Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nathaniel's E-Journal, Feb. 5th, 20-- "Memories of Music and Fibromyalgia"

I had just gotten back to Pointer after doing some book signings up in Allentown Pennsylvania.  The night was still young, but I didn't feel like dropping in on Brian and his family.  After spending hours talking and signing books I felt like having some alone time.  So I headed downtown to where my club awaited.  

Being a Thursday night, I knew it wouldn't be open to the public so it was a safe bet I'd have the place to myself.  After quietly leaving my car near Doctor Jack's office, I walked the streets for a while in order to stretch my legs.  It felt good.

I never knew being an author could be so tiring at times.  Oh the late nights writing suit me fine, but ever since I signed a few deals with Hollywood, my presence has been in demand.  Meetings, lectures, book signings, and personal appearances have kept me busy lately.  So not having to be anywhere in particular and being able to wander a bit is very relaxing.

But as I drew close to the alleyway that led to my club, I spotted a familiar figure lingering nearby.

It was Teddy, one of my regular customers.  He's a nice kid who I helped out a few weeks ago when one of the jocks tried to bully him for asking a cheerleader to dance.  I put a stop to things rather quickly, especially when I realized he suffered from Fibromyalgia.  Ever since that night I've felt a kind of kinship towards him.  

Although I never got a diagnosis, I know I shared his affliction when I was even younger than him.  The constant pain left me tired and unsteady at times.  But I was labeled 'lazy' and 'clumsy' by many, including my father.  So I had to learn to hide my constant discomfort and fight my body's tendency to not want to cooperate at times.  I don't think my father ever realized how much work I put in to just trying to appear to be normal.  My mother on on the other hand knew better as did my little sister Isabella who often asked that I accompany her places to read to her.  Being so young and blessed with eyes like an angel's, Father barely ever refused her requests thus getting me out from under his watchful eye.

It wasn't that he was cruel, I think he simply believed that being firm with me would lead to my becoming a 'real' man down the road.  The idea of disappointing him always haunted me, which was part of the reason why I joined the Which is part of the reason I joined the 7th West Virginia Volunteer Regiment when the Civil War started.  The day I appeared before him and mother in uniform for the first time I could see the pride in his eyes. 

But I also saw something else, fear.  This is probably what led to his pulling me close, something he rarely did with me and said, "I know how much you hurt sometimes and that your body can betray you.  They say this'll be over before Christmas, so don't be foolhardy.  Come back in one piece and know I'm always going to be proud of you, my son."

Oh how I would've loved to have heard those words so much sooner, but just hearing them once was more than enough.  

Looking at Teddy I knew he could use some words of comfort as well.  His shoulders were slumped and in his face was a trace of tiredness I knew only too well.  

After a brief greeting I invited him inside the club.  He seemed surprised but was more than willing to accept my invitation.  We both knew the seats were comfortable and that the place would be nice and quiet.  

Soon we were sitting quietly near my piano, chatting away.  He was now dating Tina, a member of the cheerleading squad.  She wasn't the one he'd been asking to dance when the trouble started, but she had been on hand and had helped him up after I intervened.  Like him, she too suffers from Fibromyalgia, but that was not the reason he was alone tonight.  She had gone out of town to visit relatives, leaving him with time on his hands.

"So what brought you out this way?" I asked him. "You knew the club wouldn't be open tonight."

"Nothing," he replied, a little too quickly.  "I was just in the neighborhood and needed to take a moment to rest when you saw me."

He was hurting.  That much I was sure of.  But he also wasn't telling me everything.  I decided to dig a little deeper.  "You know, when my Fibro was acting up I didn't always feel like taking long walks."

Teddy gives me an odd look, but says nothing.

"And I know you live all the way over on the other side of town," I continued. 

This time I saw realization sink in and his shoulders sagged.  "Okay, I came all the way over here to try and get to the music store before it closed, but I didn't make it."

By this time my curiosity was aroused.  "What were you going to get there?  Sheet music?"

"No a guitar," he tells me.  "I've been getting lessons from one of my cousins for years now and I've gotten really good.  But I only really get to practice when I can borrow his or at school.  But I can't take the ones from school home with me.  So I saved my money and was going to finally get my own, but my Fibro slowed me down and... well, you know the rest."

I was both impressed and a little confused by his determination to get the instrument.  "You came all this way, even though you were hurting like hell to buy that guitar?  How come?  Why was it so important to you?"

He looked away from me and stared down at his hands.  "When I play, I lose myself in the music and I can forget the pain for a while.  I don't feel like a loser or a lame-o," he replied quietly.

"I know what you mean," I told him and stood up.  Wandering over to my piano I continued, "I cannot tell you how many times I've sat here and just cut loose so I could become lost in the music.  The same thing happens when I'm dancing as well.  I can forget whatever's bothering me and with that respite my mind can clear itself for a time.  Then, when I've finished, I feel recharged.  Invigorated and ready to face whatever's coming."

My fingers brushed the white keys ever so gently.  This piano and I were old friends.  It had been given to me by Jimmy Durante, the great Schnozzola himself, as a gift some years ago and I treasured it.  His charitable nature extended way beyond his friends.  I remembered all the work he did for boys, girls and teens all over.  

Just then I heard his voice as if it was coming from behind me saying those immortal words, "Do it for the kids." 

Without a second thought, I asked Teddy to stay put while I went down into the storage area.  After a brief search I found what I was looking for and came back with a guitar cases.  It had belonged to one of my many nephews who had given up playing after less than a year and had gone onto working on cars instead.

Opening the case I pulled the instrument out.  It looked as new as I remembered.  

Teddy gasped and came over to take a closer look.  "Oh man, it's a Gibson!  And it's in mint condition."

Smiling, I handed it to him and said, "See if it's still in tune."

It wasn't, but my companion quickly fixed rectified the problem.  He had a good ear and definitely knew his stuff.  Soon he was treating me to a display of his skills that held me in awe.  I've learned to play a number of instruments over the decades, but I'd never mastered the guitar.  Harps, keyboards, violin and a couple of wind instruments were my limit.  

