Category Archives: literature

2081, Vonnegut’s Timely Satirical, Dystopian Science Fiction

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut  (1961)

Tuesday’s Tale of Science Fiction    September 11, 2018

 

How does a democracy die? Do democracies die with a military force of boots on the streets? Or revolutions? Or do people end up being hoodwinked and surrendering with a whimper? This blog doesn’t do politics but this week’s short story by Kurt Vonnegut has opened the door to thoughts and questions about authoritarianism, fascism, human rights and equality, and connects us to today’s erosion of democratic norms in the political system. Vonnegut knew about mass gullibility and maybe we are seeing some of that today. Journalist Bill Moyers called our current era Trump and the Dark Age of Unreason. 

Vonnegut’s opening paragraph of Harrison Bergeron is a stunning one.

‘THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.’

 

For this kind of ‘equality’ to be reality, people cannot be their natural selves and must wear heavy devices on their bodies that handicap them. For example, ballet dancers cannot use their natural grace and beauty, so they are required to wear weights and masks to make all the ballerinas equally clumsy and hide their individual faces.

The story focuses on a U.S. government controlling the lives of individuals, even the potential of individuals. Free thought, free expression, truth, and the hunger for power and defiance are elements. It’s a timely story for 2018 in our hot political climate where free speech and a free press are being attacked (the demise of a free press is one of the first warning signs that democracy is dying). The New Yorker Magazine in March of this year featured Exposed, Trump with no clothes, as the American Emperor. Many saw this as a reference to Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, where fear of the emperor keeps people from speaking the truth.

Research today suggests that democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Reading Harrison Bergeron is an irresistible dive into a world that will make you shudder.

 

‘Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die. “I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor!’

How would a  government enforce such an absurd and extreme equality? Would the government look like Russia or other totalitarian nations that suppress human creativity, free speech, and personal expression? Why would a government even want to do this? Who has the courage to rebel? Vonnegut answers all these questions in his 1961 story of Harrison Bergeron.

What do you think? Do leave a comment!

 

Read the short story Harrison Bergeron in the year 2081 (20-minute read) here at Archive.org

https://archive.org/stream/HarrisonBergeron/Harrison%20Bergeron_djvu.txt

 

Listen to the audio on You Tube (13 minutes):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aAH_G5hcAg

 

Kurt Vonnegut is most famous for his Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969—the Vietnam war, racial unrest, and cultural and social upheaval.

 

 

 

“That Time in 1969 When Kurt Vonnegut Accurately Profiled Donald Trump”

by Seth Shellhouse.   At Medium.com:

https://medium.com/@ALRIGHTbrother/that-time-in-1969-when-kurt-vonnegut-accurately-profiled-donald-trump-c9f544aba736

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Death on a Bridge

 An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce  (1890)

Tuesday’s Tale of Mystery  August 7, 2018

 

 

‘A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.’

 

 

What greater opening of a story is more compelling than an execution? Not much, and this mystery will hold you all the way through to the last lines. The time is Civil War era. Our character, a young man named Peyton Farquhar is about to be hanged. What goes through a condemned man’s mind in the moments before he knows his life will end? Is it possible Peyton could escape and return to his wife and child?

Author Ambrose Bierce is at his finest writing as this story is rich with symbolism and foreshadowing and not without its twists. The imagery is high quality in a tale well told.

 

What is your take on the ending? Were you shocked? Please feel free to comment!

Read the short story at AmericanLiterature.com:

https://americanliterature.com/author/ambrose-bierce/short-story/an-occurrence-at-owl-creek-bridge

Listen to the audio by Librivox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lgCO_l-pgQ

Watch the YOUTUBE film (23 minutes):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqnSX4SJ_A

 

 

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist, satirist, and short story writer, many stories about death. He is famous for his The Devil’s Dictionary.  He disappeared in Mexico in 1914 and his final fate is recorded as “unknown.”

 

You can find more of his short stories here at Reading Ficiton Blog  in the INDEX under Ambrose Bierce.

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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The African Veldt, Ray Bradbury

The Veldt  by Ray Bradbury

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 22, 2018

NATIONAL SHORT STORY MONTH,  May 2018.   Week Four.

