whose gender would now remain a mystery.
 
At the burial site, as was customary, he fell in line behind his father and uncles. Ahmed, the father, carried his daughter’s slight form.
They placed her on her right side.
 
Men came to lay the concrete slabs that sealed the grave, so her frame would not rise up as it decomposed in the earth. Abdulla regretted not stroking the softness of her chin or the imperceptibly rounding curve of her belly. I am burying my wife and our unborn child, he thought, the taste of blood filling his mouth from the force with which he bit his cheek to stem the tears. Their secret would be lost within her lifeless womb. News of a double tragedy would spread with the sand under doors and into the ears of their larger circle of acquaintances. Someone would call someone to read the Qur‘an over him. Someone would search out someone else for a bottle of Zamzam water from Mecca.
 
None of it would stop the acid from chewing through his heart.
 
 
 
Loves Comes Later is available at amazon.com where it has received 36 five star and 38 four star reviews. An exceptional novel of love in mixed cultures.Thank you Mohana for sharing the beginning of your novel.
 
 
 
 
Next week you will be able to read my short story, Reaching the Pinnacle. Jeb Davis and his granddaughter plan an overnight camping trip. They hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire, the young lady tells her Grampy what is on her heart.
 
 
 
 
 



Friday, 6 February 2015

Guest Author Vashti Quiroz-Vega Of South Florida

 
Vashti is a published author and an award winning blogger. Since she was a child, writing has always been a passion. She is a writer of fantasy, thriller/suspense and horror. Please visit her website to discover more about this very keen author.
http://about.me/vashtiqvega

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance
by Vashti Quiroz-Vega
 
 
 
Who falls in love with a ghost?
 
I recall when I first laid eyes on Abigail. She wasn’t attractive in my eyes. Her skin was pallid like an ivory mist. Her limp, pale hair reflected just a glint of sun. Her lips, barely blushed beige, were thin and ill-defined, but when she looked my way with her heavy-lidded green eyes, she captured me. I couldn’t look away. I should have looked away.
 
I had a task to do––so I watched. She had a sweet way about her that lured me into her world. Was it possible to take part in her world? I observed her. She did caring things for those around her and had a generous heart. Oddly, she never seemed to expect anything in return. She was kind to animals and nature. She enjoyed singing, although she wasn’t very good at staying in tune. I spent hours, days, and then weeks observing her––trying to find something that would make my errand easier. I could not. What about this creature held me captive?
 
Abigail was virtuous, but also an odd and clumsy creature. I lost count of how many times I had to swiftly cover my mouth, fearing that my laughter would betray my presence. Once, she picked up a tarantula spider. It appeared to prance happily in place on her palm. She gazed at it wide-eyed and giggled with glee. Then she dropped it. The spider shattered when it hit the ground. She wailed for hours.
 
Another time she witnessed a small boy feeding bread to a swan. She ran to them and picked up a piece of bread lying by the boy’s feet. She attempted to feed the swan at the same time the boy did, but instead she clumsily struck the swan’s beak, making it irate. She gasped as the angry bird took the boy’s arm in its beak and pounded the small limb with one of its massive wings. Abigail screamed for help and managed to pull the boy away, but not before the swan had broken his arm. The boy ran away to his parents, red-faced and howling, his arm dangling by his side. She dropped to the ground and created a puddle with her guilt and sorrow. She did not eat for days. That’s when I finally approached her.
 
“Why do you starve yourself?” She jumped and stared at me. “Do you wish to die?”
 
“No, I wish to live.” Her eyes were wide and her pale lips trembled. “I hurt a small boy and deserve to suffer.”
 
“You did no such thing. The bird hurt the boy, but his arm is healing well. He plays happily as we speak, regardless of the cast he wears. You have no need to go on grieving.”
 
“How do you know this?” She looked at me askance.
 
Thinking quickly I responded, “I was told about what had happened to the boy, and I just saw him minutes before I ran into you.”
 
She stared at me, brows crumbled and eyes squinted, and then she smiled. “I’m glad to know this, thank you. My name is Abigail.”
 
“Then you must nourish yourself, Abigail.”
 
I looked around. A red fruit hanging happily from a nearby tree caught my eye. I picked it and handed it to her. She extended her hand slowly and took it. She bit into it quickly, repeatedly holding the ripened, sweet fruit with both hands. She devoured it in no time. As she swallowed the last morsel, I wiped a bit of dribble off her chin. She giggled and her cheeks turned the color of an orchid rose.
I laughed. “My name is Azrael,” I’m not sure why I told her. I reveal my name to few.
 
“It’s nice to meet you, Azrael. Would you like to take a walk?” She wore a large grin on her face. I nodded. “Oh, good! This forest is quite beautiful. I enjoy hiking here. The smells, the sounds––fascinate me!”
 