But Teddy knew exactly what he was doing.  Watching his fingers flying up and down the guitar's neck and picking those strings was a marvel to behold.  He played for an hour and then we talked until it was time for him to go home.  I sent the guitar with him on 'permanent' loan.  To say he was grateful would be an understatement.  But I knew it would do better in his hands than just sitting in the storage room. Especially since I knew it would help him through those difficult times when the Fibro was getting too much.

I don't feel those pains anymore of course.  My condition freed me from the shackles of Fibromyalgia and a great many other infirmities.  But I never forgot what it felt like, or how even a small respite of any kind could mean so much.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lisa's Private Thoughts October 12th, 2011 "Vintage Clothing, Nathan, and Burlesque"

Uncle Nathan is the coolest guy ever!  

Back when we'd been in Europe he'd promised to take me to some places that had vintage clothing and today he did just that.  It was a raining today so we didn't have to worry about the sun bothering him as we drove around.  At the first place we stopped I found this really nice-looking old bustle skirt in black that fit just perfect.  Unfortunately, it was a little out of my price range, but not Nathan's.  He bought if for me.  

"It looked perfect on you," he explained.  "And I would know, I spent a lot of time looking at women from the front, from behind, all around in fact."

I gently slugged him on the arm for that one and called him a pervert to which he replied, "Excuse me, I did work in theater for a coupled of decades doing a lot of different jobs, including helping with people's outfits.  I had to make sure they looked right before they went on stage."

"Sure, you did," I teased back.

"Right, that does it," he announced and took me to a theater that was running a burlesque show.

Now before anyone freaks out, the show wasn't going to be on until later.  So the only people there were a couple of the girls who were rehearsing and the troupe's leader, a woman named Olivia.  Much to my surprise when she spotted Nathan her face lit up and she came running over to give him a big hug crying, "Uncle Nate!  Oh, how I've missed you.  Hey, everyone Nate's here!"

I swear one of these days I'm going to find out exactly how many people are part of his 'extended family' besides mine.  Back in Europe there were quite a few, but now I'm beginning to think that the the actual numbers are much larger.  

In this case it made sense.  Apparently a number of friends and cousins were in charge of this burlesque troupe.  I don't think all of them know his real secret as a couple of the people mentioned how unusual it was to see him in the day.  "You usually only come around at night when we have a show going," one mentioned.

Uncle Nate merely waggled his eyebrows and said, "Well, you have to admit the sites around here are much more interesting at night."

While everyone burst out laughing, I was given the grand tour backstage while Nathan was giving people a hand here and there with the backstage equipment and event he costumes.  Apparently he was telling the truth as several of the girls asked for his opinion and help with some of their outfits.  I think a few were trying to flirt, but mostly they did want his advice and help.

It was interesting to see all the inner workings of a theater backstage.  I'd never been behind the scenes before, so this was a real treat for me.  

Plus I got to see inside one of the dressing rooms where they kept all the clothing and make-up.   One of the things they all stressed to me was although I wanted to go for an authentic look I should also keep in mind, be able to move and breathe.  

"We don't just get out there and start stripping, we're dancing," one girl told me.  "We do splits and a lot of other acrobatics.  And some of us are wearing corsets and those can be constricting so if you're not careful you could make your life really miserable.  So choose items that allow movement and fabrics that breathe and you'll be okay."

I thought this was great advice, because the theater teacher at my high school has been complimenting me on my outfits lately.  She says I have an eye for style and authentic looks and has been hinting I should maybe join her class.  I told her I'd think about it and now I really am.  This could be a great experience for me and open up some doors down the road.  I may do it since I have more time to myself these days.  Marisa is still being distant, but at least now I know what's going on.  Her dad is fighting cancer and she's spending as much time with him as possible in case things go bad.   

I'd love to be there for her, but my parents say I should respect her wishes to be with her family more, so I'm giving her her space.  I'm still going to try and be there for her as much as possible, especially at school.  But I'm going to do as my parents say and giver her her space.  I just hope things go well so we can start hanging together again.  I really miss her.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nathaniel's Private E-Journal January 19th, 2011 "Night Flight"

Oh Alaska, how bewitching you are, I never tire of visiting you.  Earlier this evening I visited a  tavern/hotel made completely of ice.  And I'm not talking about just the building itself but all the decor inside was also made of ice.  The bar, the chairs, tables, even the glasses were all made of ice.  The artistry that went into each and every item was exquisite.  I could spend hours inside that place with my paints trying to capture the colors and beauty, to no avail.  Mostly because my paints or brushes would wind up freezing.  Just kidding.  It's cold inside but not nearly as bad as outdoors where the wind was howling.

But as much as I was enjoying myself, I began to hear the call.  It wasn't one you could hear with your ears.  No this was the call of the siren of the woods, beckoning for me to come and dance with her beneath the stars.  Her song was so alluring I didn't hesitate to answer.  

Soon I found myself out in the wild once more.  Above my old friends the stars smiled down upon me as I gazed up through frozen waterfalls.  It's nights like these where I truly believe that magic does exist in the world.  For all the technology and logic we're taught, the beauty nature can create on her own is beyond compare.

I almost felt like intruder in some ways.  The loud crunch of my feet in the snow made my self-conscious.  I began to feel like I was defacing the peace and beauty of the land.around me.  Then I thought back to one of my favorite movies, "The Fellowship Of The Ring" and remembered how Legolas actually walked and ran on top of the snow without disturbing it.  After a few tries I managed to lighten my step so as not to disturb the surface of the snow as I moved across it in silence.  

Soon I raced across the snow laughing and jumping, leaving no trace of my passing behind.  It felt exhilarating.  The feel of the breeze against my cheeks was invigorating.  I soon found myself wanting to ride the gentle wind and came to a halt underneath some trees.  Unlike the vampires of legend when I shift my shape, my clothing does not change with me.  Instead it remains behind while the rest of me takes whatever from I choose.  

