DUST AND COBWEBS

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Submitted Date 07/17/2019
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June 14, 1896

Our small yacht followed the coast of Nippon. Eventually we arrived at the fishing port of Kamaishi where we decided to spend the night. Andrew arranged for Melody and I to stay at the local inn. Melody has learned some of the language that they speak here in the Nippon Isles. She translates for me when we need to trade. We are using American gold and silver here, currency notes or cheques here are valueless.

"Miss Nia, we could sleep on the yacht again." Melody suggested after seeing our rooms.

The inn was a single story wooden structure. The rooms were small with individual little wood stoves that served to warm the room and to warm tea. The beds were simple mats that lay on the floor. The land lady was middle aged and wore a faded kimono. She seemed to fuss and worry in her melodic language. We were served tea in the common room. Sitting at a low table we sat on mats we drank our tea and waited for the land lady to serve us dinner.

"I don't have the same aversion that Andrew and you seem to have about sleeping on the floor." I told Melody.

"It's not that, Miss Nia." Melody said. "I just think those mats in those rooms look awfully thin is all."

"Actually, Miss Green, I don't want to sleep on the yacht again. I'd prefer sleeping on a mat, than a proper bed that rolls with the slightest wave." Andrew said.

I had to agree with Andrew. The small yacht was comfortable enough, but I was looking forward to sleeping on dry land for the first time in days.

June 15, 1896

We had quite a shaking near midday. The earthquake didn't do a great deal of damage, but it certainly frightened the village folk here. Andrew says that earthquakes are common in this portion of the world. He doesn't seem particularly concerned.

We are planning a trip to the interior of the isle today. I am told that there are some old ruins that would be a fascinating addition to my book on Asian places. I have certainly accumulated a great deal of facts already. Enough for three books. I am thinking that when we return home to San Francisco I should just spend some time in my adopted home writing those three books over the course of a year.

After a commotion outside, Andrew and Melody requested that I visit the bay. I went with my companions and discovered that the waters of the bay had receded. This was unusual and not the result of some tidal flow, according to the villagers. Since our yacht was resting on the sand at the bottom of the bay, we decided that we might as well move inland, that perhaps when we came back the yacht would be afloat again.

With one of the locals as a guide we began to make our way through the village to go to the ruins I was told about. It was at this time, approximately forty-five minutes after the earthquake, that the water began inundate the village.

It was a wall nearly ninety feet high. I watched helplessly as the water washed away the village. People had begun to flee, but it was too late the wall of water engulfed them.

Andrew was directing us to higher ground. I think he knew that we were doomed as well. The water was surging inland behind us. Our guide had become separated from us. We had no ideal where we were going.

I saw a woman with a baby running behind us. She clutched the babe to her chest, until the water lapped at the woman's feet. At that point she tossed the baby to me. To my surprise I caught it. A moment later the water passed over me and I was caught in an undercurrent. Still holding the baby I was swept out to sea.

June 15, 1896

I was underwater with the baby in my arms, suddenly the poor babe was pulled out of my arms. I suddenly surfaced. In desperation I looked for the baby that was torn from me underwater. There were bodies, rubble, then someone was pulling me up on a raft.

The man who pulled me up was jabbering away in his language. I tried to speak English to the man, but he didn't understand me. French, Spanish, German. and Italian are the only other languages I know. Not even the smattering of Mandarin that I understand seemed to be understood.

The raft seemed to be the wooden floor of one of the small houses that these natives of Nippon live in. All around the makeshift raft was rubble from the village. Interspersed with the rubble were bodies of the village residents. I could see something moving among the bodies and rubble. I saw that it was the dorsal fin of a shark.

The man and I looked for survivors. As I knelt near the edge of the raft I saw a small body float by. I tried not to think about that tiny corpse. I knew that I not only failed that baby in my arms, but the Mother who had entrusted me with her baby. I heard the moaning, but it was the man who spotted the surviving woman. He dove in and swam towards the woman. I ran to the other side of the raft. The woman who had moaned suddenly disappeared beneath the surface. From the thrashing that followed I knew she was dead.

Calling to the man, I waved him back to the raft. He must have realized the same thing that I did. That a shark had taken the woman and he was also in danger while in the water. I had extended a hand and was beginning to pull him onto the raft when suddenly he was pulled back into the water. I was yanked nearly off the raft. I tried to pull him back up, only to have him pulled from my grasp. I saw the horror on his face as he went under.

I am told that the returning fishing fleet of Kamaishi found me sitting in the middle of the raft. In shock. I was completely docile and uncommunicative as they brought me onto one of their fishing boats. Andrew and Melody survived and took change of me. I am told that we went on from Kamaishi to a place called Shanghai. From there we traveled back home.

Author's Note: The Meiji-Sanriku Earthquake was a real event which occurred on June 15, 1896. The resulting tsunami killed over twenty-two thousand people.

Friday, Oct. 1st, 1896:

At the time of Aunt Hattie's death I was in 'The New England School for Girls in Vermont.' After my Mother had written to me and told me of Aunt Hattie's death; I wrote the local town Sheriff in Lake Haven. He informed me that Aunt Hattie had committed suicide.

Sheriff Art Bennet was reluctant to share the gruesome details with 'such a fine delicate lady' such as myself. I wrote her good friend Dr. Stephen Baumn. That is when I found out that the good doctor had been murdered by my Aunt. After this revelation I wrote the Sheriff again to be told the whole story.

It was apparent that Dr. Baumn had found out that Aunt Hattie had been committing abortions on desperate young ladies who came to her location. It appears that she botched a abortion causing a young lady to bleed to death. Dr. Baumn found out and about it and Aunt Hattie shot him.

After shooting Dr. Baumn Aunt Hattie hung herself over the stairs in the front hall of her home. Her servant found Aunt Hattie hanging over the steps the next morning. The young lady whom she had given the abortion to was still in her bed. Having bled to death unattended.

Aunt Hattie had left me the 17th Century house she had lived in. Not long before she had committed suicide Aunt Hattie had placed modern plumbing in the house. Neither gas nor electric was available in Lake Haven, Missouri back then, if it had been she would have installed those too. At that time I had no desire to live in such an out of the way place. So, I asked Art to lock up the house until I had time to dispose of the estate properly.

At the time I was horrified by what Aunt Hattie had done. Abortion, murder, suicide. They were unforgivable acts. Aunt Hattie had always taught me that life was sacred and should be lived with dignity. Aunt Hattie had apparently thrown away everything that she claimed to hold sacred. For me it was nothing short of an act of betrayal. She had become a hypocrite in my eyes. That was ten years ago. I was a innocent sixteen year old girl. Much has happen between now and then.

I suppose that I should start with the fact that I am a writer and an adventuress. I did not merely wish to sit in my parlor and write about adventures. I wanted to experience adventures and then write about them. To show young girls that they could do anything they wanted to.

This is a progressive era. Some say that the 1890's are decadent. I disagree. I think that they are an era of enlightenment. Women like Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony who work to promote the Women's Suffrage movement. Equality of races. Expansion of the railroad. Newspapers, printing presses, and the telegraph will connect the world like never before. The telephone which will allow people to communicate with words instead of dashes and dots of the telegraph. Expanding our knowledge of fantastic cultures and their customs.

That is what I sought to introduce to the young ladies of this era. The beautiful and exotic places of the world. That was why my yacht was at the small fishing village of Kamaishi in the country of Nippon, sometimes called Japan in the Western World.

In my nightmares I remember sleek, dark shapes passing by me underwater. Hands pushing me up onto the floor that floated like a raft among the other debris. I grab hold of a hand. Attempting to pull that person onto the raft with me. Only something yanks him away. There is a woman. A baby. I can't relate details of these nightmares. They are too gruesome.

I often wake from these nightmares screaming. I can't breath. I panic as I try to breath. Dear Melody, she comforts me when I have these dreams. Holding me as I cry hysterically. Waiting patiently for me to fall asleep again. There are times she stays up to watch and see if there are any more nightmares. I wake up sometimes to find her looking concerned and holding my hand.

After the horrors of this tsunami as they called it. I found myself unable to leave my cabin as the steamer made it's way to San Francisco. It was not possible for me to look at the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean without visualizing bodies and rubble. All I could remember was being on that raft surrounded by dead bodies. The sleek shadows beneath the water. Those devils that took away the man I tried to pull onto the raft.

After I arrived at San Francisco, my publishers pressured me for my latest story. I submitted my notes to them. It did not seem to matter to them that I couldn't bare to remember what happened to me. That remembering those events of June 15, 1896 in Kamaishi, Nippon, cause me to shake uncontrollably. Fortunately my editor sensed that something had gone terribly wrong with my last adventure. For he told the publishers that I was not given to hysterics.

I was told to take a sabbatical until such time as I was fit to work again. One publisher suggested that I submit myself to an asylum. I thought that suggestion was a little cruel. Melody suggested the man jump into a lake. Andrew offered to assist him into the lake. The man left in haste from my parlor.

From San Francisco we took a train to Denver. From Denver we took another train to Kansas City. We continued on to Springfield, Missouri. It was at that point that I had to buy a carriage. Andrew drove the carriage along poorly maintained Missouri roads until we reached Cole Camp.

At the General Store I bought us lanterns and enough food so that tomorrow we could have a cold supper that evening and a breakfast the next morning. That evening I dined at the hotel, while my servants ate in the kitchen. I had difficulty convincing the proprietor to let them eat at all. It is beyond my kin why people are judged by the color of their skin.

