Monthly Archives: July 2013

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 2.

Here we are at another week gone by. Hope it’s been a good one for you all. I’m rather excited that Soul Cages and Cubicles, Blood, and Magic will have print editions out before the winter holidays.

There is also definitely going to be a published sequel to Cubicles, because I finished the second draft last week. Now there’s the rounds of editing and the copy editing, so the release time is still a ways off–especially since the second draft came in at over 156,000 words. The first draft was over 168,000 words, and of that first draft, over 90,000 words got thrown out completely. I basically had to write the middle and end parts of the book over again from scratch, but it was worth it, for the second draft is much, much better.

But on to Marian and her difficulties after the move to Albuquerque in Soul Cages. It’s a hard road ahead for her, but it’s worth it to take the journey with her. (The rating is around PG-13 .)

Soul Cages

Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

2

Don’t worry if you look grungy and smell like a motel room, I told myself. That way you’ll be unappealing to the oh-so-great Matthew.

I saw Dad rub at his bald spot as he approached the front door—Dad was nervous.

Mom whispered to me and Henry, “I can’t wait for you all to meet Gena’s husband. Pastor Andervender’s such a spiritual man … he’ll help us make a new beginning out here.” She smoothed Henry’s hair with her fingers, and he flapped his hands at her to make her stop. She winked at me. “Gena says he has the gift of healing.”

I tensed at those last words. Please God, no, not another cure attempt. Don’t tell me we moved all this way for that.

Mom watched me closely.

It was no coincidence Mom had chosen this moment to tell me. She knew I wouldn’t cause a scene in front of strangers.

And Dad had gone along with this surprise.

“Just give me a second,” Dad called out to whoever was waiting. His key kept jamming in the double-cylinder deadbolt. Mom walked down the hall to hover next to the door.

I breathed deep to keep from hyperventilating.

If I’d known … if I’d just known, I could have—

What? Stopped them from selling a house you didn’t own? Stopped them from hauling Henry anywhere they wanted to? Riiiight.

Henry’s fingers flicked at his legs. Stress sign. It would have been better to have him only deal with a new house today.

How I wished Grannie were alive—Grannie’d known how to talk sense into Dad, and could coax Mom around despite her complaints about Grannie being a nosy mother-in-law. Tears formed in my eyes. I was scared. The last cure attempt had been so horrible. I tried to ignore the joyful cries outside of Gena! Kelly!

“So glad you all made it here safe and sound by God’s will,” said a deep male voice that raised my hackles. Pastor Andervender stepped through the doorway, blocking the light, as Dad held the door open. I couldn’t make out the pastor’s features. He shook Dad’s hand and said, “So glad to finally meet you, Mr. Hawthorn.”

“Call me Victor,” Dad said.

Andervender’s laugh boomed down the hall. “Call me Pastor Andervender.”

Dad called out, “Marian, Henry, come and meet the pastor of our church.”

I pasted on a smile and came forward, Henry behind me. The hall breeze carried a scent of aftershave and lilac perfume—Henry covered his mouth to keep from blurting that out. He’d finally learned not to comment on people’s scents.

Andervender took another step in, and my skin prickled. The man was a bulky blend of fat and muscle in a suit.

“So,” Andervender said, “this is Marian and Henry.” I didn’t like how he looked around the place, as if he were the one who had built this house and then given it to us.

I held out my left hand, so he had to switch his hands. His palm was dry and gripped too tightly. He said, “I look forward to seeing you at the Youth Group meetings. Your parents have told me all about you—how you have been such a great help with Henry’s affliction.”

Youth group? Henry’s “affliction?” I raised my eyebrows at Dad to try to get him to correct Andervender, but Dad ignored me.

Andervender held out his hand to Henry, but Henry just stared at it.

Dad ahemed.

Andervender lowered his hand. “It’s a pity when spirits damage a child.”

Dad squirmed slightly, but said nothing about these weird words by Andervender. Before I could think of a polite way to correct the pastor, Mom and Gena came in.

“So, you must be Marian,” Gena said, and kissed me on the cheek. Her lips left a sticky spot. Gena not only smelled of lilacs, but was decked out in a lilac-patterned dress.

Watching Gena try to kiss Henry on the cheek was like watching a robin pecking at a worm. Every time Gena got close, Henry leaned away before her lips could touch him. Finally she gave up.

