Category Archives: Green Grow the Rushes

Certain Short Stories Going Off Sale Very Soon

Quick double post this week. First up, publishing stuff.

Well, it’s turned out that various changes got pushed through during the 4th of July weekend. Second editions of A Maze of Cubicles and Tales from the Threshold will begin appearing in e-bookstores later this week. We hope to get JPEGs of the updated covers to post here soon.

Also, various short stories that will not be converted over to the Lynn Kilmore name are starting to get pulled down by some vendors now. I’m told it’ll take a few weeks for them to go off sale everywhere, but it has begun this month so that they will be no longer available by September 1st.

We’re going to try to get things updated here on the website so that most of the dead links for those short stories get removed. My apologies for any dead links you encounter.

Next up, a post about KC. Stay tuned, Lynn

The Lavender in Bloom with Honeybees and a Comment About Short Stories

Picture of lavender growing in New Mexico in gardenIt feels great to have the media files on this website working. The lavender is in full bloom here in New Mexico, so here’s a picture of lavender in the back yard.

Close up picture of lavender blossoms and a honeybeeThere are honeybees all over the lavender right now, so I took an up close photo of a honeybee. This second picture has the honeybee hidden in the photo.

In other news, it turns out the short stories Parallels and A Maze of Cubicles will be reissued in 2nd edition e-books under the Lynn Kilmore name, but all the other short stories and novelettes will not.  They will be taken off sale instead. However, the short story collection Tales from the Threshold will be made available as a Lynn Kilmore 2nd edition, and will have every short story and novelette published so far.

But if there’s a particular short story you want to buy on its own, you’ll need to do it before Fall 2014 (except for Parallels and A Maze of Cubicles). Writer’s Flight has already been taken off sale, but it’s still available to read in the Parallels short story e-book and in Tales from the Threshold.

I hope you all have a peaceful week.

Cheers, Lynn

My pen name is changing from L. M. May to Lynn Kilmore

Parallels 2nd edition by Lynn Kilmore book coverBack in 2007,  I picked out a pen name for my short stories and novels that I was going to submit to editors. I chose “L. M. May.”

I picked “L. M. May” at a time in my life when I had a lousy understanding of the publishing industry, and absolutely no understanding at all of my personality as a writer … and then I got published in a magazine under that name, and I felt I was permanently stuck with it.

Turns out I was wrong.

I just finished up two online classes through Skillshare with Seth Godin, and taking those classes of his challenged my all assumptions of what was possible. Also, a friend pointed out to me Dean Koontz’s blog post about killing off his pen name Owen West. Another friend pointed out that Katy Hudson changed her stage name to Katy Perry.

I finally realized that it wasn’t too late to change my pen name. I just had to be willing to go through the difficulties of doing so.

So I’m going ahead and changing  it to “Lynn Kilmore.” The behind-the-scenes aspects of changing the name will take years and years of work. The public work has the highest priority, so that stuff will change as quickly as possible.

There will be publishing headaches involved with the move of my ebooks and print editions to the new pen name. Everything published under “L. M. May” is going to be reissued in second editions under “Lynn Kilmore” over the next eight months.

However, one short story, Writer’s Flight, is being taken off sale permanently, instead of being revised, because it is included in the e-book of Parallels.

Unfortunately, the name change does mean two challenges going forward:

1) Links are going to break as the second editions come out. There will be temporary confusion as e-books are transitioned to the new name.

2) There have been delays in the print editions of two books, and the sequel to Cubicles is going to run late due to the changes being made in my name. However, all three books should be out in print before 2014 ends, and I’ll post when pre-orders become possible.

But once the main part of the transition is over, there’ll be some really fun stuff happening. I learned a huge amount in Seth Godin’s classes, and there’s been a lot of writing I’ve been holding back from being published as my unhappiness with my pen name grew worse.

I honestly feel as if I’ve been let out of a cage. You have no idea how standoffish and stifling I’ve found it these past seven years to be called “L.M.” instead of a read first name like “Lynn.”

Cheers, Lynn

For Reference. All E-Books published under “L. M. May”…

2 Novels: Soul Cages; Cubicles, Blood, and Magic.

1 Collection: Tales from the Threshold.

3 Novelettes: The Enchantment of Coyotes; Green Grow the Rushes; Shade Town.

5 Short Stories: Parallels; Writer’s Flight (will not be reissued under new name); Just One Date; King of All He Surveyed; A Maze of Cubicles.

All but Writer’s Flight will be transitioned to the new pen name.

Shade Town – Excerpt

Here’s the news of the week: 1) A new story, King of All He Surveyed, is rolling out into e-bookstores right now and is up at places such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s a science fiction tale about a seventh grader in the near future who figures out how to hack people’s mindcoms. 2) A short story set in the Dorelai Chronicles universe featuring Dorelai and Stuart will be published about a week from now.

Today is another double feature of posts. If you’re looking for Part One.15. of Soul Cages, scroll down the home page because it was posted first. Next up in this post is Shade Town. Widow Nell Wood longs to be reunited with the ghost of her prospector husband, Isaiah, after his lynching in the Arizona Territory. A dream from Madame Tournay points the way to a place in the New Mexico Territory called “Shade Town” where Nell can be with her husband again … for the right price.

Shade Town

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2013 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

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

Nell buried the silver dollar under a clod of dirt on the edge of the wagon road, then tamped the dirt down with her feet in their lace-up boots. Once she was certain the coin was completely covered, she stood upon the buried silver, closed her eyes, and willed the stagecoach to Shade Town to come for her as she waited in the weak moonlight.

The air smelled of dead leaves and dust and coming snow. It was early November, and winter had crept into Albuquerque, the leaves falling from the narrow strips of cottonwoods running up and down the Rio Grande.

When she opened her eyes, she was disappointed to find no ghostly stagecoach racing towards her down the road. All she could see under the waxing moon were the piñon and chamisa bushes near the road, and farther to the west the dark shapes of the cottonwoods where the Rio Grande flowed.

