Images Of The Natural And The Supernatural

The early morning sky was so bright and clear that it seemed as though it would surely shatter like crystal if disturbed. Far in the distance an ancient black coach slowly passed through the scene. its wheels and the tread of its horses making the only sound on its way toward me. As I watched, the singing began. I could not tell from where it came nor the song but it was surely something by the likes of Verdi and the tenor voice as fine as that of Caruso or Gigli at their best.

I’d been hiking across the high plateau to Andorra and had just awakened from where I’d spent the night: a small inn, neat and pretty in its way but unremarkable in the basque countryside. I smelled the sausage and eggs that the mistress of the inn was preparing for my breakfast but a stronger pull by far called me toward the coach. Strangely, though its two black horses were pulling at a steady and stately pace it did not draw nearer to me. Instead it were as though the horses were beckoning me to come to them. I simply popped my head inside the door to tell the lady that I could not stay for breakfast. She seemed to understand. Rather, I am sure that she understood for she smiled at me as though it were a regular thing for her guests to hurry off in the morning and follow after a fairy coach from another world.

The innkeeper bid me wait while she gathered the sausages from the pan in which she had cooked them, wrapped them and some bread in newspaper, and transferred them to a paper bag. Meanwhile I grabbed my few things and threw them into my backpack. Payment and parting were as quick as pleasantries allowed for she knew that I must hurry. The coach had stopped perhaps a half kilometer away and was waiting, though how the driver knew that he should wait for a traveler at the inn I did not know and still do not know.

I threw the backpack over a shoulder and hurried toward the coach which was moving to meet me on the narrow road to Andorra. I was certainly happy to have a lift as the inn was at an elevation of only five hundred meters and the road would rise another fifteen hundred before it reached my destination. When we met, the driver of the coach did not say anything but nodded his head toward the door. I opened it and settled myself with the backpack and my lunch under the seat as with their stately stride the two horses began to pull and my conveyance started with a jolt. The silent driver turned his vehicle around and soon through the side window I watched the inn disappear behind us. Now an unease about my situation grabbed me. Here I was in a coach out of another century, being pulled by two black horses along a road which I hoped would lead me to my destination though the driver could not know where I was heading.

But were the driver and I entirely alone, I wondered as I ate the quick meal that my innkeeper of the night before had prepared. A silly thought, I tried to tell myself. Of course we were alone. But how to dispose of the paper bag without littering the beautiful landscape through which we were passing? Then a hand reached toward me and took the bag and as I watched in terror the form of a woman materialize on the bench beside me.


“Hello,” I replied, fully aware that the exchange of simple greetings was entirely inappropriate when the person next to you hadn’t been there a moment before nor could have boarded the closed and moving vehicle. The lady looked at me with the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa and I watched paralyzed as the bag simply disappeared from her hand,.

“Are you going my way?” she asked, as though one vehicle could have taken us in different directions.

“I’m to visit friends in Andorra,” I managed to say,

“Yes, I know. It has been a long time since you left your home there to travel the world. Have you now seen enough of it?”

How did she know that I had lived in Andorra as a small child? Her question was so strange that I did not have a ready answer. She watched my face as my mind searched for an answer.

“It’s all right. Very few people can answer that question unless they are much older than you, or dying.” then she fell silent and, it seemed, more ethereal.

I wanted to speak and ask the lady so many questions but they fled from my mind as soon as they came. So I sat dumb. I should have been even more frightened. After all, I was sitting next to a person who had not been there only minutes before. So I concentrated on smaller matters. This was the 21st century so why was I in an antique coach pulled by two of the biggest and most beautiful steeds I had ever seen? Why was the ride on an old rutted road so smooth? And why were we traveling like a wind with the trees outside the coach passing almost too quickly to see? Then, why were we amid the treetops? It didn’t matter. Mona Lisa tucked a cloud under my head and I slept like a child.

When I awoke my head was on her lap and she was stroking my hair as though I were her cat. I should have been upset and confused but I was a cat with a cat brain being petted by a beautiful lady. The morning chill was gone from the air even though the road was steadily climbing. Ahead of us I could see the peaks of the Pyrenees. Then the coach stopped and the lady – let me call her Mona Lisa, or ML – started to step out, not waiting for our driver to open her door. I was in her arms. She held me tightly lest her cat run off and be lost. Quickly our driver descended from his box and released a little step from under the door

“Thank you, Juan,” Lisa said. Now at last I knew his name even if it would always sound like meow when I spoke. His livery was black like the coach with some coat of arms emblazoned in gold thread on his breast and with some more gold embroidery on his sleeves.

Where were we? Half way up a mountainside beside some brook where I assumed Juan had stopped to water the horses. Not so. “This is Meow?” someone behind me asked.

“Of course,” Lisa replied while scratching behind one of my triangle ears.

