From Incense

    Agatha was horrified when she befriended Missi, a refugee from Chinatown’s slave dens. However, she did
    not know that the greatest horror of all would had yet to take place.

           You see, the ordeal of her life was unthinkable to me, heard only in such guarded whispers. I couldn't
    imagine how terrible her world really was and so, it was all too unreal to be real. The only reality was that
    Missi had dark circles around two, lifeless eyes that seemed as if they belonged to a dead rabbit caught in a
    trap.
           "Missi, don't let them win," I said. "You must live! You can help others. And maybe you’ll even find your
    sister. And what about my aunt and those like Donaldina Cameron? They put their lives on the line to face the
    tongs and rescue you. They believe in your life. Listen to me. I understand about the station now. You see,
    there is no train. There are no ships, no carriages to come and get you. You must leave the station on your
    own. Don’t you understand? You have to simply walk away on your own into your own life!"
           "What is it then, that will make me leave this station, as you call it? Is it love? I have none to give. Is it my
    sister's life? How can I face her with the shame of my life and what I led her to? After all, I’m the reason she
    came here. She wanted to be with me. All this horror because of my pride. I thought I could marry a rich man.
    No. All is lost. I have no cause to live."
           My mind raced as I tried to conjure up some sort of motivation for Missi. Love? Honor? No. "Revenge,
    Missi. Can't you live to avenge?" I cried out the word to her lifeless eyes.
           She didn't say a word as she locked her gaze into mine. Our connection was as solid as steel. For an
    instant, I was terrified of what I had suggested. How dare I evoke an evil spirit named revenge in order to save
    her life? In that instant, my soul knew that it was better to have let her die.


    From Cliff Walk

    How can a wealthy young man such as Charles Wentworth explain the bazaar existence that is his life?  First,
    he must unravel the mystery for himself.

           "Well, it was with me ever since I can remember. As a child I thought it to be quite natural. When I
    mentioned it to nurse or teacher, they patted my curly head and said I was blessed with a strong imagination
    and the ability to venture into a childish pretend world. As I grew up, I became afraid of the whole thing. Later, I
    dreaded telling anyone else for fear that I might be labeled insane."
           "Charles! Really!" said Grandfather. "Do you even know what you're saying? Do you know how this
    sounds?"
           "I do know, Grandfather. Believe me, I do. But you see, I actually live in two different lives. Right now, I'm
    here with you. I breathe your air and eat your food and know what I know about us. I know all of the people we
    know. I'm aware of my past and every other stitch of my life. I know every object in every closet and names of
    every servant and the like. But when I go to sleep, I wake up in a completely different life. In this other life, I
    grew up as Daniel Moore. I live in a small cabin, dare I say shanty, by the sea beyond the far end of Cliff Walk. I
    know everyone who lives there. I have a grandmother. I have a boat and work as a fisherman."
           "Ohhhh, how exciting. It's all rather like Jekyll and Hyde, isn’t it Charles?" Eleanor asked her question
    with a twitter.
           “Nonsense. It’s nothing of the sort. These are only dreams you’re having, Charles. You’ve only been
    having dreams, my boy. Why throughout the ages, the greatest of leaders and scholars and generals have
    been plagued by dreams. In fact, I have terrors in the night whenever the Stock Market twitches.”
           “No. It’s nothing of the sort at all. It’s not a dream. It's more like living each day twice, in two different
    lives. It’s as if time has echoed or rippled, as if I was born as a twin with two lives instead of two bodies. But
    my two lives can never touch each other.”


    From The Commons

    In 1922, Rose Grey sat on a park bench with no awareness of her identity. Would the path to discovering who
    she was begin or end with the Spirit Guide?

           And so, this is how I awakened on that bench. My pockets were empty. My clothing was unfamiliar to
    me. A momentary rush of panic faded when I reasoned that if I had been harmed, I managed to survive. If I had
    done harm, I was free... free from any guilt or reprimand.  I was way too afraid of the unknown to seek any
    help. And so, I just began to walk. I simply stood up from the bench and walked away into the morning. I guess
    that I was too restless to stay put on that bench. So, I strolled down a street that was outlined by early
    morning haze. I moved along with the gait of someone uncertain, someone living each moment for pure
    survival. Oh, how tired I felt with every step... tired and lost…. and alone.
           As I strolled through the town, I glanced in the shop windows. The little stores came alive with
    fashionable clothing, with hardware and foods and every kind of goods. But these didn’t concern me. How
    could I determine what I liked or what I needed when I didn’t know who I was? As the day wore on, I got
    hungry. The aroma of food wafted from each bakery and restaurant, however, I had no money to pay for a
    meal. And so, I just kept moving and salivating like a thirsty dog.
           People passed me and studied me. They blinked at my lifeless expression and uncertain demeanor. I
    glanced back at them with hopes that someone might speak. But no one did. And so, the long, tedious day
    wore on until dusk quieted the town. After the shops closed, I was exhausted. I returned to the bench to
    spend the night until I could formulate some sort of plan. But what could I possibly do? Work? What was I
    trained to do? The police? A doctor? Would asking for help be too risky? I picked up an odd, smooth stone
    that rested by my feet. And as I pondered my questions in the waning sunlight, I met the boy.



