A banjo is an excellent story writer. It’s a 5-string choose your own adventure. It’s a thriller. It’s the romance writer of stringed instruments. Go down the neck, and you get some science fiction and fantasy sounds…the bard of a space court. It’s African poetry. It’s a medical drama about a woman needing a musical cure for a rough week. The banjo is a story, and it is the cure.
Poe drew in a deep breath as she sat up, the sound of silence tickling her ears. She scanned X deck, to which she was one of the assigned residents thanks to her exotic last name of Xanadu. The only problem was that she was the only one awake amongst the dozen or so patrons that had chosen last names beginning with X. New space, new names.
As she tried to stand, her legs gave way, and Poe fell to the hard deck, smarting her tailbone in the process. She wished she had paid better attention to the literature about the process of waking up. There was a step-by-step guide to moving again. As a Scrivener, she should have appreciated the words she had been provided to have a less stressful experience on the ship. Soon, it would be her turn to write the words required for others to survive and remember this journey.
She looked around for any indication of why she was the only one awake in at this time. As she tried to stand again, she felt a whoosh above her head, nearly blowing her chin length ginger curls straight.
Poe called out with a cracking voice, “Who’s there? Or should I say what?”
She looked across the deck to a blinking control panel and a perch with a dark presence. Poe blinked her eyes until wings came into focus.
“What are you? I demand to know what has happened here.” Poe was talking to a bird…a large, black one, with coal eyes now staring in her direction. The bird was not there when Poe boarded the Lunessa for the adventure of deep space travel. She could not afford the ship, so she agreed to be a Scrivener to cover the cost of her passage.
The bird, with an agitated flap of its giant wings, swooped towards Poe, dropping a silver brick in front of her that popped open to produce another perch towering over her seat on the floor.
“Hello, Ms. Xanadu. I am glad to see you are awake. I am your Raven guide.”
Poe looked up, biting her bottom lip for a moment. “My Raven? What are you going to do about my predicament of being awake? I suppose you can call me Poe, too. Ms. Xanadu seems a little formal at this point.” Poe noted the Raven had a male accent, British in origin. She had watched movies based on Jane Austen books from the planet of Earth II.
The Raven cawed, a noise that shattered Poe’s confidence in questioning it. “Absolutely nothing. I woke you. It is time to get to work, pay off that passage you so desperately wanted, my dear. Call me Mr. Darcy. I prefer my formal name when you are addressing me, Ms. Xanadu, since we are merely at the acquaintance stage of our relationship.”
Poe rolled her eyes, studying the Raven’s wings, finally seeing evidence of robotic origins under the realistically plumed bird.
“Mr. Darcy, if you could so kindly tell me about the work required of me, then maybe we can proceed to the less formal friendship stage.”
“I am afraid I cannot do that. It must remain a mystery.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Poe was done sitting. She willed her legs to stand so she could look this daft bird in the eyes. When she stood fully, locking her legs and ignoring the swirl of her head, she was still slightly shorter than the impromptu perch.
“A mystery you say? Is there somebody that can help me solve this mystery then, bird brain?”
“Ms. Xanadu, that is a touch rude, don’t you think? You must not fan the flames of discord upon first meeting with someone, after all.”
“I hate to break it to you, but you are a robotic bird, remarkably realistic, but not to the point where I would worry about causing offense. I just want to know why I am awake and how I can get back to sleep.”
“I will ignore your slight. You have been asleep for two years. Perhaps your manners are still asleep. If you follow me, I will set you on the path to solving this mystery. Please grab your writing instruments of choice for you shall document the solving of this mystery.”
Poe grabbed her mental typewriter from the internal pocket of her still open sleep pod and placed little white discs in her ears and a tiny white patch on each temple. Mr. Darcy yawned causing Poe to smirk. While she didn’t want to obey Mr. Darcy, she needed to play along to understand her current troubles.