“Good,” he said, and scratched me behind the other. For a moment I thought that I saw something protruding from behind his coat but concluded that it was just the sunshine on some current that was a bit warmer than the rest of the air.

When Juan regained his seat on the coach without a word, the horses started in their traces then just disappeared leaving Lisa and me alone facing our host. Now my attention was drawn to something so obvious that I still don’t know how I’d not noticed it immediately: a small chateau or large lodge made of field stone and cut timber was materializing. All about it were workers. Surely their wings were not a mirage formed by warm air currents. We were in Fairyland.

Until now I have not described Lisa as I’ve called her – for I never learned her name. To say that she was (or is) beautiful would be an injustice. No words in any language can describe the face of an angel. An angel? Perhaps that is what she was or perhaps a divinity like the muses of Hellenic lore. Her face was as happy as a child’s and her skin as smooth as an Aphrodite by Praxiteles. I am of this century and she was of another. But it did not matter. In the coach she was dressed modestly as befit its century but In the chateau that we were approaching she was clearly a fairy with raiment that changed with the light or the breeze. Did her feet even touch the ground? I cannot be sure but if they did it was only because she wished it.

Lisa was greeted at the main entrance by another servant dressed in the same livery as our driver but with a bit of lace at his wrists and neck to indicate his higher rank as head butler. In the gracious manner of that part of the world our host took me from Lisa’s arms. In a purposeful but not unkindly way he gave my face and body a thorough look over. He must have been satisfied for he handed me to the servant who shouldered me and petted my back as he led ML to her second floor chambers. These consisted of a pleasant sunlit sitting room and another room containing only a chest of drawers and a large bed covered with a quilted coverlet. A down filled pillow seemed to call the cat in me to rest upon it in the sun.

“I’m sure he will do just fine, milady. He will be our Meow. It has been such trouble since the demon rats came here but I’m sure that he’ll deal with them in an appropriate manner.” Now that should have disturbed me. My self image did not include chasing rats, demon or otherwise. I enjoy a steak dinner with a nice wine so the thought of wrestling a rat with my mouth was disquieting in the extreme. On the other hand, I hate rats.

As the head butler withdrew another servant appeared at the door. He bore a silver service for Lisa: tea, a single cup, and a small plate with a piece of cake. There was also cream and sugar for, as I would discover, Lisa preferred her tea in the English style. The pot of cream sat in a saucer and the servant took the one and poured a large part of the contents into the other. “For your friend,” he said. “He must be as tired as you from the journey, and a bit confused, I suppose.”

That made me realize that I was indeed confused as I had every right to be except that sitting on the floor beside “my mistress” seemed entirely right – especially after finishing off a saucer of warm cream. It also seemed entirely proper to lick my fur.

“You are wondering where we are and why?” ML asked when she was sure that we would be alone for awhile. To answer her I wandered back and forth between her legs as I had seen other cats do. It felt uncomfortably natural but no more so than answering with the purr that I had no desire to restrain.

“We are in Andorra, but not the Andorra where you lived as a child. I suppose that scientists would say we are in another dimension. In Andorra, yes, but without any time. What happens today has happened already and will happen again. Does that trouble you?”

“Meow.” There I’d said it. If I am to be a cat than I shall act the part, but did I yesterday and will I tomorrow? Surely yesterday I was hiking along a road in the Basque countryside not rubbing against a fairy’s legs. Then I realized that this too was a fun thing to do for her legs were smooth and smelled of thyme from a garden.

Besides, the pillow was still calling me.

What about those demon rats, I thought and she knew. Lisa bent to take me up and lay me on the pillow. “There are no demon rats, just you and me and this world of ours. There is no one else. But if my fantasies want to believe in demon rats it makes the whole adventure more exciting.”

Fantasies I thought, but was immediately distracted. My mistress – for such she had surely become – had picked me up, pillow and all, and deposited her bundle on a broad window ledge. “Now” she whispered in my twitching ear, “look up the road and soon you will see a parade of pussycats coming.” And so I did but such an outlandish display of felinity has never been seen outside of Fairyland. The parade was led by an aged tom with a ruffled collar and a small sword belted to his waist. He was followed by a drummer applying his tail to a drum hung around the neck of a follower. Then came the rest: ladies in gowns which should have looked ridiculous on a four footed animal but somehow didn’t, just as they don’t in cartoons. For a moment I was put in mind of Beatrix Potter whose cats are mostly drawn standing, just as these were.

“Meow.” I said, confused.”

“Meow yourself. Now watch.” After the ladies came a large continent of nobles all dressed in the style of sixteenth century Spanish noblemen with capes and swords. Then came some soldiers with morion helmets, embossed breastplates, and halberds. I assumed that these were guards for in the middle of their ranks was the king of the cats, resplendent with the largest of the ruffled collars which were worn by almost all the men and women save for the soldiers. Were that not enough a jeweled sword belt and a large gold medallion clearly marked him as the most important cat there.

