Archive for October, 2011

The Valley

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

The Valley

“The day we’ve long feared has come,” Father said, and the crowd quaked and held their neighbors tight.

“The Great Enemy is preparing to destroy what we have built.” He paused and looked among his kin, his western mountain tribe.

“All you common fathers must come forward, prepared to give your lives for our land, for our survival. And all you common sons must be ready to become men. Men who will offer themselves in defense of our way of life.”

The women cried.

“And all you common mothers and daughters and wives…you must prepare yourselves for that sacrifice, should those terrible days come upon you. You must be willing to feed our hungry men, and tend to our wounded. You must be willing to provide to your families that which has always, until now, been provided by your men. This is your contribution to our cause.”

The crowd whispered amongst themselves and nodded their heads in agreement.

“But there is something we must do which may prove to be most difficult, something that will require us to cast aside our pride and tradition. We will be joining forces with Those Across the Valley.”

The crowd gasped and protested, shaking their heads in disbelief.

“We will call a truce,” Father said, and so it was.

And in spite of their age-old hatred of Those Across the Valley, the tribe knew what needed to be done, and nodded in silent agreement with their patriarch.

It was a harrowing journey down the western mountain, and to traverse the valley, itself, left Father’s few chosen men on edge, for they all knew that were they to ever meet the Great Enemy – the one that threatened not only their way of life, but Those Across the Valley’s lives, as well – that it would be there in the wide-open rift between the mountains, where they were exposed.

They moved quietly through the night, the safest time. The elders of the group had seen this place before, and remarked how drastically it had changed, the ravages of time, the debris and fallout of past battles. It had become far worse than they had ever seen. But it was the younger faction that stared wide-eyed at the dark, massive gorge and the eastern mountain before them with fear in their sheltered hearts.

High above them, across the valley, was the tribe they’d been taught to hate since they could remember. They were to go there now and make peace.

Father said it would take no less than two armies to defeat the Great Enemy.

Father said that they should stand firm, but be willing to hold their hats in their hands as a gesture of respect.

Father said it was possible that the members of the opposing tribe were not as terrible as they’d been depicted for ages, and that it was possible that Those Across the Valley had taught their young to feel the very same way about them.

It was eerily quiet in the valley. A small stream of light came from somewhere in the north, but it was scarcely enough to help them maneuver around the ruins. Dust storms whipped up out of nowhere it seemed, but the group carried on, undeterred by the harsh conditions.

By daybreak they had reached the base of the mountain. The younger men had no basis for comparison, but the elders knew how lucky they’d been to make it across without encountering the Great Enemy.

They were met with cold stares from Those Across the Valley, but they were not threatened.

They learned that the patriarch from their tribe had portended the same thing.

He’d told his tribe that they’d be coming, and there would be no place for strife.

And so the truce was called and both tribes set about putting their prejudices aside in preparation of war.

On both sides of the valley, forts were built, look-out towers erected, traps set precariously along the ragged, uneven ledges of the mountains. The women gathered food and medical supplies where they could find them and began stockpiling the larders. Covert messengers bravely ran correspondence across the valley under the cover of night. Intelligence hid in caves far to the north, where the Great Enemy had oft been sighted, but it was not until the mysterious false light that came each evening, before darkness fell, that the Great Enemy would began plotting with his advisors.

What, on this night, Intelligence heard came as a shock to both tribes.

“There is dissent among the ranks. The Great Enemy sounds displeased with his advisor’s strategies,” Intelligence reported. “There is fighting within their tribe, and talk that The Great Enemy may be no more than a figurehead.”

A wave of cheers washed over the tribes, and could be heard from both sides of the valley.

But the Fathers were not so joyous.

“No, we must not pull our forces back. The Great Enemy is not gone, but merely wears a different face. We will proceed with our mission.”

So as the tribes stayed the course, preparing to defend their land, a very different sort of war was being waged in the north.

*

“So when are they coming?” asked The Great Enemy.

“The day after tomorrow,” said the First Advisor. “If you aren’t going to waste their time, that is.”

