From Abel’s Son

    Tawdy’s mind was too simple to comprehend his bizarre life after he met The Guide.

           Finally, I reached a point that was akin to madness. So, I called them together for a meeting, Sheriff
    Racey, Francie and Reverend Bennett. They sat in the Reverend's parlor, sipping lemonade, treating me
    as if I was the kindest soul in the whole country. I stood there and looked at them. By evening, I knew that
    I’d be in jail, getting ready for a much-deserved hanging. But I didn’t care. I had to take my chances. I
    couldn’t stand one more day of my strange life.
           "Now, what is it that can we do for you, Tawdy?" asked Reverend Bennett. "Is there something on
    your mind, son?"
           "Maybe Tawdy's got something like love on his mind. Should Mr. Lawrence being here?" Sheriff
    Racey winked at Francie. "Does your Pa need to know about this visit? Are you gonna become a bride
           “No she ain’t,” I said. I certainly wouldn’t think of marrying Francie. She turned into a simpering fool.
    I couldn't even stand to look at her anymore. She just blushed and giggled and gushed over me all the
           "Oh, Sheriff, we got nothing to talk to my father about. Not yet anyway." Francie spoke with a
    sickening blinking of her eyes.
           No. I couldn't marry Francie. I had taken the spice and flavor out of that girl quite a while ago. She no
    longer meant anything to me.
           "Well, do you want, son?" asked the Reverend.
           "I asked you all here because you and the Sheriff both deal in right and wrong, don't you? I mean,
    the Sheriff decides what's right by human laws and a preacher decides what's right and wrong by God's
    laws. You both know how people should behave to each other."
           "What about me?" asked Francie. “Why am I here?”
           "You're here, Francie, because I need a jury and a judge. Also, I'm trying to turn you away from
    loving me."
           "Why, how silly," she said. "Tawdy, I'll always love you. Always and always and .... "
           "Now, Reverend, can right and wrong ever, ever get mixed up? I mean, can someone do something
    bad over and over again and the people can't see that it's wrong? Or, they can't see that he's the guilty
    one? And Sheriff, if the people make the laws and say that something wrong is right, does that make it
    right? And if they believe that someone who's guilty of something is innocent does it make him innocent?
    I want to know right now. I mean, how does it all work?"
           "Why Tawdy!" The Reverend laughed and shook his head. "All of these points are questions for
    scholars and philosophers. There's no need for you to trouble yourself with these questions."
           "But there is a need,” I said. “You see, I'm the guilty one. Don't you understand? I beat up Tom
    Westman and I shot Joe Westman and I killed that old man for his house. I shot the guard and driver of
    the stage. I steal things and I lie and I cheat and I push everyone around. And, I kill..."

    From The Lifesaver

    In 1882, Surfman Michael Pierce knows how to save lives… every life but his own.

           We pushed our craft into the pounding surf and jumped aboard hastily, mindless of the danger. Our
    drilled and trained bodies reacted without thought. The waves crashed around us and over us. As we
    rowed, we lost sight of the stranded vessel and dreaded the next heavy sea that would plunge us up and
    down, into the height and the trough of the massive waves. All the time, the crew watched the Keeper,
    Captain Westin. Backs into it, lads. Backs into it. He was our guide to the rescue site and our hope of a
    safe return.
           Our arms were strained. Our backs were aching and stiff. Finally, we reached the mass of cracking
    timber that had once sailed the sea. Victims screamed for help aboard the stranded vessel. Wet faces
    were contorted with panic, pleading for a rescue, for life itself. The captain motioned that there was no
    chance of throwing lines to the ship. The gale wind and angry sea would not permit mistakes. The water
    was too treacherous for anyone to survive a spill. Many times during winter storms, the crew was frozen
    to the rigging while waiting for help. But this dawn brought a soft wind from the southwest. Perhaps the
    storm would end soon. But end soon or not, our task had begun.
           All throughout the early morning hours, we saved lives. We watched helplessly as some victims
    were washed away by the powerful waves. However, we kept going and pulled as many as we could into
    the rescue boat. Then, we rowed time and again back to safety. Our crew had no harness gear or lines
    shot from shore. That useful equipment was destined for the future. Only trained arms and strong backs
    saved lives on that day.
           After hours of work, I felt weak. My body was cold and numb from the effort. My hands slipped as I
    pulled at the oar. I blinked away my tiredness and shook away my fatigue. But it was a losing battle.
    Eventually, I lost my concentration for only an instant. Then, an enormous wave washed against my
    rescue boat. The wave sent me spilling overboard into the brine. I was dragged down and down. I
    couldn't surface! My cork belt didn’t function. The sea held me in its grasp, claiming me for its own.
    I saw my sister's pale face in the darkness. She gasped for breath and clung to my neck. I heard my
    mother's screams over and over again as death played its rhythm within her life. Finally, I felt myself
    blacking out, going toward my sister and my brother and my father. I was truly dying.