The glass doors of X deck opened as Mr. Darcy flew and Poe followed. They stepped out onto the circular walkway that was alphabetically the 24th circle up from the ground level of the ship. Poe stepped to the edge of X and looked down into the vastness of the ship, noting there were others roaming on circles below her. She then looked up and saw a man leaning over Y deck waving down to her.
Poe let out a sigh and looked at Mr. Darcy who was now floating at the center of the circle slightly below her eye level, not even bothering to flap his wings like a real bird.
Poe had to shout slightly over ambient engine and control noise. “Now what?”
“There is no need to shout at me, Ms. Xanadu. It is quite simple. You solve and document the mystery of why you are awake along with these other passengers. If you are successful, as judged by me in two days’ time, then you all can go safely back to sleep. If not, you will all meet eternal sleep, but we will still have your story to read either way.”
“I did not agree to this.”
“Most unfortunate that you did not read the fine print.”
Poe ran and jumped into the circular void, pulling off one of Mr. Darcy’s wings on her way down.
|“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore|
It starts with the rhythmic tapping of the first drops
On the roof from which you touched the stars
There is a grumble in the sky, a call to action on the horizon
And electricity traces the line of your quickening pulse
Today will be different. Today is the storm.
The dark clouds are now pushing up to your horizon,
Making you search for shelter in the eyes of the unaware
They are in their own storm, unable to bear witness to yours
You yell out while knowing you have to be your own shelter
You were made for this. Today is your day.
Now comes the torrent, the lightning, unforgiving noise
The deluge hydrates the landscape of your soul
While eroding the surface, a runoff of who you were
Your foundation shakes with each strike and boom
Today is terrifying. Today is your storm.
The minutes pass, or maybe the hours, or the years
The storm chooses how long it stays and batters what was
And your choice is to weather it, a stalwart sailor, or wash away
When you think it will stay forever, sunshine finds the crack in the clouds
The storm is done. You are the sunshine, begun anew.
A thousand black-winged dots above the horizon
Cut through the clouds
On an icicle blowing wind
Forming glass of water, nature’s sculpture
Shall they reach the sun above five more horizons?
Or shall they fall into the winter of the soul ?
Their dark wings collapsing in peace
For respite in the silence minus the whistle of that very same wind
I am getting ready to participate in National Novel Writing Month, but I took a break to bake these beauties. Recipe to come!
Preheat oven to 350.
2 large ripe bananas mashed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 snack containers of unsweetened, organic applesauce
¼ cup of oat milk (or other non-dairy milk)
3 teaspoons of minced ginger (Ginger People brand is yummy)
2 cups of unbleached, organic all-purpose flour (I love baking with Bob’s Red Mill)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons cloves
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons of ground ginger
½ cup organic cane sugar
1 cup of organic brown sugar
(mix this together well so everything is distributed well)
Slowly stir the wet ingredients by hand into the dry bowl. Mixture should not be runny but also not too thick that it is not easily spooned into muffin pan.
I sprayed a mini muffin container with a light coat of coconut oil spray and baked at 350 for 25-30 minutes. As the muffins were cooling, I sprinkled cacao powder lightly over them.
The world globe sat for a century in a glass cabinet of curiosities in the library of a sorcerer who was selfishly proud of its acquisition. He went to see the Wainwright witches about stealing their power, and on that same night, this rusty, dusty spherical trinket which caught the corner of his eye came home with him to serve as a trophy of his successful conquest. He had no use for it after that day, but the Wainwrights had not forgotten its existence.
Solaine pulled into a long driveway, her breath filling the air as she rolled down her window to verify the barely visible numbers nailed to a post. There was an iron gate ahead of her, already opened according to plan. She pulled up to a mansion of charcoal stone and black trim. It was unremarkable architecturally except for its enormous size, a hallmark of misplaced ego and other male deficiencies in her opinion.