I hated the looks passing between the four adults over Henry’s avoidance of being touched.

Mom gave a nervous laugh. “I’d invite you to sit down,” she said as she gestured at the living room, “but as you can see, we don’t have any furniture.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Andervender said. “And I can guarantee there’ll be a large turnout of men tomorrow to get the moving vans unloaded since it’ll be Saturday. I told them to start arriving at nine, and we’ll come with the boys around eight.”

“Oh,” Gena said, “so silly of me, I forgot. I’ve brought a few frozen meals for your freezer, Kelly. The last thing you need to be worrying about right now is cooking.”

Andervender said, “I’ll get them, dear.”

As Andervender went outside, my parents and Gena talked about the drive cross-country. I watched Henry sneak over to the living room window and shove back the curtains—a trio of doves were on the dead lawn, scratching at the dirt.

Andervender huffed back inside with a large cooler.

“Oh, no, really,” Mom said, “you didn’t have to—”

“But I wanted to,” Gena said. “I love to cook.”

“Gena’s roast beef is excellent,” Andervender said.

We followed Andervender into the kitchen—he knew exactly where to go, and insisted on lugging the cooler without help. After he lowered it next to the refrigerator, he stepped back.

Mom lifted the lid, and gaped down at the frozen packages. “This is, is, wonderful,” she said. Mom sounded to me like she was going to cry. I felt like saying, Well, he wants you in this church of his, so they’re going to talk us up sweet.

Dad also looked blown away by the thought of someone cooking up food for us.

Andervender said, “I believe in taking care of my flock.”

When Grannie had found out Henry and I were unchurched (though baptized as babies), she’d hauled us off to Patience United Methodist Church whenever we stayed with her in Raleigh. I had helped Grannie cook meals and take them to sick parishioners. I did not like the way Gena and her husband were watching Mom and Dad.

Mom said, “We’re so grateful for the help in finding this place. It’s going to be just right.”

The Andervenders set us up with this house. I had the sinking sensation that the Andervenders would be meddling in our lives a lot.

I helped Mom load up the freezer, and wondered when the other shoe would drop. “Nothin’ is free,” as Grannie would have said. Grannie and Mom had not gotten along at all. Grannie liked to smoke, and would do so, no matter how many pamphlets Mom left behind at the nursing home about the hazards of smoking.

The aluminum foil of a package stuck to my skin, tugging at my fingers as I put it into the freezer.

“Clouds,” Henry said. He poked at the wisps of cold moisture the freezer spilled out.

The doorbell rang. I noticed that neither Gena nor Andervender looked around for a phone.

Andervender said, “That must be Matthew and John.”

Mom and I finished up with the freezer as Dad went to answer the door.

Andervender wandered over to the double sink and fiddled with the faucets, turning them on and off.

Dad came back in, followed by a hulking teen in khakis and a shirt and tie, who froze in the archway and nervously licked his lips. Then he began to back out.

Come in, Matthew,” Andervender said, “and meet the Hawthorns.” He moved away from the sink. “This is Mrs. Hawthorn.”

Matthew came forward to shake Mom’s hand, and that allowed in another teen, this one wearing gold-rimmed glasses. Must be John.

John stared at his sneakers. He had his dad’s blond hair, but he wore a T-shirt and jeans smeared with pine sap. Henry will be thrilled. His baseball cap was in danger of falling out of his jeans pocket.

He looks like “geek meets gardener.” Nicole will think that’s funny. But something is putting him in a funk.

Andervender was saying, hand on Matthew’s shoulder, “—then Matthew’ll be going to Ft. Worth Bible College in August to major in business. Gena’s brother Fritz has offered to house him his freshman year s—”

“Hey!” Henry pointed at John and ignored the frantic gestures of Mom to shut up. “You’ve got pine sap on you. Get that when I climb trees to observe.”

“John! Just look at you,” Gena said.

I watched John shift uncomfortably when he realized everyone was staring at him. He said, “Dad said there’s swamp coolers that need fixing.”

Now it was Gena’s turn to look confused. “Oh, I didn’t know that. So that’s why…” Gena brightened up, and said to Mom, “John’ll be able to take care of your swamp cooler troubles.”

Andervender beamed as he looked at each of his sons, and reached out his free hand to John.

