Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 8, Featuring G. P. Cox

Saturday, April 15, 2023

CGI image by Teagan
CGI image by Teagan

Thanks for coming back to my sanctuary, everyone.   I put the chessboard (above) on a tropical shore.  It reminded me of the blog, Pacific Paratrooper.  Actually, the special guest this week is GP Cox, who runs that blog.  He provided this week’s random reader thingsMusket, pawn, and barber pole.

One of the layers of mystery in this serial expands when a new magical artifact is mentioned.  


I gasped, and then blinked.  The unicorn horn was still there on the kitten’s head, glittering in a beam of sunlight.  I blinked again, harder.  The kitten’s head was normal.  It returned my gaze blissfully and started to purr.

Atonement in Zugzwang

Episode 8


The presence of a small kitten in the room lightened the atmosphere in a big way — for everyone except me.

It may not seem like that much had happened to me, not to someone on the outside looking in, as they say.  While knowing that my uncle’s corpse was being taken around town and photographed (either that or he wasn’t really dead, despite the attending physician’s written statement) was awful, it wasn’t enough to make anybody lose their marbles.

Even when you consider the strange noises at night inside the erstwhile gas station, that was enough for anxiety, but not insanity.

However, the chess pieces that had “appeared” during the night… yes, that was weird to say the least.  There was something particularly disturbing about an entire rank of pawns being supplied for the opponent’s side.  It gave me an odd feeling.

Even so, the appearance of the chess pieces could be explained as some kind of prank.  Couldn’t it?  The security system didn’t show an entry.  I had only heard small noises, not a person tromping around.

I think what glued all those things together — in a way that made me question my sanity, was the town itself.  Though I’m not metaphysically inclined, I had to admit that Atonement had a certain vibe.  There was something different about the town.  The vibe wasn’t exactly bad or good… but it was full-on freaky.

Didn’t anyone else notice it, that essence of weirdness that permeated the town?  Maudie didn’t seem to, and she was one to follow her heart.  She only said she was “drawn” to the place.  Based on his name, I assumed that Bheema Parvati wasn’t born there.  Plus, there was something about him that suggested he had not lived there more than a few years, at most.

If Adelle’s catnip tea had any “mildly euphoric effect,” then it wasn’t enough to dim the intensity of my unease.

Turning my suspicious gaze on the gray kitten, I half expected that gold horn to be on its forehead again, but it was an ordinary kitten.

CGI by Teagan
CGI by Teagan

I saw Adelle and Bheema exchange a knowing glance.  Bheema’s expression was quite surprised.  Adelle, enigma that she was, had a complex mien, which briefly displayed mild surprise.  Her expression quickly changed to confirmation, and pleasure that was a little smug.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if she said “I told you so.”

I cleared my throat, but my voice still came out shaky.

“So, Lilith, did you say?  Did the mother cat have that same, um ‘thick spot’ on her skull?” I asked, lifting my eyebrows.

“Lilith is an ordinary cat, in as far as all cats are extraordinary,” Adelle murmured, and Bheema shot her a cautioning glance.

“That trait would have been from the kitten’s father,” Bheema commented playfully.  “You know, the males of any species are the hardheaded ones.”

“More precisely, from her father’s grandmother,” Adelle inserted and got another look from Bheema.

♣ ♣ ♣


Image by Chris Graham
Image by Chris Graham

Deme’s pale pink skin glowed in the light of the waning moon.  Although she would have glowed on any night.  Such was the nature of the otherworldly pigs.

She could travel as silently as the most expert tracker.  In fact, that is exactly what she was.

However, she was distracted by the moral dilemma that repeated in her thoughts.  She had a crisis of conscience about helping Moccus move Salty Riley’s body around town.  She had come to feel their prank was not only disrespectful, but downright inexcusable.

Unless, it was somehow for a greater good, Deme pondered.  There’s always more to Moccus than meets the eye.  Is he actually up to something honorable, but doesn’t want to admit it?  He would think that was bad for his reputation as the greatest mischief-maker.

