Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 6, Featuring Fraggle

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Chess Set with Unicorn Knight CJ Hyslop
Chess Set with Unicorn Knight by CJ Hyslop

Hello, everyone.  Welcome back to my new, spontaneously written, reader-inspired serial, Atonement in Zugzwang.  If you missed the beginning of this serial, or if you need to refresh your memory about where it began, click here for Episode 1

Each week I feature the person who provided random reader things that drive the story, and/or images from which I take the “things” myself.  One of the first people to be part of my fictional town, Atonement, Tennessee, was the inimitable Fraggle.  She is an excellent photographer.  Although excellent doesn’t feel like a good enough description.  Don’t miss her blogs:  Fraggle — Rocking a Camera Across the UniverseFraggle Film, and Fraggle’s Otherverse.

By the way, here’s her review of Atonement in Bloom.

Among Fraggle’s photographs I found a couple of things that might further the story, and show up again.  The random things I chose are:  zombie, elephantine, and blue ladies.

Atonement in Zugzwang

Episode 6

Photo by CJ Hyslop
Photo by CJ Hyslop

Suddenly uneasy, Deme looked over her glowing shoulder.  Had she heard something down there in the woods, or was she being paranoid?

She and Moccus sat high above the ground.  She glanced at him from the corner of her eye.  Deme had a sneaking suspicion that her friend had a greater purpose than topping his most outlandish pranks.  However, if Moccus had a secret, then he was keeping it to himself.

“We’re a pair of pigs, precariously perched upon a stuPENdous placard, as we present a plug for our preposterous prank,” Deme intoned grandly.

“Deme, you spent far too much time with Honeybell and her books while I was away,” Moccus responded wryly, but he wriggled his twisty tail.  “When I find your thesaurus, I’m going to burn it.”

Deme snorted.

“We should take the picture now.  It’ll be daylight soon and I don’t want to be missed at home,” she reminded him.

The old fun fair was located on the eastern edge of Atonement, Tennessee.  It was about a mile east of the used car lot, which had been the location for the first time they posed the old merchant marine’s body.

The place was deserted at that time of year.  Although there was a lot of open ground around it, particularly beside the “Zombie House.”  That meant the danger of exposure for the pigs was still a concern.

Of course, Salty Riley wasn’t really a zombie or undead in any other way.  The body only moved through the magic of the brass bugle.  Getting old Salty’s body posed beside the sign was a huge task, even for both otherworldly pigs working together.

It also took both of the pigs to operate the Polaroid camera.  That proved to be an unexpected challenge for snouts and cloven hooves.  However, Moccus insisted that a photograph was necessary.

“I can already imagine the newspaper headline, Real Zombie at Fun Fair Zombie House? he collapsed into such snorting laughter that he almost choked.

Unable to resist his mirth, Deme joined in on the fit of grunting-giggles.  It was a way of letting off steam from the intensity of excitement.  The risk of being seen was beyond anything she had ever done — and Deme had been the author of some truly outrageous pranks.  However, she had nothing on Moccus.

As she caught her breath, Deme’s pondering gaze went toward the east, where the sun would soon rise.  From their high vantage point, Deme’s supernatural vision spotted a line of light.  It went from their location to a point that she knew was the center of Atonement.  Another line ran from the Gate of the East Winds.  The wedge-shape of ground in the area between the two lines emanated a subtle glow.

That’s never been there before, Deme thought anxiously.

♣ ♣ ♣

Uno the Elephant by Crookhill Community Primary School in Ryton, by CJ Hyslop
Uno the Elephant by Crookhill Community Primary School in Ryton, by CJ Hyslop

“Go on back home, Deme.  I’ll ‘anonymously’ leave this photo at the newspaper office.  I don’t want to risk you getting into trouble,” Moccus told her, and then snorted again.  “The reaction of the humans will be worth all the risk and effort!”

Deme agreed.  She watched her friend until he was out of sight, but she didn’t go home.  On silent hooves, she followed him.

