Evelyn Chartres Author

Bring out the Dead – Part III

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara often felt a rush when proven right. Tonight two of her fears were proven correct, but this time all it did was make her worry.

It seemed that the fruit of victory could be just as bitter as it was sweet. Unfortunately that bitter taste in her mouth would not settle until it travelled the pit of her stomach.

Now was not the time to worry or cower. Action was called for and Clara had it in her mind that hiding under the bed would prove to be advantageous.

Before the moon rose over the tree line Clara had stashed away a kitchen knife under her mother’s bed. Over the last few days her mother’s mental state had severely deteriorated; so Clara could have hidden a suit of armour, horse and squire under the bed without arousing suspicion.

Her sisters would have normally been a concern and would have said something if she had walked by with an axe. However, that type of weapon would need space for a swing and anything that thin had to move with finesse.

Since that man had left without putting much opposition she assumed it would not put up with any real opposition. Tonight she would be putting her theory to practice and wondered how it would play out.

Under the bed she hid in a dark room with nothing more than the silvery moonlight to illuminate the room. Just above, her mother breathed laborious, oblivious to the threat lurking outside.

Once the moon had travelled to the top of the window she heard a sound downstairs. At first, she thought her mind was playing tricks on her. Ada’s ghost stories late at night certainly did little to help.

However, through her jumbled thoughts she visualized the bolt catch being slid back. A moment later the door opened slowly causing a long creaking sound to echo throughout the home.

Clara waited and sure enough a soft thump was heard going up the stairs. One thump, two thumps, a squeak followed by a pause then a third thump. Their visitor had no trouble at all finding their way through this house.

As the steps approached mother’s bedroom they paused just out the door. Like earlier Clara heard the creature smell the air followed by a series of smacking lips. She swore she could hear it drool but doubt remained about this being real.

Clara opened her eyes and noticed two shadows under the door. The other side of the door seemed to be aglow in a vastly light. So powerful was the light, that it spilled into the room. This worsened once the door was cracked open.

Being basked in a hellish light, filled Clara with an intense desire desire to run out of the room. She fought the urge knowing that would be foolhardy. Instead she chose to hold her breath as the silhouette pushed deeper into the room.
Once at the foot of her bed she could smell it. The creature reeked of dirt and rotten meat. Why had she not sensed this before?

Clara gripped the wooden handle of the knife while she shifting her weight to prepare for an attack. Clara knew what this creature sought, it sensed how close her mother was to death and desired to feast on her decaying flesh.

Unfortunately the shift caused the floorboard beneath to creak. For a moment there was silence, it was as though time had stopped even as her mind raced. Was it aware of her presence? What should she do?

Quick as a flash Clara was greeted by long sharp teeth, a long thin nose and those glowing red eyes. In that moment she realised that those eyes had been the source of the hellish hue painting the room.

Clara could not help but stare into those glowing balls of fiery inferno. That was when the world faded to black.

Honey Mustard Glazed Ham

Ham, honey and mustard, can there be a better combination of flavours? This recipe requires very few ingredients and can easily become a family favourite!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (235 ml) of brown sugar
  • ½ cup (120 ml) of honey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of mustard
  • 1 cup (235 ml) of water
  • 2 to 4 pounds (900 – 1800 g) of cooked half ham

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F (165°C).
  2. Combine first three ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In shallow roasting pan, add water and ham cut side down.
  4. Cover exterior of ham in glaze and cover loosely with tin foil.
  5. Place in the oven and cook until internal temperature reaches 140°F (60°C).
  6. Baste ham with remaining glaze periodically.
  7. Remove foil roughly 30 minutes prior to ham reaching internal temperature.
  8. Remove ham from oven and let stand, covered for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Carve up as desired before serving.

Bring out the Dead – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Two years after the incident Clara’s life had gained a bit of normalcy. At least, as much as could be realistically expected when living in a company town when the family’s breadwinner and company employee had died.

Clara remembered how the company men had come to evict them shortly after the funeral. The townspeople had steeled their support and forced the company to relent. She never learned that those who had led this coup had been beaten to within an inch of their lives the week after.

