The Island of Misfit Posts #3: Saturday Storytime Cellar

I’m a horrible planner, always have been, so it’ll come as no surprise that I don’t outline these posts beforehand. It’s all stream of consciousness writing, which is akin to jamming your grubby mitts into Forest Gump’s chocolate box and never knowing whatcha gonna wind up with.

The idea for this abandoned post sorta-kinda stemmed from my admiration of the original versions of popular fairy tales, but as I was writing it, Carole and Paula from The Magic Garden (a live action kid’s TV show in the 70’s) flashed in my brain and I couldn’t shake the image of them hunkered down in a dank and musty cellar, embittered because the glory days had passed them by and they were relegated to the thankless task of repurposing stories in order to snare the short attention spans of modern day jelly-droppers.

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Needless to say, that’s not quite how the finished product turned out:

Saturday Storytime Cellar: Redahlia

Gather ’round in a semi-circle on the story mat, boys and girls. Don’t forget to bring your milk and graham crackers, and please sit criss-cross applesauce to make room for your neighbors. Yes, Jimmy? Question?

Your dad’s right, it used to be called Indian style but that’s before we discovered the name was offensive to Native Americans. Yes, Jimmy?

Your father is certainly entitled to his opinions, but you can tell him that there’s nothing creepy about meeting in this cellar. It’s only until the West Nile virus scare at the garden has been taken care of. And a hippie is a person associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and not that it’s any of his business but I do shave my underarms. Also, I’m sure the word he used was thespian, which is another word for an actor and I was at one time, in college, during an experimental phase.

Anyone have any other questions before we get started? Jimmy, put your hand down, please. Today’s story is about a little girl, long before she wore a riding hood, and if you think you know the story, you’re as wrong as Jimmy’s dad. Dead wrong. This is the tale of Redalhia

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“Alas for those girls who’ve refused the truth: The sweetest tongue has the sharpest tooth.” ― Jack Zipes, Little Red Riding Hood and Other Classic French Fairy Tales

The various herbs and tinctures had been gathered, carefully measured and mixed into the recipe and when the baking was done, Mother asked her only daughter, Redalhia, to take the specially prepared galette and pot of cream to Grandmother’s forest cottage.

Redalhia didn’t quite feel up for the journey. Her body was undergoing a significant change and she found herself trapped betwixt and between being the girl she once was and the woman she would one day become. But she loved Grandmother so very dearly that she put her own cares aside and happily gathered the food into a basket before setting off for the forest.

How could she do any less? Her grandmother had fallen ill and the severity of her malady forced her to live apart from the family in a cottage deep within the forest, for fear of passing the sickness onto anyone else.

At the tree line of the forest, the road she walked split in two and at the fork stood the changeling-wolf known in the village as Bzou. The shapeshifter sensed her approach and quickly took the form of a man. When she grew close enough to benefit from the power of his bright smile, Bzou flashed his teeth and asked, “Excuse me, dear, where are you going?”

“To Grandmother’s house, sir.” Redalhia answered.

Bzou sniffed the air, “And what, fair creature, do you carry?” but it wasn’t the scent of the food in the basket that tempted his nostrils.

“Why, Mother’s cooking, of course. Bread and cream for Grandmother’s supper. She lives in the forest cottage.”

“And which path will you take?” Bzou asked, gesturing at both paths, one after the other. “The Path of Needles or the Path of Pins?”

Redalhia pondered this a moment. “The Path of Pins, I think, since it is the quickest.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes, very. I have traveled both paths and Pins is the quickest.”

“Let us put your expertise to the test, shall we? I will take the Path of Needles, and we will see who gets there first.”

Redalhia shrugged for she knew she was right, but if the silly man wanted to waste his time, who was she to stop him? She set off down the Path of Pins and thought it strange that he simply stood there, grinning, and watched her walk.

Bzou knew the girl was right. Of course the Path of Pins was quicker and she definitely would have reached the cottage first had the shapeshifter walked on two legs. But using all four? There was no way she would be faster than he. When the girl disappeared within the dense patch of trees, the wolfen shook off his human guise, trotted down the Path of Needles, and as he knew he would, reached Grandmother’s cottage first.