“I’m not wasting anyone’s time. This is what you wanted and I’m tired of fighting you.”

“You should want it, too,” said the Second Advisor.

“I just want peace, goddammit,” The Great Enemy said. “I was content with the way things were, but now I just want peace.”

*

The strategy would need to change. The Fathers were concerned over news of dissension within The Great Enemy’s camp, for where there was dissension there was unpredictability. And during times of war, unpredictability was a very dangerous thing.

It seemed The Great Enemy’s troops would be arriving the day after tomorrow and there was little time to waste. The Fathers met in secret later that evening to devise a new plan.

If troops were as powerful as Intelligence gathered, then drastic measures would need to be employed.

The tribes would not surrender their home, their land, but if that landscape needed to change for the good of their civilization, then change it must.

The Great Enemy and his army would come through the valley, and when they did, the tribes would be waiting.

They would sacrifice one of the mountains and bury the enemy alive.

*

“I can’t even imagine where they’ll start. This is unreal,” said the First Advisor, as she surveyed the valley.

“How did you ever let it come to this?” said the Second Advisor.

“This is my home, my realm,” said the Great Enemy. “Time passes and you can’t expect things to stay the same. I wish you could just let it be.”

*

The decision of which mountain would be sacrificed was not an easy one, emotionally, for either tribe. However, the practicality of engineering prevailed and it was decided that the eastern mountain’s foundations had not held up as well to erosion and changes in the land and would be the easier of the two to fell.

From then on, the tribe of the eastern mountain would cease to be Those Across the Valley. They would become as one with the tribe of the west; their Fathers to be as brothers.

But there would be a greater loss than that of a mountain. It was the bravest of each tribe that stepped forward to be there on the eastern mountain to see the collapse through. There was hope – there was, and is, always hope – that these soldiers might be agile enough, quick enough, strong enough to survive the avalanche, but each understood the realities of such a monumental task.

To say farewell to their loved ones was too morbid, like foretelling a death sentence, but to not would risk leaving too many loose ends. Too many broken hearts. In the end, each soldier said what was in his heart, and that was the best anyone could ask for.

At first light, their world would change forever.

*

They heard the coming of the troops from miles away, it seemed. They had one chance, and one chance only, to claim victory and they readied themselves for whatever would come. There were no tears, no protests, only strength and resolve. The tribes had made their Fathers proud.

There was nothing else to do but wait.

*

“Why don’t we start over here,” a strange woman’s voice bellowed.

The tribes imagined her to be a general. She was clearly in charge.

“Go ahead,” the Great Enemy said. “You’re going to do whatever you want anyway.”

God, they’re here to help you!” This time, it was the familiar voice of the First Advisor.

“This isn’t helping!” the Great Enemy yelled back. “I gave you everything you ever asked for and now you come in here and try to take away what’s mine? Well, that’s just perfect.”

The General held her troops back while the Great Enemy and his advisor argued.

That’s it,” cried the Second Advisor, “You can do this without me. I’m leaving!”

The General sent one of the soldiers after her.

One soldier and one advisor down, they were moving into the valley.

The tribes silently readied themselves.

The Great Enemy, his First Advisor and the General made their way through the debris and dust first, closer and closer, with the troops not far behind.

They never heard the battle cry over their own footfalls.

Now was the time.

The mountain began to crumble and the tribesmen ran with all of their might as the Advisor and the General screamed and covered their heads with their arms.

Oh my god! They’re everywhere!” the General cried, coughing, suffocating.

The tribe’s soldiers lunged for the safety of the western mountain, crashing into The Great Enemy’s army as they leapt and ran. The enemy troops thrashed around wildly and retreated in the chaos.

Jesus Christ, dad!” shouted the First Advisor. “There are mice everywhere! Do you see how you’ve been living? Hundreds of mice just living in these piles of trash!”

The Great Enemy himself had evaded the collapse and was heading north, presumably back to his camp.

“It’s not trash, goddammit!” he shot back. “It’s my stuff. It belongs to me!”

“It’s trash, dad! Mouse-infested trash! And you’ve already driven out one daughter with it. You want to drive me out too?”