Tonight, I chose bats.  

My hands and arms were the first to shift and break apart and free themselves of my garments.  Soon my shoulders and chest followed, along with my neck and head.  It's a strange experience, one that is not easy to put into words.  My senses change in ways one cannot imagine.  I don't mean merely the fact that I take on the keen hearing and senses of the animal form I take, especially when I become not one but many.  I am keenly aware of what's going on with every single one of me that separates.  I see and hear through its eyes and ears.  I feel the sensation of the breeze and smell of the air as my forms spread out across the night sky.  Its the same when I become a horde of rats or mice.  I'm aware of each tiny foot hitting the ground, every whisker that is tickled by a piece of grass or other object.  Yet I'm not overwhelmed by all the information.  Instead I can take it all in and analyze it without pause or hesitation.  And I can enjoy and revel in all of it.  It's wondrous.  

Much like the aurora that finally begins to pain the night sky above.  But this time I'm seeing it from multiple angles.  But even more importantly, I'm in the air and get closer than ever before.  There is a magic here and tonight I got to be a part of it.  As strange as my existence is, it can be a wonderful life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nathaniel's Private E - Journal January 16th, 2011 "Wolves and the Northern Lights"

I'm back in Alaska for the first time in over a decade and it feels great.  Unlike a lot of people, I like the cold and snow.  But even more importantly I like to be someplace where I can really unleash my powers and experience them to the fullest.  

I'm not talking about attacking creatures and sucking blood mind you.  I stick to my blood bags and I've got plenty of them on hand.  But up here I can be up and about more often, at least for a few months of the year.  The daylight hours are shorter up here, so I get to move around more and meet people.  I can go places and not have to load up so much on the red stuff.  

The stores are still open, people are out and about doing things like ice fishing, sledding, shopping, there's so much activity it allows me to feel like I'm not so cut off from daily life.  But what I really love is the wide open spaces, especially at night.

When I first became what I am, I felt so lost at first.  But it didn't last because I soon discovered the wonders of the night.  Back then there weren't so many towns and cities so the night sky was more clear.  There was less smoke and light pollution back then and a whole other reality was opened to me.

I can still remember the first time I emerged from the ground, having slept the daylight hours away in safety.  As my face surfaced the sight that greeted me was beyond words... 

I had never seen so many stars before.  Then again I hadn't really had the opportunity to look up.  As a child I was usually in bed long before the night sky fully took hold.  And when I was a soldier, I'd been trained to keep my eyes on the ground for traps, or to watch my surroundings because you never knew where Johnny-Rebel might be lurking.

But I'm not a soldier these days.  I can stare up into the night as much as I like.  But unfortunately, sometimes the sky isn't as clear as back then.  Which is why I come to Alaska.  

You may wonder what exactly is the connection between the night sky and unleashing my powers.  Well, when I say I 'unleash' my abilities, it's more a case of taking advantage of them.  Oh, I've had my fun with them in other places, but here it's different.  I have a different stage to work on with one of the most magical backdrops ever, the Aurora Borealis.

Imagine if you can having the ability to wander for hours on end, beneath such a wondrous sky.  From dusk to dawn I can watch the most spectacular show and not have to worry about how I do it.
Some nights I'll shift my form to that of a black wolf and race across the tundra, sometimes alone other times not.  On occasion I've met up with wolf packs who smelled I was more than a little different.  But a gentle release of spores soon pacified their misgivings and then we're off together running and hunting as one.  

It was on occasions like these where I'd allow my own hunting skills to come into play.  If I saw the pack was going to lose a kill I'd unleash my own unnatural speed and bring our target to a halt so the others could join in. However it depended on what we were hunting.  Females and offspring were a no-no.  I'd even use my powers to lead the pack off to find food elsewhere.

But if we were up against a huge bull moose or a bison all bets were off.  This may sound callous to some but one thing I've learned is nature has its cruel side.  Feast or famine.  Survive or die.  Those packs needed food just like any other animals, and because they'd accepted me as  one of their own I felt obligated to help them.  Basically it was my way of saying 'Thank you for letting me be part of your, even if it was just one night.'  

How many people ever got to say that?  

I have many more stories and experiences to share about Alaska, but for now I'm ending this entry here.  The Northern Lights are slowly appearing and I long for the wind on my face...

Good night.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Note From The Author Plus A New Entry From Nathaniel's Private E-Journal...

From the author: I hope everyone enjoyed the first, of what I hope will be many holiday tales shared around Christmastime.  It was supposed to be just a quickie short-story that I would put out on Smashwords as a free download for all, but obviously it grew as I continued to write.  Also, time was getting away from me due to my workload at my college.

So I wound up releasing the story in pieces here on my blog and over the course of days it continued to grow and grow.  In the end I wound up with not a short-story as planned but a novelette (a story between 7,000 and 20,000 words in length).  Not quite long enough to be a novella, but much larger than short-story.    Also due to the time-crunch what I posted here was basically a first draft, which would explain any editing errors some of you might have noticed as you read.

However, I'm still not quite done with the story.  I'm going to release it as a small novelette this coming Christmas.  It will basically be the same story that you read, but there will be an epilogue added to the end as well as original pen and ink illustrations created by me.  For those who don't know, I'm also an artist and have done the covers for my other novels that have already been published.  I'm aiming for pen and ink in the hopes that it will be easier to upload into e-book form as well as in print.  Yes, I intend to make a small paperback version for those who'd like to hold the book in their hands if at all possible.  I may also try using charcoal (which would simply be black and white, along with shades of grey).   Ideally, I'd use my favorite medium soft pastel, but I wouldn't be able to guarantee the quality of the colors in the printed form or on the computer.  However, I will be looking into it.  If anyone else out there has had some experience in color artwork in an e-book or in print, please tell us about it in the comment section below.