Without their father the entire family had to work. Clara and her sisters spent the bulk of their days doing laundry for the neighbours. On occasion they would take random jobs from anyone in the town who could still afford to eat themselves after the work was done.

Her mother helped as best she could, seeing that her children were fed and clothed even if it meant more hand-me-downs. Come shift change, men would show to the door with their faces covered in coal dust asking if her mother was free.

Ada and Maria were clearly distressed by the processions of men coming in and out of the home. Clara was not certain as to why. Nor did she understand how the bed rattled upstairs.

Despite her inability to attend school with the repetitive and monotonous work Clara was quite happy. She rarely lingered on that night nor did she remember what had been seen or heard.

Children had an incredible ability to recover from trauma. The events of that day were dream like, distant, and none remained of the most traumatic events from that night.

Now if only her mother would get better. It seemed innocent at first. It began innocently enough as a sore throat, then came fever and headaches followed by a vile rash.

Times were lean that month for the kids. They had to work twice as hard doing laundry while Anna cleaned houses to get some food on the table. Nonetheless their mother got better and things returned to normal for a year or so.

Then her mind began to go, starting with her balance. It was one thing to see one’s father slowly succumbing to whatever was eating away at his lungs. At least his wit remained sharp until the day he died.

It was another matter entirely to see someone lose not only their ability to take care of themselves but also shed their core identity. This had been hardest on the children and haunted Clara well into her adult life.

Eventually the deformities came as a series of bumps which changed her appearance until she was unrecognizable. Eventually these deformities formed near the surface of her skin creating a purifying ulcer. Clara could not help but turn away when she was called up by their mother.

No matter how bad it got, some of the miners would still find their way to her door. Helmet in hand, they would ask to see their mother and showed disappointment once they found out the news.

In the back of her mind, Clara hoped that whatever afflicted her mother turned out to be catching. That would have been the only way to stem the tide of eternal visitors, especially this last one.

The last vestiges of sunlight could be seen from the side window when there came a knock at the door. Since her sisters were busy making supper, Clara was the one to answer.

She took a quick glance through the window and found a tall slender man whose proportions seemed off since he had the figure of a ferret or even a slithering snake. Clara could have sworn that his eyes were glowing like dark embers in the fire.

If it were not for the dark clothes, hat and distinctive white collar she would have refused to open the door. Her parents had always been clear that one of the clergy should always be trusted. So what could possibly go wrong?

“Hello Clara,” the priest asked as soon as the door swung open.

“Good evening,” Clara said in reply. She then thought it best to add, “Father.”

All the while Clara wondered how this man knew her name. At least his eyes were no longer glowing, although they were black as coal.

“Is your mother at home,” he asked.

Now that question came as a bit of a shock for Clara. This was a man of the cloth, not a tired miner. Still there was something peculiar about him and the whole affair felt off.

“No,” she said without elaborating.

“Really,” he asked while sniffing the air.

Clara merely nodded, in the distance she could hear her two sisters working in the kitchen. Why was he smelling the air? For whatever reason that seemed sufficient to confirm she was fibbing.

“Are you sure,” he asked.

Clara looked him right in the eyes and said, “Of course.” There was a momentary pause before she added, “She left a few moments ago to attend evening mass.”

Normally such a flagrant lie should have been discovered. A priest would have known that evening mass was not for another couple of hours. That being said, priests typically referred to her a child and so far this one had failed to do.

Once more the man smelled the air, raising his long thin nose while doing so. Although it was the reaction afterwards that got her attention; the man smacked his lips which sounded suspiciously like the chewing sound heard years back.

“You would not happen to be lying to me would you,” he asked.

Clara should have lost all composure by this time, but the fact that she had been right invigorated her. She looked right and the man with her steady steel grey eyes.

“Of course not Father,” Clara said. She then looked down towards the kitchen before adding, “We are about to have supper if you’d care to join us.”

This was a gamble, a bet that this man would refuse the offer. Honestly, there would be little enough to eat without the additional mouth to feed, but she assumed his palate was geared for another delicacy.

