Empty Sky Chapter 1 – The Cabin

Sometimes we find our friends in the dark

(been doing some rewriting that I will explain in future posts. for now, this is the new opening.
Also edited the previous posts/chapters for those following along. Enjoy. Or let me know if you’re not and why.)

Jamie, delicate and flaxen-haired, felt Shem’s tail thumping the blanket. The big golden sat on their bed staring out the cabin window, his coat glistening in the moonlight.

Jamie whispered, “What is it, boy?” He looked past his dog to the oak, elm, pine, and ash of the Upper Peninsula Michigan forest. The Moon, full and bright, illuminated the trees and the small, one-room cabin at their center.

Shem scratched at the door to go out.

“Do you have to pee?”

Shem whined softly.

“Shh.” Jamie glanced at his parents, Ellie and Tom, asleep on the other side of the cabin. You want to wake mom and dad?” He crawled out from under the covers and tip-toed to the door where he stood on a chair, drew back the bolt, and lifted the latch.

Cool winds rustled treetops, turning them into brooms sweeping low-hung clouds from late September skies. Dust devils spun up mists where night air met day-warmed rocks. Owls and loons, peepers and crickets, hooted and chirped. Trees bowed to the rising Moon.

Shem walked into the night. Jamie followed.

The Moon continued her ascent. The woods fell silent.

Silent.

Ellie sat up in bed, her hands clenching the blanket, holding it tight against her. A cold, dank wind swirled through the cabin, lifting things slightly, inspecting them, putting them down, drawing a musk of old earths in its wake.

Moonlight entered the cabin’s single room.

Her eyes fixed on Jamie’s empty bed.

“Jamie! Shem!”

Tom rose and put his boots on in one motion. “Where are they?”

Ellie pointed at the open door.

Tom threw her coat to her. “They must be together. Shem won’t let Jamie out of his sight.”

“Something’s got them. Some wild animal.”

“Calm down, Ellie. There’s no blood anywhere. Shem’d raise hell if something got in the cabin or near Jamie.” He grabbed an iron poker from the woodstove.

Ellie stopped at the door, a silhouette against the night. “Shh.”

“What the…”

“Shh!”

Tom whispered, “What are they doing?”

“It looks like they’re playing.”

“With whom?”

Jamie and Shem romped in a grassy clearing twenty feet from the cabin. Moonlight cast long shadows everywhere as they danced about, the sole performers under a celestial spotlight.

Tom looked to the rutted dirt road that served as the camp’s driveway. No cars but theirs. He scanned the shadows.

Ellie whispered, “Can you hear that?”

“He’s laughing?”

Jamie danced in circles, laughing as if being tickled, his arms up as if waiting to be lifted, little hands grasping, little fingers curling.

“Shem’s bowing.”

“Isn’t that dog for ‘Let’s play’, bowing? He’s not facing Jamie. Who’s he playing with?”

Beside Jamie, Shem, bigger than Jamie and the boy’s perfect playmate, jumped up and bowed and ran around as if someone was throwing his Frisbee to him.

The Moon cleared the trees, lighting the clearing from above. Jamie’s and Shem’s shadows crept underneath them. The wind stilled.

Ellie grabbed Tom’s arm. “Do you see that?”

Other shadows entered the clearing, some Jamie’s size, some slightly larger. Shadows with nothing to cast them. Shadows where there shouldn’t be shadows. Shadows standing upright, not cast on the ground.

Jamie danced with them and they danced around Jamie. Shem ran among them, played tag with them. Jamie laughed. Shem barked.

Not a warning, not an alarm.

Recognition.

Something twinkled in the shadows, prisms breaking the intense moonlight into bright rainbows.

On the edge of the clearing, in the dark where the trees stood in ancient vigil, eyes gathered in the moonlight.

Ellie woke, the covers clenched in her hands.

She looked across the cabin. Jamie and Shem, sleeping together as always, in their bed.

She let out a breath. She shook her head. It was a dream. The full moon’s light came in through a cabin window. It must have disturbed her, wakened her, worried her in her sleep.

She rolled over, away from Tom to give him a little more room.

And saw dew-laden toddler-sized footprints and paw prints on the floor.

