The Fascinator Pt V


On Friday night, I received an express delivery to my front door.

“From Prince Edward Island, Miss,” said the post rider.

“Thank you!” I nearly squealed.

I tore the letter from its paper prison, but my uneasy feelings flew away at Dauvit’s greetings.

My Dear Zara,

I expect to receive your photograph soon, but for now, I can think of our good memories. You really are so fascinating to me and I love that you are smart and have an opinion. It is only a bonus that you have beautiful eyes and impeccable legs. 

You would love the summer house, by the way. I hope that this is not too forward, but I miss you already. 

Yours Truly, 


The next morning, I went into town to purchase a few necessities. I stopped in the middle of the road, mesmerized suddenly at the fact that I had Dauvit actively pursuing me, and we had already experienced such amazing things – not to mention his secretive world. I had been so wrapped up in our moments together, that I had not allowed myself to ponder about what this world was and what it meant to our current world nearly as much as I should have.


I turned to see a familiar face across the road. Bekka was waving at me. Every time I hoped to think on the fantasy realm, realism pulled me away.

“Why are you standing in the middle of the road?” she cried.

I laughed and ran over to greet her. It was a relief to have someone to walk around town with for a change. We went to the market, looked at some jewellery, and then to a flower shop. Seeing such beautiful things on display helped settle my nerves about Dauvit. Though he was obvious in his affections toward me, a part of me still worried for something bad to happen.

“What do you mean something bad will happen?” asked Bekka with a frown, while we both waved down a coach.

A cab pulled by a distinguished chestnut mare stopped for us. Once we were inside, I sighed. “It is not that I think something bad will happen, but I worry.”

“It wouldn’t make sense for a man to write you the moment that he arrives at his vacation house, and he also asked for your picture, too. You needn’t worry, Zara.”

“You’re right,” I said with a smile. “I enjoyed our time together. You’re a very fun person to be around.”

The younger girl giggled. “I enjoy your company as well, you know. I need more weird friends in my life.”

I burst into laughter. “Well, I am definitely that!”

“I think you should take all of these wonderful new emotions you’re feeling and incorporate them into your work. I am no writer, but I love to read, and an author in love is a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps sometimes moreso than the melancholic ones.”

“You really think so? What an interesting thought. I always thought that a happy writer would write hogwash, but you know, I have just as much desire to write the same things that I always did, as I fall in love with Dauvit.”

“You see?” Bekka grinned. “I think you already are in love.”

The driver dropped me off at my place first. Bekka waved to me dramatically from the carriage window. It was a wonderful feeling to have spent a full day with someone kind like her, but as I stepped up to my front door, alone again, questions and concerns spun about in my mind.

“You cannot allow me to be happy, can you?” I muttered at my brain.

I sat at the table and re-read Dauvit’s letters, which brought me to happy tears again. I missed him more than I had ever missed anyone. Experience and travel seemed to make me soft, rather than thick skinned.

The rest of my weekend raced by as I wrote a new story inspired by Dauvit and then performed arduous tasks around the house. On Sunday night, I wrote Dauvit back. I had contemplated whether I should write down my questions about the other world and decided that one question would not hurt. I could not stop thinking about the miracle of discovering such a place and how amazing it was that we both had it to share with one another.

I folded and sealed the letter to him in an envelope, blew out my candle, and settled into my cool sheets. The week ahead seemed long and daunting, but perhaps I would be able to start performing dissections at the lab.

The next week dragged on a little, but speaking with Bekka at work and writing in the evenings helped keep my worries at bay. So many lovers had to be separated for months, so surely I could handle two weeks, even if I was prone to severe melancholy. I worried that he might change his mind about me after some distance. He had not been so quick to write me a second letter, considering that it was already Thursday night.

Inside my bedroom, I paced the floor, attempting to talk myself out of the panic. I fought the war of self-harm and self-harm won. I wept, longing that Dauvit was there to hold me and remind me that I was special to him. Instead, I was alone in my cool room, unsure if he could ever really love me.

I balled my fist and bashed my thighs and upper arms repeatedly, until the pain made me whimper. Exhausted, I collapsed into my bed. I fell asleep early that night.

On Friday night, I received two letters. One was from my parents and the second one was from Dauvit. Excitement and dread made my hands shake.

My Dearest Zara,

You worry too much. I told you that I would talk to you about the world at another time. I am better with speaking of such things in person, though you’re a writer, so I understand you may communicate better with written words. 

I received your photograph and you are adorable. My sister in law thinks that you are pretty. I am having a wonderful time here with my family, but I look forward to seeing you again very much.

I was hoping to call on you at your house the evening that I return, and I will sleep on the couch so as not to impose on you. Let me know if you agree. I hope your writing is going well. 

Yours Truly,


I took a deep breath. All of my remaining doubts fled. He was going to come straight to my house after his ship landed. It still felt a little too good to be true, but there was no denying how much he wanted to see me. I read the next letter, which had been written by my mother. She asked me to come home for a visit, and she included bills to pay my way back home for a week. She also said that there was a surprise package waiting for me at the postal office.

I smiled, longing to see my family again, and at my mother’s usual generosity, even though I insisted that I pay my own way. I worried about being away from Dauvit for yet another week, but it was much better than a two week separation. I would visit and have someone special to tell my family about. It would be perfect, really.

I relit my candle, sat up, and started to write. I ignored the tender bruises on my limbs.

(Photo Source: “Rain”)

The Suicides, Part Sixteen


Jeremy slouched back into his original position. “Leave me alone,” he said.

“Things won’t always be this way for you,” I said.

He shook his head. “If you continue to talk to me, I will yell for as long as I can.”

I took a step back and then I rushed to the door, already sweating. Looking over my shoulder, i opened the door, hungry for fresh air. Standing outside under the sun, I allowed new ideas to rage against the dark thoughts that threatened to destroy me.