    From The Rounds

    Dr. Joachim Westley is a good man who’s life takes a bad turn. The Guide may help him to recover.

            First, you must know that my love of healing came to me early in life. When I was a child, I nursed a
    sick robin that I found beneath one of Olmstead's bushes in Central Park. I restored the bird to health and
    was inspired by my power to actually save a life. However, I was only a brew master’s son. So, I dared
    not dream of a way to achieve the full use of that power. However, during April of 1865, one encounter
    changed my thoughts, my plans and my future.
           On one particularly sad day, I found myself standing in line for hours together with 120,000 other
    New Yorkers who were waiting to pay our respects to Abraham Lincoln. The slain president's coffin
    rested at City Hall and like the others, I was compelled to go there. For some reason, we all felt that it
    was fitting to view the coffin, to bow our heads and whisper a somber farewell. But my farewell to the
    President will always be coupled with a beginning for me. You see, on that bleak day, on that long line, I
    met Dr. Thomas Jarrod.
           We moved down the line together, slowly, patiently, in mourning. After a while, we acknowledged
    each other with some basic, simple comments that eventually flowed into a discussion. During the
    course of our conversation, the man informed me that he was a doctor. Then, we spoke about
    immortality and greatness and service. Our words were lofty. My secret desire became known. I must
    have impressed the man because on that very day he convinced me to become a doctor. And after that
    day, Doctor Thomas Jarrod became my hope, my benefactor, my mentor, and later on, my agony. You
    see, Dr. Jarrod was an incurable dreamer.... and much more than this, he was a mystic. And I paled in
    comparison because I was so very weak and so very mortal.

    From The Acreage

    Who will help the poor, lost and forgotten mill children? Teacher Alice Ann will need the Guide to help her
    find a way.

           "Cabin? I never noticed any cabin here before." I frowned ever so slightly, careful not to upset the
    child again. But much to my surprise, a cabin did exist. A plank cabin stood near the lake. It was painted
    white with blue shutters and a shiny, black door. How could I possibly have missed it before? And where
    was Harold's bridge? “Maybe we shouldn’t go in there,” I said. However, I was too late. Lucy was already
    leading me right up to the cabin door. I was almost frightened for my lack of sanity at that moment.
           "Can’t we go in? Can’t we see what’s there?" Then, she entered the cabin, ignoring the fact that I
    hadn't given her a reply. "Oh, look, Miss Alice Ann. It's a little schoolroom." She led me inside of the room
    where four rows of desks, a chalkboard and a teacher's desk were waiting for use. A bookshelf held a
    few pertinent works. "How do you suppose a little schoolroom came to be here?"
           "I have no idea, Lucy." I spoke as panic exploded in my chest.
           “Mr. Day should see me now. He's my foreman at the mill, you know. And because I'm so good at
    telling everything, he lets me teach the new girls how to do things when they need showing."
           "He lets you teach them? What do you show the new girls, Lucy?" I suppressed the catch in my
           "I show them how to operate the machines, you know, when the spools need changing. And I tell
    them anything else they forget from after Mr. Day tells them. Look, Miss Alice Ann, there’s a fiddle here."
    She ran into a corner where a violin rested upon a rough table.
           "It’s a violin," I said. She picked it up and held it gently. For some reason, my panic was subsiding.
           "No. It’s a fiddle. See?" Her slim fingers pressed the strings into a cheerful tune. "My Grandpa
    taught me to play this before he died and we came into hard times."
           "Why, Lucy, you play beautifully!" I spoke with complete honesty. The tune bounced with
    confidence and joy. Her fingers seemed to be well acquainted with the workings of a violin...  or fiddle, as
    she called it.
                  She paused and lowered her head.
           “What is it, Lucy? What’s wrong?”
           “Well, I’ll tell you. My sister lost two fingers in a machine accident. Now, I'm always afraid of losing
    a finger and never, ever being able to play the fiddle again."
    I closed my eyes and shook my head. "Take this fiddle, Lucy. Take it home today and enjoy it."

    From Coal Man

    Ben was a Polish immigrant who was tied to the life of a miner. Yet, with the help of the Guide, his
    thoughts truly became a means of escape.

