Excerpt from Enter 5-D

I wrote Enter 5-D as an urban fantasy but it also fits into commercial and general fiction.

cropped-dscn3701.jpgChapter Five

Across Seattle, Eurydice scrambled down the cobblestone alleyway to the mouth of the Oracle grotto. When she reached the theater entrance, she stood under the marquee and waited for the jay to appear. Soon she heard a fluttering of wings in the background and then the bird landed in front of her on his perch.

“Oh, it’s you. Where have you been keeping yourself these days?”

Eurydice pushed back her hair from her face and wiped perspiration from her forehead. “You know well where I’ve been because you’re the one who revealed my future to me. Remember you said that I would make a sacrifice but not to worry?”

“I said that?”

Eurydice nodded.

“Oh, yes, you’re the one who sang in the opera house. I heard the news. What a shame that the great opera house will be empty these days. What was the governor thinking?”

“That’s a good question for you to answer.”

“So now, you’re out of work and your life has fallen completely apart, am I correct?”

Eurydice nodded.

“For a singer, you’re a woman with little words.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Let’s talk about your dreams. There’s a man in your dreams who wants to help you. But if you keep ignoring him then he’s not much help, is he?”

“I’m not ignoring him. He comes and goes.”

“This is the way of Orpheus.”

“Who’s Orpheus?”

The jay lit from his perch and flew in three circles and then landed back on the perch pushing back the crown on his head with his foot. “My dear, Orpheus is the son of a muse and probably was the greatest musician Seattle ever had.”

“What do you mean by ever had?”

“He’s no longer with us.”

“He died? This man that’s supposed to help me is dead?”

“Not exactly–he ascended to another dimension.”

Eurydice found a wood and iron bench and plopped down on it. “You’ll have to explain that one. Talking to you is exhausting. Don’t you believe in linear communication?”

The jay shook his head. “Talk to Persephone and Demeter about the dimensions. Or you could find your answers underground.”

Just as the jay delivered his last word, he vaporized leaving Eurydice gasping with astonishment and exasperation. Her mind seemed more confused now as it did before consulting with the crazy jay.

Meanwhile, Demeter and Persephone rifled through Eurydice drawers and papers on her desk looking for a suicide note or some kind of sign.

Demeter grimaced. “Why is my intuition failing me now?”

Persephone pushed aside clothing that had piled up on Eurydice’s couch and she took a seat. She rubbed her temples and placed her hand on her heart and then she closed her eyes.

“She’s not dead. And in fact, she’s on her way home so we had better clean up this mess or we’ll have explaining to do.”

Demeter picked up the empty bottle of pills resting on the counter and she read the label. She pointed at the bottle.

“My mind is also playing tricks on me. This is allergy medicine and Eurydice probably was rifling through her purse looking for any remaining pills. Looking at the date on the bottle, she would have run out by now.”

Persephone sighed with relief. “We had better clean this mess. How are we going to explain our actions to Eurydice?”

Just as she mentioned Eurydice name, the women heard the key turning in the door and then Eurydice entered her cottage. She gawked when she saw her friends standing in a pile of her clothing and papers scattered on the wood floors she had polished earlier.
Demeter began picking up the papers and placing them in a neat pile on the kitchen table while Persephone folded the clothes on the couch. Demeter chuckled with embarrassment.

“We have some explaining to do.

Eurydice nodded, chuckling. “Go on…”

We caught wind of Pluto’s latest law and rushed to your cottage to warn you. We noticed the empty bottle of pills next to your purse on the floor and we jumped to conclusions.”

“You thought I overdosed on allergy pills and then disappeared?”

The women nodded in unison.

Eurydice cleared papers from the floor and couch, and then she sat on the couch next to Persephone.

“Wow, am I coming off as desperate?”

Persephone caressed Eurydice’s shoulder. “It’s not so much that, but we read of other musicians committing suicide thanks to Pluto’s new laws.”

“And you thought that I would take my own life?”

Demeter grabbed a wicker chair and sat across from the other women. She nodded. “I guess we were thinking that if we were in your shoes, we would probably consider such an act.”

Eurydice chuckled. “I can see it now dramatic diva takes her life to avenge Pluto’s draconian laws. The newspaper would love that.”

Demeter picked up a stray piece of paper and read the contents. She realized it was the deed for the cottage. She picked up another paper announcing the final mortgage payment.

“Eurydice, you didn’t tell us that you had only one payment left on your mortgage.”

Eurydice shrugged. “What’s to celebrate now? According to Pluto’s new law, which I did read about in the newspaper today, I have three months to vacate my home.”

Demeter sighed. “This is unfair. What did musicians do that caused Pluto to bring out his iron fist?”

