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When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 5

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Note – This is Chapter 5 of the story.  See chapter 1.)

The room was crowded.  Too crowded. There were all types of people shuffling through, milling about and sitting in the rows of chairs. Most were wearing “nice” clothes, though it all looked cheap to Jesk.  He was sure his silk boxers cost more than the most expensive suit or dress in the room.  And it was warm, too warm for “winter”; people were sweating.  He heard a sneeze and some coughing. There was sniffling, the cold and flu season made worse by the sudden changes from freezing to sweating.  All he could think of was the germs.  Not that it would matter to Brey.

Jesk couldn’t help but to stare at his sister. Thara had made sure that, as family, they sat up front.  He didn’t want to look at any of the rabble in their cheap suits and snotty noses and there was not much else in the room to look at other than Brey.

He thought back to their mother’s funeral, only two weeks after their father’s. Brey had again made sure she talked to everyone, hugged everyone, cried on everyone’s shoulder.  It was just like her.  Uncle Jorden had forced Jesk to participate a little more than he had at his father’s funeral, saying it was proper for him to respect his mother, but he still sat in the back and didn’t talk to anyone unless he had to.  Unlike at their father’s closed casket funeral, their mother’s face was showing, in some ways making the entire thing a little more real, and yet there was still that strange unreality to it.  That waxen face had nothing to do with his mother and that shattered and broken body that was hidden really wasn’t there.  It was just a mannequin head that had a passing resemblance to his mother put on display for people to cry their fake tears over and say society’s dictated condolences.

And now the waxen face was that of his sister, Brey.  Her body, though broken and shattered by disease, was not hidden away like her mother’s had been, but wearing a dress, a dress that Ryk or one of his relatives must have thought was nice. Jesk had socks that cost more.

Jesk had last seen her at his and Thara’s wedding, a little more than ten years before. Disease and time had aged her more than he expected.  Her hair was completely grey and in places had begun to turn the transparent white of old age, her face was slightly caved in and her body overly thin, with the “pretty” dress draped over it making her gaunt, emaciated figure more obvious, not less.

Brey had visited Thara when Adi was born, but Jesk didn’t see her then. From what Thara had said at dinner, they must have bonded during that visit. He had to wonder how they ever talked.  Jesk was careful to ensure that Thara had limited communication with the outside beyond what she needed to run the household.  There were too many nuts running around out there and he worked hard to ensure none of them could break into his domain. The barbarians were at the door, just waiting for someone to crack it open a hair. Thara would not be that person to let the wolves into the house. He did everything in his power to ensure that.

He wasn’t cruel or anything like that, but Jesk knew that he kept Thara on a very short leash. After they married, she never left the compound without him and he made sure that she was always within touching distance so he could monitor what she said and to whom.  Of course her excursions became few and far between after Adi was born, but that was Thara’s own fault since she refused to leave Adi with a robot for more than a handful of hours, and hated even that. He had no idea why she thought Adi was better off in the hands of humans. He didn’t trust any human, why did she?

He had to wonder about Thara’s recent attitude. Not only did she make sure they were in front for the ceremony, she had immediately accepted Ryk’s invitation to the wake following the service. She had even hugged Ryk and Bil.  Bil had been a brooding teenager at their wedding, but was now a married man himself with two kids, the oldest being about Adi’s age.

Even less real than Brey’s death was the idea that, beyond Adi, Bil and the two kids were his only blood relatives in the entire world. He had never thought of himself as isolated.  He talked to presidents, prime ministers, kings and dictators on an almost daily basis. He met regularly with the most powerful business people in the world, most of whom had more real influence than all of those presidents and kings put together. And yet, seeing Brey’s family standing around her casket getting ready for the service, he felt more alone than he had ever felt, even more than when Jorden had his heart attack and died at 51, leaving his entire fortune to the 23-year-old Jesk.

Although Jesk had always avoided and hated death, it was something impersonal, something for other people and had little to do with him, the idea of death never really bothered him much.  He had had almost no relationship whatsoever with Brey since their mother’s funeral and they left in their separate directions to their separate lives and futures.  And yet, sitting, looking at Brey’s wax face and seeing her family, who were total strangers to him, for some reason he was far more affected by the presence of death than he had ever been in his life.

An evil voice whispered in the back of his skull that for the first time in his life he had to think about his own mortality.

That voice was immediately drowned out as he pretended to pay attention to the ceremony, pretended to pray to their god, pretended to really care.  All he wanted to do was go home and relax. As soon as they were finished blabbing, they’d be able to go. He was looking forward to it.  Just a few minutes longer.

And then he remembered that Thara had accepted that invitation and his heart sank.

****

This is the fifth chapter of the story “When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House” based on the image by Marianne Sopala that was off of Pixabay.  The larger story is in response to D. Wallace Peach’s February Speculative Fiction Prompt.

**

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When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 4

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Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Note – This is Chapter 4 of the story.  See chapter 1.)