The cunning  wolf altered his appearance to resemble Redalhia and rapped gently on the door. When Grandmother answered, her thrill at seeing her favorite grandchild was short lived as Bzou slaughtered her, quickly and efficiently as not to leave a mess. He gnawed her flesh, lapped up her blood and ate her bones to the marrow, leaving only a small portion of flesh that he placed on a little dish in the pantry, and a bit of blood that he drained into a little bottle. Then Bzou cleaned himself, took the form of Grandmother and dressed in her cap and shawl before climbing into bed.

When Redalhia finally knocked on the door, Bzou carefully disguised his guttural voice before calling out, “Come in, my child.”

“Grandmother,” the girl beamed, “Mother sent me here with a galette and a cream.”

“Put them in the pantry, child. Are you hungry and thirsty?”

“Yes, I am.”

“There is meat in the pantry for you to cook and wine beside it to drink.”

Redalhia cooked the meat and as she began to eat it, a little cat mewled, “You are eating the flesh of your grandmother!”

“Throw your shoe at that noisy cat,” said Bzou, and so the girl did.

As Redalhia washed the meat down with wine, a small bird cried, “You are drinking the blood of your grandmother!”

“Throw your other shoe at that noisy bird,” Bzou commanded, and the girl did so.

When Redalhia finished her meal, Bzou said, “You must be exhausted from your journey, child. Take off your clothes, come to bed, and I shall warm you up.”

It was true, after the meat and drink, her head did spin slightly. There was something in the flavor of the meal, a familiarity basted in sorrow. “Where shall I put my clothing, Grandmother?”

“Throw them on the fire, child, for you won’t need them anymore.”

Normally, Redalhia would have questioned this but a sudden weariness fogged her mind. She tossed her bodice, skirt, petticoat, and stockings on the fire, and climbed into bed.

The nearness of her, the smell of her budding womanhood, caused Bzou’s concentration to wander and his guise slipped a bit.

Even through the sleepy haze, Redalhia noticed the change. Her once frail grandmother was hairier, her arms stronger, ears larger, and her teeth — those teeth were familiar but they didn’t belong to the old woman’s face. Where had she seen them before?

Bzou spoke in gentle tones to allay the girl’s suspicions, “My hair is to keep you warm on cold nights, my arms to hold you close, my ears to better hear your sweet voice, and my teeth…”

Sharp teeth. Sharper than any human has ever had. “The better to eat me with?” Redalhia leapt from the bed. “Bizou!”

The wolf smiled and let the disguise fall away. “Yes, ’tis I.”

“But where is Grandmo–” the truth slowly dawning, “You ate her!”

“We share that sin, my dear. Now come and lie beside me.” Bzou patted the empty side of the bed.

The realization made Redalhia retch. “I — I feel ill…”

“Do it in the bed, my child, I do not mind.”

The girl staggered out the cottage door and vomited the undigested bits of her late grandmother against a plum tree.

Bzou followed her outside, shaking his canine head, “What a waste of good meat. Are you finished yet, deary, so that we may attend to our affairs?”

“My only affair is to see you dead!” the girl spat.

“You are welcomed to try, after I take from you what is mine.”

Redalhia sprinted from the tree and took off down the Path of Pins.

“Nectar sweetened by the chase!” Bzou grinned as he darted down the Path of Needles, powerful legs carrying him to the fork in the road with a swiftness unmatched by any human. He braced himself for the girl to appear from the tree line. He would take her straightaway, no more games. He waited. And waited. Until waiting turned to impatience and impatience turned to realization, “Clever girl. She…”

Doubled back once she heard Bzou on the Path of Needles. Her first instinct was to run to the safety of her home, but she quickly realized how foolish a thought that was. She couldn’t risk leading the wolf to her house, couldn’t afford to lose Mother as well.

Branches and thistles and thorns and bramble torn at Redalhia’s naked flesh as she ran past the cottage and through the woods which had no path.And when she thought she couldn’t run any further, she reached a river, swift and deep, where laundresses on both banks were hard at work.

