Training

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Training
Bill Swinney’s Barn ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan stood in the center of the indoor arena, trying not to let the wind distract her as it rattled against the side of the pole barn. She’d been in here with Dr. Kavanaugh for more than an hour, with nothing to show for her efforts but a headache. This was a fool’s errand. Summoning fog was one thing; transforming her body into an entirely different species was quite another. She rubbed at her eyes in frustration. 

“This is stupid,” she grumbled. “Are you sure I’m supposed to be able to shapeshift?”

Dr. Kavanaugh’s expression was serene. “You already have.”

“But what if I haven’t? Maybe that was just a dream. What if that isn’t really one of my powers, and we’re just wasting an afternoon we could have spent on something useful? We still don’t know what the monster is.”

“Which is why we need you to do this. I think once you remember how to alter your form, the rest will come back to you — including what you know about that thing.” Continue reading Training

May the Force Be With You

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

May the Force Be With You
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

“Let me find out that little asshole was behind this, and I will fu–”

“Morgan!” Mom and Dr. Kavanaugh said in unison.

“Sorry,” Morgan said. She really wasn’t, but it was easier on everybody if she pretended to be. She started over. “Let me find out that jerk was behind this, and I will mess him up.”

Her mother side-eyed her. “How? From what you told me, he’s a lot bigger than you are.”

“And from what Dr. Kavanaugh told me, I’m an ancient Celtic war goddess who can summon darkness to confuse her enemies. His beef is with me, not Dr. Kavanaugh. He doesn’t get to threaten her just because he’s mad at me. She didn’t have anything to do with it.” Continue reading May the Force Be With You

Threat

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Threat
Coldwater High School ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Holly didn’t pay much mind when the vase of daisies dyed in day-glow colors showed up on her desk. The lack of any card or note identifying the sender seemed odd, but she initially figured Carmela had brought them in to brighten up the office. 

When Holly asked her about it, Carmela shook her head. “I have better taste. These are the ones they keep by the counter at Teague’s for men to buy when they’re in trouble with their wives.” 

Holly laughed. “Maybe one of the kids brought them.”

“Or maybe you’ve got a secret admirer,” Carmela teased.

“Or a secret suck-up hoping to charm his way out of detention.” Continue reading Threat

Witness

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Witness
Coldwater Junior High ~ Coldwater, N.M.

A small, black Schipperke mix growled at the young Morrígan from behind a chain-link fence as she walked down the alley between the playground and the feed store, talking softly to the raven perched on her forearm. The girl gave no indication that she’d heard, preoccupied as she seemed to be with her avian companion. 

The dog stifled a sudden impulse to leap over the fence and tear the throat out of the raven just for sport. 

The impulse intensified when the bird turned its head and winked at the dog over its shoulder. The dog’s hackles rose, and it snarled. The raven tsked quietly, tipped its body forward slightly, and shat in the dog’s direction. Insolent bird.

It’s not yet time, the dog reminded itself. The bitch is still a pup. 

Still a pup, but growing.  Continue reading Witness

Debriefing

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Debriefing
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

The front door chimed. Morgan glanced up from her spot on the couch, where she was taking inventory of the souvenir T-shirts that had come in from the printer in Amarillo earlier in the afternoon. Seeing that it was Dr. Kavanaugh and not a guest trying to check in, she signaled for her to wait while she finished counting. 

“… Thirty-five, forty, forty-five, fifty — all there, Mom,” she called toward the kitchen.

“Thank you, Sweetie. Let’s put three of each size on that shelf next to the front door and stack the rest behind the counter to keep on reserve,” her mother called back.

Dr. Kavanaugh gave her a wry smile. “You really are fae through and through,” she said.  Continue reading Debriefing

Summoning Darkness

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Summoning Darkness
Coldwater Elementary School ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan’s eyes flashed as she saw what the eighth-graders were doing on the other side of the playground. The last bell had rung 15 minutes earlier, and most of the kids had scattered, leaving Morgan and the boys alone outside the building. Without a second thought, she charged toward them, shaking with rage. 

“LEAVE IT ALONE!” she roared, shoving one of the boys out of her way and elbowing a second. “Leave it alone, you cowards! What is wrong with you?”

The tallest of the three let go of the bird, which fluttered weakly to the ground and half-hopped, half-limped a few feet away from the humans, holding one wing out at an awkward angle. He turned and took a menacing step toward Morgan.

“What’s it to you, freak? Aren’t you that little freak that cries all the time?”

“Just stop it!” 

“What are you gonna do if I don’t? Cry?” The boy laughed.

Morgan had always thought the phrase “blinded by rage” was just a figure of speech, but as she took in the scene before her, darkness began to creep across her peripheral vision, a sort of black fog so dense that it obscured everything except the face of the bully she’d caught tormenting the raven. A steely calm descended over her consciousness as she stared him down. Continue reading Summoning Darkness

Possibilities

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Possibilities
Colleen’s House ~ Santa Rosa, N.M.