I describe my friends as servants only in the most practical sense of the word. I hire them to perform tasks that I either find distasteful or am unable to perform myself. I have known Melody all of my life. Andrew for ten years. I paid for their wedding nine years ago. I love them both dearly. It offends me that people treat them poorly because their skin happens to be darker than their own.

Melody has a accent that belies her intelligence. She sounds like a common house servant. I know of no one more practical. Melody is a bit of a herbalist. She also has some nursing skills. I suppose one has to have those things when they are the maid servant of a adventuress like myself. We grew up together. Her Mother being a chambermaid for my own Mother.

Give Melody a puzzle, code, or some riddle and she will work relentlessly to solve it. This has proven an invaluable ability, since I am sometimes asked to investigate some mystery or another. My books have given me a reputation as a private consultant. To Melody languages are no different than a code or riddle.

Andrew I met in London during the dock strikes that were happening at that time. Andrew has a hard look of a street thug. His face and hands are scarred from fights he has had on the rough side of London. He has cauliflower ears and a bald head. From one pierced ear he wears an earring, like some pirate of old. He hasn't worn that earring lately. The thing that often confuses people is Andrew's educated British accent. He has a intellect behind that scarred face.

It is obvious that Melody is not attracted to Andrew for his looks. Although the man has muscles on muscles. His body is like a rock. This hard man has a gentle way with Melody. He has never raised his voice or struck Melody in all of the time that they have been married. I have no doubt that they have argued in private. Despite this I know that Andrew has never struck Melody. If he ever did I have no doubt that Melody would use a poison that would cause him a prolonged, agonizing death. Assuming I didn't shoot him first. Perhaps Andrew realizes this and is afraid to strike Melody.

After we left the inn this morning I realized that I hadn't written in my journal or taken any notes concerning our journey. Every journey I have taken I have taken notes about it in my journal each day as I traveled. Later I would compile those notes or journal entries to create my newest book. I think my experiences in Nippon has made me reluctant to record my thoughts lately. Before I left Cole Camp I managed to obtain a ledger from the General Store. I became determined that this very night I would start keeping a journal again.

Road conditions on the last leg of our journey to Lake Haven did not improve. Recent rains had caused the ancient mountains to crumble onto the roads. More than once Andrew had to drive around a landslide caused by fall rains. As we came close to Lake Haven I had Andrew drive straight to my Aunt's estate.

The locals call Aunt Hattie's estate Hilltop House. It is located on a plateau which overlooks Lake Haven after which the town is named. The road leading up to the plateau was neglected and overgrown. Despite this the old gravel road was in much better condition than the roads we had taken on our journey here. Hilltop house needed a coat of paint. The shudders were closed tight, but they were solid. I looked at the roof and saw no sagging to indicate severe water damage. Ten years of neglect did not seem to have render Hilltop untenable.

Andrew stopped the carriage. I waited patiently for him to come around and place a stool on the ground. He then gave me a hand down from the carriage than he assisted Melody down. Not that either Melody nor I am incapable of dismounting a carriage without assistance, but it was what was expected when traveling in civilized lands. Even if no one was there to see.

In my hand I had the heavy key that operated the old 18th Century lock. I half expected the lock to be rusted shut. To my satisfaction the key turned smoothly in the ancient lock. I opened the door to see the front hall of the old house looked the same as I last saw it twelve years ago. The only addition was some dust and a few cobwebs. I looked over at the stairs leading to the second story. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Aunt Hattie's servant to come in and see her hanging over those stairs. How awful that must have been for her.

It occurred to me that Andrew and Melody were waiting for me to enter our new home. I ducked beneath the cobwebs to step into the hall. Dust stirred from the old rug in the hall. Andrew and Melody came in behind me carrying luggage from the carriage.

"Might I suggest Miss Green that you stay at the hotel in town until Melody and I may make your new home more presentable." Andrew clearly disapproved of the condition of the house.

"Oh, come now, Andrew." I said. "We have certainly slept in worse conditions than these."

"I'll bring the carriage up to the carriage house then." Andrew said. "I shall return after I have stabled the horses."

"I'll have a look at the kitchen, Miss Nia." Melody said. "I'll unpack our supper so we can have a nice meal before we retire."

As my servants were busy with their tasks I opened the door to my left. I looked in on my Aunt's parlor which was still unchanged except for dust and cobwebs. A divan sat under a the large window of latticed glass. Two chairs sat on either side. All were made with solid rustic frames with burgundy colored comfortable cushions. Between the chairs and divan was a round low table. A lone rocking chair sat away from the other furniture. This rocker sat next to the parlor fireplace.

Memories of summers spent in this room with Aunt Hattie came to my mind. Her serving tea to guests; who had come to discuss their problems with her. If Aunt Hattie had no visitors, she would tell me stories about ancient civilizations. Greek, Roman, or Nordic myths. Irish, Welsh and Scottish folk tales and even a few Indian stories.

In this room the Aunt Hattie I knew and loved still lived in my memory. A smart witty woman with dark red hair flowing to her waist. With a sly smile on her lips. She spoke with a New England accent. Premature laugh lines crinkled her eyes. Her manicured nails short. Her fingers covered with gaudy silver rings. A single silver chair hung from her neck, the pendant hidden beneath her blouse.

Aunt Hattie often visited Kansas City as well. Her gowns she wore on those trips were very different from the rustic dresses she wore at Hilltop house. No matter what Aunt Hattie wore no one thought of her as anything less than a lady. I wondered if those gowns were in any condition to wear now that they had sat in Aunt Hattie's closet for so long.

"Miss Green, I am sorry to disturb you." Andrew said in his cultured voice. "The carriage house was in very good shape. Someone may be using it on a regular basis. There is fresh hay in the stalls and no cobwebs. The odd thing is that there was no dung in the stalls. It is as if someone just came in and laid the hay, then left."

"I informed no one of my visit here. Perhaps someone from the town recognized me and they put hay in the stable stalls." I said. It seemed the logical explanation.

"Perhaps your editor telegraphed the local authorities of your pending arrival." Andrew said.

That was even more logical. I had told dear old Harry Mueller that I would be coming here. I felt he deserved to know. Harry told me that I needed a vacation. He was happy to know that I would be finally coming here to deal with this estate. It had sat empty for too long. So, he had telegraphed ahead, that explained the hay in the stable.

"Please bring the luggage upstairs." I asked Andrew. "I am sure that we may have to sleep on the floor, the bedding is most likely decayed by now. Put the luggage for Melody and yourself in the room to the right of the stairs. My luggage in the room down the hall. It was my bedroom when I used to visit here."

"Should you not sleep in the Mistress's Bedroom?" Andrew asked.

"It is too soon, it is filled with Aunt Hattie's things. Please do as I ask." I said.

Andrew departed. I walked over to the window. It was shuddered, but it would have looked out to the road, which rose up the hill to the side of the house. Looking out the window you could see the length of the road. Aunt Hattie could see who was coming before they arrived. A smart woman, my Aunt. It allowed her to prepare for visitors.

I sat on the old divan. The cushions were stiff. I realized that something particularly viscous had been spilt on this cushion sometime before the closing of the house. It had to be while the house was closing, for Aunt Hattie would have had the spill cleaned up. She was most fastidious.

Looking over at the tea table I noticed two cups of tea and a pot. From the brown stains in the cups I realized that tea must have been in them still when the house was shut down. Why someone who was assigned to locking up the house should leave a spill on the cushions unattended, left the tea servings setting here was beyond me. It seemed pure laziness on the part of the retainers.

Melody came into the parlor with a lit lantern. She held it up to light up her face. "Supper's ready, Miss Green, such as it is." She said.

Andrew was coming down the stairs as Melody and I exited the parlor.

"Miss Green, I fear your estate has been vandalized." Andrew said. "I put the luggage in the room to the right. As you said. I noticed that the covers to the bed had been messed. I went to look and there are deep brown stains on the bed."

"I looked into the Mistress's suite and found that the room has been vandalized as well. I looked into the room down the hall and found no evidence of vandalism. I have not checked the other two rooms."

"One is the servant's room. I put you in the guest room because it was larger. As for the other room it is for storage." I told Andrew. "Go check the other two rooms. See about their condition. Melody and I will check the lower rooms."

"Neither the kitchen nor the dining room were disturbed, Miss Green." Melody told me.

That left Aunt Hattie's study and what I called her workshop. My Aunt was a herbalist, a chemist, and a healer. It was in her workshop that she prepared poultices, powders, herbal concoctions. It was filled with her books on healing, chemistry, and modern medicine. We looked into this room, I saw it's books and bottles of dried herbs had been undisturbed. As I looked in a saw a curious lack of dust and cobwebs.

In her study the heavy rolltop desk she used was broken into the drawers and contents taken out an dumped. On a flat table sat my Aunt's typewriter, ink well, and stationary. This seemed untouched. The history and reference books my Aunt kept in her study were scattered about. This wasn't vandalism. It was a blatant search for something. Someone had entered the house after it had been closed down to do this.

My Aunt kept her own journals, just as I did. Both financial and personal. All of her financial journals lay scattered about. Her personal journals were missing. This room had been Aunt Hattie's personal sanctuary. I seldom went into her study. I felt like I was violating my Aunt's privacy just standing in this room, despite the fact she had been dead for a decade. That someone had violated this space so viciously angered me.

I went out onto the back porch. In the back was a Summer kitchen. An outdoor stove covered with a extension of the porch roof. A old table had once been here to prepare food on. It had disappeared. So had the two rockers and the little table that had sat on the back porch.

It had turned cold as the sun had set. I came back into the kitchen to warm my hands over the potbelly stove. There was a small table Melly had set fruit, cheese, and thin slices of cooked meat. There was bread as well. On the stove she had made a soup of tinned vegetables. The empty tins sat in a row on the counter by the sink washed out and drying.