The chill made her pull Isaiah’s canvas jacket tighter around her shoulders, glad for the warmth of the faded red flannel she’d sewn on the inside to keep him snug from the mountain cold.

His jacket no longer held his scent, only her own, but wearing it made her feel closer to him. That and his pocket watch. The watch hung on a chain around her neck, hidden under her widow’s weeds and corset and shimmy, next to her heart, the feel of its steady ticks a comfort, its smooth metal warmed by her skin.

Only the clothes upon her back would she take with her to Shade Town, for she never expected to return. Everything else—the homestead, the furniture, the cows, the few precious books—she’d sold to gather the silver dollars that would be needed to pay the coachman and Madame Tournay so that she could see her dead husband again.

She never wanted to come back to the unjust land of the living. Never. Better to live with the ghosts.

Half the silver she’d gathered was sewn into the hem of her black woolen dress, a fourth into her bonnet lining, and the rest in her reticule. She’d pay her way back to Isaiah, no matter the cost.

Her gloved fingers throbbed with blisters and sores, for she’d scrubbed and polished and cleaned and waxed as a maid these last few weeks to scrape together a few more coins for the journey.

Except for the faint yipping of coyotes from the arroyos, there was no sound of any other living creature nearby, nor any hoof beats or creak of wagon wheels. She’d snuck along one of the lesser-used roads out of Albuquerque, walking north as the sun set, until she reached a place far away enough from the town that she could try to call Madame Tournay’s stagecoach to her.

Now she was afraid. Afraid that the dream from Madame Tournay—the night after Nell found out that Isaiah was dead—had been a lie. Or that the coach would refuse to fetch her because of her brown skin.

Then came the sensation of weak ground tremors through the soles of her boots. The stagecoach was coming.

Looking south, she saw the coach appear upon the moonlit wagon road, and now a faint rattling could be heard. But no horses could be seen pulling it along as it bounced over the ruts and stones.

And the driver’s bench was empty.

“Hup!” A man’s voice urged the horses to slow. The driver was there, just invisible like the horses.

Nell could understand his stealth, for rumors about Madame Tournay had finally reached Governor Lew Wallace’s ears, and there were soldiers scouring the northern main roads of the New Mexico Territory for any sign of Tournay’s stagecoaches. So far all attempts to capture a coach had failed. From the whispered tales Nell’d heard while in Albuquerque, the dream with Madame Tournay only came to the bereaved. Tournay’s place, wherever it might be hidden, had gotten the name of “Shade Town” because she promised all dreamers the same thing—the chance to reunite with the shade of their dead loved one in exchange for silver.

It had been the dream from Tournay that had shown Nell how to call the stagecoach to herself by burying a silver coin in the road dirt.

The stagecoach rolled to a halt beside her, and while she could hear no whinnies nor smell horse sweat, she could see that four invisible horses were harnessed to the coach. A shadow seemed to congeal into a man-shape before her, and he opened the stagecoach door with his invisible hands.

This surprised her, for she’d expected to have to ride up on the driver’s bench.

“Thank you,” she said to the manshadow.

She dug out from her reticule the required three silver coins, and held them out on her gloved palm towards where the driver would be standing if she could see him.

The coins disappeared from her hand.

As she stepped up into the coach, she noticed that it smelled like plowed earth. No one else sat within, so she had her choice of the hard leather seats, and picked the one in the far corner that faced the direction the horses would be going. The coach door was slammed shut behind her, and the stagecoach raced onwards down the moonlit road.

All she could hear was the creak and groan of the stagecoach itself as it rattled down the road at a speed that made that of live horses seem slow. She grabbed onto the nearest strap, trying to brace herself against falling out of her seat as the wheels jounced along the rutted road at a bone-jarring pace.

The horses weren’t flesh and blood, neither was the driver, and perhaps that was why no stagecoach of Tournay’s had yet to be caught.

And then the shaking stopped, and to her shock she saw through the coach window that they were skimming the tops of the piñon bushes like a bird.

*

Nell was shivering from the cold drafts that came through the cracks of the stagecoach as they flew above the mesas and canyons of the eastern edge of the Jemez Mountains. The coach rocked from side-to-side in the gusts of snow-flecked wind.

Snow clouds huddled around the Jemez, blocking out the stars, but when she looked back towards the Sangre de Cristo Mountains the night sky was clear. The winter storm was only over the Jemez.

Through the whirling flakes ahead there was a weak bluish streak of light; as they flew closer, she discovered that the light poured through a rip in the air itself like sunlight shining through a rent in a calico skirt.

The horses and coach slipped through the sky’s tear, and Nell felt stretched so thin she couldn’t breathe—then it was over and she sucked in air that tasted like pinesap and piñon smoke.

The driver gave a whistle, slapped the reins, and the horses whinnied in response.

Through the window, she saw that dawn would come before long, for the western skies above the Jemez were now strangely clear of snow clouds and brightening to a washed-out indigo as the sun approached the eastern horizon.

The wheels jolted her around in the coach as they touched upon land again, and the coach barreled down a pounded dirt road upon a mesa top that snuggled up close against the Jemez. When she peered out the coach window (which faced towards the south), she could make out the far away shadows of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.

There was no snow upon the ground here, as there should have been, and the wild grasses between the red rocks were a lush green instead of a dried-out yellow.

The stagecoach rolled into Shade Town, and wooden shacks blocked her view off the mesa top. Up ahead she saw a plaza surrounded by adobe and wooden buildings, lit up by brown paper lanterns hung on hooks from ropes tied from roof to roof across the plaza’s open space.

Faint strains of music made their way through the coach’s cracks, and she tapped her toe to the tune.

As they got closer, she discovered that all the windows of the houses facing the plaza had lit oil lamps on their sills, and people filled the plaza to overflowing—laughing, singing, dancing—as three fiddlers and a banjo picker played. Men and women danced upon the pounded-down dirt of the plaza, whirling around in a waltz.

The driver slowed the horses so that they came to a stop before reaching the edge of the plaza’s crowd.