John hesitated for an instant, then went over. Andervender placed his hand on John’s shoulder. “Here is our second-oldest son, John. He’ll be going to Ft. Worth Bible College next year to study theology, just like I did at his age.”

Then Gena and Andervender proceeded to take turns boasting about John’s future plans to be an assistant pastor at First Beginnings, his good works amongst the congregation, his extensive knowledge of Scripture—while John winced at the recitation. I felt a twinge of sympathy.

Then the introductions resumed. All too soon I had to shake Matthew’s hand while the grown-ups watched expectantly. Matthew shook my hand too fast.

Ugh, Gena’s been talking about me to Matthew. Well, they’d all have to get used to disappointment, because every time I looked at Matthew, all I could think was, No way.

I shook John’s hand next; to no surprise, his was sticky with pine sap. I noticed both Matthew and John wore a plain silver ring.

Then I wandered away to pretend to look out the kitchen window.

Henry took advantage of the silence to run up to John. “My sister says I have a super nose.” Henry tapped his nose.

Dad softly cleared his throat. A hint to Henry to desist.

John said, “Really?”

“Yup,” Henry said. “Can smell things that other people can’t.” Mom moved up behind Henry, and placed a warning hand on his shoulder, but he continued. “Like once I helped the school janitor figure out where the d—”

Mom covered his mouth with her palm, and gave an embarrassed laugh. “That’s enough. They don’t want to hear that disgusting story.” She uncovered his mouth.

Henry said to John, “Can you fix the swamp stink? My nose—”

“Go explore the cabinets,” Mom told Henry. She shooed him off.

Henry began to open and close each cabinet in the kitchen.

Mom said to Gena, “Henry is going to be a handful in your class, but I think Marian can help us keep him focused.”

What! “I’m confused,” I said. “What class are you talking about?”

Gena blinked at me as if she were surprised I didn’t know. “I teach the middle school students at First Beginnings. Your mother has volunteered to be an aide in the preschool, and since you’ll be in the high school group, between the three of us I think we can help Henry over the rough spots.”

My brother stuck in a classroom with her? And what’s this about me being in their high school group?

“I’m going to the public high school for my senior year, right?” I asked. I tried to ignore the sweat gathering on my palms as I watched Mom and Dad exchange guilty looks. “There’s track, and I need to take physics and trig to get into a good OT program.”

“OT?” Gena said.

“Occupational therapy,” Mom said. “Marian wants to be an occupational therapist.”

I’d wanted to be an OT ever since I’d met Mrs. Brent, who had helped Henry after his Asperger’s diagnosis two years ago. How could they do this to me?

“Interesting.” Gena gave me an encouraging smile. “But you’ll be able to apply to college from our school.”

I gritted my teeth. If I started arguing with Gena, I’d never hear the end of it from Mom and Dad. But questions needed to be asked to find out if First Beginnings could handle Henry’s needs. I said, “What about Henry’s therapies and social skills class? Does First Beginnings do that kind of stuff?”

Clearly Gena and Andervender had no clue what I was getting at, for they didn’t say anything, instead looking to my parents for guidance.

Dad fiddled with his cell phone clip, and Mom gnawed at her lip. Henry continued opening and slamming cabinets in the kitchen; totally oblivious to the conversation going on—I almost envied him that.

Then Dad said, “The public schools out here aren’t safe.”

Mom nodded, as if he’d said something brilliant. “Yes, you’ll both be so much safer with me and the other mothers. They’ve got a whole curriculum—”

“If it’s not safe, why did we move here?” My voice rose. “I saw all the barred windows in this neighborhood.”

“Oh that.” Gena began to titter. “That’s just a cultural thing out here. Decorative iron has a long tradition.”

“No, no, no, it’s not like that at all,” Mom said.

Dad put a hand on my shoulder and gave it a tiny shake. “This neighborhood is safe. People just like to use bars and security doors a lot.”

“Then the high school should be okay,” I said. I refuse to be shut up in a tiny school run by some parents. And I want to run track this year, I know I can make the team.

Dad’s fingers tightened on my shoulder, then let go.

Andervender said, “That’s different. There are gangs, and the schools are so large and impersonal, completely Godless, the teachers are only there to make a buck.” He nodded at Matthew.

Matthew said, “You wouldn’t believe how nasty they are at the public schools.”

Andervender gave John a tiny nod.

John shrugged, not even bothering to take his hands out of his pockets.