A slow chill had creep into the old house. Andrew came down from the upper story to sit at the table. Melody served us some soup as we helped ourselves to the fruit, meat, and cheese. Melody sliced the bread for each of us. Then she sat down at the table to join us. The kitchen stove chased away the chill as we ate.

"The servant's room is untouched. It appears to me that the servant simply left, without bothering to return for her things." Andrew informed me. "The storage room, as you call it, has been converted to a nursery. There is a crib, small toys, a flat topped table. A linen closet with diapers, bottles, and other things for babies or toddlers."

"Why would an abortionist keep a nursery?" I pondered out loud. "I wouldn't think that Aunt Hattie would have need of one considering her occupation."

"Either your Aunt Hattie were pregnant, are she was expecting someone with a baby to come to visit." Melly said. "Near as I can figure, she must have expected to use that room for a time, the way it's been set up. Baby things take money and time to set up."

"Aunt Hattie was a qualified midwife." I said. "She helped the local women give birth, but that was the end of it. She wouldn't take a baby from it's Mother. Unless it was very sick. She would set up a cradle in her own room in that case so she could be near the baby at night."

"Maybe she got tired of having a squalling brat in her room and decided to let her servant take care of it." Melody suggested.

"If she did, Aunt Hattie had changed since the time I left for New England. I remember my Aunt as kind, sympathetic, and patient. But, I was twelve at the time." I said. "We don't always see the faults in our loved ones when we are younger."

"She did insist that you stay home, Melody. It is possible that she was prejudiced. Didn't want a little Negro girl in her house. I never understood why you had to stay home while I visited. Mother said that it was because there was no room. Aunt Hattie said it was for your own safety, because of the intolerance around here at the time."

"I think your Aunt might have been protecting me in a way, Miss Nia." Melody said. "The townsfolk were'nt friendly to Negroes back then."

"Miss Green, if the townspeople were intolerant of Negoes back then, might they still be intolerant?" Andrew asked.

"I suppose so. Do you have a point?" I said.

"That it might be difficult for Melody and myself to function in town if the people are intolerant of our presence." Andrew said. "It is possible that they will refuse to deal with us at all, and you may have to accompany us to town each time we go, in order to obtain supplies. That would prove most difficult for all of us."

"That may be true, but I have a great deal of money, therefore I will have a great deal of influence. It may prove that people will become more cooperative when they learn that you are my representatives and consequently will determine where I spend my money."

"You mean, Miss Nia, that if these people don't deal with Negroes, they'll lose your business." Melody said.

"Precisely." I said. "You know that I have very little patience for such nonsense."

My old room had not been touched. As Andrew had said. The bedding smelled of lavender and there were old dried lavender and rose petals beneath the bedding. Melody mentioned the same thing about the servant's bed. Melody said that it was done to keep pests away. It appeared to be effective as the bed was pest free.

I opened the window and shutters as the half moon shined. Stars here were clear and bright. Stars always seem so much brighter in the rural country. I remember the stars over the Pacific Ocean always seemed so bright as we sailed on our yacht. That first night in Nippon, before the tsunami destroyed the village, the stars had been this bright.

Saturday, Oct. 2, 1896

Last night is still hazy in my mind. I shall try to recount the events to the best of my abilities. Drawing on my own memories of the experience, and the recollections of my two servants. Who found me on the cliff above the lake at the edge of town, dazed and mesmerized.

I had my usual nightmare about the events at Kamaishi. I sit in the middle of the raft that was once the floor of some hut. I see the bodies surrounding me. The man in the water. I reach out to give him a hand. As I reach out the demon grabs him and pulls him under. I scream. The dead baby floats past and I scream again as it's tiny body disappears. A demonic mouth pulling it under.

Waking up with more screams I try to catch my breath. It is so hard to breath normally after the dream. My short, shallow breaths make me feel like I'm suffocating. Melody came as quickly as she could. She talked in a calm voice.

"It's alright, Miss Nia. You are at home. Just try to breath normal now. You're safe." Melody said as she held my hand.

In time I return to myself. It becomes difficult for me to return to sleep so I have a habit of walking at night. This disturbs my servants because they think it is improper for a lady to go out at night without an escort. I love my two friends, but after the nightmare, I need solitude. The walking helps me go back to sleep. So, they accept that I take my walks alone.

"This is rural country." I argued. "I am in more peril from a bear or rabid raccoon than any person at this time of night."

Wrapping myself in a dark and heavy cloak. I walked out into the cold, autumn night. Above me, the moon was half full. Past a grove of trees the hill that Hilltop House sits on drops fifty feet down to the surface of Lake haven. My stroll took me to the edge of this cliff. I stared down at the moon and starlight reflected off the calm surface of the water.

Chanting carried across the water from somewhere on the other side of the lake. I could see a point of light on what must have been the far shore. A fire or lantern.

"We are the seed, he is the sower." Went the chant. The words were sharp and clear. Almost eerie. "She is the soil, over which we toil. We are the wheat, she is the reaper."

Something deep inside my soul stirred. As the voices repeated their odd chant. Calling me to remember ancient secrets locked away in lives long past. Locked away until a time came to reveal those secrets. Joining the chant, I began to dance.

Flinging away my cloak as it began to hinder my dance. Autumn air no longer felt cold. My nightmares were forgotten. My guilt of having survived the tsunami that had killed so many villagers had fled from my mind. The event seemed like a past life unto it's self. Something that happened so long ago I could barely remember.

"Down!" Came a shout from across the lake. As I began to recover from my trance, the shout felt like a blow that pushed me to the ground.

All of the time that I had danced and chanted on the edge of the cliff. The chanting had grown louder and faster. As had the rhythm of my dancing. After the shout, there was silence. Gone were the secrets of past lives. The stirring of my soul. Returning were the memories of my nightmares and my guilt that caused them. For a time all I could do was sob quietly. I felt for the baby I had pulled from my arms, for failing the Mother who had in trusted the child to me. For the man who I tried to pull aboard the raft after he had tried to rescue another victim of the flood and failed.

I felt dazed and confused when I finally picked up my cloak and wrapped it around my quivering body. I returned home and said nothing of the events to my servants. I would not tell my friends that I was dancing mesmerized at the edge of a cliff. They were concerned enough with my constant nightmares.

I have talked to a doctor about these nightmares. He described my condition as a manic hysteria that would require treatment in an asylum. After the episode on the cliff I fear that he may be right. I had hoped that confronting my past concerning Aunt Hattie would be enough of a shock to jolt me out of this hysteria. I fear it may have made it worse.

Melody cooked a breakfast from the supplies that we had left from last night. She had the presence of mind to buy some potatoes at the market in Cole Camp. She sliced these and mixed them with the meat from last night. Adding some cheese as well. Along with some fruit this proved a sufficient breakfast.

The Village of Lake Haven has an open market in the town square. Where the farmers and rural folk from the outskirts of town can sell their products. Besides what they grow from the land, the rural folk also make lye soaps, candles, a vegetable oil that burns well in kerosene lamps, leaving a sweet scent as it burns. Goods from the tannery and blacksmith are sold here as well. A coppersmith mends pots and pans right at the market. Besides the market booths there is a dry goods store that sells goods shipped in from Kansas City and Saint Louis.

People stared at us as our carriage made it's way to the town square. It is not many women here that ride in a fancy carriage with a servant driving the carriage and a maid servant sitting next to her. As Andrew pulled the carriage up to the dry goods store I waited for him to assist Melly and myself out of the carriage.

I went into the dry goods store first with my two friends following behind me.

"Those people need to come in through the back door." A voice shouted from behind the counter.

"Those people are with me." I said in a firm voice. My eyes meeting the bearded man behind the counter. "They are my servants and you will deal with them as you do me."

"Who is that?" Another voice came from a door leading to the back.

"Some woman with a couple of n—– servants came in the front door." Said the man.

From around the corner came a white bearded man. His beard neatly trimmed, his hair cut short, but not hiding a bald spot on the back of his head. His sparkling blue eyes hooded by thick eyelashes. His girth and his age hadn't slowed the man down. He came around the corner and smacked the other man in the back of the head.

"I told you about using such language." Said the white haired man. That was when he looked over and saw me. "Nia Green. Is it really little Nia."

I smiled at the older man. "Gregory Herman I am so glad to see you are still the proprietor of this fine establishment. For a moment I thought it had deteriorated." I said with a glance at the younger man.

"I am sorry, this young man is a good worker, but Bobby lacks any tact sometimes." Greg said to me. "I think it's because he comes from a big Northern City."

"It's not an excuse, my friend Theo lives in New York, and he is a gentleman." I said. "I hope Bobby's manners improve. I don't intend to send my servants to the back door when I need supplies."

"For you, Nia. I'll be sure to make an exception." Greg said.

I felt there should be no exceptions, but I didn't want to push my luck with the issue. So, I left it at that.

Going out in the square with Melody, I left Andrew to sort out the dry goods we would need. As I began to buy candles, soap, and vegetables some of my novelty began to wear off. There were the curious who attempted to pry into my business. Others remembered me from my previous visits. They were amazed that I had returned after ten years, they attempted to question me about why I came back. I changed the subject and asked the price of something else in their stall.

"Miss Nia Green." One vendor said to me. "All grown up now, I remember you. Used to tag along with your Aunt Hattie. It does my heart good to see that you come back to take your Aunt's place."

"No one could replace my Aunt." I said. "Besides, I am no midwife or herbalist. Nor am I a spiritualist."

