Don’t be pessimistic about our chances. Hope is the only thing that’s kept humanity going these last five years. If we can capture your wife and sprinkle shadow dust on her, she will return to normal. The ancients tried to warn us and we turned their warnings into nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The elven kingdom returned and brought a plague upon us all. Seems they decided to reclaim their home world after decimating several other planets in the galaxy. If you carried even a drop of Irish blood you turned into a ravening zombie in the elvish army. What they didn’t destroy, the riots did. In three years the Elven Queen reclaimed over half of our world. The only thing stopping her now are the indigenous peoples of the world. They are the only ones who can create the shadow dust. They are the spark that started the fires of rebellion. The alley was suddenly silent. A middle aged woman wearing a ‘Hot Mess Mom’ tee shirt limped into view. “Karen?” Her husband’s face showed hope and fear. They threw a net over her and dosed her. Her eyes faded from red to blue and she looked around in confusion.
“Where am I?” Her husband tried to rush in but the soldiers held him back.
“You have to wait. Her hunger is still there.” Karen lashed at the net and tried to bite the nearest soldier. He leapt out of reach and she snarled. Suddenly she went limp and began convulsing. The soldiers pulled the net off her. She opened her brown eyes and lay still for a moment. When she caught sight of her husband, she pulled herself up and walked into his embrace. The entire process only took five minutes but it was incredibly dangerous.
The old cat tree sat just outside of town. Its gnarled branches always held at least three cats. Legend said that it sprouted full grown overnight the day they burned the witch. No axe could penetrate its bark. After the first three men who swung an axe at it came down with a mysterious fever – people left it well enough alone. 50 years later there were rumors of pearls & hidden gems tucked inside its trunk but nothing was ever found. The cats prance through its branches and commune with the spirit that lives inside the wooden fortress. The cats know the trees origins. It is a curse born in the filth and the fury of the long imprisonment and brutal murder of their friend the witch. She used her death to fuel the spell. The townsfolk have grown complacent. The tree bides its time. Another decade or two and the last one who stood in witness to the death of the witch will die. Then the tree will give his soul to the cats as it did with all the others. 96 souls trapped in acorns to be used as cat toys. Soon it will be a complete set of 97 and the cursed forest will grow.
The cold mountain made the tiny B & B all the more inviting. They trudged through the doors of the huge victorian mansion and sighed in relief as the warm air enveloped them. They dropped their heavy packs by the front desk. No one was around so Junior ran the bell 3 times. Senior shook his head at his youthful exuberance. A breeze stirred their hair and then an apparition appeared behind the desk. “How may I help you?”
“Reservation for two, under Jester.” Their packs started floating so they followed them to their room. After washing up they headed to the dining room. It was a grand ballroom fitted with about a dozen small tables. Halfway through dinner, Senior became engrossed in the conversation of two ladies behind him. He leaned closer and closer until SMACK! he hit his head on the floor when the chair gave way. He had to scramble to cover up his spying and was brought a new chair so he could finish his supper.
She spent her mornings exploring behind the Blue Lotus Cafe. The small coffee shop on the edge of town was the gateway to the lost world. You fueled up on overpriced coffee and stepped out the back door into another world. The owner had explained that the door had been installed improperly causing a disturbance in its universal reality matrix and a bunch of other technobabble, but June had just smiled and nodded her way thru the conversation. She’d skip through the back door and leave the known world behind. Today she was greeted by a 3 foot tall baby chick. It ignored her and hunted the grass for tiny antelopes. They fled through the fields in terror but the chick still caught three of them, swallowing them whole. She sipped her cappuccino and kept walking. When her cup was empty, she turned to head back. She was shocked to find the door was locked. She jiggled the handle and pounded on the door. A sign appeared on the door, “Please tip your barista.” June patted her pockets but had no cash. She yelled at the door, “Do you Venmo??!!”
To walk the wild treasure hunt I must carry my life in a knapsack. It’s hard to distill life down to what will fit inside a knapsack but it is possible. I add the first journal I ever completed, its adolescent ramblings remind me of where I came from. I carefully place my children’s discarded teeth in a tin with a photo of each of them. A small jar of lake water reminds me of carefree summers paddling around in the small mountain lake. A dried purple and white rose reminds me of the day I bound my life to my love. I weaved the collars of every dog I’ve loved and lost into a length of rope to use as an anchor in the storms. I leave space for the memories yet to be made and I set off. I follow the trail of the monarch butterfly. Maybe I should’ve packed food instead of memories.