Lisa spoke again when the procession had passed. “There is still sunlight. I know you want to sleep. You’re a cat. But let us see the garden that I have imagined. There won’t be any rats there. A squirrel perhaps, but no rats.”

The garden was situated just outside our sitting room window. As I already knew, there was thyme and also a laurel bush, rosemary and cayenne. Of less practical use there were flowers great and small and a fountain from which came cool mountain water. I decided that I could happily live in this place on my soft pillow with Lisa. Especially if there were no demon rats.

But what are your fantasies? I wondered realizing that I was wandering through a fairy’s mind. I could hear music. It was the same as I had heard outside the inn that morning. But now the opera – for such it seemed to be – had reached a choral part and I could imagine a ballet being performed to the music,

We walked through the garden together. It had seemed no larger than any other until I realized that we’d been walking for a half hour or more and not yet reached the end. I looked back and the house was no longer in sight, just tall sunflowers and tiger lilies and many herbs and flowers that I did not know by name.

“You seem disturbed, pussycat. Are you not enjoying my garden? I thought you would.” Lisa bent down to touch my ear with her lips. “There is even a small patch of catnip over there.” She pointed to a space so far away it would have taken hours to reach. I found the thought of catnip attractive but not near so much so as being with my mistress in her wonderful garden. “It is not that,” I said. It is wonderful here but you said that today was the same as yesterday and tomorrow will be the same as today. It is a wonderful place but I feel it would be a waste to remain here forever and never see anything else.”

“Oh silly, pussycat. That is not what I meant at all. There have been and will be as many days and adventures as you want. But we can always return to our favorites. I know this is a favorite of yours as it is of mine. Do you think that it was more real than this to be walking a road in Spain?

Of course this was all in our minds as I rested my tired self on a sun-warmed spot beside the fountain.

“There was a boy,” Lisa said. “He is a man now. We lived together when he and I were young. But he was taken away from me. Now sleep, pussycat. I will see you again – tomorrow.”

When I awoke it was well past daybreak. I was in the black coach again, alone as it descended the road from Andorra. As on that first day the chill sky was like fine crystal and every branch of every tree as clear against it as though just placed in the scene by some god. I sat lost in thought until toward noon Juan pulled his horses to a halt outside the very inn where I had stayed the night before my adventure. He got down from his bench to drop the little step and open my door. When I stepped out the earth felt so very sturdy as though my time in Andorra had been nothing but a dream fantasy. That could not be of course. Here I was returning to where I’d been in a fine coach pulled by two fine steeds. Then it all disappeared but Lisa’s last words hung in my mind like a blessing. “I will see you again – tomorrow.”


Jeff had taught classics before the war and could recite poems by Horace and Virgil from memory either in English or as easily in the original Latin. When he’d read to his class from the Iliad he’d been proud that he was passing on to another generation the same joy of discovery which he himself had felt. Now he was on the shore of the Dardanelles just a bit of water and a short march from Homer’s Troy.

He had been told in training not to fear the sound of incoming artillery fire. “You won’t hear the one that gets you,” he’d been told. The sergeant who told him that had been right. He had not heard the shell nor had he felt an instant hurt when his leg was blown off. He did know he’d been wounded. He had felt the pressure wave that knocked him on his ass and seen the comrade who wrapped his stub in a shirt to hide it from him. He hoped that the wound would end the war for him.

The barrage continued but Jeff was deaf to it for his eardrums had been pierced. He hardly knew or cared who the others around him were or what they were doing. He felt the impact of boots when someone ran past his head, but it didn’t matter. Nor did it matter that the sky was no longer blue and the air was full of dirt and scrap. Jeff’s eyes were rolling and his mind was somewhere far away or thinking of nothing at all.

Homer. The Iliad. So many brave warriors dying without the Christian belief in an afterlife. All had been brave in battle, then they too had lay wounded and facing their end. Like them he knew that it was useless to pray but like a child he was doing so. Oh my God I am heartily sorry…. He was dying a Homeric coward, pleading to be blessed with a Christian afterlife that he had not really believed in since childhood. Now he understood Homer as he had never before. Nothing mattered. Even family honor no longer mattered. Nothing had ever mattered and “darkness descended on his eyes.”

Use these links for easy access to individual Stories.

