by Dorlana Vann
Since Jackson couldn’t channel his frustration onto the blank page, he used his fist to pound it into the desk. “Ahhh,” he cried, swooshing his fountain pen and several loose pieces of writing-paper to the floor.
His caged birds squawked with excitement from the sudden movement in the quiet room. Feathers flew. Jackson stood up, his breaths labored and lonely. “I’m sorry ladies. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
He draped a stack of dark sheets over his arm. “Are you ready for your beauty sleep, my Echo?” He covered her and moved on to Valley, giving her several sweet kisses. Continuing his ritual, he covered all twenty birds leaving Isis, his two-foot Scarlet Macaw, as his last goodnight. She blinked her yellow eyes at him.
“Sleep well, Love,” he said and then ran his fingers through his slick hair, noticing how dark and stale the room had become.
He opened the window, lit a lantern, and picked up the paper and his pen, setting them back on his desk. He thought about writing another letter but knew they were only stall tactics. “I’m a novel writer,” he reassured himself. “Now write something novel!”
He felt anxious. There was nothing left for him to do. He had moved to one of the most crime-ridden areas of London to conduct his research. When observations had stopped inspiring his writing, he had taken it to the next level. The first hand accounts had given him dozens of pages: a feel for the weapon in his hands; the reaction on the faces of the women when they knew they were going to die; and the color and temperature of the blood. After each attack, he had sped home and written feverishly, until the words stopped, died on the page—
He conducted more studies, pushing himself to the limits of his own capacities. “Why am I still blank?” he said in a sob. “Why?”
Isis began to squawk in her cage, beneath her cover.
“Shush,” he said off-handedly. “I’m having a difficult enough time as it is.”
“Let me out.”
Jackson turned his head slowly toward the covered cage. He listened. Sure she could talk, “Pretty lady.” “I love you.” But never… “Let me out.”
She said it again.
Jackson scooted his chair back and stood abruptly. “Was that you, Isis? Did you learn something new?”
“Open the cage, Jackson. Let me out.”
Jackson shook his head, trying to clear the confusion. Obviously, because he was exhausted and tense, he was now hearing things. That’s all. However, he eased toward the cage. One step—stop. One step—stop… Swiftly, without thinking, he uncovered Isis.
She sat on her perch, head down, asleep.
“Isis?” he whispered. “Was that you?” He looked around the room when he heard rustling coming from the other cages. All the sheets were moving. Jackson heart thumped.
But then he remembered he had opened the window. After taking the six steps to the window and ignoring the lack of breeze, he closed it. He turned around, backed against the window, hands stretched out—palms wide, like he was keeping the walls from closing in on him, because all the cages were uncovered.
It seemed like morning: birds bounced, stretched out their wings, walked, and whistled, however, much more so. The cages were actually open, and the birds began to explore. Isis, eyes open now and sitting on her perch in her home, stared at Jackson.
Jackson peeled himself away from the window and cautiously moved toward her. “Love?”
“Come closer, Jackson.”
He felt terrifyingly wonderful. Sweat gathered on his brow and above his lips. “Isis? Do you understand me?”
Jackson tried to steady his blinking; he shut his eyes hard and then reopened them. “Why now? Why not before? I have told you my most intimate secrets and feelings and you never spoke an intelligent word.”
“The time was not right. I am here when you need me most. Let me be your inspiration.”
“Oh, Isis! How I do so need someone to talk to. I have so many troubles. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me now.” He put his arm in her cage, enduring the sharp claws he usually protectively wrapped his arm against. He stroked her red feathers. “My beautiful, Isis, what words do you have for me? Do you know what I must do to finish my story?”
“You have watched, but you have never felt. In order to achieve realism and depth, you will need to experience the pain for yourself.”
“Yes, yes… I see. I see what you mean. But how? How can I achieve this insight?”
“I will be near whilst you sink the edge of your knife into your skin. Not too deep my dear, just enough to feel a twinge.”
“Marvel upon marvel, you are my muse!” He set Isis on the back of his chair and ran to his bedside table and pulled out his knife. Its long thick blade still stained from his latest research project. “Where? Where shall I feel it?” he asked, sitting on the edge of his bed.
