Acushla Bound – Part Eight

Vacation, Day 8 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Pepper and Mikaela rode into a valley between the mountains. They followed the trail until just before nightfall. The trail had led to an outcropping of red and white rock faces. The area looked as if the land had been broken into pieces and turned on its side. Together they found a small recess in one of the red rocks which would protect them from the blowing cold winds.

Mikaela dismounted from Pepper’s back and gathered some kindling to start a fire. She pulled some dried jerky from the provisions in her pack for herself, then removed the saddle from Pepper’s back. Pepper made his way to a nearby patch of grass, chomping down after a long day’s ride.

Mikaela took a seat on one of the rocks and looked up into the night sky. The stars always caught her eyes. She wondered about other worlds, other lives, other places. As she looked in the night sky, she didn’t recognize any of the constellations. There were no Orion’s belt, no big or little dipper, no cassiopeia. However, the stars were still amazing as they twinkled in the night sky.

As Mikaela reflected on her journey, she realized she was missing home less than she thought she should. Out here, among nature, she felt free. Perhaps she was starting to understand why people chose to stay here instead of running back home. Freedom from responsibilities, freedom from obligations. Anything she could think of, she could make happen here, or so she thought.

In the distance, she heard a rustling in the brush. A small white-tailed deer stumbled out and looked at her. She walked closer to the fire, looking for warmth, and laid down, curled up. Pepper walked up, looked at the deer, then at Mikaela. He started to whinny, but Mikaela signaled to him to be quiet. Mikaela grabbed her satchel, and laid down, settling in for the night.

No sooner did Mikaela fall asleep did she wake up. Song birds greeted her as the sun began to stream daylight. When she woke, she thought it odd. No dreams overnight, at least that she could remember. The deer had left long before, but Pepper was already prancing around in a nearby field. Pepper spied she was awake and bolted over.

Mikaela looked at Pepper. “What are we doing, Pepper? Why am I here?” She no longer understood what this journey was about. This talk of an acushla waiting, the kind people Somewhere, the strange clan of Nowhere. Now she was here, alone, and while free, felt empty.

Pepper nodded his head towards his back, as if to say mount up. Mikaela shook her head no. Pepper stomped his feet, then whinnied for her to get on.

In the distance, Mikaela saw riders coming up fast. She wasn’t sure if they saw her, but she decided not to stick around to find out. Quickly she threw on the saddle and mounted up. “Let’s go Pepper. You get your way one more time.”


Acushla Bound – Part Seven

Vacation, Day 7 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Mikaela found herself surrounded by tall hedges around and a starlit sky above. The labyrinth had only one direction to take…well two if she chose to turn back. She walked for a long time, enough for the stars above to move across the sky.

She grew tired, but knew she needed to continue on. Ahead she spotted a small bench though and took a seat. In the distance she heard a rustle from the hedges, and a small rabbit hopped out. He munched on some grass in front of her then just as quickly disappeared.

Mikaela finally smiled, a moment away from the crazy kidnapping group. She reflected, if everyone is from There, why don’t they want to go back? Why choose to stay here?

So far, nothing here, as beautiful as it was, would stop her from wanting to go home. She reclined. Just a moments rest. She drifted asleep.

“Ahem!” A voice cleared his throat.

Mikaela opened her eyes, and before her stood a man she had never seen before. Not the mystery man from her dreams, not Jed. Slowly, she focused in on his face. She remembered his face from the crowd at the festival. He had smiled at her then, but not in a lustful way.

“I’m Hank. Here,” he handed her a cup of warm tea. “This should help you resume your journey. May I walk with you a bit?”

Hank’s voice was kind and his demeanor sweet and unassuming. Mikaela shook her head yes. “Of course. I don’t understand any of this. Could you explain it to me?”

Hank offered his hand to assist Mikaela up from the bench and they resumed walking through the labyrinth.

“I am from Thaer too. It can be confusing to arrive here without prior knowledge. Most people dream of here long before they come.” Hank explained. “You are one of the few who came to us without prior dreams. It makes you unique. It means something or someone pulled you here.”

“Is that why they keep referencing my acushla? What is an acushla?” Mikaela questioned.

“It is possible your acushla pulled or pushed you here. It is possible from either direction. The word translates to ‘darling’… someone you care for deeply.”

Mikaela looked thoughtfully at Hank. “Thank you for explaining that. I don’t know who that would be however.”

A smile came over Hank’s face. “Some who come here are escaping from something, they don’t normally come here without some sort of longing.” He hoped she wouldn’t know what she desired and that he could convince her to stay with him. “The clan is helping me find confidence and make connections. They set this up for me to meet you.”

Mikaela found herself flattered but curious. “Why me? Why you?”

Hank and Mikaela continued to walk the labyrinth while they got to know each other more. The turns in the labyrinth started coming faster as they spoke. Finally they reached the center.

Mikaela’s mind continued to nag her. Hank was a lovely man, kind, sweet, but there was something amiss.