Rustling gravel reached my ears and I drank in the sight of a black carriage travelling down the willow-lined road. It seemed far too fancy to be carrying someone mentally ill inside. I stepped forward and waited for its arrival.

At once, I recognized the navy blue and white parasol that emerged from the door before its dainty, well-dressed owner stepped out.

“Aunt Carol!”

She ran to me and we embraced.

“I have missed you so very much,” she said.

I held her tighter. “Forgive me for everything I have done!”

She held me at arm’s length with a soft smile. “You started something very unique in my town, Alfred. I need to thank you for standing up against Caleb and his gang of bullies. I am very, very proud of you.”

“But Sarah…”

My aunt’s blue eyes widened. “That was not your fault.”

I fought back tears as the suffocating pain returned, choking me.

“She died smiling,” I began, breathing in the memory of her. “Did you know that? She said that all she ever wanted was an adventure.”

My aunt nodded, smiling sadly. “Her loss of life is a tremendous emptiness to all of us, but you brought some meaning back into her life.”

“I would have taken care of her and allowed her to write to her heart’s content. I would have loved her until my death.”

“I know, but, you see, she also loved you. She risked her life so you could live and continue your cause.”

We stood there silently crying. There were people inside of the asylum who needed more help than I did. People with no family to support them. I was unable to save Sarah, because I had been a coward. Now, I could at least help save other people in her memory.

“Why have you come here?” I asked.

My aunt wiped her tears with a white handkerchief. “I came here to help you and your admirable friend.”

“I am not sure if that is such a good idea. This is not a safe place for you.”

“Oh, is that so?”

She returned to her carriage and opened the door. “Now, will you help me pull out my box of things?”

“What are you up to?”

“I have brought some art supplies. The patients can draw, paint, or colour to their heart’s content.”

“You are donating all of your art supplies?”

“Yes, dear boy. I have enough pencils and drawing paper at home. I truly think that giving these people something to do will help them. Matthew was speaking with me recently about the benefits of art therapy when he was back in town.”

“That boy gets around, doesn’t he?”

“Indeed. Perhaps we could incorporate creative writing to those who are more inclined to it.”

“And books. There is a disturbed, but bright woman who requested War and Peace.”

My aunt snapped her fingers. “Perfect. I can also bring my collection of books. One of which is War and Peace.”

I hugged my aunt. “You are the most amazing human being that I know.”

“What about me?” called Matthew, who was striding past us with a shovel and spade in either hand.

All three of us laughed.

“Well, why don’t we get to work?” suggested my aunt.

I carried the box of supplies while my aunt opened the door to the asylum.

“Good grief! It is dark in here,” she exclaimed.

“Hush. These patients are sensitive to sudden loud sounds.”

“How do you know?” she challenged.

There were many things that my aunt was capable of, but I could never say that I could imagine her to be good with mental patients. Several of the people stared at us. A couple of them stood and walked over to the box. My heart raced as I thought of all sorts of potentially bad scenarios.

“Stay back,” I told my aunt. She did not listen.

I set the box down.

“What’s in there?” asked a woman with hair covering her face.

“This is our gift to you,” said my aunt, clasping her hands together. “For all of you. We are here to help you.”

A few of them walked away, muttering things or focusing on something else, but four of them stayed and watched as I opened the box and took some of the supplies out.

“Do any of you enjoy drawing?” I asked.

Some nodded and one replied with a “yes.”

“Perfect!” said my aunt with a sweet smile.

She turned to me and said, “I have also brought some chairs. I figured we might need a couple.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “We can pull them up to that table.”

I brought in the three wooden chairs from the carriage while my aunt worked to set up a small art area. I watched her in amazement as she worked and said kind words to any of the patients who wandered close to her. I caught Jeremy’s stare from across the room.

With my hands behind my back, I strode over to him. He rolled his eyes and looked away.

“Jeremy, I have a proposal for you.”

He shook his head. “Who in God’s name are you? I know you’re no doctor.”

“No, I am not. I am friends with the medical superintendent and my aunt has been kind enough to help us reform this place.”

“Reform,” he laughed bitterly.

“I am very sorry for any hardships you have suffered here. I want to propose that if you can promise the doctor that you will not make attempts to harm yourself, we will provide you with your own room.”

Jeremy frowned at me.

“Once you are settled in your room without your restraint and when we can determine that you will not make an attempt to escape or harm yourself, I have a lot of paper that I can give you for your writing.”

His jaw dropped open. Hope glimmered for but a moment in his dark eyes. He slouched back in his terribly uncomfortable position.

“Why the hell would you do that for me?” he asked.

The Dreamer’s Dreamworld

Most very young children are quite imaginative, but dreamers never give up their strong desire to imagine. When I was around three years old, I would swing on the swings and imagine that I was somewhere else, talking with people who did not exist. To this day, I still gravitate to a swing set so that I can pass half an hour or so immersed in my dreamworld while my body soars.

A dreamer’s inner world is very intense; it is such a key part of who we are. In the same way that many people crave conversation with their friends, family, and coworkers, a dreamer craves the freedom and the solitude to escape into the most creative depths of their mind.

In elementary school, I found it very difficult to pay attention in class, not because I had a bad attitude or because I was bored, but because of my highly imaginative mind that was difficult to control. I was often caught by my teachers daydreaming; my grades suffered due to my inability to focus and pay attention. They all assumed that it was an auditory problem and then they actually took measures to help “correct” it.

Traditional education can be a nightmare for dreamers, but somehow, most of us survive it and can end up doing well in the later years of school. In high school, we can begin to have some control over the courses that we learn about. We can improve our grades with a little bit more maturity and then focus on subjects that we actually care about.

I do not tell very many people about the fact that I have worlds that I escape to, even now. Especially now. I could never think of my fantasy prone personality as a curse or as some sort of defect. Sure, I may have a short attention span and I may not be aware of everything that goes on around me, but who would ever trade in their gift of an extraordinary imagination for the sake of being closer to normal?