Moccus trotted directly to the newspaper office, just as he said he would.  Deme felt relief at that.  However, after he pushed the picture under the door, the prankster pig did not head in the direction of home.

“I didn’t know he could move so fast,” Deme grunted, panting for breath as Moccus zigzagged from parked car to trash can to bush.

Just when she thought she had lost him, Deme spotted Moccus behind the rundown gas station where Salty had lived.

Did he go inside?  The new woman, Pepper, lives there now.  If he’s teasing her in some way, then that’s a little too much.  But no.  I he didn’t have time for any mischief there, Deme thought, but she experienced a renewed wave of guilt about the possibility that their pranks were upsetting the woman.

From the back of the gas station, Moccus headed straight toward the woods.  That may or may not take him home.  Throwing concern about curfew to the winds, Deme followed him again.

Blessed Lady!  He really is fast!  And I’m in good shape.

Far ahead, she watched Moccus scramble over a fallen tree.  Even that obstacle didn’t slow him much.

Huffing for breath, she made it to the tree.  It was not a big tree, but it might as well have been an ancient oak.  She tried to scamper over it, but fell backward.

Breathing hard, Deme sat back on her haunches.  She knew she couldn’t catch up with Moccus after that.

Abruptly she noticed a pair of athletic shoes that were cleverly made to resemble mice.

“Is this blocking your way, little one?  We don’t want you to break curfew,” said a slim man with glossy black hair.

Though the fallen tree was not big as trees go, it probably weighed 200 pounds.  Yet the man lifted it with elephantine strength.

Even in the twilight, Deme’s eyes could make out the long scar beside his nose.

“Bheema!  Oh, I’m so sorry.  I mean Lord Ganapati, conductor of the celestial armies,” Deme cried in surprise.

She extended her left leg forward and lowered her shoulders, making a porcine bow.

♣ ♣ ♣


Photo by CJ Hyslop
Photo by CJ Hyslop

When I tumbled groggily out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom, the cold tiles of the floor jolted me awake.

I’ve really got to get some rugs for this place… Or I would if I were staying.

Not counting the night on which I arrived and stayed with Maudie in the guest cottage she rented, I had just spent my third night in Atonement, Tennessee.  I felt compelled to stay until Uncle Salty’s body was found.  Distressingly, every new morning had brought something troubling — something to do with my late uncle.

First, the lawyer and my uncle’s banker friend confessed to me that Salty’s body was missing.  A blue glass bottle was left in place of the corpse.  Then inside the bottle, Maudie and I found a cryptic note.  It said, “You must setup the chessboard.”

After that, things really started to get strange.  Uncle Salty was seen at a used car lot.  The next night, he was photographed, posing way up on top of a sign for a “zombie house.”  I didn’t think my uncle would have been able to climb up to that spot even if he had been alive.  Yet everyone was certain that he was dead.

“I just know the police are going to tell me that Salty showed up somewhere again last night,” I groaned aloud.

My sleep had been disturbed every night as well.  Small sounds of movement woke me in the predawn hours.  I couldn’t pinpoint where the sounds originated.

Maybe I should hire Bheema to see if there’s some kind of critter in here.

Still bleary-eyed, I fumbled trying to open the coffee canister.  Abruptly I stopped.  Holding my breath, I listened.  A sound came from the area I thought of as Salty’s game room.  That’s also where the chess table was.  I picked up the flashlight I had been using to go through the cabinets.  It was daylight, but if an animal had gotten inside, I didn’t want to be empty handed.

I gave the flashlight a disdainful look.

Not much of a weapon.  If I needed to whack something on the head, I’d have to get too close.

Tiptoeing from the open kitchen and through the living room, I went around the corner to the game room.  I thought I might see or hear a mouse scrabbling away.  Or if I was really unlucky, an opossum might have made its home here while the place sat empty.

However, the sound that met my ears could not be made by paw-pads, or little scrabbling claws.  While not very loud, it was a clattering noise.  It was from something hard, clipping against the floor.  The sound faded away almost as soon as it started.

