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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Lisa's Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: "My Christmas Ghost Story" Part-IV


I tried the doors again, in case the handles had become frozen or something. But as soon as my hands touched them a voice behind me spoke.

"I'm afraid his lordship locked them, Miss. And he has the only keys."

I'd love to say I wasn't spooked and kept my cool, but... I jumped and whirled around, before catching myself. There before me was a man in his late 40's I'd guess, and in keeping with the theme of evening, he was dressed in the livery of a 19th century servant. He had a kind face and a gentle, if somewhat sad smile.

"But don't worry, I'm sure we can find another way out so you can join the others at the chapel," he continued and pulled out an old pocket watch. "Although, I see we should be quick. You don't want to be here... I mean missing mass. The chapel is always beautifully done up at this time of year."


Me being me, I immediately caught that little hesitation and said innocently. "Is it? Well, that sounds wonderful. We can go together. I'm not sure I could find it in the dark by myself."

"Oh, you'll find it all right," the man replied, but a little too quickly. "I have duties to perform before everyone returns."

"I see," I nodded and started to follow him through the foyer. "Will you be checking on the little boy upstairs?" I asked, remembering my little friend with the cold.

The man suddenly stopped. Then without turning to look at me he said, "Little boy? Upstairs?"

"Yes, I met him when I was looking for a place to hide while we played Sardines. His name is Reginald."

This time the man's shoulders slumped visibly as he bowed his head. "You were in the old playroom," he murmured, "And he's still there... I had so hoped..." His words trailed off but I was certain I caught the words "poor boy."

At the same time I felt a chill race down my spine. I know many people use that phrase to describe an uneasy feeling, but in my case it usually meant I was picking up on the fact that things were not what they seemed. I took a step closer to the man and asked very gently, "What's wrong with him? He told me he had a cold, but there's more to it. Isn't there?"

The man nodded. "I'm afraid so. The poor child has had that cold a very long time."

Nathan has told me more than once that he believes I have psychic powers and... maybe I do. I'm not sure. I personally believe that I'm just more sensitive to things that others miss. I admit, there was that one time in Germany where we'd come across the site of where a concentration camp had stood, although there was nothing to mark it had ever been there. And I do have dreams every so often, some of which come true or seem to act as a warning, but it's not like I can control any of this. It just happens. But right now that chill down my spine was telling me that my 'sensitivity' was acting up again, and I wanted to know more. "He's not alive, is he?" I whispered.

My guide nodded sadly. "It happened on Christmas Eve, many years ago. During the reign of Good Queen Victoria."

"How sick was he?" I asked shaking my head. 

"Oh, that isn't what killed him," the man told me. "It was his sister. She killed him, in that very room."

Reginald's words, "She's mad at me. Or at least, it seems like she's always mad at me..." suddenly echoed inside my head. "Why?" I asked, "Did she hate him that much?"

"Oh, no," my companion replied, shaking his head seriously. "No, they were quite devoted to each other. It was..." again he trailed off.

"Please, Mr....," I paused and silently cursed myself for not having asked the man his name. This made twice I'd done that in one night. 

Luckily, he wasn't bothered. Instead he gave me a smile and said, "Billings, Miss. Arthur Billings. I've served both his lordship and his father before him."

"A pleasure to meet you Mr. Billings," I told him and meant it. He seemed so nice. "I'm Lisa, I'm here with my parents and Nathan Steward. Would you please tell me what happened?"

He seemed to think it over, saying, "You're with Master Nathan? He's come back, then?" Finally , he nodded. "Come let's sit, and I'll tell what I can." With that he led me back to the Great Hall. 

As we walked, I kept thinking, 'First Reginald, now Mr. Billings... Nathan must be trying to find a way to end the haunting. But why? And what happened with the sister and Nathan?' I had so many questions. Luckily, I was about to get all the answers, or so I thought.



Mr. Billings guided me to my favorite chair near the great fireplace. After making sure I was comfortable, he moved closer to the fire and began his tale.

"It all started in the summer of the same year that the tragedy happened. Miss Madeleine had met and fallen for a young man she'd met in London. At first everything seemed innocent and proper enough, but then whispers about the young man reached his lordship's ears. It seems just the year before the fellow had been engaged to another young woman, who shortly after their engagement took ill and passed away." 

"How tragic," I remarked, watching the storyteller closely. Although his countenance (I picked up this word recently from being here in England) was flat, I could hear the slightest touch of bitterness in his tone. Clearly, there was more behind this part of the story, but I kept quiet as he continued.

"Indeed it was," Billings nodded solemnly, "Anyway, his lordship began having second thoughts about the relationship which led to a number of disagreements with his daughter. The girl was eager to get engaged, but his lordship refused to supply a dowry until his worries were put to rest. Things continued this way throughout the summer and into the Autumn, when the lord and lady were both killed in a carriage accident. Apparently, the horses became spooked and bolted for reasons that remained a 'mystery'."

I felt my eyebrows shoot up at that. "What about the driver? What did he have to say about what happened?"

The narrator smiled. "You have an keen mind," he told me, then continued. "Unfortunately, the driver was also killed in the crash. Being on the outside of the carriage he suffered many injuries, especially about the head. But there were a couple of things that bothered his lordship's brother, Sir Peter, who was also a magistrate. Something about the injury did not fit with the rest of the man's injuries."

"What were they?" I asked leaning forward. 

"Well," Mr. Billings began, "The man had been thrown from the coach, yet there were bloodstains on the driver's seat..."

"Which meant he'd been injured before the carriage crashed," I finished, as my brain went into overdrive. He had mentioned the horses had been spooked, so what could spook a horse? "Someone shot the driver, knowing the sound would spook the horses and there'd be no one to try and reign them in."

Mr. Billings nodded, "Those were Sir Peter's very thoughts. Unfortunately, with no witnesses, there was no way to prove what happened. The horses' could've been spooked by wolves or some other predator, and the man could've hit his head against a low branch as he tried to regain control of the animals. In the end, the inquest concluded death by misadventure."

I shook my head. "That's ridiculous. Clearly, someone wanted the parents out of the way. All you have to do is follow the money and..." 

A horrid thought suddenly came to me, and it must have shown on my face for the storyteller added, "Mind you, Miss Madeleine and her brother were here at the manor when the incident occurred.  They were both quite devastated when their uncle told them what had happened. It was especially hard for the boy, since he was the male heir, the title of Lord, along with the manor and its lands came to him. However, due to his young age, their uncle took charge of overseeing things until the boy became of age. And before you ask, Sir Peter was quite a wealthy man with cons holdings of his own, so he had no reason to want anything to happen to his brother and sister-in-law."


Nodding I stared into the flames of the fireplace, as my mind began working through everything I'd just been told. From what I could see, the only other person who might wants the parents out of the way would be Madeleine's suitor. But with the title and everything going to her brother, how could he gain from their deaths.  Suddenly my mind went back to Reginald telling me about his sister arguing with their uncle, and quickly put two and two together.  "Let me guess, Madeleine started appealing to her uncle to allow her to get engaged. Which would mean a dowry would have to be supplied for her."