Andervender’s eyes narrowed at John. His mouth opened—

Giant dead cockroach!” Henry said as he pulled at my sleeve.

Mom shuddered. “Ick. Henry, they don’t need to know about this.”

John said to Henry, “You’ll see lots of giant cockroaches in Albuquerque. They live in the sewers that connect the city together, and crawl out during the summer nights.” John made his fingers act like a roach scurrying around.

I watched Henry’s eyes widen in excitement.

“John, please,” Gena said.

Oh, yuck, Henry will be searching for these roaches.

Henry tugged at me to come and look. He said, “I’m going to add it to my collection.” Henry had a shoebox in which he kept dead insects and spiders.

“No,” Dad said. “Roaches have too many germs.”

Henry sulked.

“Okay, show me this roach,” I said.

The four grown-ups and Matthew began to retreat from the kitchen as Henry led me to the opened bottom cabinet near the stove.

Henry said to John, “Come see it.”

But Dad leaned over from the dining room—the kitchen had a large serving window that linked it with the dining area—and said to John, “If you’ll get your toolbox, I’ll show you the two swamp coolers.”

So John left, and Henry and I had the kitchen to ourselves.

************** End of Part One. 2. *****************

If you are reading this after August 5, 2013, you should be able to click here to go to the main information page of Soul Cages to find Part One. 3.

Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages.

See you in August!

Cheers, LM

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 1.

Welcome to another Tuesday! This week, I’m starting the posts for the novel Soul Cages. This story is PG-13.

Here’s a quick description from the back cover of the book: Seventeen-year-old Marian Hawthorn knows more about Asperger’s than she ever wanted to. But she loves her brother Henry, and wants to keep him safe. However, her parents obsess about finding a cure for him–no matter the cost in money or convictions–and that obsession draws them all under the control of Pastor Andervender and his fringe church in Albuquerque. There she finds an unexpected friend and ally in her struggle to protect her brother: John, the pastor’s most beloved son, over whom a dangerous shadow looms that draws ever closer.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

1

To me the bars on our house’s windows were creepy. Way too creepy. Someone had tried to make them look decorative by painting them tan to match our mud-colored ranch house.

“Well, isn’t this nice,” Mom said.

I looked up and down the street. This suburb of Albuquerque looked quiet, and only about one out of three houses had bars, but still. Bars. Over every window of this house we were moving into tomorrow, plus a barred gate over the front door to do a jail warden proud.

I stood with Mom and Dad on the hot driveway staring at the house—my entire family except for Henry.

My brother was in the car, curled up tight in his seat, engrossed in a Scooby-Doo episode.

The long drive cross-country from Alexandria had taken its toll on him (and me), but being stuck in an airport and airplane would have been so much worse for Henry. His Asperger’s made packed crowds a torment for him.

But if I had to listen to him bellow out “Jinkies!” one more time, I’d claw my own ears out.

Dad said, “I’ll get everything unlocked. The garage controllers should be in the kitchen.” He strode up the sidewalk to the barred front door with a jangling of keys.

The June sunlight felt alive here, as if it pressed invisible hands on my neck and shoulders and head. My lips were cracking from the dryness of the air.

Dad dropped the keys as he fumbled with the lock for the bars. Mom hurried over to help him.

Every way I looked there was brown, brown, brown. Trees dotted the yards of several neighbors, but only the edges and tops of the nearby mountains looked green.

Mom called back to me, “Marian, can you get Henry?”

Henry had alternated between watching Scooby-Doo episodes or rocking back and forth in his seat while watching the countryside go from green and rolling, to green and flat, to brown and flat, and finally to brown and mountainous.

I’d spent my time arguing with Mom or Dad about letting me drive—

“I have a license. And it’s flat out here. Please.”

“No. You’re not insured.”

“I could get a job and help pay. What is the cost of—”

Dad twitched the steering wheel. “NO. It’s too expensive, and we need you to help watch Henry.”

I spared a quick glare at Henry, but really Dad was to blame. He didn’t want me driving his precious BMW.

I stared at the interwoven dead grass, weeds, and stream stones of our front lawn. It was clear to me that the hot sunlight had killed the grass.

Then I saw a flicker of a striped gray tail.

It was a lizard; its sides curved in and out as it breathed, and it lay under a tall weed. I squatted down and said, “Hey there.”

