Tiptoe past the pumpkin

by Stephen Thompson
(and yes, you may read it to the tune of 'Tiptoe through the Tulips ... I did.)

Tiptoe through the doorway
Very softly that is where they may be
Waiting in the hallway for me.

Oh, tiptoe from your safe room
With the window where the red Sun's dying
No use waiting here 'till it's too dark to see.

Tiptoe past the closed doors
In the darkened silence that is where they may be
So tiptoe don't try running you see.

Tiptoe down the stairway
Don't look back they may be creeping
But don't fall or they'll get you for sure.

Tiptoe through the sitting room
With the pumpkin with the evil red eyes
Is it one of them waiting for you.

Tiptoe through the kitchen
With the sharp knives and the darkened windows
Carefully,  still the pantry to pass.

Run now to the back door and slam it open
And you're at the bonfire your family around you
No more tiptoeing in the darkness for you.


Another Day

by Stephanie Ivey


My heart beats..
When I think of you and
My loins tighten,
at the thought of your touch.

Your touch...
That heals me and
Feeds my soul.
Strengthens  me for another day.

When the phone rings...
I hope it's you.
Disappointment surges...
When I know it's not.

The days lengthen...
And I don't hear your voice.
Not even a text...
Breaks the long day.

Then out of the blue...
I hear from you.
Saying you miss me,
And will see me soon.

And my heart takes flight...
While my loins grow tight.
And I think of your touch,
And I know I will wait...
Another day. 