I smiled at her, and we began our stroll. “This beautiful place can also be quite dangerous. Doesn’t that scare you?”
 
“No.” Her face was as innocent and pure as a daisy.
 

We continued walking. She stopped to smell wildflowers, drink water from a small waterfall that emptied into a noisy river, to point at birds she recognized and insects. I thought today would be the day, but torrents of crystalline water gushed, white fluffy clouds whipped across intense cerulean skies, daffodils vibrant as stars quivered and danced. It was much too lively a day for death to intrude.
 
“I must leave now.”
 
“So soon, Azrael?” She sighed heavily and her body slumped.
 
“The sun will set soon. Perhaps you should go home before it becomes dark and you can’t find your way back.”
 
She nodded with a frown. “Goodbye. It was very nice exploring the forest with you. Thank you for a lovely time.” She departed.
 
I rushed in the opposite direction. When I was sure to be far enough away, I crumbled to the ground.
 
“Why? Why must I end the life of such a creature?” I cried to the heavens. “There is no malice in her. She is a lamb!” I felt a deep burning ache in my chest. Large drops fell from my eyes. I touched my cheek and looked with amazement at my wet fingers. A voice in my head reassured me that my task had good purpose. I rose from the ground and left the forest. *
 
The next day I visited the small forest outside Abigail’s home again. It was alive with her presence. She moved rhythmically to the sounds of the birds chirping, ducks quacking, water flowing, and the whistling of leaves caressed by the wind. I hid behind a large tree and watched her sway, twirl, and pirouette. She moved gracefully––until she stumbled, plopped to the ground in a seated position, and then began to laugh wholeheartedly.
 
“Are you alright?” I walked toward her trying to conceal my own laughter.
 
 She whisked her head toward me and grinned. She jumped to her feet and pranced to me. “I knew you would come!”
 
Her enthusiasm filled me with joy. “I couldn’t stay away.”
 
She giggled at my words. “Come, I want to show you something.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me along a different path from the one we had walked the day before.
 
“Where are you taking me?”
 
“You’ll see . . . ”
 
We arrived at an open area. “All right, stop right here,” she said. I gathered my brow. She paced forward and stopped in front of something, then waved me over. “Come, but be careful.” I took apprehensive steps toward her and after a few steps, I saw it. The hole.
 
“What is this?” I asked.
 
“This is a natural sinkhole,” she said in a matter-of-fact voice. “Isn’t it magnificent? It’s almost perfectly round. It’s beautiful, surrounded by vegetation and––”
 
“Enough!” I yelled. She jumped and recoiled. I didn’t see beauty in this hole, hidden away in the middle of the forest. I only saw peril and fatality. “Many have lost their lives here in the depths of despair.” I pointed at the hole. She stared at me, her green eyes wide and questioning. “Who do you think I am?” I asked in a thunderous voice. She trembled. Her mouth hung open. “You don’t even know me, but yet you venture to bring me here? To this evil place?”
 
“Evil?” she said.
 
“Yes, evil!” She gasped and flinched. She shook her head and covered her opened mouth with both hands. “I didn’t know,” she whispered through her fingers.
 
I sensed the pain and horror of the victims whose bones lay broken, discarded and forgotten at the bottom of the hole. A veil of blackness enshrouded me. I couldn’t see past her death. I stomped toward her. I grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off the ground. The thick odor of corpses long dead exposed my psyche to influences that led me to do what I was created to do––kill.
 
I released her neck. She coughed and wheezed. She collapsed to one knee. I picked her up by the shoulders and dangled her over the hole.
 
Her eyes opened wide. She glanced down into the pit and screamed. “Please don’t hurt me! I don’t want to die!” She gazed at me with imploring eyes.
 
Her words touched my heart once more. She wanted to live. I swung her over my shoulder and hurried from that awful site. I placed her down gently on lush green grass near the edge of the forest. I looked at her. Her hair was a sunburst on a blooming honey locust; her skin, opal cream; her verdant eyes, glistening jewels. I wiped the moisture from them, and her luscious cherry lips quivered. Had my vision been so impaired that I had thought this creature less than perfect?
 
“You are a good man,” she said hoarsely, no doubt from damage inflicted by my tight grip. She tried to smile, but couldn’t quite make the expression.
 
“Go home now. Do not return to that hole. It is an evil place.” I helped her to her feet.
 
She stepped away, then hesitated and turned toward me. The look of gratitude on her face surprised me. She ran to me and kissed me on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said and walked away.
 
Abigail’s kiss on my cheek lingered and set me ablaze. I stood there like a statue, fearful that any sudden movement would end the moment too soon.
 
We continued to meet every day at the small forest near her house. We took long walks. Abigail danced, talked, sang and was excited by every small creature she ran across––from a butterfly to a snake. I enjoyed our walks. I relished her company. No creature has ever been so exquisite. I never wanted to leave her side. I had forgotten, if only for a brief moment, who––or what––I was. I was the opposite of her.
 