It flicked its tail and skittered across the dead grass to a flat red rock, climbing onto it.

A car door opened, and I heard the scuff of sneakers on pavement as Henry walked over.

Without shutting his car door. Typical.

He came and stood next to me, smelling that stress-smell he’d had since we started packing up the house to move—a mixture of rusted metal and stinky socks.

“Lizard,” Henry whispered. He squatted down next to me, and pointed. “Gray. Brown and orange stripes on its body.” He pulled out his notepad from his back pocket, and drew a sketch. As he wrote notes, he took a sniff of the air. “Smells like hot concrete.”

I thought it was an amazing gift Henry had—he couldn’t do small talk, couldn’t stop his body from twitching and stumbling—but he could watch for hours the ants, crickets, spiders, birds, squirrels, and whatever other living things were in our neighborhood.

Mom called out, “Come here, and see your new home.”

The two of us stayed still. The lizard’s sides rippled in and out like a flag, and Henry seemed to breathe in unison with it.

I threw my voice as best I could so the lizard wouldn’t run off. “Can we wait? Henry’s found a lizard.”

A tap of heels on pavement. Crud, Mom is going to fetch us, I thought. I wished we could just sit there in the sun a bit longer, and soak up the sunlight like the lizard.

The lizard, alarmed, scurried away into the neighbor’s evergreen bushes. Henry thumped his notepad against the dirt. “Jinkies, it’s gone.”

Mom said in a low voice, “Okay you two, I know it’s been a long trip, and you’re tired, but we’d really like you to come in and see the house we’ve worked so hard to find. Gena and Pastor Andervender are going to be here soon.”

Mom’s voice wobbled at the word Gena, and I wanted to groan in complaint. Gena was to blame for the move out to Albuquerque as far as I was concerned; it’d been yak yak yak between Mom and her best friend from high school ever since Gena tracked Mom down last year.

And then all those endless emails and phone calls from Gena and her husband, Pastor Andervender, about how great Albuquerque was, how less expensive than Alexandria, and how Pastor Andervender had doubled his congregation at the church he’d independently created six years ago, called “First Beginnings of the Godly Christian Church.”

I thought this was an awful name for a church, especially since using both First and Beginnings was redundant.

Mom herded us up the sidewalk, ignoring Henry’s mutters about the lizard. She said, “Pastor Andervender called. They’ll be here soon. Barbara is watching Luke and Mark for them, so you’ll only meet Matthew and John today.”

Meeting the two oldest Andervender sons (always spoken of as teenage paragons of Christianity) made me want to gag. It didn’t help that Mom had dropped hints to me about Matthew not having a girlfriend.

The propped-open front door exhaled a stale damp breath in my face.

Henry pinched his nose. “Phew, smells like a puddle.”

“Yeah,” I said. I let Henry go first. I didn’t like how the doorway swallowed me into a narrow dark hall.

Mom sighed and shut the door, locking it behind us. “The swamp coolers seem to be a bit off due to disuse. We’re going to ask Pastor Andervender what we should do.”

My eyes adjusted to the dimness. Carpet, walls, even the ceiling—all painted shades of brown. “What’s with all the brown?”

“The people who built the house loved brown,” Mom said. “We’ll fix it up.”

We passed an archway on the left that led to the living room. Brown fake-wood paneling covered the lower half of the living room walls, and brown curtains covered the huge window. All the wall and ceiling lights had smoky brown covers.

After passing a closed door on the right—”home office,” Mom commented—we came to a T-shaped intersection of halls, and in front of us was the archway to the kitchen.

The left hall led to the dining room and garage entrance, and the right to the bedrooms.

I entered the kitchen and gaped at the puke-green walls.

Mom cleared her throat. “This used to be a popular color.”

The vinyl flooring (which had a twisted vine pattern) was peeling off the cement next to the double sink. The cabinets underneath the sink had dark water stains.

“The cabinets are the color of poop,” Henry said.

I faked a cough to keep from laughing. “Shh.”

“They are,” Henry added.

The kitchen had a half-glass back door and a barred security door.

Henry and I glanced through the door glass into the backyard, and saw pounded dirt surrounded by cement block walls.

Henry said, “There’s no grass.”

Mom looked over our shoulders into the yard. “The previous owner let the grass die. There is an irrigation system—once it’s fixed, we’ll put some new grass in.” Mom’s voice rose at the end, as if to say, Don’t complain about this place, be glad we have a roof over our heads.