"So you don't know?" The woman said with a smile. "Don't fret none–you'll see. You'll be as good or better than your Aunt was. A natural; that's what you are. Felt you across the lake we did; you wait and see, come a time you'll remember things you used to know."

"Were you with the group across the lake?" I asked.

Before the woman could answer me, a blond haired, blue eyed man walked by. "Best you be careful, people here knew your Aunt and did love her, but others feared her."

"What stories are you telling this poor woman?" Said the blond haired man.

"Ain't nothing as concerns you, Sheriff McCory." The woman replied.

"Don't take nothing old Gwen tells you seriously. She's been off her head for nearly twelve years now." McCory said.

"Yeah, you like to think everybody's crazy." Gwen told him, and turned to another customer at her stall.

On our return to Hilltop House my servants and I began to scrub away the dust and grime of a decade. We brushed away the cobwebs. I assessed the damage caused by ten years of neglect. I was surprised that the house was in rather good shape once we polished it up a bit.

We cleaned for a few hours. Stopping for a quick lunch fixed by Melody. After that we cleaned for another five hours until we stopped for a hearty supper of roast mutton, potatoes, and carrots. When Melody found time fix the meal is beyond me. Perhaps I was too busy straightening up the study and Aunt Hattie's room to notice.

I started in the study. As I put away the books, I noticed that more than Aunt Hattie's personal journals were missing. All of her books on spiritualism were missing as well. Many of her books on mythology I couldn't find either. All of her history books were in the room, scattered about. As I put the drawers back into the desk I noticed under the desk a pink ribbon sticking out from behind the desk where it stood against the wall.

Tugging on the ribbon I pulled out several letters secured by the ribbon. As I read the letters I realized that they were love letters between Aunt Hattie and Doctor Stephen Baumn. I remembered the Doctor as a tall man with handsome face and handlebar mustache. He had a broad chest and strong arms. His black hair was tinged with a little gray. I could understand why Aunt Hattie would be attracted to him.

My Aunt didn't just kill a man, a friend, but her lover. For the first time I had my doubts about what old Art Bennet had told me. I suppose that being an abortionist might have caused Aunt Hattie to have a loss of a morale compass. After all, to kill innocents in that way must have affected her soul. To kill your lover, that seemed evil to me.

I could not imagine Melody killing Andrew or visa versa for that matter. Either would be shattered emotionally. I am often envious of those two. So in love, such intimacy, and respect. I wish I could find a man whom I felt for nearly as much as Melody loved Andrew. I certainly wouldn't murder the man. At least not until he proved himself worthy of it.

Sunday, October 3, 1896:

After over three months of the same dream I noticed a change in the dream. I am laying on the raft after the man was pulled under. I had seen the baby float for a moment before the demonic mouth came up and it was gone. I lay there unable to move.

Hands begin to grip the edge of the raft. They begin to pull the entire raft beneath the water until they can grab my paralyzed body. They pull me beneath the waves. As my lungs scream for air I see the swirling forms of the demons. Their sleek bodies begin to circle above me. Circling down towards me.

I woke up unable to draw air to scream. Unable to take in air despite how rapidly I was breathing. I was blinded by my own tears. If I had screamed Melody would have come to comfort me until I managed to calm down. I couldn't scream. All I could do was try to breath normally.

After a while I got my breathing under control. Unable to sleep I chose to get dressed and took the cloak from the edge of the bed. I decided to walk back to the cliff. To see if I could hear the group which had met in the woods.

A cold breeze came off the lake. Adding to the chill of the autumn night. Dried leaves cracked beneath my boots. In the distance, I heard the call of wolves. Howling as though they were actually communicating with each other.

The smell of burning wood was strong this night, as people added extra logs to their stoves and fireplaces to keep warm. I think I could actually taste the smoke in the air, it was so thick.

Standing on the edge of the cliff, I had expected to hear the eerie chant again. Experience the wonderful feeling it gave me, as it stirred my soul. Helping me to recall lost secrets of past lives.

"They ain't there, missy." Said a voice from somewhere behind me. Startled, I swung around to face the woman. "They only meet once a week."

"Who are they?" I asked the woman.

Her face was hidden in the dark shadows cast by the woods.

"Witches, missy." She replied. "And don't you make that face. There be things older than the church and science. Those witches were before Christ or even the devil. They be so ancient that they be older than good and evil."

"Knew your Aunt Hattie. She were a good woman. A lady, like yourself. Only, you ain't what folk take you for. So you be careful, missy. People won't care who you really be, they'll expect you to take Hattie's place, and we both know you can't."

"You knew my Aunt? Maybe you could answer a few questions? There are a lot of things I never understood.If you could clarify these things for me, I would be most grateful."

"Don't go looking for answers to your questions from people here. People are scared, real scared, cause they do know what happened to your Aunt. They be scared to tell you the truth."

I started to step forward to get a better look at the woman, who's face remained in the shadows. I saw her step further back into the shadows. Where she disappeared without a trace. Despite the dead leaves all over the ground and. I couldn't take a step without hearing them crush beneath my boots.

Walking home from the cliff I approached the house from the rear. The cliff is but a short walk through the woods from the house. Watching the house from behind a tree was a man. He heard me approach and turned to run. I called to him to stop. When he ignored me, I called to the house, for Andrew to come out. By the time Andrew responded, the man was long gone.

This morning, I had tea with my two friends in the front parlor. A fire burned in the hearth, chasing away the early morning chill. Melody had fixed some hot rolls to serve with the tea. At this time I told Melody and Andrew about my two encounters with the witches.

"Don't take much stock in witches and all that." Melody said, after hearing me recount the events of last night. "If you can't touch it, build it, or see it. It isn't real."

"I have heard that there are cults in England that worship at ancient rings of stones that were built ages ago. There was such a ring of stones outside London." Andrew said. "A midwife and herbalist, a great deal similar to your description of your Aunt was rumored to lead a group of witches who would worship there at night. She lived in an old mansion near the ring."

"I think that it may be some sort of fertility cult." I said. "That chant mentioned planting and sowing. Toiling, growing wheat, and reaping it. It may have it's origins in Europe and moved here as the Europeans did."

"I have never pictured witches as anything but the creatures you see in 'Macbeth' and that was written centuries ago." Andrew said. "But, whatever they are, they certainly have the power to mesmerize you. From the first encounter you mentioned."

"I am at a loss to explain it." I told them. "It seemed almost magical."

"It's mesmerism of some sort." Melody seemed to agree with Andrew. "I saw a mesmerist make a man cluck like a chicken once. Ain't so much who they are as matters. Its what they be wanting with you Miss Nia. They wouldn't be bothering to mesmerize you unless they planned something concerning you."

"I don't think they planned to mesmerize me. I think that I am susceptible to their chants in some way. That they mesmerize me unintentionally." I said.

"Unintentional or not, it seems you have caught their attention, Miss Green." Andrew said.

"They may be conflicted. 'Old Gwen' said that I was a 'natural' and that I was expected to replace Aunt Hattie." I replied. "The woman I met in the woods said that I couldn't replace my Aunt."

"Apparently that explains their plans for you." Andrew said. "Your Aunt Hattie appears to have been their leader."

"You may have stepped into a hornet's nest, Miss Nia. If they be conflicted that might be bad for you. Because another might want your Aunt's position." Melody said. "She might feel that you are in the way and may figure to scare you off or some such thing."

"Well, this is ridiculous, I have no intention to lead some group of witches. I can't imagine that Aunt Hattie would have had anything to do with such nonsense." I said.

"Things sure seem to point to your Aunt Hattie being involved, Miss Nia." Melly said. "I know you don't want to hear ill of your Aunt, but maybe these witches were part of the reason she changed so. You told me she held life sacred, but she were an abortionist and killed a man. Then she hung herself."

"You are saying that these witches were responsible for my Aunt's downward spiral." I said.

"I'm sorry, Miss Nia." Melody sounded genuinely distressed. "If them people be calling themselves witches, they be worshiping Satan. It's that simple. They must have corrupted your Aunt and led her astray."

"Nonsense. People are responsible for their own actions." I said. "What my Aunt did was her own decision. She may have been influenced by these witches, but in the end she made her own choices concerning her life and death."

"Satan? My dear wife. I thought that if you couldn't see it, touch it, or build it it wasn't real." Andrew chided.

"I seen Satan for myself. He be real. I saw what he does to people." Melody said. "How he made people do evil."

"Superstition." I said. "Listen to yourself, this isn't the practical Melody that I know. All of this talk of Satan."

"You ain't seen what people do when they give over to him, Miss Nia. I did." Melody shuddered. "You be careful, because that old devil, he be a cunning one."

Today was the day I was to clean Aunt Hattie's room. It had been searched like the study. I took inventory of Aunt Hattie's clothes as I hung up the crumpled gown that had been callously thrown onto the floor. I looked through an assortment of shoes and boots. I replaced hats back into their boxes. I picked up chemises, slips, corsets, and hosiery that had been scattered about.

Linen had been pulled off the bed, the mattress tossed aside along with the box spring. The drawers of the dresser and vanity had been pulled out. A linen chest had been emptied of it's contents. Blankets and sheets tossed around the chest. Someone had been methodically looking from something. Nor did they care about being subtle about it. I had to wonder who it had been.

Thursday, Oct. 7, 1896:

I decided to explore the cellar today while Andrew was in town obtaining supplies. Melly came with me to help clean up the grimy cellar. We found a shelf of preserves that had fermented over the past ten years. There were bottles of wine. Old chairs stacked together. A scarred, ancient table. Trunks and crates sat at one end of the single roomed cellar.