READING FICTION BLOG

 

This is such a fun story. Somewhat like a haunted house story but one that crosses the lines as only Ray Bradbury can do so magnificently. George and Lydia Hadley have purchased a technologically advanced house that will do all the housekeeping and personal keeping for you. Virtual reality beyond anything we’ve seen. Once the Hadley family occupy this house—and are delighted that it can  cook your meals and clean up with ease and speed—things begin to change. The children Peter and Wendy love this house and its powers, especially in the nursery. The walls are glass and can project any landscape  they can dream up. Wouldn’t you love to live in a house that can receive your thoughts and desires and the send out that image? And then create that reality in real time? One day, the children leap beyond strawberry ice cream and hot dogs at the carnival they imagined. They begin to have unfriendly and wild thoughts.

Don’t miss Bradbury’s keen science of psychology here. Family life, secrets, communication, and manipulative kids who love the dangerous and exotic creatures of Africa on the veldtland.

 

 

 

Read the short story here at Veddma.com. My apologies that this story is in black with green text, but it’s the only free copy online:

http://www.veddma.com/veddma/Veldt.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the audio (29 minutes), read by Leonard Nimoy. You’ll love it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=dJAKjpb2eOs

 

 

 

If you are a Bradbury fan, HBO cable network is presenting an adaptation of his most famous novel Fahrenheit 451. This aired Saturday, May 19 but  is available On Demand. For repeat airings, check local listings for HBO. https://www.hbo.com/movies/fahrenheit-451

 

The original film in 1966 starred Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack, directed by François Truffaut. Available on Amazon Prime Streaming.

Ray Bradbury is well known and loved for his fantastic imagination, literary prowess, and vision. He has won numerous awards such as Hugo Awards, World Fantasy Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and others. Ray died on June 5, 2012 at the age of 91.

“I use a scientific idea as a platform to leap into the air and never come back.” 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction. Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”  

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Virginia Woolf’s Phantoms

The Mark on the Wall  by Virginia Woolf  (1917)  

Tuesday’s Tale   May 15, 2018   Reading Fiction Blog.

NATIONAL SHORT STORY MONTH,  May 2018. Week Three.

READING FICTION BLOG

 

 

 

“The tree outside the window taps very gently on the pane…. I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts.”

 

‘Sink deeper and deeper. ‘ We can do that with our author for this week of National Short Story Month with Virginia Woolf’s  story The Mark on the Wall. We don’t generally think of Woolf when we think of suspenseful storytelling, but we do think human drama, stream of consciousness, symbolism, and keen interior monologue. Come along with me into Woolf’s world of the interior mind as our nameless character considers an odd mark on the wall. She turns inward in this narrative and focuses on the psychological. So many impressions emerge as she muses what the mark is and what has caused it. Mysterious? Yes. Captivating? For sure.

 

 

Expect no complex plot. This is a wandering story more about the nature of life than just some obscure flaw that has curiously appeared suddenly on the wall. Her reflections on this mark sustain the reader to explore phantoms in our own daily lives and in our own minds. Woolf is the master in the art of stream of consciousness writing (her greatest legacy to writers). In this story you can fall under Woolf’s spell into her flowing thoughts.

I read this story twice to get the fullest impact and it is an experience in itself. But I found listening to the audio to totally sweep me away.

 

 

 

“I shall never forget the day I wrote The Mark on the Wall—all in a flash, as if flying.”  Virginia Woolf [Source: Nicolson, Letters, 4:231]

Read The Mark on the Wall at Bartleby.com:

http://www.bartleby.com/85/8.html   

 

Listen to the Audio on Librivox, YouTube:

 

 

 

Virginia Woolf wrote modernist classics including Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and feminist works, A Room of One’s Own.  She suffered bouts of deep depression, ending her own life in 1941 at the age of 59.

 

 

 

 

 

If you are a writer, you might like this short video (4 minutes) about Virginia Woolf’s writing at Open.edu.youtube:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Virginia-Woolf

Next week, watch for another short fiction to read for

National Short Story Month!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, mainstream, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

Leave a comment

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Ghosts of Goresthorpe Grange

Selecting a Ghost: The Ghosts of Goresthorpe Grange (aka The Secret of Goresthorpe Grange)

by Arthur Conan Doyle  (1883)

READING FICTION BLOG

Tuesday’s Tale of Ghosts     May 1, 2018     May is National Short Story Month!  Week One.