They entered a small courtyard which appeared to be the center of the labyrinth. She looked around. A small tiered fountain with roses climbing on it trickled water. A small bench for two sat opposite the fountain and on the other side, a straight section which appeared to lead out of the labyrinth.

She took a seat on the bench, and Hank joined her. “Will you stay and take a journey with me?” He looked up and looked at the fountain, “or will you chance it all for the unknown?”

His offer was attractive. During their talk he spoke of travels and comfort and devotion. Any sane woman would leap at the chance to be with someone like Hank.

Then the mystery man’s voice came back to her, You will make it through. Hold on. She felt a chill down her spine and turned to Hank. “Will you let me go if I choose to go?”

Hank looked down to his hands, “Of course.”

She could tell he was crushed. “If I stay, can I leave later?”

He paused a moment. His kindness started to melt away. “Why would you do this? Pick me now or go.”

He stood up and kicked a pebble which smacked into the fountain and splashed some water onto the roses. The droplets looked like tears on the roses.

She stood up and quietly whispered, “I am sorry. I must go.” Her heart knew this was the best decision, although she felt saddened to see Hank in such a way.

Mikaela made her way forward, her steps quickened as she approached the arch marking the end of the labyrinth. She looked back one time and waved good bye to Hank. He nodded and she swore she saw him smile before he turned to head back.

When she exited the labyrinth, Pepper was standing, freshly brushed, saddled and ready to go. Her clothing and satchel were attached to the saddle, along with some provisions for their journey.

She looked around and quickly changed back into her riding clothes. She kept the dress, it could come in handy.

She mounted Pepper. “Where to now Pepper?”

Pepper pranced a moment, then took off through the valley towards the snow-capped mountains.


Acushla Bound – Part Six

Vacation, Day 6 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

The sisters entered Mikaela’s tent. The one with the loose braids walked over to Mikaela and placed a wreath of wildflowers and greenery upon her head. “Come, it is time,” the sister announced.

As they walked out of the ten, Mikaela realized the sun was setting in the distance, and saw a large fire with the clan gathered around. There was drumming and clapping coming from the people gathered around the fire. Some members danced about in circles and Mikaela suspected a little drinking was already underway.

Mikaela’s mind spun. Could she escape tonight or will someone be watching her too closely? She looked about and spied Pepper was penned up with some other horse just outside the encampment. As she looked around, her menacing guard walked in front of her blocking her view of the pen and, tilting his head sideways, shook his finger in a wagging pattern indicating no.

She looked to the ground then turned back in the directions the sisters were guiding her. She recalled what the mystery man from her dream told her Keep looking forward. It’s the only way through. So she walked on, semi-willingly, with the sisters.

The bearded man from earlier walked up to the sisters and Mikaela. “Fine work sisters! She is perfect.”

Mikaela looked up at him. “Are you Hank?”

The man laughed again, as if she said something hilarious. “Oh, dear child, no, I am not Hank! That’s funny!” He looked at the sisters and nodded at them to leave them. “Come with me. What is your name child?”

“Mikaela. And yours?”

“I’m known as Jed in this clan. I have also gone by Fitz in another life.”

“Another life?”

“Oh yes! All except the children have had another life before we reached Nowhere. Many of have chosen to stay in Nowhere. Some have opted for other locations, such as Somewhere.”

“Where are you originally from then?”

“Oh child, we are all from There. Even you are from There; I can tell.”

Mikaela’s head was spinning. All of these people came from her time, her home? Her voice squeaked out, “How?”

Jed looked at her kindly, “How does not matter. Why probably matters more. Confused yet?”

Mikaela just stared at him.

“Good. You should be. Your acushla will pale in comparison to what we have to offer in Nowhere. But Nowhere must also accept you. You, my dear, are very different than others from There. I don’t believe you can even comprehend it.”

Mikaela looked up at him, then realized they were standing in front of a hedge labyrinth.

“Tonight, we will find out if you will find Hank, or if you will pass on from Nowhere.” Jed waved his hand at the entrance of the labyrinth. “But first, we will dine. Come with me, dear.”

Jed took Mikaela by the arm back towards the fire. The clan was singing and dancing still. Some had started eating as well. Jed picked up a bowl and handed it to the cook who had worked on the feast. “For the lady.”

The cook nodded, turned, and pulled out a piece of what appears to be chicken from a large pot, then poured other cooked broth and vegetables over it, then handed it back to Jed.

Jed turned to Mikaela. In a non-accented voice he whispered, “It’s like chicken soup.”

In that moment, she realized Jed was not from this world, as he did not have their accent. Her eyes grew wide.

He laid his finger across his lips, indicating for her to say nothing.

Mikaela wasn’t sure if she could trust him to help her, but shook her head yes.

Jed’s voice piped up and the accent returned, “Eat up, child. You’ll need your strength tonight!”

The sisters walked by and giggled. Some of the men of the clan watched Mikaela as she walked with Jed, some with lust in their eyes, others with disgust. Mikaela felt she was on show for the highest bidder or something, and became self-conscious. The sheer dress in the cold air revealed far more than she was comfortable with.