Belisarius Resigns His Command

Mirages of God

Momma’s Sick

John and Mary

The Old Mirror

Mr. Twilling’s Snow

Terri’s First Story – Marcus Aurelius

Terri’s Second Story – Le Chat de Villahardoir

Terri’s Third Story – Polyphemus and Galatea


Terri’s Fourth Story – Elymbos, Karpathos

The Woods

Johanna The Christmas Whore

Beth Gets a Fur for Christmas



The Road to Andorra

Gallipoli – Troy

There had been a killing down the street. Depending on one’s attitude that was a terrible thing: “On this block? Oh, my God.” Or else exciting in a grim way: “Did you hear? Some drug dealer got his.”

To most people though it was just a part of life in the city: Walk quickly without seeming to hurry. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t show any interest in anything. By the next morning water cooler chit chat had returned to baseball and TV, the office management, and who was doing who. The same was the case with those who lived on the street. The victim had been a nice guy or an asshole, or had problems. He’d been in St Vincent’s Hospital or Bellevue Psychiatric, or some prison in Pennsylvania. Soon conversation would turn to more pressing problems and prospects.

To the medical examiner the body on the table was routine. Name: unknown. Sex: male. Age: about 25. Medical conditions: nothing major observed. No indication of drug use. Cause of death: puncture wound just below the heart and a knife slash of the carotid artery probably administered as the victim fell after being wounded in the chest. Immediate cause of death: major loss of blood from two wounds.

To the two detectives sent to investigate there was also little to note. There were no witnesses. The corpse had been found by an early morning jogger in a side alley at 770 West 43rd street. Word on the street was that he was a gangster wannabe who had been dealing without gang permission. They wrote up their report, filed it, and then ate lunch at Dina’s Diner near the Midtown North precinct house. The only thing they’d uncovered that morning was how pissed people who’d worked all night were to be awakened, even at 11:00 AM.

Detective Bruce Myers gave his partner his share of the check and walked into the cold street leaving Matt Johnson to finish a third coffee and pay the tab. The diner was old fashioned, modeled after a railroad car. It had aluminum siding and was raised on a concrete platform. It was “boarded” by walking up three cement steps. Next to the steps was a pottery planter which might have had something flowering in it in spring but now just held some dead weeds and a crumpled cigarette pack. The sidewalk was filthy though Myers hadn’t noticed that until today.

Headquarters might want him to question more of the street people. Not that he’d learn anything. Nor did it matter. The dead man was just another small time dealer, usually an addict himself. The ME had made a point of noting that the victim had not appeared to be a user though. That was unusual and might mean something. Word on the street had been that he was new and unwelcome. From out of town though no one knew from where. Perhaps he’d been too stupid or naive to know that he was risking his life. Perhaps he’d been in debt and had needed money. Perhaps, perhaps, Myers told himself that it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter either that the guy had been not that much younger than he himself. Still in his twenties but with no indication of drug use. The thought bothered him in a way that detectives do not usually take death on the city streets personally. Most of the dealers were in their twenties. Few survived longer. Either they went to prison for something or they died at St Vincent’s. Very occasionally one would get sober and find a life. The others were just lost and it didn’t matter. Even those they’d known on the street took their deaths in stride. Most didn’t expect to survive all that long either.

Like Myers, street people had no family and no real girlfriends. Those who’d fathered children had either left them or been thrown out of their homes. Like Myers they had no-one to care about them. Myers’ own idea of a good time was nothing but a few drinks with other officers after work. Most of these went home early though; they had families. A few still held onto a belief in a God of some sort and shared their belief with their five and eight and ten year olds. He didn’t. All he had was getting drunk, occasionally with some whore. When he went to his apartment that night he thought for a long time about himself and the dead man while cleaning his service revolver. Then he shot himself.

Death walked the streets like a nun watching for bad little boys to discipline. Death opened a church door and drifted in. Like a storm cloud he spread his gloomy self over many. He did skip over some, mostly those whose demise would not greatly upset the others. Instead he picked out a child here, a mother there, and as many of the beautiful as he could. How different they would look in a few days; their flesh would turn gray even before they closed their terrified eyes for the last time and surrendered into his grasp. Then would come decay. The living would bury the dead of course, but beneath the new green grass their faces would drip away, leaving only rotting meat; then that too would be gone, eaten by maggots.
Stephen Foster had asked the eternal question in song: Why must the beautiful ever weep? Why must the beautiful die? Life had no answer. Life knows sunshine and butterflies and green grass but nothing of death. It is said that dying is but a part of life. Horse shit.
Oh optimists, you who will not face the end; what answer have you that is not simply a wish based upon nothing but blind hope and fear?
Ask the fat maggots. Without the beautiful children they would starve. God provides for his creatures, great and small alike.