Death and Foxes


By Martin J. Manco

This past July, Morpheus Renard Brack arrived at his second of three years of study to become an accredited wizard at New World Magischola. He was a member of the prestigious House Croatan, founded by Virginia Dare and symbolized by the color orange and the turtle. Morpheus was close with other members of the house, even when they might have otherwise conflicted (one housemate was toying with dark magic and violently hated vampires, while several others were from old wizard families, and Morpheus was of mixed heritage and eager to meet and befriend various cryptid species). He shifted between easygoing and meganerd… and between human and fox and octopus and eventually cardinal. You see, Morpheus was a nagual, an animal shapeshifter from Mesoamerican myth, and he had only recently met his birth mother because she had left him with his mundane lecturer father and retreated to the wilderness to live as a fox. After a bad experience the first time he shapeshifted at a magical school hidden in the deserts and canyons of the Southwest, Morpheus was a bit shy and hid the fact that he was a shapeshifter. This also granted him some other opportunities for mischief and rebellion, but he had a really difficult time understanding other humans, made all the more confusing by his easy rapport with many dangerous and wild magical creatures. This year, however, after a summer spent surfing and visiting mermaids off the West Coast, Morpheus planned to “come out of the closet” as a nagual.
The interesting part is that I am Morpheus.
A recent kickstarter was wildly successful, allowing game designers to develop a live action role-playing event that lasted four long weekends during the summer. It would be held at the University of Richmond, which has some beautiful architecture alongside a lake, with a wooded area, a Greek amphitheater, and sorority cottages used for the five Houses. I jumped at the opportunity to sign up for this event, and I was excited to get the bare bones of the character (along with a wizardly acceptance letter in the mail) as the months passed and it got closer and closer to my weekend. However, for a short time, I wondered if I’d be able to make it at all.
My grandmother passed away a week and a half or so before my trip to Virginia. She had lived through a long struggle with breathing difficulties, confusion about what was going on around her, decreased mobility, many trips back and forth from the hospital for various brushes with death, and suffering the losses of her sister and my grandfather over the last few years.  I was relieved she was no longer in pain or confused, and I had trouble working up tears at the loss, but something felt off despite my dry eyes. It seemed like the vivacious, funny lady who had been my favorite relative should still have been around. She had watched my sister and me tear up paper towels and napkins to mix them as imaginary spaghetti in her cooking pots on the floor of her kitchen when we were little; bought me books and introduced me to the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the King and I, and the Sound of Music; repeatedly bemoaned my love of bats; was happy when I compared her to Storm from the X-men because they both had white hair; and always shared a playful wink with me. To not have her physically here anymore, even if I do believe she is with us in spirit, was a shock. Then came the arrangements for the funeral mass and the interment ceremony, and the moment when I offered to skip New World Magischola to help out. Fortunately, I was assured that wasn’t necessary. The interment ceremony happened before I left, so I got to say goodbye as my grandmother’s ashes were sealed with my grandfather’s.
I’d decided to take the train down to Richmond to get a sort of “Platform 9 & ¾” experience. It turns out that on hot summer days, train tracks can melt or buckle when a great deal of weight speeds by them, so over an hour was added to my trip as the train practically crawled through Virginia, making me late. I finally arrived, rushed from the station to campus, rapidly got settled in, briefly met my suitemates, and ran off to the welcome ceremonies. There I was coached on matters from the respectful (how to address or refer to people when I wasn’t sure of their gender), to the practical (using the American Sign Language applause rather than clapping so that people could make announcements without being interrupted) to the magical. That last category included how to cast spells in the game system and (more importantly) how to react to spells cast at one, and how to identify and shape the qualities of magical creatures (the special ability of cryptozoologists). I picked up my robes and a light-up, specially crafted wand, and was introduced to my housemates. We discussed the character of House Croatan and how we wanted to develop it. We were adamant about not wanting to be the “Slytherin” of New World Magischola, nor did we want to be seen as the snobby house. Instead, we focused on treating each other as family… sometimes fractious, but willing to stand together against greater threats… and treating others to hospitality and assistance/recognition for their accomplishments. Finally, it was time to begin.
Over the next three days, I lived in the dorms, looked forward to meals not only for the wide array of food but for the amusing announcements the chancellor was forced to read, and attended classes in Cryptozoology, Healing Magic, Magical Combat and Defense, Ethics and Theory of Magic, and Herbology. I attended clubs (sadly, I never made it to the Wyvern Riding Club, but the Prismatic Ring… a.k.a. the campus GLBTQA society was a lot of fun, and I had my tea leavings read by three astromancers). I got to encounter scarecrows, fairies, hobs, unicorns, satyrs, vampires, other nagualli, and ghosts. I was enchanted and charmed and empowered. I received a care package from my character’s mother, which brought tears to my eyes for no reason other than the fact that Morpheus missed her fiercely despite her absence from his early life.  I did a lot of homework and attempted to study, though things were remarkably busy. New members of House Croatan were welcomed with rituals commemorating the founder’s descent into the Underworld and with the sharing of secrets. Some events, however, stood out.
In an effort to prevent all-out war between wizardly factions and save a flying island from falling, House Croatan mobilized to save the day.  Morpheus led a team of Cryptozoologists to form alliances with other nagualli, fey, and cryptids, but they split up to cover more ground. Hearing reports of a fearsome chupacabra on campus, Morpheus rushed (in fox form) to find the creature, using empathic and soul-sharing spells to link the two. The chupacabra, who called themself “I Am,” was confused and frightened… and then a trio of hunters showed up, making things even worse. These hunters had seen I Am attack and poison their little brother before their eyes, and had tracked I Am down for vengeance. Morpheus’ connection to I Am meant that they couldn’t attack because any spells aimed at I Am would be redirected towards Morpheus. Morpheus tried to figure out why I Am had harmed the child in the past, but wasn’t able to find out more except that I Am had been scared. And then Morpheus got too close to the chupacabra for I Am’s comfort, and ended up slashed with foot-long claws across his chest. Physically, the moment was painless, but it seemed excruciating as my character fell to the ground. Fortunately, Morpheus was saved by healing spells from various sources, including the hunters and a golem. With that, the link with I Am was severed, and the chupacabra slain. Morpheus was despondent, since his whole goal of mediating between cryptids and human magi seemed impossible.
There wasn’t time to brood, however. Each of the Houses had to gather at different points across campus to restore the warped energies of the ley lines that crossed campus. Morpheus had to report his failure to the rest of the house, but they were supportive and sympathetic. Morpheus’ vulpine senses and familiarity with cryptids would come in handy, for Virginia Dare had also been a cryptozoologist, and was known for commanding many strange beasts. We formed a ring around the hidden grave of our house ghost, Mo (short for Imogen), a colonial artificer who had been killed by a cannon blast during the American Revolution, and began trying to right the ley lines. The astromancers cried out, however, for they saw a hideous creature with tentacles and eyes and teeth enveloping the ley lines. Mo was harmed by the creature, whom only a few of us could see. One of our House Presidents asked the other astromancers to open Morpheus’ eyes so the monster could be identified. I was wracking my brain for something fitting, considering and discarding various Lovecraftian horrors before settling on something worse: a fallen seraph. As seraphim were spirits of pure, brilliant, burning Truth, this nightmare embodied a sort of insane lie that infected all around it. We could only drive it off, Morpheus said, by righting its impression of the world with our own truths. Together, we united, despite different bloodlines and heritages and class conflicts, to save reality itself.
We succeeded, and even managed to prevent wizardly war without the help of chupacabra, but something was still off. The next day, the young lady playing Mo showed up without her ghostly attire and pale makeup… instead, she introduced herself as a living Professor Imogen. We were shocked and confused, but through some digging (and a helpful vampire) we discovered that all of the ghosts had been brought forward in time from shortly before their deaths! However, there was something wrong with their existence, and they would suffer even more than they had originally if they remained in this time. With heavy hearts, we had to perform another ritual. We each said goodbye to Professor Imogen, each thanking her for all that she shared with us, and watched as she faded to her true place in time. There wasn’t a dry eye in the group.
But life goes on. Morpheus publically came out as a nagual in an announcement mourning the loss of both I Am and the chupacabra’s young victim and remembering both. We had a dance to attend, which was mandatory, and we had to do so with at least one date. I had opted not to arrange a date over Facebook, waiting for someone to appeal to Morpheus naturally. I was surprised when it actually happened, but Morpheus did find himself drawn to a cryptozoology classmate from another house. But were they available, or had they already been asked? The dance was that evening, and time was running out. When Morpheus did work up the courage to ask his classmate out, he was disheartened to find that they were already going to the dance with others. But, a friendship was struck, and we agreed to get to know each other better… and I look forward to exploring the awkwardness and excitement and mutual understanding. Then I found two Herbology classmates to dance with, and (after some handy dance lessons) we had a blast (though Morpheus was disappointed the DJ never played Ylvis’ “the Fox”). I spent the evening dancing with our housemates, friends, and the newly re-ghostly Mo. While House Croatan won second place in the House Cup (no small feat), we also were treated to a dance off, a group of vampires to dance with, the ghosts dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and a real-life marriage proposal between the players of two of our schoolmates.
In the end, we had a debriefing coaching session and spent some time getting to know each other’s real identities, but also thinking about what our characters and the experience could teach us. Morpheus’ energy and drive to connect with others was heady and wonderful, but he also had a tendency to rush from one thing to the next, avoiding getting too close or spending too much time with anyone. It also drove home how much I struggle to connect with people and form lasting relationships outside of my family. House Croatan continues to keep in touch and support each other via facebook, and there have been a couple meet-ups and trips since then. We are also preparing for a big Yuletide event involving a conflict between mermaid stirpes, the rumors of a monstrous wendigo, and the machinations of a magical corporation, which I will be attending as Morpheus.
Additionally, I found myself thinking about the Harry Potter series (which, by the way, is still considered fictional in the New World Magischola Universe). The theme of life and death is woven throughout the series, from the legend of the Deathly Hallows themselves, to Harry’s unique status as the Boy Who Lived, to Voldemort’s desperate and ultimately futile attempt to defy death even as he sacrificed others, to Harry and Neville’s parents and Snape’s mourning, as well as the deaths of several of the popular characters. In many ways, I gained new perspective with death and my grandmother’s passing during the event, such as through Morpheus’ own near-death experience via chupacabra, the ritual with Mo, the confrontation with the Seraph, and his separation from his mother. For a very liminal character, existing between the human and animal worlds, and crossing the boundaries in his own form of “coming out,” Morpheus was able to deal with those situations in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined on my own. Some of that spirit, that caring and concern for family and friends, that imagination, and that desire to connect with others came from my grandmother, and lives on in me. Come to think of it, grandma’s winks were a little foxy. I wonder if mine are?

Scratches come alive

by Stephen Thompson

Let me open up your mind
make the scratches come alive
put the music to mere Letters
to spawn a dance of Words.
Primitive Words of names and actions
clothe themselves in Sentences
short, or long; sophisticated,
or raw elemental in action and colour.
and everywhere the spectral web
of Grammar guides their tiny feet.
The creative mind lays down more ink
the Sentences now think
and joining hands they summon their friends
for the song of Paragraph.

Another inky island grows, upon the virgin Page
It's Words and Sentences unfurl, another Paragraph.

And so the inky compost feeds, a field of whispering Prose
and on until the page is full, with silent shouts and images.
Then the  mystic fungi, sends it's spores to the empty page below;
And still the inky compost runs to fill the waiting page
and page upon page the silence fills with the beasts of Thought
and Emotion and plans unfold and histories told give birth
to a host of characters.
The chapter ends with it's white so clean
that the words seem to have died in a desert.
But turn the page and the stories rage
and images flash like lightening.
The characters born in the black ink storm
chase their fates through the pages of chapters.
the mind  paints their world and their actions and wishes
and seals the fate of their time, be it good or bad
fed by words that grow meaning from meaningless scratches.

Call for Caption - 4 May 2016


by Stephen Thompson 

The misty forest path beckons
Whispers stories to the artist's mind
Reality crawls to hide in the shadows
While the power of possibilities charges the air.

* * * *

YOU ARE THE ONE
by Marcus Joe Prudhon 

It matters not, when darkness may seem to surround thee.
Surrender not, your heart and soul will forever remain free.
Press on against all, whether human or some inner wraith.
For you, only you, can destroy that inner feeling of faith.
The moss-covered steps ahead seem to threaten your fall.
An empty threat, for you have answered your faiths' call.
Raising eyes, looking ahead, and there, within your sight.
An end to the dark, before you, freedom and glorious light.

The Ghosts of War-torn Lovers

War loomed on the horizon. They both knew it was coming, they just hoped that it wouldn't happen so soon. He received his letter telling him when to report for duty on a brilliant October day. They had two weeks to get things in order and spend as much time as they could together before he had to leave.

Standing at the end of the lane, they embraced each other for what they both hoped wasn't the last time.

She promised him she would wait for him forever. He promised her he would come home, even if it took him forever. She clung to him with tears in her eyes, knowing that this could be the last time she held him. His embrace was just as tight, as he wondered if he really would make it back to his wife and unborn child.

She slowly loosened her grip and stared at his beloved face. He gently caressed the slight mound that was their growing child, his gaze sweeping the autumn landscape, the leaf lined lane and his family home. "I will love you for eternity," she whispered. His reply was just as ragged, "I will love you even longer."

He wiped a lone tear from her cheek, knowing that she would show nothing but strength to the world. She was glad that she wasn't a sobbing disaster as he turned and walked away. He would never know how hard it was for her to let him go. She would never know how much he wanted to sweep her up and leave it all behind. He told her he would come home in fall, just like when he left, that way she'd know when to watch for him.

The letters came frequently during the first year. She filled hers with news of their son and all of the things happening around town. He told her about the people he met and things he saw in the city he was in. But then he was sent further away and they started coming less and less frequently. The last letter she received was three years after he left, and he had been promoted to a Major.

She never forgot her promise, she'd start watching for him at the beginning of October. Then one day she saw a lone figure walking down the lane. Her heart stuttered, because it wasn't him, she just knew it wasn't. And she was right; their son, now five, came to stand beside her as they watched a man in uniform come closer and closer.

In a toneless voice, he delivered news that no woman wants to hear, "Ma'am," he said, "I'm sorry to report that your husband has been listed as dead. I'm sorry for your loss." With those words, he turned and left, never knowing the wreck he left behind.

She pulled herself together and lived her life for her son. She never remarried, and when her son was courting a young lady from town, she insisted that he build her a small cabin behind the main house. When he married and had a family, she moved her belongings into her new home and lived there for many years. And every October, she kept her vigil for the man that held her heart. She had promised him and she wouldn't break it.

She was a spry ninety-five when she passed away in her sleep. Her grand-children and great grandchildren had filled her life with happiness and laughter, only occasionally would they see the hint of sorrow in her eyes. They knew the reason why, even if they didn't talk about it.

Several generations were born and raised in the family home, and it's still in the family today. But they all say the same thing, every October, if you're in the right place at the right time, you'll catch a ghostly glimmer standing outside looking down the lane.

She never gave up her autumn watch, she knew he would come home to her eventually. Then one October, when the leaves started falling earlier than usual, as she was silently standing watch, she saw a young man coming towards her. She knew in her heart of hearts that he had finally come home and raced to meet him. They met in the middle of the leaf strewn lane and embraced as if they would never let the other one go.

She told him, "I waited for you!" He replied, "I came home!" Hand in hand, they turned and disappeared into the morning mists.

The shades of Autumn

by Stephen Thompson

The shades of Autumn paint our woodland road again
And squirrels rush to hide their nuts
The Summer's gone with it's exhausting memories
The Winter's grip is still to come
And you're still here
And you're still here.

Forbidden Home by Marc Prudhon

The second entry for our Call for Caption regarding the image shown. By sheer coincidence, both who submitted came up with the same title! ... great minds and all ;)

by Sir Marc Prudhon

The house stood, tucked into dark woods, at the end of a dirt lane.
Many claimed it was cursed, haunted, or under some terrible bane.
Even in the hearts of those who scoffed, there was a feeling of Doubt.
No door ever opened, no window broken, for fear of letting something out.
The county agent told all the news, that made some thoughts run wild;
A young couple had bought the house, the wife, pregnant with child.
The young man painted and repaired; together the two washed and cleaned.
The Forbidden Home restored, floors, windows and walls, they all gleamed.
The couple wondered why no visitors came, from any neighborhoods.
Thought probably because so far out that lane, surrounded by woods.
Winter storm raging, snow drifting; from trees, many limbs being torn.
Of course this would have to be the night the baby decides to be born.
The husband goes to the phone, what he finds fills him with dread.
No dial tone, because of the storm, the phone has gone dead.
He starts for his wife in the bedroom, he has to explain, tell her something.
When to his great surprise, that phone behind him bursts forth in a ring.
Grabbing it up, through the cackle and hiss, caused by the storm,
He hears a woman saying, "I'm sorry, I must have dialed wrong."
She doesn't hang up, as he tells her that his wife is in labor.
His phone won't call out, he needs help if he is to save her.
Then he sits with his wife, praying, wishing he could do more.
In the storm, he heard no car, but there's a knock at the door.
The Doctor introduced himself, said ''I'm Jonathan DeGrace.
You've done wonders here, now one could love this old place."
The Doctor went in with the wife and in the midst of that storm,
A new life entered this world, a sweet baby boy was born.
He sponged off the child, lifted it to its' mothers breast.
Told the father, "You're all tired, please try to get rest."
The Doctor looked at the three, an old man's kindly smile.
Said, ''I've no other calls, Will bide and watch for a while.'
They awakened just past dawn to sunshine, the storm gone.
Father went to thank the Dr, after checking wife and new son.
He was nowhere in the house, no car outside, nothing at all.
His wife said, "The Dr must have had to answer another call."
The three drove into the Village, to thank and bless Dr DeGrace.
But asking after him, were told he didn't practice in that place.
One old woman, said "Dr DeGrace? Sit and his story I'll tell.
My Mother told me that he was a man of neither Heaven nor Hell.
He believed not in God, but had a demeanor both kindly and mild.
Said to the Priest, he'd battle any power for the life of a child.
When I was a girl of five, there was a yellow fever outbreak.
None knew whose life would be the next it would take.
Jonathan DeGrace went without sleep, fighting to save any life.
But in the midst of that horror, the fever took his pregnant wife.
He felt he had failed her, in spite of all those ill that he did save.
For months after that, he spent days kneeled by her grave.
One day he walked into those woods, facing away from town.
Others searched for weeks, but his body never was found.
Yes, your old house was his home, he and his dear wife.
She died here in town, he despaired, then took his own life.
So last night in the storm, you prayed for your baby and spouse.
Not Satan or Hell could have kept his Spirit from his old house."
Husband, Wife and child, no matter what was claimed in those parts,
Went to the old house, their home,with love and joy in their hearts.
They had many more children and on any time, day to day.
The old house ever rang with the sound of children at play.
Their oldest, a boy born in a storm, his name was a key.
Went away to college, studied eight years, got his degree.
Came back with his license, now a good man grown.
Now called Dr Jonathan, practices there in that town.
Anything can be changed when love makes new seed sown.
None now name that house near the woods, The Forbidden Home.

The Forbidden Home by Bonnie Ramsburg

The following was submitted in response to a "call for caption" concerning the image included. Clearly, Bonnie's muse was on overdrive ;)

* * *

by Bonnie Ramsburg

It was rumored that an insane woman had lived and died there. It's said that she murdered her family and then treated the bodies as if they were still alive.

They also claimed it may have been an insane asylum at one point in it's history, where atrocities of "science" were used to try to cure the patients, and most of them died. Once, a child of 10 was thought to have been seen in an upstairs window, but no one was brave enough to go in and see if it was real.

The local township wanted to demolish the home, but they were too terrified of the curse they feared they would unleash. The Home was never put on the market, they knew nobody would buy it. They put up warnings and fenced the property off in hopes of keeping the stray traveler away from it.

But it never failed. At least once a year, some stranger from the city would find their way into town, decide to go sightseeing, and no matter how many townspeople told them to stay away from that end of the community, the traveler would undoubtedly head in that direction, never to be heard from again.

Then one day a nondescript man showed up in town. He meandered his way around the local district, listened to the warnings and headed in the direction of The Forbidden Home. The locals shook their heads and went about their day, positive that they would never see him again.

Suddenly, the sky turned pitch black and there was an unholy scream in the air. The families of the community quaked in fear, and stared in the direction from which the screams came. They saw a red glow hovering over the horizon, above where the Home was located. They ran to their homes, or the nearest building, in hopes that whatever was happening would pass them by.

The screams continued for hours, some of the inhabitants of the town were seen leaving their safe harbor and heading in the direction of the Home. Nothing their friends and neighbors did could stop them.

Eventually dawn broke, and with it came silence. The screaming stopped, the red glow took on a more subdued, hazy shade and about ninety percent of the townspeople were no where to be seen. Those that remained hesitantly exited their homes, and huddled together in confusion.

Out of the morning mist, from the direction of the Home, they saw a lone figure walking down the road. The nondescript stranger looked a little worse for wear, as his appearance was such that he appeared to have been in a battle.

As he passed the huddled mass of humanity, he turned to them and with gleaming eyes said, "The Forbidden Home is no more. The demons that lived here are no more. And if you wish to survive this night, you should burn this entire town, the woods and all property owned by this township. Because they will come looking for me, but will only find you. The fire will muddy the trail, and give you and your families a chance to flee to a more normal life. If you don't leave, you'll either die, or become demons yourselves. Your choice." And with that eerie proclamation, he vanished.

Did the townspeople listen? If you follow a lone road back til it dead ends in a burned patch of earth the size of a small town, you may or may not find a friendly face to give you a tour of the area and tell you the story. But if you do make such a trip, be sure your affairs are in order, because you just never know what might happen.

In honor of our most prolific contributor

Helping unpublished authors realize their publishing dreams
in loving memory of author Lyle Dagnen


 

Susan Brooks Fleming, known by her nom de plume Lyle Dagnen, was a prolific writer with an unparalleled depth of knowledge and compassion. Her work evoked not only the fantastical and romantic, but also inspired hope for the world we now live in as well as the world as it may become.

Facebook friends near and far, along with family and neighbors, had their foundations shaken with the news of Susan's passing in July, 2015. She touched those who knew her in profound and lasting ways with wit, wisdom and pathos.

E. Gads Hill Press will take on the herculean task of compiling as many of her works as we can acquire in order to publish a Lyle Dagnen compendium, and la Vie Sirene magazine will continue to include her musings in each issue, as long as the magazine runs.

Susan, you will always be with us, whether on the page, up in the skies riding your black dragon, or in our hearts, reminding us how truly magical a single person can be. 

We love and miss you, 
~your tribe

Call for caption - June 30, 2015

[We put out a 'call for caption' on this photo, Below is the answer to that call]

by Stephen Thompson

Steadily, silently, the sea had chewed at the coast, swallowing stones and tasty rocks. At last even the castle had been abandoned. The Sea had swallowed its very bones, leaving only a stone doorway standing to testify to its former glory.

The rocky promontory was built of sterner stuff and valiantly resisted all the onslaughts on its rocky shores. There it rests, the victor for all to see.