Some say that there is no such thing as normal, but dreamers make the general population seem normal in comparison. I can call customers repeatedly at my day job while being somewhere else entirely. I can go for a walk, listen to music, and swing on the sings to escape from the physical world. I can think up an entire story in my head before I even have to write it down, and I can keep it stored there.

Perhaps our brain chemistry is stormy, and maybe our introverted nature gives others the impression that we have less “personality”, but if someone gets to know us, they will discover a true character hiding beneath those layers. And so this is why those who are our friends are so very special to us, because they are the ones who patiently took the time to get to know us, who could see something special there beyond our aloof, quiet exterior.

And then there are the dreamer’s imaginary friends. I have friends in other worlds. I am not going to lie and say this is solely for the purpose of my books. These friends are not characters in my stories; they are people who exist for the purpose of being with me in these alternate worlds. I realize that there is probably a type of therapy to “heal” this sort of behaviour, but I see no harm in this.

How is escaping to another reality created by your mind any worse than someone who sits in front of their TV while eating popcorn for three hours out of every evening? At least I am exercising while I live out some of my dreams in my dream world.

A dreamer living in this world can sometimes feel broken and alien when speaking with those who think on completely different paths. Even other creative writers sometimes fail to relate to a dreamer-writer. A dreamer’s writing style strives to dig into the darkest and most beautiful depths of the human condition; they hope to tell tales of redemption and healing after exposing brutal reality in their writing. We write for the people, not for the plot or for the shock value.

To dream is to live. Dream on, day dreamer.

The Suicides, Part Seven

Damp air clung to my dewy skin in an uncomfortable blanket as I stepped alongside Sarah through the long grass. The full moon’s light provided us with a less than sinister ambience, but it did little to ease my nerves.

“No dew yet,” said Sarah. “It will likely storm by the morning.”

“Fitting,” I muttered.

A choir of crickets and toads chirped at us as we approached a bog. We swiped at the hungry mosquitos attacking the exposed skin on our faces. We stepped over to the edge of the tiny swamp. The lunar illumination highlighted one of the bodies. Sarah covered her mouth and looked away.

“God, they really did just toss them in there,” I breathed.

Hot tears streamed down my face as I walked the circumference of the body of water with my eyes fixed on what appeared to be a decaying man.

“I cannot believe they simply allowed him to lay there above water this way!” cried Sarah.

“I am going to find them all and bury them,” I said.

I stood there, staring at the dead man’s tweed jacket. And then, my eyes travelled to the bones of his hands. His flesh had been left there out in the open as meat for insects and crows. I struggled in vain to suppress a gag.

“You know this man, I presume. When did he die?” I asked.

“He hanged himself around four months ago after his wife passed away with a laudanum overdose. Both were barely over thirty years old. Mr. and Mrs. Woodson. They were once a very happy couple. I used to envy them, but life can sometimes take such a cruel turn.”

“Indeed. His wife is here, too?” I said, allowing my eyes to dart around the surface of the muggy pond.

“Somewhere in there, yes.”

“How did you know where they were taken after they were found?”

“Caleb is part of the group who does away with the suicides. I overheard him once when he was intoxicated and attempting to frighten me.”

I could only shake my head. Sarah made her way to my side. She wiped her eyes and raised her gaze to the starry sky.

“Alfred, if you take them out of here and bury them, you must know that many of the townspeople might resort to violence against you. They do not believe that these dear people have a right to be buried. If you take this task into your own hands, they will see it as a further abomination to their loved ones’ bodies. I do not want to see you get hurt anymore.”

“I don’t care. No one comes out this way.”

Sarah sighed impatiently. “It was not enough for you to see where they now rest?” Her rising annoyance surprised me.

“Does it bother you so much that I am searching for ways to bring these people some justice?”

“That is not what bothers me. How could you accuse me of being so callous?”

She turned sharply and walked away.


“I want to go home,” she sighed. “You have seen the site and you can return whenever you please.”

There was no point in staying there any longer. I would return with the tools to begin a proper graveyard in the morning. The idea of the project sent a wave of energy through me. I would have the time to write about all of them later.

“Sarah, I very much appreciate your help.”

“I hope it will inspire you to write and that tomorrow after some rest, you will rethink your idea of burying them.”

“Not a chance.”

“I strongly suggest that you only write about the injustice.”

“What about your writing?”

“You speak as though I have a choice in the matter. I’m not a college man. I do not have control over my life.”

I hated the finality of her words. How they haunted me. Her tone was so much like another’s I had known not so long ago.

“You remind me much of a young lady who attended Brown last semester.”

“I remind you of another woman.”

Her dejection stung me.

“I did not mean to take away from your own character, but sometimes it amazes me how similar you are.”

“Women study the same courses as men at Brown?”

“For the most part, yes. They learn at the women’s college after our classes are over.”

“How interesting. I had no idea.”

“Perhaps, one day, you could…”

“No,” she said, shaking her head.

“Why are you giving up on yourself, Sarah? You are still young. You have reason to leave Caleb. ”

She stared at me for a long time before quickening her pace. I allowed her to walk ahead of me for a while.

“You just do not understand, do you?” she shouted out at last. “I do not have wealthy parents or a job where I can put myself through school somehow. This is my life.”

“Then at least allow me to help you write.”

She exhaled loudly. “We will have to be very careful.”

“Caleb is a drunk. I am sure that you can sneak away every so often to write in the comfort of my aunt’s home.”

I smiled at her childlike hope as her wide eyes turned to me. “Why… thank you. That would mean the world to me.”

“It pleases me that this agrees with you.”

We walked at a leisurely pace. Memories of the swamp’s musty, decomposing odour and the dead man’s remains plagued me despite Sarah’s good company. Strange faces started to form as we strode into the dark woods. I needed to change the subject.

“Do you know where Jeremy can be found, Sarah? It seems as though the two of you were friends. Please, tell me anything that you know.”