Photo by CJ Hyslop
Photo by CJ Hyslop

I sent a text to Bheema Parvati, my next-door neighbor, asking if he was available for his “Humane Pest Removal Service.”  Belatedly, I hoped it wasn’t too early.

The glint of the gold unicorn chess piece drew my eye.  Something had changed on the chessboard.  The unicorn was no longer the solitary piece on the table.

I looked around the room apprehensively, casting the beam of the flashlight into every shadowed corner and cranny.

As satisfied as I could get (which wasn’t very) that I was alone in the house, I moved to the chess table.  The gold unicorn piece I had found the first day was where I had left it, on the square where the queen’s knight belonged.

However, a psychedelic elephant — wearing pants no less, occupied the square for the queen’s bishop.

On the opposite side of the gameboard a rank of eight figures stood on the squares where the pawns for the other side would be.  Each was a statue of a lady in various poses of a dance.  They were all blue with gold spots.

I just about jumped out of my skin when a knock came to the front door.  I was surprised that Bheema might turn up at the door, instead of texting back or calling first.  It annoyed me, because I wasn’t dressed, but I went to the door.

On the way, I picked up an oversized shirt that I had left on a chair.  It would do to cover my pajamas.

Through the glass front of the building, I saw that the visitor was not my pest control neighbor.  It was Deputy Fletcher N. Hodge.  My shoulders sank.

“What is it?  Something else has happened, hasn’t it?” I said upon opening the door, and then realized how brash I must have sounded.  “I’m sorry deputy.  That was rude of me.  Please come in.”

He removed his hat as he came inside.  Then his brows furrowed when he returned my gaze.

“Miss Riley, you’re shaking.  Here, sit down for a minute.  Did you already see the news?” he inquired.  “No, I forgot.  You don’t have a television.”

“So, something else did happen,” I started, refusing to sit down.

Watching me carefully, Fletcher handed me a color photo.  Uncle Salty, wearing dark sunglasses, was posed beside a life-sized statue of a dancing woman.  She was painted blue with gold polka dots.

My eyes bulged.  I gasped and shoved the photos back at the deputy.  Speech illuded me, so I grabbed his muscular arm and pulled him to the game room.

I pointed at the rank of blue ladies on the chessboard.

“I found them like that just a minute ago.  The hippie elephant too.  They weren’t here before.  None of them except the gold unicorn,” I exclaimed, pointing at the chess pieces.  “Somebody has been in this house.”

Fletcher held the photographs I had shoved back into his hands.  My eyes darted from the pictures to the blue figures.  I thought about the other places where my uncle had been seen.  For a moment, I shook my head in distraught confusion.  I turned wide eyes back to the deputy.

“My uncle’s body…  These chess pieces…  Is someone trying to make me think I’m crazy?”

♣ ♣ ♣

What qualifies as crazy in a place like Atonement, Tennessee?  Although I can’t help feeling sorry for Pepper.  She seems to be caught in the middle of… of who knows what kind of supernatural shenanigans. 

Outside the blogosphere, Fraggle is also known as C.J. Hyslop.  Her photos are used on this post with her permission.   She offers the best of her best for sale at FraggleRocks Photography.  Click over and check it out.

Episode 7 will be inspired by three things from Teri Polen, at the Books & Such blog.  Don’t miss it.  Wishing you a wonderful weekend.  I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged.  Hugs!

♣ ♣ ♣

The Atonement Series

Atonement kindle covers Cat eyes shelf 2023

Atonement, Tennessee

Full series of e-books with one click:  relinks.me/B087JV25JT

Kindle:  rxe.me/HGSVA8A

Paperback: relinks.me/1481826948

Also in Spanish, translated by Olga Núñez Miret! The title for the Spanish-speaking market is Expiación y Magia

Atonement in Bloom

Kindle:  rxe.me/5RRBLH

Paperback:  relinks.me/1726882128

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Kindle   rxe.me/LTBDNH

Paperback   relinks.me/1725891972

♣ ♣ ♣

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 © 2023 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or used with permission, or from free sources.