The General-woman regained her composure and motioned for the cleaning crew to wait outside.

“He’s not ready,” she said to one of the crew, her hand cupped over her nose and mouth to escape the stench. “We can’t force him to throw this stuff away. Just tell the rest of them that it’s done. We’re calling it off.”

“God, dad…at least let’s get the mice out of here,” the daughter-advisor pleaded.

“What for?” the man who had once been, but was no longer, The Great Enemy said. “All of this stuff belongs just as much to them now as it does to me.”

The daughter brushed years of dust and skin cells, hair and waste and lint from her face and arms. She kicked a path through the empty cans, the water-damaged boxes and plastic bags and torn up books and shredded shirts, and shook her head.

Fine,” she said as she waded towards the door through twenty years of her father’s life. “Live in your mountains of trash. You win. I surrender.”

The once and former Great Enemy waved his hand, dismissing her from his lonely kingdom, and turned away, coughing up dust from his own collection of memories and debris.

And with that, a chorus of victory cheers rose from the ravaged lands – one that could be heard as far away as the kitchen.

***

This can be downloaded as a epub document for portable devices here.

Copyright Donna Lynch 2011

Sawbones

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

Sawbones

Donna Lynch

The travelers came from the edge of the black woods, dragging their unnatural feet and hooves and claws through the brush as though the briers and thistles were rendered impotent against their leathery flesh. They descended upon the golden field en masse, and in no apparent order of command. If there was indeed a leader, then it was guiding them from a realm beyond our own. That I ever saw the horrific army pains my soul beyond measure.

I am a battlefield doctor, first and foremost, and I am a son and a fiancé. I am an educated man and I reckon I am a religious man now, which is what war will do, though if there was ever any doubt, it has been erased by the sight of such a hellish company. I hate that I have seen them with my waking eyes, for I will never see anything else when my eyes are closed. But most of all I hate that they saw me and would spare my life only to impart their purpose and intent to me by some indescribable means.

War had been impending for a very long time, they said. They had travelled across many centuries and many, vast planes before finally reaching this place in this very moment. And now they would come, in the midst of our own battle, and when they were done, there would be a great loss of life on both sides. They said that there would be few remaining that could claim to have witnessed the mêlée, and those still standing at the end would certainly be thought mad, myself included, except I would not truly be mad, not in the sense that one could only hope for in these circumstances. I could not hope to be blissfully unaware or like a child dreaming of mythical lands, nor could I hope to be void of any thought or emotion. I would be left lucid yet unable to rationalise the encounter away, and forever scarred and haunted by what I’d seen.

But I am to be their liaison to this ravaged world. They said they chose me not for any metaphysical reason, but because of what I do. I am a doctor, and this intrigues them greatly. And I am educated enough to perceive what they say to me, and to see them when others cannot. They are imperceptible to us at most angles, only being seen when light and shadow cast just right. The unmerciful heat has aided me greatly, creating mirages in the distance, allowing me to see them when they come.

The men were blazing in the July heat, and I would have been too if my blood was not so chilled by their presence. The travellers lurked just beyond the rocks at the edge of the field, waiting for the first shot since daybreak to sound. Some of the boys thought they had the advantage, climbing up the boulders to get an eagle’s eye view of the enemy, but they were blind and exposed to the creatures that surrounded them at all sides. There must have been fifty of them at least; some bore animalistic traits: patches of coarse hair, claws, fangs and tusks, hooves and hoary eyes set to the sides of the head; while others were nightmarishly humanoid, the size and shape of two men bound together in some unnatural, asymmetrical manner. I have witnessed some horrendous things since becoming a physician, but nothing so abominable as this demon horde. Between the casualties of war and this devilish vision, I do not know which was worse.

It was my hope that amidst the chaos of war, I might be able to disappear. I even caught myself wishing for an injury, and I tried my best to perish the thought, as I, of all people, have seen what battlefield injuries can become, especially in the humid summer air, but I could not escape.

