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Grilled Cheese Mary
Michael was in his bed, safe and dreaming, but even in dreams terror can penetrate and grip the heart: In an underground chamber he stood, sword of blue flame in hand, facing the red-haired witch. Beside him stood his mount, a humongous komodo dragon-like creature with six legs and a mouth full of razor sharp fangs. He knew the creature to be a Threek, bred for tunnel battle against dragons and he had ridden him through many underground passages to get there. “I’m here to kill the dragon,” he announced. “And this time I bring his doom.” He lifted the sword known as Gram, the same that slew the dragon Fafnir, reforged with cobalt-blue flames to kill the dragon of light.
The journey halfway around the world was over at last. He could see the antechamber of the fire-belching beast — the walls inlaid with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, the stone behind them glowing with the light of dragon’s breath. But reward wasn’t the reason for his journey over perilous mountains and through dark caverns deep. His enemies worshiped the great worm as a god, oppressing and killing his people. He would prove there were no gods in Azmerith. An alabaster wall glowed with translucent light behind the witch. "He's in there, isn't he?"
The witch waved a ring of keys and muttered a spell under her breath. She thrust the keys toward him. “She was our mother— you’ve killed her,” she accused.
He stared at her. “What?” The dream was transforming. The witch turned into his sister, Karolyn. He wondered what she was doing in his dream of the dragon chamber but still he lifted his sword to protect himself. ‘This could be an illusion,’ he thought in the dream, suspecting the witch of casting a spell designed to save herself. "Get out of my dream or die," he shouted.
* * *
Karolyn awoke to the glow of dawn streaming through her attic window. Her dreams were much more benign; she remembered riding on the back of a unicorn. The sun was rising over the east bay hills. The house was utterly quiet but for the far off drone of traffic on the freeway. An exodus of early risers was on its way out of the city for the weekend.
It was Saturday and there was no school, but Karolyn already had a plan. For her twin brother Michael she would go to the kitchen first to start the coffee dripping. She knew he liked coffee. Maybe if she toasted a bagel for him she could get him to go with her to Mass. She hoped so; first Confession, then Mass. Maybe the bagel would do it.
After Mass, she would go to the cemetery to visit her mother’s grave. She threw back her comforter and stood at the room’s center. The attic wasn’t made to be used as a living space and everything in it was improvised. Two poles hung with wire from the slanting roof beams made her closet. A rectangular hole in the floor with the top of a worn wooden ladder jutting from below was her door. The pillow end of her bed, a mattress on the floor, rested against the old red brick chimney rising from the fireplace two floors below and her four-drawer dresser, the only real furniture in the room, was at the opposite end of the attic against the triangular wall, just below the window.
The best thing about her room was the window. She went there and looked out at San Francisco Bay. Opening the window she felt the cool bay breeze on her face and breathed in the fresh salted scent of the sea.
She loved the view from her attic; it was the reason she let Michael have the larger bedroom on the floor below. Her window was the only one in the house looking over the weathered rooftops of the old neighborhood to the bay. On a clear day she could see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, the abandoned federal prison turned tourist attraction.
The water of the bay was dark grey and choppy, but not so choppy that there were whitecaps. The breeze upon the face of the water gently broke its surface. Far out on the bay she could see a dozen specks of white sails belonging to the rich yacht owners to the rich Saturday sailors tell me if it meets their reading requirements or if it has some fatal flaw that should be cor coming out from the Sausalito and San Francisco harbors for a day of sailing. Far beyond the Golden Gate in the Pacific, she could see a ship about to sail over the horizon, maybe a freighter or a oil tanker. She wondered if the people aboard the ship could still see land or if the waves around them were all they could see.
About this day she wrote in her journal:
‘As I stood there that morning, I thought, ‘One day I’ll go sailing and my sails will take me across the sea to someplace exotic, somewhere romantic.’ I had no idea how true my thoughts nor that I would be captured by pirates!’”wrote in her journal: “ sailing
Karolyn picked up the hairbrush from the top of the dresser, ran it through her long red hair and then set it down next to the picture frame holding an image of Saint Bridget, the patron saint of Europe. “Good morning Saint Bridget. Hello mother,” she said aloud.
She then said her first Hail Mary and Our Father, followed by the first of Saint Bridget’s fifteen prayers. The prayers were written on a piece of binder paper folded next to the frame but she didn’t need to read it anymore. After saying the prayers for forty-one days they were memorized.
In front of the image of Saint Bridget rested the reason she started the obsessive ritual: a shiny black stick of charcoal given to her by her father on her thirteenth birthday. The charcoal stick was the only thing she possessed of the mother she couldn’t remember and it was precious to her.