Again, those words came back to her. Keep looking forward. It’s the only way through. She lifted her chin and continued to keep up with Jed instead of being bashful and falling behind.

Finally Jed settled onto a stump and patted for Mikaela to sit next to him. She did and they both ate. Mikaela continued to look around at the group.

Everyone was fair haired and fair skinned in the group as well as light-eyed. It was odd to see no one with dark hair or dark eyes. Most of the women were petite, no taller than 5-foot 2-inches, and even most of the men were under 6 feet. Jed and Mikaela’s guard were the exceptions as they were both over 6 feet tall.

If Mikaela had not felt like a captive, she might have enjoyed herself. The clan enjoyed laughter, sang, and danced away the night.

As the fire and frivolity died down, Jed stood up. In a booming voice he announced “It is time! Mikaela, please join me.” He stretched out his hand to her.

Tired and weary, she took his hand. She could no longer think straight and longed for sleep. But, she knew that soon would be her chance to escape.

Jed escorted Mikaela to the entrance of the hedge. Her guard followed closely behind. “Your journey starts here,” Jed announced again so the whole group behind them could here. In a quieter voice under his breath, he then told her “Keep looking forward. It’s the only way through.”

Mikaela noted his words and walked into the labyrinth.


Acushla Bound – Part Five

Vacation, Day 5 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Martha, looking over Mikaela, spoke to Jonathan. “Do you think she’s the one?”

Mikaela could hear them, but was not able to move. She struggled to open her eyes. She realized she was blindfolded and her hands and legs were bound.

Jonathan replied, “Of course she is.” He bent in front of her and waved something in front of her face. As she faded, she heard him continue. “She was riding Pepper. We have to stop this. I’ll take her to the mountain clan. They’ll know what to do with her.”

Mikaela blacked out again.

The cart jostled Mikaela back awake. She found herself in the back of a horse drawn wagon in a pile of hay. She was still bound, but the blindfold was no longer over her eyes. “Where are you taking me?” she demanded.

Jonathan looked back toward her, “Don’t you worry. No harm will come to you, but we had to intercede. No one gets their acushla in Nowhere, ever.

Mikaela thought to herself, There’s that word again. “What is an acushla?”

Jonathan laughed heartily as if Mikaela has just told the funniest joke ever. “Never you mind! If you don’t know, you don’t need to know.”

He snapped the reigns. Pepper and another horse were drawing the wagon. Pepper whinnied in protest.

“Stop, you’re hurting him!” Mikaela pleaded with Jonathan.

Jonathan slowed the wagon and stopped. He turned around. “I’m not going to take any sass from you.” He climbed over the seat and waved something in front of Mikaela’s nose which knocked her out again.

Mikaela returned to dreamland. The jostling of the wagon translated into her riding on the back of a magnificent stallion. She realized the man from her earlier dream was riding with her, his arm loosely wrapped around her waist.

The rhythm of the horse’s stride lifted them up and dropped them in unison on its back.

His breath was warm on her neck. She turned to catch a glance of him. He whispered, “Keep looking forward,” in an ominous voice. “It’s the only way through.”

She found herself looking forward and watched the light stream down, lighting the trail’s path. The forest around them was dark. Mist floated above the forest floor. The call of an owl echoed through the trees.

“Where are we going?” she asked the man, who started holding her tighter against him. She relaxed in his arm; she knew she could trust him for some reason.

“You’ll make it through. Just hold on.” With that, the stallion began to race as did her heart.

Mikaela’s eyes opened with a flash. She realized she was no longer bound, but instead found herself in a makeshift tent. A hand made quilt covered her. She was free to get up and move. There was a small bowl of food and some water on a wobbly stump next to where she was laying.

She could hear voices outside her tent. They spoke English, but with a heavy accent. She caught pieces of conversations as people passed the tent.

“Yeah, she’s the one they say. I don’t believe it. Pepper’s lost it.”

“Did you see her hair? It’s dark and short. I’ve never seen a lady with short hair!”

“I bet she’s a witch!”

“We can’t let them meet. What do we do with her?”

The voices carried on. Mikaela walked up to the flaps of the tent and spied outside. There was a large man standing in front of her tent, looking toward the door. He saw her come to the flap.

He smiled a goofy grin and waved at her, then stood imposingly, raised his eyebrow, and signaled to her to stay in the tent.

She shrunk back from the flap and sat back down, wrapping herself in the quilt. The chill of the mountain air streamed into the tent.

She could smell food cooking outside and realized she was hungry. She picked up the small bowl and looked into it. There appeared to be beans in the bottom, so she ate a few spoonfuls to quiet her stomach. While eating, she heard approaching steps. A voice came from outside, “Ya’ decent?”

She was surprised she was asked. “Um, yes.”

The flap lifted and a man with two women entered the tent. He took a seat and the women kneeled, one on each side.

One woman had two very long braids, one on each side of her face. The other had her braids coiled up on her head. They appeared to be sisters, with light eyes and auburn red hair. They were clothed in simple dresses, no adornments and no jewelry.