My unit had commandeered a small farm house near a creek as an infirmary for as long as we could keep the enemy at bay, although who the enemy was, I could no longer say. The conditions were far from pristine, but I was grateful to be out of the dreadful tent, with it’s humid swarms of mosquitoes and flies. I was compelled to express my gratitude for small favours, but then held my tongue as I remembered the wretched boy on my table, his calf riddled with buckshot, the wounds already beginning to writhe with stinking, viscous insect larvae.

He asked to be blindfolded before the procedure, “just in case he came to”, and I obliged. His eyes covered, and his gullet warm with whiskey, I held the chloroform sponge beneath his trembling mouth, and when he was still, I set to the most unpleasant task of taking his leg.

It was an unusually quiet night, the sort that does not come often in times of war, so I would not waste it pondering the serenity, rather simply experience it. Exhausted from the gruesome procedure, I found myself weak in the knees and decided to venture to the creek under the cover of darkness, wishing it could wash the horror away. I should have thought better of it, but my mind was as fatigued as my body and in the slivers of moonlight that poured between the trees, the creatures wasted precious little time making themselves known to me.

If human suffering, cruelty, and pain were to have a voice, it would still not be as horrendous as that which came from the monsters. They spoke as one entity, the frequency of that collective voice like an echoing sickness, paralysing my aching limbs and rendering me helpless.

I listened, their words forever scarring my very soul, and though I would not have thought it possible, the commands they gave terrified and sickened me even more deeply than their existence ever did.

The horde had already found the young soldier’s severed leg in the burn pit -I had not the strength to light the fire that night- and I watched with unimaginable disgust as they devoured every sheath of tissue, every sinew, and the very last fragments of bone. But it was much too small a bounty for the ravenous clan, and it was understood that they would need more.

I pleaded with the soulless beasts to find another means. Why, I implored, could they not acquire their own food? The battlefield, after all, was filled with the sick and dying. Why was my assistance necessary? I was merely one fragile, impotent being in the shadow of demons.

But it would seem that even those from the bowels of hell are bound to the laws of their realm, and for the creatures to take their meat by force or by their own hands was expressly forbidden. It would be, they said, the inception of a war that would not end until our world was in ruins. Until then, they would wait in the spaces between light and dark, they would travel in the void between our world and theirs, and they would feed, but only on that which was given to them. I was to be the one who gave them such gifts.

And if I refused? Then they would have no choice but to wage that war, and turn every man, woman, and child into a slave or into meat.

So, you see, it was for the good of mankind that I began altering the soldiers. Occasionally, I could manage to abscond with an entire body, but there were oft times far too many eyes aware of the fallen brethren, and I could not reasonably account for a missing corpse. The acquisition of arms and legs, however, grew easier with each passing day.

When my supply of chloroform ran out, I turned to ether, but when the ether ran out, the unfortunate souls upon my table nearly went mad with pain and fear. I can only imagine how awful it must have been for those young men. The sound of the saw and the burnt, metallic smell of blood and heated bone could ruin the bravest of soldiers. I, myself, never became accustomed.

The unit had thinned substantially by August. One by one, crippled soldiers were discharged into the care of their bewildered families, who would now bear the burden of an incomplete son or brother or father who could no longer care for themselves. It was said that those men lost more than their limbs. Much, much more.

But the creatures were kept sated and, most importantly, our civilization continued, and man remained unaware of the constant threat of annihilation that surrounded him. It seemed man was far too busy destroying himself to see what horrors awaited just beyond our realm, so you can only imagine my dismay when I was taken from my post in the farmhouse -my demonic abattoir- and imprisoned like a rabid animal for my efforts. I was fighting a different war, I maintained. I was saving far more lives than I destroyed. I had selflessly taken on a weighty task that no man should ever have to shoulder alone all for the good of humanity. Yet, in the eyes of my peers, I was a butcher, a madman, and a criminal. I was a demon, like my invisible charges. I call to them from my cage, begging that they should show themselves, but they do not oblige. Not yet.

I am told that it is my madness that has saved me from the gallows, but I believe I have secretly been spared because of my bravery and sacrifice. And though I am presently held captive, I know in my very soul that the horde will come again and I will be rewarded for my services. All I must do now is wait.