She seemed to have been born of the sun. Her hair shone; her face shone as well. Her skin was as bright as the day, her bosom as warm as polished rocks in the summer sun. She lived in the land of the Divine where there is neither illness nor accident and where even old animals play all day, mindful only of the now and caring no more about tomorrow than a kitten does.
But one day she was called, for she was needed. As the sun descended toward the western hills she left that land of constant joy and no tomorrow. She walked slowly at first, then hurried toward the hills behind which the sun soon dropped. The rocks had lost their shine and were cold. The hills became dark and undefined. The grass beneath the girl’s feet was still soft but no longer warm and only darkness was in the sky behind her.
She walked into the darkening hills more quickly than one really can, save in dreams. She walked all night unafraid of anything, for nothing could or would have wished to harm the child of day. Night’s terrors bowed as they sought a glimpse of her. Cougars purred at her approach for she was beautiful, and wolves ran to lick her hand for she was good. She had lost nothing of the radiance of the day and she passed through the night like a torch moving on the hills. At dawn the terrors would still feel warmed by her passing and greet the day with lighter hearts.
At last the girl saw where she had been summoned to. It was a little house between two of the hills with a single candle lighting the window of one room. There was a stone chimney which smoked a little, laying a lazy haze in the still air about the place. She could see it all for the moon had risen. Full in the sky above, it lit the cabin as though it had no other work that night. Perhaps it hadn’t for the pines that rose all about the house were as dark as they had been before its rising.
She approached that window lighted by a candle. How poorly the pane reflected her beauty. Yet the flame leapt at sight of her as though in joy; as though the girl was the mother of the tiny flame and it sought to reach up to her as an infant to its mother. She peered inside. There lay a child under a coverlet embroidered with wildflowers. The boy was not asleep. His eyes were closed, but in fear, not rest. He did not know why. This night was no different from other nights, the day had been no more troublesome than other days. Tomorrow would be no different either, he told himself as he tried to fall into sleep. Somehow he knew that was not true and in fear he awaited the messenger he sensed would come.
There was a knock. It was not the fearsome knock that he expected but only a tiny rapping as though to tell him not to fear. Then she stood by his bed and the room brightened. The single candle shone with the brightness of a rich man’s candelabra or the lamps of many windings that hung in the church far down in the valley where the child prayed each Sunday.
“Do not be afraid, Joseph. I do not bring pain. I am your friend death.”


Beth Allen stopped for coffee; not at Starbucks for she really didn’t care to socialize this morning. She just wanted coffee and a little time to think. Outside, the morning air had been cold and she still felt a few quick shivers. That seemed all too natural, for the recent days had all been gloomy and cold and depressing. She tried to blame that for her own depression but she knew that there was much more to it than that. Mainly, she just felt dead inside. The dreams of her young adulthood had been melting behind her advancing years like the slush which always covered the city streets just before spring. Ah spring; perhaps she would feel better in a month or two when the world would come alive again. Of course that might take a while longer in the city than in the country. A dull cold hung longer here in the dull air between the dull apartment buildings of Amsterdam Avenue. For just a moment Beth thought of how much prettier it could be just a couple of blocks away, beside the Hudson. There was an ice free channel with barges on the river and on a clear day the Hudson could be pretty in winter; but this wasn’t a clear day. It was gray and cold, and doubtless windy so close to the river.

Beth found a quiet little table in a quiet little corner. A young man came over to take her order. Probably an actor too, she thought. He didn’t smile at her pretty face and his feet hardly touched the floor. No, perhaps he’s a dancer. “Plain coffee, black.” No, not espresso; not anything with an Italian or pseudo European name. “Just coffee – please. OK, with a cheese danish.” When she wasn’t acting, which was most of the time, Beth was a model. Not fashion though. She did ads and some girlie stuff and it paid the rent. However she didn’t feel like watching her figure this morning. Why should I?

At least the windows of the coffee shop were clean but the nearby buildings were old. She began musing on what it must have been like to live here when her grand folks had. Maybe not so different. Dirtier certainly with coal fired furnaces belching all over the city and from Jersey across the river., but were people back then more accustomed to the damn cold? Surely they were poorer but at least their fewer clothes were real wool and cotton and a lady’s dress far longer.

Her grandma had been named Beth too. It was a name that had been passed on for at least five generations. Surely it must have been something different in the old country but had been chosen here for its very American sound. She was Beth the fifth, Paganne. The Beth remained though marriages had changed the family names. Beth Paganne? What was the origin of Paganne? Her folks had never said much about it save an occasional joke about Scottish kings somewhere way back. Probably they didn’t know much about it either. However, her mother had let one piece of information about the Beths slip. Beth III had also been a model and her family name had been Schierloh, a good old German name so she knew that her ancestry wasn’t purely Scottish. There were a few black and white photos of her which Beth V had inherited. She was not modeling in them however, just posing for family snaps taken, her mom had said, with a box Brownie which must have been old style even in the nineteen fifties.