The man looked towards the kitchen and spotted the shadows of her two sisters. Clear there were others in the house was enough to change his mind.

“Mass you say,” the man said. “I’ll will meet her there,” he added.

“Good night Father,” Clara said in an unflinching tone.

“Good night,” he replied.

The man looked longingly towards her mother’s bedroom and then melted into the darkness. All except for those eyes which had that disturbing glow.

“Who was that,” Maria asked.

Startled by her sister’s question Clara stuttered, “Just a travelling bible salesman.”

Fortunately, she was not questioned further. As Clara closed the door she felt certain that this would not be the last time she would come across this man.

Bring out the Dead – Part I

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara could feel it, caught in a state between dream world and reality. The dream was still her focus, but that world began to fade away as her senses bled through. She could hear her sisters slow deliberate breaths, an indication that were still asleep. In the background, she heard the grandfather clock’s counterweight swing back and forth, alas it was the urge to pee growing from within that chased her dreams away.

She rather enjoyed this existence between realms. Clara could look upon the world, mould it the way she saw fit while characters would obey her every wish. That is until she turned hoping to delay the inevitable journey to the outhouse and collided face first in with Dot’s elbow.

Her eyes opened wide and forced the waking world to come into focus. Right before her was her sister’s elbow, no more than an inch away from her face, and still saw streaks of purple from the impact. When she turned to look above, she was faced with the familiar yellowed ceiling and the fog from her breath.

Clara dreaded these moments, the early morning before her mother would get up to light the stove. That moment in time where hot stones warmed by the fire were now cold and the remnants of the fire were a distant memory. The ground outside was sure to be frosted over this morning and judging by the view the sun had yet to make an appearance.

The urge was slowly migrating from the back of her mind to the forefront. She looked at her two sisters, sleeping peacefully and for a moment felt deeply envious of their situation. Alas, what was a girl to do?

Clara lifted the warm layers of linen from her body, instantly feeling the chilled morning air come into contact with her skin. While gooseflesh appeared on her bare legs, her muscles tensed before she threw herself out of bed and onto the cold floor.

“Cold,” she said when her bare feet touched the cold floor.

Clara felt around for a moment to find a pair of woollen slippers. They were too big, but that was the burden borne by the youngest child, condemned to wear worn hand-me-downs of her sisters. Nonetheless, the need to pee would not be cast aside, cold or not, so down the stairs she went.

Despite being the only one awake, Clara crept down the stairs deliberately, careful to skip the second last step since that one creaked. The last thing she wanted to do was wake up her father a couple of hours before he had to head for the mine. That tended to make him cranky, which had a tendency to trickle down to her via her mother.

Once at the door, Clara noticed the sky was turning purple and red. She also noticed the door was not latched, something that was profoundly peculiar.

“Odd,” Clara murmured. “Had someone gone out and had not returned,” she wondered.

The last thing Clara needed was to wait for her turn. Just thinking about her freezing outside while waiting for the outhouse made her teeth chatter!

Clara slowly opened the door and attached screen door to avoid making a racket. Then with all due haste she ran along the frosted patch of weeds, hearing them crinkle with every step, a shame she needed to pee, this could have been a fun experience if she was appropriately dressed!

The outhouse was in view, the familiar half-moon opening was dark, a good sign that her parents were still in bed. Clara smiled as she approached, reached for the thick wooden handled and pulled open the door. While the door gave way easily, she found herself unprepared for what she would find.

At first she was confused, seeing her father there in his long johns, butt flap open and seated over the opening. He seemed to be there going about his business and yet his eyes were closed. Frost had built up on the the exposed skin and his lips had blued.

“Papa,” she said said softly. “I have to pee,” she exclaimed hoping this would resolve the matter.

There was no response, no hint that her father heard a thing despite the urgency oozing from Clara’s every word. Odd how he seemed to be out of place, as though he had been pushed against the wall out of the way.

Clara continued to examined the scene, waiting as patiently as any child could under the circumstances. Only after a few moments did she notice a few more details.

