Friday, April 16, 2010

The Stranger (working title) Prologue

The stranger had followed Caitlin for as long as she could remember.

One of her first Real Memories was sitting in the park with her aunt and watching the sun disappear over, what the people of the town called mountains, but were really just large tree covered hills. After the last glaring remnant of light winked out, she had see him. He had stepped from a deep shadow in the trees at the edge of the park. Her aunt had been busy collecting their blankets, used napkins, crayons, empty juice boxes, assorted coloring books and romance novels, and hadn't seen him.

Caitlin had just stood and stared with the temerity of a child of the Very Big Age of three and a half. He was average height and build, with average length hair of a very average brown. But his eyes were dark, and his skin was pale. He looked as though he was not sure if he was glad she had spotted him or not.

And just as her aunt had called for Caitlin to follow her to the car, he waved.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Abbie's Side

I was born in 1889 to a good family of means and standing. In 1909 I began university and in the summer of 1910 while home for the holiday I died.

The times were exciting and uncertain for women. So many things were changing and becoming possible. It was certain since long before it was eminent, that I would attend university. Looking back at that time I, and so many of my peers, was a bit of a contradiction; always ambitious but well mannered and demure, outspoken and daring in my papers and poems but quiet and the picture of lady-like decorum in my personal life. But for one day in June 1910, a day that would change the course of my entire existence, I was an impetuous young fool.

As I strolled through the main street of Manhattan with may lady's maid Evelyn, it seemed like any other excursion. We looked in shop windowed and giggled to each other over this or that silly patron, excessive dress or attractive young man. Evelyn and I were more like sisters than master and servant. Her mother had been a maid in our house since before I was born and Evie and I, being only a few years apart, had been almost exclusive playmates until school began. At my insistence we stopped off at the book traders shop. I was an avid reader and liked to spend the summers in recreational reading after a semester of study. As we perused the shelves Evie and I drifted apart. I was one to wonder around in the stacks, Evie would stay closer to the front so she would be sure to see me when I finally made my way to the front prepared to leave. Somewhere in those stacks I ran directly into a dark destiny I could not have imagined.

He was tall with soft brown eyes and tousled light brown hair made lighter, perhaps almost blond, by the sun. He was very lovely. But it was not what held my attention. There was something underneath, something deeper that held me. It was not as if we fell under each others' spells but rather that we were under the same spell. But in the moment it did not matter a bit. It was the closest I have come to love at first sight. If that phenomenon exists however, this was not it in anything but imitation. This spell, or love or whatever power I was under was strong enough that without even being conscious of it until it was already happening I found myself leading us out the side exit into a back alley and out onto the street. Leaving my best friend behind with barely a second thought and not even a backward glance.

His name was Liam. An Irish sailor who had made port only the day before. I listened as he told stories of India and Africa, his shipmates and home town. I heard my-self joining in. Asking questions and making comments based on stories and histories I had read. Wishing I could see what he had seen. Eventually we conversed on poetry and some popular literature of the time. He too was an avid reader though not as academic as I and before I knew it the light was changing and I woke to the hour as the clock chimed 5:00. I was suddenly in a state of apprehension and panic, for Evelyn (she must be worried sick) and for my-self, my mother's warnings rang in my ears. Stories from the paper and novels swirled through my mind. Had I really spent the last four hours strolling with some stranger? Lost to the world? My panic had almost reached an apex that would have sent me dashing for the bookstore and Evelyn, or perhaps straight home and then he placed his hand on my cheek and gently pulled me toward him and kissed me softly on the lips. The calm was instantaneous. I was entranced once again.

As I walked back toward the shop, though calm and somewhat in a haze. I went over his proposition. Meet him. Tonight. 10:00. Right near the shop where we had met. Had I agreed? It seemed that I had. But I could not even imagine the words crossing my lips. How could I have said them? "Yes I will." "It might take me a little longer, wait for me." Who was I? Had I gone mad? The city was a different place at that hour. I wouldn't be safe on my own. I knew nothing about this man, not really. It could be a trap. It was too foolish. And yet, even as I argued with myself, I knew I would go. That I would be there. I was driven, it was already decided.

When I reached the bookstore Evie was outside looking frantic. She had clearly been crying. We would be late for supper and whatever chastisement my mother would have for me, she would have it worse. Even as I stood before my parents and her mother, taking full responsibility and stressing my carelessness and Evelyn's innocence, I could see her mother's growing anger. I would have much to apologize to Evie for latter. But even as we stood there I could see that Evie was having a hard time not giggling. I had partially filled her in on the way home and I new she was hungry to hear more. Evie was a hopeless romantic and my determination and confidence would be enough to keep her from any worry that might prevent her from helping me slip away this evening. We were both deprived of supper. I was sent upstairs with instructions to study some dry text of my father's suggestion. Evie was sent to do some particularly repellent cleaning.

Evelyn came up to help me change for bed at 9:00. My mother had sent up a small plate of dinner for me, which Evie and I shared as I dressed in a warmer dress for the evening and laid out a cloak for later. My mother would want to look in on me, so we unraveled my hair and Evie helped arrange the bed clothes around my neck so it was not evident I was still dressed. Then she gathered up the dishes and headed back downstairs.