A twig broke under Deme’s little cloven hoof.  In the nighttime silence, the noise seemed to crack like a musket shot.  Surreptitiously, she glanced over her shoulder.  Her meeting place with Moccus was a closely guarded secret, to which only the two of them were privy.

Unless the Conductor of the Celestial Armies has figured it out, she thought worriedly.  What caused Lord Ganapati to linger in Atonement, Tennessee?  As nice as he is when he’s Bheema Parvati, his presence does not bode well.  Plus, he’s so strong.  I wouldn’t want him mad at me.

“I wish I were as smart and knowledgeable as Honeybell.  She’d figure out whatever is really going on with him and Moccus both,” Deme muttered aloud in her frustration.

The abrupt sound of a voice behind her caused Deme to jump a foot into the air.  She gave a shrill squeal that she didn’t quite manage to suppress.

“Deme, you are as smart as me.  Although it would be a good idea if you read more,” Honeybell stated.

“Holy mud-wallow, Honeybell!” Deme exclaimed in a whisper.  “You scared me out of a hundred years’ growth.”

“What in the name of the great Fire Drake have you let Moccus pull you into, Deme?  You know that pig is nothing but trouble,” Honeybell grunted softly, though she didn’t look as angry as she sounded.

“I think they’re just up ahead,” Honeybell continued.  “Sometimes I can see Moccus’ glow between the foliage.”

Carefully, Deme and Honeybell crept forward.  Soon they heard Bheema’s voice.

“Moccus, you’ve gone too far,” Bheema accused in a dangerous voice.

“I’m sorry, Lord Ganapati.  I really didn’t think moving Salty’s body would make Pepper Riley lose her mind,” Moccus waffled.  “Or rather, think she was going nuts.”

US Patent US1178732A, year 1916 for a barber pole.
US Patent US1178732A, year 1916 for a revolving barber pole.

“You’re doing more than that, little pig.  You know you can’t hide things from me,” Bheema went on undeterred.  “Salty’s antiques — the barber pole is missing.  You know how dangerous that artifact is!  If the wrong entities get possession of it…”

A soft gasp escaped Honeybell’s snout.  She motioned for Deme to back away.  Deme tried to speak after a moment, but Honeybell shushed her until they were well away from Bheema and Moccus.

“Honeybell, what’s the matter?  What’s the big deal about a barber’s pole?” Deme demanded when they stopped for breath.

“You know old Salty Riley was a little… looney, don’t you?” Honeybell began, and Deme nodded.  “I heard that he didn’t get that way until he came into possession of that particular barber’s pole.  It’s not an ordinary antique.  In fact, it’s at least as dangerous than the most powerful of the artifacts the Metatron family has gathered.”

“Honeybell, I know that Atonement, Tennessee is not only a place where supernaturals and humans are drawn so they can atone.  It’s also a safe repository for objects of power,” Deme asserted.  “But what’s that got to do with a barber pole?”

“You know that it revolves, don’t you, Deme?” her companion asked, and Deme gave a soft snort because Honeybell was breaking down the explanation too far.

Her friend gave Deme a narrow glare and a grunting snort before continuing.

“When this barber’s pole rotates clockwise, it renews the protective magic that surrounds Atonement.  That magic is also what prevents the especially harmful races of supernatural beings from entering this town,” Honeybell paused to make sure Deme was listening.  “However, if the pole is made to rotate counterclockwise, it creates an opening in the protective circle.”

Deme gave a hoarse gasp.  Honeybell nodded sagely.

“Evil creatures could get inside Atonement!  What if they got the artifacts stored here?” Deme exclaimed.

“Combine the powers of certain supernaturals with the magic of the barber pole and it could do much more harm that simply allowing evil creatures to get to the powerful artifacts.  Although it’s very unlikely, there is a possibility that time itself could be corrupted,” she paused at Deme’s skeptical snort.  “Regardless, it is certain — not just a potential, that Atonement would become something evil.  Worse that dark magic could pull into its sphere of evil, all the inhabitants of Atonement,” Honeybell declared.

“Atonement, and everyone in it would turn into something evil,” Deme whispered and Honeybell grunted gravely.

