Keeping it in the Family

Addams Family

Good morning, dear readers! Today, where I live, it’s Family Day, which is basically a fancy name for a government-legislated, mid-winter day off. Given that I’m self-employed, I don’t actually get the benefit of a paid day off, but I do get to spend the day with my family. And that got me thinking about the word family and where it came from.

So I’m taking a break from my family to share my findings with you—members of my online family. Before I get to the meat of this post, I also thought I’d take this opportunity to lay a little guilt on you, because, after all, we’re family.

The Kickstarter for my novel is heading into its last two weeks. I’ve raised about 20% of my goal, which is awesome, but I won’t get any of those contributions if I don’t reach 100%. So I’d like to ask you to consider backing me, if you haven’t already. And if you have, then I’d like to ask you to spread the word on your social networks.

All right, so let’s look at family.

The word family first appears in English in the early 1400s. At that time, it was actually used to refer to the servants of a household. It comes from the Latin word familia, which referred to family servants and domestics collectively. Occasionally, familia was used to refer to the entire household, including relatives and servants, but very rarely was it used to specifically refer to parents and their children. This makes sense when you see that familia came from the Latin word famulus, which meant servant.

In Latin, the word domus was what they used to refer to the related parents and children who lived together in a house.

It wasn’t until the mid-1500s that family started to include parents and children—but in addition to the servants and including boarders. So really, just anyone who lived under the same roof. By the 1660s, family had shifted to its modern meaning, describing parents and their children, whether or not they lived together, or people descended from a common ancestor, which included aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera.

So the next time someone in your family complains about doing their chores—or accuses you of treating them like a servant—you can tell them that’s what it means to be part of a family.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: Google images

Diamonds in the Sky

obsidian

Diamonds in the Sky

Ruby patted down the earth in front of her, then carefully replaced all the tributes and effigies in front of the altar. No one could ever know what happened here. Her mother would be livid if she found out. Once everything was back in its place, Ruby sat on her knees and wondered if her endeavour would work.

Just then, she heard someone approaching. She glanced up to see her brother Ivan emerge from the trees. When he saw Ruby on her knees, he grinned.

“Praying hard?” He asked. Ruby’s newfound piety was an endless source of amusement for Ivan.

With an enigmatic smile, Ruby got to her feet. “Someone has to pray for your soul, right?”

“My soul?” Ivan let out a harsh laugh. “It’s not my soul that needs saving. Maybe you should direct some of your prayers toward our new king. Before he kills us all.”

“Prayer and vengeance are not the same thing.” Ruby brushed dirt from her dress.

Ivan shook his head. “No, dear sister, they certainly aren’t.” He held out his hand. “Come on. Mother sent me to fetch you. Dinner is ready.”

Together, the siblings walked back to their house, both trying to avert their gazes from the burned land to the south. To the north, the Black Castle loomed over the valley. Ever since the new king had murdered his cousin and stolen the crown, the castle seemed even darker and more sinister. Knowing there were hundreds of so-called traitors’ heads lining the castle walls might have something to do with that, Ruby thought. Knowing one of those heads belonged to her father made her blood boil.

The usurper had spies everywhere, so Ruby lowered her eyes and willed her anger to subside. She wanted to live to see tomorrow.

As they entered their house, the scent of stew warmed Ruby’s heart and elicited grumbles of longing from her stomach. She and Ivan sat at the table and tried to talk about safe things, like the weather and how well things were growing in the garden. After dinner, their mother sat by the fire and drank spiced mead until the despair receded from her eyes while Ruby and Ivan sat at the table and played cards.

Once their mother was asleep, Ivan talked about his plans for revenge, which were rife with fury and fantasy.

“If only there were dragons—or a powerful wizard, or an undead army—that would fight with us. We could destroy the usurper in an instant and make things right again.”

“Tell me again about the dragons,” Ruby said.

Ivan smiled. “They are huge, with wingspans that can block out the sun, and black scales that gleam like polished armor. Their eyes are the colour of fire and their hearts are made of molten lava, which runs in their veins and allows them to breathe out flames at will.” Ivan’s eyes sparkled like black diamonds as he continued. “They are so beautiful and so terrifying, you would be mesmerized if you laid eyes on them. And they are smart too.”

“Can they really smell evil?” Ruby asked. Her eyes were starting to droop, but still she hung on Ivan’s every word.

“Not only can they smell it, but they are also drawn to it. Their purpose is to destroy evil and restore balance to the world.”

“Then why did they leave?” Ruby asked, as she always did.

Ivan smiled again, only this time his eyes looked sad. “People stopped believing in them.”