She shook her head. “If I knew, then I would have already told you. I doubt even Matthew would know even with his family’s good connections in the town.”

“Caleb knows.”

“Yes, he does, but even when he is drunk he will never mention it. Oh, dear Jeremy. This is all my fault. We need to find him and get him out of there.”

“You have helped me so much already. I will find him, Sarah. I promise.”

“It was more than the manuscript rejection, you know,” said Sarah. She stopped, staring ahead. “He loved me. I broke his heart. I am the reason why he is where he is now.”

She fell with an inhuman wail. I watched in near shock as she writhed on the forest floor, weeping.

“There, there, dear,” I cooed. I stooped down and held her slender torso close to me. “You had no idea that he would do anything so dangerous. This is not your fault.”

“It is!” she cried.

“I promise you that I will help you make peace with him. I will find him.”

“Yes, you must find him. He deserves to live even if I do not.”

“Please, do not speak in such a way, Sarah!”

I could not allow myself to cry with her. Not now, when she very much needed me to be the strong one. I choked back a sob and held her until her cries became only sniffling.

“That was embarrassing,” she said quietly.

“Think nothing of it. I am glad you were able to tell me. Perhaps you will find some peace in that.”

“I could never,” she said, shaking her head.

She strode just ahead of me. I followed behind her with a terrible smorgasbord of thoughts. At the forefront of my worries was the fact that I would always be an outsider to her. I would always be nothing more than a spectator to her tragic life.

Thunder cracked through the air. I met her panicked eyes as the moonlight hit them for a split second. Just behind her, the shadowy form of a man with a rifle stepped toward us.

The Suicides, Part Six

I often waited for the sun’s fall so I could experience the soothing darkness that followed. My toes rested on the edge of a bed of rock overlooking a steep ravine. Stars appeared in the darkening sky as I stood reveling in the beauty before me and thinking about what I needed to do next.

I had an idea that Matthew knew where Jeremy had been placed. Then, there was the matter of Sarah. She seemed to be a prisoner of more than just a depressing marriage. Goose flesh covered my body a split second before a very sharp snap sounded just behind me.

In the absence of my breath was another man’s rapid breathing.

“Hello?” I called.



I turned to face him on weakening legs. “You followed me.”

“So it seems.”

“What do you want to say to me?”

“Say? Not very much.”

Realizing my precarious position, I stepped away from the rocky edge.

“I am debating on what I should do to you first. Beat you and then throw you over the edge, or the reverse?”

“Throwing me over first would be too much work for you to try and find me again.”

I broke into a clumsy run before I finished my last word. The strangest form of terror filled my body as I darted between the towering trees. My legs carried me faster than they ever had, of that I was sure, but I dared not glance over my shoulder.

At the forest’s edge, I sprinted for the meadow for what must have been only a few seconds before heaviness crashed into my back and took me down with it. I struggled as a captured rabbit would in the grip of a wolf’s jaws. I struggled to breathe as Caleb’s snickering intensified my fear.

“Stop!” I begged like the prey that I was.

A blow thundered into my head. Stars lit up the night as I lay there gritting my teeth while my head throbbed.

Caleb’s muffled words chased me into the growing oblivion.

“Stop,” my mouth lazily blurted.

He leaned into me, whispering something unintelligible into my ear. Something sharp dug into my ribs, strengthening my awareness. What felt like a knife was sheathed in his belt.

“Crazy bastard,” I taunted.

He brought his mouth to my ear again.

“What did you say, fairy boy?”

My hand reached for the hilt of his dagger, clenched onto it, and jabbed the blade into his thigh. I quickly yanked it out and slashed it across his chest. I kicked him off and then I fought back the urge to vomit as my legs found their stability. My consciousness hid somewhere in the depths of my brain as my legs ran.

When my aunt’s home came into view, I forced myself to a sprint until I crashed into her front door. Collapsing, I panted and choked as the pain from Caleb’s blow intensified. I knocked on the door while my panic-widened eyes kept watch for Caleb. I would be done for if he caught me now.

Suddenly, the support on my side disappeared and I fell, hitting my shoulder with a thud.

“Alfred,” my aunt breathed.

“We… we have to lock the door before he comes for me again,” I huffed.

I crawled inside and she quickly closed the door behind me. I could have fainted at the sound of her locking it.

“Did Caleb do this to you?” she cried.


Stickiness coated my hand when I reached to touch the pulsing on my head.

“I stabbed him and got away. I don’t think it was fatal.”

“Oh my God.”

“I am so, so sorry.”

“It was not your fault that the madman hunted you down. He threatened your life, I’ll wager.”

“Yes, he did.”

I stared up at her as she clenched her jaw. “He is never going to hurt you again. Can you get yourself to the couch? Lay there while I clean and dress that wound.”

The room spun as I returned to my less than balanced standing position; I made my way to the comfort of my uncle’s sofa. The sound of water trickling caused heaviness to fall on my eyelids.

Howling wind woke me the next morning. I stretched my sore limbs, grateful for the absence of the sun’s intensity. My head seemed more tender than the night before. I rolled over onto my other side and groaned.

“Getting yourself into trouble again, old boy?”

My eyes flew open.

“Matthew?” I sat up. He was sitting at the dining table writing something. “Should you not be on a train at the moment?”

“I should be, yes,” he said with a grin, “but news travels fast here and I heard all about your skirmish with our friend.”

“He would have killed me.”

“Everyone knows who the perpetrator is and so you have nothing to worry about. From what I hear, he has written a heart-felt apology to you and hopes that you will not go to the justice system.”

“As if I have time to do that.”

“You are too busy interrogating emotionally sensitive parents for your new story.”

I rolled my eyes, which intensified my pounding headache.

“Thank you for staying behind, but I do not want to be the cause of you missing out on your apprenticeship hours.”