Mom sure was twitchy about our reaction to the house.

Henry just stared. I knew he was disappointed; few creatures could survive in that backyard dust bowl.

Then he said, “Can we get a dog?”

“No!” Mom said. “Let’s go see your rooms.” She tugged at Henry’s sleeve so that he left the door, and I followed.

Dad’s nervous whistling echoed from down the hall that led to the bedrooms.

As we walked down the hall, I saw that there were two doors on the right—the first was another entrance to the home office, the second led to the main bedroom (Dad was in there, pulling open the windows). On the left side of the hall’s end was another hall, shorter, that had three closed doors—one on each side, and one at the end.

Mom pointed at each door in turn. “The door at the end of this hall is your bathroom. Marian, your room is on the left, Henry’s on the right. I’m going to get the car into the garage.”

I went into my bedroom, which had one window. Barred. How I hated the sight of the bars. A crust of gray crud covered the window’s aluminum frame. It was a struggle to yank the window open, and once open, it let in a mixture of car fumes and dust. The winds were blowing from the direction of the mountains, which the backyard faced.

I studied the bars. They were too close to the window for me to consider trying to wriggle down the inside to get outside.

The bedroom walls were painted a faded yellow. But at least the closet was large and had sliding doors … painted mustard. I thought, Ugh, what’s with the ugly colors?

My bedroom smelled like swamp and cleaner chemicals. Trying to get the carpet clean must have been a lost cause—it looked to be as old as the house.

A thud startled me, and I ran over to Henry’s bedroom.

My brother kicked his closet door again.

“No pounding!” Dad yelled from down the hall.

“Can’t get it open!” Henry yelled back.

His closet was different; it had a cheap wooden door, warped in its frame.

Henry said to me, “Door won’t open.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m going to grab hold of the bottom edge and lift to line it up, and you yank it open when I say ‘Go.'” I grabbed hold of the smooth wood, and lifted. “Okay, go!”

The door stuck to the frame, but we kept pulling and the stickiness gave out.

Henry sniffed. “Roses.”

The interior smelled like rose sachets. There were lots and lots of clothing shelves built into a wall. It must have been a girl’s room before. So why didn’t I get this room?

Henry had two barred windows, but both had a close-up view of the cement wall. The right window also looked onto a large square thing that had to be the swamp cooler. His room was a bit larger than mine, but painted in the same faded yellow.

I wandered back into the hall. Henry trailed after me.

The stupid stained carpeting was everywhere. With dread I pushed open our bathroom door.

Yup. Carpet.

Henry held his nose. “Why does it smell so much like pee in here?”

I eyed the carpeting, which led right up to and around the toilet. “That’s because the carpets in this house have been soaking up gunk for over thirty years.”

“Older than you.”

“Right. I’m going to ask Mom if we can get the bathroom tiled.” My toes curled at the thought of having to step out of the shower into that germ-pool. Well, we’d get cheap bathroom rugs and soak the carpet underneath in disinfectant.

Henry said, “Rather have my old room. Could watch the squirrels in the oak trees because it was on the second floor.”

I kept myself from snapping at him, Yes, I know it was on the second floor. I lived there too. At times I got tired of him telling me things he’d told me so many times before, and had to remind myself that at least he was trying to make conversation.

Dad came out of the main bedroom and headed toward us. He paused to peek into Henry’s bedroom, shook his head as if to clear it, and joined us. He said, “Bathroom tile is first on the home improvement to-do list. There’s carpeting in the main bathroom, too.”

Henry said to Dad, “Miss my old room. Could watch the squirrels in the oak trees from my second floor bedroom. They would crack open and eat the nuts like this.” He made the motions a squirrel would use; my brother had become that squirrel in his mimicry.

Dad looked at the carpet. “Uh, yes, that’s right, son. But you’ll be able to see the doves that like to sit on the top of the yard walls.”

Henry perked up a little. “Doves?”

The muffled noise of a telephone made us all pause.

Dad looked around. “That’s funny, we don’t have a phone. Is your cell phone—”

“It’s the front doorbell. They’re here!” Mom called out from down the hall.

Oh no, it’s the Andervenders.

************** End of Part One. 1. *****************

If you are reading this after July 29, 2013, you should be able to click here to go to the main information page of Soul Cages to find Part One. 2.

Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week.

Cheers, LM

Parallels

This week’s story sample is from Parallels. During a snowy twilight in December, Kate encounters four doppelgängers of herself from parallel universes … four other paths her life might have taken. (I’d put the rating of this story at around PG.)

Parallels

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Kate was walking back to her minivan, arms piled high with gifts, humming “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” under her breath. The tiny flakes were coming down harder from the twilight sky, the air smelled crisp with snow, and she needed to get a move on and leave Old Town since driving home in the dark while it snowed would be no fun.

But there was a beauty to how the flakes swirled down that made her feet slow so she could savor the sights around her.

The Albuquerque city lights lit up the underbelly of the snow clouds with an orange glow, and the Christmas lights and streetlights around Old Town Plaza made the flakes glitter coming down. Looking up, the way the flakes whizzed around made her think of a snow globe.

She loved snow globes, and she had her favorite three (one of a skater, one of a snowman, and one of Santa in his sleigh with the reindeer) in the living room on the mantlepiece above the fireplace. When the kids were younger, she’d get nagged for the globes to be brought down and shaken in turn so that the kids could watch each globe become filled with flying flakes and glitter.

These days her kids never asked to see the globes anymore, they were all grown up and serious and had moved away. Having the youngest head off to New Mexico Tech back in August had been hard for her to bear, for now the house was too empty and silent. Her husband Neal had no intention of retiring any time soon, so it would be just her and the house during the day for years and years to come.

And here she was, fifty-six years old, and wondering what would fill the emptiness now that all five kids were flown. She’d given them everything, held nothing back, made them the center of her world, and now that center of gravity was gone, and she was flying off into the dark void to a place she’d never been before.

Her hair was dyed black to hide the gray, and Neal was still with her and loved her, but both of them were as plump as turkeys, and she could see in her children’s eyes when they came home from college or their jobs to visit that they thought she was boring and washed up. All used up.

And yet her professors in college had considered her a girl of promise. Instead she’d gotten her biology degree, married Neal right after graduation, taken a lab technician job to support him while he did his master’s in engineering, then stayed home to raise their five kids. She’d never done medical school as her parents and teachers had wanted her to.

It was too late for medical school now.

The snowflakes hit the raised hood of her parka and the packages, making a soft crackly noise on impact. The flakes had started off the size of pinpricks, but were getting bigger, turning into the pillow feather kind.

It was looking up into the sky again, as she walked past the San Felipe de Neri church, which was her undoing. She didn’t pay enough attention to the sidewalk, and her booted foot slipped on the patch of ice, tripping her backwards. The packages she carried kept her from using her arms to recover her balance, and so she fell backwards and hit the snow-covered sidewalk hard.

 #

Kate laid there on the ice to catch her breath back, staring up at the snow-filled sky, feeling like a darn fool for landing backwards on her butt, the packages scattered in the snow around her. Chilled flakes drifted onto her face and lips.

Someone must have seen her fall, for she could hear the crunch of snow as footsteps rushed toward her.

“Are you all right?” A woman’s voice, urgent.

“I’m fine,” Kate said.

The woman reached her and squatted down to check out her limbs.

That’s when Kate realized she was looking up into an odd reflection of her very own face.

Okay, this isn’t possible, Kate thought. She just looks like me by accident. Sorta. We’re not the same. Her hair is completely gray and she looks to be older. And she’s as skinny as a rail.

“I’m a doctor,” the woman said. “Can you move your fingers and toes?”

Kate made to sit up, but the woman put a firm hand on her shoulder to stop her.

“Please, lie still,” the woman said. “Does anything feel broken? Wiggle your fingers for me.”

Kate wiggled her fingers. Then wiggled her toes. “I’m fine,” she said. “Just a bit shaken up.” She sat up, and the hood of her parka fell back, exposing her head to view.

The woman did a double take.

Kate held out her hand. “Kate Brown,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

Dear God,” the woman said, then recollected herself to quickly shake Kate’s hand. Taking a deep breath, she then said, “I’m Dr. Kathyrn Cochran.”

Hearing her maiden name spoken by this other woman made Kate feel like she’d been flipped upside down on a roller coaster too many times. Despite Dr. Cochran trying to stop her, she staggered to her feet and began to swiftly scoop up her dropped packages. She knew she was almost babbling as she spoke, saying, “Well, nice meeting you and all, Dr. Cochran. I need to get going home. Busy. Four days until Christmas, and three of the kids are coming home for the holidays.”

