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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

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fairy tale

Darkly Never After

The author's horror selfie.

Of all the anthologies in which I have published works, this is one of my favorites. All proceeds from Darkly Never After go to pediatric cancer research. I have two short stories and a scattering of poems included.

One story follows a home health care worker on a swampy assignment. The other looks into the dark influence of jealousy.

However, it is to go out of print soon, so if you want a copy for a good cause, head to:

https://www.amazon.com/Darkly-Never-After-Alex-Hurst/dp/1502374803/

or other outlets and snag a copy!

 

Butterfly Comfort

Butterfly Comfort

Written by Kerry E.B. Black based on Coastal Salish beliefs20160714_112231

Grandmother sat upon a woven blanket spread beside the sparkling waters. Sunlight set the silver in her long hair ablaze as though comets streaked through a midnight sky. Her voice rumbled like distant thunder, demanding attention from her granddaughter.

“Here you feel the earth, which gave you life. Set down roots, like these flowers, and you’ll always know your mother.”

The Granddaughter sniffed the blooms. Cornflower and cones smelled more like grasses than perfume. Butterflies skipped among their petals. The Granddaughter brushed aside tears, feeding their salt to the flowers’ hungry roots. “Why’d she have to die, Grandmother?” The vibrant summer colors blurred behind the veil of tears. “I miss her so much I ache.”

Grandmother rested a calloused hand on the Granddaughter’s head. “I know. In time, the ache will ease, and you’ll feel her. She’ll be the breath of spring brushing your skirts against your legs. She’ll be the warm embrace of your blankets on a cold night. In time.”

Anger set the Granddaughter’s cheeks aflame. She leapt to her feet, voice raised. “In time? I want her now!” Guilt warred with grief, knotting her stomach, and tears choked other words. She slid to her knees and sobbed. Waves of emotion washed over her, and she wailed until her tears dried up and her throat burned. Through hiccups, she confessed, “I didn’t tell her goodbye. I was at school when she left. What if she never knew how much I loved her?”

Grandmother sung a throaty prayer in their native language, the language of the plants and the beasts. Butterflies drifted in time to her entreaties. One, blue as the nearby water outlined with ebony as dark as her mother’s hair, alighted upon the Granddaughter. Its delicate legs tickled while they gathered up teardrops. The Granddaughter held her breath, afraid of scaring it away.

Quickly as it came, the butterfly fled. Its uneven flight led it beyond the trees.

Grandmother stood and brushed grasses and dirt from her skirt. “She’ll know.”

The Granddaughter sniffed. “How can you say that?”

Grandmother’s smile cracked across her weathered face. “Your friend the butterfly will deliver the message.”

As she watched the diminishing creature disappear into the cloud-laced sky, the Granddaughter knew her Grandmother was right.

 

Non-living Tribe

20160707_122550

Non-Living Tribe

*A retelling of a Coastal Salish tale

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Everyone wondered why Little Annie married a dead man, but her tribe attended the ceremony and waved good bye to the girl none-the-less. Her brother Harry gave her a blanket woven with hummingbirds as a gift. “It might be cold where you’re going.”

After he kissed her goodbye, Harry’s stomach churned with worry. Every hummingbird reminded him of his Little Annie, a girl known for her quick efficiency and industrious ways.

“I’m going to visit her,” he told the winds. He walked toward the splendor of the setting sun until he reached the vast river between the land of light and the land of darkness. The waters lapped the rocks beneath his feet as stars peeped from overhead.

He cupped his hands and whistled. “Little Annie, it’s your brother. Please, I want to visit you.”

An owl hooted from a tree nearby, and unseen creatures scampered through the underbrush. Gentle winds brushed his hair from his face, and weariness weighted his limbs. As he waited, he wearied, and he yawned.

“Please, Annie.”

A dark-stained boat washed ashore. Despite a hole in the hull, it stayed afloat. In the bow, a pile of bones glowed ghostly white in the moon’s rays. “Ugh!” He kicked them into the water and prayed the boat would not sink as he paddled to the distant shore.