“If you are going to invite a centaur over for a tea party be sure to use your tibet style teacups. I hear they are highly recommended because of the sturdier handles. My friend Ray loves tea parties. And by tea parties I mean tequila in a teacup. She’s a hilarious mare and a blast to hang with. We prefer to have our tequila…err…tea parties out by the pond. It usually leads to one of us getting dunked. Ok. Ok. The one of us is me. You ever try to push a centaur somewhere they don’t wanna go? Not happening. You should join us next Tuesday! Be prepared for TMI though. After 3 or 4 tequila teacups, Ray will start to talk filthy about her favorite stallion, Starbirth. Evidently he was a derby contender and she loves to watch him run. Anyways. How’s the kids? Do they learn much at Troll Academy or is it your basic bridge riddle stuff? What? What do you mean that’s offensive? I know trolls do more than eat goats and spit riddles! Where are you going?”
Pilot walked away from the crash site. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning. The lure of flying when the thirteenth moon was at its biggest beautiful self was just too great. The lunar reflection was nearly as bright as daytime. She reached the top of the ridge. No other lights twinkled on the horizon, just miles of empty prairie. A small rodent began to rub its face on her shoe and then sniffed around behind her where she had disturbed the grass. It caught the smell of the broken grass and it squeaked off in fear. Pilot looked around to find what had spooked the critter but she saw nothing. There was something in the distance to the east, so Pilot started walking. The hours crawled by. Several times she thought of stopping to wait for daylight and death but she kept marching while cursing her epic stupidity of forgetting her phone at home. The soft noises of the night disappeared and she stopped, turning slowly. A shambling creature stood behind her. It roared and leapt at her. Pilot was ready. She reached for one of the five points of power she always carried. On contact with her skin, the creature began to wither. She drank his life force until he collapsed like an empty capri sun. He tasted stringy and old, but vampires can’t be choosy when they are stranded. With renewed vigor, Pilot started running towards the distant structure. Only a few hours to dawn and death.
The snowman barreled down the road, he was after the thief who took his favorite comic book ‘Maiden, Monsters, & Madmen’. The thief sped up and the snowman screamed in frustration. That comic was one of his favorite discoveries. He had spent many an evening out in the gazebo, carefully reading its pages while avoiding the heat from his lantern. The thief slid on a sheet of ice and hit the ground like a box of bricks. The snowman caught up to her before she could regain her footing. He snatched the book back. “How dare you steal from me!”
The thief smirked at him. “It wasn’t the book I stole, it was you.” The snowman was suddenly aware of the crowd of people around him and he was forced into a white van. He spent the next decade of his life as ‘The Dazzling Delight – a man built of Ice’. The crowds were always too loud, the rooms too warm, and the food was never cold enough. By the end of the decade he was a skeleton built of icicles. His captors laughed until they made the mistake of moving him during a Minnesota blizzard and crashed. Once the van stopped rolling, the ice man snapped off a rib and the real screaming began.
The jazz club was called ‘Wings of Love.’ Jennie watched the taxi drive away and wondered what she had gotten herself into. So far she had done a shitty job of navigating life and her brother had promised that the fortune teller at this club would help her adult more efficiently. A jazz club seemed like a strange place to get life advice but she had nothing to lose. The velociraptors caged on the stage made beautiful music as they smashed the instrument they were caged with. A harpsichord died beautifully inside the cage of a raptor missing one eye. Jennie made her way to the bar. “I’m here to see Karen.” The bartender pointed to the hall the bathrooms were in. The women’s sign had been replaced with a handwritten note, ‘Life Advice: 20$’. Jennie took out her last twenty and went in. The door had been removed from a stall and Karen was perched on the back of the toilet. Karen was a parrot. Jennie waited for her turn. After dropping her 20 in the hat on the floor – Karen spoke. “Rawk. Move to Nebraska. Rawk. Wear the red dress.” Jennie smiled and headed home to pack up her life.
The gold ghost drifted through the forest. The sun danced in her ectoplasm and cast rainbows on the trees around her. Always moving. Always wailing. The forest life fled the sounds of her screams. The birds stopped singing and the foxes fled. It was the sound of a sociopath. The gold ghost smiled as the animals fled. No matter how far she roamed she couldn’t get away from the stench of life. She wandered the western plains and was disappointed to find life everywhere. The far reaches of the north were almost quiet but flightless birds and other creatures disturbed her rest. She had no desire to haunt dance halls or old theaters. She was a modern ghost and baby, she just wanted to be alone. Night fell and she glanced at the stars. Her weak thought patterns remembered a science lesson about the vacuum above her. Maybe this was her last hope. She let go of gravity and drifted into the void above.