Melody spotted tracks in the dust leading to a particular chest. As we approached it was obvious that someone had broken the latch on the chest. The dust on the top of the lid was disturbed. Melody and I were both certain that someone had come in and taken anything of value in the chest.

We opened that chest to find a dark green garment on top of a collection of unusual items. The garment was a shift or robe. It was tied at the waist with a black sash that was sewn along the edges with silver thread. Under the shift was a black, hooded, cloak. It was held at the throat by a silver chain. The catch of the chain was engraved with a pentagram.

Beneath these things was a green cloth that held a sickle-shaped dagger. It has a bronze blade, and the wooden handle is stained with age and use. It was still well oiled and sharp as a razor.

At the bottom of the chest was a pair of Roman styled sandals that laced up to mid-calf. A leather garter with three knots tied in it. A crown that held small candles. A dark green veil. A bronze plate and cup. And a book written in some cryptic language.

"This here is magic garb for sure." Melody said. "I don't know what your Aunt would be doing with all this, unless she was involved with those witches you were talking about."

"It looks like something a priestess would wear in a temple dedicated to some ancient pagan god." I said. "What a sight Aunt Hattie would have been."

As for the journal, it contained a map stuck in the yellowed pages. On the map were more cryptic symbols similar to the symbols in the book Melody is sure she can decipher the symbols with ease.

"Most likely, this code was to confuse someone who ain't used to breaking them like I am." Melody said to me as she took the journal to her room to begin deciphering it.

I sat in the rocking chair in the parlor. Andrew had built a fire in the hearth. As I read poetry by Edgar Allen Poe the warmth of the fire had caused me to doze off. I really must select more cheerful reading material. I had the oddest dream.

A flock of ravens cawed at me from the treetops. I could hear the beating of a heart, as though my ear was against someone's chest. The beating came from the ground itself.

In front of me was a ring of stones that were set in the ground upright. It the middle of that ring was a glass coffin. I could see the body of a woman in it. As I walked towards the coffin, I saw that a man was standing next to it. He was wearing a green robe and a black cloak.

"Behold; thou standeth between two worlds, that of the mundane, and that of the magical." The man says, approaching with a dual edged dagger. Holding it towardsme hilt first. "If thou enterest unto our company with fear or maltrust in thine heart, tis better for thee to throw thyself upon mine dagger, than to betray thine company."

I saw that the hood covered the man's face. He stood between me and the coffin. I took the dagger from his hand.

"Embrace the Goddess." Said the man. "She is within you, and you are her priestess in this lifetime, as you were in many others."

I slashed at the man's face with the dagger. He had a wide-eyed look of shock on his face. This did not keep him from stepping aside to prevent loosing one of those pretty blue eyes. Running past the man, without really getting a good look at his face to see if I knew him from town, I ran to the coffin. Inside I saw my own body.

"You know my secret, but I will not let you live to tell anyone." Said the man behind me. That was followed by a sharp blow to the head.

Falling to the ground, I saw the man kneel over me, as though to help me up, but he wrapped his hands around my throat instead. As he strangled me, and I felt the life seep out of my body, I woke up. The echo of the heartbeat still lingered in my head. Too much Edgar Poe. That was all it was.

Friday, Oct. 8, 1896

Last night my dreams continued. This one took place in the cellar. It was not the same as the other dreams I have had, and yet, it is.

It was the pain that I noticed at first. Blinding pain between my legs. As though someone had torn my insides out. Blood soaked my dress, pooling on the warped floor boards of the cellar. Having loss so much blood I was too weak to even stand up. All I could do was turn my head, if I tried to move anything else pain shot up my body.

I saw a retreating light from a lamp. There were footsteps on the worn floorboards that were heading away from me. Fighting terrible pain, I tried to crawl towards the light.

"Oh, please, god have mercy, don't leave me here!!" I cried out to the retreating light. Reaching an arm towards it, and collapsing on the floor boards in pain.

Turning myself over, I saw the support beams above me. Cobwebbed rafters that were rotting away. dust fell from the rafters to cover me in one fine layer after another. Pain began to recede. Hands began to message my skin. Sensual and frightening.

"Murderess." Sang a choir of children's voices.

I woke up with a scream. Melody came in and sat with me the rest of the night. Refusing to leave my side until I fell asleep.

"From what I can cipher, Miss Green." Melody told me today. "I figure that your Aunt sure knew near every way to keep a baby from coming to term. She knew herbs that would cause a woman to miscarry and what ones would stop a woman from getting pregnant."

"This ain't no diary. This here's more like a text book. As for this code, it ain't like nothing I've seen before. But, it weren't really meant to keep me from breaking it, just keep the curious away."

"Talks about herbs and spells and things like that, but there ain't no mention of the map. The person as made the map weren't the same one as wrote the book. And the map's on newer paper too."

I took a sip of tea and looked at the map that was laying on the table in front of me. Melody was right. The paper wasn't just newer, it was new. Just bought.

Tea in the front parlor has become habitual for us. There is not much to do here now that the house has been cleaned. We have started sharing the chores as well. I am beginning to feel as though we are really friends, and not a mistress and her servants. I like the feeling.

"It is possible that the witches want to discreetly contact us." Andrew said.

"They have already contacted me several times." I replied. "If they wanted to do so again I think they would have picked a more sure method."

"Maybe they have given us the location of where they meet so that they can have a more secure conversation." Andrew suggested. "So far, from what you have described, the encounters have been by chance."

"No. I think the meeting on the cliff, when I went back the second day, was intentional. Whoever she was, she must have seen me up there the day before, and had expected me to come back."

"Whoever went to all that trouble to sneak this map in must've had some good reason for us to find it." Melody said. "Could it have been that mystery woman you met, Miss Green?"

I did not have an answer to Melody's questions. I had thought that I had retired from this sort of thing when I gave up adventuring now I have found adventure again in the most unlikely of places.

Saturday, Oct. 9, 1896

That night, I took a walk up to the cliff, above the lake. It was right around midnight. The same time that the witches had begun chanting last week. I was sure that the people across the lake would meet again tonight. As I approached the cliff I could hear them across the lake, sound travels well over water, so their voices were clear and sharp.

"Behold!" Cried a male voice. "The Great Goddess! Who emerged from the Sea of Chaos in time immemorial. Who is known by many names. Athena, Artemis, Cybil, Demeter, Hecate, Hera, and Gaia."

"She who called forth the Starlit God and gave form unto him. For she is the Great Creatrix who gave form unto all manner of things, and without whom there could be no form."

"She dances with the Starlit God, who is formed into the Great Serpent, upon the edge of the Sea of Chaos."

"As Selene is the moon, so Helios is the sun. The two dance eternally between the light of day and the darkness of night."

"Hear us, Great Goddess. We who cannot meet beneath the light of day, meet in secrecy in the darkness of night, in moonlit groves."

Energy began to surge up through the earth. Flowing into my body. I felt as though I was that goddess of whom they spoke. A Goddess who stirred my soul from within me. Rather than manipulating me from outside it.

"I am the Great Goddess." A woman's voice called out from across the lake. "I am the moon, who walks the night with the Starlit God. I am Hera, who is Maiden, Nymph, and Crone. I am the Great Mother Gaia. I dance the seasons with the Horned God. Who is both lover and son."

"In constant motion, we dance together in the act of creation and destruction that is existence."

Peals of laughter echoed through the night air. It took me a moment to realize that I was the source of that laughter. My body began to spin in circles as I laughed. My guilt about surviving Kamaishi. My nightmares. They all seemed to fade into oblivion as the ecstasy of the moment took possession of me.

Power surged into my body, and I began to channel that power. Turning East, I summoned a wind from that direction that brought a storm riding upon it. As my body spun South, I called lightning that danced among the storm clouds. Turning West, I had summoned rain from the storm. Spinning on towards the North, I summoned lightning from the ground to meet the clouds above. As I continued to spin in circles I continued to call wind from the East, lightning from the South, water from the West, and ground lightning from the North. Until someone grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to kneel.

"Let it go!" Cried a woman's voice. "Give it back to the Earth."

She was shouting between rolls of thunder. In the flashes of lightning, I saw her face. She looked both concerned and frightened. She looked like my Aunt's old house maid. Only she couldn't be, she would be older. She looked the same as I saw her last, over ten years ago.

"I summon the storm and I am the storm incarnate." I told her. I have no idea why I said that.

Shaking my head to clear it, I felt the energy that had surged into my body begin to drain into the earth. I began to lose the feeling of being a lady again. I felt my guilt return for surviving the tsunami at Kamaishi.

"They had planned to draw down the Goddess into their priestess tonight. They hadn't planned on you being so close." Said my Aunt's maid who had stood in the shadows the second day of my arrival. "You drew the Goddess into you accidental like. She delivered a message through you to me and the rest of the witches."

"I'll go get your people and have them come to get you. You just lay here quite like."

Covering me in my cloak; which I had thrown from me when I began spinning, the woman disappeared in the dark. When I knelt, the storm had stopped soon after. Leaving me soaked and laying on soggy ground. Try as I would I could not gather the strength to stand up.

My servants found me lying on the ground wrapped in my cloak. Too weak to move. Andrew carried me to the house and Melody made a fire in the parlor. Having Andrew lay me on the divan. There I lay while I recovered my strength. My cloak was soaked through. As was my clothes.

Once I had regained enough strength, Melody helped me up the stairs to my bedroom. Having me change into dry clothes and drink hot tea, Melody gave me the strength to relate my events in my journal before I went to bed.

I woke up late in the afternoon to be informed by Melody that Andrew had brought the local physician to have a look at me. He was waiting for me in the parlor. Despite my appreciation for their concern for my health, I was far from pleased about not being consulted about this.