59 thoughts on “Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 6, Featuring Fraggle

  1. Sorry I’m so late to catch up, Teagan, but that also means that I will be able to read two episodes in one go and won’t have long to wait for the next one. And it is getting so interesting…. What next?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv+999999 (Sorry, that was Daphne.) I’m still working on the episode. Or maybe I should say not working, but trying to. (eye roll) I’m waiting on the plumber — for the third time in as many weeks.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Teri. And for the three things. I’ve got the catnip. Now there might be shenanigans with Maudie and the yoga mat. But I need to think of some action…
      Have a fabulous Friday. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm… John, you’ve brought up a fine point that I had not fully considered. I had lumped the chess pieces with the antiques. But maybe they are not quite the same… I’m not sure.
      I’m doing this for myself, my thought process, as much as for you.
      *What we know so far*
      – Salty had gathered antiques during his travels. Something also changed/effected him during that time, and he retired to Atonement.
      — Salty’s antiques were so valuable they were stored in the bank’s vault until Pepper’s arrival.
      — Bheema noticed that the chess set was not on the manifests attached to the delivered crates of antiques, and he felt they should have been. He suggested that the packers considered them part of the chess table and did not list them, but Pepper didn’t find them when she unpacked.
      — One character (I forget which) mentioned that Annie (owner of the store, which in addition to regular antiques held the magical antiques of the novels) had a heated discussion with Salty about storing/handling his antiques properly.
      – A few of the characters have mentioned that they played chess with Salty either occasionally or regularly, presumably using that chess set. Does that fact tie to anything?
      – What were the circumstances of Salty obtaining the chess set? (I’ve pondered this, but haven’t decided anything.)
      – Salty’s body is being moved apparently in a progressively westward direction — meanwhile chess pieces are turning up. However, are those two things completely tied to each other?
      Are they being done by the same person? Is there more than one agenda at play?
      – Should I make a post of this? Yes, probably.
      Thanks for getting my brain into gear. My mind and body are both feeling foggy this morning. LOL. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kerfe. I’m in good company then, because I’m learning more about chess as I go. I’ve learned to “listen to my inner” when something seems to demand to be written though, so here we are. The story won’t have much of a focus on playing the actual game.
      Pepper found the gold unicorn, the first chess piece. She might find others too. For all I know, she might even *be* one. 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve followed Fraggle for quite a while now and you did a great episode with the word contributions. You two made an excellent author/contributor collaboration!!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s my bad, GP. My mind just wasn’t in the right place. Truth be told, all year my PTSD/anxiety-stuff has been more difficult than ever. It makes things I used to do easily suddenly difficult.
          Can we try again? What about… I’m thinking… … … one chess-related thing, one small town thing, and… one antique? (These don’t have to be actual tangible items.)

          Liked by 1 person

                1. You are so kind. But oh no, I will use them. The barber pole really got the attention of my imagination. “Pawn” will give me a reminder to either decide on what kind of pawns for the good guys — or pin down just what the Blue Lady pawns for the other side really are (whatever that other side turns out to be).

                  Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Teagan, this was a fun read. Poor old Deme not keeping up with Moccus the Mover. Hehe! I really like the blue ladies with the gold spots, an intriguing addition to the chess board. I must admit I looked at your three chosen words and thought … what can you do with those?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s part of the fun, Robbie — when people look at the “random things” and wonder what’s coming. At first the Blue Lady made me think of having her be the queen on the chess board. That made me think of Beira (the Queen of Winter) from Atonement in Bloom… The thread about the unicorn could also connect to Beira. However, this just doesn’t feel like the right story for her character. However, I remembered Fraggle state that the Blue Ladies were described as a “series” even though there were only two of them. Series made me think of having them be pawns on the opposing side of the board. Although they are much prettier than the supernatural beings they might (or at this point, might NOT) represent.
      Heartfelt thanks for spending part of your weekend here. I hope everyone at your house is doing well. Hugs.


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