When the coach door was opened for her, she saw between the spinning shapes of the dancers that there was a large rectangular stone-bordered pond in the plaza’s center. Lit paper lanterns floated on tiny rafts on the pond’s surface.

The dancers were an intermixed group of whites, blacks, Spanish, and mestizos—even a Chinese man in a grocer’s apron could be seen dancing with his wife to the music.

She rubbed at her sore legs and arms, then stepped down from the stagecoach. Her coach driver was now visible: a pale cowboy barely old enough to shave.

“Thank you,” she said to him.

“My pleasure, ma’am.” He raised his hat to her, then climbed back onto the driver’s bench.

Laughter spilled across the plaza towards them, carried on a wax-scented breeze that felt warm from all the paper lantern candles. The lights flickered as the mountain breeze made the lanterns sway on their hooks from the ropes.

Even though she didn’t know him, she felt as if once the coach driver left she’d be all alone in a strange land. “What am I to do?” she called up to him.

He gathered the reins in one hand, and pointed with the other to a multi-gabled mansion on a slight rise at the far edge of town. “Go and pay your respects to Madame Tournay.” The horses (now visible, all four with glossy coal-colored coats) lifted their heads at Tournay’s name, and breathed out hot steam.

Their eyes, Nell realized, glowed like fiery furnaces.

Small carved stones hung from the harnesses and reins, and were also embedded in the body and wheel spokes of the stagecoach. They were made of lava stone, each shaped in the form of a coiled snake.

Dawn’s sunlight had not yet broken above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but it seemed to her that the horses looked more real than the stagecoach as it rolled away.

She herself seemed faded compared to the dancers around her, so she wove her way through the oblivious crowd to the pond to look at herself.

Her own reflection wearing the canvas jacket was barely there compared to that of the pretty young señora in crimson silk gown and black lace standing nearby with her not-so-real male companion. He wore Spanish-tailored clothing with cascades of lace at his throat, a diamond stickpin holding the cascades in place. Silver embroidery outlined his black velvet jacket and he had slicked-back black hair and elegant mustachios, making Nell think of the old Spanish families that lived around Santa Fe.

The light from an oil lamp, in the window of the adobe house behind him, shone faintly through him like sunlight through a murky glass of ditch water.

As for herself, she found she appeared even more faded when she stood in the path of the light from a hanging lantern and looked down into the pond’s water.

Madame Tournay may be able to help me with that, she thought. Looking back up, she studied the plaza, and Tournay’s gabled mansion drew her gaze. It was three stories high, with a roofed porch that appeared to wrap all the way around; the front windows were bright with reflected light that didn’t waver and flicker like that from candles.

Feeling drawn to its bright lights and immense solidity, she walked down the dirt road that ran past the plaza of dancers and out of town.

*

Paper lanterns hung from the edges of the roof of the mansion’s porch, lighting it up so that Nell could see how fresh the white paint was on the porch boards as she walked across them to the front door. The thick oaken door was unpainted, instead polished to a gloss, and had carvings of four rattlesnakes with their tails in their mouths—one snake for each quarter of the door.

A silver knocker—also in the circular shape of a snake with its tail in its mouth—was nearly hot to her touch through her glove, warm as feverish skin. She lifted it, then let go to wipe her glove on her skirts, as the knocker whammed down with a strange echo that seemed to go on and on.

The door opened, but she could see no one.

She stepped into the entrance hall with its curved staircase going upwards, the sconces burning bright on the walls—the light source of each sconce was a tiny clear crystal with a magical glow. Blue velvet wallpaper covered the walls, and the wood floorboards were polished to so high a gloss that Nell could see the reflection of the walls in them.

But she herself made no reflection.

To keep from panicking, she concentrated on the feel of the steady ticks of Isaiah’s watch against her skin. For his sake I can face anything, she thought.

A silver platter on the hall’s sideboard held oranges spiked all over with cloves, so that the hall smelled of spiced oranges, but underneath was a faint scent of earth like that of the stagecoach.

Peering behind the still open front door, Nell was not surprised to find that no one was there. She moved deeper into the hall, and a puff of wind blew past her from the stairs, slamming the oaken door shut.

The tinkle of piano keys came from behind a closed door on the left.

No footsteps could be heard, no voices, no creak of floorboards, no scent of cigars and tobacco juice.

She reached out her hand to turn the crystal doorknob of the left door, and heard whispering from behind it. Something about the sound made chills run up and down her arms.

After pulling Isaiah’s jacket tighter about her, Nell reached out her hand again to open the door. It led into a fancy parlor with silver-colored wallpaper, blue velvet couches and chairs, and an upright piano in a far corner with music sheets scattered on the seat.

A woman dressed in a black silk gown that covered her arms, with thick black veils that hid her head, and black lace gloves on her hands, sat at a small round table covered with a blue satin tablecloth with silver tassels. A stacked deck of cards lay before her.

“Welcome, Mrs. Isaiah Wood,” the woman said in a liquid accent that was the same as the voice from Nell’s dream that had told her about Shade Town. “I am Madame Tournay. Come here and sit, if you please.”

As Nell got closer, she thought Tournay’s skin had a sheen to it under the lace that made her think of the belly scales of a snake.

The backs of the cards were decorated in blue and white with pictures of writhing snake forms.

Nell sat down upon a blue velvet chair at the table, and Madame Tournay shuffled the cards with a pfffffttt, to then flip the top one over to toss before Nell.

“The queen of clubs,” Madame Tournay said. She flipped again. “The knave of spades.” Tossing down the next card, she said, “The ace of hearts. You and Isaiah. You loved him, no?”

“Yes, I loved him.”

“You would do anything for him, go anywhere, to have him with you again?”

“Yes.”

Tournay put the deck aside. “There is a price to pay, as for all things. Did you bring the silver?”

