Monday, June 30, 2014

Now This is Living

It wasn’t a special occasion but just another routine morning and I was looking forward to the day ahead. I was in my usual place waiting for Tom to come in for his usual morning coffee, toasted bagel and me, the “Metro News Morning Edition”.
As always, at that time of the morning, the coffee shop was bustling with customers and servers and would probably appear to be a real helter skelter scene for someone not used to such activity. Although I must admit that there were plenty of moments when I thought there was no one there who knew what they were doing and only got the orders straight by chance. I can say this because I had been a regular there for five years, that’s when Tom first started coming into the coffee shop and placed an order for the paper to be there each morning with his coffee. I was the lucky one who was assigned to bring him the daily news.
Tom and I had a great relationship. He always sat inside the shop drinking his coffee, eating his bagel and perusing my pages. I made a concerted effort to always be neat, in order and clearly printed so that he would have an easy time enjoying the read. When he finished with his meal, he would always make certain my pages were in place and then neatly folded me up and carried me under his arm to his office. In those five years, I never felt unsecure being carried to the office because he always made it a point to protect me from the wind, rain or snow. I never thought for a moment that it could be better than that and that my existence had real meaning; that is, until that very morning when everything changed.
But just a little note before I go on because I can see some of the puzzled looks on your faces, wondering how a newspaper can be the same one day after day. It’s like this, even though the news changes from day to day, the character of that particular paper is permanently embedded in the press so that each day when the paper is printed, that character gets stamped onto the paper and carries out its duty. It’s the character or personality of the paper that people get attached to and enjoy when they pick the paper up to read it everyday. Now I know that seems a bit far-fetched and a stretch of the imagination but trust me, it’s exactly how it is. Now that you have learned another lesson of life, let me continue the story.
On the particular morning I mentioned at the beginning of the story, Tom seemed to be in an extra hurry and somewhat out of sorts about things because he really didn’t spend much time reading me. My suspicions were also confirmed by the way he just quickly folded me up without so much as taking a few seconds to straighten out my pages. Then, on the way to the office, he discarded me into one of those wire mesh trash baskets. I watched him walk away and wondered if I would ever see him again.
Not long after he had thrown me away, someone plopped a Styrofoam coffee cup on top of me and I felt the warm liquid spilling out onto the bottom of my pages. Normally, I would have been disgusted by the stains the coffee was making but the weather was turning colder and to be quite honest, I rather enjoyed being warmed by the coffee. The rest of the day went by without further incidence and I knew that come midnight, I would be history, which kind of saddened me because I felt my day had been wasted and that I had been of little use to anyone. Yes, I know, I know, my character would be reborn the following morning but it was still a somber thought to know I had served no fulfilling purpose on that day.
Resigning myself to the cold and loneliness, I made peace with myself knowing that I had done all I could to be meaningful in Tom’s life and that my present predicament was not one of choice. My situation was solely caused by Tom’s decision to discard me in that manner. Oddly enough, that is something I had heard from other papers about their owners and never in a million editions had I ever thought it would happen to me.
I’m not sure what time of night it was only that it had to have been before midnight; I felt a trembling hand pick me up and carry me away. There were no streetlamps on so I had no idea who had chosen to snatch me from the wire basket. We traveled a bit of a distance and then the scenery changed from the openness of the street to the closeness of buildings on both sides. It finally came to me that we were in an alley. I knew that from the number of stories that had been printed in my pages about such places.
I didn’t know whether to be frightened or happy because most of the stories were never good ones. From what I could remember, the alleys contained many mean, dirty, and despicable characters. Lots of murders took place in the alleys and I didn’t want to find myself ending up on a corpse. The thought of it made my pages flutter.
The person carrying me came to a stop and slowly laid out some of my pages on the ground. It was then that I recognized it was a woman who had brought me here. She undid her coat and removed two of my pages, placed them inside her clothing and wrapped them around her body. Once that was finished, she took two more sheets, wrapped them around her clothing and pulled her coat over them. She carefully folded the rest of my pages up and placed them in her coat pocket.
The temperature dropped even more and I could feel the woman shivering a bit in spite of the protection she had taken to warm herself. No sooner had I finished these thoughts that she got up on her elbows, pulled a couple pages from her pocket and struck a lighter to them. The fire glowed in the darkness and I could see her face and was immensely saddened by the way she appeared and the suffering I knew she had to have endured each day.
It was strange to think that I could feel the sadness for her yet not feel any pain from my burning pages. I noticed she had placed some small sticks on the flames and before I knew it, she had a small fire burning where she proceeded to warm her hands and fingers. During the night, she repeated pulling a couple pages at a time from her pocket, crumpling them up and putting them on the fire along with some sticks, each time laying her head on her arms and warming her hands before stuffing them inside her coat.
Morning came and the sun was shining. It was still bitterly cold but warming just a tad as the sun drew higher in the sky. Because the woman had placed those four sheets of mine inside her clothes and coat, I had survived the night as she had. Even with missing pages, I was jubilant because I had served a most meaningful purpose. I had saved a life! I never saw Tom again and often wondered what might have happened to him. I still haven’t been assigned another regular. More often than not, I get scattered here there and everywhere and quite abused, but I don’t mind because I’m always hopeful I’ll find someone who will need me in a more meaningful way. And you thought newspapers had no life.
    Chelle Munroe©
    July 6, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Trip