The man was dressed in pants covered by chaps and a simple shirt. His hair and beard were salt and pepper.

The women whispered to each other, but loud enough for all to hear.

“Her acushla awaits.”

“She cannot reach her acushla.”

“We must prevent her acushla from getting her.”

“No one gets their acushla in Nowhere.”

The man raised his hand. “Shush, women! We are not the ones to decide such things. Only fate can.” He turned to Mikaela. “I have something better than your acushla. Will you entertain us first?”

Mikaela still had no idea and frustrated, asked, “What is an acushla?”

The trio bust into laughter. The man spoke up, “Jonathan was right, you are hilarious!” He turned to each of the ladies, “Will you get her ready for the evening?”

They shook their heads at him indicating yes. He stood up and departed the tent.

Mikaela looked at these two women who started busying themselves in the tent, pulling out a gown and what looked like charcoal and berries.

Mikaela thought to herself, I really need to wake up from this dream soon. This is getting weird!

The woman with the long braids signaled to Mikaela to stand up. Mikaela looked around, realizing they were going to force her to change into the gown they had pulled out. It was a light white cotton dress. She recognized the stitching around the neck. It was similar to the nightgown Mrs. Taylor had given her, but this one looked to be suited more for wearing as a dress.

“I’ll dress myself, if that’s okay?” Mikaela requested.

The ladies looked at each other and shrugged, and turned back to the other items they pulled out. One looked over her shoulder and waved at Mikaela to go ahead.

Mikaela shimmied out of her riding pants and shirt, then quickly put the gown on. It was very sheer, showing the outlines of her undergarments.

“It’s too sheer. Do you have something else? Can’t I just wear my clothes?”

The ladies giggled again and turned around. “No dear, this is what you must wear. It’s what we all wear on these days.”

Mikaela became concerned. What was this group planning to do to her? She started thinking about ways of escape.

The ladies added ribbons to the waist and sleeves of the gown, smashed the berries and applied the juice to her cheeks and lips. They then outlined her eyes with charcoal.

Mikaela was certain she looked affright. She rarely wore make-up as it was and this felt heavy on her skin.

“She’s beautiful, sister. Don’t you think?”

“Oh, most definitely. Hank will be pleased.”

Mikaela picked up the name, “Who’s Hank? Is he the man I met earlier?”

The ladies just giggled again. “We’ll be back to get you in a bit.”

Mikaela peeked out of the tent as they left. There appeared to be a festival like atmosphere outside, but her large guard still stood at the entrance of the tent. He gave her another grin, waved, and pointed her back into the tent. His deep voice said one word, “Wait.”

She stepped back into the tent and started devising how to get away from this encampment. She longed to just wake up from this dream as it had started turning into a nightmare.


Acushla Bound – Part Four

Vacation, Day 4 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Pepper took the lead, guiding Mikaela to the next stop in their journey. The mountains were closer now, but still off in the distance. As they left Somewhere, farms of wheat, hay, and corn surrounded them. They passed a few farm houses along the trail; most were quiet with friendly farmers waving hello now and then.

They continued on the trail until mid-afternoon. As the sun floated high above the pair, thirst began to set in. Mikaela reached for a small canteen, but there was only a small sip left. She and Pepper kept an eye out for a stream. They happened upon a small bridge which should go over a creek, but the creek bed was dry.

Pepper continued to plod along. The fields went from flourishing to dry and dusty as their journey continued. At the next farm, they heard some people working outside. Mikaela pulled Pepper’s reigns to direct him to the farmhouse.

Pepper resisted, but only momentarily. He was tired and thirsty as well. He spotted a small trough in the field and hoped the people would be kind enough to let him have a sip.

As Mikaela and Pepper approached the house, the woman of the house hollered for her mate. “Jonathan, we have guests. They look exhausted. Bring something to drink.”

Mikaela slowly moved off Pepper’s back. “Hello, ma’am. Might we trouble you for some…”

“drink? on its way. Take your horse over to the trough so he can get some as well. You look parched and famished.”

Jonathan walked up and handed Mikaela a clay cup filled with some form of liquid. “It’s beer, dear. Better to drink out here than the water.”

Mikaela thanked Jonathan and took a sip. She choked down the liquid as she was not a fan of beer, but it was better than nothing. Mikaela forced a smile.

The lady of the home piped up, “Jon, why did you bring her beer.” She turned to Mikaela. “I’m Martha. Would you let me brew you some tea? Boiling the water will make it better to drink.”

Mikaela smiled, “Tea would be perfect.” She looked around. This was a time before refrigeration, so iced tea would be off the table, but hot tea would do.

Martha laced her arm in Mikaela’s and showed her to the house. “Does your horse need to be tied up?”

Mikaela shook her head no. “He’s a good horse. I think we’ll be fine.” Mikaela looked forward to a few moments off Pepper’s back, and she was sure Pepper would enjoy a few minutes as well.

Once inside, Martha set a pot of water to boil over the fire and set out some mugs. She added tea leaves to the boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes.

Jonathan escorted Mikaela to a small table with a few chairs and asked her to have a seat.

