October 29, 2015

#Halloween in #Miniature 2015-3: Jean Rabe Fiction

 * Welcome to Day 3 of Halloween in Miniature 2015 
(Go back to Day 1 -  Next: Day 4) 


The Ascension of Mary Grace -   2/continued

 (Herbs-potions - joanna campbell slan)

  So Mercy had to find another way into heaven, and she would have to use the very last drop of essence to do it.  But first she’d have to break another commandment or two.  She’d settled on ascending tonight.
   Mercy had started toward town shortly after dawn. It wasn’t a far trip, but she moved so sluggishly that she had to give herself enough time; she couldn’t risk using up the essence to speed her step. She headed toward Highway 7, not to visit the churches, which on this Friday would be empty, but to go to the drive-in theater. For Mercy’s magic to work, the sky would have to be as black as coal . . . and that accursed theater with its big screen was right where the land was the flattest. She needed the flattest parcel on which to make her approach to heaven.
   She’d enjoyed movies here during previous summers, sitting at the back of the lot and cloaking herself in the essence so no one would demand she pay the five dollars to watch. She’d mentally made up her own dialog and music, as the sound from the little tinny speakers didn’t reach that far.
   The theater was the smallest of Kentucky’s remaining drive-ins. At the height of the country’s drive-in theater craze, there’d been roughly one hundred and twenty places like this in the state—one for every county. Now there were only a dozen or so left, and unfortunately one of those happened to be between Mercy and the hereafter.

   There were eighty spaces—she’d counted them a handful of decades past, and they’d never been added to, though the proprietor had managed to squeeze in a hundred cars and pickups the first night they showed “Titanic.” It had never been so busy since.

(chairs - patriciapaulstudio)

   She reached her “sitting spot” shortly before sunset, settling on the ground where the weeds were neither particularly high nor scratchy. Two cars were already here—filled with young people lost in each other’s arms. She had plenty of money in her pocket in case someone from the tiny concession stand spotted her and came to demand she buy a ticket.
  By dusk there were only twenty cars—plus the old motorcycle the theater owner/projectionist drove. There was a bicycle, too, and that belonged to his only employee, a boy too young to have a driver’s license.
   Twenty cars . . . they would not take too much of the essence, and that was a good thing. Fortunate no splashy new release was playing tonight—that would attract more. Mercy knew it wouldn’t be too many more years before this drive-in closed on its own accord, but she didn’t have time to wait for that. She would help it along.
   She didn’t have the energy to walk farther and find an equally flat piece of ground miles west in the county. It was ascend to heaven right here, on this clear, cloudless night . . . or rot in hell.
   The first feature started while it was still too light to see it well. It looked to be a comedy, actors falling down, the occupants in the cars bobbing in laughter in response. She’d never cared for comedies, mirth was overrated. But she admitted to liking the overlarge picture with its glowing colors and gigantic faces.

  And Mercy liked this place. She breathed deep of it, sucking down the scent of buttered popcorn which she wished she would have purchased. But that would have given her away, and she hadn’t wanted to draw attention. So she called up a memory, of what the hot popcorn had tasted like on a summer night when she’d distracted the boy at the concession counter with her lightning bugs. It had been salty-sweet, butter thick on each puff, and she let that recollection satisfy her. Getting to heaven was more important that filling her grumbling belly.
   There were other odors—of the tall grass that grew at the borders of the lot, mingled with the fragrance of hidden wildflowers. It had rained earlier in the day, and so she also smelled the moistness in the earth. She thrust her fingers into the ground and relished the feel of it. Her mother was buried in the rich Kentucky soil, Mercy had seen to the task a dozen decades past when she first sensed the essence fading and knew what was left couldn’t be shared by two.
   The sky darkened when the second picture started.
   It was dark enough now.
   Behind her, she caught sight of lightning bugs dancing along the tops of the tall grass. She would need their help. 

(Drinks, patriciapaulstudio)   

  Mercy shuffled toward the concession stand, the front part of which served as the projection booth. A thin, middle-aged man was at the counter, getting a refill on his soda; he paid her no mind and returned to his car.
   The boy behind the counter, though, he noticed Mercy immediately, eyes wide like a cat that had been spooked. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She saw him work up some saliva.
   “I’d leave, boy,” Mercy said. Her voice was so soft, she wasn’t sure he’d heard her. So she ambled closer, right up to the counter and curled her bony fingers around the edge. She caught a distorted look at her reflection in its shiny surface. Mercy scowled; there were more crevices in her skin than when she’d looked a few days ago, and the color was darker and appeared desiccated. “I’m not a monster, if that’s what you’re thinking.”



