THE HAUNTED WIND

Monastic specters floated seamlessly between the leafless trees of the old forgotten cemetery. Round-eyed owls hooted from crooked branches while huge black crows swooped in and perched on weathered headstones. Sensing their imminent demise, the blind field mice scurried to and fro, frantically searching for safety. Alas, not fast enough for that one pathetic rodent chasing his own tail. The crow snatched him up and carried him off into the darkness. The weak and small have no rights in this most dreaded of places. 

It wasn’t always this mist-enshrouded wind-swept graveyard; many years ago the cemetery was a pastoral spot surrounded by blossoming trees and shrubs.  It was lovely and visitors would come by frequently to pay their respects and linger for a while on a nearby bench. 

High on a hill above the cemetery stood the Old Dutch Church. The property was expansive with an outstanding view of the Hudson River. The focal point of the church was the belfry with Its majestic wrought iron weather vane that could be seen for miles.

One stormy night in late October while parishioners were awaiting services for the feast of All Hallows’, a giant thunderclap boomed, followed by an enormous lightning bolt which struck the weather vane. The lightning coursed its way down to the belfry, instantly setting it on fire. Within moments the entire church was engulfed in flames, imprisoning all inside. Horrified townsfolk who were still outside tried valiantly to save their friends, to no avail. 

The wind blew sparks into the cemetery, setting the trees ablaze. The smoke was black, the air thick with an acrid stench. Those outside the church fell to their knees crying pitifully, covering their ears to block out the agonizing screams of the tortured. Finally, after what seemed an eternity in hell, the screams stopped and an eerie silence followed. 

Suddenly what was left of the church came crashing down, leaving nothing but a mountain of ashes and the grotesque twisted remains of the once glorious weather vane. 

Forty-seven souls perished that ghastly night. No bodies were found to be buried and the church was never rebuilt. Eventually people stopped coming to the cemetery. The only denizens there now are the interred – the owls, the crows, the blind field mice and the forty-seven specters seeking final rest. 

The haunted wind is eerily unsettling this Halloween night … or is it the wind? 

NAR © 2017

WHITE COLLAR JOB

Monastic Gregorian chant serenely filled the empty church. Candles flickered, casting long shadows across the walls. A sliver of the moon was barely perceptible through the rose-colored window above the crucifix. It was very late but the church was never locked as troubled souls sought comfort and refuge regardless of the hour. 

A solitary man sat huddled in the corner of a pew, thinking, praying, contemplating his next move. Occasionally his eyes would glance at the little round light above the confessional door indicating that a priest was available to listen, to advise, to absolve. 

Rubbing his chafed neck, the man stared at his Roman collar now resting on the pew next to him. How many years had it been since his ordination? How many baptisms had he performed, weddings had he celebrated, funerals had he officiated? More than he could count. 

He was a good priest; some might even say excellent. Not perfect by any stretch, but the rights certainly outweighed the wrongs. All except THIS wrong. 

He was no thief, no murderer. No one knew his secret so who was he hurting? He asked himself that question endless times, always able to justify his actions. Even Jesus said that the sins of the flesh were the easiest to forgive. 

It was so natural, so easy. He was happiest when he was with her and yet it was killing him. This wrong which felt so right was eating him alive. 

They were friends and saw each other every day at Holy Rosary Hospital. She was not only an outstanding nurse; she possessed an amazing ability to calm the fears of the dying and console the grief-stricken. They told themselves they were drawn together by their mutual empathy for the suffering, which was true at first. Now the unthinkable had happened. They were lovers, adulterers…..for he was married to the church and she was married to his best friend. 

He knew the two choices before him…..confess his sins, beg forgiveness and give her up or go on living a lie and continue their affair. Whatever his decision, the toll would be unbearable. 

Making the sign of the cross, he rose and slowly walked toward the confessional. Steeling himself, he reached out for the handle of the confessional booth. At that exact moment, the light switched off. 

Head hanging, tears falling, he turned and disappeared into the night. 

NAR © 2017

THE WHISPERING COTTAGE

“It’s a nice house, don’t you think, Virginia? The property is a decent size. And the fresh air! Just what the doctor ordered.”  Finding the perfect house for his ailing wife was first and foremost on Edgar’s mind.  

Encouragingly, he continued: “It’s very affordable at $5 a month! One bedroom and a writing niche upstairs and downstairs another bedroom, parlor and a nice kitchen which your mother will put to good use.”  

From their carriage Virginia smiled at her husband, covering her mouth with a  handkerchief as the deep cough began again. Edgar hurried to her side and she stared lovingly into his eyes. “Yes, my dear. I think we will be very happy here.”  