“Thank you for being so welcoming. The road is long and I am not quite sure where Pepper is taking me,” Mikaela shared.

Jonathan lifted his eyebrow toward Martha, then turned back to Mikaela. “Pepper, you say. Is that your horse’s name? How did you come up with it?”

Martha walked over to prepare the tea and came back with the mugs. “Would you like some sugar dear?”

Mikaela smiled. “Yes, please.” she refocused back on Jonathan. “Actually, Pepper found me. He was by a lake miles from here. I didn’t name him; that’s the name on his reigns. He’s been my guide on our journey.”

Jonathan chuckled. “Now, that’s a story! I’ve never heard of such a thing. A horse as a guide.”

“Drink up, dear,” Martha motioned to the cup of tea. “Enjoy it while it’s hot.”

Mikaela lifted the cup to her lips. The tea was fragrant and sweet. “This is delish….” Mikaela collapsed mid-sentence, falling to the floor.


Acushla Bound – Part Three

Vacation, Day 3 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Mikaela wondered if, when she fell asleep in her dream, would she have another dream or return home to reality. She curled up under the sheets of the small bed in the inn and drifted off.

As Mikaela slept, she saw visions of an ethereal setting, and she found herself standing behind a bare backed man sawing wood. His shoulder and arm muscles rippled in the light which streamed down through the trees. He set down his saw and wiped his brow.

Mikaela found herself holding a tall cold glass of lemonade. “Would you like a sip?” She asked.

He straightened his back and slowly turned around. He smiled a crooked grin and his eyes sparkled in the light. His strong hand reached out. “Sounds delicious!”

Delicious was an understatement, Mikaela thought to herself. But, everyone looks perfect in dreamland. She looked down and admired herself…she hadn’t looked this good since she was twenty.

She stretched out her hand to him. His fingers lightly brushed hers, sending little tremors of excitement through her. Sparks of attraction flashed between them as their eyes met once more.

She could stare at those eyes all day. He looked into hers, as if he were reading her soul, then lifted the glass to his lips. Those lips have probably kissed a thousand lasses before. All she wanted was just one.

As he lowered the glass down, he saw the wanting in her eyes. His lips curled at the corners as he spoke. “Thank you.”

He handed the glass back to her, brushed her cheek lightly, then turned to go back to work.

Mikaela suddenly woke, still in the inn. Her dreams teased her. Not even a kiss? She looked around and realized daylight had started streaming through the window. Time to get up anyhow, she thought to herself.

She donned her worn dress and headed out. Harold stopped her just before she made it out of the door of the inn.

“Ms. Mikaela, won’t you have at least a biscuit before you head out for the day?” He inquired. “I have just brewed some tea, have a moment with me will you?”

Mikaela looked over Harold. He was such a sweet man; she couldn’t say no to him. So she slid into one of the two chairs he had set up for tea and sipped his brew. “This is lovely tea, Harold. Thank you.”

Harold chuckled, “Don’t thank me, thank the missus! She made breakfast this morning; she’s still back in the kitchen you know.”

Mikaela heard nothing from the back of the inn, but continued to smile and make small talk with Harold. As her tea faded and the biscuits disappeared, she realized how much time had passed.

“Thank you for a lovely breakfast and conversation this morning, Harold. I must get over to Mrs. Taylor’s though.” Mikaela stood up.

Harold shuffled out of his chair and with a quick nod, bid Mikaela thank you and farewell.

Mikaela admired the sky this mid-morning. Somewhere was sunny and the clouds floated across the sky.

Mikaela made her way into the Clothier and greeted Mrs. Taylor.

“Good morning, Ms. Mikaela,” she greeted back. “I have your items ready. I hope they are to your liking.”

Mikaela unfolded the garments and checked them out. Two sets of riding pants with blousen shirts. “These are perfect!”

Mrs. Taylor smiled with pleasure. “Oh, I almost forgot.” She stumbled into the back of her shop and brought out a pair of soft leather boots. “Would these fit you?”

Mikaela’s eyes lit up. The leather was supple and boots would be so much more suited for a journey. “How much, Mrs. Taylor?”

Mrs. Taylor blushed a little. “For you, just a single silver coin, if you have?”

Mikaela was startled, only one coin? She looked in her purse, and pulled out one. “Will this do?” She wasn’t sure of their monetary system, but everything was copper, silver, or gold in her bag.

“Oh yes my dear. That will be perfect. Here, you need a satchel to carry your goods.” Mrs. Taylor handed her a roll which she could attach to Pepper’s saddle.

Mikaela was touched by Mrs. Taylor’s kindness. “Can I give you a hug?”

Mrs. Taylor’s face lit up. “Of course my dear! Such a good soul!”

Mikaela gave her a hug then bid her farewell. “Thank you for everything!”

Mikaela headed to the stables and checked in on Pepper. Pepper reared at the door and was ready to head out. “Whoa, Pepper! We can head out in a minute. Let me put my affairs in order.”