Now as I've told you all before, Nathan's first novel-length story will be coming out around either October or December of this year (2015).  Of course, I will have a number of new blog and e-journal entries for him and the other characters to post here.  I'll also be releasing another novel before then titled "The Door", which will be the third in my Para-Earth Series.  It will star several of the characters you already met in my holiday novelette, (Sergeant Veronica Ross, a grown-up Julie, and Police Chief Roy Petersen).  Alas Jason will not appear having joined his ancestors, but not before he passed the mantle of shaman on his niece.  If you'd like to read how this all happened, you can check out "The Bridge" and its sequel "The Ship":

NOTE: Both e-books are just $1.49 each for the next two weeks.  After that, the price will got back up to $2.99 a piece.  You can also sample the first 30 pages of each story for free at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  Just click on the title and start reading.  I'm providing the links right here:


With all that said, I hope to see more and more of you here as I supply you with more short tales of Nathaniel and his friends.  I plan to introduce more characters here as the year goes on, so keep reading and spread the word about this site.  Happy New Year to you all, as I step aside and let Nathaniel take the stage...

Nathaniel's Private E-Journal, January 1st, 2005

12:10 AM

I'm standing on a deck overlooking the great wide Pacific Ocean.  Another year has passed but I am not alone.  I am surrounded by members of my extended family located in Aptos, California.  Although that's not where I am at this moment.  We're standing near the famed Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk having just watched a fabulous fireworks display out on the water.

The Cloudfoots have been part of my life since 1999 when I first met Jason, the patriarch of these wonderful people.  As their name implies, they are of Native American descent, specifically they are Seneca one of the five original tribes that formed the Iroquois Confederacy.   

Together, Jason and I, along with Otto located his missing niece Julie who had run away from home just two days before Christmas.  The moment Jason and I locked eyes, I knew there was something different about him and I was right.  He was a shaman, one who knew about the Para-Earths, as Otto has named those alternate realities of this world.  Jason also knew right away I'd been to one and had come back changed, but he also knew I was still a good man and our friendship formed. 

He's here with me tonight enjoying the love and joy of his children and grandchildren.  Jason lost his wife two years ago, for which I was very sorry.  She had been a wonderful woman, warm and caring.  I'd spent that New Year's Eve with him, to make sure he did not face it alone.  Not that I had much reason to worry.  Julie and her parents were there as well.  It was the first time I'd seen her in 1999 and my how she'd grown.  From the pudgy little girl I'd help locate, she was now slightly taller than me and still growing.  She also had filled out in more ways than one, especially in the muscle department.  I feel sorry for any boy who pissed her off.  Not that she seems very interested in them.  A part of me suspects her yearnings lie elsewhere.  I just hope I never have to compete with her for a date.

Not that such a thing is likely.  I've kept to myself more since Veronica and I parted company three years ago.  I've found myself thinking about her a lot tonight.  Probably it's because of all the police officers watching over tonight's festivities.  There was one female officer in particular standing near her patrol car that caught my eye.  She looked nothing like Veronica, but the way the officer stood there reminded me so much of my red-headed love.

God she was amazing.  It's not often you find someone so passionate and dedicated, not only to you but to her work.  But I digress...

A new year stands before us all.  I have no idea what surprises this one will have in store for me or those I call 'family'.  But I know I will not face this new year alone which is a great comfort.  I have people like Jason, Otto, Brian, their families and so many others who's lives touch mine.  I think that's been the greatest gift of all.  Even though I have outlived so many people who I've loved, I am never truly alone.  And because I remember, none of them are ever forgotten.  

My existence is a strange one, but at least I find it serves so many others.  

Jason is proposing another toast to all so I better wrap this up.  A promising new year awaits and I for one am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Home For Christmas: A Para-Earth Holiday Tale" - Part Six


For several seconds no one moved.
Jason looked around.  He knew the opening had to be near here, but even he didn’t know its exact position.  And they didn’t have much time.  A part of him didn’t trust Sergeant Ross and her companions to not overreact if they saw the creature.  Besides, he felt they owed her for protecting Julie. 
There had to be a way to find the portal.
Just then he noticed Otto cupping his hands to his mouth.  A second later, his friend let out an amazingly accurate imitation of the low bellow they had heard before.
Jason was impressed.  He himself could imitate a great number of animal calls, but only after he’d heard them a number of times and had practice long hours.  Otto, on the other hand, had done it perfectly after just hearing the call once. 
In fact the call had been so accurate, even ‘Big Mama’, as Nathan referred to the animal, reacted.  Luckily, the young man was still with her and began stroking her large muzzle to calm her down, while saying, “Easy, false alarm.  We’re just trying to get our bearings.”
But just as the great beast settled down an answering cry, louder than the last one, came back.
Beaming Otto cried, “Got it!  This way my friends, Nathaniel, get her to follow.”
However, the young man did not respond.  Instead his eyes seemed fixed on the opening of the cave.
Jason followed his gaze and saw two figures watching them closely.  “Ah,” sighed and went over to Nathan.  “Come, we must get her home first.  They will wait until we return.”
“Don’t worry, they aren’t going anywhere.”
“Who isn’t going anywhere?” called Otto staring at them and then at the cave.  “I don’t see anyone.  Now come, we have to get her home before the opening closes.”
Nathan sighed and shook his head.  “Damn,” the young man murmured and turned away. 
Quietly, Jason studied the boy and his dog then made a slight gesture in their direction.  The two seemed to understand and headed back in the cave, while he followed his ‘three’ friends further into the woods.
‘Big Mama’ seemed to sense what was coming.  She was becoming more and more excited as they moved forward, and it was getting a little harder for Nathan to control her.  But every so often a stream of green mist seemed to snake out from beneath his coat and she’d calm down again. 
Moving past them, Jason caught up with Otto who was leading the way and asked, “How will we know we’ve found the opening?”
“If we’re at the correct angle, we will see it,” his friend assured him.  “Otherwise, we could literally walk right by it and just hear strange noises from among the trees.”
Hearing this, Jason peered deep into the forest ahead.  After several moments, he spotted something that definitely did not belong.  “There it is!” he whispered. 
Otto looked at him, “You’ve spotted it already?  What does it look like?”
“Something wondrous,” was all he could say.