Part Ten


They entered a brightly lit room and Melinda spotted three chairs on a platform, the middle one raised above the others. Tulkoy was seated in that one and a woman sat in the one to her left. The Overseer released her arm and took his place in the chair to Tulkoy’s right.
No one spoke for a minute or two and Melinda could hear people shuffling behind her, no doubt blocking the doorways to keep her from trying to escape.
Tulkoy motioned to Melinda. “Have you made your decision?”
Melinda worked her tongue and jaws hoping to get some moisture in her mouth. Finally, she answered, “I have.”
Tulkoy gave a look of disgust that she would have to belittle herself to ask another question. Of course, that attitude would be rectified once Melinda was part of the Dalkum. “Your decision?”
“My decision is, ‘No, I will not join the Dalkum’.”
Tulkoy’s face didn’t reflect the shock over Melinda’s decision. She was certain her sister would have joined them, but now had to hand down her verdict and thus kept her composure. “It is my duty as the Polcara to inform you that because of your refusal to become part of our family, you leave me no choice but to sentence you to be sacrificed to the Two Moons.”
Before she could react, Melinda felt a stinging in her neck and knew she had been given another needle. This time, however, the drug didn’t sedate her, but made her compliant and mellow. She could hear words being spoken but with her mind reeling, she was unable to discern what was being said. Someone took her arm and led her from the room where she was ordered to strip off her clothes. She was given some new clothes to wear. One of the garments was a dress or some sort of ceremonial gown. She couldn’t help but think how beautiful it looked and reveled that she was thin enough with just the body shape to accentuate the dress in all the right places. They placed slippers on her feet and she was escorted back into the main room.
She was led to the same place in front of the platform and when Melinda glanced up, she noticed that Tulkoy had changed into another outfit as well. It was black with various colors and designs sewn into the fabric. On Tulkoy’s head was some sort of tiara but Melinda couldn’t quite make out the symbol in the middle of it. In her hand, Tulkoy held a staff with a small head of an animal baring its teeth.
A mental picture of a polecat entered Melinda’s mind and when she went to say it out loud, she slurred, “pawlcl,” and laughed.
Tulkoy stood up and began talking about the Two Moons, but Melinda’s mind drifted in and out of a fog and didn’t comprehend all of what Tulkoy was saying.
A commotion broke out behind her and the two women who were holding her arms let go and Melinda slumped to a sitting position on the floor. People were yelling and there were some scuffles and objects clanking on the floor but Melinda couldn’t stay focused long enough to discern what was taking place. She wanted to close her eyes and sleep.
Just as she shut her eyes, someone pulled her to her feet. She scanned the room and saw funny looking creatures with big black heads and wondered if they were coming to sacrifice her and eat her body.
One of the creatures came toward her and spoke. “Are you okay, Miss?”
Melinda closed her eyes and opened them again. It took a moment before it registered they were policemen and she saw the large S.W.A.T. letters on the backs of their uniforms.
The officer spoke again. “I’m Captain Molinski, I’m with the…..”
Melinda held up her hand and forced herself to speak slowly and as clearly as possible. “You…got…..mmmmy…..mmmmessage!”
Captain Molinski thought for a moment then replied, “Actually, no, we didn’t get your message. We only heard a partial word and the number never registered where it had originated.”
Her questioning expression caused him to further explain. “The call came from a different person.”
Before Melinda could say more, she spotted other policemen bringing Tulkoy down from the platform.
She pointed her finger. “Stop.”
Captain Molinski turned and said, “Hold up a minute.”
With the help of the person supporting her, Melinda moved over to Tulkoy. Without saying a word, she slapped her hard.
Captain Molinski motioned with his head and the other officers led Tulkoy away. He turned back to Melinda. “C’mon Miss we need to get you to the hospital.”
On the way out, Melinda observed a number of people being led out of the vault by the police. From the corner of her eye, she spotted the Overseer surrounded by a number of officers and had all she could do to keep her anger contained.
Outside, she breathed the cool night air deeply into her lungs and was thankful the ordeal was over. EMT’s were waiting with a stretcher and carried her out of the woods to the ambulance. A thousand questions still lingered in her mind but she brushed them aside. There would be time enough to find out the answers once she was back home. She closed her eyes and drifted into the darkness.
Three months later, after having taken care of Angie’s affairs and closing up the house, Melinda was thrilled to be back in her own apartment. Luckily, she had suffered no major physical damage, or any neurological problems from the drugs she had been given. Emotionally, she was still having difficulty overcoming the trauma she had experienced and the shock over what Angie had become and was willing to do to her because she had not accepted membership into the Dalkum.
Even though her nightmares were less frequent, Melinda knew there would be more emotional uprisings as Angie’s trial date came closer. She was determined to go through with testifying, not so much out of anger, but so that no one else would be hurt the way she and others had been.
The doorbell rang. She went to the door, looked through the peephole, unlocked the chain and opened it.
“Hello,” she said and stepped aside. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“Hello, these are for you,” Tom Bennert said and handed flowers to Melinda.
  She stood on tiptoes, leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you Overseer for having saved my life.”