“We took attention away from him and you know better than anyone else that the man is a megalomaniac.”

**

Meanwhile, on his way to the Underground, Marcus got a sense that someone was tailing him, but when he looked behind and around himself, the streets appeared empty except for a stray kid passing by on a bicycle.

In any case, he picked up his pace and headed to the main entrance to what was formerly known as Pioneer Square and now went by the name Styx Center. From the corner of his eye, he saw a whirl of something feminine. Next thing he knew Pandora strode towards him–her jade eyes sparkling with curiosity. When she caught up with Marcus she grabbed his left wrist.

She teased Marcus, “Where do you think you’re going Mister Plutocrat?”

Marcus feigned ignorance even though he stood only ten feet away from the entrance to Hades. “I was exploring this area of town. Do you know where this door leads?”

Pandora smirked. “I know where you’ve been. Olav is a good friend of mine and I’ve done some work for him. Woodworkers and locksmiths are like pardon the cliché, peas in a pod.”

Marcus blushed and he struggled to find his voice now caught in his throat. Pandora looked him up and down until her probing eyes landed on his face.

“What are you going to do if Pluto catches up with you? And you do know about his prison on San Juan Island, right?”

“At least there’s no death penalty.”

“That’s the point because from what I’ve heard, the prisoners pray for death as they languish in that surreal place.”

“I know what I’m doing. It’s true that my colleagues suspect something’s wrong with me, but I’ve managed to allude them.”

“Really–and you’ve alluded Pluto’s hidden cameras too?”

“What hidden cameras?”

“You think Pluto doesn’t keep his eyes on his employees? If I were you I would censor your phone calls by using code words and take a different route each time you venture to the Underground and that sort of thing. You need to be sneakier than Pluto or he’ll catch you.”

Marcus shuddered and hesitated. Then his hand reached for the handle of the door. He glanced at Pandora over his shoulder as she stood a few feet away with her arms crossed defiantly across her ample bosom.

“Good luck, Marcus.”

Marcus swung the door open and squeezed inside the damp entrance before changing his mind. As he descended the stairs, his feet sunk into the moss. He pulled out a flashlight. When he turned it on, he noticed a camera swiveling above his head.

“Oh, darn! Look, you’re on Pluto’s Candid Camera.”=

Moments later, he heard the door open behind him and two pairs of booted feet land heavily on the stairs and flashlights arcing towards him. The next thing he knew, someone had grabbed both of his hands and placed them in handcuffs.

“So Marcus, how’s the weather in the Underground?”

The two men dragged Marcus up the stairs and out into the sparkling sunlight.

**

Meanwhile, Pandora strode on Fifth Avenue towards the old Public Market. Moments later, she negotiated the cobblestone alleyway in her wedged sandals. She approached the grotto and waited for the jay to appear. It seemed like the eternity until the bird arrived so Pandora took a seat on the wood and iron bench in the meantime.

Suddenly, Pandora heard a fluttering of wings coming from behind her. The Oracle flew above her head and landed on his perch. With one foot, he fluffed his crown.

Pandora smirked. “So, you finally showed up.”

The jay ruffled his feathers and began preening them. Pandora waited for the bird to speak but instead sat through the bird’s morning grooming routine. Finally, the bird’s shiny eyes gazed at Pandora’s face.

“Ah Pandora, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve been waiting so long I’ve almost forgotten my questions for you.”

“Even if you had forgotten, don’t you think I would know?”

 

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Podcast from Super-Nature Heroes

signs-of-the-time-027Perhaps, I sound high and mighty when I mention that I include bigger themes of humanity and the journey of the planet in my comic novels. Hah! Yet, I wanted my writing career to dovetail with my metaphysical practice. Also, my current trip is to produce podcasts of my short fiction and chapters from my unpublished novels.

I’m doing this because it is a fun way to waste precious time. And because I feel frustrated that agents ignore my work in favor of dark thrillers and all those romances. Well, that stuff sells, I understand. But I am going to quote that song, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love” and comedy–lots of it.

And I would like to think that the Holy Saints possess a sense of humor. I envision them laughing at their foibles in my heartfelt urban fantasy. A girl’s gotta do, what a girl has gotta do.

Short Fiction–Maiden of Mount Vernon

fscn2779I don’t normally write dark stories. However, I lived in Mount Vernon, Washington during a dark time. The protagonist of this story first caught my attention while I was riding a local bus to the top of the hill. The bus passed a Mexican restaurant tucked into a pink Victorian house. I imagined that the top part of the house was rented out to a timid woman who required a giant push to get her moving in the right direction.