First and likely the most important detail noticed was related to his breathing or rather the lack of. While Clara could see her breath, she did not see his nor hear the rattle in his lungs that seemed more acute in the mornings, especially after a double-shift at the mine.

“Papa,” she said with more urgency even as her mind began to realise that her prompting would get her nowhere.

On the wooden planks covering the outhouse floor she saw blood. Some of it was black like tar, thick and frothy a sign that her father had a coughing fit recently. However there was more blood, seemingly fresher and a bright crimson, her eyes followed the trail until she spotted a gaping wound where his calf should have been.

Her perceptive mind could see every detail of the wound. How the bone had bite marks and was reminded her of the neighbour’s dog chewing a thick juicy bone. She saw how the flesh had been cut and torn off simultaneously, again reminding her of what a pack of wild dogs did to a carcass. Clara should have been quivering at the moment and yet her mind keep running over the details, busy committing every detail to memory.

That it until she heard it something. It was faint at first, almost unintelligible but the sound was persistent. It took a moment for her mind to register what she heard, but sure enough a distinct chewing sound originated from within the depths of the outhouse. It was not until she heard a loud and guttural belch which made the walls of the structure shake that her need pee took care of itself.

In a small company town, where everyone works and lived together, a screaming child will certainly get some attention. The first on the scene was the neighbour who came down in his camisole, wild eyed and alert. It took him no more than a minute to size up the situation and close the door to the outhouse.

As the rest of the community awoke from their deep slumber Clara’s mother ran out of the side door. She had the same bewildered look in her eyes that her neighbour had worn earlier, however she never got the opportunity to approach the scene. Their neighbour cut her off and before there were any protests they exchange some words.

Clara was not sure what had been said, but the effect it had on her mother was immediate and brutal. At first concern remained, she seemed restless as her eyes darted about. Then came the long dramatic pause followed by the look of shock washing over her face. It was the tears and her slow collapse to the ground which confirmed Clara’s suspicions. Her father would not walk away from that outhouse.

“Martha, get Clara out of here,” the neighbour said to his wife.
Clara turned around to find the wife, still in her nightgown, approaching from behind. The child had no intention of complying just yet.

“No,” Clara exclaimed. “There is something in there with him,” she added.

“What do you mean,” Martha asked while shooting a glance at her husband.

Clara saw the hidden exchange between the couple and wondered why neither seemed concerned by what had been said. What did they know?

Martha got on a knee to be at eye level with Clara before asking, “What did you see love?”

“There,” Clara paused unable to properly formulate her thoughts. “Something,” she blurted out. “Ate papa,” she managed to add although the words were a faint whisper.

Martha’s face lighten up and hugged Clara. It was bizarre how the woman seemed so relieved to hear those words.

“Oh love,” Martha exclaimed. “You let the imagination get the better of you,” she added.

Martha took Clara by the hand and took her home. From corner of Clara’s eye her two sisters were staring down at the scene from their bedroom. She saw how their faces were ashen grey; appearing as though they had seen a ghost.

“Now let’s get you cleaned up,” Martha said while they left behind a town full of gawkers and her grief stricken mother.

It seemed odd how no one had bothered to look inside the outhouse. Did they assume she was just another child afraid of what lurked beneath her bed? Or did they already know what would be found?

Art Embodied

There few opportunities to go out and explore during this last trip. Sometimes the opportunity simply eluded me or other priorities were given precedence. To put it mildly, this had been a long and grueling trip and work hours regularly extend beyond sixteen hours. Hence given an opportunity to sleep, I embraced it wholeheartedly.

I did visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I had been there before but remembered little of it, so this time I made sure to bring my camera. I often prescribe to the shotgun approach to photography, as in take a lot of pictures and sort them out later. This has worked well for me in the past, since a random shot of a painting inspired the cover for The Portrait.

The embodiment of art

The shot above was one of the gems found in my archive of pictures from that day. In the corner surrounded by two paintings there was a patron enjoying the exhibits just as I was.  However, her clothes and pose seemed to fit in perfectly with her surroundings.

In a way she seemed to be the embodiment of art. True? False? Who cares! I only hope this shot can inspire others as did for me.