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Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write by her father, who was her biggest supporter. “He was always behind me, rallying me on with my writing. I would always see him with a book in hand. He gave me a great appreciation for the written word, and the power and responsibility that writers have to shape those who read their words. He also taught me to respect nature and to value the beauty within it; my reflections on my environment are just an extension of this.” Skarbo was raised on Vancouver Island and is working on her next two books.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Fishermen's Choice

The fishermen woke early.  Dawn had not begun to punch her eye through the swirling sea mists, as the fishermen fumbled into clothes.  Their warm breath converged with the chilly air and danced about their lips as they tended to assigned tasks and breakfast chores.  Soon they were ready to gather up the last of the nets and head out to sea in the little wooden fishing boats.

Hopeful, they unfurled the sails and began their silent bargains with the sea gale gods.  Promising what they could for strong gentle winds, those that would see them to their destination without stirring the ocean into a tempest.

Even though they only experienced half of what they wanted they gave thanks for what they had received.  The day was sunny and warm and they gathered many fish from the sea.  There was much laughter amongst the men.   But while they were pulling up the last net of the day a strange occurrence happened.  Suddenly the winds came and with it the water began to grow and swell.  The men grew afraid because this was unlike anything they had ever experienced.  The skies were still blue with not a cloud to be seen and they could not understand why the ocean was acting so strangely.  It became worse and worse until the men feared their boats would capsize.  They rushed to unfurl the sail again so they could go on their way and leave the wind and the sea to their argument.

On the side of one of the little wooden fishing vessels a woman appeared, her body in the waves and her hands and arms holding on to the boat for dear life.  She spoke not a word but the men could see the fear in her blue eyes.  They were in shock of finding such a woman with them as she was not there a moment before and they wondered where she had come from.  Some men yelled to pull the woman from the sea and rescue her.  Others shouted that she was a siren from the deep and it was a trick of the scaled women.  They said they would surely die if they helped this creature. 

The wind howled and the waves grew as the men argued among themselves.  The boats began to drift apart from each other and soon the boat with the woman was alone.  As the waves grew, they began to break over the side where the woman was holding on.  Her weight pulled the edge closer to the water and it began to slosh in with an ever pressing speed.  Still she implored them with her eyes.  They knew a decision had to be made before they all died.  Either pull her in, or force her away. 

One man looked at the others and shook his head in disgust.  Then he grabbed the woman and began to haul her into the boat.  When the others saw what he was doing they too began to assist the woman.  As soon as she was in the boat she looked at the men and smiled.  Her long black hair and her strange clothes were soaked.  A fisherman offered her his coat to warm herself but she shook her head.  Then before their eyes the woman transformed into a Dolphin and jumped back into the sea, and when she did the waves and wind began to calm and the sea was again at peace.

The fishermen looked at each other knowing that no one else who hadn’t seen what they had experienced would believe their stories.  They agreed to tell the others that the woman had slipped off of the side of the boat before they could save her, and let that be the end of the story.

Day after day no matter when or where the fishermen who had saved the woman went they were successful in their catch and the boat would come back to shore with heaps of fish.  The villagers wondered about their great luck and consulted them for their secrets.  But no matter what they did they couldn’t reproduce the quantities the fishermen came back with.  This happened even when others would go out with the fishermen and fish alongside them.

What the fishermen or the villagers didn’t know was that she was confronting many fishermen of the world, testing humanity to see if it were worthy of the ocean and her bounty.  Sometimes she was met with kindness and she was pulled to safety, other times sadly it was not so, and these men didn’t know that their decisions and conduct weighed heavily for humanity.

One day the woman confronted a small fishing vessel, and like before the winds came and the brine water surged, tossing the small boat to and fro over the waves.  The men were fearful of the woman’s appearance out of seemingly nowhere and they thought her some sort of harmful ghost or sea waif come to claim them as a sacrifice for the fickle seas.  They tried to pry her fingers from the wood so they could toss her back to the brine where she had come from.  Surprised that she was indeed solid and warm, this did not deter them, so crazed by fright they were.  They could not pry her grip from the boat.  One man began to kick her hands and fingers to smash them into succumbing to her side of the boat.  It did not work. 

Finally another man took his fishing knife and brought it down upon the woman’s fingers just under the knuckles where her fingers were joined to the hand.  The frightened men were silenced by the sickening thud and then the sight of blood pouring forth into their boat.  This was no sea waif; this was no ghost of any kind.  Blood was life.  The shock cut through them like the knife cut through her. 

