October 28, 2015

#Halloween in #Miniature 2015: Jean Rabe Spooky Fiction 2

Welcome to Day 2 of Halloween in Miniature 2015. 

(Go back to Day 1 - Next: Day 3

Today's story is a little longer. Author Jean Rabe. She's known best for her work in science fiction including the Dragonlance series and some of the Rogue Angel books, but she's written in a variety of genres, including some creepy, spooky stories.

I tried my best to get the essence of this story in the pictures... A good word since that is what this featured story is all about.  


The Ascension of Mary Grace

   Mercy Grace Flannery hadn’t done the right things to gain her entrance to heaven. While this hadn’t concerned her during the first two hundred years of her life, it was weighing heavy now. Mercy was dying.


   She didn’t have cancer or heart disease or any other particular ailment that doctors at the Letcher County Clinic would be able to slap a diagnosis on. Mercy was simply running out of “essence,” and there wasn’t enough of it left in the land to sustain her.
   When she was born in 1789, outside of Jeremiah, Kentucky, the essence was thick, ribbons of it writhing in the earth and waiting for anyone with the proper skills to harvest it. Mama Flannery had schooled her daughter early on in how to use it, and Mercy had wisely never passed the knowledge along to anyone else; sharing was not something she practiced.
   But she did practice often with the essence.


  The magic—the essence—in the great Appalachian Mountains made her strong and kept her looking like a woman of twenty summers for nearly two centuries. But the presence of more people settling in the mountains—coupled with the miners who dug into the earth’s belly and the tourists who came in droves to ogle the scenery—weakened the essence, the pristine nature of the earth, and thereby weakened her.
   Now Mercy Grace thought she looked every one of her two hundred and twenty-two years, skin as gray as ash and deeply wrinkled like the bark of an ancient sweetgum, hair as wispy as a spider web, gait as slow as a slug.


   Maybe she’d spent too much of the mountains’ essence through the decades clearing patches of ground for her garden—magically coaxing beetles to churn the dirt and grasshoppers to eat only the weeds. She siphoned off more than she should have on her crops to get magnificent yields, calling bees to pollinate everything.

(Bugs - Patricia Paul Studio)

   She’d given her animals longer lives and greater intelligence, her cabin warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer, and she’d used the essence to slay and bury the increasing number of poachers and hikers and lookee loos who’d traipsed onto her property and stuck their noses where they didn’t below—the insects acting as her assassins. No one would find the bodies, as she’d used the essence to bury them so deep that they could never be recovered. It was those murders that worried her the most; they’d tainted her soul pretty dark.
   “Thou shalt not kill,” she said, her voice as soft as a feather. It was a struggle to speak these days.
   She also worried about the “thou shalt not steal” directive, as she’d done that on a regular basis during the first century or so—clothes from the little shops in town, along with a nice assortment of baubles for her neck and hair; she had a fondness for things that sparkled. She’d never been caught, used the essence to see to that, entrancing the clerks to look the other way, momentarily entranced by a pretty butterfly. And she’d used it to sometimes empty their cash boxes so she could buy her a fine dinner at the town’s only restaurant. Up until the past few months she’d been stealing from the convenience store on Highway 7, which stocked a variety of liquors, potato chips, and iced chocolate cupcakes.

(Miniature chocolate cake - Linn's Minis)


 She had once coveted things that had belonged to a neighbor, and eventually made said neighbor “disappear” so she could expand her property and acquire his possessions. A large nest of hornets had helped with that.

(house- Joanna Campbell Slan)


She’d taken the Lord’s name in vain every day of her life; cursing was something she’d never been able to shake.

(nancy cronin dolls)

   While Mercy had never married, she had enjoyed dalliances with men who were such . . . though none of that had went on since she’d started to turn gray. That didn’t make her adulterous, and so she figured she was safe on that one commandment.
 But as far as the Sabbath went? She certainly hadn’t kept that very holy, and so she was morally and religiously in trouble on several levels.
   There was a heaven, Mercy had learned that early on through the essence. And so she was pretty certain there was also a hell. Since she had no desire to go to the latter—and was assured to make the trip if she let nature take its course, she knew she would have to do something soon to find her way to those proverbial Pearly Gates.
   Jeremiah had a Baptist church out on Highway 7, and there was Letcher Independent Baptist Church about a half-mile down the stretch from it, not any other denomination represented that she knew of. The town’s population was a hair over eight hundred, and so religious diversity apparently wasn’t an option. The Baptist pastors at either of those places might forgive her sins . . . but she doubted God would. Maybe a Catholic priest held more sway with the almighty, what with the ornate robes and confession booths, the celibacy and the statues of Mother Mary, and the other accoutrements. But she worried she might die before she found one in some nearby town, and there was no guarantee anyway that a priest could absolve her of all the “thou shalt nots” that she had so often “shalted.” 

(This story first appeared in the anthology, "Mountain Magic.") 

*** Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of the story -  Go to Day 3   *** 

 *   Jean Rabe's latest works include The Love-Haight Casefiles: Seeking Supernatural Justice about lawyers Thomas Brock and Evelyn Love crusading for the rights of OTs—Other-Than-Humans. Their clients include ghosts, gargoyles, vampires, and things that have not yet been given names. The city’s OT element is sometimes malevolent, sometimes misunderstood, and often discriminated against. Brock and Love represent them, whatever the case, whatever the species. 

* Miniatures by: * 

  * Food, furnishings, Patricia Paul - Patricia Paul Studio.com

* Miniature cake - Linda Cummings - Linn's  Minis 

* Nancy Cronin dolls

* Haunted House - Joanna Campbell Slan

  * Joanna Campbell Slan is also author of the Kiki Lowenstein and Cara Mia mystery series. 

She is also contributor and editor of the new anthology - Happy Homicides: Thirteen Cozy Holiday Mysteries; see details. - Oh, and it includes a story about a dollhouse.