One day I returned to our usual meeting place and found her sitting still on a rock. It was not like her to be so subdued.
 
“Hello,” I said.
 
She lifted her eyes and looked at me inquisitively. “I thought I would not see you today.”
 
“Really? Why?”
She shrugged. Her body was slumped and her face slackened. She seemed strange, unfamiliar. *
 
“What is the matter?” My heart pounded.
 
“I feel weary, that’s all,” she said, but I knew it was more than that.
 
“Are we going for a walk today?”
 
“No, I don’t feel up to it.”
 
“Have you lost your will to live?” I asked.
 
She looked at me sideways and then scowled. “I do not want to walk. I do want to live!”
 
Sparks of life flew out of her eyes. I grinned at her. She tried to stay serious, but burst out laughing instead. I sat by her side. She leaned her body toward me and rested her head on my chest. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
 
I was overcome with emotions new to me. How did I get here? Why has this strange girl grown so fond of me? What does she see when she looks at me? Does she not see the blackness in my eyes? Does my long, sable, tangled hair not look suspect? I am large in stature and powerfully built––does this not seem menacing?
 
It would be so simple to place my hand over her small nose and mouth while she slept until she could draw breath no more, or break her neck with a quick flick of my wrist. She would never know death had come for her. But she slept the sleep of an infant over my beating heart. Surely death could wait for another moment, one that would be less filled with upright virtue and pure faith. She believed in me, and she saw goodness in me that no one had ever seen. Most people knew me instinctually and tried to flee from me in fright. She welcomed me into her heart. Yes, death could wait.
 
She awoke. As she opened her eyes, the day seemed brighter.
 
“How long have I been asleep?”
 
“Not very long. Did you sleep well?”
 
She grinned. “I never slept more soundly.”
 
“Now that you’ve had your rest, would you like to go for a walk?”
 
She extended her hand toward me, and I reacted. She caressed my face. I closed my eyes to isolate the gentle stroking. No one had ever shown me such kindness. I opened my eyes and saw the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, and she was touching my face in a way that made my heart beat faster.
 
“I must leave now. I promised my mother I would not stay out late today.”
 
She stood up slowly, and I watched her walk away. She looked over her shoulder once and smiled. That’s when I decided to disable the communication with above. I knew I could not complete this task. Not now––perhaps not ever.
 
I returned to the forest several times after that, but she never showed. After a few days, I decided I could not wait any longer. I missed her. So I went to knock on her door. A burly man opened the door, and I got the expected wary look.
 
“Yes, who are you looking for, son?” He looked at me sideways.
 
“I’m looking for Abigail.”
 
The man’s face turned solemn. “What do you want with her?”
 
“She is a friend. I haven’t seen her in a while. I worry for her.”
 
“There is reason for worry. She is very sick. The cancer has come back with a vengeance. Her life is only about pain and anguish now.” His voice was hoarse, and wells formed in his eyes. “She was always such a sweet, happy girl. She does not deserve to suffer so.” Shaking his head, he turned to go back inside the house.
 
“Wait! Where is she?” My pulse raced.
 
“Oh, you don’t want to see her like this. It is an awful sight.”
 
“I do want to see her. I need to see her. Please tell me where to find her.”
 
“She’s at the hospital,” he said.
 
The hospital was not far. I was there in no time. I watched her briefly from her hospital room door. She squirmed and groaned on the bed. I locked the door and approached her––my heart was breaking. I waited too long. It is because of me she suffers so. I could have spared her this agony. When I reached her bedside, she saw me and smiled despite the anguish she endured.
 
“I knew you’d come.” She tried to remain still but at times she could not, and a moan escaped her lips. I passed my hand over her head and caressed her face. She held my hand with both of hers.
 
“Abigail, do you want to live?” My voice quavered.
 
She shook her head slowly and whispered, “No.” Streams of sorrow meandered down her face.
 
For the first time I expanded my large, black wings and allowed her to see them. “Don’t be frightened.”
 
“You never frightened me. I knew all along you were an angel.” She winced and whimpered.
 
“I am the angel of death.”
 
She gazed lovingly at me. “Give me peace.”
 
I reached for her and held her in my arms. I leaned my head forward, and she caressed my face. I kissed her on the lips. The sweetest kiss I’ve ever known. And she breathed her last breath.
 
 
Copyright © 2014 by Vashti Quiroz-Vega. All rights reserved. Used by permission


Thank you Vashti for sharing this entertaining story. Her novel, The Basement, is a suspense/thriller aimed at preteen-teen readers. Find out more at http://about.me/vashtiqvega

 

Please visit the Scribbler next week to read my latest short story, Reaching the Pinnacle. Grandfather and granddaughter hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire, the young lady shares what is on her heart.