My host nodded.

Sighing I fell back into the wing-backed chair I was sitting on. "And of course, he refused because his brother had no doubt told him about the rumors involving her young man."

"Actually, Sir Peter was one of the people who brought those reports it to his brother's attention," Billings corrected me.

I blew out a breath. "Wow! And when she found that out, she started appealing to her brother to talk to their uncle override his uncle."

"She did indeed," Billings replied. "Unfortunately, with Reginald being so young, he simply told the young lord his father had concerns about the match without going into details. And that was enough for the young lad and he did not press the issue further, thus making his sister even more angry with the boy." Here the storyteller paused and stared into the fire. 


I didn't say anything at first, because I was starting to compare my own situation to Madeleine's. I had been in love with Nathan for years, but was always told I had to wait until I was older before he'd consider the idea. Well, I was 20 now, and still he was making me wait. But I was willing to, whereas Madeleine... what had her situation been?

As if reading my thoughts, Billings spoke again. "Then as the Christmas season drew near, things came to a head. The suitor began pressing Madeleine to get whatever she could and join him. Apparently, he had told her that he had debts that were coming due, and if he could not pay them, he might have to accept the advances of another woman with money who was eager to be his bride. Not that he loved the other woman, mind you. But, if his circumstances did not improve soon, he'd be ruined both financially and in the eyes of society. Not wanting such a fate to befall the man she loved, Madeleine decided to find a way to get her mother's jewelry, which were worth quite a fortune themselves. But to do so, she needed to get him to tell her what had become of them. For when the estate was being discussed after the will had been read, she had not been in the room. So only her uncle and brother might now what had become of them. And she wasn't about to ask her uncle."

"So that was why she had started acting nicer to her brother," I murmured, "She was hoping to get Reginald to tell her where they were, then she and her betrothed would elope on Christmas Eve and begin a new life together."

"Exactly," nodded Mr. Billings and then looked over at the grandfather clock against the far wall, which read 9:10. "It's getting close to time," he said, changing the subject. "I really should be getting you on your way to the chapel. They'll be worried about what's become of you, Miss."

Instead of getting up, I remained in my seat. Several things had been nagging at me since meeting my host. "Mr. Billings," I began politely, "Why does his lordship hold mass in the chapel between nine and ten? I've heard of midnight mass, or even mass at eleven, but nine seems like a very odd time. And why does he not want anyone to remain in the manor, that he even orders the doors locked?"

The man bowed his head, pulled a chair up in front of me and sat down. "Because at 9:25, something terrible is going to happen. The same thing that has taken place within these walls ever since that terrible Christmas Eve."

TO BE CONTINUED...








Friday, December 11, 2020

Lisa's Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: "My Christmas Ghost Story" Part-III

I gave him a warm smile and said, "I thought I was the one who was supposed to be hiding."

He pulled the blanket down to get a better look at me, and I saw he was wearing clothing much like the costume my brother had on downstairs. He had blond curly hair and a round tear-streaked face. I quickly pulled out a handkerchief from my sleeve (her ladyship had told me it was proper to have one on hand) and gave his face a quick cleaning while assuring him everything was going to be all right. That was when I noticed his skin was quite cold. "Oooo... you're frozen, come on. Let's get closer to the fire," I insisted and helped move him, blanket and  all, closer to the fireplace.



That was when he gave me a great big smile and said, "You're very kind. Who are you? Are you a fairy?"

I laughed. "No, and I'm not an angel either," I told him. "My name is Lisa, I'm staying here with my parents and my godfather, Nathan Steward."

Immediately, my new friend perked up. "Nathan? He's here? He's all right?"

"Of course. He's the main reason his lordship invited us to come stay," I replied. "Why wouldn't he be all right?"

The boy's face clouded over as said, "He... had an accident last time. My sister..." here he began to sneeze and fall into a coughing fit. 

I gave him my handkerchief and let him blow his nose. "Oh, you poor thing, you have a cold don't you?"

He nodded.

Well, that explained why he was up here all by himself. Especially as it had occurred to me that I hadn't seen him downstairs earlier. Still, someone should have been keeping him company, instead of leaving him all by himself up in this old room. "Are your parent's downstairs at the party?"

My young friend shook his head, "They're dead. My uncle is watching over me and my sister. She's a grown up, like you."

I had to laugh at that. Both my parents and Nathan would tell me that I was all grown up one moment, and would then turn around and start treating me like a kid the next. Go figure.

Anyway, things were beginning to make more sense to me now. No doubt he had come with his Lordship's many siblings. Still, it seemed odd to leave the little fellow all on his own up here. Then again, there were other children to watch over downstairs, and I didn't doubt one of his many cousins were coming to check on him regularly. Probably, one or more of them had been up here with him when the call to start the games went out, and they went downstairs while he took a nap up here. This made sense, since I did find him under a blanket. 

Then I smiled thinking that once the others found my 'hidden' location in here, we'd have a lot of company. Still a part of me began to wonder what he'd meant about Nathan having an 'accident' last time. 


Just then the boy leaned up against me and I held him tight. He seemed much more relaxed now, and was smiling more, so I chose not to ask about what happened. Besides, I'd seen Nathan bounce back from injuries before. Hell, he'd even recovered from being decapitated just a few years ago. So I had little doubt that whatever had happened had seemed more terrifying to my young friend than it really had been.

I could hear the sounds of my 'pursuers' echoing through the mansion, through the door to the room, and quickly excused myself to close it. After all, I didn't want to make it too easy for them. Then I went back to the fireplace and wrapped the boy in my arms. He hugged me back as we gazed at the fire together. 

"My sister and I used to sit before the fire like this for many an hour," he sighed wistfully. 

I frowned. "Let me guess, she felt she was too grown up to do it anymore?" I asked, suspecting she didn't have as much time for her little brother these days. Especially if she was in her late teens as I was guessing from his earlier comparison of her and me. No doubt she was more into going to malls or raves these days.

"Oh, no," he told me. "She's mad at me. Or at, it seems like she's always mad at me."

My frown deepened. "Really? Did you break something of hers, or get her in trouble somehow?"

He shook his head. "Not to my knowledge."

I rested my chin on his head, thinking. "Is this a recent thing?"

The boy nodded. "It started shortly after our parents died."

I mentally nodded. Losing both your parents could lead to the children either becoming closer than ever, or tear them apart. Especially in the case of the older children, who may suddenly feel like a great burden of responsibility has been thrust upon them. They may feel obligated to grow up faster and would either rise up to the challenge, or feel overwhelmed or even cheated of their youthful pleasures and become resentful. Still, he'd said their uncle was watching over them. Could there be some resentment on that front from his sister? Did she want to be the grownup only to find her brother was turning more and more to their uncle? It was hard to say, and having just met my little friend, I didn't think it was right to pry too deeply. Instead, I asked a totally different question.