***

This can be downloaded as a epub document for portable devices here.

Copyright Donna Lynch 2011

Sparrow House

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

Sparrow House
Donna Lynch 2006

“Welcome to your new home, Lucy,” the nurse with the little round face said cheerily. “Well, your new home for at least the next sixty to ninety days.”

That was the deal: no jail time since it was her first offense- or at least the first offense for which she’d been busted- but a pleasant two to three month vacation at Sparrow House Rehabilitation Center.

The staff seemed friendly enough that first morning, but she’d heard they always seem friendly in the beginning. Maybe this place was different. She flipped through a glossy brochure as the guard waited with her for the nurse to return with admission papers.

Has addiction left you feeling hollow inside?
Do you feel like there’s nothing left for you?
Sparrow House can help.

She read about the modern rooms, the athletic center and swimming pool, the high standard of care and the cutting edge drug treatment programs. They even had relaxing gardens and an aviary.

“Wow. Birds,” Lucy whispered dryly to herself, wondering if there would ever be a day that she gave a damn about something like that.

“I know what you’re thinking, Lucy,” the nurse said with a kind smile and soothing voice as she reappeared at the desk. “You’re frightened. You have no idea what’s waiting on the other side of these doors. And all you know right now is that you don’t care about a garden or some silly birds. You just want to know when you can get your next dosage of methadone. You just want to know when it’s going to stop hurting. And the answer is soon. But in the meantime, some people find that it’s nicer to have a distraction from the pain. You know, someplace safe, where they can think. And who knows? Maybe with some time, you’ll be one of those people.”

Lucy nodded, uncertain if she wanted to laugh or cry.

Over the next few weeks Lucy aligned herself with a routine that included private therapy, group therapy, drug education, and physicals, but still she was not comfortable in her new home. It had been impossible for her to make any friends when everyone she met was either moved to a different building, or seemed too disconnected to communicate with. In fact, as the days went on she began to feel like everyone around her was half-dead. The only exception was Nan.

Nan was the nurse who admitted her, and the one who continued to care for her. She listened as Lucy told her about her life as a heroin addict. She did not judge her when she saw her track marks (“I see much, much worse everyday, dear,” she’d said). She expressed empathy when Lucy confessed to feeling alone at Sparrow House.

“What is it with everyone here? They all seem…empty. Like something’s missing from their eyes. They all just sit in the garden, staring at the sky.”
“It’s the P.T., dear.”

“I don’t understand,” Lucy said, her voice trembling.

“The treatment. When you poison yourself, you develop a sickness in your soul. And we’ve learned that it never fully heals. It’s more than just damage to your body or your mind; it’s your spirit, honey. And here at Sparrow House we believe that spirits are much too precious to destroy like that. So our doctors found a way to keep those spirits safe.”

“What are you talking about? Some sort of religious thing?”

“No, honey. No religious ties here. We use what we call Psychopomp Treatment, or P.T.”

Lucy shook her head in confusion.

“It will all make sense when it’s your turn. You have to trust them. You are your own worst enemy my dear. The only way to keep your spirit safe is if we send it back where it came from.”

Terrified, Lucy asked at least a hundred more questions, but would get no more clear answers. She asked questions as they led her from her room, across the grounds, and into the aviary. She asked questions as they stripped her and prepared her for the epidural. She asked questions still as they strapped her to the gurney and gently made small incisions throughout her abdomen and chest. But as they wheeled her into the next room with it’s vaulted ceilings, open skylights, and hundreds of ravens, crows, and sparrows, she was silent. And as the birds descended upon her, burrowing through the flesh and muscle in her opened, sterile wounds, they took back the fragile, wounded thing inside of her, and she understood.

***

This can be downloaded as a epub document for portable devices here.

In addition to the occasional blog posts, I will be posting old and new short stories here regularly. While these works are free, we always appreciate support in the form of donations (see Donation tab above) or by spreading the word. Thanks! Enjoy!

Sparrow House

Copyright Donna Lynch 2006