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The Lost Tribe of Levy

appalachian mountains

Benjamin Levy eased the Model T onto the berm next to the sign for First Mountain Baptist Church. He tried to remember whose idea it had been to spend their honeymoon exploring the hinterlands of Appalachia. He blamed his wife—privately, of course. They had spent the last few hours jolting along on dusty mountain roads and now it was mid-afternoon, and they were low on gas and thoroughly lost.

“You sure this is a good idea?” Miriam asked, peering out at the picnic.

“We have to ask someone.” He could feel his heart beat faster. Looking around, the people seemed normal. No white hoods, not even any guns in sight.

A rotund man in a brown suit had spotted them and was ambling over. Ben rolled down the window.

“What town is this?” Ben asked when the man was close enough.

“This here’s Vicco. Where y’all headed?”

“We don’t know exactly. We’re just exploring. Is there a town near here with gas and a hotel?”

“Sure, sure. There’s a couple. Hey, ya hungry? We got lots of food here.”

“No, that’s fine—”

“Oh, come on,” the man said, opening the car door. “You must be famished.” He stuck out his hand. “Name’s Bobby Lindon.”

“Benjamin Levy,” Ben said, climbing out and shaking the man’s hand.

Bobby nodded, pumping Ben’s hand in unison with his head. Then his eyes widened. “Hey, are y’all Jews?”

Here it comes. “Uh, yeah.” Ben’s eyes swiveled, looking for pitchforks.

“That’s great! Come on and meet everyone. There’s no Jews in these parts, but the pastor talks about them nearly every Sunday. Hey Pastor, come meet the Jews!”

A moment later, Ben and Miriam were surrounded by a crowd of eager faces, looking at them like a pair of recently arrived angels. They were seated at a table and plates of food were heaped up in front of them. They looked at each other and started eating. Ben tactfully avoided the pork ribs, even though they been piled extra high on half his plate.

“So, have you been to the Holy Land?” Pastor Gorton said as he sat down across from them, apparently starting a second meal to keep them company. “I’ve studied Palestine for years but it’s a long way away.”

“I’ve never been there,” Ben said. “I’m from New Jersey.”

“Do you know Hebrew?” The pastor’s eyes lit up. He jumped up and returned a minute later with a battered commentary. As Ben ate, Pastor Gorton peppered him with questions about the translations of various words in the Old Testament and Ben wracked his brain to remember Hebrew lessons from a decade before.

Meanwhile a group of young people were trying to get Miriam to sing and dance with a tambourine like the Miriam in the Bible. One went and got a tambourine and set it on the table near her just in case she changed her mind. They seemed disappointed, too, that neither she nor Ben knew how to play a shofar, but they were fascinated with her descriptions of Hanukkah. A few of the boys pulled out jackknives and started whittling dreidels as if they were going to play then and there.

Pastor Gorton brought Ben in to see a Star of David he had on the wall of his office. He came back out to find Miriam surrounded by a group of children, all making choking sounds as if they had fishbones stuck in their throats.

“They wanted to learn some Hebrew words,” she said. “They’re fascinated with that one sound.”

She stood up and grabbed his lapel, pulling him closer. “They want us to stay here tonight,” she said in a fierce whisper. “They’re talking about having a seder supper and making a replica of the Tent of Meeting.” He saw the panic in her eyes. “We gotta get out of here,” she said. “I don’t think I can take much more of this pro-Semitism.”


Torahman

FF 205 Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

“I want something like Bibleman, but cooler. And for Jews.”

Jeff wasn’t sure how the rabbi had heard of Bibleman. “So, you want me to create . . . Torahman?”

“No, that’s too stereotypical. I want something original. And tougher. How about The Maccabee?”

“Okay.” Jeff didn’t know how to draw a Maccabee. “Does he throw stars of David?”

“Sure.”

“And his sidekick could be Dreidl Boy.”

The rabbi frowned. “That seems stereotypical.”

“Does he kill people?”

“No! He just teaches kids about Judaism.”

“He teaches? So he’s basically. . . Torahman then.”

The rabbi looked deflated. “Fine, Torahman. And stick Dreidl Boy in there too.”

 

 

When I finished writing this, I did a Google search and apparently there is a Torahman already, although his sidekick is called Mitzvah Boy. It seems you can’t make this stuff up.

 

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Low Tide

I’m always happy to use the words eldritch and horror in the same sentence. The stone the tide unearthed showed carvings of creatures: which creatures I wasn’t sure, but they possessed a heaping helping of tentacles, wings, eyes, and talons.

That explained a lot. The mysterious disappearances from the beach, the green lights hovering over the moonless bay, the shrieking of ghastly voices on windless nights.

This was perfect.

There is a demographic who would risk madness and death to glimpse anything described as eldritch horror.

I started the R’yleh Diving Club and waited for the freaks to pour in.

 

 

 

The nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults.

— H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu” (1928)

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Competing Vows – Longer Version

On April 12, I posted a 100-word story called Competing Vows. There were people who were curious about the situation surrounding it, both what had come before and what happened afterward. So, here is the full story.