Before their eyes she began to transform and rise out of the sea.  She grew and grew until she was more than twenty feet above them.  Her black hair turning into writhing Moray Eels, while coral grew over her torso.  The men could see sea creatures peeking out of holes full of sea water.  Each leg began to grow opalescent scales and fins replaced where her feet had been.    

She held her hand before her as she screamed out her rage at what these men had done to her.  The sound was deafening and could be felt inside their bodies.  The sea became a huge roiling mass as angry as she.  The winds whipped at the men, pushing them this way and that.  Then the men watched as starfish limbs replaced her stolen fingers.  When she spoke, it was as loud as thunder claps, and the men had to shield their ears. 

“I have been testing you over the years to see if you are worthy of my bounty and if I should reward you with safe passage over my skirts.  Most of you humans have been severely lacking, but I searched and searched anyhow giving you the benefit of the doubt.  I wanted to fall in love with creatures such as you because in many ways you prove interesting and some have been compassionate.  With your actions today however, I can no longer look the other way.  You have proven to be dangerous infantile creatures with only selfish gain at the forefront of your consciousness. 

You have taken four things from me.  So I in turn will take four things from your future generations.  Those of you who have shown me compassion will still reap my bounty, those of you who chose to rape, or tried to destroy me, will feel my wrath. 

I will hide the fish in places you will not be able to reach, with your nets or with other means, and I will move their coral homes to places you cannot destroy them.   I will create Tsunami to cleanse your filth and dwellings from my skirts and force you to rethink your lack of respect.  I will release the storm sisters upon my face to dance their fury into colossal cyclones and hurricanes bringing fear into your hearts and those of your children.  They will wonder what they have done wrong to receive the fury, the barren seas, and wonder what they will do for food in the future, and I will whisper to them of you.  Lastly I will raise the levels of the ocean with the frozen fresh water and release ice to do battle with your ships in raging storms.  Many lives will be lost, and when they are they will swim down to join you in your watery prison. 

She raised her hand and the ocean swelled and surged tossing the men out of their boats and into the sea.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Stamp Mosaics

In my home office, things started to disappear; a box of paper clips here, some stamps there.  Small things at first, nothing significant, but enough to be an inconvenience.  

It took me a while to notice.  It isn’t as though our office is immaculate but I have order where order is needed.  I once saw a picture of Albert Einstein’s office and I could not believe someone so brilliant could ever find his way in such a messy array of texts and papers.  Thankfully, for Albert and us, there is order in chaos.  Although the universe can be a random and bizarre place, planets behave a certain way, black holes behave another.  I wondered which of those we were like. 

Our office was not as bad as Albert’s, but it was not the tidy, efficient, sterile machine like my mother’s could be either.  She had everything in its place and it always gave an unlived in vibe.  Like some kind of tomb you had to tiptoe around.  It was purely functional, as though no ideas, no life or creativity had ever breathed within its walls. 

Our office, on the contrary, was much lived in.  Not a day went by that one of us was not in some way contributing to its character.  There were wooden bookshelves lining the walls in the back holding texts, paper and envelopes.  Storage shelves doubled as work surfaces and storage areas.  Plastic bins held extra cables, mice, power bars, keyboards and various other computer equipment.  Wires were everywhere but in a way that resembled tidiness.  A scanner in the corner, printer on a wooden shelf, and with the new flat screen monitors there was more desk space.

That is until my partner starts into his coin collection.  Then there are coins everywhere, q-tips and toothbrushes for cleaning, toothpicks for who knows what, small jars of ketchup and olive oil.  Reference books, although most of his reference work is done on the internet.  Binders upon binders stacked one on the other full of his centuries old booty. 

I liked to look at them too, some of them anyway.  The old faces and crests, the way I would feel when I thought that all that time ago these heavy circles would have sat in someone’s hand, rested in their pocket.  It was like touching history in an obscure way.

Perhaps that is why things began to disappear. 

I didn’t notice it right away, because I thought Russell had misplaced what I needed and he of course thought I had.  We had even gotten into some pretty intense fights over it. 

Stamps seemed to be the most popular.  We even tried to put them in different places to break the losing streak so to speak, though that didn’t work very well.  We thought perhaps we had forgotten the new hiding places but the old empty cardboard wrappers were staring us in the face. 