           During the wedding party, I stepped outside to inhale the night air. When the pines were cool and
    damp, they almost overpowered the acrid smell of the coal. I stared at the shaded mounds of coal,
    humped beneath the stars like bodies of dead, moldy beasts. I didn’t even notice that Alexandra had
    followed me out into the night. She smiled gently at me. Then, she snuggled next to me and looked up at
    the moon.
           "You know, I think it must take a lot of coal to keep that moon burning," I said.
           She laughed and moved closer to me. "Ben, you always say such funny things. You make me laugh,
    but you’re not a fool like Stash. I like the things you say." She whispered as she moved closer to me.
    "And isn't this such a grand, wonderful night? It was a good wedding, wasn't it?”
           “I’m having a good time. But aren’t you cold?”
           “No. I’m not cold at all.” Her smile was warm, inviting. “You know, Ben, being here with you and
    hearing the music from inside, it's almost like we're at a rich party tonight. We could be standing in a
    beautiful, big garden with marble statues and pretty benches and brick walls with ivy."
           "Now, you're the one who’s being funny," I said. “I’m just happy that the coal heaps don’t stink too
    much and you’re thinking about grand parties. What a joke. Anyway, we’re too old to go to any grand
           "Oh, no we’re not. We’re not too old. In fact, we’d be considered young there. Really. There are lots
    of young people just our age at the parties. They eat rich food and have wine that sparkles with bubbles.
    They're all dressed in silk and wear perfume and have delicate shoes."
           "Yeah, they’re just like us," I said. "The only difference is that they own the mines. We work in
           "And they talk about things like going to other parties and traveling around the world and going
    away to school." Alexandra was obviously ignoring my comments.
           "Where do you hear about such things anyway?"
           "I read about these people. I work in the mine office, you know. I had the most school of anyone in
    my family because I was very sick when I was a little girl. I couldn't work much, so they kept me in
    school. That’s how I got a job in the office. Well, one day a man came to visit the managers and he left his
    newspaper at the office. It was in English and I learned to read some English... and I read it and that's
    what it said.... who's going off to school and who's having a party and what they're wearing and eating
    and everything. It sounded so grand. They must all be so happy."
           "Well, I'm glad someone's happy, somewhere."

    From The Presence

    Stefan and Elena have serious questions to ponder. In their quest for answers, they uncover the meaning
    of life on earth while in the presence of the Spirit Guide.

           Then, I looked down into that ominous hole. How could I put my child, my flesh and joy into that cold
    dirt? At least the apple trees would bring buds and flowers and fruit next year. But little Adam? Surely,
    his presence would only bring thoughts of grief and regret. And yet, Stefan was right. A tiny baby who
    would not have a chance to know life could still have his own piece of earth right here on his father’s
    land. He could stay here forever. I was tempted to give in and let the boy be buried here if he died. In all
    truth, I also wanted to have him close to me, kept apart from the strangers who rested in the
    consecrated soil of the churchyard.
           So, Stefan and I just continued to stare down into that hole until suddenly, in unison, our vision
    shifted to an object that demanded our attention. A flash from the soil caused by the sunlight had the
    startling effect of lightning streaking across the sky. Something glowed, yet was dull. It called to its
    presence, yet craved obscurity from prying eyes. Stefan knelt down and picked up a small object.
           "What's this?" he asked. He wiped dirt from the find.
           It was a smooth token made from the purple core of a clamshell. I knelt down beside him and
    reached into the hole. Digging carefully, I uncovered other objects and began to pick them out one by one.
    We found fragments of rock and pieces of pottery that weren't born of earth yet, somehow had melted
    into its brown essence. Now, these pieces almost drifted into my hand. Then, my fingers touched
    something hard, something long and cold and grainy. I gasped and pulled my hand away. I jumped up and
    shook my arm. Finally, I found an odd, grey stone decorated with a swirl of red.
           Suddenly, a breeze stroked my cheek. For an instant, I inhaled the exquisite promise of the harvest
    that was carried upon the breeze. Soon, however, the breeze changed to wind. And the wind became
    harsh. The air that I inhaled lost its softness as it forced my mouth open and my eyes closed against its
    presence. My mind went dark for an instant. I felt as if some invisible force was scooping up my thoughts
    right from my brain until it snatched away my own personal memories and emotions. It took a moment
    for me to regain my composure. Then, I looked at Stefan and frowned with concern.
    As the wind passed through us, Stefan stood up from the hole while surveying the forest. He listened
    intently and strained his eyes to see something that could be perceived only with a primitive instinct long
    vanished, an instinct destroyed by our reliance upon a mere five senses to color the world a comforting
    shade of gray.
           “Stefan, what was that wind? I never felt anything like it before.”
           “I don’t know what it was.” He held my hand tightly and searched the forest. “But you’re right. It
    was strange.”
           “What are you looking at, Stefan?”
           "I think there’s something in the trees. Do you see it?"
           "I don’t see anything."
           But somehow, Stefan knew that eyes watched us. There were eyes in the forest where the pines
    were thick. "Come on. Let's see who's trespassing on our land."

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