Nathan had overheard everything his two friends were saying and smiled.  He could now sense the opening himself, and so could his charge.  She was becoming very excited, sniffing the air eagerly.  Still he did not relinquish his control over her, for fear she might rush ahead and accidentally run his companions over. 
But it was getting harder, so as one of her massive front paws came down in the snow, he scurried up her arm and onto her shoulders.  She did not seem to mind in the least.  Nor did she flinch when a couple of his fingers elongated into narrow sharp tips which slowly penetrated her thick skin.
However instead of drawing from her, he allowed a small amount of himself to pass into the creature.  It was just enough to establish a link between them.  Then he focused his eyes straight ahead. 
The animal paused and shifted in wonder.  He knew she was now seeing through his eyes and was amazed at what lay before her. 
The opening was clearly visible now.  It was like a scene from another time that had super-imposed itself over the dark forest landscape.  Ice and snow seemed to stretch for miles, while in the sky ever shifting colors, similar to the northern lights glowed and danced.  Amidst the white were moving shapes some of which resembled creatures who had walked the world he knew, while others were completely unknown.
But close to the opening were several beasts whose size and shape were very familiar to him.
Big Mama seemed to recognize them as she called out and they responded in kind.
Knowing the time had come he called out, “Uh guys… you might want to move to one side.”
Otto and Jason did as instructed, just as his mount lunged forward as quickly as her game leg would allow.
Within seconds Nathan found himself in that other version of Earth caught amidst a family reunion of sorts.  The other sloth-like beings crowded around Big Mama, sniffing and rubbing against her in a most welcoming manner.
It soon became clear he wasn’t going to be able to get down easily.  Not unless he wanted to be accidentally stepped on.  But then he heard chanting from behind and turned see Jason and Otto had followed them into this place. 
The other creatures seemed intrigued by their presence and in particular the shaman’s song.  The moved away slightly, allowing Big Mama to lower herself into the snow. 
Taking the hint, Nathan slid down and stroked her muzzle one last time.  “Merry Christmas,” he murmured to her and then headed over to where his friends waited.
As soon as he joined them, Jason brought his song to an end. 
A moment later, the ‘reunion’ started up once more as their charge was herded gently away from the opening and up the nearest hill.  Towards the top she stopped and turned, sniffing the air once more and called back to them before heading off with her family.

For a moment the three men stood there staring at the wondrous sights around them.  But then Jason said, “Sergeant Ross will be looking for us, and she’ll have others with her.”
“True,” Otto sighed and led the other two back out the way they’d entered.
“How long will the opening last?” Jason asked once they were back in the forest>
“Another day, maybe two,” Otto replied.  “I’d like to come back here tomorrow and do a little exploring, if you don’t mind Nathan.”
“I can load up on the red stuff and join you,” his friend offered. 
“We’ll see,” Otto told him, “We have no idea how much sun there might be, and remember it would reflect off all that snow and ice.  It might be too much for your system even if it was well fed.  Besides, the weather report for around here is more snow.  I’d rather you deal with any remaining questions Sergeant Ross may have.”
“Indeed,” Jason smiled, “I have a feeling she’ll want to ‘see’ him alone.”
Otto couldn’t resist nudging his young friend and saying, “You dog, you.”
Before Nathan could respond, they came to the clearing near the rocks just as Veronica and several officers, including one who appeared to be her boss.
“There you are,” she cried upon spotting them.  “Did the bear come back at all?”
Otto shook his head and turned to Jason who said, “No, she didn’t.  I think she knew her work was done and has gone home.  Black bears are rarely seen in these parts because they try to avoid humans, but a child in distress was enough for her to make an exception.”
“Huh?  I’ve heard of wild animals protecting or adopting children, but never thought I’d see the day it actually happen,” commented the gruff-looking officer.  Then the man looked at him and Nathaniel and said, “I’m Police Chief Roy Petersen, thanks for your help in finding the girl.  We appreciate it.”
“We were happy to help,” Otto replied and then noticed the fellow looking at him curiously. 
“Have we met before?” the man asked, “I could swear you seem familiar, especially with that accent.”
“I doubt it, this is my first time here in Connecticut,” Otto shook his head. “I don’t come over to America very often.”
Just then Veronica frowned and said, “But Nathan said the two of you investigate reports of strange creatures, like Bigfoot and whatnot.”
‘From now on Nathan does not get to do the talking,’ thought Otto as he quickly came up with a reply. “This is true.  But we look into reports from various countries.  There are legends rumors of unknown animals all over the world.”
This seemed to satisfy her as she shot a glance at Nathan who smiled back.
Otto quietly resigned himself to the fact that they would probably be sticking around at least for a few more days.

“How is Julianna?” asked Jason, anxious to know how his niece was doing.  He would’ve dearly loved to have held and spoken to her for even just a few minutes, but circumstances being what they were had prevented it.
“She’s fine, in fact she’s doing really well,” Chief Petersen smiled.  “Dispatch got a call from your wife just as we were heading out.  Your brother and his family were found alive and well out at sea.  Their ship took a pounding during the storm which drove them way off course and knocked out their radio equipment.  But everyone’s fine and they’re being towed back to port even as we speak.  With a little luck, they’ll be joining you on Christmas day.  So it looks like our work is done here.”
“Indeed it does,” he smiled back and then noticed Nathan glancing back at the cave and thought, ‘Almost.’