I had to concede that there was a chance that I could have caught my death of cold dancing out in the rain like I did last night. Pulling a robe over my nightgown, I went downstairs to the front parlor. The doctor was waiting for me. Opening the door to the parlor to see someone that both Aunt Hattie and Doctor Baumn had hated. Aunt Hattie would have driven the man from the house with a broom.

"Doctor Doreen." I said. "How unpleasant it is to meet you. Had my servants informed me that you were the physician that they had found to care for my health, I would have saved us both the trouble of bringing you here."

"Come now, Nia. I know that your Aunt never much liked me, but I came here out of the goodness of my heart in hopes that we might get off on a better start." The man was still dressing in tacky brown suits with a bowler hat.

"You made people sick, just so they would come back to you for more of your so called help. Hooked them up to machines you said would help them and did nothing. Addicted them to opiates and poisoned others with snake oils."

Melody's eyes widened as did Andrew's. They had run into Doreen's type before in our adventures. A crank, snake oil salesman, who were bad enough when selling fake medicine or machines that they claimed to help illness, but did nothing. The thought that they had nearly left me in the care of one of these fakers must have appalled them.

"Miss Green," Melody said, she was aghast at her ignorance. "We didn't know, I'm so ashamed. Andrew will get rid of this quack as soon as possible."

Andrew was about to unceremoniously toss Doreen out of my house when Melody seemed to change her mind.

"Don't get rid of him just yet." Melody told Andrew. "I just remember something I saw on that map Miss Green is having me cipher."

"Sit him down, Andrew." I said. Sitting in my usual seat by the fireplace. "Get me the map, Melody, and some tea for Mr. Doreen and I."

"I must protest." Doreen said. "I have other rounds to make. People depend on me."

"I doubt that." I said. "People are better off when they do not depend on you, Mr. Doreen. If you must attempt to leave my hospitality without trying Melody's tea and hot rolls, Andrew might think you do not like his wife's cooking."

"He might be insulted; being European, he might even challenge you to a duel with pistols, and he is a expert shot. For your own safety, let me suggest you stay."

Mr. Doreen looked over at Andrew; who glared back.

"Well. I guess I could stay for a little bit." Said Mr. Doreen.

"Good." Andrew replied. Still glaring at the man. Not that he was actually angry, but Andrew derived some amusement in pretending otherwise.

I must say that I enjoyed watching the old crank shrink beneath Andrew's baleful gaze. Considering the ill will that Aunt Hattie demonstrated towards the man. He truly had to be despicable. For Aunt Hattie hardly ever disliked anyone.

Melody came in and laid the map on the table. She left, and returned with tea and hot rolls, a moment later. I saw that she had translated the symbols on the map into english letters. She pointed to a square with scribbles of code beneath it. Beneath that was the translation.

"Doreen's children and their mother." I read the translation out loud.

Doreen looked as pale as a sheet. He started to get up, but Andrew pushed him down again by placing a hand on the man's shoulder.

"This distresses you, Mr. Doreen?" I said. "What ever for? Why would the witches give me a map that tells me where your family lives?"

"Except, you do not have a family." I continued. "Never did; unless you found a wife in the last ten years?"

"I don't; never did, like you said." Doreen replied.

"Andrew." I said. After a pause to sip my tea and stare at Doreen. "Harness the horse and carriage. I think that we should pay a visit to Mr. Doreen's family."

"They are not my family and you know it. So there's no reason to go out there." Mr. Doreen replied.

"Why, Mr. Doreen!" I said with false shock and sarcasm dripping from each word. "I think that you should be happy to see your family. Surely they will be most thrilled to meet you."

"I'm warning you, Nia. You don't want to go out there and poke around. Take my word, what's in that house is best left alone. And if you think I'll go with you, you'll have to tie me up first; because I won't go willingly."

"Mr. Doreen, I not only intend to go out there, I promise you. I will have Andrew tie you up and throw you in the back of the carriage. If you do not come willingly."

Whatever was in the house that is mentioned on the map must have frightened Mr. Doreen terribly. It was, in fact, necessary to tie Mr. Doreen up, and toss him in the back of the carriage.

We followed a road that had become so overgrown we eventually had to leave the carriage and travel on foot. Mr. Doreen was so insistent on staying behind that Andrew found it necessary to drag him nearly a quarter a mile before Mr. Doreen found it expedient to walk the rest of the way to the cottage.

As we approached the cottage, Mr. Doreen refused to go any further. He sat down a hundred feet from the door of the cottage. When Andrew attempted to drag him to his feet again, he broke out of his grip and ran down the road. Andrew started to chase after the man, but I called him back. Deciding whatever was in the house that so frightened Doreen might require Andrew's attention more than Doreen did at the moment.

Part of the roof had fallen in on the cottage. The windows gaped open with no glass panes or shutters. The door had fallen off it's hinges. It seemed obvious that nothing could live in the broken down cottage. Until a figure appeared in the doorway. Poorly dressed, in a robe and blood covered nightgown, the woman tugged at a strand of her hair. Staring at us. I was certain that the woman was quite mad.

"They told me you would come." Said the mad woman. "They think you could take Hattie's place. You've been very bad and the children want to get you. Like they got me."

"Who told you I would come?" I asked. "The witches?"

"Yes." Said the mad woman. Giggling uncontrollably "They said you would help me. (This was followed by her hysterical laughter.) Only you can't even help yourself, so how can you save me from the children?"

It was obvious that this woman was raving. It was impossible that children could hold her captive. It was some sort of delusion. Something that Doreen may have caused with one of his patent medicines he uses. There was a possibility Doreen raped her. It could be virgin blood on the nightgown. I had to wonder, what Doreen was afraid of. The girl seemed harmless enough.

"Miss." I said. Holding out my hand. "Come with us, and I promise that the children won't bother you anymore. We will protect you from whoever these children are."

Laughter greeted my offer. The mad woman was bent over laughing hysterically. She acted as though I told her I could make the sun disappear. Straightening herself. Subsiding to only an occasional giggle. The woman pointed into the house. Smiling at me she wiggled an index finger. Motioning to me to follow her. Andrew started up the porch steps, but the woman screamed.

"No!" She cried. "Not you! Your mistress!"

"Come Nia, come see my children, my lost children."

I doubted that there was anyone in the cottage. Child or otherwise. If there was, I was certain that a yell from me would bring Andrew running. So, I told Andrew to wait for us outside.

"Come, Nia." Said the woman, as I climbed the steps. "Come see the lost children, my children."

Stepping back through the door, the woman disappeared. As I approached the door, I opened my handbag, and withdrew a derringer that I carried for protection. If this was some sort of trick. The mad woman would soon regret it.

Light filtered through the collapsed roof. Shining down on the mad woman. She was standing in the cottage's single room. Amidst the bones of some small rodents that were scattered throughout the house. She spread her arms wide and smiled.

"See, Nia." She said. "See all of my lost children. All rejected by their mothers, all lost to the world. With no father or mother to care for their spirits. No one, but me."

I saw her for only a moment. Then, it was I who had gone mad. I fell to the floor with a scream. I had fallen backwards and was looking up at the rafters. No light shone through them now. Nothing, but darkness, existed past the cobweb filled rafters. Dust drifted down from the rafters. I felt hands begin to grab me, to pull me down to the watery tomb where victims from Kamaishi waited for me. All I could do was scream.

"We have been waiting for you, murderess." Said a choir of children's voices.

I stopped screaming. Children! The mad woman's lost children were dead! No wonder she had gone mad. She was not being held captive by a rival witch cult. This woman was being haunted by ghosts. The ghosts of children who may have died in this house. It was no wonder that Doreen was afraid of this place.

"Are you victims of my Aunt?" I asked. Calmly. "Children she aborted?"

"We were murdered by our own mothers and the doctor." Replied the chorus of voices. "Your Aunt had naught to do with our deaths."

"Which doctor? Doreen or Braumn?"

"Would Doctor Braumn have granted the request of our mothers. No. No more than your Aunt would have. Turned away by both, they turned to one who would commit murder. Justice turned it's blindfolded head from our plight and let the charlatan murder us. Even if he often killed our mothers as well. Through infections or bleeding caused by his evil operations the mothers died."

"If Doctor Doreen committed these abortions. Why would Doctor Braumn accuse my Aunt of them? Why would she shoot Doctor Braumn and hang herself afterwards in grief? Why would Art Bennet say there was a suicide note? And why would my Aunt write such a note if it did exist?"

"They did none of these things. They would have taken the other murderess from us. Saved her life! For that they died. But, they had naught to do with their own deaths."

"I'll kill Doreen!" I cried.

"You will never kill another. You are trapped. Like the other murderess." Replied the chorus of voices.

"You cannot keep me here. I must confront Doreen and clear the name of my Aunt. I can have the Sheriff arrest Doreen and use my investigative skills to find enough evidence against him for a conviction."

Laughter greeted this plan. "Justice is blind to our murders." Said the chorus of voices. "Seek not the Sheriff, unless you wish to join us in truth."

"You are going to release my soul?"

"We cannot keep that which you have not given to us."

"Miss Green!" Andrew was saying. Shaking my shoulder. I opened my eyes and smiled as I saw his concerned face looking down at me. "You screamed. Are you all right."

Standing up, I brushed away the dust and cobwebs that covered me. I silently asked my Aunt to forgive me. I had always assumed that all of her talk about the sacredness of life had been hypocritical. Now, I found that the people I trusted had lied to me and took my Aunt away from me.