Matthew shrugged. “Honestly, Dr. Scott had been bothering me to take a couple of weeks off for a while. I was working very long hours on a research project, you see. So he will be joyous that I will not be returning for another week or so.”

“As long as it does not affect your apprenticeship.”

Matthew shook his head before taking a very casual sip of tea. “I examined your head wound and your aunt tended to it just fine. Do you feel fit enough to go to town?”

“Town? Why?”

“Sarah approached me at the break of dawn when I was on my way to see you and she told me that she had something to ask of you.”

My stomach churned at the thought of Sarah. I wanted to see her as much as I did not want to see her.

“You are telling me it is safe to talk to Caleb’s wife after he tried to kill me last night?”

“Remember, he wrote you a completely sincere letter,” Matthew grinned.

“You are acting as though this is all some sort of joke.”

“You do not have to worry about Caleb coming after you anymore. Everyone knows what he did now, and he does not want to risk imprisonment. He would miss all of his pretty things too much if he were in jail.”

“If you say so.”

Within an hour, Matthew and I strode down the street toward the general store. To my relief, it was the time of day where most people were either working or having their afternoon tea.

“I look disgusting,” I muttered, touching the bandage that covered most of my head.

Sarah must have seen us coming for she all but ran out of the store toward us, grasping onto a parcel with both hands.

“Alfred, how are you feeling?” she breathed.

“I should be asking the same thing about your husband.”

She blushed, clearly distraught as she looked from me to Matthew.

“He is in pain, but the doctor says that he will heal up nicely. I-I am very sorry for this.”

I shrugged in mock nonchalance. She eyed me before she gave the parcel to me.

“These are my stories. If I continue writing, Caleb will send me to the asylum. He has threatened to do so many times, but now I believe him after what he tried to do to you.”

“You cannot simply give up your passion!” I cried.

The few people who were on the streets gawked at us.

Sarah sighed in exasperation. “We are all the talk of the town.”

“Even I?” asked Matthew.

She crossed her arms. “Yes. I heard a couple of gentlemen say that you are staying around to help Alfred here with his research.”

“How preposterous,” he laughed.

“Matthew seems to find humour in this situation,” I said, shaking my head.

“An amiable quality for a physician, I suppose,” said Sarah with a half smile.

“Do you not have family you could stay with?” I asked Sarah.

“No. None who would have me. It was my choice to marry him and I must accept the consequences.”

“It seems to me that living with him is a very brutal punishment for something you did as a twenty-year-old girl,” said Matthew tenderly.

She nodded, staring at her feet. “Nevertheless, I can help you with something, Alfred.”

Sarah stepped closer to us, peering over shoulder at the small group of men smoking cigars that were well out of earshot.

“I will show you where they were placed after they were found… dead.”

A strange cocktail of elation and dread filled me.

“When? When will you be able to escape for an evening to show me?”

“Tonight,” she said with stern finality. “Caleb has been drinking all day and will be sound asleep before nightfall. I will meet you just past your aunt’s house.”

“I have already caused you a great deal of trouble by being here.”

She blinked once. “I will see you just after dark by the well.”

The melancholia that radiated from her eyes made me feel strange when I peered into them. It was akin to looking into a mirror. Her skirt swayed like a billowing tree top as she turned back to the store.

“At nightfall then,” I called after her.

I held the package that protected her stories, bracing myself as a painful heaviness filled my chest.

The Suicides, Part Five

Water’s dark depths chilled my flesh as I swam through a mess of underwater plants. My head broke the pond’s surface and I took a deep breath of warm air. My body floated lazily in the water before I swam back to the water’s edge where Matthew sat.

“Have fun?” he asked.

“I needed this,” I said, stepping out of the water.

“I can imagine,” Matthew grinned.

I sat next to him and savoured the warmth of the sun kissing my wet skin.

“This has been an excellent reprieve for me, as well. I love apprenticing in the city, but visiting home always gives you a new perspective.”

“I wish you were able to stay longer,” I said.

“If only doctors in training were allotted peaceful summer breaks,” he winked.

“What happened to Jeremy Thomas?”

Matthew cleared his throat, staring straight ahead.

“You do know,” I pressed. “Please tell me, Matthew. You will be a doctor yourself in due time and I hope that you take this at least as seriously as a writer.”

“Of course I do,” he sighed, shaking his head.

“I was going to write a portion of my book about Jeremy. I want to write about all of the suicides. If you know even a small detail about what happened to him, it would help me.”

“This is a noble cause, Alfred, but you have to be much more cautious than you have been. Think about your aunt’s reputation, even if you do not care about your own.”

“I mean no harm. I only hope to…”

“Bring justice to those who died from a diseased mind,” Matthew finished. “Yes, I understand your passion. The mind is an unknown field of research which I may partake in one day.”

“What happened to Jeremy?”

“Good God,” Matthew muttered. “So much for an afternoon reliving our boyhood.”

“We are not boys anymore. This is important, Matt.”

My drive to know what had become of Jeremy far outweighed my sympathy for Matthew’s comfort. He picked at the sand and stones without uttering a word.

“I spoke to Mrs. Thomas about Jeremy a few nights ago and she admitted to me that he is not dead.”

At last, Matthew’s blue eyes stared hauntingly into mine. There it was; the chilling energy that would not cease in its pursuit of me.

“I know that he is alive, Al. Hell, if I tell you something then perhaps you will stop harassing the poor townsfolk about him.”

“Is he in an asylum? Is that why Mrs. Thomas appeared so willing to forget about him?”

Matthew nodded slowly, still staring at me. “Good deduction.”

“He attempted suicide?”


“What asylum?”

“Now, I cannot tell you that, old boy.”

He flashed me an empathetic smile. “Perhaps you have something you could write about now.”

“Do you know what method he used to try to kill himself?”

The Adam’s apple on Matthew’s neck rose and fell as he swallowed hard. “From what I heard he… continually bashed his head into the side of a building.”