As the clock struck midnight, Jason made his way through the snow once more.  Julianna was safe and resting comfortably.  He’d asked her many questions about her experience and her responses had both warmed his heart and troubled him slightly.  She remembered things exactly as Nathan had instructed, but she had asked questions about things like how large the ‘bear’ had been.  To her the animal that had protected her had seemed much larger than any black or even grizzly bear.  And there had been something odd about the beast’s claws…
He sighed inwardly.  She was going to follow the path, just as he and his brother had.  He had hoped it would be one of his own children, but they had not shown any sign of interest or talent for it.  In fact, they hardly showed any inclination to even really learn the stories or herbal remedies that had been passed down through the years.  Whereas his niece, she could never get enough.
It was something he’d have to discuss with his brother, but after the holidays.  There was no need to burden him with what may come to pass down the road. 
Besides, there was another who needed his help right now.
He had just reached the area where the cliff face stood with its low narrow cave entrance.  His ears could detect voices coming from inside.  One of them he recognized and smiled.  Yes, he had not been mistaken in placing his trust in his new friends, particularly this one.
Closing his eyes, he listened carefully, filtering out the sounds of the wind and trees until he could hear ‘them’.

“So you’re parent’s car flipped over and you were thrown from the wreck?” Nathan was saying to the twelve-year old boy before him.  The lad was huddled up close to his dog. 
He could clearly see the boy’s dog still seemed uncertain about what to make of him.  But there was little he could do about it.  Misting would not help in this particular case.
“That’s right,” Michael nodded.  “I tried to reach the car to get at my parents, but I could see from all the blood they were dead.  Then that big animal started roaring and stomping around and Riff and I took off running.”
“Looks like you hit your head pretty good,” Nathan remarked.  “That’s quite a bump you got there.”
“Yeah,” the boy nodded, touching his head.  “I must’ve hit the doorframe when I got thrown.  I remember feeling really dizzy as me and Riff headed into the woods.  He stayed with me the whole time, wouldn’t leave my side even once.”
“Then you found this cave and crawled inside, am I right?”
“We had to,” Michael told him.  “That thing was still out there and it seemed to be following us.  When Riff led me to the cave, I could see right away the thing wouldn’t be able to get inside, so I let him help me in and then we just curled up together and waited for the creature to go away.”
“Only it didn’t, it kept hanging around didn’t it?”
“Yeah,” the boy nodded and touched his head.  “Dunno how long we’ve been in here.  I kind of fell asleep and then I heard that girl crying and knew the creature would go after her so…”
“So you called out to her and tried to keep her safe?”
“Yeah, I didn’t want it to hurt her like it did my folks.”
Nathan frowned, “I thought you said the creature killed them.”
The boy hesitated, “I thought so too, but when I was asleep I dreamed I heard them calling to me.  And then today, when I was watching you and the others dealing with the thing, I heard them again.  Do you think they might be okay?”
Before he could answer, Nathan’s sharp ears detected chanting coming from outside the cave.  He recognized the voice immediately, but the song was different than the one he’d heard earlier.  Yet it filled him with a sense of longing.
Then he heard more voices calling as if from a distance, but getting nearer.
Both Michael and Riff heard them too and stood up.  “That sounds like Mom and Dad… can you hear them?  Or am I just dreaming again?”
“No,” Nathan assured him, “I hear them too.”
Michael started forward and then stopped, “What if the creature is still out there or comes back?”
“It won’t,” Nathan assured him.  “She’s gone home and now it’s your turn.”
The boy hugged his dog and murmured, “I’m afraid.”
“I’ll carry you, both of you,” Nathan offered and removed the dark heavy cloak he’d changed into before coming back here. After wrapping both Michael and Riff in it, he lifted them up and headed for the opening.
“I hope we’re not too heavy for you,” the boy whispered as they drew closer to the entryway.  “Riff’s pretty big.”
“You guys aren’t that heavy,” Nathan assured him and even felt a faint wagging of a tail as he stepped out into the clearing. 
There off to his left he spotted Jason continuing his chant, while a man and a woman stood near the trees with their arms outstretched.  “Michael!” they cried in unison. 
“Mom!  Dad!” the boy cried and rushed to meet them, with Riff following close behind. 
Nathan stayed still, his arms still held out as the reunited family hugged and laughed, before slowly fading before his eyes.
Once they were gone, Jason finished his chant and approached him.  “Do not look sad my friend, they’ve been searching for him all this time. And now they have all moved on, just as you have.”
“Is it that obvious?” Nathan asked, shifting the bundle in his arms ever so gently.
“How long have yours been gone?”
“Over a hundred and thirty years,” Nathan told him.  “But I do have other family.  It’s an extended family which is composed of many homes and people who know what I am, and that I’ll always watch over them.”
“My people belonged to the Iroquois, and we used to live in longhouses that were comprised of many families who lived together,” Jason remarked.  “You’re extended family sounds much the same.  I would honored if you would count my family among them.”
Nathan thought about it for a moment and then said, “I’d like that too.  But, some of them are going to have to know the truth about me.  I don’t age like normal people.  If I keep coming back to visit, I’ll either have to wear make-up to look older or…”
“My wife and my eldest boys are fully aware of the other worlds,” Jason interrupted.  “Remember, I told you before about that which my ancestors imprisoned so long ago.  Well, that prison still exists and it is my job to keep watch over it and make sure the thing does not escape.  After I’m gone one of my children, or possibly one of my brother’s, will take over the job.”  Here the shaman paused and turned to him and said, “I would feel better knowing they had someone like you to help guard their back.”
Nathan smiled, touched by his friend’s words.  “Of course I will.”
"Good, it would be nice to add to my family at Christmas.  You and Otto will join us."
Hearing the note of finality in his friend's voice, Nathan nodded.  "Of course,"
As those two words left his lips the beam of a flashlight appeared among the trees. 
A moment later, the familiar form of Chief Petersen, followed by one of his male officers appeared.  “Okay Jason, I’m back just like you asked.  What did you find…?  Oh no, please don’t tell me that’s Rachel?” 
“No, it’s Michael Broughman,” the shaman replied.
“The boy who disappeared after his parent’s car crashed eight years ago?”
“I’m afraid so,” Nathan nodded. 
“Where did you find him?”
“Inside the cave,” Jason answered.  “Julianna told me about a boy she’d seen in there who’d helped her.  We never saw anyone come out, so Nathan and I came back to see if he was still there.”
“And apparently he was,” Roy shook his head in disbelief.  “But she said he ‘helped’ her?  How?  Are you telling me she saw a ghost?”
“Perhaps,” Jason shrugged.
“Or maybe she simply saw the shadow of the remains and imagined he was real,” suggested Nathan.  “The mind can play tricks on people, especially when their stressed or upset.”
 Chief Petersen took a closer look at the bundle and nodded.  “Looks like the boy took a nasty blow to the head in the crash, probably a concussion.  The dog knew he was hurt and wouldn’t leave him so it tried to keep him warm and they both froze to death,” he sighed.  “Well, at least now they can reunited with his folks and rest in peace together.”