"I just realize, I never asked you your name?" I remarked, giving him an embarrassed look.

"Reginald," he smiled back. "Thank you for being so kind to me, Lisa."

"I do my best," I told him.


From beyond the closed door, I could hear the others calling my name, but I didn't want to leave Reginald, even for a moment. For some strange reason, I was feeling more and more protective of him. Like something would happen if I did leave his side, even for the slightest second. So I didn't respond and spent the next half hour talking with Reginald.

I soon learned that he and his sister had been quite a bit closer than I'd originally thought, even after their parents accident. But then they began to drift apart. His sister, Madeleine, began having fights with their uncle. Exactly what these arguments had been about, Reginald did not know at first. But then, Madeleine had appealed to him to talk with their uncle about their mother's jewelry and how it should be hers by right, to do with as she pleased. 

Something about the way she'd spoken to him had been worrying, so he'd asked if she had planned to sell them. At that point she'd raised her voice and began scolding him for such horrid thoughts and how he was sounding just like their uncle. From then on things between them began to deteriorate. Several times she'd called him weak and foolish because by rights he was the rightful heir. He was now the lord and their uncle was only acting as a guardian until he came of age. She told him how he needed to grow up and take charge, that she needed his support but he was too cowardly or ungrateful to help her.

I felt my grip tighten on him as he spoke, wishing I could do something to help. But then he told me how Madeleine had become nicer again recently. She'd even apologized for saying such hurtful things. Perhaps it was the season that had made her more thoughtful, and yet... somehow he was a little afraid of her.

Upon hearing that, I said reassuringly, "Let me talk to her, and to your uncle. I'm pretty good at judging people. I might even get your sister to open up and tell me what's really been going on."

A look of relief swept over Reginald's face, then quickly vanished by one of alarm. "I don't think that would be a good idea. Nathan tried to talk to her and..."

"And that's when he had that 'accident' you mentioned earlier," I finished for him. "She got a little violent with him?"

My young friend simply nodded, but there was a haunted look in his eyes which worried me. Still, I couldn't let things stand the way they were. A part of me kept thinking about my own little brother, Geoffrey and how important he was to me, in spite of occasionally being a pest and a brat. But if we had lost our parents like Reginald and his sister had, I'd be an overly protective mother-hen as well as a big sister to him. I had no idea how good I'd be as a 'mother' figure for him, in fact I'd probably make a lot of mistakes, but I'd still love him no matter what. And I had no doubt Madeleine loved her brother still as well. 

And as for getting rough with Nathan, he'd never mentioned the incident to me or my parents. So it couldn't have been that bad. Perhaps, what Madeleine had been resentful of yet another man trying to tell her what to do, like her uncle had apparently been doing.

"I think Madeleine might actually appreciate talking to someone her own age who's a big sister like her," I told Reginald. "And if things do get a little out of hand, Nathan and parents are here and they always watch out for me. Especially if I tell them the situation before I approach your sister."

That seemed to reassure him as he smiled and let me put him in a chair near the fire. I made sure he was bundled up, and got him to promise not to go anywhere till I got back. After giving me his word he kissed me on the cheek and said, "You're so nice. I think Madeleine might listen to you. You treat me the way she used to, and I very much wish for things to be like this again between us."

"I'll do my best," I assured him and left the room. As I passed through the adjoining room and into the hallway, I realized I didn't hear any of my 'pursuers' calling out my name. Assuming that they'd given up and had gone back to the party I quickly made my way downstairs. 


When I reached the second floor, I realized that everything had gone quiet. There were no sounds coming the main hall downstairs where the party had been taking place. "This isn't good," I told myself and hurried down the rest of the way. Upon reaching the bottom the silence was even more obvious than before. The only sound I could hear was the crackling of the fire from the other side of the doors to the hall, which were now closed.

Feeling more than a little anxious I went to the doors and opened them. The hall was completely empty. The decorations, the tables covered in food and drink, were all still there. And I noted that a considerable number of presents had been added underneath the tree, and the fire was still burning in the fireplace, but aside from me there seemed to be not another soul in the place.

Then I remembered his lordship had mentioned holding mass over at the chapel on the grounds. No doubt that was where everyone had gone off to. Still, it was strange that no one had come looking for me... oh! That was why people had been calling my name earlier. They hadn't been trying to trick me into revealing myself, they had wanted to tell me to come to the chapel with them.

Feeling more than a little foolish, I headed for the front doors. I grabbed a heavy woolen cloak that went with my outfit and tried the doors. They were locked!

TO BE CONTINUED... 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Lisa's Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: "My Christmas Ghost Story" Part-II

Nathan wasn't kidding about this being an old-fashion Christmas. Green garland was hanging from the staircases, the walls, you name it. And the table in the dining room looked like a Hollywood set. There was plum pudding, oysters, pies, potatoes, fruits stacked up like pyramids, sweetbreads, the list goes on and on. We even had chestnuts roasting in the fireplace. 

It's become one of my favorite places to sit near. It's huge affair, with ornately decorated tiles in the firebox area, as well as a beautifully carved stone mantel with intricate pillars leading up to it. There are a couple of wingback chairs set in front of all this, and that's where I could be found whenever I'd come in from outside. Sometimes Nathan sits with me, not that I've seen all that much of him since our arrival. He seems to come and go on 'business', supposedly it has to do with a book or two he's researching, but I've seen him talking with his Lordship from the windows now and then. I don't have the nerve to ask our host what they're talking about, and I haven't been able to get Nathan alone long enough to get the story out of him. 


Anyway, getting back to the holiday decorations, we finally come to the tree itself. It is huge, and because Nathan is around, the tree stands in a huge pot of soil. Like everything else in this great place, it too has decked out in classic Victorian style, with ribbons, flowers, small toys, sweets, fruits, crackers (Christmas ones, not the kind you eat), and ornaments made of paper and glass some of which are at least 100 years old.

Tonight, being Christmas Eve, the Lord and Lady of the manor hosted a huge gathering of family and a few friends (namely us). And in keeping with the old-fashion theme, everyone was dressed in clothing from the before 1900. Naturally, me being into Goth clothing, I should have fit in easily. But most of my outfits were too bright and modern. Luckily, her Ladyship led me to the uppermost level of the mansion where they had a host of outfits for me and my family. I settled on a green velvet with white trim and hints of deep red. My parents and our hosts were delighted at my choice and I couldn't get over how well it fit me.


Mom and Dad looked smashing in Edwardian garb and my little brother Geoffrey looked adorable  in his "Little Lord Fauntleroy" outfit. Even if he didn't think it was all that great. Of Nathan there was no sign, although he had promised to be around. I asked Dad what was going on and he assured me Nathan was on important business, but would definitely be showing up before the evening was out. Before I could ask him any more, he announced it was time for us all to join the festivities downstairs. 