As I lay there in the dark waiting for the crack of light that would tell me my mother was assured I was safe in bed and not ruining my eyes reading late into the night, I berated my self even as I went over our plan. I couldn't really do this. I would be caught. I wasn't going anyway. I was no fool, though I had played the part that afternoon. Evie would open the door after mother and I would slip out. Evie would go ahead, make sure the coast was clear. Young women did not run off into the night to meet with young sailors, unless they were simple, of ill repute or both. It shouldn't be too hard, most of the house was in bed the servants were likely in the kitchen making enough noise they wouldn't notice. The afternoon had been a minor lapse in judgment and nothing more, I was lucky nothing had happened then, tempting fate again would be insane. The back garden gate had a broken latch so it swung in the wind sometimes, no one would think anything of the sound if there even was one. A crack of light. Foot steps down the hall to the master bed room.

Another crack of light Evie's beckoning hand. Down the stairs. Tip toe past the kitchen. Out the back way. Though the gate. Into the alley behind the house. Out to the street. 5 blocks to the book store. The clock strikes 10:00.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Prologue: Liam's Side

It is possible that for some people, even most people, the moment of death is stretched into a lifetime, a replay of failures and triumphs, loves and losses, for me it was a torturous reveal of time I had lost.

When she stepped aboard our ship in the port city of Aden we were all taken with her. We could all see why any man would want to take on such a woman as companion, though it was a surprise that out Captain would take on a female bunk mate. Crewman Jones and I had often shared private jokes at the Captain's expense as we speculated on his late night meeting with First Mate Halowday. Though the presence of a woman of board would usually have elicited objections from the crew, on all manner of grounds from fairness to superstition, as the moonlight caught her white tresses and her youthful eyes caught mine, I could think of none, and nor it seemed could any of my fellow sailors.

We would set sail at dawn. The Captain escorted our guest to his cabin and we passed and evening of jovial and raunchy speculation before settling in to sleep in preparation for the morning tide. I dreamed of green eyes, white hair and pale skin.

The journey to England would take several weeks. We did not see our intriguing guest during the days. But at night she would wonder up to take air on the deck. She said the sun was too much for her delicate skin, but she loved the sea and the blackness of the sea at night. We passed many evenings in conversation, but not any more than she did with any other member of the crew. Cassie seemed to have a knack for making conversation with anyone, though I could often not recall what subject we had conversed on. I would come away from our conversations satisfied. as one feels after a good talk, but I could not remember where she had said she was from, or why she was going to England or how she had come to be in India. I would resolve to ask this question the next time Cassie and I spoke, but whether or not I did remember to ask I never seemed to know the answers when I thought about it. Cassie, that's what we had taken to calling her. Eventually she had introduced her self as Cassandra, she said it was greek. But she was not from Greece and I could detect something of the Gaelic lilt some of the older folk back home in Ireland had in their accent. She was however fluent in greek and french and spanish which she would use to converse with others on the crew.

As we entered the Atlantic and headed north to England the crew seemed in good enough spirits. We has had a few deaths, nothing out of the ordinary. On any ship out at sea there are bound to be a few deaths, illness old age and just the unexpected death. The Captain was looking a bit weak a bit glazed perhaps but we all had that bit of wear on us after weeks at sea, trying to make good time with our load of silks and spices. All of us were worn and weary. All but Cassie. Her skin was as clear and clean as on the first day, her hair hung in silky and delicate curls, her musical laugh had lost none of it's musical tone. We had been moving north for maybe two days at a steady clip, as the last of the days sunlight sunk below the horizon Cassie and the Captain emerged from below deck. The Captain whispered something too his first mate who then gathered the rest of us to the stern where Cassie stood at the Captain's side as he made his announcement. We were going to New York, not the Plymouth port near Devon we had planned on. This should have shocked us, should have confused us and sent us into upheaval if not all out mutiny, it would have were it not for those green eyes. It was over. We were captured. If I was still in control of myself then I am not even sure. After this announcement I lost consciousness. In that instant before death, I would learn what my body did while the part of my mind that is ME slumbered.

The journey continued as planned. Everyone completed their duties, the ship was manned and well steered, but no one spoke. We were as dead men walking, marionettes in the hands of a master puppeteer. We docked in the New York port a few hours before sunrise. If the dock master had any objection to our arrival without a manifest it was forgotten when Cassandra welcomed him aboard. He left us to our own devices. We lined up on the deck as by silent command. Into the palm of each crew member Cassandra placed three gold coins. She instructed us to have them changed go out into the city for the day and come back at midnight with a female companion, some one who would not be missed, a prostitute, an urchin, a beggar, it did not seem to matter to her. To me however she gave a special assignment. As Cassandra slipped below deck and the sun began to rise we seemed ourselves again. But I still watched as if floating above. If we seemed ourselves, if we were ourselves, we were not awake enough to do more than follow the instructions we had been given in our own way. We scattered. Off to the pub or the brothel, shops or sights, where ever we might choose.