Then it seemed other things were being used.  There is no other way to say it.  We woke up one morning ready for a full day of work and there were staples all over the floor.  Not unspent staples like you find in the box and load the stapler with, but spent staples.  As if someone had pushed the stapler over and over and just left the bent staples all over the floor, like they had done it for the simple joy of the sound and feel of the stapler, or that they had not known what the stapler was for.

It got stranger and stranger as time went by.  Tape would be hanging from the ceiling; stamps would be stuck to our monitors in mosaic designs.  Rubber bands seemed shot from one area and sent to another.  It was almost like we were being invaded by childlike minds in the middle of the night.  Or at least intelligent ones, the mosaics proved that.

When I asked my son Zack about these occurrences I received looks of innocence, or looks that told me he was wondering if I was really serious and this was not some kind of joke.

We let it go for a while.  As we saw it there wasn’t much else we could do.  The mischief   only happened at night and there was never any noise for us to be woken from sleep.  We did stay up all night once and hid in the dark corners lest anything arose, but to our great disappointment nothing did.  So we just let it ride.  My curiosity was almost palatable.

That was until Russell began to lose things he had already sold on the internet.  He could no longer find one of his uncirculated ten dollar bills with the radar numbered serial numbers.  The oddities were no longer amusing.  Puzzling yes, but funny?  Not in the least. 

I thought that perhaps we didn’t see anything the night we stayed up because we were awake, or because we were too noisy.  Perhaps whatever was invading our office was aware of the fact and would not show due to the thought of retaliation of some kind.  Yes I was grasping at straws, but I could no longer sit back and do nothing.  My imagination was running away with me and until I had the answer to this dilemma, it would continue to do so. 

The more I thought about it the more I became convinced that we would have to find a way to see into the office while being asleep.  I decided after much thought, that the only way to do this was to set up web cameras or a video camera in places where they wouldn’t stand out, and record the night’s visitors.    It wasn’t as though we didn’t have the technology, and it would be a simple thing to do for anyone.  I only had to figure out the camera angles and then we would capture whatever was going on.

The first night didn’t produce much.  It turned out I was so excited about the prospect of finding out about what was going on that I could not sleep.  The next night proved to be better.  When Russell and I sat down to the computer to watch the nights events I am sure our jaws hung open. 

For there, seemingly appearing out of nowhere, sat a man.  Sort of.  He was little, about a foot and a half tall, thin and had big fox like ears on the top of his head amongst sparse tufts of hair.   He had huge owl like eyes over a small nose and just a hint of a mouth. Thin arms and legs were covered by a shirt and pants that were a patchwork of bits of fabric sewn in big blue stitches.  At first he just sat there as though he was thinking about what to do.  Then gradually he picked at things about the room as though he was trying to figure out what they were or what they were used for.   For a couple of hours he sat with a book upon his lap and I was amazed that he could read our language.  Russell was not impressed when he put a couple of coins in his pocket as he left. 

Where had this little man come from?  More importantly where had he gone?  Who was he and why was he in our house, messing with our things?  How long had he been here?

Days went by and the same kind of things would happen on camera.  Until one day our little man left something for Russell.  It was a drawing he had done of Russell at the computer working.  It was beautiful, done in pencil and was signed Onhim.  So he had a name.  I thought that perhaps the sketch was to make up for the coins he had taken earlier.  Russell had left a rather nasty note demanding their return.  Something I hadn’t encouraged, after all Onhim could step out of seemingly nowhere, who knows what else he was capable of.  By the picture drawn it also seemed as though he could be here in the room with us in the daylight although we couldn’t see him.  This was troubling.  I began to wonder just how much the stranger knew about us.  However I didn’t get the sense that our visitor was malevolent in anyway.  He seemed as curious about us as we were about him.

I began to leave things for our little night visitor.  It wasn’t hard now that I knew he was an artist of sorts.  I set up an easel in the corner of the room and left some paper, pencil crayons and charcoal pencils, and then later some paints.  The result was an amazing array of drawings and paintings.  Creatures that were not of this earth or this dimension, there were fairies with gossamer wings, goblins, what I took to be trolls and amazing elfin beings.  Each surrounded in woods and trees the likes I had never seen before.  Little people made of moss and lichen.  In some of the drawings it was as though they could simply walk out of the paper that held them. 