 

 

Readers here are fond of ghost stories and this one by Arthur Conan Doyle is a must read for ghost lovers. Mr. Silas D’Odd buys a feudal mansion named Goresthorpe Grange.  The man loves the historical trimmings inside the castle filled with armors and ancestral portraits.  But, he desires a ghost, for what is a castle without a daily haunting for entertainment? He soon discovers that by the use of potion, he can conjure a ghost for Goresthorpe Grange.  D’Odd drinks the potion and the apparitions begin.

 

 

A 15-minute read and great fun! Read the short story at Adelaide.edu:

https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/doyle/arthur_conan/selecting-a-ghost/

Audio of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at Librivox:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K37NxXtaStk  

 

 

 

 

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

A. C. Doyle and Houdini

 

Arthur Conan Doyle was a friend of Houdini, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Doyle was a born storyteller and revered for his high-quality fiction, especially his Sherlock Holmes detective fiction. His style of writing is clear, clever, and direct. On July 7, 1930, Doyle died in his garden,  clutching his heart with one hand and holding a flower in the other. His last words were to his wife. He whispered “You are wonderful.”

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome!

Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 MAY IS NATIONAL SHORT STORY MONTH!

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Leave a comment

Filed under fiction, fiction bloggers, free short stories, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Ghosts, Gothic fiction, haunted houses, Hauntings, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural fiction, tales of terror

It Is the Haunted Who Haunt

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) for Women In Horror Month 2018

Tuesday’s Tales of Terror   February 13, 2018

Followers of this blog know that ghosts draw us together. We choose to be haunted by reading ghost stories. We are all haunted houses in our own minds. Elizabeth Bowen was a distinguished author of ghost stories, often compared to Henry James and Virginia Woolf for craft.  Some liken her to Alfred Hitchcock. You will find a moral vision and social commentary in all her fine fiction. One thing is certain, whether you think ghosts are not real or ghosts are real nonphysical consciousness, Bowen had total acceptance of the reality of ghosts and the occult—a woman I can certainly identify with for that belief.

 

“Ghosts exploit the horror latent behind reality …. Our irrational darker selves demand familiars …. We are twentieth century haunters of the haunted.”

 

Elizabeth Bowen is my Women In Horror Month selection for 2018, which always includes the finest ghost tale writers. Bowen’s stories are a legacy to the Gothic, Sapphic,  psychological, and the ghostly realms in our minds.  She knew how to use the idea of a ‘living ghost’ a ghost who could appear in one place  and at the same time be a living person walking around in another place. I consider her required reading for any ghost story lover.

 

“Each time I sat down to write a story I opened a door; and the pressure against the other side of that door must have been very great, for things — ideas, images, emotions — came through with force and rapidity, sometimes violence …. Odd enough in their way — and now some seem very odd — they were flying particles of something enormous and inchoate that had been going on. They were sparks from experience—an experience not necessarily my own.”

If you want to read about how she handled cracks in the psyche, read The Demon Lover—paranoia or paranormal in wartime London. You be the judge.

 

 

Her three most famous ghost stories are the following. The Cat Jumps (1934 ), a country house, a previous murder, new owners. The Happy Autumn Fields (1941), a dreamy psychologically damaged young woman’s story akin to Turn of the Screw. Green Holly (1941), the ghost of a woman speaks out on Christmas Eve.

Read the short story The Demon Lover at BiblioKlept.org. 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the audio of The Demon Lover

here on YouTube.com.

 

 

 

You can download her famous novel The Last September. The  story depicts the tensions between love and the longing for freedom, between tradition and the terrifying prospect of independence, both political and spiritual. Life in the 1920s at the country mansion  in Cork during the Irish War of Independence. A young woman’s coming of age in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history.

Get the FREE ebook here at MaconCountyPark.com.

 

 

 

The 1999 British film, screenplay by John Banville, starring Maggie Smith.

 

 

Do you think it is the haunted who haunts?

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two FREE short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Ghosts, Gothic fiction, Gothic Horror, haunted houses, Hauntings, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, murder mystery, mysteries, paranormal, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural fiction, Women In Horror, Women in Horror Month

Christmas River Ghost by Paula Cappa

Christmas River Ghost    by Paula Cappa

A Christmas Tale,  Thursday,  December 7, 2017

Merry Christmas to my readers and followers. I give you a free short story by yours truly (flash-fiction, 12-minute read). Snuggle in with a cup of hot spiced cider, a Christmas cookie, and the Christmas River Ghost.