“The same as you wrote. The same as you gave.”
The coldness of the blade against his neck caused his heart to quicken with excitement. He stared at Isis as she moved her head to and fro with tiny jerks. “Just this fills my head with ideas, with words…” He sucked in his breath and pressed a little harder, the sting bringing quiet tears to his eyes. “How absolutely stimulating.”
He heard them before he saw them, but only by a second. All of his beauties came towards him, Isis in the mix, their feathers, and beaks, and claws causing his hand to yank deeply inward and then slide to the side. Falling backward, Jackson still imagined how his ghastly and perfect pain would translate onto paper.
As the feathers settled and the squawks calmed to a low murmur, Jackson’s last breath was accompanied by his last vision: five faint ghostly figures dancing above him. He heard the words, “Jack the Ripper, our story ends in revenge,” as his eyes closed.
Muse is one of the short stories from my paranormal short story collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales. Muse was inspired by the fairy tale Prince Ariel from, “The Fairy Tales of Madame D’Aulnoy.”
These 9 Supernatural Fairy Tales are not retellings of the original fairy tales
but were inspired by them. They are paranormal themed stories about vampires,
ghosts, mermaids, witches, and more, in genres ranging from romance to thriller.
And fair warning: they don’t always have a happy ending.
eBook available for only .99 cents!
If it Weren’t for Bad Luck
A Rumpelstiltskin Inspired Short Story by Dorlana Vann
I walked through the front door a little after midnight. Jana sat on the couch in the darkness covered by the quilt from our bed, the images from the television flickered on her solemn face. “Oh, you’re up,” I said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I want to talk to you, Trevor.”
When I caught a glimpse of deep concern in her eyes, I immediately thought something had happened to the baby. “Is Ethan okay?”
“He’s a handful to deal with by myself… but he’s fine.”
“Good… good.” That’s all I needed to know; I could go on to bed because anything else could wait until morning. “Well, goodnight.” I turned and walked down the hallway. But I didn’t get very far.
She yelled after me: “I hired a P.I. today!”
As I stormed back into the room, fear flushed my face. “You did what?” I stood over her. “Why would you do that?” When I realized my hands had a death-grip on my hair, I tried to relax but still couldn’t control my fidget.
“Because every time I try to talk to you, you walk away. I want the truth. I deserve the truth. Where do you go every night?”
“You know I’m out drinking with the guys. I’ve told you a thousand times.”
I watched her jaw tighten, and through her teeth she said, “Why are you lying to me?”
My heart raced. Had she found something? “What makes you think I’m lying?”
Jana tossed the blanket off her lap and stood up. I tensed my body, prepared for a slap. She eased to her tiptoes, so we were face-to-face, breath-to-breath. “You don’t smell like a bar,” she whispered. “For a man who has been out drinking all night long, you certainly are sober. You don’t drink at home. Why the hell would someone pretend to be a drinker?”
I plopped down on the couch and rubbed my face hard with my hands. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t you just leave it alone?”
“Leave it alone? This is our marriage!”
I had nothing to say, nothing to offer.
“I give up,” she said. “I’m just going to ask, since you can’t be a man and just admit it. Are you cheating on me? Is there someone else?”
An affair. It would be a simple enough explanation. “Would that be something you could forgive me for?”
“Wait a minute. That’s not it, is it? Shit… I can see it in your eyes. Trevor?”
“Just do yourself a favor. Do our family a favor. Call the private detective, and call it off. Let me protect you. Don’t you see? If I tell you, I don’t know what will happen. I’m afraid you’ll never forgive yourself.”
“What? Forgive myself? What are you accusing me of?”
I looked at her, exhausted, tested, tears filling her eyes. It had gone too far. I knew she would probe until she found the answers. And I knew that it wouldn’t look good if a P.I. came back with pictures. Jana would just draw her own conclusions. Conclusions that would end our marriage, and I had lost too much to let that happen. I inhaled and then exhaled slowly. “You tried to sell Ethan.”
“I had to buy him back,” I said. “Now I can’t catch a break.”
“Just stop it. Stop it…”
“You wanted to hear this; so here it is.” I stood up and grabbed her hands. “Luck, like anything else, can be bought and traded. Before we met, you made a deal with Luck. Because you had such horrible luck, you agreed to trade your first-born for what you thought was really good luck.”