“They already are I’m sure,” Nathan heard Jason reply as they both stared out into the woods which glowed like a frozen cathedral in the night..


Thursday, December 25, 2014

"Home For Christmas: A Para-Earth Holiday Tale" - Part Five


As soon as Veronica ended her chat with Jason, she changed the channel on the radio.
“What are doing?” asked Nathaniel watching her closely. 
“Switching to the police frequency, I need to let the others know we’ve found Julie’s trail,” she replied.  As soon as she heard the familiar chatter of her fellow officers she hit the button.  “Attention all officers, this is Sergeant Ross, I’ve found the girl’s footprints and their fresh.”
A brief round of cheers and congratulations were offered, then one gruff voice burst out of the radio saying, “Good job, Sergeant.  I’m with a team of volunteers at the opening in fence where you left the flares.  Can you give us your position?”
“We’re deep within the woods off to your left as you look into the field, Chief” she responded.
After a moment Roy’s voice came back saying, “Who’s we?”
“I ran into Jason Cloudfoot and a couple of ‘Bigfoot’ hunters who volunteered their help,” she replied and gave Nathan an apologetic look.  He rolled his eyes and shook his head with a smile.  Then he mouthed ‘I’m going to try and find her trail again,’ and moved a few yards ahead.
Just then Roy’s voice came over the radio again.  “Oh for God’s sake, someone else looking into that damn Yeti or Winter-Beast folks keep talking about.”
Veronica frowned.  “You mean there really is some kind of Abominable Snowman around here?” she asked, thinking about the strange howl they’d heard moments before.
“Yeah, it was first seen about thirty years ago.  Some big creature covered in white fur that only shows up in winter.  Supposedly it caused an accident the year before I took over as Chief of Police.  A couple lost control and crashed just about where I’m standing.  They were killed in the crash.  Their son, along with his dog, apparently had been thrown from the car.  Their footprints were found leading into the woods, along with a third set of prints that no one could identify.  They were huge and described as ‘monstrous-looking’.”
“Oh really?” she murmured, thinking back to the strange bellow she and Nathan had heard a few moments ago.  “Did they find the boy?”
There was a pause before she heard Roy quiet reply, “Not to my knowledge.  Look, we ain’t got time for legends.  I see another flare and then what looks like some glowing lights leading into the woods.  Is that you’re doing?”
“Yeah, we were marking our path so we could find our way back out,” she told him.
 “Thank God, for a minute there I’d thought someone had decided to decorate the entire woods for Christmas.  I’m seeing some more off to my right, should I be sending any men that way?”
“Those they were left by Jason and another volunteer when we split up.  Don’t bother following those, the four of us are heading for a rocky area west of your current position.  We think Julie might have headed that way.”
“Copy that.  Stay put and we’ll follow the trail you’ve left,” her boss instructed.
“Negative, we’ve just heard a loud roar or bellow a few moments ago.  It might have been a bear or something, we’re going to investigate.  I’ll be dropping more of glow sticks for you to follow.”
“Understood, but proceed with caution Sergeant.  We’ll bring some extra fire power just in case,” Roy instructed, and then added quietly, “And Ronnie, be careful.  Don’t do anything foolish.  I know how bad you want to find the girl.”
Veronica smiled, touched by her old partner’s concern.  “I’ll be all right, I’ve got good help with me,” she replied, glancing at Nathan whose head suddenly snapped up.  His eyes were closed and his brow furrowed, as if he was in deep concentration.
Curious she drew closer and waited. 
After several seconds she reached out a hand and was just about to touch his right shoulder when his eyes snapped open.  “I know exactly where she is!” he cried, leaping to his feet.
“How…?” Veronica began but he cut her off with a look and said quietly, “She’s not alone.”

*   *   *   *   *

Julie still couldn’t believe what was happening.  The huge beast had just finished snuffling her from head to toe and then let out the most piteous bellow she’d ever heard.  Now it was trying to curl up around her as if to keep her safe from the cold. 
Did it understand that she was lost and upset? 
It seemed like that was the case.  Uncle Jason had told her before that some animals will respond to the cry of a baby or child as if it had come from one of their own offspring.  It seemed to trigger a mothering instinct in them and… a female!  This thing, whatever it was, had to be a female.  And now it was trying to mother and protect her.
But what was it?  She’d never anything like it before.  It clearly wasn’t a bear.  Plus it was way larger than a grizzly.  So what was it?  Glancing over at the cave, she could see Michael and his dog standing in the entrance looking confused and uncertain.
Then she heard voices in the distance, a man and a woman’s.  She didn’t recognize either of them, and although they were calling out, she didn’t hear her name.  Instead it sounded like they were calling for someone else…
 Suddenly she spotted movement in the snow.  They were small and she couldn’t make them out clearly, but they appeared to be mouse-shaped.  There were dozens of them.  Their dark forms stood out clearly against the white-snow. 
A moment later, more voices could be heard, along with the sound of fast feet crunching through the snow.  Then she heard her name being called, “JULIE?”
“I’m over here!” she cried and then noticed the animal holding her seemed to become startled and afraid.  “Move slower, your frightening her!” she added loudly and tried to calm her protector by gently stroking its thick fur. 
“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered, “I won’t let them hurt you.” 
The great beast seemed to respond to her gentle touch and relaxed as two figures emerged from the woods, one tall the other short and bearded.
“Uncle Jason!” she smiled and then quickly said, “Don’t hurt her.  She’s protecting me.”
“I can see that,” her relative nodded and smiled staring at the beast. 
His companion shook his head in awe and his mouth stretched into a wide grin.  “Oh, she is magnificent.  You did say it was a ‘she’ right?”
Julie nodded.
“Definitely from a cold climate,” the stranger muttered as he slowly approached.  “No wonder she only appears in winter, she follows the snow.  What a clever girl you are,” he added excitedly.
The animal seemed to sniff around in his general direction until it located the man and apparently decided he was not a threat.  Then it did the same towards Uncle Jason with similar results. 

