Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black


Charli Mills’ latest 99 word challenge involved a watcher. I turned the theme a bit. I hope she and the folks at won’t mind.



Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 They turned from him, alabaster eyes averted. She’d done this to shame him, turned every statue and tilted the framed paintings so none looked into his eyes. No matter how many times he corrected their stance, they stubbornly maintained a cold distance, as though pronouncing judgement, though it was her fault, not his. She’d grown old, cold to touch, sour of disposition. She lavished attention on the brats, ignoring his needs. She’d twisted their family and friends against him, and now, even the statues turned away, constant in their inattention. Now even his mistress refused to meet his gaze.



Stoned: Petrification in ancient and modern mythology

Written by Kerry E.B. Black


In 1966, Bob Dylan espoused “Everybody must get stoned.” Although the phrase has connotations of intoxication and drug use, Dylan transforms the phrase into a metaphor for the human condition. People who are stoned remain fixated and unable to react in a standard way. Entomologically speaking, though, the origins of the phrase refer more to Shirley Jackson’s amazing short story, “The Lottery.” In nature, however, petrification occurs when silica binds with the cellulose of a living organism, transforming it to stone.

Petrification as a theme recurs in mythology and literature. Some scholars theorize these legends explain ancestral fascination with geology and unusual rock formations such as the Tregeseal Dancing Stones and Stonehenge (sometimes called “giant’s dance”). Others credit petrification as a literary trope, depicting a character frozen with indecision or fear or trapped by their circumstances.


In Greek mythology, a beautiful woman captured the attention of many men and even a god. However, she was sworn to a life of chastity and service to a goddess who punished the girl for the god’s attention by twisting her beauty into a visage so hateful, it turned all who looked upon her into stone. One legend blames Athena for transforming the girl after the sea god Poseidon raped her in Athena’s temple. Some sources claim wings sprouted from her shoulders. Others describe her serpentine body. All agree the luscious hair that once crowned the beautiful daughter of Ceto transformed into hissing venomous snakes as part of her punishment. Even in death, the Gorgon Medusa retained the ability to turn gawkers to stone. Medusa’s depiction in art such as Dali’s Perseus and as an heraldic device (She’s an element in the municipal coat of arms of Dohalice Village and of Sicily’s flag) fascinate many, and fashion designer Versace incorporates her visage to identify his brand. Sigmund Freud’s “Das Medusenhaupt” theory borrows from the legend to explain a child’s confrontation and rejection of maternal sexuality. The character acts as a symbol for feminism. She continues to influence culture, appearing in video games, cartoons, books, and movies such as “The Clash of the Titans.”

Also from ancient Greece, the basilisk or “little king of serpents” caused death with a single glance, either by turning the offenders to stone or by dissolving them into a pool of acid. Pliny the Elder describes the creature from Cyrene as a twelve-fingers-long snake who also left a venomous trail but hated weasels. Some historians point to Pliny’s description for an origin of the myth, noting the venomous King Cobra’s natural enemy is the mongoose. Imagery for the basilisk becomes mottled, and the creature is linked with the cockatrice. In the ancient world, the basilisk is associated with alchemy for its connection to refining base metals into gold. Modern culture uses its image to produce gold of its own. In the second installment of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, a basilisk guards the Chamber of Secrets. The heroes of Cornelia Funke’s “Dragon Rider” encounter a basilisk who smells of rotten eggs. Gary Gygax included the creature in its bestiaries for D&D, and Basillisks appear in several video games such as Dark Souls and Final Fantasy.

The cockatrice is described as possessing a serpent’s body and a rooster’s head. Hatched from an egg laid by a dying cock and incubated by a toad, the snake-like creature is often confused with a basilisk, though cockatrice usually have wings. Historic investigators point to the Egyptian crocodile as a possible origin for this legend, but like the basilisk, the cockatrice could kill with a glance. It features in the heraldry of the Lancashire Langley family and serves as the symbol of a British Royal Air Force Fighter Squadron. It found its way into Gygax’s D&D realm as well.


In the Norse belief system, Svartalfar or dark elves and their cousins the dwarves and trolls connect with the earth and stone. Often they are able to harness its power for their use, and some crafted the ability to petrify those who tried their patience. Snorri Sturluson from the 13th century named the earth dwellers Dokkalfar.

Theron O. Kunz introduced a massive floating orb with a menacing, toothy grin, single eye, and eyestalks to the world of D&D. Among this monster called the Beholder’s many abilities, it could turn flesh into stone. Unlike many other creature appearing in the D&D Monster manual, this evil-intended subterranean dweller does not have a mythological basis. The Weeping Angels from “Dr. Who” not only appear to be stone, but looking into their faces petrifies.