Pepper calmed for a minute, then neighed at her naggingly. Mikaela opened the stall door and led Pepper to the inn’s hitching post then patted him on the face. “I’ll be right back.”

She went back to the inn, changed into her new clothes, and closed up her affairs with Harold, then she and Pepper headed back out on their journey.


Acushla Bound – Part Two

Vacation, Day 2 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Pepper continued along the forest covered trail with Mikaela on his back. His gallop slowed as he entered a meadow.

Mikaela looked around. Wildflowers she’d never seen surrounded her. The colors were mesmerizing and they seemed to wave in unison as the stems swayed in the breeze. Mikaela rested her head against Pepper’s neck, his mane tickling her nose.

Slowly, Pepper came to a stop. Mikaela unmounted the mighty horse, stretched and looked around. “Is this where we’re supposed to be, Pepper?”

Pepper looked at her for a moment, then stooped down. He had stopped at a creek and took a sip of water. When he raised his head back up, he motioned toward his back.

“Okay, Pepper, I guess it’s time to move on,” Mikaela sighed as she mounted up. “It’s pretty here though.”

Pepper neighed briefly and then continued on the trail, across a small footbridge over the water and toward an orchard in the distance. His pace picked up as he neared the orchard. Mikaela held on as he bounded toward the trees. “Whoa, Pepper, whoa!” She feared he might throw her. Finally, he stopped and picked an apple off with his shiny big teeth.

Mikaela chuckled, “Sounds like a good idea. She reached for an apple of her own. Pepper backed away from the tree, blocking her reach. “What, you can have one, but I can’t?”

Pepper pranced a few times and then walked over to another tree. This one had beautiful pinkish-red apples. This time, Mikaela was able to pick one and took a bite. It was the most delicious apple she had ever tasted. She knew she had to have more, but how to hold them?

She looked down at the gown. It had multiple layers of light fabric in the skirt. She pulled up the outer layers and ripped a large swath from the bottom layer. She formed it into a bag of sorts and picked several apples, then fastened them to the saddle.

Pepper pulled another apple and enjoyed it while Mikaela took a breath from the journey. It was a beautiful land about her. In the distance, some trees had not bore fruit yet, and apple blossoms covered the trees. Pepper slowly walked through this area of the orchard, letting Mikaela enjoy its beauty.

The sun was starting to sink low in the distance when they came to the edge of the orchard. Mikaela spied a small village off in the distance. “Pepper, is that where we are going?”

Pepper neighed loudly, and took off in a full gallop toward town. Mikaela looked forward to having some human company to speak with as well as a break from riding in a dress on Pepper’s back. Pepper brought Mikaela to the door of a local inn, stopped, and shook his head toward the door.

As Mikaela swung her leg over to dismount, she heard the jingle of coins. She found a small purse of money tucked securely under a flap on Pepper’s saddle. Mikaela hitched Pepper’s lead to the hitching posted, and pet her new friend’s face. “I’ll be back out. Hopefully they have a stable for you too my friend.” Pepper whinnied with delight.

Mikaela felt a little disheveled as she entered the inn. A kind looking old man sat behind the counter. “Well, hello there ma’am. How can I help you?”

Mikaela fiddled with her dress a little more and tried to straighten her hair as she approached the man as his desk. “Do you have a room and a stable for my horse?”

“You’re not from around here, are you ma’am? I’m Harold. Nice to meet you. I’ll be happy to set you up for a night or two in one of our rooms.”

Mikaela smiled. “Thank you, and no, I’m not from around here. Where is here?”

Harold chuckled to himself. “Oh, you’re Somewhere between There and Nowhere.”

Mikaela tilted her head sideways. “So, what’s the name of this place?” His original answer confused her.

“You’re Somewhere!” Harold exclaimed and held his hands up and wide as if he were grabbing as much air as he could.

Mikaela nodded, and thought what a strange answer. “Um, ok. Is there a place I can get my horse some feed and stabled during my stay in Somewhere?”

Harold’s eyes glistened when she said Somewhere. Almost like it was a magical word. “Oh definitely.” He pointed to the other side of the dusty road. “The stables are over there. No charge for a pretty lady like yourself.” He finished up the register and had Mikaela sign it, then turned over the key. “Your room is right at the top of the stairs on the left.”

Mikaela nodded thank you and started to head toward the door. “Um, Harold, is there a place where I might get some different clothes?”

“Sure thing, Ms. Mikaela. The Town Clothier is down the street. Mrs. Taylor will fix you up right proper.”

“Thanks, Harold.” With that, Mikaela walked back out to Pepper and smiled. She unlashed the lead and walked Pepper over to the stables. She gave Pepper a nice brushing and a couple more apples before heading over to Mrs. Taylor to address her dress.

Mikaela walked into the Town Clothier. The door rattled as she pulled it and stuck a bit on the frame. A rudimentary bell chimed.

A sweet little voice came from behind a stack of cloth. “Give me a minute. I’ll be right there.” The shuffle of feet could be heard against the wood planked floor.

Mikaela looked around the shop as Mrs. Taylor finished working on her task.