The waves lapped gently at the beach, though a little farther down the waves were bigger and came closer to crashing. Terns were skirting the wave tops, darting around, occasionally hovering for a moment, before diving for small minnows. A gull could be heard crying above the sound of the surf. The sun beat down, hot and heavy, but the salt-tanged breeze from the ocean was refreshing.

Jesk watched Thara as she helped Adi read her book.  He shook his head. It was a real, honest to goodness paper book. He didn’t know such things still existed.

“Susan, walked, on, the sand. She, saw, a….” Adi’s little face scrunched up in concentration.  “I don’t know this word.”

“Sound it out, Sweetie. What are the first two letters?” She had a smile, an odd one he hadn’t seen before.  It made wrinkles appear around her eyes.  He didn’t like that.

“’C’, ‘R’.”

“Good.  And what does that sound like?”  Actually, she looked like a mother, not a teenager.  He wanted a teenager as his bride, not a “mother”. Continue reading

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 3

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Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Note – This is Chapter 3 of the story.  See chapter 1.  Note 2 – the viewpoints of Jesk are purposefully disturbing.)

The stars were bright and crystal clear. The majestic form of the Milky Way stood out forming the perfect backdrop for the towering peaks of the high mountains. The air was filled with summer nighttime sounds of the song of crickets. A loon call, lonely, like a spirit calling from a different world, echoed across the landscape. A cool, fragrant breeze blew in off of the mountains.

Jesk thought about getting under the warm covers, but he actually enjoyed the goosebumps that rose up on his body.  It was a feeling that pushed beyond his bland comfort zone where he spent 99.9% of his life, and yet it was safe and familiar.  He felt alive. He reached over and patted the bed beside him.

For a moment he wished Thara was there lying next to him in the bed, not for sex, but for shared warmth and companionship.

He quickly grew angry, first at himself, but since he could never be angry at himself for long, at Thara. What was she thinking, telling him what she was going to do and telling him, actually telling him, what he should do as well?

The goosebumps went away and he began to sweat in his angry heat. Continue reading

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 2

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Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Chapter 1)

Tall pines stretched towards the sky. The forest was thick in all directions, receding into darkness. A table was in a clearing between several towering trees. Three people were at the table for dinner. The man lifted a knife.

The knife sliced through the steak as if it were butter.

“I had Robreto Tabis program the steak today.” Thara smiled.

Jesk frowned at the meat on his plate. “The celebrity chef?  Well, he did a terrible job.  It’s over cooked.” He pointed to the cut end of the meat with his knife. “It’s supposed to be pink for two and three quarters inches, this looks pink for no more than two and half! I can’t eat this garbage.”

Thara held her smile. “Please try it, Honey.  Robreto guarantees his work, but you have to eat it first.  And please don’t throw it out.  Steak is expensive.”

Jesk scrunched up his face and stared at his wife. “Expensive?  I thought I heard you try to justify a 35-million-dollar pet not a half an hour ago!” Continue reading

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 1

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Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

Jesk took a deep breath of the fragrant breeze.  It smelled of nature, of unspoiled forests. He sighed and continued the call to tie up loose ends.

“That means that the Margeson Contact is complete and watertight, right?” Jesk asked, seemingly to the air.

A crow flew down, landed a few feet in front of him. It turned its head and watched him for a minute with a shiny eye, cawed and flew off.

“Yes sir,” his assistant and lawyer Merl’s voice came from came from slightly to the left and in front, towards the meadow and slightly downhill.

“Good.  I left the office early today. Lock it all up on your way out.” A vulture was making lazy circles in the cloudless sky, but was soon gone.

“Yes sir.  Have a good weekend.” A deer walked into the meadow near were the voice was coming from.

“Goodbye.”

Jesk leaned back in his chair and only half paid attention to the pleasant landscape around him.

Ignoring Jesk, the deer moved deeper into the field. Beyond the meadow the shadow of a deeper forest has half guessed in the green haze and perhaps even some higher hills off in the far distance. Facing forward, the trees grew a little thicker to the right, away from the little glen, and sloped downhill away from him, where it was possible to make out distant tall mountains through the trees.  To the right the ground sloped down even more to a small, fast flowing brook only a dozen feet from where Jesk was sitting.  It seemed the ideal spot for trout, with a tree shading the bend in the stream. Although the sun was bright, it was a perfect 72 degrees with just a hint of a fresh breeze. The deer continued to graze in the field to his left while a red tailed hawk flew overhead.

Jesk leaned back even more and half dozed. A fly could be heard buzzing by him, but he ignored it, letting the noise fade into the background as he relaxed and let the week melt away.

A large bump jolted Jesk. He jerked up, suddenly wide awake. Continue reading

Renewal – #writephoto

renewal

Photo by Sue Vincent

This is the 31st and final chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”.  See the table of contents here.