  The End

  Chelle Munroe©  
  May 1, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Trip

Part Nine

She took another step backwards. “Oh my God, the animals; that woman; don’t tell me you’re all cannibals?”
“Cannibals? What are you talking about?”
“I saw the animals in the cages and…and….and that woman too. I heard you say about the sacrifice to the two moon thing or whatever.”
Tulkoy shook her head. “We are not cannibals. We don’t eat people or the animals. In fact, all the animals were given sedatives to knock them out so that we could find out who the infiltrator was to the Dalkum. Hence, the woman you saw.”
Melinda straightened. “I’m not stupid, for God’s sake. I know what a sacrifice means.”
Tulkoy nodded. “Yes, a sacrifice means death but not cannibalism.”
“But if you sacrifice the woman, then you will be committing murder.”
Tulkoy stopped pacing. “Murder only from your perspective, not ours.”
Melinda frowned. “Murder is murder regardless of whose perspective you are looking from.”
Tulkoy stared hard into Melinda’s eyes. “She betrayed the Dalkum and must be dealt with.”
“But…..” Melinda started to protest.
Tulkoy gritted her teeth and slapped her. “There’ll be no more discussion about it. She will be punished for her actions and that is it. Now, are you going to join the Dalkum or not?”
Melinda fought back the urge to strike back and rubbed her cheek. She knew this was the ultimatum she was hoping wouldn’t come for a while.
“I’m waiting,” Tulkoy pressed.
“I….I…I’m thinking. I need time Ang…Tulkoy.”
“Time for what? You’ve heard all you need to know.”
“I know, I know, but this is all new to me. I mean you, the Dalkum, sacrificing all those animals.  I need some time to think it over.”
“The animals were never going to be sacrificed.”
Melinda’s head snapped up; an instantaneous look of confusion washing over her.
“The missing animals were just a ruse to flush out the turncoat. We needed you to make it plausible.  It was the only way to find who would return home to betray us; and now we’ve found her.”
She moved to the door. “You have fifteen minutes to decide if you are going to join us or meet your fate.”
“So you are going to kill us after all?”
Tulkoy paused. “Only if you choose to refuse joining us.”
“For God’s sake, I’m your sister! Doesn’t that count for something?”
Tulkoy turned toward the door then glanced over her shoulder. “Yes, it does. You now have fourteen minutes to decide.”
Outside the room, Tulkoy pointed to the furthest man away from her. “Fetch the Overseer and tell him I want him now.”
The man scurried from the room and returned a few minutes later with the Overseer.
The Overseer bowed. “You wish to see me?”
“Yes,” replied Tulkoy. “You will guard this room with your life. If my sister is not in this room when I return, it will cost you your life. Now, out of my way.”
He stepped aside to let her pass.
She swept past him and commanded, “You three come with me.” The three men hastened to catch up with her.
Melinda knew that trying to escape would be impossible with guards there to watch for such an attempt. She looked around the room, but there were only a couple shelves with some towels and bed clothing on them. She wondered if she could fashion some kind of weapon or something from them.
She pulled a sheet from the stack and when she did, she heard something clunk on the carpeting. Looking down, she recognized a portable phone and snatched it up. She fumbled with the buttons to turn it on and was immediately warned the battery was low. Her hands were shaking but she managed to punch in 911.
It seemed to ring on and on forever before someone answered. Melinda didn’t waste time listening but in a hushed voice blurted. “You have to save me. I’m going to be murdered. Please help! Don’t call back or they’ll know.”
Getting no response, she looked at the phone and realized it had gone dead. “No, no… you can’t do this.” She shook it, hoping to get it to come back on while at the same time knowing full well it wouldn’t.
Tears brimmed her lids and she had all she could do to will them away. It was imperative she remained calm if she was to have any possibility of escaping. Before she could think of a plan, she heard the key in the door and hurriedly jammed the sheet and the phone back on the shelf.
The Overseer filled the doorway. “You’re to come with us.”
Melinda knew it was senseless to resist, so she timidly moved forward. The Overseer placed a strong hand on her arm and although he held her tightly, he wasn’t hurting her. When they stepped outside, another man took her other arm and they were escorted by two men in front and back of them.
At different intervals, beams of light flashed on them from lookouts stationed along the path to keep out intruders. It was a shorter distance to the vault than from the direction she had gone earlier that day. As she entered the dimly lit chamber, her stomach danced with jittery butterflies. Her mouth was dry and her body trembled with fear.
    Chelle Munroe©
    May 1, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Trip