I stared at the water, not wanting to imagine it, but imagining it anyway.

“What was going on in your mind, Jeremy?” I whispered.

“There is someone who knows more about Jeremy than I do.”

“Who?” I asked. Irritation laced my words.

He frowned at me, clearly taken aback by my aggressive tone. I was grateful to him for telling me more than he should, but I disliked his cryptic statements.

“You are a good friend, Matthew. You do not need to tell me anything more.”

“Of course not,” he said as he stood and put his shoes back on.

I cringed as my stomach began to knot up. I had pushed him too much and now he had no patience left for me.

“I really should return to my family since I leave early tomorrow morning.”

“Of course. Thank you for…”

“Be careful. That is all that I have left to say to you, Al.”

He stepped away, haphazardly putting his white cotton shirt back on. I knew he would not be pleased with all of my questions, but I did not expect him to desert me. No longer wishing to sit there alone, I jumped to my feet and I pulled my shirt over my wet hair before reaching for my shoes.

In less than half an hour, I found myself standing in front of the general store with dread forming in the pit of my stomach. I stepped inside, feeling as though I were outside of my body, watching the scenario from just above.

“Mr. Allen,” said a deep voice from the direction of the front counter.

“Good day, Mr. Macfarlane.”

Mr. Caleb Macfarlane was only an inch or so taller than I, but it appeared as though he had kept up his love of boxing. His lofty, sneering expression had not softened in the least after five years.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“I would like to buy some tea,” I stammered, feeling more than a little foolish.

“Really? Sarah mentioned that you had already stopped by and made a fuss about there not being enough selection.”

There was no point in explaining myself.

“Did she also mention to you that she agreed to exchange writing samples with me?” I lied.

He glared at me. “I doubt that, but I assume you are here to speak with her.”

“I did have a question to ask her that pertains to writing.”

“What a novel idea,” he said flatly.

His stone face was much worse than his insulting one. My eyes went to the open door and I longed to run back out to the safety of the street.

“Forgive me. I should go.”

“No, no. Wait here,” he said sharply.

Within seconds, he disappeared through the store’s back door. My heartbeat raced as I thought about the trouble I had caused Sarah. The last enemy that I needed was a hostile man like Caleb. I hovered in the empty shop for half an hour without a sign of either Caleb or Sarah. Ideas came to me about what could be happening and I tried to blot them out.

After another five minutes, I stepped out of the store feeling lower than when I had stepped in.

“I’m a damned fool.”

When I set foot back into my aunt’s home, she walked straight to me.

“I thought you were spending the day outside with Matthew,” she said without hiding her concern.

“We went for a swim, but then he had to leave.”

“I see.”

“What do you know about Sarah? You have known her for years, correct?”

“Why can’t you just sit respectably at your writing table instead of gallivanting around town?” she cried.

My jaw dropped. She had never once risen her voice at me. We stared at one another, speechless, for too long.

“I am sorry,” she sighed, shaking her head wearily. “I just wish you would stop asking me so many questions that I do not want to answer.”

“Matthew knew about Jeremy. How many other people know that he is still alive?”

She gaped at me for a second before stepping over to the window. Her gaze softened as she stared out at the blazing sun. “I wish your uncle were here now. You need him, not me.”

“I wish he were here, too,” I said gently. “But I am happy you are here.”

A soft smile lifted the corner of her lips. Just as quickly, she cowered away from the window.

“Oh, God,” she groaned.


I joined her at the window. At the sight of Caleb storming toward the house, with Sarah trailing behind, I shuddered.

“I promise you that I will make this right,” I said quickly.

“How could you possibly do that?”

“Perhaps it is time that someone puts that idiot in his place.”

Her only response was a frown.

Three loud knocks rattled the dishes and china in my aunt’s cupboard. I opened the door and met the unblinking, psychotic glare that I had expected. My gaze fell on Sarah, whose eyes were red and watery. Her hair was unbound and messy as though she had been awakened from a nap and then dragged out of the house.

“Is everything all right?” I asked calmly.

“Sarah is here to help you with your research,” said Caleb.

Silence weighed the air for a good minute before Caleb’s hollow laughter disturbed my ear drums. Sarah stepped forward. Her eyes stared just past me.

“You were wondering about Jeremy,” she said. “I have something I need to say.”

“Tell me only if you want to,” I said.

“Tell him,” said Caleb.

My fists clenched at his arrogant, dismissive nod at Sarah. She stared at her feet.

“Take your time,” I said.

How often had Caleb publicly humiliated her?

“I wrote you the note,” Sarah blurted.

I exchanged glances with my aunt.

“Why, dear?” asked my aunt.

Sarah’s sad eyes reached me. “I wanted you to know that he is alive. I hoped that you might be able to help him.”

“I see,” was all that I could say.

She ran her hand through her tousled dark hair while her pupils darted all over the place.

“Tell him why Jeremy had to go to an asylum,” Caleb growled.

Sarah covered her mouth, shaking her head repeatedly.

“Your words will not leave this property,” I assured her.

“I was a fool for encouraging him so much,” Sarah stuttered. “I helped him submit one of his writing pieces to a magazine, but then they rejected him harshly. I… it was my fault.”

“My wife is an insane little wench,” said Caleb, smirking. “She was holding secret group meetings on Friday nights when she knew that I was predisposed. Heaven only knows what happened at those.”

“Enough of that!” I shouted. Caleb’s lack of reaction only sent me into a rage. “Get off of my aunt’s property, Caleb! It would do you some good to treat your wife with respect.”

“Respect is earned, you son of a bitch,” he sneered.

He reached over and yanked Sarah by the wrist and dragged her rapidly down the path with him.

“Wait,” I called.

“No, Alfred.” My aunt’s warm hand rested on my chest. “Let them go.”

“Can you believe that man?”

“I am sorry that you are only now discovering that life is not as fair as how you were brought up to believe.”