“Help me cross,” she pleaded with them. The washer women took pity on the girl and spread a sheet over the water and held tightly to its ends. No sooner than when Redalhia had begun to cross the bridge of cloth, Bzou reached the river and jumped upon the sheet as well.

She too was on all fours now, scrambling to reach the other side of the river, and when the wolf was almost upon her, Redalhia dove off the sheet onto the river bank and yanked the linen from the laundresses’ hands and let it go.

Bizou’s paws clawed at the muddy river bank. looking for purchase but Redalhia kicked them away. He bobbed the surface a few times, shifting forms from wolf to the man in the road to Redalhia herself to Grandmother and finally back to his true wolf self, desperately trying to swim against the tide but was too badly tangled in the sheet. He let out one last pitiful howl before he drowned.

I try to turn off the editor as I write, and I’m mostly successful, but this time I wasn’t. I realized there was a problem with shifting tones in the post. The cellar bit contained a humor that was lacking in Redalhia, which meant when I returned to the cellar and attempted to be clever in my wrap up, the fairy tale itself would seem out of place. One of these things just doesn’t belong here.

Sure, I could have opted for another less serious fairy tale and posted Redalhia separately, but that would have required planning, and as we well know, I and planning do not see eye to eye.

Sally forth and be shapeshiftingly but not grandmother-eatingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Memory Is The Liar That Whispers Fantastic Pasts In Our Ears

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“I’m not a liar. I just have a good memory for things that never happened.” ― J.T. Bock

There’s a story I’m fond of telling, about a girl I met in a park during a blizzard.  Sad fact of the matter is I don’t remember what she looked like. Not exactly. In my fading memory’s defense, I only saw the bit of her frosty red face that was nestled within the fur ring of her hooded parka. And I’ll admit that my recollection of events might be slightly dramatized and infused with more schmaltzy innocence and devil may care fun, as we built a snow fort to defend ourselves from the invading snow army, but it happened, the girl was real and not some imaginary snow playmate—I’ve had plenty of those—and a good time was had by all, or at least by me.

The memory gets more Michael Bayish with each retelling. It takes on mass and bulks up and challenges me to become a better liar in order to bear its additional weight. But am I actually a liar? If the current version records over the initial memory on the VHS tape in my mind and all I have left is the most recent telling, then I am relaying events as I recall them, no? And why shouldn’t I drape this memory with grace so that it might straighten its back and hold its head higher, as it strolls amongst my other remembrances? I am one of only two people who possesses this memory and since I cannot verify that the other party is holding up their end, it’s my sworn duty to keep it alive, embellishments and all.

It started out as one of my favorite kind of schooldays, you know, where you wake up and the world outside is completely white and Alice Cooper’s voice is on a continuous loop in your head as you do your victory dance in front of the window, “School’s out forever…

What was that? Just me, then? All right. Good to know.

Anyhoo, after lying about leaving my books at school–thereby avoiding studying to get ahead of the class (perish the thought)–and breezing through my chores, I ventured forth into snowmageddon and discovered… no one else was outside. Oh, sure, people were attempting to dig their cars out, but none of my friends, hell, no one my age was visible in the dense thundersnow.

Cowards, the lot of them!

Undaunted–I wasn’t going back inside, not on a day like this–I trekked to the local park and that was when I saw The Girl. Out on her lonesome, rolling the lower portion of a snowman-to-be with all the intensity of a winterland Victoria Frankenstein.

When she eventually caught sight of me, she stopped and glared, trying to suss me out. Was I friend or foe? We stood there for ages, still as statues, locked in a silent Mexican Stare Off. She was determined, this one, to wait me out. She had staked claim to this park and I was the trespasser. If we were ever going to come to an accord, I’d have to make the first move. So, I did the only thing I could do in that situation…

I began rolling the middle portion for her snowman. That seemed to be good enough for her.

You ask me what her name was? Well, there are only two words that come to mind when I think about her: amber and hazel. So, either her name was Amber and she had hazel eyes, or she was an amber-eyed Hazel. Perhaps even something in between like Hazamberel or Amhazelber? I can’t rule any options out at this point.