“Really?” She pulled away from me. “I don’t know what you’re doing—”
“After we were married,” I said firmly, “After we were pregnant, you told me what you did. You told me how you found out too late that good luck was just an illusion; that there were only three types of luck: extreme, medium, and weak. With extreme luck, really good things happen but so do really bad things.”
“Maybe you haven’t been drinking,” Jana said, “but something is wrong with you.”
“You told me you tried to take it back, but it was too late. You had already given up all rights to our unborn child, before we met, to some couple with medium luck.”
“This is crazy, Trevor. Do you know how crazy this sounds?”
“I thought so too… at the time. But still, I asked you where I could find this luck guy. Even though I didn’t believe you, never believed a word of it, I went there. And after I found the guy, I still didn’t believe he was who you thought he was. But for your peace of mind, I made my own deal…” I had to think hard. As time had passed the details had faded. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would completely forget… just like Jana had.
“What kind of deal?” she asked with impatient sarcasm.
“I remember asking if you could just give back the money you had won in the lottery. But that had already happened. He said something like he couldn’t erase time. I had to make a new arrangement so that I could keep my son. He called it weak luck, but it’s worse than that, it’s no luck at all.” I shrugged my shoulders because I knew that even if I would have known the outcome I still would have done whatever I had to do to protect Ethan.
When I looked at Jana’s face—her puckered lips and firm jaw—I knew she hadn’t believed a word I had said. But I had to finish. “I gave myself a little test all the way home that night; I flipped a quarter. Even after it never landed on what I said it would, I didn’t believe it. As each day passed, I pushed the limits a little more. You know, I had to see if it was real. I kept testing my luck, until it became an obsession. Until…” At this point, I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I cleared my throat of my sudden panic and then whispered, “I’d lost everything.”
“What do you mean?” Her words trembled.
“I’ve lost everything that was left from your lottery winnings. All of our savings.”
“No, no, no… this isn’t happening.”
“I’m sorry. I just keep thinking that I have to have some portion of at least medium luck. That’s where I go! To try and win it back.” Suddenly, it became so clear. This could be good. Together we made medium luck! “You can win it all again. All you have to do is buy another lottery ticket, or we could go to the horse races.”
“No! Stop it!” She reminded me of a cat in defense mode: hunched back, hair on end, eyes wild, claws loaded. “I can’t believe you would make up such a ridiculous story so that you could blame me for you losing our son’s future? You don’t have bad, weak or whatever luck, Trevor, you have a gambling problem.”
“What? No…” I wondered how it had happened. How had I become the bad guy? “I know it’s hard to believe. I didn’t believe you when you told me, either. But I gave you a chance.” My body had begun to shake. “Just think about it for a minute. I know the memory of meeting him fades for a reason or everyone would be at his door. But there has to be something there. Think Jana, think!”
“You need help, Trevor. Are you willing to get help?”
“What I need is for you to believe me. How many times have you said it yourself ‘Your luck sucks’? How many times has everyone said it? I traded it for you, for Ethan, and that’s why the car keeps breaking down, the lights turns red at intersections, the reason I have lost so many jobs.”
“What? You’ve lost jobs? More than one? You don’t work for Laurence anymore?”
“It’s been six months.”
She stood with her mouth open as tears streamed down her face. I took a step to comfort her, but she held up her hand and said, “Tell me his name and where I can find him.”
I closed my eyes trying to think again, trying to recall.
“What is it Trevor? Give me something. Is it John? Peter? Frank? Larry?”
But his name had left my memory months before. “I can’t. I don’t know,” I said without opening my eyes. The soft breeze told me she had left the room.
I sat on the couch, waiting for her to go to sleep, thinking we could talk it through in the morning. Maybe as she slept some of the memories would return. But a few minutes later, she walked past. When I looked up, expecting another confrontation, she stood at the open front door, her back to me, Ethan asleep in her arms. And then she said, “Good luck.”
If it Weren’t for Bad Luck is one of the short stories included in my fairy tale inspired collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales – Ebook available for .99 cents at Amazon.