“Okay, here I am!” Mrs. Taylor hollered as she rounded the stacks. She paused, and her eyes grew big. “You’re a woman!”

Mikaela chuckled to herself. Even at just over five foot five, she towered over Mrs. Taylor. “Hi. I, um, need a change of clothes.” Her beautiful dress now looked haggard and worn. She wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged after she tore out the swatch to carry the apples.

“Oh, sweetie, yes, you do. Are you looking to lure a man or something more practical?” Her eyes glistened like Harold’s, it must be something about Somewhere.

Mikaela giggled. Lure a man. That struck her funny. “Just something practical. My horse has decided to take me on a journey and, well, I need something more appropriate.”

Mrs. Taylor looked her over and started taking measurements. “Okay, sweetie. Can you come back in the morning? I’ll have two changes for you then. In the mean time,” Mrs. Taylor turned to her side and picked up a folded gown, “you’ll be more comfortable sleeping in this tonight. It’s yours, no charge.”

Mikaela nodded thank you as Mrs. Taylor handed her the gown.

Her old hands gently touched the top off Mikaela’s. “I get a good vibe from you. Your acushla awaits.”

Mikaela had never heard that word before, but she was tired and longed for bed. She decided to save her questions for the morning and to head back to the inn. She waved to Mrs. Taylor and bid her a good evening.

Mikaela wandered back to the inn and climbed up the stairs. Her room was sparse, but a small fireplace warmed the room and a lantern cast light on the walls with enough for her to see. She shimmied out of her dress and unfolded the gown. Sweet stitch work in the pattern of scrolls and roses lined the V-neck of the gown. Mikaela slipped it on and headed toward bed.


Acushla Bound

Vacation, Day 1 – Enjoy a re-post of a story I wrote while I enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Mikaela finally found an afternoon of no obligations, no commitments. She packed a small lunch and headed outside to sit by the lake.

She spread out a blanket and found a comfortable place to lean against the massive oak they saved from splitting following Hurricane Irma. The strapping still held it together, but the tree had healed nicely.

The breeze floated across the lake, carrying with it the warmth of the sun. Her skin glistened in the heat, but she was still comfortable. Her brown hair, desperate for a trim, curled up against her neck.

She purposely left her phone inside to escape interruption, but she brought a journal and pen, should any creativity come to visit.

She listened to the songs of the chickadees and cardinals as they flirted above her between the branches. Over the lake, herons and egrets swiftly flew by, looking for their lunch. Relaxation finally found her.

Slowly, she slipped into slumber, laying on her blanket. Her limbs and her eyes became heavy, but she didn’t struggle or fight it. It was nice to let things go for once. In the distance, the shell chimes clinked, lulling her further into a deep sleep.

In the distance she heard the galloping of hooves. She startled herself awake. As she opened her eyes, she realized she must be dreaming. Nothing around her was familiar.

The tree she slept under was now a willow tree, glistening in the sun. Her branches swayed in the winds, and almost iridescent leaves sparkled.

The familiar birds were gone, but new ones filled their place. Blue birds chirped and danced around her blanket. One even landed on her shoulder and sang a beautiful song.

Mikaela thought to herself, this is a pretty nice dream.

The high grass between her and the lake had transformed to a field of wild flowers, vibrant and rich with life. Butterflies, dragonflies, bees and more moved among the flowers, happily floating on the air.

One dragonfly floated towards Mikaela. This one was different from the others. As he neared, she realized it was a damsel fly instead…one set of wings instead of two. He floated and landed on her nose.

She looked cross eyed at him. She didn’t want to scare him, but then, she sneezed. He swiftly moved away, and once her fit was over, he floated nearby instead. He drifted away and then back several times.

Mikaela finally figured out he wanted her to follow him. She stood up. It was then she realized she wasn’t in her shirt and shorts anymore. She was now in a gown, similar to those of the Renaissance or one an elf would wear in LOTR, but it was lightweight and floated loosely over all her figure flaws.

She stepped onto the grass and found small stepping stones forming a path ahead. The damsel fly continued to beckon her to follow around the field. The path followed the edge of the lake which reflected as a turquoise and teal blue with a slight mist floating above.

As she continued rounding the edge of the lake, she discovered a wooded forest before her and heard the faint whinny of a horse. The damsel fly floated in mid-air before her, making her look around.

Mikaela noticed the air had a slight chill and rubbed her arms to warm them. She wondered where the warmth of the sun had gone. As she looked around, aside from knowing this wasn’t home, she didn’t know what she should see.

The damsel fly floated backward, allowing her to step forward, and then she tripped across a strap of leather.

“Ohhhh, this is what you wanted me to see?” She questioned as she picked herself and the horses bit and reign from the ground. She looked at the name engraved on the strapping… Pepper.

The damsel fly continued forward, leading her past the first few trees in the forest. There stood a beautiful Appaloosa in the thicket. He was already saddled, but no bit nor lead on him. He pranced to the side on hearing Mikaela’s footsteps.

As she neared, he bowed at her. She stretched out her hand, touching him on the star of his forehead. He neighed softly.