Dr. Cochran seized hold of Kate by her parka, before Kate could grab the last package, and said, “Do you realize the implications of this?”

“Yeah, but big whoop,” Kate said. “The world is large enough for the two of us.” She tried to tug her parka out of Cochran’s grip, but the doctor held on too tight.

Think,” Dr. Cochran said. “Mom and Dad would have said something if this was the usual order of things.”

That was true, if there were two different versions of her running around, her parents ought to have noticed.

As she was opening her mouth to agree, another voice said, “Is everything okay?”

Both she and Dr. Cochran turned toward the woman walking up to them. This woman wore a woven wool jacket in a geometric pattern, her long gray hair in two braids on either side of her face, her bare head dotted with snowflakes. There were thick cascades of Navajo turquoise jewelry hanging from around her neck, and huge loopy silver earrings that nearly touched her shoulders.

She was another one of them.

“Who are you?” Kate said, wondering just how many versions of herself were hanging out on the Old Town Plaza this evening.

The woman froze as she got a good look at the two of them. “Dear God,” she cried out, “you are both—”

“Yes, we are,” Kate said. It was funny, almost. “My name’s Kate Brown, but I was born Kathyrn Cochran. You are?”

“I call myself Kat,” she said, fingering the turquoise stones around her neck. “Kat Cochran.”

Hell,” Dr. Cochran snapped. “Now’s there two of you.”

Kate noted that Kat had turquoise rings on her fingers, and thin silver bracelets on her wrists. The woman had a definite jewelry thing going, though Kate could understand it. Silver and turquoise had always been her favorite kind of jewelry to look at. Perhaps she ought to get some to wear.

“Who are you?” Kat said to Dr. Cochran.

“Dr. Kathyrn Cochran,” she said, not bothering to offer her hand this time to shake, instead folding her arms across her chest.

This is kinda funny, Kate thought. Here I am, split in three. She said to Kat, “Let me guess, you’re a painter.”

“No, jeweler.”

“Figures,” Kate said. “But I always assumed I’d do painting if I went to art school.”

“You didn’t go to art school?” Kat said, sounding taken aback. She looked Kate up and down. “What did you do to yourself?”

To her aggravation, Kate could feel herself blushing. “Five pregnancies.”

“There’s more to it than that,” Dr. Cochran said.

Kate didn’t like how Dr. Cochran was studying her in a professional manner.

Dr. Cochran continued. “My hypothesis would be severe bouts of untreated clinical depression resulting in eating binges, combined with pregnancy weight gain.”

“It’s none of your business!” Kate shouted. Really, it wasn’t. Her problems were her own, and she wasn’t going to be looked down at by an alternate version of herself.

“I speak from experience,” Dr. Cochran said. “I had problems with severe depression and bulimia until I got treatment in my early thirties. So don’t you dare get defensive with me. I know how you feel.”

Kate bit her lip. This Dr. Kathyrn Cochran—this parallel version of herself—knew her too well, knew how it felt to be barely able to drag herself out of bed to face the pointlessness of another day, and would see through any lie Kate chose to spout.

And then there was the way that Kat watched the two of them. Instinctively Kate said to Kat, “You had the depression, too.”

Sighing, Kat nodded, then kicked at a lump of snow.

The motion of Kat’s foot drew Kate’s attention to the last package of hers that lay on the ground from when she’d slipped. A thin layer of fallen snow now lay upon it, and she quickly bent down to pick it up before it became impossible to find in the growing dark of evening.

Kat said to Dr. Cochran, “So, what do we do now?”

“I don’t know.” Dr. Cochran put her hands on her hips and looked around, then recoiled at the sight of something across the street under the plaza trees.

What?” Kate said. “What’s wrong?” She looked in the direction Dr. Cochran was staring, to see someone jaywalking across the street to reach them. As the figure staggered up to them, reeking of sweat and beer, Kate realized it was another version of herself.

************** End of Excerpt *****************

Parallels is bundled with the short story Writer’s Flight in e-book format. It’s available at Kobo, iTunes, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other e-bookstores. Over time these links may change, so Click Here to go to the main info page for this e-book.

Thanks for reading! Cheers, L.M.