Several times she tried drawing with the charcoal but found the stick difficult to use. It seemed to have a will of its own. She couldn’t get it to do as she wanted. Once she tried to draw a dress, thinking she might like to be a fashion designer, but the stick kept slipping and going in every direction as though with a mind of its own. The drawing ended up resembling a suit of armor more than a dress.
She put the stick on the dresser, a precious memento to remind her that she did once have a mother. She hoped Saint Bridget might notice it.
She decided to say the prayers to save the soul of her deceased mother. She didn’t know if her mother was in Purgatory or not but she was suspicious. Without ever being told, she knew there was a secret about her mother’s death. She could feel it whenever her father spoke of her and see it in her Aunt Genevieve’s eyes when her mother’s name was mentioned.
Father said she died in an auto accident but he didn’t talk about it. Karolyn wondered if the death was really something else, something more like a drug overdose or a suicide. There were no photos of her, no clothing or jewelry, nothing left behind other than the piece of charcoal and some secret sketches their father kept locked in a chest in his bedroom.
She recently learned about the sketches when she asked why her mother owned the charcoal. It was at the birthday party. The candles on the birthday cake were being lit by Aunt Genevieve when her father put the charcoal into her hand. “This gift is from your mother. She asked me to give it to you on your thirteenth birthday,” he told her.
“What did mother use it for?” she asked, studying the shiny black stick.
“Your mother was an artist,” he answered.
“You never told me. What did she draw?”
Sam’s expression changed. Karolyn saw a familiar sadness in her father’s eyes. She knew the look from many times before. The look gave her the feeling again, a feeling of ice running down the back of her neck, that there was a secret she wasn’t being told. “She drew some landscapes, sometimes dragons, sometimes unicorns. Those are the best ones.”
“Are? You said those are the best ones? Where are they? Can I see them?” she asked.
Sam studied her for a long moment. He was thinking, his expression blank. It was the same serious look she saw when she asked if she could begin dating. He was trying to figure out a way to let her down.
Karolyn knew then she discovered a piece of the puzzle, maybe a small piece, but definitely something new. Aunt Gen was even looking away, like she was hiding something.
“Hey, let’s blow out the candles,” said Michael, oblivious to the discussion and in a hurry to get to the cake. He didn’t care about old drawings. He never seemed to care about their mother.
“Yes, let’s cut your cake and then you can open your other presents.” said their father.
“Wait! That’s bogus. It’s my birthday and you told me my mother drew drawings and now you want me to wait to see them?”
Aunt Gen looked very concerned now. In fact, she was scowling at Sam. It was obvious she didn’t like the discussion and wanted it to end. “Come on, there’s twenty-six candles lit on the cake, thirteen for each of you! Make your wishes and blow them out if you want your wishes to come true,” she said, her voice in a higher tone than usual.
“Maybe later sweetie. They’re locked up and— ” He put his hand on her shoulder. “I don’t want you to get sad on your big day. Looking at old drawings isn’t exactly birthday fun.”
“Forget it Karolyn! The cake’s gonna be cooked a second time if we don’t blow out the candles,” insisted Michael. After the cake it would be time to open presents and he was hoping for a new fishing pole.
Karolyn let the subject drop but wasn’t about to forget it. She guessed the sketches wouldn’t make her sad even if they were sad for him. Maybe in the sketches were the answers to her questions. Maybe they were the suicide note she left behind.
Looking out at the bay from her bedroom window that morning, the mysterious drawings gnawed at her mind. In the two weeks since her birthday party she asked her father four times if she could see them and each time he found an excuse to put her off. She was sure he wanted her to forget them and quit asking. She wondered why they were hidden away.
The sun, risen now changed the color of the water to a greenish-grey. More sailboats dotted the bay. She dressed, climbed down the ladder and descended the stairs to the lower floor. In the kitchen, she started coffee dripping and put a fresh bagel in the toaster before going to Michael’s room. “Wake up sleepy,” she chimed, opening the door.
“Go to hell,” returned Michael. He rolled onto his side and pulled the quilt over his head.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day. You don’t want to waste it.”
“It’s Saturday. Leave me the hell alone.”
“Come on, I’m making coffee for you. Get up and we’ll do something fun.”
“Crap, just le’me sleep another ten minutes. Get out of my room.”