Little Annie waited with crossed arms and thumping foot. Her braids glistened like waterfalls over her shoulders. While she steadied him, she tutted. “So, Harry, why’d you try to drown my husband?”

Harry stiffened in her embrace. “I didn’t.”

Stars reflected in her dark eyes. “Things appear differently here when you don’t belong.” She thrust out her chin and led the way through a decrepit village to a shack. “This is my home. Welcome.” Hinges creaked as she pushed through the door. Dust and cobwebs rained into their hair. She pointed to a broken chair. “Sit. I’ll get a treat.”

His mouth fell open at the sight before his eyes. His beautiful sister lived in a hovel. He shuddered as he pushed a dog’s bones from the chair. They cracked as they hit the dirty floor, raising a cloud.

She rushed into the room and knelt to gather the bones to her chest. “Harry, you must be careful. You hurt my pet.”

Harry chewed his lip. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

She stood and dusted her hands on her skirt. “I know you don’t. My dear, you don’t belong here.” She pulled him into an embrace. Her hair smelled of almond, and her tears cooled on his cheek. With a shaking hand she dried her eyes. She handed Harry a basket. “Don’t open this until you reach the land of the living. Do you understand?”

He shook his head.

“I miss you.”

“Me, too.”

They embraced.

“I love you. Tell all our relations I wish them the best. But Harry, please don’t forget. Do not open the basket.”

The boat swayed like a cradle as it conveyed Harry across the dark waterway. The rising sun stained the sky with springtime pinks and yellows. Harry’s stomach grumbled, and he licked his lips. Ripe fruits perfumed the air, and Harry peeked inside the basket, anticipating his sister’s treat.

A swarm of bees rushed the opening. Stings assaulted, burning as though he fell into a lodge fire. He leapt to his feet, swatting without effect as the buzzing reached a crescendo. He stumbled as the boat lurched, and he fell into frigid waters. His throat constricted with swelling, and no air entered his lungs. His skin felt lumpy and scorched, and darkness pulled him deeper into the water.

A man’s muscled arm grasped Harry and pulled him into a golden canoe. Harry sputtered, but his skin no longer burned.

“Brother,” the man in the boat said. “You did not listen to your sister. Now you must come home with me.”

Harry marveled at the beading on the man’s clothing.

The man smiled. “Your sister is very talented.” He led Harry through a well-appointed town to a cheerful lodge. Bright paintings graced the walls, and thick rugs covered spotless floors. A fire crackled, and home cooking wafted through the air.

A dog barked a greeting from a carved wood chair, and Little Annie shook her head, sending earrings clinking. Her voice sounded heavy, and tears glistened over her cheeks. “You opened the basket before you reached the land of the living.” She sighed and opened her arms, welcoming him into an embrace. “At least now you can see our home as it truly is now that you’re a part of this land.”

“You mean, I’m dead?”

The man who paddled the canoe kissed Annie atop her head and wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders.

Harry gulped. “You’re my sister’s husband?”

The man laughed. “Yes. And this is our home. Looks different when you’re a part of the non-living tribe, doesn’t it?”

Harry took in the opulent surroundings and nodded, acclimating to his new existence.

Sienna’s Slumbers

Sienna’s Slumbers

Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black 22 November, 2013

Sienna labored over a day to bring Brandon into the world.  His head was misshapen after the arduous journey through the birth canal, and his skin was mottled, but his parents thought him perfect.  They counted the chubby toes and tickle his plump cheeks, but Sienna was exhausted and medicated, and thus it was difficult for her to stay awake.

“Swaddle that wee-one tightly in this blue blanket, Aroon,” said the visiting maiden aunt, Moira, holding out a blanket knitted of soft angora, a “B” embroidered in silver thread.  The proud father, Aroon, handed the child to Grandma Ania, deferring to Grandma’s expertise.  Aunt Moira sung in an ancient language familiar to Aroon from his own childhood, and he smiled.  His Grandmother beamed up at him, predicting that the baby would be safe and strong.