    From Shadowers

    Jennifer Lynn Smith was a pilot during the infancy of flight. Throughout her life, she was haunted by shadow
    figures who tried to communicate with her. But why?

           A glib reporter once called me an aviatrix. You see, aviators were men. An aviatrix was a woman. I
    suppose it was believed that women could fly, but not seriously. I suppose that back then only men, only
    aviators, could fly seriously. And in 1914, the young men of France flew seriously. So, during these years of
    war, we all became, men and women alike, victims of time.
           And I soon understood that time is really a thief, a precursor of death, something that steals away youth
    and little children and elderly parents and opens the doorway to the final unknown. However, time also brings
    progress and changes. It provides solutions that help us to climb higher, to go faster and move farther. So, I
    always hoped that this bandit of time might erase the image of the aviatrix as easily as it allowed the kind of
    progress that brought more means of destruction to war.
           Eventually, David followed the path of aviation until it finally led him to France. The men and the machines
    that set the records and made the modifications and worked to unite Europe inspired him. Europe, however,
    became far from united. Instead, a great war brought new ways to die and a new purpose for flight. David was
    one of the first to enlist as a pilot in the Lafayette squadron. We were proud of him. We learned about his
    great adventures through newspaper stories. He was serving with other American pilots who flew for the
    cause of liberty, men who took their double-winged, French Nieuports to the very edge of life.
           I was fifteen years old when the shadowers returned after a brief absence. One evening, I sat watching
    the meteors roll by beneath the stars. It was late September and the breeze was bestowing just a hint of the
    coming harvest. Suddenly, the stars were blotted out of view. A dark patch moved into a portion of the sky
    right above me. The bright haze from the moon turned to black. Slowly, the shadower's balloon drifted across
    my vision. I hadn't seen them for quite some time, so the sight made me afraid at first, then curious. I stood
    and walked toward the balloon, wondering just how and why I was producing this fantasy. How and why?
    The figures in the balloon buried their faces in their hands. They didn't move, not even a flick of a finger. The
    balloon and its shadow occupants just floated across the sky in a slow glide, propelled by something from an
    invisible force alive only within their cryptic world. I stared at them, daring myself not to believe what I was
    seeing as I denied what it might mean. However, at that instant, at that very moment, I knew that David had
    fallen out of the sky. I knew that he was dead and so far gone that not even his shadow would ever touch me
    again.


    From The Mission

    A world renowned news reporter and a brother from an obscure mission met in one fateful encounter. Then,
    they took a journey that defies all laws of reality.