“Yes.” Nell dug out her reticule, and tossed it upon the table—it was faded to a ghost like herself, she could see the blue silk of the table through it, but then Tournay pulled off her laced gloves and touched it, and it became solid. As Tournay poured out the reticule’s ghostly silver upon the table, Nell dug out the rest of her hidden silver from her bonnet to add to the growing pile, and then rent the hem of her dress to obtain the last coins.

Once Nell was done, there was a glinting pile of silver under the magical white light of the sconces. But like herself and her things, the silver seemed only half-real, more like ghost silver than real silver.

Tournay waited until Nell was done, then stroked her palms across the silver. The first pass, her hands went through, but the silver became denser and more solid, and on the second pass, Tournay was able to scoop the coins up to fall into her silken lap with clinks as the coins hit each other.

There was something strange about Madame Tournay. Lord only knew what hid behind all those veils, which fell so low that they covered Tournay’s bosom as well as her hair, face, and neck.

Tournay’s skin was definitely snakelike, and when Nell listened hard, she thought she heard soft hisses from under the veils, as well as a soft sss to the end of Tournay’s words. A snake drawl.

“You have paid it all,” Madame Tournay said. “If you had held anything back, even the smallest silver coin, I would have turned you out. But you are honest, and have given me it all. I am fair, you see. I only demand what silver one can earn, not a particular price. Both rich and poor can come to me with their broken hearts, as long as they do not cling to what they own.”

Her fingers have no nails, Nell realized with a shiver.

Tournay gestured with her outspread palms in the direction of Shade Town outside her mansion. “This is my town. I have the power to provide a place for the dead to return. Your husband will return to you at dusk. Go and wait for him at the plaza.”

Nell’s heart felt like it would pound its way through her ribcage, it was going so hard.

Her body of its own volition seemed to walk away from Tournay, to open the parlor’s door into the hall. Again the front door opened without anyone being seen to do it, and she wandered down the porch steps and back to the dusty plaza, which was empty of revelers under dawn’s light.

*

Nell felt no hunger, no thirst, all that day and it convinced her that in this town, she was the shade, not those who resided here.

Near dusk, the Spanish gentleman she’d seen before strode across the empty plaza towards her. When he reached her, he bowed, and said, “Señora, good evening.”

“Good evening, sir,” she returned. “I am Mrs. Isaiah Wood. Have you met my husband?”

“I am sorry, but I have not made your husband’s acquaintance,” he said. “I am Señor Rodrigo Esteban Chavez y Vigil. My wife and I journeyed to Santa Fe to visit her father’s family, and she died of a fever sickness. I had the dream of Madame Tournay the night after my loved one’s death.”

“Same here,” Nell said. She held her hands up before the setting sun in the west, to show him how the light mostly passed through her.

Rodrigo nodded, then copied her gesture so that she could see how the light passed through him. “We are shades here,” he said. “You and I never hunger or thirst.”

“How long have you been here?” she said.

He frowned, concentrating, then sighed. “I am not sure. Two or three days, perhaps. Not long.”

“Are there others here like us?”

He shook his head. “No longer. Many were once shades as we are.” She saw a dazed look in his eyes. “We can change by the magic within the pond. Madame Tournay will tell us when it is time.”

Nell strode over to the plaza’s rectangular pond, and Rodrigo followed. Looking down into the water, she noticed that the artificial pond’s four sides were made from large hewn stones neatly fitted together, and that the water ran much, much deeper than she had first noticed.

No matter how she stared into the clear water, she couldn’t see the bottom. Perhaps under the noon sunlight she’d be able to see into the depths.

She stripped off her gloves and dipped a finger in the water. Warm to the touch, not cold as one would expect for a mountain pond. She held her droplet-covered finger under her nose and sniffed. Smelled like well water, no scent of decay or rotting grass.

Moving her finger, she made to put a droplet onto her tongue, but Rodrigo’s hand seized hold of her wrist, stopping her.

She froze, and he let go. “Pardon me, señora,” he said, “I don’t know why I did that.” His brow furrowed in thick lines like a deeply cut ravine. Confusion and sorrow mixed in his expression.

She shook the droplets off her finger and slipped her hands back into her gloves. With excitement she noted how dark the sky was getting. Dusk was coming. Isaiah. Soon we will be together again.

Rodrigo bowed to her. “Please pardon me, señora, I am to speak to Madame Tournay before this night’s dancing begins.”

As she watched Rodrigo walk away, she thought of how she would dance with Isaiah all night long under the stars.

*

The dancers slipped onto the plaza at dusk as the hanging lanterns magically came alight, and Rodrigo’s wife appeared amongst them; the Spanish lady went to stand by the pond as the other dancers began a jig. So far, no matter what direction Nell looked in, she could see no sign of Isaiah.

Then, abruptly, the music stopped. Nell saw Rodrigo sleepwalk with his eyes open into the plaza, alone, from the direction of Madame Tournay’s mansion. He trembled like a cottonwood leaf in a breeze.

He stepped up onto the nearest stone edge of the pond, which had not yet been lit with floating paper lanterns. He stared long into his wife’s face, not saying anything to her, and then tipped face-forward, arms down tight at his sides, into the pond to sink down.

The crowd cheered and grabbed hands, and the music started up, so that rings of dancers circled around the still sloshing pond waters as Nell ran to kneel at the edge to check on the poor man. If his head broke above the surface, she’d do her best to drag him out.

He’d plunged out of sight.

He’s drowned, she thought. Gone.

********** End of Shade Town – Excerpt **********

Click here to go to the main info page for this e-book.

Until next time, L.M.

The Enchantment of Coyotes – Story Sample

This week is another double feature of story samples. If you’re looking for Part One.13. of Soul Cages, scroll down the home page because it was posted first. Next up in this post is The Enchantment of Coyotes. In the chaos of the Civil War, an evil sorcerer and his coyote-men come from another world to prey upon the children of the New Mexico Territory. Juanita of Santa Maria finds herself enmeshed in a struggle to free not only herself from their clutches, but the stolen children as well.