A baby had a way of unifying even the most divided of families.  Sienna hoped that, with her baby’s birth, Aroon’s hitherto unwelcoming family would find some common ground and accept her.  However, Sienna rested through the scene, her breathing shallow.  She dreamed of small people pulling on her bed sheets.  She stretched out her hand and felt their downy hair.  One bit her finger, and she woke with a start.  The room was dark, and she was alone.  She pressed the button to summon the nurse and request the return of her baby Brandon. 

The nurse entered the room, pushing a sterile, silver tray appointed with syringes and medicine cups.  Sienna struggled to sit upright, but the nurse gently encouraged her to rest.  “Where is my baby?”  The nurse contemplated her brown pressed-wood clipboard, apparently lost in thought.  “Here, take your medicine, dear,” the nurse said, presenting a clear plastic cup with 5 mls of amber liquid. 

Sienna obediently downed the liquid before asking for her boy again.  A bit dribbled on the pink and red knitted throw covering her lap.  The nurse ignored Sienna and left the room.  Sienna pushed the nurse call button again, but sleep overtook before the answer.  Her dreams had the same thin-armed people reaching out to her, childlike in stature, bringing to her succulent fruits heaped on silver platters.

When she woke, Sienna’s brain felt as though it were mangled in a wood-chipper.  She pressed the nurse-call button, wishing to have her baby brought.  No nurse came, but Sienna could hear far-off, familiar voices singing a song from her childhood in a language long-forgotten.  She shook her head to quiet her mind’s buzzing, struggling to remember something.  She thought that she heard them say that it was a trade, a fair deal, an unhealed mother for her bairn.
The voice of an old woman continued to convince, “’Tis the way of things, Aroon. It canna be helped. In every generation, the little ones come for a member of our family. ‘Twas the way with you and your own dear mum. Your wife would wish to go in the child’s stead, as any mum would wish. As your own mum wished.”

Sienna squinted through murky incandescent light. She was looking for someone, someone small whose name began with a “b,” a boy.  He was being kept from her, she thought, or was he searching for her? 

Bells like wind-chimes tinkled nearby. A woman with unbound, waist-length silver hair led a fair child into the room. Her musical voice spoke in a lilting language, relaxing as a summer brook tripping over algae-covered rocks. “Look, Berrin, ‘tis she, wrapped in the callin’ bedding,” the woman said.  Berrin reached out his long, thin arms to Sienna, imploring with silent, up-tilted eyes.  The boy beckoned with pantomime. Floral scents perfumed the air.

The name “Berrin” seemed familiar to Sienna, or at least similar to something she could almost recall.  She pulled out her i.v. and went away with him.

Angels Unrecognized

Angels Unrecognized

By Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black

Written for Alexis Virginia Blickenderfer-Peck

Hers was the kind of angst that wracked deep, anguished sobs from the depths of her soul and left a longing emptiness inside of her heart and an ache in her stomach.  Like many a new teenaged girl, her grasp of her own emotions was far beyond her mastery, years away.  She ran through the woods to a quiet, secluded pond fed by several small visible streams and a large one that was hidden from view, deep within the marshy ground.  Such was the self-absorbed nature of her concern that she was completely unaware that her progress was carefully observed by many a glistening eye.

Upon a rock next to the pond, heedless of the effect of nature upon her designer clothes, she sat and gave way to wrenching sobs.  When this torrent calmed, she pled the case of the colossal unfairness that have been visited upon her, yelling her distresses to the surrounding forest.  Her nose was too long and pointed, she was teased by most of her classmates for every conceivable reason, and she was given a large number of chores to complete at home.  Surely no one else could understand the magnitude of her trials, so she moaned her woes to the strangely silent wilderness.

Unseen, the eyes continued to watch, the ears absorbing the words.  Heedlessly, she poured out all of her adolescent complaints, culminating in a seemingly sincere wish to “end it all,” since that would “show them all” and make those who offended feel a small measure of her pain and know the weight of their own guilt.