Ruby stood up and walked over to her brother. “Not everyone,” she said. Then she kissed his cheek and made her way to her bedroom.

Her dreams were full of molten eyes and shimmering obsidian scales.

She awakened just as dawn stretched its fingers up into the sky. At first, Ruby thought she was hearing echoes from her dreams, but the sound came again. Quickly, she pulled on her clothes and ran outside.

Ivan was already there, standing on the hill, watching the sky.

Twenty dragons, maybe more, circled the castle. Occasionally, their scales caught the light from the rising sun, making them sparkle like magnificent gems in the sky. They called to each other, and as one, they began to breathe fire over the usurper’s lair.

Ivan turned to look at Ruby, his eyes bright with fear and awe. “What did you do?”

Ruby smiled. “I prayed for vengeance.”

———————————————————————————————

This is my submission for this week’s Speakeasy writing challenge, in which we had to write a piece of fiction or poetry (up to 750 words), that included the following line: “No one could ever know what happened here” and also made some sort of reference to the song Counting Stars, by OneRepublic.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: Google images

The Darkness

fort-point-arches

The Darkness

There was a time when her world didn’t look like this, Sarah thinks. But those days seem so far away now it’s almost like she’s remembering something from a dream. Or a movie about someone else’s life. With a weary sigh, Sarah pushes an errant strand of hair out of her eyes and resumes scrubbing the pot in the sink.

She can hear her toddler, Sophie, squealing joyfully at something on the television, and Sarah wonders what it must be like to experience the world through the eyes of a toddler. Every moment full of possibility and wonder. And even the bad moments pass quickly, soothed by a mother’s kiss or the discovery of a forgotten toy beneath the sofa.

Sarah can’t remember the last time anything made her feel that joy. She tells herself that she must have felt that way when Sophie and her baby brother were born. After all, they are her whole world. But she can’t find that joy anywhere within herself, even if she digs. All there is now is unending darkness, tunnelling through her insides like a very hungry caterpillar. And every so often, it reaches up to whisper in her ear.

The pot is clean now. Sparkling in the glow from the track lighting above the sink. Sarah places the pot on top of the pile of clean dishes in the rack and slowly peels the rubber gloves from her hands. At least the kitchen will be clean when Josh gets home from work, even if she has no idea when that will be.

When the darkness first started to grow, Sarah had turned it outwards, snapping at Josh and reprimanding Sophie for all the little things. Gradually, it had turned inwards, but by then Josh had taken on extra projects at work, often working well past the kids’ bedtimes and into the weekends. Sarah couldn’t really blame him. If she could have found a way to escape the darkness she would have done the same. But sometimes she remembered how full of life she and Josh had been, all those years ago, and she wondered if there was a secret hidden away in those moments that could have slayed the darkness.

Sarah shakes her head. It doesn’t matter now. It’s too late.

As if on cue, the baby begins to cry.

“Mama!” Sophie calls. “Milo’s awake!”

The walk down the hall to the baby’s room takes all the energy Sarah can muster. Her feet feel like lead weights and the air in the house presses down on her with every step. She stops in the doorway and looks at the baby, who is sitting up in his crib, his big blue eyes bright with tears. Like Sophie, he has blonde hair and fair skin. And his father’s charming smile. He beams at her and reaches his arms out to be picked up.

Sarah carries the baby back down the hall and then down the stairs to the family room, where Sophie is still watching television.

“Milo!” Sophie dances over to plant a kiss on her brother’s cheek. Sarah lowers the baby into his playpen.

“Can you watch him for a minute, Sophie?” Sarah asks. “I’m going to go get your snacks.”

“Okay,” says Sophie, and she proceeds to entertain her baby brother with funny faces and ridiculous sounds.

With effort, Sarah drags herself back up the stairs to the kitchen. She has to fight the urge to stop and lie down on the floor—an urge that has been growing in frequency over the last two weeks.

Just a little further, she tells herself.

In the kitchen, she grabs the kids’ snacks, which she’d prepared before she washed the dishes. Then she opens the fridge and grabs three bottles of juice. She doesn’t normally let the kids drink juice, but today is special.

Back in the basement, she lays out the snacks on the table. Sophie and the baby are thrilled about the juice, draining their bottles in no time. Sarah puts her bottle on the end table, picks up the baby and persuades Sophie to come and sit with them, even though it’s not really in Sophie’s nature to sit still.

Only when Sophie and Milo have both stopped breathing does Sarah drink the juice in her own bottle. Then she lies down beside her children and waits for the darkness to take her away.

———————————————————————————————

This is my submission for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge. This week’s 1,000 Words challenge tasked us with the following: “use one of the images in this gallery as a starting point for a short story, poem, free-write, or musing on whatever you’d like.”