The Enchantment of Coyotes

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2013 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

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

Thunder rumbled through Juanita’s aged bones; her shoulder and hip ached where they pressed against the shaking wagon bed. She lay on her side in darkness, wedged in like a piece of cordwood, between the warm bodies of two girls. A steady creak of wheels and the soft footfalls of horses surrounded her.

A lightning flash, filtering through the wagon’s canvas cover, lit up the prone bodies of sleeping children. She was near the back of the wagon. The girl lying behind her whimpered in her sleep as a roll of thunder echoed around them. Juanita’s throat burned as if she had drunk smoke, and the enclosed wagon reeked of ashes and sweat.

Her memories of the night attack on Santa Maria were confused—gunshots, shouts, screams, curses. And then a miasma that had enveloped her, making her mind go blank.

Their captors had set fire to the casas of the village before carrying them off.

She recalled the whispered tales about travelers who rode into the Jemez Mountains, never to be seen again; a shimmer at dusk of a ghostly rio that wound its way down dry canyons; and the recent discovery of the charred adobe shells where the Tewa pueblo of Santa Lucia had once stood, the dead scattered amongst the ruins.

Rain pattered against the canvas as the storm overtook them—gusts shook the back flaps, letting in whiffs of wet stone. She crept over the sleeping girl and peered out. Lightning showed unfamiliar mesas looming around them. They were on a dirt road by a rio swollen with summer rains. She could hear a wagon behind them amongst the piñon and juniper shrubs.

Sighing, Juanita peered at the sleeping girl—Solana, the 14-year-old daughter of the Silvas family in Santa Maria. Juanita patted the girl’s face with her hands; Solana responded in mumbled sighs.

Juanita whispered, “Wake,” and shook her.

Solana’s head lolled to the side: the girl lay trapped in sleep.

Their wagon turned away from the rio and bounced around on the rocks and ruts of a trail which followed an arroyo. She crept from child to child to shake each in turn, but she failed to rouse anyone. At the front of the wagon, she found her grandson Miguel slumped over stolen sacks of cornmeal. His head bobbed in response to the rough journey like an aspen leaf in a mountain breeze.

She tugged open the front flaps and peeked out. Her hands shivered from the cold rivulets of rain that slid down her fingers. She could barely make out by the flashes of lightning an adobe presidio hunched under the towering mesas. A gathering of men, some of whom held upraised lanterns, waited before the two massive doors of the presidio’s open gate.

As the wagon drew to a stop, she could see the rain-blurred shapes of barns and casas past the gate’s opening. Several of the silent men carried revolvers, the rest hunting knives. They stood patiently in the rain that dripped down their dark coats.

Not Union or Confederate soldiers, she thought. Los banditos.

After the wagon behind hers was reined to a halt, a howling cheer broke out amongst the gathering.

The driver of her wagon sat motionless, as if he too now slept. He is not of Santa Maria. Where is he from that he could do a thing like this? She leaned out of the wagon flaps, using the body of the sleeping driver to shield her from view, to make a grab for the reins in his hands.

But they were wound tightly around his palms. She dug her nails into his fingers, but could not get the water-swollen reins loose. No amount of pain made him respond.

A crunching racket of boots running on pebbles came to her; a man circled around the front of the wagon to grab her, tossing her onto the wet grass. He dragged her with gloved hands to where the others waited.

She looked up from the ground into the faces lit by the lanterns, and choked back a scream as she realized that the beards and mustaches were actually thick fur that covered their chins and cheeks. Their slitted yellow eyes and lean noses reminded her of the coyotes she would watch running at night in the arroyos.

They reeked of wet fur.

The coyote-man who had caught her said to her in Spanish, “Come, old woman. You have nothing to fear. We have use for you.”

“No!” She looked around to escape, but they surrounded her. She cried out in Spanish, “Where are we? Who are you? What do you want with us?”

Her captor pulled off his gloves and yanked her to her feet with leathery paws. “We owe you no answers. Obey, or I will kill you.”

Only dead bodies were found at Santa Lucia. Did they murder those left behind in Santa Maria?

The rain weakened, but she could see cloud-to-cloud lightning in the direction the wagons had come from. One by one the sleeping bodies of the children were hauled out and laid down on bison skins; no attempt was made to cover Miguel or the others from the misting rain. The oldest child was fourteen, the youngest three. The two drivers were left to sleep upright on their wagons.

She shivered as the rainwater evaporated from her nightgown and skin into the thin mountain air.

The coyote-men gazed expectantly at a third covered wagon approaching the presidio. This one was driven by a coyote-man, and once it came to a halt a party of three coyote-men with rifles jumped out. Last to emerge was an old man held upright between two other coyote-men. The slumped figure of the old man wore clothes like those of the wealthy merchants she’d seen on journeys with her son Pedro to Santa Fe.

The old man came into the lantern-light to be revealed as a coyote-man with white fur. He gripped in his claws a silver cane embedded with turquoise stones that writhed across its entire surface in spiral patterns. The crowd parted as he took tottering steps to the row of twenty-three sleeping captives on the ground.

Sorcerer, she thought as he nodded to a coyote-man in a frayed hat that carried a revolver.

The coyote-man in the hat walked up to the human driver of the first wagon. He climbed onto it as several others grabbed hold of the horses to keep them from bolting; a shot rang out.

The driver’s body tipped over the side to fall head first onto the mud. Dead.

While the echoes came back from the canyons, the coyote-man descended from the first wagon, and with the help of his companions to hold steady the horses, shot dead the second driver.

Leaning on his cane, the sorcerer said in halting English, “Move them to the holding pens. Make sure to check them for knives. As for the old woman,” here he glanced at Juanita and smiled with the teeth of a dog, “take her to Cook.” He swayed, and as he fell his assistants wrapped their paws around him to carry him through the gate.

I must pretend I only understand Spanish.

Her captor in the frayed hat pulled her away by her elbow from the children. She tried to wriggle from his grasp, as she said in Spanish, “Please, in the name of Cristo, let us go.”

He slapped her. “You are not to speak unless spoken to. Do so again, and I’ll cut out your tongue.”