Maiden of Mount Vernon

(The Story of Marianne Bradley)

By Patricia L. Herlevi

How could I have known that a man with musician’s hands and indigo eyes would pose a danger to the children? How could I have known that he held tight onto a secret for many years until one damp April day when the river overflowed its banks, this man overflowed his?

I’m boasted as a local hero by community leaders and children. But what am I really but a timid woman named Marianne Bradley who hid behind an Apple computer? I dreamed about a career as an elementary school teacher. I even graduated with a BA degree in teaching, only to flub up the audition. However, my shyness coupled with unruly sixth- graders, got the best of me. With that combination working against me, I panicked and ran out of the classroom breaking a heel and my heart in the process.

So I hid away in my apartment, located above a Mexican café on Mount Vernon’s hilltop, where the smell of frying chilies, and beans prevented my heart from freezing. Thankfully the Mexican matriarch who ran the place brought food to my doorstep every evening. Though she didn’t speak English, her eyes conveyed comfort to me, similar to Mother Mary or Mary of Fatima at the grotto down the street.

After earning a certificate in multimedia design through an online program, I landed a job at an private elementary school a few blocks from my home. While I didn’t teach children, I heard their laughter passing through the halls, the slam of their locker doors, and their pounding feet as they ran to their classrooms during the late bell. They intrigued me.

I interview teachers and award-winning students for the school’s newsletter which I also designed. I watched the children play at recess through the window near my desk. One girl in particular, blonde, ten years old, Sarah Anne caught my attention. I admired the way she lead the other children, and showed them who was boss. My desire was to teach precocious children at a private school. But at that time, I didn’t have the gumption to handle them.

Getting back to my main story, Sarah played cello in the school’s fourth grade orchestra. Watching her small frame haul that instrument around the school and waiting in the rain for the bus, increased worry lines on my face. This kid possessed determination that I envied. But did her parents feel anxious about their daughter’s early physical development? I would if I had a daughter like that.

That winter we experienced a snowstorm that paralyzed most of the community. With the snow piling up rapidly, the children were let go early. But some of them hung out in the playground and sledded down a nearby hill that had been closed off to traffic. Working against a newsletter deadline, I huddled under my shawl in the quiet office.

That’s when I noticed a man, clean cut, and dressed in athletic wear. I guessed that he was in his early twenties. He seemed harmless at the time as he stood on the peripheries of the playground watching the children through the chain link fence. From what I knew, he could have been the father of a first grader, but I doubted that. Most likely he was a college at the nearby community college checking out the neighborhood. But I doubted that too. Call it women’s intuition.

I watched as he inched his way into the playground and made snowballs with the boys. A few moments later, I saw him chatting with the girls, but they shied away from him, perhaps out of instinct or good parenting.

Feeling somewhat tense by the man’s appearance, I cracked the window and eavesdropped on the conversation the man had with the boys.

“Hey…Looks like you’re enjoying the snow.”

Two boys nodded but remained speechless and in awe of the athletic man. “Where I came from it snowed all winter long. We waded in snow up to here.” The man pointed at one of his taut muscular thighs.

The boys edged closer to the man. One of the boys, pale, blonde and painfully thin with large penetrating blue eyes responded. “Where are you from?”

The man squinted his eyes as he stared at the whitened horizon. “I’m from far away.”

“Are you from China?”

The other boy, a Hispanic sporting curly black hair that sprouted out from beneath his red wool hat, and large brown eyes, rolled his eyes scoffed at the blonde boy. “Does he look like he’s from China?”

The blonde shrugged, “No, but my mom tells me that China is far away.”

More boys gathered around the man who had taken on a Pied Piper persona. My heart beat furiously as I watched this man charm the kids.

The man continued getting to know the boys. “See the thing is, I’m not from Mount Vernon, and I recently moved to Skagit. I’m new here and I need some friends to show me around.”

The Hispanic boy chipped in, “I’m not from Mount Vernon either or Burlington.” He rolled the “r” in Burlington with Mexican pride. “My family came here from Mexico so I’m from far away too. But we didn’t see any snow.”

Meanwhile, I had learned enough from eavesdropping. I slammed the window shut capturing the attention of the man who took that as a hint and swaggered away from the playground.

I don’t know where he came from since I’d not seen him around the community prior to his appearance at the schoolyard. I thought I’d never see him again after that snow day. But he became a regular hanging out across the street from the playground where he lounged on a bench pretending to read a book.

I pointed the man out to the principal. “Aren’t you concerned about that man pestering the children?”

The principal shrugged his thick shoulders. “He’s harmless and is probably reliving his schooldays through the children.”

Yeah, right.