She exited her car, a minor feat with her tight dress and pushed up bosom, whispered a few words, and looked down to see a flat tire as cold rain started to fall. She walked up to two rounded wood doors, painted black with no windows, and knocked vigorously. A tiny old man with an ample belly, stooped back, and long, pointy mustache answered. Solaine could hear him shuffling and breathing heavy even through the solid doors.
“Good evening. We were not expecting guests tonight. And if you would not mind, could you explain how you made it through the gatesssss?” He spit through his mustache, barely audible until the last bit about the gates.
“I’m just one guest, less a guest, and more a stranded victim of car troubles on this cold, rainy night.” Solaine pointed to her flat tire. “Could I come in and warm up a bit as I call for a tow? The gatessss were open by the way.”
The troll of man started to shake his head to the negative when Solaine whispered two more words, and he swung his sausage arm behind him, cracking old joints in the process, to usher her into the entry of the ostentatious brick box.
“I will go get Mr. Vrane. He will be pleasantly surprised to have a guest, especially such a beautiful one. Follow me to the library where I will have you wait for him.”
Solaine smiled and narrowed her eyes. Sometimes when she whispered words, she went too far, and truth came out. She probably had worse suitors, but a troll man was still not high on a list for a Saturday night out. He was giving her exactly what she hoped for at this moment though. She straightened her jet black bob slightly, brushed down the corners of her dress which were riding up and followed the miniature mustache man through a hallway, painted flat black, into a room that had books on every single wall, table, and counter available. Finally, there was no black to be seen.
The tiny man smiled with all his tiny yellow teeth.
“Please make yourself at home while I summon Mr.Vrane.”
Solaine thought there was no truer word than summon for acquiring someone like his dark master.
“Thank you. My name is Solaine, Solaine Adams. Tell Mr. Vrane thank you for any help or hospitality he can provide.”
Her faithful new servant nodded his head and scurried out of the library, a prehistoric, confused bug. Solaine immediately turned her attention to the glass cabinet she came here to see, doors already opened as planned. Things could be too easy when you had the most powerful friends in the world. She reached for the globe, and as she did, she smelled a smoky maleness at her back and turned to see a man that could only be Mr. Vrane.
“Do you always show up unannounced and make yourself so liberally at home in the libraries of others? I’m Axel Vrane, and I hear you are Ms. Solaine Adams.”
Axel neither looked pleased nor displeased at Solaine’s presence. His voice was mildly irritated yet laced with charm. He was also not immune to the royal blue dress hugging every curve of her delicate frame. His gray eyes were locked in a repeating pattern, moving up and down her figure. She was warned of his rogue ways and stood firm in her mission, longing to finish this and return to attire without mild attraction spells cast on it.
“I am so sorry. This library is like nothing I’ve seen, and this cabinet was open and called to me. I was on my way to your neighbors up the road for a fundraiser.”
“I see. You are curiously fortunate in your misfortune as my gate and that cabinet are mostly closed. It is also fortuitous that you did not get stuck trying to drive with a flat tire up my old driveway. I assume you were going to my nearest neighbor’s house in your flattering blue dress for this event. Would I be correct?”
Solaine could hear a slight whisper from Axel at the end of his curiously polite summation as if he were casting, so she stumbled back a little to distract him. She should have planned this part better for she did not know the name of Axel’s neighbors, and she had been too obvious with her magical presence. She got lucky as he quickly moved towards her, still finding her intriguingly distracting yet realizing she was a threat, and he grabbed for the globe. She whispered four words at exactly the right moment before he touched the globe, watched Axel jolt, and then found herself and the globe in a slum in India.
The boy was waiting for her, standing between the rows of falling houses and makeshift storefronts on either side of them. There was a sweet rotting smell thick in the air, and Solaine’s heart broke as she nearly slipped on garbage on the broken street beneath them. Somebody had tried to pave it, bless their weary soul.