Beth V finished her coffee and danish and went into the cold mean street. Yeah, there was still a bit of the forties and fifties, and even the thirties about the neighborhood, even an old Chesterfield ad on the side of one apartment building, exposed when the neighboring parking garage had been demolished and a sad little park built. It wasn’t a real park, just one of the little hippie neighborhood parks so beloved of the city’s one-time mayor John Lindsay. Hippies? The love generation? Beth IV, her mom, had always put on a rather sad and disappointed look when the subject came up. “The love generation? No way. Gas, ass, or grass; no one rode for free.”

Despite Beth’s intent to stay warm she found herself drawn to the Hudson. Just for a moment, a quick look, she thought, knowing full well that she would linger there in the cold a bit longer than intended. Her first sight of the river was just ice, an undefined gray sheet of it far down fifty eighth street. She hurried, for the air was cold. Why am I doing this? Beth asked herself. It’s cold. It’s mean. The river will still be there tomorrow. But will I?

Will I? What a damned depressing thought. Beth pulled her coat more tightly around her and wished that she had a scarf to keep her head warm like Beth III had in one of the old photos she’d been thinking about. She knew that it had been taken somewhere nearby. The scene was nearly entirely different of course. but one of the buildings seemed recognizable, and on this gray day nearly as monochromatic as in the old snap. In her mind’s eye Beth III was still there. She would still be there so long as the photo resided safe in the possession of some Beth. She took a certain pleasure in that thought and taking out her android she set its timer. Then Beth V posed as nearly as possible like her namesake grandma had.

Enough nostalgia. It was time to get out of the cold. It was time for another coffee. Maybe drink it in some dead dark old church. But then what? By eight the sun had begun to disperse the gray, and the wide Hudson ice was pastel shades of pinks and pale gold in the morning glow. That’s better, she thought; and almost reluctantly letting go of her comfortable gloom she turned her back to the now sunlit river. Spring will be coming in a month or two. With that thought – almost against her will – hope in tomorrow was returning too.

There will be work, good jobs. Maybe a part off Broadway. Screw my figure.

This fine morning she would have a cookie with the coffee.