Coyote-men grabbed the bison skins and dragged the sleeping children along the pounded dirt that led through the gate and into the presidio. Juanita’s right arm was twisted behind her and she was forced to go through the gate, then turn right towards a long adobe hall wafting out the scents of chile, roasted mutton, and boiled cornmeal.

He marched her into a dining hall of crudely-hewn pine tables and benches. Wagon wheels covered with unlit candles hung by ropes from the ceiling. Two large fireplaces, each with dim red coals, faced each other down the length of the hall. The warmth did not lessen her shivering; she had to get her wet nightgown off and dry herself as quickly as possible.

Along the windowless wall opposite their entrance was a lone closed door.

Calling out in English, “Cook,” he pushed Juanita towards the door, opened it, and shoved her into a long hallway—at the end of it she could see a huge kitchen lit by flickering fires.

A door in the hallway opened. “Eh, what’s it now?” a voice said. A coyote-woman of gray fur, wearing a calico dress and stained apron, came out into view.

“I brought you a new servant.” He turned to leave, switching back to Spanish. “As for you—remember that there’s no point in running away. We can hunt you down.” He left without a backward glance.

Cook scrutinized her, muttering to herself in English about the hall’s wooden floors needing to be cleaned due to the mud tracks that the new servant and the coyote-man had made, then ordered in Spanish, “Follow me.”

The coyote-woman opened a different door in the long hallway, and led Juanita down a narrow hallway lit by a hanging lantern. At the end was a barred door. Cook unbolted it to reveal a bare room with three huge piles of rags—one pile against each wall.

It took Juanita a moment to realize that the oily pile of rags on the right rose and fell from the breathing of the prisoner burrowed within it. A covered bucket in a corner stank like a neglected chamber pot.

Cook pushed her into the windowless room and said, “Be ready at dawn—there’s much work to do.”

“Wait, what is going to happen to the children?”

“You’ll find out soon enough.” The door slammed, and a scraping of metal told of the bolt being shot home.

The room was stale and dark. She felt along the rough wooden walls on the left and slid down near the rags. Stripping off her nightgown, she used it to wipe the caked mud off her bare feet, then wrung it out as best she could and spread it out on the floorboards to dry. There was no telling what might be crawling in the rags, so she made sure not to touch them. Had they belonged to someone who was now dead?

They strike against the weak; too many men are dead, absent, or fighting in the war. Oh, Pedro, I wish you had not died at Valverde.

Miguel is all I have left of you and Damita.

She wondered if the coyote-men had succeeded in killing everyone left at Santa Maria. If so, it would be days before the alarm was raised and a search conducted for survivors. Trackers had not found this presidio after the burning of Santa Lucia. She shuddered, thinking of the magic of the sorcerer. He must have put a sleeping spell on all of the villagers so that the hunters could steal and kill with impunity. They’d had no priest or curandera in the village to resist the sorcerer’s incantations.

Mutters and snorts came from the sleeper, but nothing she could understand. Leaning back against the wall, she prayed and then dozed.

*

Juanita dreamed she wandered between pine and spruce trees in a narrow canyon that sloped upwards under the silver light of a nearly full moon. Sharp stones jabbed into the soles of her calloused feet as she climbed towards the Jemez Mountains. A breath of chilled wind flowing down the canyon smelled of burning piñon logs.

A yipping echoed faintly behind her.

Coyotes. She ran, her feet a rhythmic pounding on the dusty rocks. Past a large outcropping, she saw the footpath rise between caves carved into the soft volcanic rock of the canyon walls. A bonfire’s orange glow outlined the mouth of a cave to the right.

She fled towards it, panting in the thin air. Growls and excited yips called out as she clambered up the debris of the canyon wall and entered the cave. Piñon smoke enveloped her, making her nose and eyes water. When her sight cleared, she found a huddled shape sitting before the fire.

A coyote-man, cloaked in white deerskin, sat warming his hands in the flames. Around his neck hung obsidian and turquoise stones on a leather string. Thinning gray fur covered his paws and face, and his ears twitched towards Juanita.

He nodded at her, and said in accented Spanish, “You can hear me … and I can hear you. We must watch for a chance to bring you to me before the full moon.”

*

Juanita awoke to the door of her prison being unbarred. Light poured into the dark room and a dirty black dress was thrown at her.

Cook held a lantern in one paw; grumbling to herself, she came into the room and bellowed at the pile of rags, “Up, you lazy bones!”

The rags parted and out came a coyote-crone, thin and trembling.

Cook herded the two of them before her to the kitchen.

A massive fireplace crammed with iron pots covered an entire kitchen wall. Beyond the open back door of the kitchen, Juanita could see four hornos for baking.

Cook said to Juanita, “Get the hornos and the fireplace hot—we’ve got a large crew to feed.”

*

Juanita staggered to the barns under a yoke of buckets overflowing with posole and frijoles. Cook and the other servant, both yoked, followed. Small sacks of tortillas hung from thin ropes around their necks.

Juanita did not yet know the coyote-crone’s name—Cook would simply yell, “You!” or “Lazy bones!” at her.

Behind them trailed the coyote-man in the frayed hat. He’d made a careful show of checking his revolver and carrying it at his side, ready to fire.

He would shoot her if she ran away. Juanita was certain of that.

She walked through the stony dirt without pain; she’d spent a lifetime of summers barefoot. The ground felt warm and parched, for the night rains had already dried or drained away.

The presidio was a mixture of adobe halls, adobe casas, and wooden barns—some of which faced a central plaza. A few coyote-men with rifles patrolled the presidio walls. Many of the casas looked empty and faded under the New Mexico sun.

Mesas with layered colors of rose, peach, and cream stood to the north, south, and west of the presidio. The pine-covered curves of the Jemez Mountains loomed in the west.

She glanced towards the east, and blinked at the rippling view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is like staring through a stream.

They came to a large barn, and Juanita’s shoulders trembled—this must be the holding area the sorcerer spoke of.