I left many notes for Onhim, encouraging his drawings, and asking questions about the creatures.  I loved to see what he would come up with day after day.  Onhim came through for Russell too.  Apparently on his side of things, that is to say, where Onhim spends most of his life, coins are quite abundant.  A little purple bag showed up on Russell’s desk one morning full of small gold coins each with a hole in the middle.  All previous discrepancies between the two were forgiven. 

I went to the thrift store to get some clothes for Onhim.  I felt so badly seeing him in tatters.  I found some blue Oshkosh overalls and a couple blue shirts to match.  I didn’t pick up any socks or shoes though.  Every time I had seen him he was barefoot so I thought this must be his preference.  Besides I didn’t think I could find anything small enough, not even in the children’s section. 

I laid these out on the stool in front of his easel.  I was very happy to see these gone the next morning, and a thank-you note left in its place. 

~~:: ~~::

I sit perched upon the end of the bed, watching as the couple drift deeper into slumber.  The one on the right is closer to REM sleep then the woman is.  Her mind seems to be fighting the inevitable waltz with her subconscious.

I am patient, knowing I will soon dine on the delicious creativity that their minds will indulge in.  I am content to let my mind wander over the scents of their sleeping bodies.  I try to identify the origin of each fragrance.   It is the perfume of silken sweat, spent orgasms, the open pores of resting skin which roll over my tongue, enticingly sweet flavors. 

There are others like me.  We are the night watchmen.  Silent and invisible to man’s eye, keeping each night uncluttered of unwanted, unneeded dreams.  While these beings rest and create stories within their minds the dreams draw energy from the dreamer and it is on this that we feed upon.    

The woman enjoys my drawings, even giving me tools so I can bring forth the images that I sometimes see dancing over the heads of these wondrous creatures, these humans.  Her enjoyment is biased however. Originally they came from her.  She is drawn to the images because her subconscious remembers them, and although it is not filtered into her conscious mind, the feeling of familiarity is strong.  It pulls her to them.

I am intrigued by this woman.  Her detailed dreams are vividly colored and her positivity bleeds through them with hints of fruit and nectar.  She would not be so kind and giving with me if she truly knew my role within her domain and my vampiric ways.  Feeding not on blood of the flesh, but on mists of the mind.  If she knew that the creaking wood floorboards in the middle of the night were not due to the temperature changes within the house, or the house settling, but rather signaling my otherwise silent presence.  She would withdraw my welcome, and try to find a way to bar my entry.

He, in his nightly slumber, becomes invisible and flies over the world in first class correcting the wrong doings of evil men.  With saber sword he slashes through flesh, coloring the world red so the innocent may flee.  I watch his violent bloodlust, knowing that it is his primitive brain that seeks such nourishment.  I relish in the taste of such images, they are hot spicy delights.  I devour them and in turn he, during waking hours, can walk the earth safely within society’s confines.  He will not feel the need to spill havoc onto those he loves, or bring chaos into the streets because he has released such things to us. 

Some have called us the night vultures, saying we feed on the garbage that filters through the psyche.  I say we are as necessary to these beings as water, for it is we who drink their secretions.  Unburdening them of unwanted painful memories, and emotions better off not felt.  We provide these services free of charge; expecting nothing in return, only our nightly meals which sustain us. 

We have been here in a symbiotic relationship with these creatures since Mother Earth conjured us to relieve her of the constant excessive energies these beings create and litter her skirts with, and in previous ages, this was enough.

Now we watchmen can no longer keep up with the extreme populations of these beings.  Over the last centuries their numbers have exploded, the latest technologies coming out of the most brilliant minds have humans living past ages meant for the balance of things.  There are not enough of us.  Even with our insatiable appetites the balance is tilting the scales, and Mother, in turn, has begun to clean house. 

Natural disasters, global warming, humans think they have the answers as to why these things are happening.  They don’t.  The truth is we can no longer keep up to them and the way they pollute.  Green house gases?  The true pollution is the violence and negativity these beings thrive on, Mother can no longer tolerate it and survive.  Something is going to have to give and lose the battle.  I can tell you now it will not be Mother, she is too important in the great scheme of things...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

October 25th, 2011 saw the release of

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness.  I am thrilled to be counted as one of the contributors for this book.  You can find my story “The Choice”, on page 125.  This is the third book of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series that I have been fortunate enough to be included in.  The others were My Cat’s Life and Just for Preteens.   Please contact me if you are interested in personalized copies.