Let me tell you, I had no idea what a crowd awaited us down there. His Lordship insisted he had only invited family, but he neglected to mention there would be several generations. His five siblings had brought their spouses and they in turn had brought their children (numbering anywhere from 4-6) per household. And their ages ranged from younger than Geoffrey to those my age and a little older. So I didn't wind up being the oldest when it came to playing some games I'd never heard of before. Oh I was familiar with Charades, and Blind Man's Buff (or Blind Man's Bluff as it's sometimes called). But there were more games I'd never heard of before that go all the way back to the 1800's. Up Jenkins, Find the Thimble (for the younger ones), Snapdragon (which involves flaming brandy and raisins in a shallow bowl). 


Shadow Buff was completely new to me, but Isabella proved quite good at it and I soon caught on and found it to be quite a bit of fun However, when it came to playing "Sardines" that's when the night took a spooky turn for me.

Now for those of you not familiar with Sardines, it's like a reverse hide and seek game. Instead of everyone hiding while one person counts, only a single person goes into hiding and the rest of the people count. When they are done counting, they all spread out and try to find the person who hid. However, if they find that person, instead of calling out to everyone, the seeker joins the hidden person in their hiding spot. This continues until all the seekers have found the location and have the person who hid in that spot, until they're all packed in like... you guessed it... sardines.

Being a newcomer to the festivities, I got to be the first person who had to hide. I was told I could go anywhere inside the mansion, which gave me a lot of possibilities. And me being me, I immediately gravitated upstairs to where I'd found my lovely dress for the evening. 


Soon I found myself on the top floor looking down a long corridor of doors. Most of these had been living quarters for servants, but according to our hosts no one had used them for years. Which was why several of them were now being used as storage space, including the room where I had found my dress. When I was in there earlier, I'd spotted a door peeking out from behind some tall boxes. No doubt it was a closet and would make for an excellent hiding spot. While allowing room for the others to join in when they found me, without making any of us feel too claustrophobic. Or so I hoped. 

So you can imagine my surprise at finding, not a closet, but a very large room with a roaring fire in a good-sized fireplace crackling away behind a screen. Glancing around the room I saw there were a couple of desks off in the corner, while the rest of the room had shelves for books and a number of children's toys. Most of those seemed to be antiques, but in good condition overall. There was a rocking horse that had clearly seen a lot of use, but also a lot of love as well. I could easily picture a child hugging that wooden neck with the real horsehair mane. 

Then it hit me. Of course, a governess would have a room connected with one like this. No doubt the room I'd found my dress had been her bedroom, and this was the schoolroom where she would teach and play with the children in her care. But who was using it these days? And why was there a fire in the fireplace?

My curiosity was in overdrive at this point, so I began to explore every inch of my surroundings. There was an old sofa, whose back was facing me, near the fireplace. As I drew nearer I heard a small cough coming from the other side of it. Immediately, my sisterly instincts kicked in and I went over to have a look. I found a small boy, curled up on the sofa with an old blanket covering most of him. Had I not spotted his eyes peeking out, I would've totally missed him. 

TO BE CONTINUED...

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Lisa's Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: "My Christmas Ghost Story" Part-I

Christmas in England, how much cooler can you get than that? Answer... you find yourself in the middle of something that could've come straight out of a gothic novel. I swear, I'll never be able to listen to "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" the same way, after tonight. 

Here, let me explain...

It all started about a week ago, when Nathan told my parents that he had been invited to stay with some of his 'Extended Family' over in England and that a private jet had already been set up for when the time came to go. Naturally, I was pretty bummed out upon hearing this.


It was bad enough that my bestie Marisa was spending the holidays in New York City with her folks. They had family in the big city and was spending the holidays with them. In fact she’d been there since before Thanksgiving and had gotten to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person from a balcony. She’d also gone to see the big tree in Rockefeller Center and had gone ice skating there too.


Still I couldn’t be mad at Nathan. We weren’t the only part of his “Extended” family, and there are others all over the country, and in other countries, who love him as much as we do. So it would only be natural for some of them to want him to come and spend the holidays with them once in a while. Plus, his sister Isabella was already in England awaiting her brother’s arrival.

I had just resigned myself to not seeing him on Christmas morning, when he dropped another bomb on us by saying, “Oh, did I mention all of you are invited to join me?” 

At first my parents were a little unsure, but when he told them the festivities would be taking place in an old manor house and that the hosts liked to have an old-fashioned Christmas, they were hooked.

As I quickly learned on our arrival, the manor is over 200 years old and has been owned by the family that whole time. Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, the current master of manor is a member of the House of Lords. So you can imagine how important keeping the manor as well as the old Christmas traditions alive, is very important. And I for one don't blame them. This place is amazing. While it has all the modern conveniences, you still feel like you just stepped into a Jane Austen novel. Family portraits, a gallery, silk wallpaper, marble columns, grand staircase, a ballroom, a drawing room, the list goes on and on. I got lost at least twice in the first couple of days. So did my mother. We wound up bumping into each other and asking if each other knew the way out. LOL!


The grounds are immense as well. There's a pond, rose garden, and even a small chapel used for weddings and other celebrations, including Christmas.

The main hall is huge, with tall windows going practically up to the ceiling (which is at least two to three stories tall). It also has the most impressive fireplace I've ever seen. It's huge affair, with ornately decorated tiles in the firebox area, as well as a beautifully carved stone mantel with intricate pillars leading up to it. There are a couple of wingback chairs set in front of all this, and that's where I could be found whenever I'd come in from outside. Sometimes Nathan sits with me, not that I've seen all that much of him since our arrival. He seems to come and go on 'business', supposedly it has to do with a book or two he's researching, but I've seen him talking with his Lordship from the windows now and then. I don't have the nerve to ask our host what they're talking about, and I haven't been able to get Nathan alone long enough to get the story out of him. But clearly, something is up... not that it was any of my business. That is, until tonight.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me get back to the decorations and preparations that led up to the event's of tonight, Christmas Eve...

TO BE CONTINUED...


Friday, November 6, 2020

The Artist - August 2007 Part XI The Conclusion

As it turned out, Nathan and I returned to the studio the next evening and indeed the piece was finished. Mind you, we still had to spend most of the night allowing the kiln to cool down before we dared remove my precious art piece from within. I'm pleased to say, it came out perfectly. It was everything I wanted it to be.

"It's beautiful," Nathan told me inside our shared space.

"I wouldn't have been able to finish it without your help," I replied. "I wish I could thank you properly..."

"How do you mean?" he replied curiously. 

"You know, giving you a huge hug and all that," I told him, shrugging our shoulders.

Next thing I knew we were face to face again, inside his mind once more. We were surrounded by fleeting images of his memories again, and this time I caught a few glimpses of our working on my sculpture.

Meanwhile, Nathan opened his arms and I quickly did the same.


"Thank you... thank you so much..." I blubbed, feeling tears of actual tears running down my cheeks. Then I pulled back and looked at him and asked, "Why? Why did you do all this, sharing your body with me and all?"