Otto studied the great beast carefully.  It reminded him somewhat of the Giant Sloths that had wandered this Earth during the Ice Age, only this one had other adaptations such as white fur and those massive claws.  No doubt they were for bringing down tall tree branches and other hard to reach flora.  It didn’t have the snout or teeth for taking down large prey, although it might also indulge in fish from streams.
In any case, it was a magnificent specimen.  It also seemed to be...
“Lost,” Jason murmured beside him.  “The creature is lost.  It’s looking for something, but cannot find it.”
“The way home?” Otto suggested.  “That would explain why it keeps coming back here in winter.  It knows the doorway is near, but has not been able to find it because it only opens every ten years.  The question is why didn’t it find the portal the last time it was open?”
“Look at how it moves.  It searches by sound and smell.  I do not think it can see,” the shaman replied.  Then he called to his niece, “Julianna, can your friend see?”
The dark-haired girl shook her head, “No, she’s blind.  I saw her eyes they were pale and milky.  She can’t see at all, so she searches by sound and smell.”
“Ah, that explains much,” Otto nodded. 
“Yes, Jason agreed, “It will need our help to find the opening so it can go back to being among those who are searching for it.”
Otto was about to ask Jason how he knew this when another great bellow rang out.  Only this time it had not come from the creature before them.  It had come from elsewhere, unfortunately the sound echoed off the walls of the cliff and seemed to come from all directions. 
The animal before them looked up and around as if confused and gave a plaintive cry of its own in response.  Soon the creature seemed to become agitated and began moving around, carrying the girl with it.
“NO…” Jason began when a figure appeared out of the woods.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” Sergeant Ross cried upon spotting the animal and immediately pulled out her weapon.  But then a green mist seemed to rise up from the ground and engulfed her, the huge beast, and its precious charge.

Jason stared in awe as the unnatural haze seemed to have a calming effect on those caught within its grasp.  The cloud hovered around the trio for several seconds, defiantly resisting all attempts by the wind to push it away.  Then it slowly slunk back in among the trees, where Sergeant Ross had emerged.  Then the blood-red mice who dotted the snow, followed and a few moments later, Nathan stepped into the clearing and walked right up to the animal.
Stretching out two arms the young man said in a soothing voice, “It’s okay, you’ve done your job. I’ll take her from here, she’ll be safe.  You’ve done well, Big Mama.”
The great beast obediently released its charge into Nathan’s waiting arms and even gave a gentle nuzzle to the girl before moving away from the pair.
Then Nathan turned to Sergeant Ross and quietly told her to holster her gun, which she did without question.
“Good, now take Julianna and head back to your boss and the others.  You found the girl being protected by a mama grizzly who was all covered in snow.  The animal thought she was a cub who needed protecting and was keeping her warm until you and I showed up.  Then she got up and took off, it was a Christmas miracle,” he told her.
Unfortunately, the sergeant’s mind was not so easily swayed.  “But grizzlies are brown and the thing I saw was white…”
“That was the snow sticking to the bear’s fur.  She’d been staying put after curling up around the little girl,” Nathan pointed out casually.
“Oh… yeah, it was amazing,” Sergeant Ross nodded and started to head back the way she’d come.  Then she paused and said, “Aren’t you coming?”
“I’m waiting for Jason and Otto to catch up.  As soon as they’re here we’ll follow.”
Jason watched the policewoman scan the area and even look right at him.  “All right,” she nodded.  “But if you don’t show up in ten minutes with the two of them I’m coming right back.  I can’t leave you hanging out here in the dark by yourself.” 
With that she disappeared into the woods, following the trail of glowing sticks.

Nathan blew a sigh of relief as soon as Veronica and the girl were gone.
‘That was close,’ he thought as he headed over to where Jason and Otto were waiting.
He’d actually been able to hear most of the conversation passing between Otto, Jason and the little girl thanks to his ‘minions’.  Since they were actually made up of him, he was able to see through their eyes and hear through their ears.  So he knew what to expect when he and Veronica arrived on the scene.  But he hadn’t expected her to pull out her weapon so quickly.
Luckily he’d been able to take his mist form which had a calming effect on most beings, especially mammals.  It also had the added effect of making them more pliant and easy to suggestion.  He’d kept his ‘revision’ of what happened close enough to the truth so that neither Julianna’s nor Veronica’s mind would reject what he’d told them.
Still, the fact that Veronica had questioned him about the animal’s fur was a bit surprising.  She obviously had a strong mind and will, but she seemed to accept his explanation.   He might need to stick around for a few days to just to make sure his suggestion did wind up sticking. 
Of course, if they succeeded in getting the animal home it would be moot point.  There would be no way for Veronica to check up on what she really saw.  Even if she remembered that Otto and Jason were actually here when she arrived, both would tell her they’d seen a snow covered grizzly bear.

Reaching his friends he sighed, “Okay gentleman, we have ten minutes to get this creature back to her own reality and home in time for Christmas.  How are we going to do it?”