Karolyn turned and went to her father’s bedroom next, opening the door quietly and just far enough to peek inside. She didn’t want to wake him too early as he usually worked late into the night writing or reading. Her father wasn’t in bed and wasn’t at his desk. “Dad?” she whispered. There was no answer. She went back to Michael’s room and opened the door. Michael was sitting on the side of the bed in nothing but his underwear.
“God damn it! Don’t you knock? Or are you just a little perv?” He quickly pulled his bedspread over his lap and glared at her.
Karolyn felt her face going crimson. She averted her eyes. “I thought you were still in bed. I’m sorry. Do you know where dad is?”
“He left a note. Now get out perv!”
“Where did he leave it?”
“I don’t know. Look on his desk. He said he’s going somewhere. Go read the note unless you want to stay to watch me dress.” He stood up, dropping the bedspread from around his waist. Karolyn quickly stepped back and shut the door.
On her father’s desk she found the typewritten note on a piece of stationary:
Got a lead on a BIG story. Going to your Grandfather’s. Will call when I get there. Aunt Gen will be coming over while I’m gone. MIND HER. Do your homework. I might have some comp tickets to a Giants game if you’re good.
‘Lord help us!’ thought Karolyn. On her way downstairs she knocked on Michael’s door but didn’t open it. “I hope I’m not interrupting something but you better come downstairs. Disaster has stuck.”
The door swept open. “Interrupting something? Gross— you’re the one with squeaky bedsprings every night. What’s the big disaster?”
Karolyn turned and descended the stairs before answering, “Aunt Gen,” she called.
Michael bounded down the stairs after her, hopping over the last three steps to land with both feet and a loud thump on the foyer floor. He turned to the kitchen. “Aunt of the Baskervilles? Lady Cruella of Berkelevania?”
“She’s coming to babysit! Dad’s gone and told her to come watch us.” She handed him the note and he looked at it.
“Oh crap!” was all he could say. He poured himself a cup of coffee and grabbed half of the hot bagel from the toaster, putting it on a small plate.
“If he went to Grandpa’s he’ll be gone for days, maybe a week even,” said Karolyn.
“I know. We’re screwed if Auntie Freakenstine is watching us.”
“Dad said he might have some tickets to a Giant’s game if we’re good.”
“So if I told Dad you went to Confession while he was gone, I bet he’d give them to us for sure.”
Michael sat at the table and looked into his coffee cup. “Tell him— I’m cool with it.”
Karolyn smiled. “Then you’ll go to Mass with me?”
Michael didn’t answer. He was busy scraping at his bagel with a butter knife.
“What are you doing? There’s no butter on the knife. The bagel isn’t burnt is it?”
Michael kept scraping, removing some of the dark brown toasted face of the bagel. He held the bagel up for her to see. “Look! An image of Christ appeared on my bagel! It’s just like the cheese sandwich miracle.”
“What are you talking about? You scraped that. It doesn’t even look like Jesus.” She inspected the bagel to see if her brother scraped a picture at all. ‘Actually the image isn’t bad,’ she thought, but she wouldn’t tell him. There was a small round head with scraped out eyes and mouth. He even made a head band supposed to be the crown of thorns.
“Don’t you know? The cheese sandwich Mary! Some lady in Florida said the Virgin appeared on her grilled cheese sandwich. She made a sandwich and took a bite out of it, then saw the Virgin staring back at her. She kept the thing in a plastic bag on her nightstand for ten years and it never molded. No mold for ten years! She finally sold it on eBay for twenty-eight thousand bucks.”
“You’re kidding.” Karolyn poured herself a glass of milk and took the other half of the bagel from the toaster.
“No, I’m not. I swear. You can Google it.”
“Who would buy a ten-year-old sandwich for that much money?”
“I dunno, some casino I think. They sell T-shirts and stuff with pictures of the sandwich on them.”
Karolyn looked at her brother and laughed. “I know you’re full of it…. but I’ll believe you if you’ll go to Mass with me,” she offered.
Michael shook his head and turned the face of the bagel to look at him. “Lemme see what my good friend Hey-zeus has to say on this matter,” he said mockingly. He put the bagel up to his ear and acted like he was listening, raising his eyebrows and nodding his head. “What’s that Jeez? Oh, I see.” He nodded. “You say you want me to be a fisher of fish today Jesus? Not a fisher of men? And what? You want me to put butter on your face and eat you?”
“Michael! That’s blasphemy! Now you have even more reason to go to Confession.” Karolyn’s tone was angry though she suppressed a laugh. Michael could always make her laugh.
Michael put the bagel back on his plate and reached for the butter dish. “I ain’t going sis— that’s that,” he said flatly. “I’m never going back to that hell hole church and you shouldn’t either.”