I had been to New York on several voyages before. I knew the town well enough and knew where to go. I turned a corner onto a familiar street, fingering the freshly changed money in my pocket, and made for my favorite book store. The proprietor behind the counter gave me a nod of recognition. I doubted he remembered my name as my visits to the city were few and far between, but he had said before that there were few sailors who spent their time in port, perusing the literature in his shop. I walked through the stacks, smelling the familiar commingling of paper and glue and leather. Looking through the books I pause occasionally to took at some new, some familiar. I do not know how much time I passed in this way. Reading from selections on occasion, collecting a small stack under my arm, but finally in looking up and about the shop I met eyes with a young woman, and just as Cassandra had told me I knew this was to be the right one.

It was all so easy, or it seemed so. Perhaps Cassandra had lent me a bit of her skill to mesmerize and enthrall. Perhaps she was again driving me and knew the right things to say and the right way to act to charm and persuade. Whatever the case, this woman and I chatted, she agreed to slip away from her servant companion, she succeeded and we spent the afternoon strolling hand in hand discussing anything that came to mind. As the sun began to set, she woke to the panic her escort must have been feeling for the past several hours, she apologized that she must leave, to be home for supper, to calm her girl Evelyn and perhaps even her parents. Swept up for a moment in a feeling I can only describe as love I kissed her, gently, on the lips. As she looked back at me in shock I asked her to meet me, at a place not far from the shop where we had met, that night. She smiled and blushed, and nodded. I was flushed, not with the love I had felt a moment ago, butt with triumph. I had succeeded Cassandra would be pleased.

I passed what remained of the day, I ate and drank, and wandered the city in the early twilight. As the hour we had agreed on approached I grew anxious and excited. I went to our meeting place and waited. I did not anticipate the awaited arrival so much as the reward from Cassandra, even if it was only her gratitude or her smile or a pleased glance. Only a few moments after the agreed upon hour my charge arrived. So happy was I to see her that swept her up in an embrace and another kiss. She was flushed with the excitement from her escape into the night, from our kiss and from the intrigue of the day. it was over. She was captured.

Looking down on these events I am filled with guilt, raked with shame. I had never felt that love that swept me up in that first kiss. I had felt physical passion yes, and desire. But that rush of love. Nothing like it had ever welled up in me before. I had imagined it, read about it and hoped for it. And here it was, a lie, a ploy. To snare an innocent. A victim perhaps, a captive. For some purpose I did not understand. To be used in this way. A puppet, a tool and a toy. The thoughts of the man who took that girl by the hand and lead her back to his ship were with Cassandra and on mysterious green eyes. The thoughts of the man who recalls these events, who lived them and yet did not, are on that girl. Cassandra's victim. My victim. And on my soul, forfeit and lost.

We glided through the streets of the city. She swept up in a late night world she had never been allowed to experience before, me slowly directing us closer to the ship and the docks as the hour approached. Finally it was time. I looked at her to ask if she would join me aboard. I did not need to ask. She was mine, or Cassandra's, and she would follow me anywhere and do as I asked. As we approached the ship I saw crew mates heading back with their catches. I did not what her to be alarmed or alerted by this activity, though knowing what has been revealed to me I doubt now that it would have mattered. I blind folded her. The view from the ship, the view of the harbor, should be a breathtaking surprise. Acquiescing easily she let me tie her scarf over her eyes. Soon we were boarding the ship. I followed the other men below deck, my companion followed without comment or complaint.

We were one of the last pairs to arrive. I took the last place in line. Somehow knowing this was my place. There was eery silence. Over fifty people under the control on just one. I watched as Cassandra entered the cargo hold, my excitement grew with each approving nod Cassandra gave, sending each man in to prepare the ship to make way. The part of me that looked on cringed with anticipation even as the servant grew giddy and let a stupid smile spread across my face. Finally it was my turn.

Cassandra smiled at me as she took my partner by the hand. She removed the blindfold from her eyes and the smile grew and her eyes shown.

"Hello Abbie, " She wispered. Kissing Abigail one on each check. Then she turned back to me. Placing one hand on each side of my face. " I knew you would do well."

The glee and pride reached crescendo in my heart just as terror and dread gripped my head; and Cassandra in one quick moment snapped my neck. Ending my life and the replay of those dark lost days.

-Liam Casey

**This is from Kate. Been kicking around in my head for awhile. Inspired by The Decemberists song Shanty for the Arethusa. There's more too it. Specifically, Abbie's side and what happens next. And eventually more on Cassandra, or whatever her name turns out to be. There is research to be done and lots of editing (and likely proofreading) but this is the basic plot of the story.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


So Hi...pretty much just Sue as yet. :) I have set us all up and hopefully one day we'll have sometime to have some fun with this. I was thinking that we could each access this and add our little bits of stories or rules or sketches or ideas or inspiration and see what develops and put them together from time to time into something coherent. Feel free to direct friends to take a look and give us feed back or encouragement or criticism and direction.