As time went on, the man took more risks. He waited for children to leave the playground after school and he befriended some of the boys by showing them his I-Pad and fancy cell phone which showed movies on a tiny screen. He might have well been selling lollipops to five-year-olds. A smooth operator, he reeled in the boys first, finding out where they lived by walking them home, finding out which kids went to an empty house. Then he began taking pictures of the boys, which we didn’t discover until months later.

Meanwhile Sarah’s family moved closer to the school so she stopped taking the bus but still hauled that cello a few blocks. She took an interest in the man and eventually, he coaxed her into playing her adult-size cello for him on the playground. Tension grew around me and I kept my eye on this man as he infiltrated his way into the children’s lives.

One day after I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer, I stood outside the principal’s door trembling like a child. “Excuse me Mr. Duvall, but have you noticed that man is still hanging around the school and he follows children home. Why doesn’t this concern you?”

The principal looked up from the document he was reading and fixed his tired gray eyes on me. “I’ve brought it up at PTA meetings. I’m wondering Marianne, why any of this concerns you. Don’t you have a deadline coming up?”

The following April as I surfed the web, I found a questionable site hosted by a Manny Lobe.  When I downloaded the man’s picture, I nearly fainted. As I browsed his site, my face and hands perspired and my eyes glanced at photographs of little boys that I knew personally. While I saw nothing risqué about any of the photographs, the parents of these children would have gone livid knowing that their child’s privacy had been violated. As I searched further on the site, I learned that it was a type of brokerage focused on children—ours.

However, when that Monday rolled around shyness paralyzed me. I knew that I needed to report the site to the principal. But I couldn’t manage to get out of bed. I thought the principal would just dismiss me once again. My throat burned and my lung filled with grief. I stayed home on that following Tuesday and Wednesday too. I feared that they would tie me in with the young man’s crime or that I would be accused of not speaking up earlier.

But by Thursday I had to go into to work or lose my job. I trembled for most of the day, felt terrified when the principal glanced at me dressed in my usual gray or when teachers failed to notice me at all. I overheard Sarah Anne talking to her classmates in the restroom. “Manny’s so cool. He asked me to play my cello for him.”

The other girls smiled in admiration, but I wanted to shake the child by the shoulders. Doesn’t anyone teach these children how to protect themselves?

I knew that I needed to act, but my feet turned to clay. But on my break, I visited Lobe’s site again and noticed the photographs of girls. I didn’t recognize any of them. Making rounds of the schools, one page featured pre-teens girls dressed in skimpy cheerleading outfits—I cringed.

Pacing my small office, I resolved myself to show the principal the website, but I hadn’t seen him around that day. I approached the secretary. “Do you know if Mr. Duvall will be checking into the office?”

The secretary looked away from her sandwich and focused her hazel eyes on me. “Mr. Duvall is attending an education conference for two days. Is there something I can help you with?”

As she said this her eyes bored holes through me.  I stammered, “No, it can wait.”

After the secretary left for the day, I glanced out the rain-spattered window and saw Sarah Anne lugging her cello towards a red VW Bug. Then I saw the driver of the car. I high tailed it out of the office, tossed off my three-inch heels, soaking my feet in a stream that had formed from a torrential downpour. I dashed towards the car and reached it just as Sarah Anne dripping wet, climbed into the passenger’s seat. Her cello got caught in the door and I grabbed and pulled at it.

“Sarah Anne, get out of the car!”

Stunned she tried to obey me, but Manny coaxed her and pulled on her down jacket. I shouted at people passing by on the street, “Call 9-11!” I yanked on Sarah’s arm causing the confused child to wince. Finally, she tumbled onto the ground.  Her cello did a few somersaults onto the sidewalk.

Manny sped off with the open passenger door flapping like a bird’s broken wing. I pulled out my cell phone and called the police, since no one standing around gawking bothered to make the call. When I inquired, one man muttered, “The Skagit overflowed her banks. Where are you going to find a law officer under these conditions?”

Eventually, the sheriff tracked down Lobe’s operation in a trailer on an abandoned lot near Concrete. They found stashes of water-damaged children’s pictures throughout the trailer, video equipment, a laptop, and a digital camera. But we never fully learned Manny’s story of how a twenty-one-year-old star athlete from Vermont became a broker for pedophiles or ended up in our community where his secret destroyed him. What was he thinking?

And me, I’m a local hero who currently teaches sixth grade. The children gaze at me with star-crossed eyes and compare me to Joan of Arc—the Maiden of Mount Vernon they call me. But I still buckle at the knees and worry about the future of these kids.

 

**

All Rights Reserved by Patricia Herlevi, 2011

Photograph by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved