My Angel

He pulled the ripcord and his parachute opened violently. The wind was harder than he’d expected, than any of them had expected. This was supposed to be a routine drop, just a training exercise. The wind caught his chute suddenly and he was jerked through the air by the straps. Glancing down, he cursed. He was still too high up to risk an emergency release and the backup chute would only catch the wind more. With one last glance upwards, Lieutenant Amery hoped he wasn’t about to get whisked off to Oz.

He wasn’t sure when he’d blacked out but soon Amery found himself laying on a comfortable bed looking up at a young woman. He wasn’t sure what was wrong at first, his head was swimming so much. Then it hit him as she smiled brightly.
“Dear Angel, You’re awake!”
I must’ve hit my head pretty hard… He thought
The girl was wearing a neat white dress and her hair was pulled back in a braid. She looked to be around sixteen and had a bit of a blush to her cheeks.
“An-angel? I’m no angel, ma’am.”
He started trying to sit up and felt the world spin around him.
“Do be careful, please. You had a dreadful fall and…” Then her eyes went huge and she took a step back. “You’re not an angel? Then, how did you come from the sky? Are…are you not an angel because you fell from grace?” Another step back. “Please, I…I’m a good girl. I…I won’t be tempted.”
“No! No, it’s alright. I’m human. Just a normal man, I promise. I’m Lieutenant Amery Reynalds and I got blown off course during a training exercise. I need to report back in so they know I’m not lost.”
“A soldier then? But…” She paused again, chewing her lip. “Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?”
With those words, Amery’s blood went cold.

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Need a Ride?

She’d walked the same roads for so long, since before some of them had blacktop asphalt to replace the dirt tracks and wagon ruts that had formed them. Not many road ghosts could claim that kind of age. Most of them moved on when their roads were abandoned. Her? Her roads were never abandoned, never passed over, just paved and widened. She stood on the edge now, the border from state to state where her power waned. She was a Kansas girl and no matter how hard she tried, Missouri and Colorado would never have her. She brushed her skirts, though no dirt ever stuck. No, this was the best way to change them. Her old yellow dress with its apron and layers stuck out. To hitch a ride, she couldn’t be Bess who died on the road in her Papa’s wagon heading west. No, these days she was Betsy or Beth and she was just trying to find somewhere fun.

There was a light coming down the road now and a grin slowly crossed her face. Maybe it would be someone who could take her beyond the corn, beyond the pitch black tar, and out into the light again. She checked over her jeans and t-shirt before holding her arm out with her thumb raised to the sky. The beat-up pick-up truck trundled to a stop beside her and a woman her own age grinned at her from the driver’s seat. Well, her apparent age anyway.

“Need a ride?”

“Sure do, if you don’t mind.”

“Hop in.”

Bess wasn’t good at history, at trends, at fashion. It took her a good twenty miles down the road before she realized something wasn’t right. At least, not right for the here and the now. The woman behind the wheel seemed normal enough, but her clothes could have fallen out of the turbulent parts of the 60s, tie-dye and flowing with a headband keeping her hair back out of her eyes.

“What’s going on?”

“We’ve been looking for you a long time, Elizabeth Miller. You don’t have to move on or leave the roads if you don’t want to, but I figured maybe you wouldn’t want to be alone.”

Hunters of Antioch

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Antioch, glorious city of Roman rule
Six hundred years gone
But still, your huntsmen ply their trade

They roam through the fruit strewn forests
And hunt the wild beasts on the tiled floor
They know not that they have moved thousands of miles

No longer ensconced in Syria under the eyes of Zeus
Instead, they rest in a museum of art
Where they will forever rest under the eyes of man

The Ship of Dreams

“I will arrive by week’s end, my love. Wait for me at the White Star Dock and together we will have the someday I have promised you for so long.”
Those had been the words Harry had written Clara in the last letter before he took to sea. Now, she held that letter before her as she stitched shirt sleeves with the other young women chatting around her.
“News from home, Clarrie?”
She smiled up at the older woman. Erin was a kindly grandmother of a woman with curly hair that had once been as red as Clara’s was blonde.
“From my fiancé. Harry’s coming over on a ship this very week.”
There was a chorus of excitement all about the factory, one which was quickly silenced as they heard the door from the offices opening. It wouldn’t do to be seen lazing. Even if they were doing no such thing. Clara’s sewing needle darted in and out of the cloth she was stitching as she imagined seeing Harry again for the first time in nearly a year. They could finally marry, finally start a family and finally have the life they’d been dreaming about for so long.
As Clara tidied up her station, Erin waited patiently. It was a custom of theirs for Clara to walk the older woman to her lodgings before headed home herself.
“So, tell me, Miss Clara. Is he coming on that fine ship of dreams everyone’s been talking about in the papers?”
Clara absolutely beamed, her smile threatening to split her cheeks.
“He is! I’m just so excited, Erin.”
Placing her hat on her head, Clara turned that smile on Erin.
“Any day now.”
Erin offered her young friend a smile of her own, then concern flickered onto her face.
“Will you be leaving us?”
As they walked to the door, Clara waved that concern off.
“Not right away. Someday, certainly, when we’ve a mind to start a family. But we’ll need the money I make until Harry’s all settled in.”

The sound that woke Harry O’Dell was like nothing he’d ever heard before. It was metal shearing metal, like the very walls of the ship were being rent by some giant with a knife. He leapt out of his narrow cot and was in the hallway in naught but trousers in a moment. There were others there as well, women holding crying children, even some of the ship’s crew looking just as lost as the rest of them.
“What’s going on?” He grabbed one of the crewmen as he passed. “What happened?”
The man looked at Harry, taking in his red hair and freckled face before shaking him off.
“Nothing. It was nothing. Go back to bed.”
The man continued on down the corridor, moving briskly and leaving Harry in his dust. Resigned, Harry turned back to his room to help the young mother bunked in with him calm her two young children.
When the water began to enter the compartment, Harry knew they had been lied to. Whatever had happened was far from nothing.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Titanic sinks! Massive loss of life!”
Clara stopped dead in her tracks, slowly turning to look at the young newsie standing on the side of the road.
“Wh-what did you just say?”
“The ship, Ma’am, it sunk. Hit a big old iceberg, it did.”
She was shaking as she held her hand out.
“How much for the paper?”
“A penny, Ma’am.”
He held out his hand and she gave him one of her precious pennies, taking the paper. Slumped against a nearby building, she began to read. In the dark hours long before dawn. A great loss of life. Mainly women and children among the survivors. Harry, oh Harry.

Hot, silent tears streamed from her eyes and Clara’s grip on the too fragile newsprint tightening until it tore. She stared for a long moment at the shredded yellow paper in her hands. It didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter how much they had both saved and scrimped and scanted. There was no future for Clara and Harry, no future in which she was Mrs. O’Dell. All the happy dreams of a home together and a little crop of children under foot were as sunk as the vessel that had called itself the Ship of Dreams.

The paper fell from Clara’s fingers as she walked towards Pier 54 where the ship would have come in. There was already a crowd when she arrived, but she paid them no attention. She stood nearby, as close as she could get, and stared out at the water. It wasn’t the ocean, not here, not really. But she wondered, as she stared into the water, if God would bring her to Harry if she jumped in anyway. The thought nearly slapped her in the face when she realized why she had come here, what she was contemplating. Then she thought of the life ahead of her, so far from the land of her birth and her family and now without her Harry O’Dell. There were tears in her eyes as she stepped off into the air.

Spirits

The little boy ran down the street, bare feet slapping loudly on the dirt road. He was laughing and smiling, with a wooden toy sword clutched tightly in one hand. There was to be a Triumph today for the returning legionnaires. He was especially excited because the armored man Mama couldn’t see had said that his father had brought home a surprise for them. The armored man was following after him, passing through the crowd without hesitation.
“Cato, slow. You don’t want to run into someone.”
The boy slowed with a sigh and waited for the man to catch up.
“But I want to see. I heard there were elephants and everything.”
“You’ll see soon enough.”
Cato smiled brightly up at the armored man as they walked through the crowd and began to notice. No one else could see the man he spoke to, no one but one of the legionnaires returning home from far Germania. Marcellus smiled when he saw the family Lare standing with his son and his eyes widened when he realized that young Cato could see the spirit as well. If it was coming on him this young, then perhaps, just perhaps, there was a bright future ahead for Cato in the service of the gods. They hadn’t caught it young enough for Marcellus, but they had for Cato, and he would have all the chances he needed to succeed.

Modern Writer

“Ash?”
The brunette seated at her writing desk looked up, blinking confusedly at the woman standing beside her.
“Did I fall asleep?”
Melanie laughed and set the steaming mug of tea down beside the stack of handwritten pages.
“You did, love. How goes the writing?”
Ashley winced and then leaned against Melanie.
“Ever considered the idea of pulling teeth without novocaine? I’m about there.”
Melanie paused for a moment and then started laughing.
“That’s graphic and descriptive, love. What’s wrong?”
Ash gestured broadly at her typewriter.
“It’s the love interest. I just can’t write this…man. I don’t know what she sees in him.”
Melanie picked up Ashley’s notes and looked them over with a critical eye.
“Have you considered cutting him? Stop trying to write that story and write the one I know you want to instead.” She tapped the page. “What about this woman? She seems more like your heroine’s type.”
Ashley gave Melanie a sad smile.
“You know my publisher will never go for that.”
“And why not? It’s almost 1970! It’s a modern world out there. And it’s not as if we don’t exist.”
Melanie set the notes back on the desk and brushed her fingers across Ashley’s cheek. Leaning it her touch, Ashley closed her eyes.
“You’re right. I’ll need to outline it again and-” She yawned and then laughed. “In the morning. I’ll redo the outline in the morning. Let me drink my tea and we can go to bed.”

Trousers and Rebellion

Elizabeth and Caroline both leaned out the windows of their second story bedroom and watched the Regulars march down the street.
“Mother said they might station a soldier here in our house.”
Caroline nodded once to punctuate her words and then looked back down into the street.
“Lina, that would be silly. Where would they sleep? Our house is just big enough for us.”
Elizabeth was three years Caroline’s junior, and those years were evident in her words now.
“Sarah said the soldiers took her parents’ bed and put them all in the garret. Like servants.”
“And they stood for that?”
Caroline pulled her sister in and pulled the shutters tight.
“What can they say, Betsy? Regulars haven’t exactly been respecting our rights as British citizens for some time now.” Caroline flopped onto the bed with a dramatic sigh and looked up at her younger sister. “It’s as if the Magna Carta doesn’t even exist.”
“That’s ridiculous, Lina. His Majesty would never tolerate that sort of thing. This is probably just the fault of those rebels I heard about.”
Sitting up quickly, Caroline stared at her sister in surprise.
“What have you heard? I’ve… I’ve been reading their writings and I think… I think-”
“Treason, the lot of it.”
Elizabeth glared at her sister and Caroline’s mouth hung open for a long moment.
“What?”
“Treason. They’re rebels, Lina. Rebellion is treason.”
Caroline looked away and didn’t respond. She was, however, decided in one thing. She wouldn’t be telling her sister about the trousers and shirt hidden in the clothes press or about what she was planning for this evening after all.