The People have spoken in our People’s Choice Déjà vu Contest, but in case you want to revisit the incredible tales that were finalists, buckle up and read on!
Most Fairy Tales
By Anna Fantasia
Most fairy tales begin with the words “Once Upon a Time!” But this isn’t a fairy tale… it’s my story and it is TRUE! I have drifted through time. I’ve lived many stories! But I will tell you the one that haunts me most…
1592, Northern Ireland. I was a simple girl; my father, my only family. We were people of the land, nothin’ fancy, but we were fierce and proud! It was a time of change. The old Irish nobility, the clans, were fighting Queen Elizabeth of England. They wanted freedom – the right to rule their territories without outside meddling. I always had freedom and took it for granted. I helped father with the chores, but afternoons were mine and I’d roll through the heather or take our old nag into town for a bit of socializin’ with the ladies. I never envied ‘em, Quinn “the wild” they used to call me. Never bothered me neither, because while they fretted about arranged marriages for clan territory or standing, I was free.
Until the day…
The Irish lords were vying to increase their dominance. They were up against a powerful woman in Elizabeth and they needed territory and allegiances. We had escaped the notice of Elizabeth’s men, but not the eagle eyes of the Lords of Ulster. I watched my farm burn, everything my father had built after mother’s death – ashes. And I was his, a spoil of war- property of the Prince of Donegal! At first I took every opportunity to offend. I even threatened him with a sword. He brushed it aside as sport, dueling with a woman. I think I must have loved him then, my opponent. But in dueling with me that day, he saw in me what none other had, an equal. I lost… and raged for days. But I had gained his respect and that meant far more.
Love is a fairy tale. Simultaneously euphoric and exhilarating- it completes you. You smile too much and dance around in a mirage of fluffy white birds and pink ribbons, until of course someone hurtles a chicken at you out of annoyance and jealousy… and then there’s loss. The campaign against the English occupation failed; the cause was lost unless the Irish allied with another of Elizabeth’s enemies, Spain. The day he boarded the ship, I watched from the cliff side not the docks. Ours was a secret affair, he was arranged to marry a woman fit for a prince – not me. And he sailed for Spain.
I’m not sure if anyone noticed that I was gone after I hurled myself from the cliffs into the Irish Sea. But I’m not ashamed… I died as I lived, on my own terms.
Dear friends, find the joy in life because lives like stories come to an end and with every ending you lose everything you’ve longed for, fought for, everything you’ve loved. It is a gift to forget, because those who remember never stop searching.
Habits of Dress
By Jayne Bielak
“Sister” Katerina looked at her reflection in the cracked cheval mirror before her, tugging the white batiste face-band forward to cover more of her cheeks. She smiled, pleased with the ruse, and turned to beam at Raston, to see if he concurred.
He did. “Princess, you do make a beautiful novice Carmelite!” he said, leering lasciviously to shock her. She nearly laughed at his impertinence, but held back. The real Sister Katerina, gagged and bound to a wooden chair a mere foot from where the counterfeit now stood, locked eyes with her, and the look, more of sorrow than anger, extinguished her giddiness.
The Princess knelt before the young nun and gently unbound the rough strip of cambric that held shut her mouth. Raston shook his head, don’t, but she ignored him, and stroked the poor captive’s hands before unbinding them, as well.
If they had expected the little novice to scream or run, they were mistaken. She barely moved, other than to modestly smooth down the skirt of the peasant dress she was now clothed in. It had been stolen right off a clothesline in the countryside, shortly after Raston and his men had kidnapped her at the spot where Mother Superior’s coachman was to have later picked her up . Bundled beneath a blanket that stank of horse urine, for the whole wretched trip she prayed only that she would not be defiled before death.
She need not have worried.
Raston and the Princess sought only her identity, and her religious habit; they had no intention of harming her. Now the Princess begged her not to be afraid. “I will pretend to be you for but two weeks, sister – until I escape. After that you will be released unharmed, and my supporters will be generous to your convent. Believe me.”
The nun shook her head sorrowfully. “It is blasphemy to assume these holy clothes, dear child. No good will come of it.”
But from the moment the Princess was picked up by the convent’s coach, she played her part perfectly. For twelve days she scrubbed floors, prayed, attended masses, meditations, silent suppers, and endured every privation. Undetected. She thought.
On the thirteenth day, she went to the high roof of the monastery to be at peace alone for a few minutes, and was followed, silently, by Sister Laundress.
“Princess,” she called, and reflexively the new “nun” turned around to see who wanted her.
It was over.
“How did you know?” she asked, and oddly, the old nun blushed.
“Your garments beneath -” she gestured with embarrassment, “Silk. No real sister…..”
The Princess smiled. “Of course. Well, rest assured. The little nun is safe.”
“Come now,” said Sister Laundress, holding out her hand. “You must go.”
And, yes – go she did. Over the balustrade, and down, down to the ground below, where she lay, the bright red of her blood seeping through the starched wimple, and onto the immaculate snow. She was dead.
Darkness on the Moon
by Judith Rosenbaum
“We might not make it out of here.”
The first person to say it aloud was Dr. Valdez. He and the team had been taking readings since the power source had started to melt down. They had communicated with Lunapolis for help, but the domed city was on the other side of the Moon. Time was not on their side.