She bent down to the boy’s level, kissing his cheek, causing him to smile and show off the beautiful teeth she gave him the last time she was here. A rat scurried by them, slightly startling her.
“Aranav, son of Aarush and friend to the Wainwrights, I will take what is mine and give to you the gift of power to change what is around you. That power belonged to your great grandfather and would have been your father’s power to give to you if he were here. All I ask is that when the man arrives here looking for all of it, you do your best to keep our secret. Agreed?”
The boy shook his head vigorously, silently dedicated to this accord.
“Good. And as I have taught you, stealing from others, especially magic, is not okay unless it was not for them to take in the first place.”
The boy shook his head again.
Solaine motioned for Aranav to place his hands on the globe and began to whisper her words. She whispered for a long time as this casting required far more than conjuring and charms. Her magical strength increased exponentially as she paused then whispered more words, now unintelligible, syllables blending in unbreakable song.
At one point, the boy jolted, growing slightly taller and less emaciated, healed by the power between them emanating from the globe. The row houses grew tall and straight, and the slime and putrid smell of the slum evaporated. When she was done, she was exhausted yet full of everything a Wainwright deserved. The boy was also full of everything he deserved as son of Aarush, and the slum was now a simple neighborhood, far from riches, but safe from squalor.
Aranav met her eyes and hugged her, the globe still between them, and he finally spoke.
“Thank you, Ms. Wainwright for returning what was ours with honor,” he said as he looked around at a vibrant street around him, clean and full of food stands, soon to be full of people again as dawn was breaking.
Solaine kissed the boy one last time on his cheek and made her way quickly from this street.
An American man traveled to the area one month later. He smelled of smoke, and he told everyone his name was Jim Adams. Jim was searching for something that was stolen from him, and he deposited money in the hands of many along his way to find it. Jim eventually found his way to Aranav’s street, using a map on a scroll. When he arrived, he realized he had been duped by the magic man he paid to draw this map for the street was decent, not a slum. As he angrily turned on his heals, he saw a boy, tall and proud, carrying a plain glass globe. He pivoted to walk towards the boy, but he was too late. The boy disappeared with the globe in a cloud of smoke. Jim knew what had been stolen would never be stolen back. He would find a new way though for she had not taken everything.
This is the basic premise of a series of books I will start to write. I love when a new story idea is born.
Chronicles of the Wainwright Witches 1: Fire Born
Solaine Adams is living her perfect life in the early 90s as she starts her second year of medical school in Detroit…until she gets pulled into an alley after a Nirvana concert by a man named Anslow Vrain. Anslow says he is here to take all her power away from her, a power with which all Wainwrights are born. He also tells her there is something darkly special about her which is why she must ultimately die. The trouble is Solaine does not remember being a Wainwright or of what power or darkness he speaks, and Solaine would like to keep living.
As Anslow sends her on a forced quest for answers she’s not sure she wants, Solaine meets another man, Gray Morgenstern, who swears they are dear childhood companions. Forced to travel down a path of discovery about herself, unraveling her otherwise successful existence, Solaine must also choose her friends and foes amongst these two men and a cast of mysterious and magical characters who have now taken over her life and dreams. The battle between dark and light powers, the choice between science and the supernatural, and her continued existence now rest on the choices Solaine will make.
Megan let the snowflakes glide and melt on her tongue, each crystal an icy piercing balancing the heat her body felt immersed in the hot tub, creating an equilibrium. It was early November, and deep snow usually did not arrive in Michigan until later in the month, but everything was unusual right now. It was their tenth anniversary, and as she looked across the hot tub at his smiling face, she remembered the day they met. Every line in his face told their story, and she could see a patch of his skin still smooth and carefree from their youth.
They met after the chemistry lab she failed, on another deep snow kind of day. It was the day they would get eight inches of snow on the campus of Michigan State University.
She was catching snowflakes on her tongue when David walked up behind her and said, “You know that you are probably swallowing chemicals from the atmosphere with each snowflake you eat, right?”