Competing Vows

Our candles were the fireflies that darted around, our incense the scent of the lilacs and lavender in full bloom in the bower chapel. I arrived first, with two of my friends as witnesses. A moment later, I saw Francesca appear with two of her ladies-in-waiting, ducking to avoid catching her hair on the low-hanging branches. My beautiful, forbidden bride.

I had just taken her hand when the priest arrived, stepping in silently from the other side of the grove. He was young to the point where I wondered briefly if he even was a priest.

“Thank you for coming,” Francesca said to him. “Thank you for doing this for us.” He nodded, pulled us closer together and started the marriage ceremony.

The words of the wedding mass flowed over me, but I could hardly believe this was actually happening. I was marrying the duke’s daughter, snatching her from the arms of the man she was promised to, a week before they were to be officially betrothed. I, in my cowardice, had been willing to concede defeat, but Francesca had fought for me. At least, secretly.

We joined hands and there in front of God, a farmhand, a tavern assistant, and two ladies-in-waiting, two became one. Five minutes later, Francesca and I left the bower together.

I had no money for preparations, but Francesca had rented a cottage not far away for our wedding night. My friends escorted us there and then with grins and slaps on the shoulder and cries of “good luck!” they said good night.

There was wine, cheese and bread waiting for us on the table inside. I built a fire while Francesca served the food. We sat on the rug in front of the fire and ate together, feeding each other and laughing, nervous and excited. But we both had other appetites on our mind, and only half the food was eaten before we fell into each other’s arms and abandoned food altogether.

I awoke the next morning to the crow of some distant rooster. The air was chill but the covers around us were warm. Francesca was lying next to me, her dark hair spread out like a halo on the pillow, my sleeping angel. I snuggled closer to her and was about to fall back asleep when there was a pounding on the door. We both sat up and I saw the fear in her eyes.

“It has to be my father’s men,” Francesca said, her eyes wide. “They’ve found us.”

“What do we do?” I asked. She had assured me that although her family would not be happy with our marriage, once it was done, they would accept it. I had trusted her because I had no choice. Now I was not so sure she was right.

We got dressed quickly as the pounding continued. I was just moving towards the door to open it when it burst open and soldiers pushed their way in. There was no discussion with them. One of them knocked me to the floor and as I picked myself up, I saw two of them escorting my Francesca out the door and out of sight. The clop of hoofs and rattle of carriage wheels told me that she was gone.

They took me back to the duke’s palace, back to the stables where I had worked for my whole life. But it was too much to hope that things would go back to how they had been. The soldiers guarded me until the duke appeared, striding purposefully towards us. He drew his sword. I stared back at him defiantly and waited for death.

He rested the sword against the side of my neck. “I took you in as a child, a beggar on the street and you stab me in the back like this, by stealing my only daughter away in the dead of night? What do you have to say?”

“I love her,” I said. I had no other defense.

“My wife wants your head on a pike outside her window,” the duke said. “I will spare your life for now in gratitude for your service to us. But if I see you again or hear news of you in this duchy, your life will be forfeit.” He sheathed his sword and turned back to the palace.

The soldiers escorted me to the outer gates and suddenly I was homeless and a new husband with no wife.

I was walking to the village when I came across Maria, one of Francesca’s ladies-in-waiting sitting by the side of the road. Her dress was dirty and torn and she was sobbing. When she saw me, she fell down and clutched at my feet.

“Forgive me,” she said. “The duchess discovered my lady missing this morning and beat us until we told them where you were. They turned us out.”

“Where is Francesca?” I asked. “Is she okay?”

“They are sending her to St. Margaret’s,” Maria said, referring to the convent in the hills east of the village. “It was her mother’s wish for her anyway and now that her father considers her spoiled, he has consented.”

“I need to see her,” I said. “Can you get a message to her?”

Maria wiped her eyes, and I helped her stand. “I will try,” she said.

Maria had contacts within the palace, and that afternoon she sent me a message at the tavern that Francesca would try to meet me at the convent garden gate after the Compline prayers. I spent the rest of the day in nervous tension and finally set out for the convent long before the arranged time. I arrived as the bells for Vespers were ringing and waited in the trees as the shadows got longer and darker. The Compline bells rang, and still I waited. It was dark when I heard a creak from the garden gate.

It was Francesca, and she bit her lip when she saw me. We were both trembling. She was still beautiful, even swathed in her crisp, new habit. I wanted to embrace her, but instead, I took her hand.

“Hello, wife,” I said, still unused to that glorious word.

She looked troubled. “The abbess said the cardinal has annulled the marriage.”

“We didn’t agree to that! Did you?” She shook her head. “Then God still honors our vows. Come, you can’t stay here. Run away with me. We can go tonight.”

“Go where?” I could hear the hopelessness in her voice.

“There must be somewhere your family can’t find us.” I tried to draw her outside, my body aching for her. “Do you have some time, at least?”

She resisted. “They made me take other vows here.”

“But ours came first.”