           As I said, my account begins at the Fifth Street Mission when I woke up belly-sick, cotton-tongued and
    dizzy. A man stood over me. At first, he was a featureless shadow, just an outline in the darkness. His face
    was long and thin, his hair wispy and gray. He wore a black coat that smelled musty. And he stared at me for
    a long time. For a moment, I thought that I was looking at a ghost, a gin visitor or maybe at my own dark soul.
    But then, he reached out and shook me, bringing the green light of the mission into focus.
    "What in the hell are you staring at?" This was all that I could manage to say before I winced from discomfort.
           "I wasn't sure if you were dead or alive," he said. Then, glancing around at the empty bunks, he cleared
    his throat and spoke without fear of disturbing anyone. "Do you want some food?"
           "Yeah, I’m real hungry." I growled my reply at the do-gooder when I sniffed the harsh odor of cabbage
    soup and burnt gruel that drifted up the stairs into my nostrils. "And it smells so delicious, doesn’t it?"
           "Well, we're poor, mister, but we share what we can with everyone. Saving souls is hard work and
    we...."
           "Cut the rest of the sermon. I know it by heart." I spoke without even considering my lack of courtesy.
           "Officer Kelly brought you here to us last night. He found you in the street. It was starting to rain and he
    didn't want to see you sleeping out there all night."
           "Officer Kelly. He's a saint, that one," I said. Then, I rubbed my side where the officer's boots were
    hurled against my rib cage. “Let’s remember him in our prayers.”
           "As if you actually do pray,” said the dark form. “You know, you're a mess. And quite without an excuse
    for your behavior, I'd venture to say. I’m not making apologies for the sinners in this town, but they have had a
    hard time of it. At least you didn't work the mill before it closed. And you don't have to face a tired wife and
    hungry children. Do you?"
           "How do you know what I have to face or not?"
           "I know who you are, Mr. Traskell."
           "How do you know who I am?” I narrowed my eyes with suspicion. “By the way, you got a smoke on
    you?"
           "We don't use tobacco here, Mr. Traskell." His matter-of-fact tone was devoid of preaching, thank God.
    "And I know your name from your wallet. I took the liberty of checking your identity. I was shocked to see who
    you are. I can’t believe a man with your talents could come to me in this condition. Drunk? Unruly? Only a few
    dollars in his pocket? You are dirty, sir, and in need of a basic cleaning. The pity is, you are one of the few men
    in this country who I admire. You are one of the few whose work I respect. I am addressing the newsman,
    Edward Traskell?"
           "In all my sorry flesh, Reverend...."
           "Brother. Brother Joshua Hyde at your service."
           "Like Jekyll 'n Hyde?"
           "Maybe so. Only my identities are reversed. My Mr. Hyde is a good mission brother. As Jekyll, I rob
    banks."
           I laughed in spite of the pain in my ribs. "Well, I wish either Jekyll or Hyde was a smoker."
           "Hmmmm," was all that he managed to say as a reply.
           "If you gave me a smoke, I'd stink a lot less."
           "As I said, we don't have tobacco in this mission. But we do have salvation for the soul and basic
    comfort for the body. Which do you need more, Mr. Traskell?"
           "What do I need? I need a courageous paper to print my article about the stinking corruption that's
    closing down the mill and pushing this town off the map into the gutter."
           "Salvation or comfort?" He repeated his question while shaking his head firmly. "I don't deal in print, Mr.
    Traskell."
           I snapped up to a sitting position. "Well, I do deal in print." I spoke too emphatically. I grimaced from
    pain. Then, I flopped back down into my assigned bunk. "If you'll forgive the scenic phrase, ink is in my veins.
    I'm third generation, you know." I studied the shadows in the room as I spoke.
           "Your pardon, sir?"
           "Newsman. Reporter. Reformer. Me. I'm like a fulfilled blueprint. I’m third generation." I hit my chest in a
    gesture that betrayed my frustration.
           "I know. I've read both your work and your biography." His frown didn't even encourage a blink.
           "Well, you seem to have an interest in me. Why?"
           "Because for so long you've exposed so much evil and done so much good. You've fought a long and
    hard battle for the innocent and struck a blow against pain and injustice when you could. But now, Mr.
    Traskell? What happened to you?"
           "It struck back." I spoke the words just before I shut him out from my mind. Two minutes later, I fell
    asleep once again.


    From Memorare

    When Evan Lord traveled to Savannah to meet the secretive Elizabeth Haven, he is more optimistic than he
    should be. Did the Spirit Guide send him to a devastating encounter?

           Mike laughed. "You know, when my editor told me to come for you at the train, I was nervous about
    meeting you. But you know, you're really a sort of pleasant man. You really are."
           "Praise be," I said. "How grand. I’m perceived as a pleasant man. That’s exactly the image I’ve spent
    years of my life trying to attain. God forbid a false perception.”
           “Ah, the rest is all show, isn’t it? The hardened man. The cynic. Oh no, Mr. Lord. See, I’ve read your work
    in depth. You’ve got to have a heart and emotions to write the way you do.” He glanced at me and shrugged.
           “Very good, Drasco. I suppose I do have something more to my composition than stone and wood. But
    pleasant? I doubt it. But no more about me. Tell me, Drasco, about Elizabeth Haven. She’s one of the best
    writers of our era. So, is she also pleasant? Or is she stone and wood?”
           "I couldn't say." Now, he frowned.
           "Ahh-hah! You’re important enough at your newspaper to pick up Evan Lord at the train, but not
    important enough to interview Elizabeth Haven. Right, Drasco? But tell me about the reporter who did
    interview her? Surely, he must have said something to you about her. I'm in the press, lad. Sometimes, we
    talk about our big stories among ourselves. So, tell me what you've heard about Elizabeth Haven."
           Drasco shook his head. "Mr. Lord, you know that Elizabeth Haven has never been interviewed by any
    reporter on my paper, or by any reporter in the world. That's why they sent you here, isn't it? And I'll tell you
    this much, you're not going to get in to see her either. Nobody ever gets in to see those Haven writers."
           "Well, the telegram boy who informs her of her literary awards gets to see her. And the postman who
    brings her royalty checks gets in. And thanks to her publisher who told her that if she didn't grant at least one
    interview she'd never have anything published again… so will I. She was, undoubtedly, afraid that her book
    reviews would be banned by the press so she gave in to the pressure, the little money-grubbing, praise-
    seeking glut. And I, Mr. Drasco, am going to wriggle my way into the very core of Elizabeth Haven. For her, I will
    be stone and wood. I just hope that my formidable credentials will impress her enough to trust me."








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