"Because, you asked for my help," he said simply.

I shook my head eyeing him carefully, "No, there's more to it than that. You've let me inside you, literally, in a way you yourself said you rarely do. So why me?"

All around us the images changed and I saw myself, much younger, eyes wide and frightful. That's when I got it. "You felt guilty about me seeing what you did to those men, all those years ago," I breathed.

He nodded. "The look in your eyes whenever we met, I never understood why you looked so troubled and standoffish. I just thought I was just reminding you of what you went through. I'd had no idea you saw..."

I reached up and stroked his face. "Don't. Neither Brian nor I would be here today if you hadn't shown up and did what you did."

"I killed..."

"People who had tortured children and were going to do much worse. Plus, you were already injured and still outnumbered. They pushed you too far and you fought back the only way left to you. Not to save yourself, but to save me, Brian and all those other children. I know that now. I also know you're a good person, which is why I trusted you enough to accept your offer to help me. And I'm never going to forget it," I told him.

"Thank you," he sighed and finally smiled. We hugged again and as we separated, I guess I had a funny expression on my face, because he asked, "What is it?"

"The door between us? You said you could close it when we were done, but... would please leave it open, just a crack? Please?" I asked hopefully.

"Is that what you want?"

I nodded.

He smiled. "Always."

I hugged him again and soon after I found myself back in my body in my hospital room. No one was there, but I didn't feel alone. I could still feel Nathan, and that made it easier for me to rest.



All of this happened about two months ago, and I can still feel his presence even when he's not around. But, tonight I can see as well as feel him. Here at my exhibition, he's been making the rounds, but was close by when it came time to unveil my piece. My jaw and hands are still healing, although I can actually talk again. As for the hands, they've responded well to the surgeries and I'm even using clay as part of my therapy to build up strength in them again. But now I know for sure I'll be able to keep making works of art and beauty once more.

As you can expect, my mom burst into tears of joy when she saw it. She hugged me, carefully of course, since I'm still healing. Still it was so worth it. She could barely speak, she was so moved, but her eyes and smile spoke louder than the entire New York Philharmonic symphony blasting the 1812 overture. 

I briefly wondered if Nathan was feeling what I was experiencing, then saw the huge smile on his face across the room. Brian and his family were with them, as well as Jack's. They're part of what Nathan calls his "extended" family, and now I am too...

"And always will be..." I hear in my head. 

"Back at you," I reply through our link, and he smiles.



 





Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Artist- August 2007 Part X

"Okay," I said aloud, "First I'm going to place the sculpture inside the kiln and set it to just under 200 degrees." As I/we spoke, I did exactly that. Opening up the kiln and then ever so carefully placed my masterwork inside. Then I proceeded to set the kiln in motion.

"How long will this take?" Brian asked curiously.

"Possibly, until morning or noon," I answered, and proceeded to settle down on the couch Brian had been sleeping on earlier. 

"And then it will be finished?" asked Nathan through our shared mouth.

"No, that's when I HOPE it will be dry and safe enough to proceed with the actual firing schedule I mentioned before," I answered.

I suddenly felt a sense of unease inside. "Nathan?" I asked mentally.

"Someone needs to be here the whole time, and I didn't bring anything I might need," he answered. 

"Like blood?'

"Yeah," we shook our head, "I hadn't anticipated such an eventuality."

"Oh dear..." I murmured aloud, which caught Brian's attention and told him the situation.

He smiled and assured us that a call to Jack would take care of that problem in no time.

Still Nathan seemed uneasy. After a bit of mental urging he told me what was bothering him. "I've never had someone inside my head when I've had to satisfy my 'needs'. I was figuring on having you back in your own body before it became a necessity."

Now, I understood. But if we were to dry my sculpture in the kiln, I needed to be here. Especially if I wanted it to be ready on time. 

Taking over the mouth again I said, "Brian please make the call so we can have everything Nathan needs while he and I finish my sculpt."

Inside our head I heard Nathan saying, "Are you sure about this?"

"Yes," I replied. "You've done so much already, the least I can do is not let you be deprived of what you need."

"You do realize that when I 'drink'..."

"Yeah, I get that. I'm just going to tell myself we're drinking a Bloody Mary." To my relief, he didn't argue. Which is good because I then thought about the literal version of the drink I'd mentioned, I began to get uneasy myself.So together we settled in on the couch, while Brian called the hospital. About half an hour later, Dr. Jack showed up with what Nathan needed, as well as some regular food. 

The four of us sat and ate (well three actually ate), but still I got to enjoy experiencing how Nathan's  sense of smell and taste worked. He's got much more acute senses on both those fronts, than I had expected. Of course, when it came to what he really needed, I went to my 'Happy Place' inside our shared head. Although I have to admit, I did kind of take notice of what the blood tasted like and how his body reacted to it. I can sympathize with how taking in blood is not something that is 'optional' for him. But I won't go into that, it's not my place to go there. 

But afterwards, 'we' felt much better and after shooing Brian and Dr. Jack to their respective homes, Nathan and I began the long 'firing'. We passed the time sharing thoughts and life experiences. Too numerous and private to share here. Then after morning came and I was convinced the clay was dry enough, we fired the kiln up to a proper level to finish what I had started. 

These next hours would be crucial and we'd have to watch the piece as carefully as possible. I had noticed that during the drying, I could actually hear some of the moisture escaping the clay inside the kiln through Nathan's ears. I found this very reassuring. It meant that if any cracking began to take place during the final firing, we'd hear it and could take action.

After setting things in motion, we began the last stage of our vigil. To pass the time I convinced Nathan to pull out some of the clay here in the studio and we began working with it. It was kind of fun to experience with him the joy of going from doubtful about his ability to create with clay to enthusiastic. It took me back to my first time working with the creative process in three dimensions.

Of course we kept an eye on how the firing process was coming along as we passed the hours. I thought heard a pop at one point, which turned out to have come from outside. Damn his hearing could be a little too good. When evening came, we started to let the kiln and it's precious content cool down. I knew at this point there was nothing else we could do and let Nathan know. 

"In that case, I think we should let you get back to your body for the night," he replied.  

The next thing I knew I was staring up at the ceiling of my hospital room. A moment later, Dr. Jack's smiling visage came into view. 

"Welcome back," he smiled, "Blink once for yes and twice for no. Everything go okay?"

I responded as he instructed.

"So it's all done?"

I blinked twice and spent the next ten minutes answering his questions. By the time we finished he had a pretty good understanding of where things stood. "I see," he nodded, "So Nathan will be taking you back again tomorrow. I'll make sure you're still undisturbed, aside from the staff again. Hopefully, tomorrow will be it."

So did I....

TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME...


Friday, October 2, 2020

The Artist - August 2009 Part IX

 I/we made our way over to the plastic covered figure and carefully unwrapped it. Somewhere behind us Brian took in a deep breath, followed by the words, "Oh my God... it's... it's going to be one of your best pieces."

I felt/heard Nathan share the same sentiments inside our shared head. "Agreed."