Then it’s settled! I’ll finalize the rental while you rest here.”  Before returning to the cottage Edgar covered Virginia with a blanket to protect her from the cool April breeze. 

Sitting in the carriage with her mother, Virginia gazed at the cottage. “A lovely little home for the three of us, Mother.” Closing her eyes, Virginia pictured their caged songbirds on the porch, a rocking chair nearby where she could rest in the sun and an etched signpost near the door which read “POE COTTAGE”.

**Virginia, I’ve been waiting for you**. Opening her eyes, Virginia asked her mother to repeat what she just said, but Maria assured her she had said nothing. Again Virginia closed her eyes and again she heard the gentle voice in her ear – **Virginia, welcome home**. A strange peace came over Virginia as she realized it was the cottage whispering to her. “My lovely forever home”, she thought. 

They moved in on a beautiful day in May of 1846 and they were happy there. In the evenings after eating a modest meal prepared by Maria,  Edgar worked on his poem “Annabel Lee” while the family cat sprawled across his shoulders and Virginia dozed by the fireplace. But even with constant care, sunshine and fresh air, Virginia’s consumption became worse, her waif-like body wracked with fits of coughing. 

In January Virginia’s health began to fail rapidly. Edgar stayed by her side day and night, reading to her, until at last on January 30, Virginia heard the whispering cottage beckoning her. 

She died peacefully that night in Edgar’s warm embrace as he softly recited

                                 “But our love it was stronger by far

                                  than the love of those who were older than we.”

NAR © 2017

MINDGAMES

Melt away the fears and anxieties in your mind. Feel them liquify and allow them to slowly trickle down your face. Relax as tiny rivulets flow down your neck, shoulders, back, thighs, legs and finally your feet where they silently fall away into the ‘Well of Anxiety and Panic’. Keeping your eyes closed, cover the well, lock it in place trapping your anxieties inside. Inhale. Exhale. Open your eyes and allow the calmness and peace to envelop you.”  

After six long months of listening to my therapist repeat the same litany in her soft, sing-song voice, one would think I was well on my way to living a life free of worry, what-if scenarios, anxiety, panic attacks and Xanax. 

Oh, I have my times of quiet lucidity … weeks of stress-free bliss when I can enjoy a lovely dinner with my husband or a carefree shopping trip in Manhattan. Nights when I fall asleep quickly and easily and wake up refreshed and at peace.  

Then just as I’m getting used to this ineffable comfort zone … WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA’AM!! … the panic machine is back with a vengeance, coming out of nowhere with all the subtlety of an 18 wheeler, taking over my life for days upon weeks upon months only to suddenly, spontaneously run out of gas and coast away down the road leaving me in a safe haven until it reaches a rest stop where it can take a break and refill its gas tank for the next assault. 

It’s a cesspool of what-the-fuckedness, the grasping, squeezing dragging down quicksand of fuckedupedness! 

Some Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful servant.” 

Note to self: read that daily: 

MIND – Noun: a beautiful servant; a dangerous master

NAR © 2017

Inspired by Fandango’s #FOWCanxiety

MY DARLING

Melt in my arms tonight, my darling, for you’re safe in this room here with me
Rest your head on my chest now, my darling, think what tomorrow will be 
The moon is full now, my darling, the hushed trees making nary a sound
As snowflakes and crystals descend from the heavens tenderly kissing the ground 

The winter is here now, my darling, gone is the summer breeze song
But the fire is warm, the blanket is cozy and I’ll cling to you all the night long 
Close your eyes and sleep now, my darling, for you know I will always be near
Wipe the tears from your long golden lashes; ’twas a bad dream, there’s nothing to fear 

Hush now, no more crying, my darling, only sweet thoughts swimming round in your head
You’re so precious, my darling, my angel, very small yet so safe in my bed 
Tomorrow is Christmas, my darling, and the reindeer are pulling the sleigh
With Santa and candy and toys made by elves and he’s surely coming this way 

Chef has baked cookies, my darling, and the night servant has brought out a plate
To place on the mantle, my darling, for Santa…..his poor hungry tummy to sate 
What’s that you say, my sweet darling? Read one more story tonight?
Yes, of course, my sweet little darling, for I know all things will be right 

Just a short one, my sweet little darling, for the clock is beginning to chime
In just a few hours, my darling, you’ll awaken to a wondrous time 
Are you ready, my precious, my darling, for the story of fairies and plums?
Mommy’s here, my sweet angel darling, and here I’ll stay until our morning comes 

Sweet dream time is finally here
Merry Christmas, my child most dear

NAR © 2017