Cook moved in front of them, looking straight at Juanita as she said in Spanish to her, “No talking, no trying to open the pens, no handing things to them.” She tapped Juanita on the chest. “If you try to speak to one of the children, I will have your throat slit. Nod if you understand.”

Juanita nodded.

Cook led them into a large shed that leaned against the barn. Inside they found three coyote guards squatting in a circle to play cards. All wore revolvers on their belts.

A coyote-man with a chewed off ear stood up and unlocked a thick door that led into the barn. The women stepped into a dim corridor filled with numerous barred pens. Juanita could not see into the narrow pens—clumsily hammered-in wood paneling sealed off each pen from the corridor.

Muffled sobs and whispers leaked through the wooden walls.

A guard walked up and down the length of the barn, checking the doors as he went.

Cook motioned for the coyote-crone to begin on the right side of the corridor, then grabbed hold of Juanita and indicated that she was to watch before starting on the left. The coyote-crone opened the larger of two slots within the first door; she tossed down two tortillas, then ladled out posole, then frijoles.

Cook led Juanita to the first door on the left, and watched as Juanita opened the slot to shove in two tortillas and then ladle out a scoop from each bucket to pour down the shaft. The slot must lead to a small feeding trench. The other slot is probably for water. An odor of stagnant water and hay came from the open slot. With a firm push Cook closed the slot and gestured for Juanita to get to work on the next pen.

Cook then lugged her own burden of provisions to the far end of the barn in order to start doling out food into the pens there.

The cries from each pen got louder after the food appeared. Juanita’s ears soon rang with the garbled shouts of children in English, Spanish, and Tewa, and the pounding of fists on the wooden boards.

Juanita could not make out Miguel’s voice through the din. Likely he was here. She counted that they ladled out food to thirty-one of the forty pens. The rest seemed empty.

*

The next few days were a blur of washing and scrubbing; hauling yoked buckets of food to the imprisoned children; hoeing maize and frijoles near the arroyo; cooking and serving stew, tortillas, posole, roast beef, mutton, and pies in the dining hall; more cleaning; cuffings from Cook and the guards; frantic gulping down of scraps; and restless nightmares in the locked room.

The old coyote-crone refused to acknowledge Juanita’s existence.

And always, everywhere, a guard watched her—sometimes near, sometimes far, but always with a gun at the ready to shoot her dead if she tried to escape.

Each night, the moon thickened.

She was unable to discover what they planned to do with the children. Adequate herds of sheep and cattle roamed about; the coyotes didn’t need the children for meat.

Escaping with the children would be difficult. Even if she could flee from a guard or break out of her nightly prison to dig through the adobe wall of the presidio to escape, the flooring and walls of the barn that imprisoned the children were made of thick planks of wood, instead of packed dirt.

An adobe hacienda with azure trim dominated the plaza; she was sure the sorcerer dwelled within. Coyote-men, their hats in their paws, constantly went in and out of it. So far she had seen no sign of the sorcerer. She’d overheard murmurs that he lay weak in his bed, exhausted by the magic that was needed to overcome Santa Lucia and Santa Maria.

The coyotes spoke to her in Spanish, and switched to English when they thought she could overhear talk amongst themselves. Heated arguments raged at meals in the dining hall on whether to make the last raids without Sorcerer Polvo’s magic.

When she looked east, she could see that a piece of the eastern sky rippled and shimmered as if the sky itself had an invisible tear, and she carefully noted that the tear grew bigger and crept closer to the presidio with each passing day. A day soon came when faint ripples could be seen not only in the eastern sky, but in the northern and southern skies beyond the mesas as well. Cook gazed at the spread of the sky-shimmers with shaking paws. Juanita wondered if the shimmering barrier magically protected the presidio from detection by men. Perhaps if the barrier passed across the presidio and onward into the west, it would leave the presidio exposed to her world.

Little more than fifty coyotes lived here, of which few were coyote-women and none coyote-children. The race of coyote-men was dying out. Once known of, armed men from her world would come to avenge the dead, and the presidio would fall.

*

A party of fifteen coyote-men rode out of the presidio one afternoon. Juanita paused in her hoeing; the riders turned east at the rio and took the trail that passed through the wall of rippling air, and into the world of men.

The next day, there were five more children to feed. Thirty-six in all.

Meals also had to be hauled by her and the coyote-crone to an adobe casa—five coyote-men lay on cots within, injured from gunshot wounds. Thick swarms of flies buzzed in and out of the windows to settle on the wounds—despite the desperate swipes of the coyote-men to keep them off—and the stink of pus-swollen flesh made her dizzy.

Later she overheard the coyote-man with the frayed hat complaining to Cook. Four coyote-men had died in the attacks on the ranches. The fights to escape with the stolen children had been long and bloody due to the lack of Sorcerer Polvo’s magic.

*

Juanita dreamed of the cave.

The coyote-man in the white deerskin smiled at her, then pulled himself up using his carved staff. He twirled around the roaring fire, his leather trousers rattling with obsidian and turquoise beads. He lifted his staff and hit its gnarled head to the ground—a puff of smoke rose from where it struck, turning into a tiny whirlwind of brown dust.

He spun onwards and struck again—another small whirlwind, this one of black soil. Again—this one of red clay. And once more—this one of yellow sand. All four whirlwinds spun with him around the fire, then followed the sorcerer to the mouth of the cave. The winds merged and flew out into the night.

Juanita peered out of the cave’s mouth and coughed from the dust of the giant whirling storm outside. A loud whistling grew in pitch and her mouth tasted like clay.

The sorcerer touched Juanita’s shoulder with a soft paw. “They are all afraid of the altar and will use you and any other prisoners to clean the cursed pits they dug. The storm will come. It’s all I can do. Be ready.”

*

While Juanita scrubbed the breakfast tin plates and cups, a guard came and said in English to Cook, “We need your servants to come with us.”

Cook swallowed, looking nervous, and said, “Yes. Certainly. I’ll get some of the men to help today.”