The park was ours and ours alone, we two intrepid children of The Bronx. We laughed in the face of the snowpocalypse and frolicked–as much as our starfish overlayering would allow–and built an ominous snow army that we waged snow war against, plowed through the snow soldiers and beat them down to the ground, before turning on each other in the snowball fight to end all snowball fights, tried to sled downhill on a ratty piece of cardboard, discovered how truly fast squirrels are when we tried to catch one, marveled at how far trees could bend under the weight of snow, and made a pact to be friends forever.

I learned that day that pacts are not unbreakable–I never saw Hazamberel again–and just how like a snowflake a memory is.

Not a terribly exciting story to hear, I realize, but I’m not telling it for your enjoyment. I tell it so that I don’t lose it, so that it doesn’t fade any more than it already has from the weathers of time, or become trapped and freezes to death in the hedge maze like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

That’s part of the duty we owe to our past, to not only remember it but become the architects and build up the bits of foundation that have crumbled away due to neglect.

So, please stop me if I’ve told you this one before, but once, when I was younger, I met a girl in a blizzard, at least I think it was snowing, maybe it was rain, and her name was some sort of color, Vermillion or Fuchsia, maybe…

Sally forth and be truth exaggeratingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Available: One writer. Slightly used.

Available: One writer. Slightly used. Warranty still good. Greying but no significant exterior dings, scratches, dents, or cracks. Unabashed nerd with sci-fi and creature feature tendencies. Proficient in Final Draft, Word, and Photoshop. Comes with subversive and wicked sense of humor. Able to subsist solely on Ramen noodles, chili, apple spice tea and ginger ale. Optional accessories include three rotating personalities (one of whom is rumored–but not yet confirmed–to have defeated a Dalek in hand-to-hand combat and thereby is in line to become the Fourteenth Doctor). If writers are your thing, you’ll like the cut of this one’s jib.

Top Ten 2013 Mundanities I Didn’t Mind Being Mired In

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “A top ten 2013 list is so… December 2013,” but I didn’t realize I had this great idea until I swiped it from Lani-Lani-bo-Bani-Bonana-fanna-fo-Fani-Fee-fy-mo-Mani, sole proprietor of Life the Universe and Lani.

Why roll out this blog post version of a best of clip show? Is it some clever ruse to get you to follow me til your dying day? To shower me with much deserved (and ever elusive) praise? To send in donations so that I might begin construction on my pet project: The Everlasting Dream Church of Rhyan (my genius must be preserved!)?

Yes, yes, and yes.

So take a gander, and enjoy… or not. Totally your call, mate.

Macon

Number 10: The Maconheiro Preview Clips

Clips from a disastrous horror film I attempted to shoot with absolutely no money and with the kind assistance of local talent, until locations became increasingly difficult to obtain and actors booked paying jobs. Still, ya gotta try to find out what’s doable and what ain’t, am I right? Rhetorical question. Of course I’m right.

Number 9: Snatched From the Heart of Stars: What’s Your Creative DNA?

You most likely won’t like this one. No one does but yours truly. It originated from a dream and while I might have bungled it a bit bringing it into reality, I loved the internal exploration. It breaks the blog post rules of being too damned long and meandering, but it’s my baby, and I love it just the way it is. So, deal.

Number 8: My Mad Fat Brain Bug: A Story Box Full of Regret

Writing this actually prompted me to dust off some of my more prehistorically published short speculative fiction stories and repurpose them as a collection (available on Amazon, in case you’re interested)

Number 7: A Message to My Younger Self: Try Harder

An actual message I wrote to my younger self. I’m still working on the Dezil-Washington-Deja-Vu-esque time machine to send it into the past.

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Number 6: Passage Through the Graveyard of Earthworms

One of the easiest posts I’ve ever written. Standing in the midst of sun-dried worm cadavers, I typed it up on my iPhone.

Number 5: Rise of the Fallen 722nd

The post pretty much says it all. Rarely am I inspired by a piece of commercial art, but…

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Number 4: I Put This Moment Here

Sadly, this post hits closest to home because I am forgetting things at an alarming rate.

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Number 3: Braiding Tales: We Built a World, Row by Row

A true story I had forgotten about until an idle comment in some random conversation with absolute strangers triggered the memory. I love when that happens, but I fear how many memories I’ve already forgotten that will never find their triggers.