Part Eight

Melinda stepped closer to the back wall not sure of her sister’s intentions. Her mind was still reeling from everything that had been happening but none of them impacted her more than the discovery of Angie’s transformation to Tulkoy.
“You couldn’t stay with me on the path could you? Just couldn’t resist going off on your own?”
“I didn’t just go off on my own,” Melinda shot back. “I called and called but you didn’t answer. What was I supposed to do? And then I came across the fork in the path and made a choice. That’s all it was.”
Tulkoy started pacing back and forth. “You’ve spoiled everything Melly. You…”
“Don’t call me Melly,” Melinda said, sharply.
Tulkoy stopped and stared at her, thought for a moment, then continued pacing. “What am I going to do?”
Melinda didn’t respond.
Tulkoy stopped to face her. “I don’t have much choice in this. Neither do you Melinda. So maybe the question is, ‘What are you going to do’?”
Melinda stared into Tulkoy’s eyes searching for the familiar sparkle that always resided in Angie’s eyes, but it was no longer there, replaced by a cold evilness that gave Melinda the chills. “What has happened to you? What’s going on Angie?”
“It’s Tulkoy to you now. What’s going on is no concern of yours unless you decide to join us.”
“Join what? Join a bunch of murderers! Have you lost your senses?”
Tulkoy fought back the urge to lash out at Melinda like she would have to one of her subjects. “We are not murderers, and don’t speak to me like that again or…...”
“Or what? Put me in a cage like the others?”
Tulkoy squared her shoulders. “If need be, yes.”
Something in Tulkoy’s tone made Melinda realize that she was no longer dealing with her sister but with a malicious person who had taken over Angie’s personality. She reasoned just as quickly that the danger she was in was real and that her life most definitely hung in the balance of what she said.
Melinda cleared her throat. “What exactly would I be joining?”
Tulkoy studied her for a moment before accepting that she was being sincere. Because Melinda was her sister, Tulkoy chose to forego the usual short orientation speech she gave to the new people requesting to join the Dalkum. She filled her in on the basic knowledge of what the Dalkum consisted of and what was expected of its members. When she finished, she asked, “Do you have any questions?”
Melinda shook her head. “No, not yet.”
Tulkoy nodded and continued. “The Dalkum is from an ancient cult that developed somewhere near Mycenae. In spite of the fact that it originated long before the Greek mythological gods, it was still in its infant stages when the Greeks came into power and was overshadowed by their mythology. It wasn’t until five years ago that it was unearthed and re-discovered.”
“But wouldn’t such a discovery be made public knowledge?” Melinda interrupted.
For the first time that night, Tulkoy smiled. “Normally it would have been but the discovery was made by one of the people who live in this neighborhood and he claimed he was overwhelmed with a feeling of secrecy and so never revealed to the authorities his find.”
Tulkoy saw the puzzled look on Melinda’s face and before Melinda could ask, Tulkoy added, “So how did I become the Polcara or queen in modern English?”
Melinda nodded.
“There was much confusion at first, but the more the scrolls were deciphered, the clearer it became that the true Polcara would be identified by a black birthmark shaped like the head of a Mustela putorius, or as most people know it…..a polecat.”
Melinda gasped remembering her grandfather saying that Angie’s birthmark looked like a polecat and when she had asked what that was; he said it was like a weasel and a carnivore, an animal that eats other animals.