“I don’t care. I just failed my chemistry lab. I am probably poisoned with chemicals from that. And for what? An F?”
“I know. I sit three tables behind you, and I saw about six things you did wrong to get you that F.”
Megan narrowed her eyes at the curly haired, lightly bearded, Doc Marten wearing misfit now face to face with her. He struck her as Iggy Pop crossed with Screech from Saved by the Bell. He gave off positive energy, a proton with hands in mittens swaying wildly.
“If I was doing everything so wrong, then why didn’t you step in to help, genius?” Megan put her hands on her hips and watched as her flirt magic made the boy more awkward than he started. She was more like an electron.
He lifted one side of his generous lips in a crooked smile. “You don’t seem like the kind of girl who wants help. You strike me as a live and learn scientist. This is probably the creepy point where I should also admit that it is fun to just watch you. I’m David…David Gheen.”
“Megan Lackey. David the Creeper, would you like to walk with me in the snow and get slightly drunk in my dorm room talking about what I’m going to do with my life now that I’m a chemistry failure?”
“It’s like my dream came true.”
“You probably should have saved that for the second hookup, but I’ll still take you with me today.”
They locked hands; free radicals now paired. The snow whipped their faces as they walked, and their bodies drew closer, creating a heat catalyst for the attraction chemistry between two lonely people. He smelled like soap and coffee, and she smelled like strawberries from the shampoo she used that morning. In her room, they drank cheap red wine, watched Pink Floyd’s The Wall, listened to Nirvana, and welcomed the morning in bed together. It was the first day of the rest of the chemical reaction that would keep them together until it was not strong enough.
They married the November after they graduated from Michigan State. It snowed so badly that day it kept the flights of their guests grounded. It was their addition reaction during an absolute zero day. They earned their doctorates together on the banks of the Red Cedar River and refused to leave the campus of Michigan State until they were made professors, becoming reagents in the experiment of everyday life. They did research, taught, and laughed over expensive red wine on a blanket on campus grounds. Sometimes making out as if they were still students, a covalent bond in a divorce and run world.
Megan now sat staring at David’s face, the snowflakes too heavy for her tongue, their crystalline structure disintegrating like her and David would when their bond could not fix everything.
“I need you to be okay, David. You have to move forward with this.”
“I refuse to be an experiment. You know that. I thought we were on the same page. I’m tired.”
“You don’t get to quit. There is more we can try. We made all of this together, and I…I mean we need you to see it through.”
They were a few feet apart with angry, free-floating energy between them, wayward molecules not connecting.
“You can do this. I know you can, Megan. I will always be with you even if this can’t be fixed.”
Megan’s memories and David’s face floated from her in the steam rising from their hot tub. It had been 10 years since she felt at equilibrium. Today was the anniversary of when their bond abruptly broke. A reaction had started inside of her the last time David made love to her before cancer decimated his body and soft, curly hair. Before receiving the call to say goodbye, she dropped a lab beaker and sliced her hand open. She showed up at the hospital, her hand wrapped in a scarf they bought in Italy at a conference of world-renowned chemists.
He smiled, sparks of yellow still igniting his brown eyes. “Remember the day you failed your lab?”
“How could I forget?” Her throat burned from holding in a sob. He placed his hand on her arching belly, and his exothermic warmth caused a kick.
“The worst thing you did was not measuring your reagents precisely, and the best thing you did was taking me back to your dorm room. You were my most perfect yield.”
Before Megan could tease him, his beautiful particles, the ones she tried so desperately to put back together for the last year, found their permanent resting state.
Megan returned to the present, feeling the smack of a frigid, solid state orb against her cheek. It was a perfectly packed snowball which then hit the hot water in the tub and disappeared as if its matter never existed. The unmitigated giggles of a boy followed…her curly haired, brown-eyed son, every bit as kinetic as David.