What we found in the cottage, was very grisly. Small bones of tiny infants had been thrown into the cellar. The upper room of the cottage had a table stained with decade old blood. Rusty doctor's tools. A cabinet with ancient medicine bottles. There was also a few devices I didn't understand, only that they must have been medicinal machines of some sort.

Doreen stole our carriage. I believe that he may have left town. It was a long walk back into town. I am certain that my servants believe I am mad. But, they agreed that I should not tell the Sheriff of the grisly discovery that we made in the abandoned cottage. Our team of horses were at the house when we returned. I don't know how they got there, but am grateful.

Sunday, Oct. 12, 1896

This morning, I went to a church for the first time in ten years. Lake Haven Methodist Church had a quiet country preacher. Who taught wisdom and morals instead of damnation and hellfire.

Aunt Hattie's wagon was still in the carriage house. Another smaller buggy was there too. I had no idea why Aunt Hattie needed the carriage except to use it to impress town folk. The wagon was far more practical. Andrew, Melody, and crowded into the single buggy and went to town.

After the service, I met Sheriff McCory. He was a tall man with a very handsome face. Being at church on a Sunday morning, he did not carry the fast draw revolver that most lawmen wear in these parts. I noted his pretty blue eyes. The same eyes I recalled from my dream with the glass casket.

"Sheriff." I said, shaking his hand. "How nice to meet you again."

"I see that you haven't let old Gwen get her claws in you." McCory said. "Crazy old witch tries to lure pretty women like you across the lake all the time. I'll tell you that you don't want them to get you. No telling what they'd do."

"I have not seen Gwen since the market." I replied. Feigning a mock innocence I have perfected over the years. "I have heard strange chanting across the lake. Is there

some kind of unnatural activities going on there."

"Gwen has a bunch of crazies over there, but they don't do nothing as I can catch them in the act. Take my word, though, you don't want nothing to do with them. They're all involved in witchcraft and devil worship. No telling what goes on over there."

As I left the church, the Reverend came up to me to shake my hand. He was a middle-aged man; who I remembered seeing at Aunt Hattie's house once or twice. He smiled at me like I was a long lost friend.

"Nia, isn't it?" Said the reverend. "I do not think that we were ever properly introduced. My name is Alfred Minch. I am glad to see you here."

"Thank you." I said. Smiling back at him with a little less enthusiasm than he showed to me.

"Your Aunt was a upstanding woman. If God is just, He let your Aunt through the Pearly Gates despite what she believed. I want you to know that there are some people in this church of mine that won't get to heaven at all. Don't trust those people, even if they do wear a badge."

Monday, Oct. 13, 1896

Last night I walked up to the cliff. I knew that the witches would not be meeting tonight, so I had no fear of being mesmerized by their chants. It was not the witches that I wished to find this night. It was the woman who hid in the shadows that interested me.

Andrew and Melody had not seen the face of the woman who told them where to find me. She had called to them, after throwing a rock through their window. Andrew went to the window to investigate, and she told him that I was on the cliff, in dire need of their assistance. By the time Andrew managed to get dressed and come down the stairs she was long gone.

Staring out at the lake that reflected the waning moon, I was amazed by how peaceful this place was. Paris, London, New York, Vienna, and Moscow are wondrous places, but they could hardly be considered peaceful. Especially with war ravishing Moscow these days.

"Brenda Hoffman. Are you here?" I waited.

"What do you want with me, Nia?" Said the woman from her hiding place in the shadows in the woods. I turned to see the woman standing just in the shadows.

"You were Aunt Hattie's maid." I asked. "I remember you."

"I was your Aunt's servant. The one who Art Bennett claimed found your Aunt's body." Brenda said.

"Did the witches plant the map for me to find?"

"Yes."

"Was Art one of the men who killed my Aunt?" This made Brenda hesitate for a moment.

"No. He had nothing to do with your Aunt's death." Brenda sighed. "He was busy killing Stephen Braumn at the time. You see, the Doctor had gone home to get some medicine to save poor Karen's life. Karen is the ghost who's spirit is trapped in that old cottage. By trying to help Karen, both your Aunt and the Doctor lost their lives."

"Who was Karen? Why was she so important?" I suspected I knew, from my dreams, and the stain on her night shift.

"She came to your Aunt, looking for an abortion. It was known that Hattie had helped a desperate girl now and then, and not charge a penny. Only, this girl was too far along. Your Aunt said she couldn't do it. She did offer to let the girl stay at her home, and give the child to a good family, when it was born. But, Karen didn't want that. She wanted to get rid of the baby."

"She went to Doctor Doreen, and he did what she wanted. Karen wasn't two miles out of town before she was bleeding. By the time she made it to Hattie's house, Karen was nearly dead from the pain and loss of blood." I noticed something unusual, Brenda's clothes were wet.

"Your Aunt sent me to fetch Doctor Braumn. By the time Doc Braumn arrived, Hattie had stopped the bleeding. I set out tea for two in the front parlor." I could have sworn Brenda's clothes were dry before, now she was dripping wet.

"They decided that your Aunt's herbal mixes might be a bit mild for the type of pain Karen was having. So Doc Braumn went to his office to get some more drugs of his own. Opium, I think." Brenda's hair was wet as well.

"Why would Art be involved in this? Why would he want to kill Doctor Braumn for trying to save a girl's life?" I had known him all my life. I didn't understand why Art was involved, he always seemed a decent man.

"There's a link between them. Doctor Doreen promised Art and his deputy a miracle, and they bought his story hook, line, and sinker." Brenda told me.

"What was so important that they had to kill to keep it secret? What was Doreen doing?" I asked.

"Doctor Doreen told them that by using witchcraft, and science, he could work miracles." She spit on the ground. "To do it, he needed the blood of unborn babies. So, any girl that Aunt Hattie refused the two lawmen directed to Doctor Doreen. They would wait outside the house and watch to make sure a girl that needed an abortion knew about Doreen's shack which you found."

"Except, Doreen knew nothing about witchcraft. The Old Religion stopped sacrificing a few thousand years ago. Only the degenerate and ignorant will still use blood in spell or ritual. All witches know the power that blood had, but we know the price for such power is too great." Brenda shook her head. "I did. When Doreen promised me his miracle I thought he knew more about science than he did."

"Your testimony would put Doreen, Art Bennett, and Sheriff McCory in jail for a very long time." I told her. "All I have to do is send a telegraph to Saint Louis, and there will be State Marshals here to arrest Sheriff McCory in a few days or less."

"Both Art Bennet and Allen Doreen are dead." Said Brenda. "Your carriage is at the bottom of the lake, and Doreen is in it. As for Art, he is at the bottom of the lake as well. The only murderer left alive is McCory."

"And that's where I am, Missy. At the bottom of the lake, so you see, I can't help you either. But, if you get Sheriff McCory up here, you won't need my testimony. "This time the woman disappeared before my eyes.

There are some things that I do not share with my servants. Even if those servants are my closest friends. It is because that I am their friend that I cannot ask them to share the risk that nothing I have related in this journal so far is true, but could be the ravings of a woman gone mad. Only a mad woman would believe that she talked to a ghost. Yet, I saw that woman disappear.

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 1896

I have sent Andrew and Melody into town to purchase a carriage. I don't care for the single seat buggy. I want something more substantial. I had them take the wagon into town. The buggy will be used in emergencies. Pretending to be ill, I stayed behind. Under this ruse, I stole Andrew's revolver and proceeded to the bottom of the cliff that overlooked the lake.

In my travels I visited the Polynesian islands. On these islands, I learned to swim and dive from the local pearl divers. At the time, I never thought that I would need such skills. Today, I am glad I took the time to learn. Those same skills saved me from the tidal surge at Kamaishi.

Finding an isolated spot, I removed my clothes and placed the stolen revolver on top of them. I waded out into the lake and swam to the rocks below the cliff. At the point where I had met the woman on the cliff above me, I began breathing as the Polynesian pearl divers had taught me. Two deep breaths; which I let out slowly, and on the third breath I dived.

It was not very deep. I found the carriage. In the front seat was Mr. Doreen. I surfaced and dived again. Below the carriage was the skeletal remains of two bodies. Beside one of the bodies was a metal star. A sheriff's star, a pistol lay in a rusted ruin beside the body. Art Bennet was dead and so was the woman I had talked to on the cliff.

Wednesday, Oct. 15, 1896

Yesterday's find proves nothing. I could still be mad. There is a killer out there. Sheriff McCory is the most likely suspect. I could confront McCory today, but I want to bide my time. If there are witches and ghosts, magic and intrigue here, I think my waiting may be prudent.

Andrew and Melody have been quiet lately, and I think they suspect that I intend to do nothing about the grisly find in the cottage. Doctor Doreen, and I use the title reluctantly, appeared to have set up a operation room in the cottage, and abandoned it. Not as much of a mystery to me, than it is to my servants. Considering the ghosts that haunt the cottage.

Thursday, Oct. 16, 1896

"You play a dangerous game, Miss Green." Said Sheriff McCory. Looking at the rusty revolver and brass star covered with green corrosion that used to belong to Art Bennett.

"I have played games that are more dangerous than this with opponents who were much more of a threat to me than you will ever be." I told McCory. "If I could I would have you arrested. Only, I do not have enough evidence against you."

"What will you do?" McCory asked.

"Vengeance is best when allowed to wait. At some point of time, I will have my revenge for your part in Aunt Hattie's death. There is no one to protect you now. Everyone who participated in the murders is now dead. None of the townsfolk will blame me for killing you. I will kill you, you can count on it, if I cannot bring you to justice for your crimes."

