Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Last Day of Mrs. Douglas Clarke

First, a brief introduction!

Since I was 12 years old, I've been writing stories set in a fantasy world called Arestin, crossing over to our own world. The gist of Arestin is that it's a fantasy world whose people discovered the world of Earth in our 1880s. I hope to eventually sell novels set on Arestin, never know in this biz, and even if I do, clearly I can't put ALL the stories in novels (unless maybe, I sell them and they're crazy-popular, but if that turned out to be the case, likely no one will care if there is a bit of overlap from some old blog post).

So for now, I'm posting stories here, as a creative outlet and some short story practice. I'm going to try to keep them to about 1000 words apiece. Woo! But I also eventually hope to post other extra bits from MAGIC UNDER GLASS and other upcoming novels.

(I would do this now, since it has more of a likely built-in audience...except I'm still writing them! I don't know what will happen IN the books yet!)

Plus art and other story-related stuff, and business news like when I sell a book, and the occasional interview with other writers.

My personal life posts will remain on my LJ blog:

Now I will hush and let the story begin. This story takes place in the aforementioned 1880s, but I'll be jumping around all over the place, timewise. ;)

Most young women would have shrieked, had a strange man materialized beyond the bird bath, but Mrs. Douglas Clarke had other things on her mind. She was, in fact, kneeling in front of her neglected roses, crying in the most wrenching way she could without making any noise, lest the neighbors hear.

When she first saw the man, she thought—hoped—it might be the ghost of her father, come to console her, but it only took a moment for her to realize this was not the case.

For one thing, the man was wearing what she might assume was a theater costume, possibly Russian, with a long belted coat and embroidery, and his black hair fell in loose chunks around his face. For another, he had pointed ears, like something from a fairy story.

She knew her face was red and streaked with tears, but the urge to produce more had left her. “Are you…a fairy?” she asked.

“Son naran?” he said, speaking softly. She understood the syllables, but the words themselves were unknown to her in English, French, or her bit of Latin.

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

He took a step closer, and although she still didn’t understand a word he said, he indicated her face, and she knew he asked why she had been crying.

Did it matter if she spoke the shameful truth to a strange, possibly Russian man capable of materializing in her garden? It was clear he didn’t understand a word she said. “My husband…I think he might—he might love someone else. We’ve only been married a year. I asked him about it, and he got so angry, but… Am I too dull, too frumpy, too anxious? Why has he never been happy since we married?” She glanced up, and he was watching her with fixed fascination. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter what happened. I just never thought it would be like this, but what makes it worse is the baby. She’s been sick all week, and I’ve had no sleep, and—”

His eyes, deep brown and undeniably lovely, were sympathetic. She would have thought for all the world that he knew what she said.

“Who are you?” she said, as if the oddity of this stranger had only just struck her.

He gestured at her ears. He seemed to find her ears as strange as she found his. Then, he made a vague wave of confusion at her bustle.

“Isabel,” she said, patting her chest, remembering proper manners with strange peoples, although she would not call herself Mrs. Douglas Clarke. She was anguished at the idea of calling herself that name ever again.

“Firanad,” he said, bowing his head.

She heard a sudden shrill scream from the upstairs window. She pointed frantically. “Oh, that’s—Lizzie— I must go. She’s sick. You—you can come with me.” She took a step toward the house, and wouldn’t go farther until he followed. She felt deeply that she must not let him from her sight, or he would vanish, and leave her with an even more profound loneliness.

He stopped in the house. He looked at the black stove, and the sink, and the lantern on the table. They made it to the stairwell before his attention was caught again—more violently—by the wedding photograph hanging on the wall. Lizzie’s scream had reached a piercing pitch. She left him staring at the photo and quickly scooped up her darling little one.

Her skin was still hot. Isabel tried to shove down her fear. Lizzie might have been a product of this marriage that had gone so wrong, but everything about her was precious and lovely, and she would never have another baby. Not with things as they were.

“Shh, shh, darling.” She hurried Lizzie to the stairs, to assure herself that Firanad was still there.

He was.

Isabel briefly frowned in apology at Lizzie’s squalling.

He held a hand out to Lizzie. When she didn’t stop him, he placed it on her forehead, feeling the fever. He looked at her, and asked if it was a concern. She understood that plain enough from his face as he spoke.

“She won’t seem to get well…”

He took a vial from his coat. Carefully, carefully, he spilled a drop onto his finger and placed it to Lizzie’s open, howling mouth. Her infant features crinkled with brief surprise.

He watched her, waiting.

It only took moments before the blue eyes brightened and the cries slowed. A change as profound as magic came across her precious little one. She looked at Firanad with as much confusion as gratitude. “Are you an angel?” she whispered.

He pressed the bottle in her hand and now he spoke slowly again, looking her square in the eyes. “Dado haviga.” He patted her cheek, and motioned down the stairs.

“No—wait. Don’t go. Please don’t go.” The tears came back, so fierce. He was an utter stranger, but she needed him. Wasn’t he here to save her?

“Do haviga.” He was resolute. It was plain on his face. He walked down the stairs, leaving her there with her pain threatening to spill out so fast, she thought it would kill her. She wished it would kill her. He looked back once, and then he was gone. Not just gone to the backyard. He actually vanished, just as he came, leaving emptiness behind, the emptiness of withered hearts and blackest space.

It was a long time now, before she stopped crying.

Somehow, peace came when it must—before Douglas came home.

If it was difficult to live with him before, it would be impossible now. She felt as profoundly changed as if she had spent a year with Martians or King Arthur’s knights. Lizzie was cool and healthy, and she quickly packed her necessary things. She would go to her mother—for now.

Just for now.

She sensed one of the laws of the universe operating upon her; that is, once you have been touched by real, true magic, the world will no longer be a place merely of factories and dust and obligations, but a place of doors that will open to both beauty and pain.


  1. I'm so glad you have the blog now here on Blogger! Though I love to read the one you have on LJ, this one is just as lovely to read. ;)

    I adored that short story, by the way. I've only just been introduced to the feel and scope of the story, yet I already eagerly await the day your Arestin novels will be sold to a publisher so that they'll be able to be bought and cherished as they should be. I'm sure they'll be just as wonderful as Magic Under Glass. :)

  2. testing this comment, because it keeps erasing them...