Note – I posted three chapters that did not follow one of Sue’s prompts.  Here is a brief overview in case you don’t have time or inclination to read them (or you can skip to today’s chapter at the **):

Chapter 28 – The Book Again – Ed finally reads his great uncle’s book which included the four “lost” chapters.  His understanding is influenced by his talk with the Other and he sees it in a different light and understands that his great uncle was not making predictions or talking about destiny, but talking about his own reality.

Chapter 29 – The Answer and More Answers – When Ed arrives at Mr. Brown’s house, The Grubb announces that he has found the answer to alpha, the fine-structure constant.  He walks through a seemingly simplistic arithmetic formula which Liza points out joins old numerology with modern quantum physics.  Mr. Brown’s son, Philip shows up, as does Lauren.  There are more answers.

Chapter 30 – Dreams – All of the dream sequences from earlier chapters are brought together into one and are finally resolved, with Ed finally figuring out his life.

**

They left the house when the sky was just beginning to lighten in the east, not speaking as Lauren drove out into the deeper moor.  After about 10 minutes she pulled off to the side of the road.  It wasn’t a very good parking space, but they would make do.  She and Ed climbed to the top of a small hill and stood, hand in hand, not saying a word, just watching as the sky turned pink and then orange and then burst into full color as the sun rose.  They both felt it, the renewal, as if it wasn’t just a new solar day, but a new day in their lives and the start of a new era of the world. Continue reading

Dreams

English Countryside

This is now the 30th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”.  See the table of contents here.

Ed walked through the arch and glanced around.

“Pillars,” he said out loud.

He was in a giant room, seeming to stretch to infinity in every direction.  The unseen ceiling was support by row after row of Doric columns.  Periodically a free standing arch was placed in the middle of the avenues created by the columns.

Ed took a few steps deeper into the room and took his bearings.  The room was very dimly lit, a perpetual twilight.  Uniformity that disappeared in the misty distance.  But what was that?  A faint light from one direction?

He stopped.  He had been here many times before, lost in this forest of stone.  Hadn’t he recently solved the puzzle?  The faint light seemed to be sunlight, but he knew it wasn’t right.  He slowly turned and saw it, a very faint green, much dimmer than the sunlight that he knew was a mirage.  That was it.  That was the way he must go.

As had happened before, the longer he walked towards the green the more the columns grew less evenly spaced and less uniform in size, rougher and more organic.  Soon he was in a forest at the way sign. Continue reading

The Answer and More Answers

This is now the 29th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”.  See the table of contents here.

“Hi, Mr. Ed!”  The Grubb was sitting at a table at Mr. Brown’s house with his ever-present notebook in front of him.  “Guess what?  I figured it out!”

“Hi Grubb,” Ed said.  “How are you feeling?  You look better.”  The Grubb just smiled.  “OK, what did you figure out?”

“You know…”  The Grubb looked around the room, but all that was in it were his parents, Liza and Mr. Brown.  He lowered his voice.  “The ultimate answer…  You know, Alpha.”

Ed turned to Mr. Brown for help.

“If you remember, The Grubb has been trying to figure out the fine-structure constant,” Mr. Brown said.  “It’s about interactions in quantum physics.  I’ve never been too strong in the field myself, if you take my meaning, and don’t totally get this talk about the strength of electromagnetic forces, particle interactions or some such; it all seems to be electro-magic to me.  The Grubb has been saying that he figured out the significance of it seen he arrived, but that he had to wait until you were here before he could tell me.” Continue reading

The Book Again

This is now the 28th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”.  See the table of contents here.

“Don’t go over there.”

Ed jumped, and turned.  He hadn’t seen Eliza.  “What?”

“You know what I’m talking about.  Don’t go see The Grubb.  He just got home late last night and still needs his rest.  Wait until after Winston’s party.”  She frowned at him.

Ed laughed.  Wasn’t he the one that was supposed to see “what is”?  She was right, of course.  The Grubb did not need company.  It was a miserable day and he was bored, so he figured a short visit wouldn’t hurt.  He was wrong.  The Grubb needed his rest.

But what would he do with his day?

“Have you read the book yet?”  Ed knew the book she was talking about and shook his head.  She nodded, as if she had already known.

“Ok,” Ed said after an awkward minute of silence.  “I guess I can read it today.” Continue reading

Clouds #writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

This is now the 27th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”.  See the table of contents here.

A breeze whipped through the trees and stung Ed’s face.  He looked up at the sun shining through the clouds and then back down at the ground in front of him.  He was sitting on a rock by the side of a small stream out in the middle of the moors.

“You be missing The Grubb, then?”

Ed jumped up and turned at the sound of the strange voice that seemed to arrive on the wind.

The man from the day before was standing there, smiling.

“Yes, actually, I was.”

The man nodded and pointed to the rocks.  Ed sat down again and the man sat next to him.  They just sat there for a few minutes in silence, but the questions just kept piling up in Ed’s mind, so he had to let them out before he burst.

“Was he dead, then?  When you found him, that is?” Continue reading