  Chelle Munroe©

   May 1, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Trip

Part Seven


An eerie silence filled the room while they waited for the two men to arrive and Melinda caught herself breathing more deeply to counteract the oppressive, suffocating feeling enveloping her. There were so many things she wanted to say but for whatever reason, couldn’t bring herself to open her mouth. She was still in awe of Tulkoy’s domineering presence and the malevolent look in her eyes. It was as though she was looking at an alien instead of her sister.
When the two men were brought in, Tulkoy turned to face them. They were so intent on focusing on Tulkoy that neither man noticed Melinda standing off to the left.
“You wanted to see us?” the taller of the two asked.
Tulkoy cleared her throat. “Have you found the woman?”
“No,” they replied in unison.
The taller man spoke up again. “We couldn’t get through the passage that she used and by the time we discovered she was gone and got to the entrance, she was nowhere to be found.”
Tulkoy extended her right arm and pointed. “Is this the woman?”
The two men glanced at Melinda and the shorter man said, “You’ve caught her.”
Tulkoy laughed. “Caught her? We didn’t catch anyone. She ran right to us.”
“Why would she do that?” the shorter man asked, turning his gaze to Melinda again.
“Because she’s my sister, you idiot!”
The two men looked at each other their mouths agape. They turned back to Tulkoy their faces expressing shock and fear. “But…..”
“But nothing!” Tulkoy snapped at the taller man when he tried to speak. “On your knees now,” she commanded and waited for them to kneel before speaking again.
When Tulkoy spoke again, her voice was drenched with venom. “Do you two imbeciles have any idea what you have done?”
Neither man spoke.
Tulkoy nodded to the Overseer. He stepped up to the two men, grabbed a handful of hair in each hand and yanked their heads back.
With their heads pulled back, Tulkoy reached out and squeezed each man’s face, her fingernails digging into their skin. “You dare to remain silent when I’ve asked you a question?”
“No,” the taller man grunted through gritted teeth.
She let go of his chin. “Then speak up.”
He moved his arm up to rub his face, thought better of it and dropped his hand by his side. When he spoke his voice was raspy and strained from where the Overseer had his neck stretched back.
“We have set the observance behind schedule now and we apologize.”
“You disgust me,” Tulkoy spat angrily.
She glared at the smaller man. “Can you do any better?”
He swallowed hard. “We didn’t know it was your sister. Had we known, we ….we wouldn’t have ……”
Tulkoy slapped his face, the loud crack resonating off the walls. She started to walk away then whipped around with a vicious look on her face. “Take them to the vault and give them a taste of their own medicine until I can decide what to do with them.”
“Please, Tulkoy, don’t do this. We didn’t know. We still don’t know. Don’t punish us for something we didn’t know.”
She glared at him and put her hand up to stop the others from dragging him out of the room. “I’m not punishing you for that, you fool. You have jeopardized every one of us. You and your sorry friend have jeopardized the Dalkum by your stupidity.”
She waved her hand and the other men in the group hauled the two men away.
One of the women in the group stepped forward and when Tulkoy looked in her direction, she bowed and said, “If I may?”
Tulkoy waved her forward. “What is it?”
“I understand how those two may have ruined the Double Moon Observance, but how have they jeopardized the Dalkum?”
Tulkoy took a deep breath. “Have you not heard anything? That is my sister standing there. How do we continue with her now knowing what she does?”
The other woman looked past Tulkoy at Melinda. “Maybe she will join us and all will be fine.”
Tulkoy thought for a moment then nodded. “She just might at that. You have done well. Maybe I should put you in charge of the vault instead of those …..” she let her voice trail.
Tulkoy turned to the three men behind Melinda. “Bring her to the spare utility room.” She faced the others. “Wait outside near the windows and doors, just in case.”
The three men escorted Melinda to the spare utility room and stepped aside to let Tulkoy enter. Tulkoy reached for the doorknob and said, “You three position yourselves out here to where you can see this door and block the entrances either way. I’m going to have a talk with my sister.” She entered the room and closed the door behind her.
  Chelle Munroe©
  May 1, 2014