Number 2: Duchess and the Anecdote

A sort of indirect sequel post to my Number 1 pick, in which I finally managed to utilize a character that’s been stuck in my head for ages.

Number 1: Stories Are the Creatures That Forage in the Wilderness of Our Minds

Although a writing advice post, I really like the wraparound bits in this one and I realize that it’s a bit gauche to fall in love with your own cleverness, but the quote from which the title was extracted is inspired.

And there you have it. My personal best bits of 2013. Let’s see what gems this year brings.

Sally forth and be whipping out your credit card and dialing because operators are standing byingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Alice: Reflections of a Looking Glass Friendship

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“Of course it hurt that we could never love each other in a physical way. We would have been far more happy if we had. But that was like the tides, the change of seasons–something immutable, an immovable destiny we could never alter. No matter how cleverly we might shelter it, our delicate friendship wasn’t going to last forever. We were bound to reach a dead end. That was painfully clear.” ― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

They say you find friends in the damnedest places. Once I found a friend in the reflection of a mirror. No, not my reflection, this person, this girl, this Alice, stood beside the mirror version of myself, to the left. Always left of center. I should have taken that as a sign, but you never see the glaringly obvious without the benefit of hindsight.

Before you mistake Alice for an imaginary friend, know that were I in a mirrorless room, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with her because she simply wouldn’t be there.

How she came to be trapped within mirrors is anyone’s guess and I doubt she truly knew herself, though whenever asked, she would always blame her fractured memory, splintered like shards of glass that held incomplete images of her past.

She was fascinating in her way, Alice was. A brain filled with dark matter. Insecure to a fault. A high maintenance friend if ever there was one. Not only was she needy, self-absorbed to the exclusion of all else, devoid of a funny bone (despite the fact she claimed to have an excellent sense of humor), but she was also passive aggressive and more than slightly obtuse when it came to rules of the world that existed outside her own head. But as I said, fascinating in her own right.

It’s a shame that fascination wasn’t enough. I was determined in the beginning to plant our relationship in the soil of time, water it with patience and let it bask in the rays of understanding.

What sprang from the dirt wasn’t the flower of friendship, but the weeds of unwanted advice. It’s what broken people do, you see, they have an undying need to give others advice on how to fix themselves. I am by no stretch of the imagination a Bible scholar, but I am familiar with the passage:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

But I endured it. Ask me why? I couldn’t tell you. That’s what friends are for, I reckon. But then I started to notice that her reflection was dwarfing my own. She began taking up the majority space in the mirror, and I, trying to keep the peace had ignored the signs and allowed it to happen. My own fault, I plainly admit it.

But no more.

As a brand new year rolls around and I reevaluate my life choices and take stock of my friends, I see with regard to the Alice matter that I will never get a decent return on my investment. Some people are a bad fit within their own skin as well as with other people.

Not long after I noticed she wasn’t simply trapped in a mirror. Alice was actually trapped in a glass box of her own construction, caught within a mirror pocket dimension. And to add insult to injury, she was attempting to trap my reflection, and thereby me, inside one as well.

In the end, I did the only thing I could do, for she gave me no other choice. I placed her reflection in the only fitting place I could think of — my rear view mirror. The very last time I ever laid eyes on Alice, she was shrinking in the distance until she was little more than a dot on the horizon.

My sincerest wishes for her are to find her way out of her glass cage and strive to be more than a visual echo in the reflectors of others. But that first step begins with her. She has to want to be a real person, and I’m not sure she knows how.

In any event, adieu, Looking Glass Girl. Here’s not looking at you, kiddo.

The rest of you, sally forth and be reflectively writeful (and be mindful of mirror-lurkers).

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Can’t Believe I Made it to 2014! Happy Hella New Year!

New-Year-2014-Champagne-Wallpaper

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” — Neil Gaiman

I can’t say it any better than Neil, so I won’t.

Thanks to all the people who bothered to traipse through my musings and who shared their interesting content with me.

Sally forth and be 2014 exceptionally writeful!

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys