A stretch case Fiona thought. The evidence was circumstantial and won’t pass the divorce courts despite having a damning and material impact on the will.
“So how much you want for this?” muttered the leery-eyed informant.
Fiona directed a sharp gaze at the stubby man before pushing the brief back. “These paternity results are under doctor-patient confidentiality. Unearth some legitimate dirt next time.”
“The husband won’t be pleased when I show him this” grunted the annoyed rat turned treacherous.
“Go ahead, they already know” lied Fiona with open disdain that concealed regret. In truth, only the kid didn’t yet know.
The school never assigned anyone to locker 328. A century ago, a group of misfits spread a rumor that a kid had lost his hand when he reached into the chasm. The hand was never recovered and the boy had to be sedated after hysterically pawing with a limb for the its return. Since then, the story of the locker took on a life of its own. During the great war, it housed a gateway to a Lovecraftian universe that whispered sacrifices of the flesh. The red scare by the communists converted it into a secret panel that opened a fallout shelter. The age of love transformed it into an altar for every Eastern deity and pagan god, competition for offerings notwithstanding. Columbine to weapon’s cache. 9/11 to terrorist dead drop. Trump’s election to a stuffed ballot box. A decade later, the county demolished the school and built a hospital in its place. The lockers were destroyed but the story lived on as all of them were replaced with drawers.
The separatists drew lines in the sand after the cold-blooded assassination of their leader. Once a prosperous colony, Damos was on the verge of fracturing in two after an early winter wiped out the harvest and unyielding blizzards decimated the population. Late spring trickled in but arguments for abandoning the settlement started long before. Southward raged the young separatists who dreamt of green pastures and wild game roaming the countryside. Nay voiced the old majority who recalled nothing but desolation over those grounds from whence they traversed long ago. Two shots were fired at the pulpit and mayhem ensued. By next spring, there were no survivors.
Daisy waited by the tracks day and night for her beloved. The morning express fueled a jolt of anticipation but would deflate after the final call midnight. For years she kept the routine, working to uphold the promise made long ago. He’d come to her and she’d wait for him in Ljubljana before setting off to travel together. In truth, the two did meet but tragedy struck soon afterwards when their train collided headlong into another. Daisy survived the accident but with anterograde amnesia. Her beloved perished but not before whispering last words that he’d wait for her in the afterlife.
Sally and Paula adored their older sister Martha. Growing up in the orphanage was difficult as food, warmth, and time were all in short supply. Discipline kept all the children in line and the daily tasks would grind even the toughest pieces. Sally and Paula were particularly at risk as both carried troubled pasts. Sally survived her parents in a train crash but the incident continued to haunt her in dreams. Paula who had a stronger constitution entered the orphanage against her will after her mother abandoned her one day in the middle of a crowded street market. The two found themselves often at odds whereby Paula would lash out at Sally in fit over a silly mistake. Sally would then retreat into herself which further infuriated Paula. Often, someone else had to intervene as to stem the tide of escalation and abuse. That role fell into the hands of Martha, one of the orphanage’s younger sisters who possessed an uncanny motherly disposition but had otherwise never known life outside the dormitory’s grounds. Perhaps it was a prescience of her own fate or a mild form of agoraphobia instilled from birth that bound her so. Whichever the case, the trio found themselves in a dynamic that would eventually reconcile two, sever the three, and entangle a fourth. Such are stories for another time.
A young pigeon once asked his cell mate if there was life outside the cage. The older bird, having pecked away the button that once yielded sweet cakes gave a wistful look and replied
“These wings could fly me to places beyond the eye’s reach. Those cakes however ruined it all for I now only dream of cake and so keep waiting.”
“That seems quite sad, but I don’t fully understand” remarked the younger pigeon. “What does it mean to fly?”
The older bird sighed and said “To fly is to live”.
Avalon’s gardens held a unique attraction. Every fall, the old caretaker would hang lanterns filled to the brim with delicious seeds, grains, and nuts. Birds of all varieties would take a detour from their annual migration to visit Avalon and enjoy the respite. Such had been the case for generations that they eventually referred to the garden as paradise, the land of bounty, song, and rest.
One season however, the lanterns turned empty. The caretaker, in old age and poor health, was bed-ridden and had fallen into a deep coma. Sensing the time was near, the birds one by one perched on top the lanterns to mourn the caretaker’s passing. Some recounted the time they first met their loved ones within the garden cloisters. Others spoke of distant homes and their long journeys to the outer terrace. Those who had personally met the caretaker hummed a requiem into the night. Alas, when no more chirps could be uttered and further lamentations spent, the caretaker took a final breath, grinned, and then vanished.
From that day onward, the lanterns of Avalon would be everflowing.
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