"I could arrest you, Miss Green. Or shoot you and say you attacked me. Everyone in town would know why you would attack me. Even if they never mention it. Or, you could fall off a cliff." McCory smiled at me.

"Why are they so afraid of you? Why will these people not stand up to you, and give you the justice you deserve?" These were decent people. I couldn't understand why they put up with him.

"Fear. I was once a witch until I turned against them. Challenging their beliefs. They are weak, fearful people handicapped by their belief that hurting others is wrong." There was a pride in his voice. "I used the blood of unborn children in my spells. I gained power, immortality and more. They haven't the courage to do what I do, or the stomach."

"You are mad!" I said with disgust.

"Am I?" He replied with a amused look. "You felt the magic. I was there, on the cliff the last two Fridays. Heard you chanting, watched you dance, summon the storm. Do you think that I couldn't prolong my life with magic and blood. How old do you think I am. Twenty-five or thirty. I am forty years old. I haven't aged since Doctor Doreen and I worked together to make the potion ten years ago. You can be immortal. Join me, Miss Green. I can show you how we did it."

"You are mad." I said again. Walking out. I did not doubt what he said, for that was what made him mad. Only a madman would do such things.

Tonight I will go to the cliff. I have to go tonight. Tomorrow I could be mesmerized by the witches and I needed a clear mind. Something deep inside me knew that my picking tonight to confront McCory has something to do with the waning of the moon. I am not sure what that is.

Friday, Oct. 17, 1896

It was dark on the cliff. I had not heard or seen any signs of the witches or Hattie's servant. But, magic had been worked by me this night. I had used one of the spells from Aunt Hattie's journal to summon McCory to the cliff. Boots crushing brittle fall leaves announced that someone had arrived. I turned to face McCory. I aimed the pistol I stole from Andrew straight at him.

"Unbuckle your gun belt and let it fall to the ground." Like most lawmen in the West, McCory wore a hip holster; which allowed him to draw his pistol quickly in an emergency.

McCory stared at me for a moment. Judging if I had the courage to use the pistol I held. Or, the hatred to kill. He must have decided that I had both, and did as I instructed him to.

"Why not kill me?" McCory asked.

"I need to know. Tell me the truth and I might let you live. Try anything and I will kill you on the spot." It is a old tactic. Promise them life and a criminal will sometimes confess to everything. I learned how the criminal element functioned when I first went to London. I was there during Red Jack's rampage through Whitechapel. The London Dock Strikes. Those are another story.

"You know most of it, Miss Green." McCory said in a calm, matter of fact voice. "Otherwise I wouldn't be up here."

"You were using witchcraft to try to obtain immortality." I said. McCory was right, I understood most of it. "Art, Doreen, and yourself lured desperate young girls to that cottage in the woods. Where Doctor Doreen performed the abortions and conducted experiments with their blood. Doreen botched the abortion with Karen. When Art and yourself found out that Karen had gone back to my Aunt's house for help, and that Doctor Braumn also knew of the illegal activities that Doreen was doing with your sanction, you decided that you had to kill all three of them."

"Karen? Was that her name?" McCory said. "Well, that's right. Karen came to your Aunt's house looking for help. She told Hattie everything. Hattie told Doctor Braumn. One thing you don't know is that Hattie's maid was the one who told us about the girls Hattie wouldn't help with their problem."

"Shut up, Bobby." Said Brenda. Stepping out of the woods.

"I thought you were alive." McCory said. "Did you kill Art, when he came looking for you up here?"

"Art thought I was alive too." Brenda told him. "He thought that he would just come up here and kill me. Art was wrong too."

"I don't know how you killed Art. If Nia hadn't disarmed me I would have killed you if I knew you were here." McCory told her.

"You stood between the boundaries of the two worlds of the magic and the mundane. With the company of fellow witches. It would have been better if you fell upon the dagger you were given upon initiation than to betray the company of witches." Brenda said. "You have shown hate and distrust. You are now hated and distrusted. Your death will not be mourned. Thou art warlocked in the community."

"So did you." McCory replied.

"I told you about Karen coming back to Hattie's house. Warning you that Hattie and Keller made me tell them about the blood rites that we were performing in the old cottage. Even wrote the suicide note for you so that Hattie's death would look more like a suicide. You rewarded me by throwing me off of this cliff."

"Just tidying up all of the loose ends, honey." McCory replied. "Kill Braumn, frame it on Hattie, take the girl out to the cottage to die and kill the only witness. You. Doreen was too afraid to tell anyone, old Art and me had too much to loose. You, on the other hand, betrayed us once. You might have done it again. We just couldn't trust you. Not after murdering three people. No one missed you, since your actions warlocked you from the others as well, so we had nothing to lose by killing you."

"Except, we botched the last detail. You lived to betray us again. To Hattie's niece. I knew you had to be the one who sent her sniffing on our trail. Where else would she have gotten Art's revolver and badge, but from the woman who murdered him."

"You didn't botch it, Bobby." Replied the Brenda. "I died, but I came back to kill all three of you, and no one will miss you, either, excommunicated, warlocked, banished, its all the same thing. Hell, Bobby you have been dead in the eyes of the witches since you killed Hattie."

As the woman came running out of the woods, towards McCory, I fired at her. I did not want McCory killed. Bullets never phased the woman, she struck the man with the full force of her body. They both tumbled over the edge of the cliff. Bobby McCory screamed as he fell.

Saturday, Oct. 18, 1896

Last night I went to the cliff. I heard the chanting from across the lake. I did not feel like dancing or calling magic from the earth. Gwen had stopped by today to talk to me.

"In a coven, Miss Green there be three priestesses. One be the Maiden. That were Brenda. The other be the Mother. Though she had not children, that were your Aunt Hattie. Last be the Crone, that be me." Gwen said. "Now, 'cause your Aunt died, Brenda were warlocked and killed, I had to appoint a new Mother and Maiden to the coven."

"Now, bein' who you are, I'd be right honored if you were to consider joining the coven. In time you could be Maiden or Mother. Time ain't right for you to become Crone." Gwen said.

"No, I don't think so." I smiled at Gwen. "As you said, the 'time ain't right' for me. I don't reject your invitation. I only want to think about it."

"Be that as it may, know this Nia Green, you got the natural talent in you. What we call the Moon Madness. Sooner or later it will catch up to you. Be assured." With that Gwen left.

As I stood out on the cliff. I wondered if I could be a witch. I closed my eyes and listened to the chanting. I felt the breeze off the lake pick up. Opening my eyes, I noticed that I was not alone.

It was not Brenda who tumbled over the cliff with Bobby McCory, but a woman dressed in the robes and black cloak of the witches.

"What you do always haunts you in this life." She said in a deep, rich voice. "And poor Karen is haunted by the unborn children sacrificed by those butchers. Doreen was haunted in turn by Karen. He was so terrified of her that he refused to return to his ward in the cottage."

Reaching up, the woman pushed back the hood of her cloak to reveal a beautiful face lined with age. Her hair was silver and her eyes were a pale blue. She smiled at me.

"Guilt haunts you, Nia." Said the woman. "Make your peace with guilt, or it will destroy you as surely as it killed Art, Doreen, and Bobby. As it held Brenda and Karen here after their death. To serve me, you must not only take responsibility for your actions, but know when to stop taking responsibility for those actions. To let go of the guilt."

Laughing; the woman ran into the woods. "My children call me, I must go to them." She cried.

Today, I went to the old cottage where Karen's body lay in the cellar with her children. I had Melody and Andrew help me take old skeletal out of the cellar so that she could be buried.

"Let go of the guilt, Karen. It's the guilt that keeps you tied here." I said over Karen's grave. "They cannot hold you here if you say 'I am sorry' to yourself. You have to forgive yourself for what you felt you had to do."

There was a feeling of great sadness. Remembrance of the things that she had done. Afterwards I felt joy as Karen's spirit forgave herself for what she had done.

Brenda has not appeared on the cliff again. I think her guilt or revenge that held her there is over. I sometimes fantasize that years from now, after my death, I will still dance as a ghost on that cliff, held to this world by my love of that place and not any guilt.

Now, if I can just convince my servants that I have not gone mad, I think things may be peaceful here.

 

*END*

 

Dust and Cobwebs: Author's Notes.

This story was first published twenty years ago. As a writer I have changed and as a person. So, when I prepped Dust and Cobwebs to be posted on my site, I had to change the story to reflect the changes in me as a person.

In this version of the story I have made Nia Green a self-proclaimed adventuress and author. In the original Dust and Cobwebs Nia was a free lance spy and assassin for the United States. Her guilt stemmed from the lives she had ended.

When I reread the story the guilty assassin thing didn't work for me. I was familiarizing myself with the history of 1896 when I ran across the Meiji-Sanriku Earthquake that occurred on June 15, 1896. This Earthquake caused a ninety foot high tsunami that struck the port city of Kamaishi, Japan, destroying the town and killing 27,000. I decided this was the event that changes Nia's life.

Many people are familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in our veterans or police officers. It can also occur in disaster survivors, abuse victims, especially in cases of sexual assault, and people of all walks of life. PTSD is the result of a event breaks down your social code or standards. As a result there are flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms.

Abortion was one of the big issues at the time that I wrote the original story. So, was the controversy about stem cell research. Doreen wasn't using just blood, he was using stem cells. Although Doreen wouldn't have known what he was playing with.

Abortion is a life choice that must be made by the individual. This story isn't pro or con concerning abortion. It is about choices and the consequences of those choices no matter what those choices might be.

Witchcraft was my belief system when I wrote this story. There are people who exploit Witchcraft for their own purposes like the McCory character. Do not judge Witchcraft by such people.

 

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