She sat up as the cabin door closed.

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Hecate and Gracie – BFF

Nothing like a daily meet and greet with someone you know and love

Observe Hecate and Gracie. Hecate’s on the left, Gracie’s on the right. The video below is in two parts with several days in between.

Hecate always comes mid afternoon now and I wrote about the significance of such. What’s interesting is that she’s made friends with a turkey.

A turkey?

They’re not natural enemies in The Wild. They’re not natural friends, either. Raccoons will eat turkey eggs left unattended. They’re opportunistic that way.

But a young adult hen (we’re still in doubt about Gracie’s gender, truth be told. She’s starting to show some male traits. Steroids, we think) and a mother raccoon? Hmm…

They’ll come into the yard separately, see each other and with a few clucks and chortles of greeting, begin dining side-by-side.

Totally different species making it work.

They pity us, I’m sure. All humans are the same species and we can’t make it work.

But I digress…

The other day we noticed some new behaviors. Hecate, shortly after she arrives, sits back and stares into our backroom to get our attention. Failing that, she’ll come up on the porch and walk back and forth. Failing that, she’ll (I’m not kidding) come to the back door and pound on it. Okay, scratch at it. To her, I’m sure she’s pounding.

The new behavior involved Gracie. Not having any fresh seed, she came to one of the windows and stared in, clucking. That failing, she walked back and forth on our porch. Failing that, she…

 
Truth be told, I was so involved in work I didn’t notice her until I saw our cat staring at her.

But it doesn’t end there. Gracie and Hecate both stare at us now. Gracie clucks and fluffs and spreads her wings to get our attention. Hecate incites her, “Do it again. I think it’s working.”

Anyway, Hecate and Gracie. BFF.

 

Charles R. Swindoll’s “Touching Others With Your Words”

An interesting read if you’re an anthropologist studying this segment of modern culture but not worth most writer’s time

First, it fascinates me that my copy is entitled “Touching Others With Your Words/The Art and Practice of Successful Speaking” and the Amazon version is “Saying It Well/Touching Others With Your Words.” Perhaps between my edition and the current one the author learned the importance of concision in crafting titles?

This book is about crafting good sermons. But good sermons are essentially good stories. Does the author provide enough insight into good story-telling and -crafting to make it a worthwhile read?

For my part, not really. Unless you’re evangelical, it takes a lot of reading to find the nuggets worth keeping.

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The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing

A good worker’s trade book

The Goodreads blurb is “Some of the best advice available on how to create character, use description, create a setting and plot a short story.” The Amazon blurb is “Here’s a collection of the most helpful articles from WRITER’S DIGEST magazine covering every aspect of short story writing. Every writer, from beginner to professional, will find guidance, encouragement, and answers to such concerns as how to make characters believable, developing dialogue, writer’s block, viewpoint, the all-important use of conflict, and much more.”

Definitely some advice although not until the third section (Characterization). The first two sections read more like Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write, basically cheering sections for those unsure and/or starting out (which is to be expected. This was the handbook for the Writer’s Digest Fiction writing course).

I can believe that the separate chapters were Writer’s Digest articles. They both read as such and, from a business perspective, why solicit for something already owned?

Is it helpful? Yes. I was suprised at how much new (to me), useful information the book contained (once I got past the rah-rah sections).

There’s enough in here to keep writers developing their craft going for quite a while. I do recommend it.

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Brenda Ueland’s “If You Want to Write”

A feel good book for writers not feeling good about their writing

Another interesting little book that’s about writing but not about writing. The subtitle is ‘A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit’. The first thing this indicates is that the book was written before the Oxford Comma became dominant. It also indicates the heart of the book isn’t about “how to” so much as “enjoy doing it.”

I’d recommend this book to someone starting their writer’s journey, someone unsure of their ability, their craft, someone basically unsure if writing is something they want to do or not.

There’s not a lot of “how to” in the book. I’m not sure there’s any “how to” in the book, really.

What there is is a lot of “you can do it. Yes, you can!” There’s a lot of rah-rah-go-get-em-tiger in the book. Chapter 17 is a gift to Pantsers everywhere.

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