Monday, May 19, 2022
Welcome, all. You wouldn’t believe how down on myself I’ve been, because I haven’t been able to plunge through the PTSD-anxiety that keeps me from finishing “Dead of Winter.” I had also forgotten about the Thursday Doors writing challenge, hosted by Dan Antion. I had promised to participate and was looking forward to it. I was sure I would be completely finished with my fantasy epic by then. Ha…!
Then one evening after berating myself for yet another day, I decided that any kind of storytelling would be better for me than none at all. Despite it being a detour, it might even get me back on track with Dead of Winter. So, at the end of a fruitless day, I indulged myself in working on a story for one of the Doors prompts. I stayed up late into the night polishing it. Then a few days later, still having the same problem, once again I sat up past midnight writing a second prompt story.
Here is the first. My inspiration was equal parts from Deborah Zajac’s photo (titled “Near New Orleans”) and an old song from Credence Clearwater Revival. Thanks to Deborah for also letting me use some of the other photos. Her lovely door photo has a happy, sunny vibe. There’s no accounting for the twisting way my mind works. Ha! That seatless bicycle took me down a not so sunny road! I hope you enjoy it.
Born on the Bayou
When I was just a little girl, I used to pretend I was a fast freight train. One rainy, sweltering Louisiana day I played my game inside, to my Papa’s annoyance. When I made a third pass around his favorite chair, choo-chooing and choogling as I ran, he stuck out his arms and caught me. He wheezed, swinging me up onto his knee.
“Oya, child… now simmer down,” he began, but whatever playful remark he had been about to make abruptly changed after a spasm of coughing. “Girl, don’t let the man get you, and do what he done to me. Cause he’ll get you. Ain’t no doubt about it,” he warned raggedly before letting me back down.
It was a long time before I understood just who and what “the man” was.
Those old memories tumbled as I trudged around a large vacant lot across the street from my store. Born on the bayou, I knew which weeds and wildflowers were more than mere nuisances. Some were healing herbs. Even the humble dandelion could make a potion for infections and digestive problems. The roots could be roasted to make something similar to coffee. They were plentiful and I cut and dug basketful.
As I bent to the task, my old hound dog started barking. I quieted her. Cece was a good dog, and mostly well behaved. Something about the way she acted made me uneasy.
I looked over my shoulder to the door to my herb shop. Suddenly, I wished I was back on the bayou. Then I shook my head. After Papa died, there wasn’t anything left for me there.
“Nothing but memories and hoodoos,” I mumbled to myself.
The dog started barking again. I shushed her, but it did no good. She only got more excited.
“Cece, hush! What’s got into you?”
Before I could stop her, Cece bounded off toward the back-wood bay. I ran after her.
My shop, and home, was on the outskirts of New Orleans, barely in the Big Easy at all. As I chased Cece, the hound dog was soon in thick woods. It seemed to be darker there than it should. A shiver went down my spine.
“You dang mutt, come back here. Do ya think you’re gonna chase down a hoodoo there?” I called after the dog, running through the trees and bushes, breathing hard as I tried to catch up to her.
Cece skidded to a halt. She was barking to beat the band. Suddenly she quieted and whimpered. I put two fingers through the loop in her collar and nervously pulled her next to me. Twigs cracked at our small movements. I scanned the area, looking carefully between trees and around bushes. I didn’t see anything.
The hound dog and I both looked over our shoulders repeatedly as we left the back-wood bay. By the time we got back to the shop, the sun was setting.
My front door up ahead was a welcome sight. I paused to catch my breath, once we were in the vacant lot again. However, my breath stopped when I saw the curious old bicycle. It was propped against one of the posts that held up the porch roof. Why did that make me so uneasy?
“It’s just an old bike,” I told myself. “It doesn’t even have a seat. Somebody probably got tired of trying to pedal standing up and just happened to leave it there.”
I heard footsteps behind me. Cece whined. Whirling, I saw nothing but twilight shadows. I swallowed. Someone or something had followed us from the back-woods.
Why did that bicycle make me feel like I was blocked from entering my shop? The seatless bike ahead, and something unknown from behind. I shivered.
My fingernails dug into my palm, from the white-knuckled grip I had on the hound dog’s collar. A cold wind blew against the back of my neck. I turned, looking toward the woods. An old man, walking hunched over, approached the vacant lot. A familiar shape and shuffling walk, he paused with the setting sun at his back. His gaze fixed on me.
“Oya, don’t let the man get you,” Papa called softly and gestured toward my shop. “Get on back to your house.”
Well, I could remember that long past Fourth of July. I would never forget the day Papa passed away. Yet there he was.
“Papa?” I questioned.
His translucent form blurred. Then it disappeared altogether.
The back of my neck prickled. It was as if I could feel eyes watching me. Back there in the woods, shadows began to coalesce.
Acid in my stomach grew hot. I swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to control the nausea. My brain told my head to turn back around and my feet to move. Neither part of my body seemed to be listening. The dim shape started out of the woods, coming closer.
Cece shifted impatiently. Her whimper snapped me out of my confusion. I gazed at my door again. What was it about that broken bike that made me feel like it was related to the shadowy form?
New Orleans ladies sashayed by, their bright dresses matching the brilliant sunset. They walked past the old bicycle, not even seeming to notice it. Somehow, that gave me courage.
Clicking my tongue to Cece, we crossed the street. I put my key in the lock, determined not to look at the bicycle. I couldn’t understand why it should have such an effect on me. As the deadbolt shifted, I opened the door. Cece and I went inside.
As fast as I could, I turned around and threw the deadbolt back into place. I leaned against the doorframe, breathing hard. The twilight sky clouded, causing night to fall suddenly.
As my gaze shifted from the clouded heavens and down to earth, I saw the dark form step onto the sidewalk, just outside the door. Gasping, I grabbed the hound dog’s collar again. I pulled Cece away from the door and down behind the counter with me.
Shushing the dog’s whine, I listened. There was a faint scratching at the door. I squeezed my eyes shut, murmuring a fervent prayer. After a moment, I couldn’t hear anything other than the dog’s soft panting.
I hazarded a look around the side of the counter. The shadowy shape moved to the old bicycle. With a slow metallic screech, the pedals moved as “the man” stood, first on the right pedal then on the left, slowly bringing the bicycle into motion.
When the form was out of sight, I unconsciously sucked in a sharp, deep breath of air.
“It’s a good thing we were born on the bayou, Cece. We know when to chase down a hoodoo… and when it’s better to just hide,” I told my old hound dog and she wagged her tail.
Thanks for visiting with me. Click the link to Dan’s blog to see more doors and more stories. I hope you’ll stop and leave a friendly comment. Hugs on the wing!
Meanwhile, “Dead of Winter: Journey 13, the Harbor” is available
Thanks for spending part of your day here. I’m grateful to everyone who is reading this story. If you aren’t already, I hope you’ll be part of the extraordinary, layered world of these Journeys.
I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged. Hugs on the wing!
Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 13, The Harbor
Journey 12, Goddesses
Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
Journey 7, Revenant Pass
Journey 6, The Fluting Fell
Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 and 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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