 

 

They come—through the icy wind, between the naked trees, walking the bridge, by Eagle Hill River. On Christmas Eve, I come home to call the old time back. Holly wreaths, tea and sugar, apple cakes, a partridge in a pear tree. And a peacock hung dead with its speckled feathers in the pantry. ‘ Take the peacock, break its neck.’  That I remember with a shiver.

Tonight there is the good news of snow falling, the dark village sleeping beneath giant snow drops everywhere as I make my way through Main Street. The church steeple chimes do not sound yet, as it is not midnight. My mind calls up pixies and elves, the ringing of sleigh bells across the sky.

The house waits for me, shabby with the grief of those passed on. Spending Christmas alone has its virtue, my sister Annabella used to say, whose heart was ever open to charity’s claims and gift-giving. She would know about such solitude; she had spent many a Christmas alone. Too many times, my fault.

A Christmas Eve supper will sooth me: ham and apricots, a fresh biscuit, a glass of warm red wine with a cinnamon stick. The crabbed and wrinkled Scrooge breaks into my thoughts. Maybe I would read a few pages of Dickens. Remind myself of the miserly and cold-hearted man.

Snow pelts arrows at me as I stumble up the hill to the front path. I ring the doorbell just for fun, announcing my arrival to no one. Maybe Annabella will hear it. That is, if her spirit still lives here. Christmas ghosts are common, I’m told. Christmas miracles and all that—the arrival of the holy babe makes a holy night. If true, her presence would certainly reside in the kitchen especially. Her lilac perfume and the green ribbons in her light brown tresses every Christmas day. I can see her at the stove, blue eyes sparkling, her cheeks flushed with the holiday excitement. Home is such a magnet. In the front hall I nearly expect to hear her laughter just one more time.

The kitchen is the same as when I was a girl. Oak table by the frost-crazed window panes. That ancient curly-legged cast iron stove that spouted smoke at the ceiling. A white cupboard, open-shelved where pies would cool and tempt.

‘ Rose, take the peacock, break its neck, cut its throat.’

Again I shiver. “Time to make Christmas.” I warm the kitchen with Annabella’s boiling copper kettle and make a pot of orange tea in her china teapot trimmed in holly. I set my slice of ham, three apricots, and biscuit into the oven. The red wine steams with the cinnamon stick on the stovetop. The savory aroma is exactly as Annabella used to make it. In the library, I stack logs and kindling in the hearth as she did every Christmas when I was a child. Nothing like a roaring fire to set things right. For I must set things right tonight.

As I recline in the giant armchair, I decide against reading Dickens. No need for Scrooge now, nor the reminder of being arrogant and vain and stingy.  My tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. Is this really me? I’m done with all that. Music will serve. I find Annabella’s old Christmas records. Sleigh bells ring … are you listening … walking in a winter wonderland.

‘ We cut its throat. Flay him, skin him, feathers and skin altogether.’ I squeeze my eyes shut to blink away the raw images. Such exquisite turquoise- and purple-eyed quills. Peacocks are perfect everlasting beauties. I shoot my vision out the side window. Through the snow, I see the old ice house still stands by the bridge. And that marvelous sledding hill that Annabella and I rode, sisters hanging on to each other at every curve. Veering right, veering left, flying high. I never minded numb fingertips.

‘ Draw him down tight. Keep the neck whole. Mind the dripping blood now.’  My breath catches in my chest like an ice block. I down the wine and head to the kitchen to check the ham. I set out my Christmas supper on the oak table and sit down. Later on we’ll conspire … as we dream by the fire … walking in a winter wonderland. The biscuit is oozing with melted butter. The ham juicy and tender. I add a dash of salt and pepper.

‘ Brine the bird with salt, sugar, a palmful of peppercorns.’ Annabella’s words repeat in my head. She always basted the peacock with beaten eggs and honey.   ‘To keep the meat moist and tender.’ And she never believed the folklore that peacocks were bad luck or evil-eyed spirits. ‘ Pure as snow,’ she was certain.

‘ Let’s roast him high as if he is sitting up alive—just like a king.’

Every Christmas she would carry the bird on a silver platter on her shoulder to the table. The breast dripped with golden gravy. Annabella dressed it with the tail feathers struck out in a wild plumage of color. Before we ate it, as was usual from our childhood days, we made the peacock vow of immortality, an honor to the bird’s ‘ love and beauty forevermore.’