Juanita and the coyote-crone were escorted by the guard to a stable of burros, where two guards with rifles joined them. The coyote-crone whimpered when she saw the five saddled burros waiting with gear and packs.

The leader said to Juanita, “The coyote-crone has done this work before; she will show you. We’ve got the cleaning of a cave to do.” He jerked his muzzle towards a canyon to the west. “There’s going to be a fiesta.”

*

The wide canyon they rode into headed straight towards the Jemez, making Juanita’s heart beat in excitement, for this had been the landscape of her dreams.

As the burros clambered upwards, the guards gripped their rifles tighter and frequently turned their heads from side to side to sniff the pine-scented air. One guard pulled off his hat to twitch his ears about in all directions.

All Juanita could hear was the croaking of ravens, chittering of squirrels, and the soughing of the wind amongst the thickening groves of evergreens. She spent the ride remembering prayers and hymns, and smiled at the wisps of cloud forming above the Jemez in a sky as blue as the Madonna’s cloak.

Around the time that the sun reached its highest point, they halted before a gaping cave at the base of the left canyon wall. The leader slid off his burro and brought his rifle up to aim at the women. “Get down and wait outside the cave. Tando, light the lanterns.”

As Tando lit the lanterns by striking flint and knife, the third guard tied the burros to stakes under a nearby pine tree while the leader kept the women under watch. Cool air seeped across Juanita’s back and bare heels from the cave’s mouth. The clouds above the Jemez Mountains were beginning to swell and merge, darkening to gray.

“Here.” Tando shoved a lantern into her hands. He put another in the coyote-crone’s trembling paw, and carried the last. He strode past them into the cave, motioning for the women to follow. The leader, rifle at the ready, trailed behind with the other guard.

She passed through the entrance cave and entered a dark upwards path scraped through the weak stone. The narrow passageway had to be navigated single file. They climbed steadily until in the distance she could see light from an overcast sky pouring down into a cavern.

In the center of the cavern, underneath the dim shaft of light, was an altar table carved out of obsidian.

As her eyes adjusted, she saw that the altar was encircled with pits dug into the floor of the cavern. There were three circular rows of pits, and each row had twelve pits. Thirty-six pits in all.

The outside light came from a rectangular shaft hewn through the cavern’s ceiling. Tando took Juanita’s lantern from her, and ordered her to stand next to the row of pits closest to the altar.

The shaft went up and up and up through the thick layers of the mesa until it reached the surface. It was as if she stood at the bottom of a very deep well.

When they were all assembled, the leader looked at Juanita and said, “You old biddies each have eighteen pits to clean. I want all the bones removed and tossed into the hole for burial. Be quick—we want to be out of here before the storm comes.”

The coyote-crone howled, but the leader shoved her towards a pit.

Tando circled the cavern by following the wall and disappeared down a side path; he came back a few moments later with only one lantern.

Juanita kneeled to look into the pit closest to her: the mummified remains of a bound and gagged coyote-child lay at the bottom.

“Get going, you old biddy!” A clatter arose next to her from a rock thrown by a guard.

She slipped down into the pit; it was as deep as her shoulder blades. Poor child, what did they do to you? She put her arms beneath the dead body, using its buckskin trousers and shirt to keep from touching its matted fur, and lifted the coyote-child over the rim of the pit.

It took several tries to pull herself out. Her fellow slave still struggled feebly to escape her own pit, so Juanita went over and helped her.

With the coyote-crone in the lead, they carried the bodies of the coyote-children down the side path. Faint light came from around a sharp corner, and they followed it to enter a small cave with a deep hole. The lantern left by Tando sat on the ground nearby. The air was musty and smelled of decayed hides.

Juanita followed the coyote-crone’s example and gently dropped the dead body she carried into the hole. By the scattered light she could see at the bottom the tied-up remains of dozens of coyote-children and coyote-women—all wearing garments made out of tanned skins.

They were sacrificed. No wonder I saw no little ones running around … Miguel and the others, that sorcerer is going to kill them.

A few tears trickled down her cheeks as she trailed behind the coyote-crone back to the pits.

She spent what felt like an eternal span crawling into open graves, lifting out the bodies of mummified coyote-women and coyote-children, praying for the dead under her breath.

The coyote-crone broke into anguished howls in one of the last pits; Juanita ran over to find her cradling the body of what looked to be a coyote-baby. The guards began to curse and throw stones at the pit, yelling for the women to get back to work, but did not come near.

Juanita slipped down into the pit, and coaxed the coyote-crone to let go of the baby and climb out. She left the crone rocking back and forth on the cavern floor with empty arms, and carried the baby to the hole.

Finally, they were done and were herded, coated with dust and sweat, out into the canyon. Indigo thunderclouds roiled the winds into visible gusts of dirt. Lightning flashed in the Jemez and the deep rumble of thunder echoed off the canyon walls.

Before the guards could respond, a dust storm spilled into their part of the canyon, blowing dirt that turned the air brown. Their yells were muffled by the screaming winds. She saw through the thickening storm that they were backing up towards the cave.

She ran up the canyon into the brown gloom; she trusted the dust to make it difficult for them to shoot her down. Once hidden in its depths she touched a canyon wall to guide her way upwards.

She stumbled out into silence. Behind her the dust storm grew, creating a wall of dirt and wind that no guard could pass through.

I must make good usage of the time given to me. She fled upwards, threading her way through evergreens and scrub brush.

*

At sunset, the dust storm swirling in the lower part of the canyon began to dissipate, and a golden-shaded moon hovered over the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. From up here, as she glanced down the canyon path she had climbed into the Jemez Mountains, Juanita could see the wriggling rifts in the air that encircled the presidio on three sides, though she could not see the presidio itself.

They would soon be on the hunt for her.

Her feet had long ago gone numb from sharp stones and pine needles. From far away came the faint echo of gunshot signals—two of the guards would likely come after her, while one took the coyote-crone back and raised the alarm.

She fled further up the narrowing canyon. …

********** End of The Enchantment of Coyotes – Story Sample **********

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See you in October! Cheers, L.M.