The sun had just risen when Sir Halfren rode out of the woods and into a large field of grain, yellow – almost golden – in the sun. Across the field was a building of some sort and he hurried his horse toward it. From the front it had the aspect of a chapel though it bore no cross and had no belfry. As he neared the building he could see that it was quite long. The walls were of a light stone color and all about it was a garden.
Near the door he dismounted. By now the sun was high enough to glint off many panes of glass. They were not the stained glass of a chapel but what seemed glass so clear that the whole inside of the building must be flooded with sunlight. He reached for a large iron ring that hung on the door and knocked. Almost immediately, as though his coming had been expected, the door was opened by a young woman. She said nothing but looked at him as though she knew the knight and had known him all his years. Her hair was obviously long but had been caught up to encircle her head in a style not of the knight’s century, and her gown – all dark red velvet and white lace – hugged her in a soft embrace. Her feet were bare.
Then the lady smiled and that smile lit the doorway like a lamp of unimagined brightness. She laughed a light laugh and motioned Halfren to enter. Nor was it a slight and perfunctory gesture. Gaily she swung her whole forearm in a wide arc, her hand fluttering in welcome. “Come in, come in … Come in Sir Halfren. I’ve been expecting you for long ages, “
Halfren was confused, yet the welcome was so warm and joyous that there certainly could be nothing but good inside. He was amazed to find the the building’s inside far larger even that he had expected. It was at least three hundred feet long and divided in two by an inside wall running most of its length. Halfren could not observe the space to the right of this divider but its entire length was to be seen on the left. The whole interior was at least thirty feet high with window walls of beveled glass panes that rose from floor to ceiling and illuminated everything in a way no other building of his century could be lit. The floor was polished granite which supported occasional verde and porphyry columns that rose to the distant ceiling. Its warm teakwood was coffered and from some of the coffers a row of unlit chandeliers ran the length of the room. The central wall was of a pleasant cream shade and bore both gilded mirrors and occasional wooden shelves of various lengths and at several heights. On these were decorations from centuries past, collected, Halfren assumed, by a wealthy owner. There were ship models, portraits and statuary, ceramics, and some pictures which seemed too accurate to have been painted by human hands. The smiling lady looked at Halfren, at the pictures, and then at Halfren again: ”They are called photographs and are from the future.”
‘That cannot be,” Halfren heard himself saying, while knowing that what the lady said was true. Then she must be a witch, he thought but knew that to not be so. The lady and the whole room were far too beautiful and – yes, innocent. He felt warm hands on his shoulders, warm breath on his neck and in his breast his heart jumped with visions of joy without end. He knew that he should be afraid, that he should cross himself and pray; but to whom? God was right here in this calm and beautiful hall.
“You cannot understand. I am God’s only creation in this universe. All else I have imagined. Now I have thought of you and so you are.”
“You’re saying that you have only made me up. No. I am. I assure you: I am not a dream.”
“Of course you are, Halfren, and you always will be whenever I think of you; just as my friends of 1910 are always with me. Those that are not with me are only those whom my friends have thought up. Those are just paper images to me without depth and I care not about them. But, Sir knight, I do care for you.
As she said these words her whole look changed. Halfren saw that her pretty feet were now shod in high laced sandals such as he had never even imagined. When he lifted his eyes the lady was clothed in a white blouse with a high neck and long sleeves. A black ribbon encircled her neck and another her waist. She had let her hair fall to her shoulders. Her skirt was full and swung like a bell.
“Do you like this, Halfren? Or would you rather I was less demure? I can be that too. I have only to think of some tight leather or tiny short skirt. Would you like that Halfren? Somehow several glass panes had opened and a breeze swept through the room. Through the glass Halfren could see bushels of leaves, caught by the same breeze, blowing through the garden.
“Hello again! I’ve been gone and am returned. Of all my friends only you will be able to understand this. I know you will because I have imagined that you can. But I give you that choice. If you choose to understand you will have no need of paper people. This is the first time that I have ever asked anyone for anything. Will you give me your understanding, Sir knight?”
“What is on he other side of this wall,” the knight asked almost in fear. Sir Halfren did not fear any man, even the king with his castles and their dungeons; but now he knew that he did fear the unknown.
“Why nothing evil,” the lady said and her smile lit the dark side of the wall as they passed to the other side. Here instead of tall windows to let in the sun there was a wall of mirrors, one after another, perhaps twenty, As the lady led Halfren past them the warm glow of her smile lit each in turn and Halfren thought for a moment to flee the place and put as many miles as possible between it and reality. But only for a moment. How could any of this be evil? Halfren watched himself in each mirror that he passed then stopped midway down the line, for his image in one seemed different. He looked younger, and as he looked he began to see far in the distance the simple hut of a holy man; a man he had known when young.
“Come with me, Halfren.” The lady spoke in a firm but warm voice.
“I should know your name.”
“Call me Mara, sir knight.”
Halfren followed Mara past several more mirrors until she stopped in front of one which seemed somehow different. It took him a moment to realize that it was not a mirror at all for he was not reflected in it. But then it was not a window either. In it he saw clouds passing beneath him.
“Do you dare enter your future, sir Halfren.”
Halfren did not answer. He could hardly believe it himself, but he felt no fear in the lady’s presence. He stepped though the “mirror” and with him so too did Mara. He expected to fall to earth. Why that did not frighten him Halfren did not know. But that was not what happened. A cloud enveloped him and as he passed out of its mist he found himself beside Mara, standing on a hillside with the dawn breaking.
Halfren looked around him. He did not recognize the place. The landscape was unreal. It was like that in a painting. He could see a village and there was a road to it. On the road he saw a small group pf mounted men. Their dress was from the east and they spoke among themselves in a language that he should not have understood, but did.
“Pompey will end piracy in the east; then it will be safe to go again.”
“Pompey?” Halfren heard himself repeat. Pompey had lived six hundred years before. Mara just looked at him wanting to see the reaction in his face.
“Yes; six hundred years before your time.” Mara looked serious as she examined Halfren’s face. Could he understand? Would he even want to understand? “Time is a tapestry, Mi-lord Halfren; and we are looking at it without constraints of time.”
“But Mara…” Halfren felt uncomfortable addressing her in so familiar a way, but he did. “Mara, Who are these men? It seems that I know them.”
“Of course. If you did not know them they would not be. Now you think you imagine them. No. They are as real as you and me for they are you and me. Let us join them.”
Of a sudden Halfren was walking the road and as in a dream he and Mara were beside the men more quickly then was possible. Yet the men did not seem to see them.
“I told you it is as though we were watching a tapestry. Would you want to see these men when they were children? Look they are playing at ball.”
Sir Halfren saw the children but the older forms at the same time until his attention was drawn to the road and the village for a moment and when he looked back all were gone except Mara, the one constant in this world of fleeting images. They began again to walk the road. They walked toward the village but never reached it.
“Because you do not want o reach it, sir knight.”
“You said I’d see my future, but those men were in the past.”
“Future, past. They are the same. I told you that time is a tapestry. One person follows another. First they bath and dress, then mount horses to go to battle. Then there is the fight and a victory celebration. But to you and me watching it is all one… As it is to God and to the dead.”
When Halfren looked again at the road it was gone, and the village too. He and Mara were standing outside the mirror again.”
“It is your choice, My dear…. May I call you that? There is the door through which you entered but be warned, if you leave there will be nothing left of this place. It is where I am and I will not be here.”
They had walked past all the windows and stood again by the door, now in the full blaze of the sunlight which broke into rainbow colors when it struck the bevels in the room of many windows. Mara was no longer smiling; her expression was quizzical. Her hair streamed behind her as though in a breeze.
“Then I will not be.”
“You are my dream, Halfren, and my dream does not know anything of now and later and the past. You will always be to me, but only as you were and as you are now. But would you rather know my other friends. I offer you this, and I offer it only to you. They are my thoughts and dreams but to you alone I offer it, to be one with me.”
The lady still looked serious, almost worried. None others in her mind had ever had choice. They were what she saw.
Halfren dropped to one knee and offered his gage to her.