Deme’s pink skin blanched.  The glowing pigs shuddered at the thought.

♣ ♣ ♣

Oh… that’s an unexpected power for a barber pole.  While they’ve stayed in the background and only gotten “mentions” in this serial, there are some amazingly powerful beings in Atonement, TN.  After all, the place is guarded by two dragons, a fallen angel, and who knows what else.  

Be sure to visit GP Cox. at his fascinating history blog.  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.

74 thoughts on “Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 8, Featuring G. P. Cox

    1. Yes to both of those, Robbie. I really want the story to feature Pepper more, but the darned pigs seem to have taken over. LOL. Actually, now that I think about it, Maudie might actually be a device for me to give Pepper a better part. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Your comment surprised me, Robbie. I appreciate this good feedback. I haven’t been able to focus to write an episode this week. I’m in overwhelm from another episode with the neighbors, the sink that the plumbers still haven’t gotten fixed after 3 visits in 3 weeks, and the landscaping problem. At least a temporary fix re the landscaping was finished last night…but that will only last a couple of weeks. All that to say I decided to do a repeat post of the last 4 episodes for tomorrow. Give myself that much of a break. I hope all is well with you and yours. Hugs.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh dear, Teagan, I am so sorry to hear about these troubles. Life is always full of challenges, isn’t it. Hang in there, things will improve, they always do. I am taking leave from work from next Thursday and taking my mom to visit my sister in Cape Town. The break will do me good.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Salty had valuables stored in the bank vault (episode 2). He was a merchant marine, and collected various antiques during his travels (episode 4). As for precisely how, that much detail would bog down a serial. Although it might be a fun short story for after this serial ends — writing it before that time would be a spoiler.
      Have a great new week.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What fun, Teagan. I loved this matter-of-fact line: “Such was the nature of the otherworldly pigs.” LoL. There were so many great lines in here, that I can’t repeat them all. But then there’s this one: ‘“Holy mud-wallow, Honeybell!” Deme exclaimed in a whisper. “You scared me out of a hundred years’ growth.”’ Ha ha ha. Can you tell I love the pigs. Another great episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. Thanks, Diana. Since the pigs were so fond of Sheriff Robin in the other stories, and his police car was nicknamed the Batmobile… I thought a Boy-Wonder-like expletive was in order. Mud is revered by pigs, even the glowing kind. I’m happy you enjoyed this. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great spisode, Teagan 🙂 I wouldn’t mind having a unicorn cat! I like the twist of what the barber pole does for the town too. Hugs xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, Oh where oh where have my brain cells gone? Where oh where can they be? Or that’s the way I often feel.
      Noelle, here’s a clue. Every little thing I’ve mentioned about Bheema (including his first name and surname, and scar) all leads back to something particular… something that might be much easier to guess for some people from other cultures or parts of the world. Plus, the farther the “random reader things” take me into this tale, the more likely that mystery is to play a large part in the eventual conclusion.
      If you think you’ve guessed, please don’t leave it here. Either email or send a Facebook message.
      Thanks for being part of this serial. Hugs.


  3. “Full-on freaky” That’s the best description of Atonement, I’ve heard, Teagan. I love where these three things lead you today. Now we have mystery, normal run-of-the-mill scary stuff and Armageddon-worthy scary stuff to worry about. My mind is running in circles trying to figure out where this might go. I need another cup of coffee and I need to tell myself to “relax and wait for Teagan to tell you.”

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, Teagan! I’d rather not imagine what a dark Atonement would be like! (Well, I love horror stories, but you know what I mean). And a barber pole… I do like barber poles, although from now on, I’ll make sure I pay close attention to them. Thanks, Teagan! I can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There wasn’t any information on the kitten (or even the photographer). When I look closely at the pic, I think the color saturation has been enhanced some. That said, its fur could be Russian Blue, although the ears would be Scottish Fold. I researched and while the ears began as a genetic fluke, they don’t seem to be associated with any other breed. Maybe it’s a cross of the two… Regardless, it’s an adorable kitten indeed. 🐱


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