“Pepper?” She spoke gently to the magnificent creature. He shook his head up and down. The damsel fly landed on Pepper’s ear. Pepper twitched his ear, and the damsel fly took off, not to be seen again.

Mikaela recalled back to her youth. She had only ridden a horse once, but loved them immensely. She held out the bit to Pepper, “Shall we?”

Pepper pranced for a moment and opened his mouth. He was ready to get underway; although Mikaela had no idea where they would be going. She fastened the bit, checked the saddle, then climbed atop Pepper.

“Lead the way Pepper. Lead the way.”

With that, Pepper took off into the forest, headed towards the mountains in the distance.


Bottles and Coos

People huddled in the darkened store in small groups. The murmuring of hushed voices bounced around the building, words of different languages swirled about with no discernible rhythm.

Outside was filled with darkness and no one dared go out. The reason was not clear, but something was truly amiss. I stood alone to the side, observing the controlled chaos fear had brought down on us all.

Slowly, an older woman separated from a group of people. They all wore dusty and ragged clothes. As she approached, I noticed she had a small bundle in her arms.

“You….take,” the woman handed me the bundle.

As I looked down, I realized it was a small baby girl. Her dark hair framed her tender face. She stirred slightly, snuggling more into her swaddling.

“Mother, now,” the woman looked at me. A tear fell from her eye as she turned and shuffled away.

“Wait,” I called after her, “Where is her mother?”

She kept walking away, back to her group.

I neared the group. A man looked up, greyed with age. He simply replied, “Gone.” His ashen look betrayed what I feared. Her mother was a victim lost to the darkness.

“I can’t,” I pleaded as I tried to return the child. “I can’t take her.” Tears poured forth from my eyes, revealing my own shortcoming. “I am not worthy.”

The child began to coo in my arms and stir as she woke. Her warmth filled my heart with feelings I never had experienced before. But I trembled. This wasn’t right; I was no mother.

“She should be with family. Please.”

The aged woman looked at me, “You are family. We go now.”

With that, the woman and the rest of the group shuffled away in a strange walk. They left the store into the darkness.

I looked around and found a law man standing near by. I showed him the child. “What should I do?” I asked confusedly.

He drew in a breath and looked around. Then his dark eyes connected with mine, freezing me in my spot.

“There is no law. Raise her.” His eyes glanced at the darkness, then he slowly walked away from me. He circled the store, passing by me and bringing something each time.

First, a basket with formula and cloth diapers and diaper pins.

Onesies and a blanket. Then bibs.

A car seat. Bottles.

More with each loop.

Finally, he walked back to me. “This will get you started. Do you have a car?”

I looked hesitantly at the door, then back at the child. “The darkness…”

He looked me over. “She needs to eat. Let’s pay and take care of that.”

I stepped up to the register and the lady waved me off. “No sales. The darkness. Take what you need and do not worry,” she laid her hand on her heart. “Care for her; she is special.”

I shook my head agreeing while still in shock. Why am I being entrusted to raise this child? I am not worthy.

I laid the girl into the baby seat and prepared a bottle. She greedily took it as if she had not eaten in a while. I found a nearby bench near the door and took a seat with her.

Instinctively, I picked her up and lightly patted her back until she burped, then wiped her little mouth. Then I rocked her to sleep in my arms as time passed. Slowly I drifted off to sleep holding her tight.

The light pierced through the door, waking me from the darkness. I looked down at the comforter bunched up in my arms. Alas, she was just a dream, another reminder of a life not meant for me.


Opals Afire

A disturbance call brought Alex to the scene in the outskirts of Chicago. It had been raining all day, and typically these calls were rare in this type of weather. She arrived on scene to a deserted road and nothing much else. She looked out of the car and saw something out of place.

A lone scarf fluttered from a tree branch, ensnared as it’s wearer disappeared into the night. The pavement was wet and the lights along the path flickered as the storm raged on.

Alex tightened the belt of her coat and pulled the collar closer as she inspected the fine cashmere cloth. A small label revealed its maker and its origin…Dubai, UAE.

She pulled the scarf away, admiring its beauty. The finely woven pattern in light and royal blue hinted at the owners taste. But, who was she, and why would such a fine piece be left behind? A mystery awaits its unraveling.

The blue and red light flashed behind her, and reflected against the marble wall, lighting up the sidewalk in pulses. Each time the pulse would pass, something in the grass, beside the wall, would catch her eye.

Alex walked over, tracking the source to a small patch by a blooming camellia. She bent down to inspect it further. Among the blades of green, she saw the flash again, and picked up the shining object with her gloved hand.

From it dangled a white gold link bracelet with three opals. The design appeared to be middle eastern. It may be from the same person who lost their scarf.

She looked over the camellia bush and saw flowers littering the grassy area and some broken branches. Something definitely happened here, but what?

She flashed her light through the park, but found no one. Finally, she decided there wasn’t much more to do at the scene. She turned with the item in hand, and proceeded back to her car.

She would need to find out more in the lab.