In fairy tales such as “The Water of Life” and “The Singing Apple,” those unsuccessful during a quest are petrified until the hero rescued them. This idea continues in many modern works of fiction. The White Witch from CS Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” wields magic to turn her enemies to stone, and the film “Willow” uses petrification as a defense when the hero throws a magic acorn at a troll. In JRR Tolkien’s interpretation of the troll myth, the creatures turn to stone when exposed to sunlight.


Some authors use petrification to freeze knowledge for a later reveal, such as a character discovering a necessary clue, but becoming incapacitated and rendered mute until a pivotal moment. Others find the symbolism carries a punishment, such as the biblical Lot’s wife who by disobeying the angel’s orders turns to look at the destruction of the cities Sodom and Gomora. Likewise, the story of boastful Niobe who tried to shame Leto for bearing but two children instead of her fourteen concluded with Niobe transformed into a perpetually weeping stone. It is also a popular belief that standing stones are the remains of people who dared dance on the Sabbath. At times, petrification represents the power of a woman’s sexuality to ensnare a man. Greece is a rocky land, but most cultures find their stones fascinating, and the ability of biological components transforming into stone provides a sort of immortality.


*Images not my own.

On Writing a Will – Kerry- 2/07/17

Written for the One Year of Letters Project.

One Year of Letters

16640676_10208623218717204_1236762277103158271_nFebruary 11th, 2017

On Writing a Will – Kerry E.B. Black

Dear Reader

Although it will sound like an oxymoron, I discovered a will is a living document. My latest health scare spurred me to create a will. I have children to protect somehow, after all, and although I’ve little to provide for them monetarily, I at least need to offer some small guidance for once I’ve shed this mortal coil and left them to their own devices.

As I wrote, I realized how little of monetary value I would leave behind. I am a woeful provider. I’ve worked most of my life, yet I have little to show for the efforts. I own a flooding house where the once-beautiful yard is now reduced to a swamp. The cars are not in my name. I own little jewelry, and what I have is not worth much money. Certainly, nobody should…

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Jaguar Baby

This is my response to the latest 99 word challenge issued by Charli Mills at – a rainbow in a puddle.


Jaguar Baby

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

A dreaded rainbow glistened on the garage floor, the tell-tale oil which portends the death of a beloved machine. Chris kicked a pile of tires heaped in the corner. “Darn it. She never listens.”

Fumes from Aunt Connie’s 1968 E-type Jaguar still lingered after her hasty departure. She’d waved, ignoring Chris. “Thanks for fixing my baby!”

Water eddied through the oil slick. She judged from the size of the slick the car would make it to Aunt Connie’s destination, but coming back would not be happening. She packed oil and mounted her Vespa, rushing to rescue her impatient aunt.

Eat Your Heart Out

Eat Your Heart Out

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 With the approach of St. Valentine’s Day, stylized hearts appear everywhere. In the United States, we celebrate the saint’s feast by glutting ourselves with romance and gifts, be it chocolates encased in heart-shaped boxes, folded paper proclaiming sentiments, or flowers whose price increased in anticipation of the holiday.

Yet throughout history, the heart has always held a special fascination, and not merely at this time of year. The heart is the center and the core of the body, the essence of the matter. This organ which keeps our blood circulating is said to hold the key to our emotions. We “listen to our hearts” and allow them to guide us.

However, the focus of this article is not the metaphor, but instead the literal interpretation of “eat your heart out.” Instead of alluding to mere jealousy, we’ll briefly explore the physical heart through a precursory glance at folklore, legend, literature, myth, and modern culture.

For example, as proof of her demise, the Queen demanded her huntsman bring her stepdaughter Snow White’s heart. The huntsman could not harm the innocent princess, though, and urged the girl to flee deep into the forest and away from the Queen’s wrath. To preserve his life and liberty, though, he slaughtered a pig and took its heart to the Queen and claimed it belonged to Snow White. The Queen ate the heart, contented until she discovered the truth through magical means.

Indeed, fairy tales value hearts and their special magic. In Tam Lin, the Fairy Queen attempted to remove the hero’s eyes and heart and replace them with wood. A witch locks away a girl’s heart in “A Heartless Princess.” In Hans Christian Anderson’s “Little Mermaid,” stabbing the Prince with an enchanted blade through the heart would restore the sad creature to her former shape. In “The Snow Queen” by the same author, young Gerda battles the damaging magic of splinters from troll’s magic mirror that pierced and froze her friend Kai’s heart.