Forevermore, Annabella’s favorite word to shout out every Christmas.

“Annabella? Are you here with me tonight? Please be here with me tonight.”

Silence at Christmas time can be unnerving. I listen closely for a moment. “Annabella?”

Words float into my mind.  ‘ Rose, remember the flocks in the woods. Remember the dancing peacocks when you were a little girl.’

I gaze out to the vast woods and recall the giant birds’ studded tails, how they twirled their feathers into violet hues. I would practically swim in those exuberant colors, getting lost in them. What loud calls they made, like urgent church bells. Each peacock seemed to walk alone, though, on his own path. I always wondered why. Still, I loved the luster in their eyes as I greeted them good morning and good night each day.

‘ Remember, Rose. The bridge. Our favorite spot by the river.’

Maybe Christmas ghosts are real. If I could be granted just one moment with her. One moment to say just two words. Within minutes I bundle up, hat to boots, and slosh out. Leaving tracks behind me in the snow, uphill toward the sledding hill, I stop at the foot of the bridge. The river is churning slowly with ice patches. Through the snowfall, on the far side, I see a tangle of shadows, pointed shapes, hot-blue barrel chests, and streaming colorful threads. Dark is present. I am not afraid of the dark. I walk across the bridge and stop midway. Only the soft sounds of the snowflakes surround me. And then I see them. The flocks. Hundreds of all-seeing eyes stare straight at me. The woods are full of peacocks, their plumage unfurled and radiant, just like when I was a girl. My heart shivers.

One by one they turn away from me and walk through the trees on their separate paths. No Annabella appears. Nor will she. I know that now. There is no such thing as a ghost. No extra moments to be given. No words allowed to mend the past. Too many years now since the river swallowed Annabella that Christmas morning. Her canoe overturned; her body never found. I should have been here.

We live. We die. Only the peacock’s flesh does not decay when it dies, Annabella used to say. ‘ They live on for all of us, these forgiving souls of wisdom.’

A single peacock comes forward from the woods now. He mounts the bridge where I stand. With his beak lifted, he trails a dusty green aura behind him. Regal beyond words, he holds all the secrets in his vibrancy. I so envy him.

 

The snow stops. The peacock curls his soft feathers around me and I smell his meaty flesh. He flaps his wings and cries out as if laughing at life. He follows me back to the house, just like when I was a kid. Peacocks are such gifts. “Goodnight, lovely peacock. Goodnight.”

Christmas chimes ring out from the church steeple. Midnight, holy night. His wings flare, his tail swings generously, rocking the darkness. He perches himself up on the backyard fence rail, letting his feathers drip down like tresses.

Inside the house, I sit in the armchair by the window. Does he know I’m watching him? The shifting iridescence of his colors in the sudden moonlight saturate my thoughts. Alone on my own path, I drift off to sleep in the chair. Were it not for the church chimes ringing in the holy babe on Christmas morn, I might not have woken from such a deep sleep. Scrambling to my feet, I look out the window to the fence. Gone. His claw prints are tracks leading back to Eagle Hill River.

There, in the pure white snow he had shed his full plumage. A wild fan of green-rimmed, blue-eyed feathers are glistening in the Christmas sun—standing upright, alive like a king.

“Forevermore,” I say aloud. “Forevermore, Annabella.”

 

 

 

 

 

In medieval times, peacock was served for the Christmas feast. The bird would be skinned, roasted whole and then redressed in its feathers to look as if it was still alive. Its beak was gilded with gold leaf and a piece of cloth soaked in spirits was inserted into the beak and set alight. It would be served by the highest lady of the house.

 

 

By many accounts, it is well known that the iridescence in the peacocks’ colors represent the reality of the spiritual world rather than the imaginary world. In Christianity, peacocks are a common motif representing eternal life, the peacocks’ feathered eyes symbolizing the all-seeing eye of God. 

Fra Angelico’s Nativity with a peacock on the stable roof.

 

 

Friends, do leave me a comment. This is my newest short story and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or, ask me a question, let me know if you would recommend this story to friends, or if you’re so inspired, write me a quick review. 

 

 

 

 

Christmas River Ghost. Copyright © 2017 by Paula Cappa.

All Rights Reserved. 

 

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