Piece of the Week:
It was a fine old tree. The oak was not very striking in its foliage it had been bare of any leaves for five years yet the appearance of the thick, dark wood twisting and gnarling like a claw cradling the sun always captured Millie, and she had gotten behind in her chores many times by stopping to gaze at it.
It was haunted. It had to be haunted, she reasoned. How else could such an old tree last so long without any greenery? But Millie had never found any actual proof for her conclusion. Each week, during her one hour of leisure time, she would walk directly out to the tree and spend hours sitting beneath it, hoping to get a hint of the ghost that possessed it.
Lady Allenforth obviously did not believe in the ghost. She ordered the hall boy to chop it down, and the remains were split into logs for the hearths all over the house. No matter how the higher ranking servants would command her, Millie could not be forced to take the logs up to the master’s room, as was her duty. A fellow housemaid offered to do so in her stead, leaving Millie to do any extra chores missed during the endeavor. But she did not mind, so long as she was not the one brining the logs to the fire.
But she could no avoid it forever, she soon learned. As she scaled the stairs in the night, she did not even think what she was walking into. It was routine: after the master fell asleep, she would stoke the fire in his chambers to keep it burning through the cold winter night. Creeping into his dark, silent room, she was soon facing the one flickering light, the flame dying atop logs from the haunted tree. Kneeling down with bated breath, she took hold of the fire poker, but could not convince herself to use it. Wincing, she crept the poker closer and closer to the ashen wood, but flinched, knocking the metal frame of the fireplace and dropping the poker.
She ducked and covered in fear. The master stirred, but did not wake. And now the floor was covered in ash. Taking her dustpan and brush, she collected the ash as silently as she could, then left the master’s chambers for the long stairway down.
I hate this… she moaned to herself. Now the room will go cold, and I’ll be in trouble.
She wiped the fire-sweat from her forehead, leaving a trail of ash from her dirtied hands.
I wish I could just fly out of here somehow, so I couldn’t get in trouble.
Her steps froze as she crossed a beam of moonlight coasting through the hallway window. The ash on her hand was gliding into the air, swirling like smoke, then congregated near her back, where it collected and solidified in the shape of a black wing on her right shoulder. She bit her lip to keep silent as she tried to see her reflection in the window pane. Then, her hand shaking, curiosity drove her to scoop more ash from the dustpan, then cast it into the air. It swirled and soared through the air until it formed another wing on her left shoulder.
I knew it…the tree was haunted. And now… She smiled with an awkward glee. The ashes are magic.
Chimney. Also inspired by the reality/documentary Manor House previously mentioned in this blog.
Work in Progress:
I’ve been working on my Shinto-inspired story lately:
The morning sunlight entered the shrine, just as any patron would, since the whole establishment was facing the east. The first thing to catch the light was the front gate, made of two tall wooden posts arched with a thick rope, large tassels subtly catching the first breath of the day. Gliding to the top of the stone steps and to the cracked stone path, the golden gleam coated the gabled wood canopy of the purification font. The stone trough was filled nearly to the rim with clear, cool water sparkling in the morning light, the bamboo shoot trickling a stream into the basin. The cups of the long-handled bamboo ladles resting on the basin edge bobbed gently with the soft ripples of water—the most action to be seen on a typical still morning in the forest grove.
Big Bang Theory on DVD.
I’m reading a few right now for the library book clubs I’m hosting.