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I felt like I was losing her, had already lost her. This day which had started so perfectly with Francesca waking up in my arms was ending with this gulf between us.

“I have nothing right now,” I said, “but if I earn enough to take you away from here and provide a place for you to live, away from your family’s reach, will you come?”

She smiled for the first time since I had seen her that evening. “I will,” she said. Then she leaned forward and kissed me. “Don’t forget about me, Bernardo.”

*         *         *

Seven years later, an expensive carriage rolled up to the gates of the Convent of St. Margaret. Even before the well-dressed man and woman were helped out by their footman, the abbess had been alerted and was waiting to greet them.

“Welcome, my lord and lady,” the abbess said, who could sense a large donation when it approached. She bowed. “How may we be of service to you?”

“We are setting up our manor and would like one of your nuns to come perform services in our chapel, at least temporarily,” the man said. “Of course, I would glad to donate something to the Lord’s work for the inconvenience to you.”

“I would be happy to be of service,” the abbess said, bowing again. She eyed the carriage, looking for a crest. “You are a count, perhaps?”

“Simply a merchant,” the man said, “at least for the moment. I provide horses to the Papal States and other kingdoms as well.”

“Please come in. I will select one of our most experienced nuns to come serve you,” the abbess said.

The man held up a hand. “Actually, my wife would like to select one, if it is okay with you. Can we see them?”

The nuns were summoned and stood around the edge of the courtyard while the man and woman strolled by them under the watch of the abbess. The woman walked in front, inspecting the assembled nuns and giving quick glances back at the man. They made it halfway around the courtyard when the man stroked his beard and the woman stopped.

“What is your name?” the woman asked the nun in front of her.

“Sister Amelia, my lady,” the nun replied. The woman glanced back and the man nodded.

“We’ll take this one,” the woman said.

“Immediately?” the abbess asked.

“If possible,” the man said. “She needn’t bring anything with her. We will provide everything.”

The footman helped the man and woman back into the carriage and then held out his hand for the nun to join them inside.

“It’s you, Bernardo,” Sister Amelia said as soon as the door was closed. “I recognized you as soon as I saw you, even with the beard and fine clothes.”

“I told you I would come for you.”

Sister Amelia glanced over at the other woman. “You’re married, I see.”

Bernardo nodded with a smile. “I’ve been married for over seven years.” He indicated the other woman. “This is Genevieve, one of your new ladies-in-waiting. I apologize that I had her wear one of your new dresses, but she needed to play the part. It’s a six-day journey to our house. Do you think that is far enough away from your family?”

“They have forgotten about me. My mother still comes once a year to see me but that is all.”

Bernardo reached over and took her hands. “I am afraid Sister Amelia must die, in order that Lady Francesca can be reborn in her place. I am sure the abbess and your mother will mourn her when they find out.”

She played with his fingers and looked up with a sly smile. “You would have me break my vows to God that easily?”

He grinned back. “What God has joined, let no man separate. Don’t you remember? Our vows came first.”


Treasure Hunt Plea

FF 203 Dale Rogerson

copyright Dale Rogerson

One of the nice things about a photo prompt is that there are many different aspects that you can draw a story from. For instance, the clouds, the buildings, the garbage bag, the snow, the graffiti on the building, or the whole thing together. I’ve decided to concentrate on the graffiti, telling the story in the medium itself.

Treasure Hunt Plea

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Here is the plain text of the above, in case you had trouble reading it.

Please help!

I use what little freedom and money I have to paint this, hoping it will be seen

We have no voice, no dignity

They treat us like cattle, herded back and forth

They drug us into stupor, give us slop to eat

Profiting off our lives and our deaths

My generation is being wiped out from the front and from behind

If you read this, do not forget about us, the silent ones

They promised us rest and instead gave us a chilly cell on death row

The nursing home is so cold, in temperature and in spirit

As you know, I like to try experimental things sometimes. Let me know if you don’t get this. 🙂

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Competing Vows

FF 202 Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

Competing Vows

We met at the garden gate after dark, both trembling and nervous. She was still beautiful, even swathed in the crisp, new habit.

“Hello, wife,” I said, still unused to that glorious word.

She looked troubled. “The abbess said the cardinal has annulled it.”

“We didn’t agree to that! Did you?” She shook her head. “Let’s run away. Tonight.”

“Where?”

“There hasta be somewhere your family can’t find us.” I tried to draw her outside, my body aching for her. “Do you have some time, at least?”

She resisted. “They made me take other vows here.”

“But ours came first.”

 

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The Family Legacy

The Family Legacy

The basement stank of burned flesh.

“It’s a gateway to outside our world,” my dad said, pointing to the hole. “They never stop coming, but light attracts them.”

I adjusted my night vision goggles. “Can we block it up?”

“You don’t think I’ve tried?”

A stygian tendril snaked out. Dad’s machete came down, severing it cleanly. I heard a shriek.

“They do that sometimes.” He tossed the writhing limb into the incinerator.

“What if they’re intelligent, if they need help?”

“We can’t risk it,” he said. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. All blood is black in the dark.”

 

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