Her tired eyes glistened. A part of me wanted to embrace her, but the stronger part of me wanted anything other than to be touched. I felt helpless to help Sarah and I knew that no one in the town would care about a husband reprimanding his “disobedient” wife. I would help her as much as I could if only I would be able to speak with her alone.

“I already have realized that. I must go for a walk.”

“Alfred, please!”

My chest ached for her pained voice calling for me, but I had to be alone to think. I was going to find Jeremy no matter how long it took me to do so. I had heard about backwoods mad houses that the poorer people were sent to. They were institutions, if you could them that, which I hoped to help shut down in the near future.

As I walked further away from my aunt, my nerves calmed as my senses were able to take in the natural beauty surrounding me.

“Jeremy,” I whispered. “I will find you.”

The Suicides, Part Four

Flames rose and twirled through the air before dropping into the capable hands of a blue-skinned man dressed in a yellow suit. I watched the flame thrower for the better part of an hour, ignoring those who brushed past me with their friends, children, or lovers. Dancing black stars filled my vision when I looked away from his performance at last, distorting my view of the bustling carnival. I closed my eyes for a moment to allow my convoluted faculty to refresh. I turned my attention to a small stage where three women in trousers cartwheeled across the stage as they sang along with the excited crowd. A man on a very high unicycle pedaled past me and shoved a dagger into his mouth. Despite seeing such things before, I cringed. Mistakes had to happen sometimes.

The sword swallower slid the blade back out with a smile and a wave to the children gaping at him in wonder. Just behind the shocked boys and girls, I found Sarah’s face. Our eyes met for a trice before the crowd swallowed her. Light from the lanterns and thrown flames danced along their faces, making them appear as sinister as their hidden selves.

I placed my hands in my pockets and strode toward a gathering of relatively quiet people that stood at the edge of an open tent. I joined them and my eyes went to the large, floating geometric shapes on the wall. A tall, thin man in a top hat stood behind a lantern-like apparatus.

“He’s a true magician,” one woman breathed.

“This is Satanic,” muttered an older man in front me. He shook his head before turning to leave. He caught sight of me and glared before walking away.

“Hello there, Alfred.” I started at the sound of that familiar voice. Smiling eyes greeted me when I turned around.

“Matthew?” I exclaimed.

“How have you been?”

“Very well. My mother wrote to me about the travelling carnival passing through town this weekend and that you were in town. I could not refuse her request to visit.” ”

How long has it been? Five years?”

By now, people were hissing at us to be quiet. We stepped away from the magic lantern show. Matthew smiled about something as we reached the outskirts of the raucous.

“Have you been learning anything useful at that horrific medical school?” I asked.

Matthew’s expression became serious.

“Yes, as a matter of fact. This may sound naïve, but medicine is advancing at a phenomenal pace. Did you know that soon even poor, rural families will have access to anesthesia during surgeries?”

“I hope that this is not sensationalism,” I said skeptically. Matthew frowned.

“I will personally see to it that medicine continues to advance.”

“I knew you would make a good doctor and I hope you are right about the anesthesia.”

“Ah, do not call me doctor yet. One more year to go yet. And how are your studies going?”

“I dread finishing my studies. I will likely become a book worm professor who lives at the university.”

Matthew’s easy smile brought a similar action to my face.

“It is good to see you, Al. I have to admit that I expected you to be somewhat melancholic and here you are, very much full of life as I remembered you to be.”

“You have heard of my writing project?”

“All that my mother told me is that you have been obsessed with a certain group of deceased young people,” Matthew said with a raised eyebrow.

“I suspect that this project of yours is not Brown University related?” I could not tell if he was judging me or if he was simply curious. If only he knew that two days earlier, my mood had sunk well below melancholia. This short-lived mental stability of mine was subject to change on a whim.

“This is a personal work of mine,” I said.

“I should hope you will allow me to read it once you have finished.”

The way that his dark eyes studied mine hinted that he was thinking much more than what he was willing to say.

“How long are you staying?”

“I leave early Sunday morning. I will be free all day tomorrow if you want to go relive our excursions.”

“Excellent,” I smiled.

A day spent with an old friend would be just the medicine that I needed.

“Now, let us see what madness is happening on the stage at the vaudeville show over there,” said Matthew, gesturing with his eyes.

We immersed ourselves into the crowd until we reached the colourful, lively show. Matthew became enamored with the dancing men and women on stage. He cheered and roared out in laughter along with the crowd. While impressive, my thoughts continued to wander away to the depths of my consciousness that I would not dare to consider while alone. Being surrounded by hundreds of people, music, and laughter led me to long for an escape to my own thoughts.

This was what I had often enjoyed most about operas, musical events, fairs, and carnivals. Such occurrences caused my imagination to stir. I was content to stand there next to Matthew being lost in my own secret reality until a jab in my side startled me.

“How long have you been standing there in your own world?” asked Matthew.

“I-I’m not sure,” I muttered. He laughed, shaking his head.

“You should allow your mind to rest sometimes, old boy.”

“I suppose you’re right, but I was enjoying myself.” We both laughed.

“What do you say we go try some overly sweet fare at the stand over there?” Matthew suggested.

I nodded and followed him there. When we reached the end of the long line, it was then that I found Sarah standing four places ahead of us. She looked back over her shoulder at us, smiling at Matthew and nodding at me.

“She is quite lovely,” Matthew said quietly.

I recalled how enamored he was with Sarah the last summer I had spent with him five years ago. Back then, she was engaged to be married to Caleb, the hot-headed young merchant, and she never looked our way once.

“She is strange,” I said.

“All right then,” Matthew laughed.

“I take it that you have said more than customary greetings to our friendly store owner’s wife.”

“I may tell you more about it later.”

Matthew’s shocked expression caused me to laugh.

“It did not seem at all like you to cause such a stir in this town,” began Matthew, looking cautiously around us to ensure that we did not have any eavesdroppers, “but I knew there was much more to it than what my parents told me. Perhaps tomorrow you can tell me more about your book and what has driven you to go digging into the past.”