"But there's still so much to do,"
I told them both, glancing over at the wall next to the sculpture. There was a bulletin board with several photos of my grandfather, at least one of them in uniform. The rest were a couple of him even younger, as well as several of him later in life. I had gathered them to try and help me capture the spark of determination in his eye, the set of his jaw, as well as the... the spirit of the man who would come out of not just one but two great wars. I wanted to capture the man he was and would become all in one shot.

But now I hesitated and looked down at my/our hands. I knew they could work the clay, but would they have 'my' touch?

"Of course they will," Nathan assured me. "This is where I take a backseat. You're in charge. Just think of your grandfather and go for it."

As soon as I heard those words in my head, I saw my grandfather in my mind as clear as day. Clearer than I'd ever been able to remember him. Honestly, I could see every detail in his face that I wanted to capture and just knew what needed to be done. 

What happened over the next twelve hours will remain with me forever. Never had the clay felt so soothing and yielding to my touch. It and I were in harmony like never before. Had Brian not fallen asleep, letting out the occasional snore, I would never have realized how much time was passing. Nathan and I only paused briefly to allow him to take over and drink what our body needed, before going back to work. 

Every now and again, I'd start to wonder if he wasn't helping guide my hands, but I knew better. I could sense his wonder at what his hands were helping create under my direction.  Finally, we took step back and into Brian who had been fast asleep on the couch nearby. I'd it in the studio from day one, knowing there'd be times when I would need to stay overnight from time to time. I admit it, when I get going I don't like to let up some days.

"What the... huh?" Brian muttered then his eyes fell on the sculpt. "Oh my God! It's... it's perfect!" he breathed.

"You're telling me," Nathan murmured out of our shared mouth. I could actually feel his sense of awe which only added to my delight in this moment. I'd succeeded! But there was still more work to be done.

Walking over to the shelves I pulled out a long thin wire with wooden handles tied to each end. Then I headed back over to the piece and started stretching the wire from the head of the piece down to its base. 

"Um... what are we doing?" Nathan asked aloud. I realized this was for Brian's sake, as he was looking as puzzled as Nathan was feeling.

"This," I replied and pulled on the handles of the wire, which slowly sank into the clay, neatly severing the sculpture into two sections. 


"OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" Nathan cried, making us take a step back. But I quickly took over and brought us back just in time to catch the back half of the piece before it fell onto the table. 

Before I could explain, Brian cut in saying, "Oh... that's so you can remove the armature inside the statue."

Inside our head, I heard Nathan spluttering, "The who... what... where? Wait, this was supposed to happen?"

Patiently, I explained, "You don't get two feet of clay to stay upright all on it's own. Take a closer look. See, there's metal rod attached to the base that runs inside the entire sculpt."

"Okay, yeah I see that," Nathan responded, still sounding a bit shocked.

"Well, that has to come out before I put the piece in the kiln for one thing. For another, I have to start hollowing out the entire piece."

"Hollowing it out?" Nathan repeated, this time aloud for Brian's benefit.

"That's right, like this," I gently held the one half that had come off the main piece into one hand, while I grabbed a tool from nearby in the other. From there I proceeded to scrape out some of the interior of the piece I was holding. 


Remembering to speak out loud, I continued, "Now, I'm going to remove just enough clay so that the remaining shell is just under an inch thick all around. Then I'm going to do the same to the other half that's still on the armature. This it to keep it from cracking when it goes into the kiln. I'm also going to poke a bunch of 1/2 in deep holes to also prevent cracking."

Naturally, I did as I promised, allowing both Nathan and Brian to see what I meant. Then I did the same to the other half. When both were nicely hollowed out and pricked, I began scouring the edges of both halves where the wire had cut them, and then brushed the edges with a water. "Since this is a water-based clay, this will allow me to put them back together," I explained.

"But what about the seams where the two halves meet?" came Nathan's voice out of our mouth.

"I was wondering the same thing," added Brian, who had been watching the entire process intently.

"I'll add more clay and smooth it all out, and then rework it into the rest of the design," I told them. 

An hour later, the piece was whole again, without the slightest hint that it had been cleaved in two. 

"So now you put it in the kiln?" Nathan asked out loud.

"Yes, but we're going to use a low heat to dry it out. The process is called 'candling'. Then once the clay is really good and dry, we'll start the firing schedule," I replied.

"The what?" Nathan asked out loud again.

I winced inwardly. Obviously, neither of them had any clue how long this was going to take. Plus, I was starting to get worried about my physical form back at the hospital. The three of us really needed to talk things out before anything else could happen.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Artist - August 2009 Part VIII

Jack gave me a light sedative to allow my body to rest, while Brian drove me and Nathan to my studio. I have to admit, it was still taking me some getting used to being inside someone else's head/body. But, I convinced Nathan not to close me out of feeling what his body was experiencing as we drove. After all, once we were in the studio, I knew where everything was that I would need and the more familiar I was with how his body worked, the better. 

Luckily, he was a very good sport, albeit and smartass one. "And what if I need to use the facilities?" he asked me mentally, at one point. "I don't want to hear any giggling or running commentaries inside my skull."

"Put on a blindfold," I told him.

"Okay, but don't blame me if I miss the target," he shot back.

"Try leaving the seat down and sitting, it's worked for women for years," was my reply.

For a moment there was silence, followed by, "Okay, that makes sense. In fact it makes a lot of sense. Oh my God, I finally get it. These bad boys are hard to aim to begin with. Hell, who came up with the idea that guys had to relieve themselves standing up in the first place?"

Thank God I got him thinking about something else, otherwise I think that train of thought would have turned into a running monologue with me as the only member of the audience. 

Finally, we reached the studio and Brian let us out. "Can I take it from here?" I asked Nathan.

He/we nodded. 

I'd had the good sense to remember we'd need the keys to the studio, before we left my hospital room. Reaching into the right pocket, I found myself feeling envious of how roomy men's pants pockets felt. Because fashion declared women had to look curvy and sexy in pants, our pockets were so tight, we were lucky to fit a single playing card into one. I quietly swore to myself to try getting some pants from the men's department next time I went clothes shopping. 

"Make sure you get a shirt and tie while your at it. And a hat, you'd look really cute in an outfit like that. You could make it your 'artist' look," commented Nathan somewhere in the background. 

"Hey, don't I get some privacy in here?" I shot back

"Sorry," Nathan apologized and then explained, "While it is big and roomy in here, kind of like Dr. Who's TARDIS, I could arrange an area for you to have privacy. But when you're also controlling my body, I kind of have to be around. This body has reflexes and abilities you might not be able to react to without some help."  

That made me curious. "How do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, shortly after I was 'altered' I thought about wanting to get a bird's eye view of a situation and next thing I knew, my arms were flattening and turning into giant wings and..."

I cut him off. "OKAY got it. I definitely want you around!" 

Without further ado, I inserted the key into the door of the studio and opened it. Immediately, a rush of familiar smells greeted us. A wave of emotions swept over me as we entered. Everything was exactly the way I'd left it.


I felt tears filling my eyes. Until Nathan had made his strange proposal, I'd had no idea when or if I'd ever be back here.  For a deep dark part of me had wondered if I'd never be able to bring myself to return, for fear my damaged hands would never be able to create beautiful things as they had before. But here I was, with a set of hands that could mold even the most stubborn of clay. And while they weren't necessarily mine, they were exactly what I needed right now.

I looked down at them and felt a tear of joy falling from my face. It landed on one of those wonderful hands, and I screamed. The drop wasn't a tear, it was BLOOD!

"Sorry, my bad, I should've warned you," came Nathan's hurried thoughts. Inside his mind I felt a strong pair of arms hugging me reassuringly. "I didn't realize you'd get so worked up coming back here, otherwise I would've warned you whenever I cry my tears come out that way."

"You cry blood?" 

"Yeah, that kind of came with the Sangui-Sapio. A lot of people find it kind of disconcerting, so I try not to make a habit of crying in front of others," he explained. 

Looking around I found that I was no longer seeing through his eyes. Instead, we were surrounded by whiteness with the occasional fleeting image passing by. Even more importantly, I had my own body. So did Nathan and he was holding me close. I looked at my hands and saw they were normal. Immediately, I tried my mouth and found it was working too. 

"Where are we? Are we still inside you?" I asked, pulling back slightly.


Nathan nodded. "We're inside my mind. And yes, those images that you see are glimpses into my memories. I was hoping not to have to bring you here, but considering the circumstances, I thought this might the best place for us to talk face to face. I really should've prepared you better for dealing with my 'unique' physiognomy. I'm sorry."

"No worries," I replied without looking at him. Instead, I was studying some of the images flashing in and out of existence. I caught glimpses of celebrities from long ago, as well as a few from modern day. And places, so many places. Some were familiar while others were like something out of a prehistoric documentary or a science fiction movie. I was also picking up more than a few emotions attached to these glimpses, and more than a few were very tender and strong. 

Finally I pulled my attention back to Nathan. Those were his memories and I had no right to intrude upon them, not after he had been doing so much for me. Luckily, he didn't seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to be glad. "You don't get to share a lot of these with anyone else, do you?" I asked after a moment.

He shook his head. "Not really. You're one of the very few who I've ever let in this deep."

"Can you see inside me, in this place?"

"Only if I really wanted to, but that would be intrusive and unfair to you. So I choose not to," he replied.

I began to feel like and insect compared to him. "You have so much power..." I began.

"Please don't make me out to be something more than human," he cut in. "I have all the faults and desires of anyone else. I just had a good upbringing and made a lot of mistakes over the decades, that I've learned from. And I prefer not repeating any that might cause someone distress or harm."

I smiled at him. "I was going to say, and yet you do your best to just be a good man."

"It takes a bit of effort some days," he admitted. Then he asked, "Do you still want to move ahead with the plan? I mean, I'll understand if all this has been too much for you to take in."

I shook my head. "No, I want to finish what we've set out to do. I've seen a bit into you. Now let me share some of myself with you. I want you to experience what my work means to my and why it makes me feel the way it does."

He smiled back at me. "I'd like that, thank you."

A moment later, I was seeing through his eyes once more. Brian was holding out a handkerchief, with a worried look on his face.

"Are you, all right?" he asked anxiously. 

"We're fine," I answered, in my own voice, which surprised the heck out of both me and Brian. I mentally thanked Nathan, who responded in kind saying, "I thought this might be easier for Brian so he'd know who he was talking to."

"Good," Brian coughed, obviously adjusting to this new development. "You both had be worried for a second there."

So only a few seconds had passed while Nathan and I were alone together. Again I marveled at his odd existence. But now wasn't the time to think about it. He had allowed me to share his body and I wanted to share my gifts in return.

Glancing over to a far corner of the room, we spotted a tall figure covered in plastic. I smiled, it was time to get to work.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Artist - August 2009 Part VII

I think my heart skipped a beat at that moment. Which is a good thing, because it probably kept me from trying to yell "WHAT?" with my mouth still wired shut.

Thinking back, I must've screamed it mentally because Nathan's hands were on my shoulders keeping me down ever so gently. Still I could feel the tension in his arms. Brian and Jack were also crowding around me now, both of them talking at once. Jack was scolding Nathan, while Brian was offering a platitude of reassurances that nothing was going to happen unless I gave the okay. 

Meanwhile my mind was in a whirl. I had just gotten used to the idea of what Nathan was and that he was supposedly one of the good guys. Which a part of me desperately wanted to believe. I mean, he had rescued me and Brian all those years ago at a cost to himself. Plus, he'd created that link between me and him that allowed me to use his voice to communicate. Still... the idea of him pulling a Christopher Lee on me was not exactly high on my list of things I wanted to try anytime soon.



While Brian and Jack tried talking over each other, Nathan decided to talk to me 'privately' through our mental link.

"Sorry, I didn't know everyone was going to fly off the handle this badly," he said gently inside my head. "Now, as I was trying to explain, when I bite someone I can see into their minds. However, there is a second type of bite I can use where I put some of myself into the other person. When I do this, the bond that's created is much stronger than what we have now. I can, if I so choose, control a person quite a bit. Mind you, I'm very reluctant to do that. I don't like the idea of taking someone's free will away, unless it's a major intervention so to speak. However, what very few know is that there's a bit of two-way street effect."

"How do you mean?" I asked.



"I can feel that other person in me at the same time. But since I created the bond, that means I'm the one who is in control. Unfortunately, I can't take it back. Once made the bond seems to be permanent, until the person moves on from this life. However, I can 'shut the door' so the connection is turned off and neither me nor the other person can sense or hear the other," he explained.

"I think I see what you're saying," I told him. "You're offering to open the door so I can step inside you and have the use of your body so to speak..."

"Up to a point," he corrected.

I nodded ever so slightly. "And when the piece is done..."

"I'll close the door and you'll be back in your own body, and you won't feel or sense me anymore," he finished.

I thought about it for a few moments.  I really wanted to finish the piece, it was for my mom after all. She'd sacrificed so much for me over the years and had been my biggest supporter when it came to my art. And... I trusted Nathan. I know, it sounds weird after being terrified by him for all these years, but now that I knew the truth, I wanted to take the chance. If it meant getting to finish my work in days instead of months or even years... I had to grab it. Especially if there was a chance that even after I recovered from my injuries, I might not have he dexterity and ability to handle the clay as I used to.  This might be my last chance to create the best piece I was ever going to make.

Still, there was one final issue I wanted to clarify with him first. "Um... this bite, is it going to hurt?"

Nathan smiled and shook his head and said aloud so the other two could hear.  "Absolutely not. You won't feel a thing, I promise."

"Then let's do it!" I replied.

Keeping a reassuring hand on my arm, Nathan proceeded to tell the other two what we'd discussed, along with my decision.