“You’re wrong! You’ll end up in Hell if you don’t go to church. We’re all born in sin.”
Michael took a bite out of his bagel and followed it with a gulp of coffee. He let out an exasperated sigh. “You can believe that crap if you want but don’t push it on me. I’m going fishing today. That’s real. You cast out a line and sometimes you get a fish, sometimes you get trash, and sometimes you get snagged. There’s no magic man up in the sky who’s gonna make it any different.”
Karolyn slowly shook her head. “Is that it? You lost your faith because you can’t catch fish? You used to love being an altar boy. I remember when you couldn’t wait ‘till you turned nine so you could help the priest. You even said you wanted to be a priest once. Now, for two months you haven’t gone to Mass!”
“I grew up,” stated Michael. He took another big gulp of coffee.
“Well, you might think it’s grown up to reject the church but the church won’t reject you. I talked to Father Neffam and he said he wants you back. He said you were next in line to carry the Processional Cross. He said….”
Michael stood and threw his coffee cup against the backsplash of the sink. It hit with a loud crash and shattered into a hundred pieces. His face was flushed and the veins on his neck stood out. “Shut the hell up!” he shouted and stormed out of the room.
Karolyn sat stone still, staring at the splinters of the ceramic cup. Ever since Michael quit the church his temper was worse. He stayed in his room more and never wanted to talk about why he stopped believing. He even dumped his friends who were altar boys with him. He didn’t seem to have any friends at Berkeley High either and she wondered if he was being bullied there, or if his grades were bad and he was keeping it a secret. As she stood and began picking up the broken shards of cup, she resolved to talk to her school counselor, Sister Jessica, about what she should do. Michael wasn’t a student at Saint Benedict’s anymore, but Sister Jessica was a good advisor, someone who she could go to like a mother when there were problems. She heard the front door slam and knew it was Michael leaving to go fishing at the bay.
The story continues in The Mystery of LEMURIA
Published by Top Drawer Publishing
Buy the Paperback edition here: http://CreateSpace.com/4i87160
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Copyright © 2012 D.G.Stebbins All rights reserved.
This book is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, licensed, or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the author. Unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly. Any resemblance between the characters and persons living or dead in Azmerith is purely deliberate. Any resemblance between the characters and persons of Earth, living or dead, is coincidental.
The legend of the Cole children is so astonishing that anyone knowing the tale must say Karolyn and Michael Cole are the greatest heroes who ever breathed air or swam in the sea. But, who knows of their legend? Do you? No one would have thought the Cole children capable of great deeds in the beginning. The kids at their schools thought they were rather strange, if they thought of them, and most ignored them or didn’t even notice. They were just a couple of regular kids from the city. They lived in Berkeley, California, a small city across the bay from San Francisco. Michael went to a public high school, Karolyn to a catholic school. They lived in an ordinary two-story brown house on Third Avenue, and weren’t really noticed by anybody when they walked down the street. At that time, Michael was small for his age and rather thin with dark hair and jade green eyes. He liked to play video games, particularly combat video games and he was rather good at them. Karolyn had red hair, the same green eyes, and was an inch taller than Michael. She liked to read and was good at Girl’s Track, especially the hurdles. No one would have guessed they were twins, or brother and sister for that matter, yet they were fraternal twins, born on the same day and of the same mother. There were some remarkable doings when they were born, extraordinary most would say, but I will leave that out for now and perhaps tell you later.
Now of course, after all they have done, having become famous, and well---- legendary, it is easy to see the clues that led to their greatness. Even before the Cole children were born, there were clues: The mysterious appearance of their mother was the first. Her name was Harmony, a name that she said fit the occasion, and indeed, it did. Yet that wasn’t her real name; she chose the name at the very moment that she first saw Sam, the Cole children’s father, when he was plowing a field of his father’s farm near Mount Shasta. But don’t let me get ahead of the story without first introducing myself: Of course, you know my name from the title page or book jacket, but if not, if you skipped over that part in a hurry to find out what this book is about, then go back and look again. I want you to make a habit of careful reading. What I’m going to tell you in this book is not a made up tale, make-believe, or a fantasy. Though you probably found it in the fantasy section of a bookstore or library, this is a true story and it requires careful reading. You see, I am not really an author, a writer, or a fabricator of tales. I’m a translator. The story of the Cole children was copied and compiled from a number of sources, including their own journals and those of their father. I assure you it is real. It did happen. As you read on you will come to know this and it will make sense to you because it explains everything you have always known in your heart to be true.