Willa Holbrook looked out the window of the water plant. This was to have been the first building of a new colony complex on the Moon’s dark side. The crater-filled landscape, though just beyond the walls, was heartbreakingly out of reach. To step outside onto the Moon’s open, airless surface would be death. And to stay inside was also death.
Willa had volunteered for this job. When she had arrived in Lunapolis last year, she had loved its broad streets, parks, and greenhouses. Her first post as a quality control chemist had been at the domed city’s water plant, an outbuilding within sight of the dome. But there was more adventure, more purpose, in starting the new colony. So Willa had signed on. And now….
Willa stayed by the window, looking out into deep space. In the blackness, two passenger rockets glided like glowing bees, headed to the Mars colonies. One day, Willa had wanted to travel there. She had always been glad her parents had named her Willa, because its sound implied the future: I will….
Perhaps now she had only a past.
Valdez said, “Let’s get ourselves closer to the door. It’ll buy us a few extra seconds.” He didn’t have to add what everyone was thinking: if the rescue craft comes in time.
There would be no odor if the radiation spread through the plant. As Willa, Valdez, Marina Volkova, and Fred Sato headed for the main entrance, they couldn’t know if each step would be their last.
Willa had never learned the reason for the clear, vivid dreams of the past that she often had, but at this moment, they came sharply back to her. It was odd to be walking along in a hallway on the moon and suddenly have images of a garden in France sometime before Napoleon, or a wallpapered room with the sounds of 1920s tunes playing on a tinny Victrola. As she often did in her dreams, Willa almost heard people calling her by other names—Penelope, Emma, Anne …
She wished that she could escape into one of those dreams, which may have been her own past lives. But there was only one way out of this. Once she and the others made it down to the entrance, only the rescue craft could save them.
Willa retreated back into her thoughts, and there she found comfort. If her dreams showed past lives, perhaps there would be more living to come. And in some future century, if she lived again and ventured out to distant stars, her nights might be filled by dreams of the life she was leading now.
The Golden Canary
By Mark Tinkey
The year is 1863 and Lily Conrad is the most popular singer at The Golden Canary, California’s most renowned dance hall. Contrary to what the “proper” ladies thought, Lily was not one of the “soiled doves” you’d be likely to find in some of the seedier saloons around. She was a beautiful and talented young woman, proud to be earning her own way in such a brutal and unforgiving landscape as the wild west.
While many men vied for her affections, Lily only had eyes for James Gordon, the town sheriff. Murmurs of their romance raised more than a few eyebrows, but they didn’t care, they were in love. While most just whispered disapproval, Silas Loveless seethed at the thought of it. He was Lily’s boss and ran The Golden Canary, and he feared that if she should ever get married he’d lose all of Lily’s devotees and the money they spent at his establishment. So Silas forged a note from Lily to James, asking to meet in the alley behind the dance hall after her show that night. He would lie in wait for James, shoot him, then blame it on some stranger who had overindulged at the bar, then was seen riding off after the sound of the gunshot.
It was slightly after midnight and the crowd was boisterous as ever after the show. Silas crouched behind some empty crates, sixshooter in hand. He heard a rustling and saw a figure move in the darkness, BANG! He took the shot. In the dim light cast in the alley from the windows of the hall, he could see the ivory face of Lily! Unbeknownst to Silas, James had written Lily a note asking her to meet him out back after her show, and together they would ride to the next town and elope. James arrived a moment later, just before Lily’s violet eyes closed for the last time. Her last sight, the tears streaming down his handsome face.
The Fox Hunt
By Penelope Reeves
November 1881, Yorkshire
The deafening baying of the hounds halted their conversation, and Penelope pulled away, shyly.
“I hope to see you again after the hunt,” she told Trevor.
“I’ll make that a certainty,” he said.
Penelope didn’t care for hunting; she had only agreed to join to catch the eye of the attractive aristocrat, who pulled his horse away from her to catch up with the others. She was the only woman in the party … an elegant figure sporting her best black hunting coat over a ruffled white blouse, and a fashionable hat with a black feather. Her trailing black skirts contrasted nicely with the dappled grey she rode. She rode side-saddle, of course, as ladies do.
The hunt began. Once the dogs picked up the fox’s scent, the chase became suddenly fast-paced and terrifying. She clung to her mare white-knuckled as they sped across the countryside after the hounds. Every time her mare leaped over the smallest bit of turf, she was sure she’d fall and break her neck. There was no speaking during the chase: the chilly wind was rushing through her ears, and 18 hounds baying at once precluded any conversation. Her hat … which had been carefully pinned to her dark curls … blew off pretty much immediately.
She concentrated merely on staying on her horse, secretly hoping the fox would get away. At last she heard a huntsman yell, “It’s going to ground!” – meaning the fox had stopped running and was about to hide deep inside a burrow.
She still couldn’t see the fox.
Trevor was ahead of her with four other men. They abruptly reined in their horses, and stomped to a halt. She yanked back on her reins. Her grey had to turn to miss crashing into the horse in front of her, and she felt herself slip from her precarious position on the side-saddle.
There was another huntsman behind her. “I see it!” he shouted, and out of the corner of her eye Penelope saw him bring up his gun.
For a split second, as she was slipping out of the saddle, she was between the gun and the fox, and that’s all she remembered. …
Here are the photo finalists:
#1: Andrea Joki
#2: Kari Gluski
#3: Shari Marsheider
Kudos to all finalists!