The Woodman of L. Frank Baum’s Oz longed to replace his heart. Guilt and an imagined heartbeat from an offending organ betrayed the “not insane” narrator from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart.” In Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” season four’s “Hush,” eerie Gentlemen float through Sunnydale to collect hearts from magically silenced victims.

Films like the early 2000’s “Candy Stripers” and “Midnight Meat Train” depicted heart removal with brutality, whereas in ABC’s television show “Once Upon a Time,” Regina and other magical practitioners remove a jewel-like heart from their prey, thereby controlling them.

Some magicians purposefully skived off part of themselves, including their hearts, to lock away for protection, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter antagonist, Voldemort. As part of a ritual, the ancient Aztecs removed still-beating human hearts, and for mummification, ancient Egyptian priests placed the heart of their pharaohs into Coptic vessels. The hearts of Boyar shaman are believed to possess the ability to heal illnesses and restore life to the recently deceased. In Eastern Europe, folk exhumed suspected vampires’ hearts, burned them, and fed the ashes to the victims of their vampiric attentions.

An 18th century tale relates the story of a girl who received an unmarked package from overseas. Within the box she found powder she misinterpreted as an exotic tea. By this mistake, she steeped her lover’s heart and consumed his essence. In an 19th century story, an angry spouse fed his adulterous wife a pie containing her lover’s heart. When she realized the truth, the wife swore to never eat again and died shortly thereafter. Another tale follows a foolish man seeking wisdom. To be granted such, he’s advised to bring the heart of the creature he loved the most in the world. The lad returned with his mother’s heart, but when he received his wisdom, he realized the evil he’d perpetrated.

As stated earlier, this article presents a mere glance at the power of the heart throughout society. Although its use as a metaphor and literary devise persists, the heart beats its own brutal rhythm throughout history, speaking to man’s fear of vulnerability.


Blocked Way

Charli Mills and the good folk at issued a new 99 word challenge, and this is my response. Please let me know what you think.

Blocked Way

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Insurmountable as a mountain, a boulder blocked the trail. Cindy’s mount snorted a cloud of displeasure into the winter air as Cindy considered other paths. Ice made the left impassable, and thick, snow-covered branches provided an impenetrable barrier into the woods.

She sighed into her mount’s neck. “My life.” An overbearing ex, condescending family, and unpleasable boss filled her existence with self-doubt. Only riding healed her.

She dismounted and pushed, but the stone remained. She rounded it and began breaking branches. Blood trickled from scrapes from the effort, but she forced a path, determined not to be stymied again.



Dana’s Song

Charli Mills and the good folks at issued the challenge to write a story of “Women Create” in 99 words. Here is my creation. Please let me know what you think.


Dana’s Song

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 The Apocalypse destroyed Dana’s beauty as it ravaged the world, and Henry dreaded looking at her. No more diamonds danced in her eyes. Manicures gave way to peeled, raw hands, and bony-bare and charcoal-grey described her once lush, nubile figure.

She prepared the protein they pretended was beef and set it sizzling over the fire. She swiped a wisp of mousey colored, anemic hair from her wrinkled brow as she turned the meat, sprinkling it with chopped greens scavenged nearby. A sweet sound eclipsed his stomach’s growl. Her song of better days somehow brought beauty to their hideous state.

Love Carved in Stone

This is my response to Charli Mills’ 99 word challenge at


Love Carved in Stone

Written by Kerry E.B. Black


Heinrich chose marble with an artistic eye. He shook the quarryman’s hand as he paid.

“Be needin’ more next week, I reckon.”

The quarryman avoided eye contact. “I’ll set ‘em aside for you.”

He chiseled the message with a practiced hand. A daisy drooped atop, sprinkling petals below the words, ‘Helen. Beloved wife.’

Helen’s husband wiped tears as he approved the final piece. “You do fine work, Heinrich. The daisy’s a nice touch. She’da liked that.”

As Helen’s widower walked to his car, Heinrich devised another tombstone. Next week, he guessed, and the old man’s would reside beside hers.




Tea Cozy

Tea Cozy

A story of 99 words written by Kerry E.B. Black

in response to Charli Mills’ weekly challenge at


Tea Cozy

Grandma made it from scraps, a perfect patchwork of recycled bits of material sewn to cover the teapot she brought with her from England. She steeped the leaves while I sliced cucumbers thin enough to read newsprint through for our sandwiches.

As I poured Darjeeling one winter morning, she asked me to take it as a symbol of our time together. I searched her expression and found only resolve.

She died before our next luncheon.
I have it now, her tea cozy, an inheritance after her passing, and its homey addition to my tea table adds her familiar comfort.  

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