“I hope that your education and morals swing somewhat to the liberal side,” I said.

The Editor Gift

Life can be very giving sometimes. I would have never guessed that my old boss from five years ago would drop me a line on LinkedIn to see how my writing was going. We exchanged a couple of messages and it turns out that he has published a couple of novels himself. He had been a journalist and newspaper editor before starting a couple of different companies. Lo and behold, he has offered to edit my short story for me free of charge over the next few weeks.

Editors often charge very high rates (Once I paid $1,000 to an experienced editor for a novel I chose to self-publish. I am never doing that again). Even affordable editors can be a stretch to your finances when you’re in a low paying job and trying to save money to, you know, do life. This has reminded me (And hopefully you) that networking is key in any industry for your own success, and it can save you a lot of time and cost as a writer.

So, now that I have my short story, Eve & Adam, in the hands of an editor for free, I can start to see the publishing date in the horizon. I will keep you posted on the release date for Eve & Adam.

Happy writing/editing everyone! :)

Fluid Inspiration


I’m thinking back to the times that I have been the most productive writer. I need some key factors to work in my favour if I hope to complete a novel within a matter of months.


Truth be told, I must spend a lot of time alone in order to be able to stay in tune with my story, my characters, and my inspiration. When I wrote my first two novels years ago, I would walk on my lunch breaks by the river, listening to songs that fuelled my imagination. I sacrificed forming closer relationships with my coworkers as a result, but when you’re serious about writing, then the writing comes first. Always.


A good dosage of rain is necessary for my inspiration. Some writers may find this trivial, but rain and fog are catalysts for my creativity. Sunshine is good, but too much of it actually zaps my creativity. I think one reason for this is that I’m instinctively more social when it’s warm and sunny. it kicks me out of my creative cave.


One reason why I rarely listen to popular music is because it does nothing for the type of books that I prefer to write. I need deeper, richer songs in order to thrive in my world of make believe. I think that most writers need music to spark and maintain their inspiration.


Watching films or even TV shows in the genre that I hope to write in always gets me in the writing zone, especially because I would love the opportunity to write a film script (once my writing matures!).


I can write well when I’m feeling melancholic, but when I’m feeling anxious or depressed, the process is going to suffer. This may sound weak to some people, but, regardless, in order to stay in tune with my work, I can’t have anyone or anything nagging on me. I need a stable job, a good quiet home, supportive people within reach (but not too close), and enough exercise.


Setting crosses over into a few of the aforementioned factors, but living in an area that you can appreciate aesthetically is important. Living in the mountains for the past two years has certainly been like a dream for me. Here in Western Canada, there is a good balance of rain and sun. It seems to be the perfect climate and I think that for creative people, setting means the world.

So, there we have it. I imagine some sort of “How To Care For Your Creative Writer” meme being inspired by my choosy behavior. I’ve realized how much I really do live my life based on how I feel. Such are the whims of a writer.

So, writers, what helps you to maintain some semblance of “fluid inspiration”? Or, are you able to write regularly no matter how you’re feeling?


Unearthly battle cries sound in the distance. “Them Yankees be comin’!” one of the men in our clan shouts. Fleeing slaves run in the direction of the river. Instead of following them, I run in the direction of the plantation house. “Whatchu doin’ girl?” Hezekiah, who is a head taller than I and easily twice my weight, grabs me by the arm. “I have to go back for Missy,” I tell him. I flinch at his ferocious scowl. “You leave that witch to burn along with her pretty little things. Her and Massa can both go hell.” We both know that burning would be the least of her worries, being at the mercy of looting soldiers. “I’m not leaving her behind. In some ways, she was just as much his slave as we were!” He spits at me; the ball of his saliva nearly hits my muddy boot. He walks away, shaking his head. I understand his sentiment, but I cannot leave her behind. The Yankees’ cries remind me that there is no time to lose. I sprint, quickly covering the distance to the mansion. I nearly trip up the patio stairs and then stumble into the dark bowels of the once imposing home. I race up the long staircase to her room. Even from the hallway, I can smell her familiar perfumes and bath oils. It clashes with the aroma of my earthy, mud-covered clothes. Hushed voices cause my muscles to tense. He is in there. Master Greene. Unsheathing my dagger, I am confident that he cannot harm me now. I step inside. Missy is lying on the floor like a rag doll. I can see now what my Mamma meant when she told me that our white mistresses are jealous of our exotic beauty. Her face is gaunt; her eyes are hollow as she stares up at me in confusion. “You came back?” The master steps out of her closet. I try to regulate my breathing as rage pumps out of my heart, strengthening me. “Stupid, stupid slave girl.” “You don’t seem so sinister now hiding away from the Yankees in your wife’s closet!” “Diamond, don’t,” pleads Missy. I stare into her hazel eyes. “If you want to spare yourself from them, run. I will catch up to you.” Greene breaks into laughter before he lunges at me. I slash the blade of my dagger across his pale throat. I watch him choke and sputter and I wonder if I will go to hell for relishing in his death. Then again, he consistently relished in my beatings and rape. A cold, dainty hand pulls on mine. Missy’s innocent gaze asks me so many questions. “We have to run and we cannot stop. Do you understand me, Missy?” We retreat toward the ravine. For a fragile girl, she runs quite fast. The pulse in my ears is so loud that it nearly drowns out the approaching enemy’s yells. I stop at the riverbank and glare at her. “We will have to wade across. Once we are on the other side, I ask that you only refer to me by my given name.” She nods, averting her gaze. Her power wilts away faster than the roses of her prized gardens upon winter’s approach. I do not know how long she will last, but I have at least spared her from becoming a spoil of war. As we submerge our bodies into the cold water, I feel a strange sense of freedom. With the invasion of the North, we are both homeless and without family. The current pushes us farther away from a place that I hope to never see again.