With these words, the smooth surface of the pond broke into a consecutively larger series of circles with a gentle sigh and splash.  The water glistened enticingly in the dappled sunlight, undulating like a flamenco dancer’s skirts.  A small greenish head was the source of the disturbance, a head whose unblinking eyes were unmistakably fixed upon her.  Sad little bundle that she was, the sudden appearance of the emerald scales surrounding the compassionate onyx eyes startled her to silence.

With a voice like apple blossoms floating on a gentle spring breeze, he reassured her, telling her that her woes reached his ears.  All of the creatures of the pond, he simpered, felt her pain and disappointment keenly.  He flattered her, calling her “little beauty” and implored she confide some more in him.  Unblinking, he cocked his head to the left in rapt attention.

“You can talk,” she marveled, tears drying on the lovely flesh of her healthy cheeks.  She suspected that, as in many a fairy tale of her reading, this gentle creature had fallen in love-fallen in love with her!  A romantic heart is often struck with such fantasies. Her tongue loosed further as she warmed to a conversation that explored the deepest reaches of her heart. She blushed as he continued to flatter, finding herself enamored of his sympathetic nature and deep, kind voice.  She revealed all of the torment of her young life, the bitter disappointments and rendezvous with rivals, the unachieved ambitions, the longing to have and be as well-endowed with blessings as her classmates.  As she outlined the many disservices that she’d endured, her anguish returned, and with it the desire to be done with all of the pain.

He of the pond moved closer, pulling a bit of his smooth body from the water to rest his beautiful green head against her muddied converse high tops.  He nodded in sympathy, understanding each feeling, and seemed to shed tears of his own with water from the pond washing over his eyes as dark as a summer evening.  His own bitterness at the great and unacknowledged distresses of her life he added in honeyed tones.  As a friend, he commiserated.  He mounted indignation and piled upon her already heightened emotions a greater feeling of entitlement, encouraging her to explore the direst of circumstances and consider their even deeper and more disturbing meanings.  A slight was certainly not an innocent oversight.  A misspoken word was in truth malice scarcely disguised.  There were plotters and conspirators, people who envied her and misjudged her, forces that wished her to fail.

Her tears fell upon his scaled head as he gently pulled ever-so-slightly further from the pond toward her lap.  Quite suddenly, with a raucous clatter of wings and a cracking tree branch, a crow the color of autumn twillight swooped upon this idealic scene, cawing and cawing and cawing again in grating, unpleasant tones.  This cacophony startled them, causing him to silently retreat into the water and her to spring to her feet with a girlish scream.

The crow circled and called, seeming to implore her to remember the love and friendship that she’d experienced, the many blessings of her life.  Eventually, in greater despair, she loudly and angrily cursed the crow as yet another example of the great despair of her life.  She crouched into a miserable ball, sobbing, never noticing the crow’s sullen retreat to a nearby birch where his black feathers contrasted with the papery bark.

With silence again restored, she lifted her tear-stained face and searched the surface of the pond for the friendly face.  It was not there.  “Oh, no!”  she lamented, calling for the beautiful friend to please return to her.  After many anguished minutes, the sincere return restored her sense of  peace.  She bravely stretched out her French-manicured hand in a friendly gesture.  His gem-like lips seemed to smile.  With a sigh, she moved closer to the water’s edge where he renewed his assessment of the many wrongs that she outlined.  There was no gratitude for the blessings bestowed, only coveting of the blessings of others.  Instead of self-examination, criticism of the motives and presentations of others was the order of the day.

The crow cawed and cawed and cawed again, but the girl was so enamored of the voice of her sympathetic friend that she did not heed its calls.  It came close and closer, trying to catch her attention.  He gathered some golden straw to remind her of home and laid it at her side, but she only heard more of the dangers of loving, since love was, according to the denizen of the pond, only another lie,  a way to control her, a way to make her feel guilty.  He slid his long, green body further from the pond, seemingly to use his body to comfort her.

The crow brought leaves to represent the fine clothes that sheltered her so stylishly.  He brought a leaf from the last season so bug-eaten that only the thinnest skeleton of veins  remained, a symbol of the many who did without even simple comforts.  She, however,  heard only of the finest luxuries that she lacked in her own life.  He brought her a worm, be it as a show of food or a warning, which she did notice, leaping to her feet with another scream and much waving of arms.  Her anger poured out of her and washed over the crow.  She vented every concern in a hot blast that left the crow abashed, his intentions clearly not only misunderstood but also reviled.

How dare he interfere!  How dare he bring her such disgusting things!  Straw and leaves and a worm?  She could not imagine their meanings and misjudged the crow, determining that its black feathers represented a dark personality and lack of concern.  He of the pond encouraged her disgust of the crow, even suggesting that she find some way to rid the world of such a meddling fool.  She picked up a small, hard rock and threw it at the crow.  Finding her target surprised and unmoving, the rock struck.  The red of the blood that washed over the crow’s glossy feathers was so dark that the self-absorbed girl did not recognize the damage that resulted from her hasty action.

She turned away, curling up with the white plastic toes of her black high tops disrupting the clarity of the pond water by dislodging some of the surrounding dirt, her head resting on a clump of spongy green moss.  She closed her eyes, ignoring the weak cawing of the injured crow, and listened instead to the melancholy and turmoil of her heart, soothed by the relaxing voice of her beautiful emerald friend.  She did not notice that the beautiful voice, continuing to utter dreadful half-truths, was increasingly close to her ear.  The sadness that she permitted to consume her heart as she gave way to despair seemed to leave a huge lump in her throat around which it was becoming difficult to swallow.  Her tears seemed to wet her entire body.

Her eyes flew open with realization.  She could not swallow, indeed, for the glistening coils of the denizen of the pond were securely wrapped around her throat.  It was not her own tears that soaked her body, but the cold of the pond into which she was being drawn.  She could not cry out, so constricted was her airway.  Her heart pounded with indignation.  She wanted to live!  She did not truly wish to end her life, did not want to stay at this pond where she was flattered and mislead!  Her hands were too small to remove the great snake’s many loops from her neck and chest.  His words continued, honey-coated and reassuring.  He would take her to an underwater world where she could meet others who could share her woes, who would understand the inequity of life.  The water closed in on her shoulders as she struggled.

With a flutter of feathers stained dull with blood, the crow landed on the topmost coil of the snake.  With a wickedly long beak, she pecked at the unblinking onyx eyes, causing the snake to loosen its grip.  The girl, with a tremendous burst of will to live and a strength born of good health and excellent nutrition, pushed off and broke free of the insidious grip of the snake and rushed to the nearby shore.  Thus freed of its tethering, the snake used  its full body to advantage, attacking the injured crow.  Valiant was the struggle put up, but with a wide, crimson mouth, the green scales covered the black scales and disappeared under the now-murky waters of the pond.

She sat, soggy, eyes wide in disbelief, mouth agape, heart still pounding an agitated beating.  She had escaped a terrible fate with the help of an unwanted friend, a friend she not only misjudge and despised but personally injured, a friend who was now dead.  She looked down at her hands and saw beside her the mossy growth on which she rested her head, and beside it, straw and leaves and a worm.  She collected the straw and leaves, but not the worm and left the pond with a backward glance.  She was now aware of the danger of giving in to despair, of self –pity and not counting the blessings bestowed upon her.  She returned to her life, much more grateful, much less judgmental, much improved of character.

Often angels arrive unrecognized and demons undetected, and it is easy to confuse the two.

Written for Alexis Virginia on 16 April, 2012, as a result of her challenge word.

Thank you, dear girl, for indulging me in this game of the written word!  I love you so much more than I can say, and I greatly look forward to reading all that you have to say!!!

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