 The boy blinked dumbly.
   “I said, I’d leave.” She mustered a little more power in her voice, which she likened to the sound of dry leaves blowing across pavement. “I’d get on your bicycle and pedal for all your worth.”
   “Or I will kill you.” She drew herself up and set her shoulders back, fixed him with a menacing gaze for good measure.
   He looked behind him to two doors, one led outside, and the other to the projection room. He started toward the exit.
   “Smart boy. And don’t worry about coming back tomorrow.”

(Detail, door, Joanna Campbell Slan)

  The door slammed behind him and he hopped on the bike, the wheels made a crunching sound over the gravel.
   “There’ll be no more ‘tomorrow’ here . . . for me or this place.” Tomorrow, she would be ensconced in heaven.
   Mercy leaned against the wall and sent her senses into the ground, coaxing up some of its waning essence. There was so little left. Maybe other mountains held magic, the Andes, the Rockies, Himalayas, Cardamoms in Cambodia, Cherskiy in Siberia, Haraz in Yemen, Taurus in Turkey, or Knuckles in Sri Lanka. She had no means to travel to any of them, nor any desire to leave Kentucky and its Appalachians. But she had a desire to get to heaven. The essence would be everlasting there.
   “Come to me,” she whispered, calling out to her lightning bugs and the beetles she sensed scurrying inches below the gravel in the lot. She summoned flies, too, and bees that had been sleeping. “Come all of you.”
   Then she slipped in through the door, pausing to stare at the mound of buttered popcorn in the machine, shaking off the notion to sample some, and making her way into the projection room. The man hadn’t heard her approach, so wrapped up in the film he was watching through his small window, chuckling at the appropriate places.
   Mercy edged closer. She briefly thought about telling him to leave, but decided better of it. He might summon a sheriff’s deputy or foolishly stand his ground.
   “Slay him,” she said, so faint he couldn’t hear.

(Detail, patriciapaulstudio)

   The cockroaches that had been hiding in the walls of the concession area swarmed him, the beetles, too, as well as the bees that had been roused from their slumber. The man writhed and screamed, and she reached forward and turned off the projector, then the lights in this room. Next she turned off the lights in the concession area and unplugged the popcorn machine and the dispenser of sweetened ice.
   Cars started honking, people shouted for the movie to resume, headlights came on. Mercy stretched out with the essence and drained all the batteries. She needed it to be wholly dark.
   She stepped outside and embraced the night, glancing up to see the myriad stars, so many and so bright, with no headlights or movie screen or concession stand sign to cut their glory.
   “Come to me,” she repeated, this time signaling only the lightning bugs. “Hurry.”
   Her hold on the essence was feeble at best now, and she was slipping away. Mercy envisioned herself falling down into the bowels of hell to burn for eternity.
   The lightning bugs complied, spreading out and hovering above the ground among the cars and the legs of the movie-goers who had gotten out to see what was amiss. She tried to shut out the chatter of the people as she shuffled toward the edge of the lot.
   The stars sparkling, the lightning bugs twinkling, God’s fireworks, all of it, she thought. Heaven come to ground. She couldn’t see where the stars stopped and her bugs began.
   “Beautiful,” Mercy breathed.
   “It is beautiful,” a woman perched on a car roof behind her gushed.
   Beyond the cars now, and the towering, dark screen, only the flashes of nature’s light filled Mercy’s vision. She pulled up the last of the Appalachian essence and stepped out onto the field, finding the doorway and slowly ascending.
# # # 
** Continue to Day 4 tomorrow ** 

 * Jean Rabe is author of a variety of books including, The Love-Haight Casefiles: Seeking Supernatural Justice.

One of her latest books, Pockets of Darkness, is about mother, successful businesswoman, antiques expert - and thief - Bridget O’Shea. But when she steals an ancient relic from a Manhattan apartment, she acquires a curse in the form of a Sumerian demon. The demon wants something from Bridget, killing people she cares about to force her cooperation, and it will continue to kill unless she meets its demands.

  * Joanna Campbell Slan is also author of the Kiki Lowenstein mystery series, including The Halloween Close Call (A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery Series Short Story #10).

** Miniatures by: ** 

* Haunted housewares, skeleton, Patricia Paul - PatriciaPaulStudio.com 

* Haunted House - Joanna Campbell Slan

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