Nothing there is but the mirages of God; and in one mirage is a lady. In her thoughts are time and eternity with lands and people and good and bad, and a man to share it.

Joseph was dead. He knew it because he was alone. Alone in a way he had never been in life. Before he could even look to see if he was in heaven or hell he was overwhelmed by a loneliness that he knew would never end. When he recovered, or to be more exact when he passed beyond that feeling, he looked about to see where he was. Would this to be his eternity? There was nothing to see, no clouds of heavenly peace but no lake of fire either. There was nothing, just loneliness. So was this to be his eternity or just the slow end of physical consciousness?

For awhile he did have memory. Somewhere deep in his childhood he had been here before. Well not exactly here. Here there was no dimension at all. Perhaps he was within a white cloud or mist. Joseph knew the horror of white for In his childhood he had dreamed of being alone in a long white corridor, a corridor without end with nondescript doors spaced evenly on either side. When he came to one just like all the others he had somehow known that this one was his. He had opened the door. Inside there was nothing but an empty room with white walls, white floor, and white ceiling. There was not even a window or a lamp. The room was its own eternal white light, Here he would spend eternity, an eternity without distraction, without things.

That dream had been the great loneliness. Now at the other end of life he was there again. There would be no future, only an eternal now. His only thought was that there was nothing to think about. Even his memories were beginning to slip away. Everything he had known a few moments before was slipping away. Or was that a few moments ago, or a month, a year, ever? Had anything ever happened.

Joseph was alone without past or future, or purpose or dreams.

Terri closed her mother’s door as quietly as she could. Mamma was sick…very sick…and had been for many months now. She went to her own room, just down the hall from Mamma’s sick room, from which she could hear if Mamma woke up coughing, or was moaning, or even talking very quietly to herself as she sometimes did very late at night when she thought that everyone else was asleep. Or was Mamma talking to God, as Terri sometimes imagined? That thought might have given the child comfort but it didn’t. Terri knew what she did not want to know. In her heart she knew what she would not say even to herself: that Mamma was dying.
She tried to sleep. How can a child sleep knowing what she knew? Some people would think that Terri would be frightened at losing her Mother. That was not it. For perhaps the first time in her life Terri’s thoughts were not at all for herself or even for her loss, but only for her mother and her daddy.
Sleep came very slowly that night, more slowly by far than the tears that Terri would not let flow lest she lose control of herself and hurt inside even more than she hurt now. Besides, Terri told herself, Mamma might hear. If Mamma heard, than her mother would be even more sad. Terri would not do that to her. But at last, the child did sleep just a little, waking up with every strange sound in the house. Deep in sadness, Terri did not know whether to pray to God or not, for God was taking her mother from her…To a better place, the Reverend would say. For the first time in her young life Terri had to worry if the minister was right. How can anyone be sure what happens after someone dies?
“Terri!” a voice called gently and the girl opened her eyes just a little because it was so small a voice that she wasn’t quite sure she wasn’t imagining it, especially since it seemed so near even though so very faint.
“Terri.” In the dark the child thought she felt a hand…her mother’s hand…gently stroking her hair back from her eyes and touching her cheek. “You must sleep. You need sleep, Terri. You will have a very busy day tomorrow and must wake up early.”

“Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
Go to sleepy little baby.
When you wake, you’ll have cake,
And all the pretty little horses.”

Her mother’s voice though faint and gentle, was also strong. Terri thought it very strange that she was closing her eyes again with her head in her mother’s hand, for Mamma was in her own room down the hall.
In the sky above her bed the stars were brighter than ever she
had seen them. It was as though she were in the desert. It was like the starry sky over Bethlehem on Christmas cards that had come in the mail to her mother every year from her many friends in places far away; friends who always thought of her at that time of year. There was not a sound from the room down the hall.
So it was that Terri finally found sleep in the arms of her mother. She never told anyone about the “dream” for she knew that it had not been a dream. Death does not come, as people often say. A good person goes to it when that person sees it, for it is as natural as getting out of her sick bed when she has regained her strength; not to leave, but to go to her child’s room and soothe her baby with a lullaby, a lullaby that she will always sing to her when the grown child needs it all the hard days of her life.

Next Page »