“You couldn’t have known,” Sierra said as Colleen set a basket of garlic bread on the table. “What were you supposed to do? Stand there calmly while that thing made you relive the worst experience of your life? Come on. You reacted the same way anybody would. And who knows what it would have done if you’d stayed? Maybe by giving it what it wanted, you kept it from doing something worse.”

Holly shook her head. “That’s not the point,” she said. “The point is that Morgan is now in more danger than ever because I couldn’t keep my shit together in the face of an obvious trick. Uncle Don has been dead for 30 years. I knew it wasn’t him. I just panicked. I’m supposed to be protecting Morgan, not making her enemy stronger.”

“But none of us knew its M.O.,” Morgan argued. “The important thing isn’t that you didn’t know then. It’s that we do know now.”

Colleen brought in a bottle each of sparkling wine and sparkling grape juice. “I agree,” she said, pouring juice into a champagne flute and setting it in front of Morgan before filling everyone else’s glasses with the wine. “We have more information than we had two weeks ago. You were working blind, with no idea how this thing operates or where it gets its strength, and now at least you know that much.” She picked up her glass. “To having our Holly back,” she said. 

“Amen,” Sierra said. The six of them clinked their glasses together. 

They drank, and the conversation shifted to the practicalities of dishing up the pan of lasagna in front of them and a flurry of compliments on Colleen’s cooking.  Continue reading Possibilities

Otherworld

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Holly raised an eyebrow at the white-haired woman walking towards her. “Isn’t this a bit premature? I still have work to do with Morgan.”

The woman shook her head. “You’re not staying,” she said. “This is only a meeting. You both have things yet to learn.”

“Such as?”

The woman gave her a reproachful look. “That’s not what you came here to ask me.”

Holly sighed. “No. It isn’t.”

“Ask.”

Holly bit her lip. Her hands were shaking, and her stomach rolled. Nope. Still not dead, she thought. Death would almost certainly clear up this nausea.

“Ask, child.”

“Fine. What is that thing, and how does it know about Uncle Don?”

“I can’t tell you the first.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Can’t. I don’t know what it is. I know what it reminds me of, but I’m not privy to its history. Morgan knows. You must help her remember.”

“But Aunt Shirley, how can I help her remember something I don’t know myself?”

Aunt Shirley smiled. “You don’t have to know it. She knows it. You have to help her remember who she is. When she remembers herself, she’ll remember what she knows.”

“OK. And my second question?”

It was Aunt Shirley’s turn to hesitate.

“How?” Holly was insistent. “That thing spoke with his voice. It used his words. It took me back there, Aunt Shirley. It took me back. I never wanted to think about it again, much less go there, and it took me back.” She spoke through gritted teeth, her eyes blazing. “How dare it?”

A tinge of pride glittered in Aunt Shirley’s ice-blue eyes. “Now I see why the Morrígan chose you to guide her through the early stages of this incarnation. She liked your fire.”

TRIGGER WARNING: The rest of this chapter contains references to sexual abuse of a child. If you would like more information before you engage with this content, or you would prefer to read a synopsis of the chapter that minimizes the potential triggers so you can read safely without getting lost, please let me know in the comments or email me at redforkhippie (at) gmail (dot) com.

Continue reading Otherworld

Vigil

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Vigil
Guadalupe County Hospital ~ Santa Rosa, N.M.

“Colleen.” Sierra squeezed the banker’s shoulder. “You haven’t slept in three days. Go home and get some rest. She’s stable. I’ll call you if anything changes.”

Colleen looked up at Sierra. “But what if she wakes up while I’m gone? I don’t want her to be alone.”

“She won’t be. Not even for an instant. Morgan and I won’t let her out of our sight.”

“And if she –” Colleen’s face crumpled, and she turned away, breathing heavily as she tried to compose herself. “I’m sorry,” she finally managed to gasp. “I know she’s stable, and I’m trying not to let myself think the worst, but what if — what if they’re wrong? What if she never wakes up? What if she slips away, and I’m not here?”

Morgan had been standing quietly behind her mother. Now she stepped forward and squeezed in between the two adults. “That won’t happen,” she said. Continue reading Vigil

The Observer

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

The Observer
Coldwater High School ~ Coldwater, N.M.

A scrawny gray tabby with a notched ear and unkempt fur crouched under a school Suburban parked near the end of the alley, watching as a 15-year-old Volvo station wagon rolled to a stop nearby, and the Morrígan whelp and her mother jumped out and ran toward the one called Kavanaugh.

The cat purred softly as the Morrígan burst into tears at the sight of the Kavanaugh woman. Her unfortunate accident was an unexpected delight. She wasn’t dead. The little bean sidhe would have been screaming bloody murder. But she’d been startled enough to make a mistake, and her misstep had revealed a weakness. How very serendipitous. Continue reading The Observer