As he did so, I noticed a funny kind of wetness on the arm where his hand was resting. There was a warmth to it and the area tingled for a few seconds.

"Um... Nathan?"

"It's done," he said aloud and released my arm. As he did so, I caught a brief glimpse of a mouth with two needle-like teeth in the palm of the hand that had been touching me. As my eyes widened, I saw the mouth close while the skin around it rippled. In the blink of an eye, it was gone and I found myself staring at a normal looking hand.

"What now?" I asked mentally.

"Lie back and give it a few minutes," Nathan replied aloud, for the benefit of Jack and Brian.

I did so, but the seconds seemed to tick on forever as I kept waiting for something to happen. Some change, my vision to blur or feel warm inside... but I just felt the same as before. After 10 minutes I was getting tired of the looks on Brian and Jack's faces as they kept staring at me and then Nathan.



Finally, I closed my eyes... only.... I was still seeing them. Only instead of looking up at them, I was staring across my bed at Jack and Brian.

I opened my own eyes again and saw them still looking down at me, with grave expressions. But when I turned my eyes to Nathan I saw him waggle his eyebrows at me. "What did you think of the view?" he asked after a moment.

While I couldn't open my mouth I could pull the sides of it into a semi-smile.

Jack and Brian both gave me looks of relief. I heard one of them mutter, "Thank God," under their breath. Only, I think I heard it with both my ears and Nathan's. This was going to take a little getting used to, I could tell already.

Just then, Nathan reached down below my bed and pulled out a bag of clay. Then he brought a small table over and placed the clay on it and said, "Shall we try the hands a bit. You'll need to close your eyes, otherwise you might get multiple angles which could prove disconcerting."

He had thought of everything.

"Yes, please," I replied through our link and did as I was told.

As I closed them, I could smell the familiar scent of the clay through his nostrils. God, how I had missed that odor. It had become so common in my life, I hadn't really realized how it had become such a part of my world.

"Okay, my hands are yours, let's see you work with it," Nathan told me.

I won't lie and say that I wasn't nervous. It took me several tries to build up the courage to use his hands but once those fingers touched the clay my instincts took over. It wasn't the best quality, or at least the kind of clay I was used to. It was a bit harder than I liked, but his hands were strong and were able to manipulate it like my own never could. But I understood, he had done that on purpose. He wanted me to get used to what these hands could do. And for the next hour I worked and molded and found my touch with those hands. They belonged to him, but the skill and delicate touch were all me.

I could hear Nathan's thoughts in the back of 'our' mind as he marveled at my manipulation of the substance. He even flat out said at one point, "It's so cool and yet silky in it's own way..." I told him he hadn't seen anything yet. By the time we were finished, we were both satisfied with the experiment. So were Jack and Brian who had been watching the whole time.

I felt myself back in my own body again and opened my eyes. Obviously, Nathan had partially 'closed the door' between us, because I wasn't having double-vision so to speak. Yet I could still sense the link between us.

"So what now?" Brian asked.

That was a good question.

I looked to Nathan who looked at me and said, "You're call."

"Can we go to my studio tonight and start work?" 

He bowed, "Your wish is my command."

TO BE CONTINUED...









Friday, July 17, 2020

The Artist - August 2009 Part VI


When I woke up, it was evening again. Apparently, I'd slept through the entire day - aside from being woken up to be given medicines or have my temperature taken. Around seven o'clock Jack, Brian and Nathan came into my room and closed the door behind them. That was when I knew something big was up. Especially with the looks on both Brian and Jack's faces. The two of them kept glancing uneasily at Nathan, which started making me nervous about him all over again. 

Something in my eyes must've shown because Nathan paused as he started to sit down next to my bed again. Frowning, he looked from me to the other two and back. Finally he said, "Great, now I know how you two guys felt when I was in mental contact with her, this morning. Now is anyone going to let me in on the secret or are we going to play charades? Which would be really tough on her, considering her condition."

I made a little noise to get his attention and then began inhaling deeply to get my point across.

"Oh, right," Nathan nodded and once more one of his hands misted allowing me to breath it in and communicate more freely.


"Why are they staring at you so anxiously?" I asked mentally, trying to keep my own anxiety in check.

Nathan gave the other two a look and turned back to me. "Because, I told them what I have in mind to help you finish your art piece in time for the exhibition," he said gently. "However, neither of them are all that sure you're going to like my proposal, or at least what it involves."

While I couldn't move my jaw without severe pain, I had no problem raising a questioning eyebrow at him. Finally I thought, "Care to elaborate?"

He thought for a moment before saying, "Depends. Do you want the full-scale slideshow presentation or the bottom line version?"

"Bottom line, please," was my reply.

"I'm going to give you access to my eyes and control of my hands," Nathan answered.

"Come again?" I asked mentally.

Leaning forward he explained. "As you said yesterday, I don't have the skills to manipulate the clay and do what's needed to get your sculpture ready.  But you do. You know how the clay should feel and how to handle the tools and whatnot. However, you can't leave this bed, at least not physically. But,  what if I took you with me to the studio 'mentally' so to speak?"


I admit I was both puzzled and intrigued. "Do you mean like how we're communicating right now? Through this bond you made?" 

"It will be something a bit stronger," he replied and leaned forward. "You'd actually be able to see through my eyes and even feel whatever I touch or manipulate with my hands."

For a moment I was tempted, then shook my head. "You still wouldn't know how to manipulate the clay or the tools..." I began.

"But you would if I let you control my hands," he cut in patiently. "Which is what I plan to do. Once we were in the studio I'd let you take over, up to a point. I'd get everything ready, under your guidance, but when it came time to actually work on the sculpture you'd be in charge. I'd be sort of in the background watching and experiencing what you do."

It sounded insane, yet at the same time I was intrigued. Then a thought hit. "What about my body back here? What will be happening to it?" 

"You'd basically be asleep," Nathan assured me. "You'd still be breathing and everything, It would just be your conscious self would be awake seeing and feeling through me."

I had to admit it sounded like a very good idea. Yet I couldn't stop glancing over at Brian and Jack, who were still looking uneasy, even worried.

They must've caught me staring at them because Brian finally spoke up. "Before anyone gets too excited, Nathan you might want to tell her what has to happen for this little experiment to take place." 

Immediately, my heart sank. For Brian to look this worried, it had to be something bad. Turning my gaze to Nathan I thought, "Is there something you haven't brought up yet?"

Without blinking my would-be savior shifted uncomfortably and then glared at the other two. For a second he put me in mind of the cartoon mouse "The Brain" shooting a dirty look at his partner "Pinky". A silent exchange of heated gestures passed between the three of them, before Nathan finally turned back to me and smiled sheepishly. "As a matter of fact, yes. Yes, there is..."

"And what is it?" Even without being able to move my mouth, I managed to put an pointed edge to the question.

"To make this happen, I'll need to bite you," he winced.

TO BE CONTINUED...