I apologize for how dark this story is, but the character of Sarah came to me earlier this week and insisted that her story be told.

Also linking up with my lovely sisters (and brothers) at the yeah write Moonshine Grid.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: “Emptiness” by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Bletchley Park

bletchley-park

Bletchley Park

She used to lay the doilies out
On holidays
And special occasions
Smoothing their edges with hands
Weathered by time

Visitors would smile and drop words
Like quaint and charming
Never looking past the surface
To the structure underneath

Each thread tells a story
Of commitment
And time gone by
Reminding her of all the pieces
That shaped her life

One day her lace will pass to me
And I will guard her legacy
Of love and loss
And everything she sacrificed
In service of her country.

—————————————————————————————

My paternal grandmother worked at Bletchley Park during WWII. She wasn’t allowed to tell anyone for fifty years (until the Official Secrets Act expired). I wrote this in her memory.

This is also my submission for this week’s Trifecta writing challenge. We had to write between 33 and 333 words, and include the third definition of the following word in our piece: quaint. The third definition is: a) unusual or different in character or appearance; odd;  b) pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar.

—————————————————————————————

Image credit: Bletchley Park, courtesy of Google Images

Kith and Kin

tracks

Kith and Kin

I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees, just where the others said they would be. With one last glance over my shoulder, I trotted away, following the tracks my brothers had left.

I was surprised when I’d awoken that morning to discover that Marcus and Brutus had already left the den. The three of us had always hunted together and for them to leave without me was unusual. When I’d asked my pack-mates about it, they’d explained that Marcus and Brutus had a surprise for me and I was to follow their tracks.

It was an odd request, for sure, but since our father had died, my brothers ran the pack with an unpredictable mixture of mirth and violence. It made us all uneasy, but no one dared to challenge their combined strength. As I followed their tracks, I hoped that mirth would greet me at my destination. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid.

For several weeks now, I’d been sneaking away to meet the lone wolf who had first appeared when the autumn colours started to wane. Lorenzo was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on, with his thick black coat and his evergreen eyes. He was passionate and soulful, with a howl that sent delicious shivers up and down my spine. I loved him more than anything and planned to run away with him in the spring.

If my brothers found out about Lorenzo, they would kill him. They had plans to unite our pack with the Storm Ridge pack across the river and I was their key. In the spring, they would give me to the leader of Storm Ridge to seal that bond. No lone wolf would be allowed to stand in their way.

I slowed my pace as I approached the clearing, wondering why my brothers had led me here. We had seen humans in this place many times. It was dangerous to stand in the middle of the clearing, especially during the day. But there my brothers stood.

As I drew closer, I noticed a shape on the ground behind Marcus and Brutus and my heart lurched.

“Lorenzo!” I cried. He lay on his side, badly beaten, but he lifted his head when he heard my voice. I started to run toward him, but Marcus leapt in front of me.

“So it is true,” Marcus growled. “I’m disappointed, Izzy.”

“As father would be disappointed in you and your leadership,” I spat back.

“You would have been the queen of Storm Ridge,” he said, walking closer to me. “And we would have had access to all their land. Your transgression has cost our pack dearly.”

I glared at him and stepped backwards,  “We never needed Storm Ridge while father was alive.”

Marcus narrowed his eyes, rage burning in them, “Well, perhaps you can tell him how much you miss him in person.” His lips drew back in a twisted snarl and he nodded over his shoulder at Brutus.

Too late, I realized that Marcus had walked me over one of the humans’ traps. The last thing I saw before the ground dropped from under me were Brutus’ jaws closing around Lorenzo’s throat. Then my world went black.

When I awoke, the sun was low in the sky and I could hear human voices above me.

“Sally, get over here! I found a wolf in one of the traps. She’s alive. And I think she’s pregnant.”

The humans rescued me from the hole instead of killing me like my brothers had expected. They took me to a sanctuary, where I could have my cubs and raise them in safety. The humans said we would all be released once the cubs and I were strong enough.

As I watched my three children—two daughters and one son—grow into their beautiful black coats, I regaled them with stories about their brave father and their despotic uncles, the betrayers. I watched my children’s green eyes flash and I stoked their anger until it matched mine. I watched them become stronger and fiercer, and I dreamed of the day they would avenge their father’s life and take their rightful place at the head of our pack.

———————————————————————————————–

This is my submission for the Speakeasy #140. We had to write a piece of poetry or fiction under 750 words, beginning with the following line:

I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.

Our submissions also had to make some reference to the media prompt, which, this week, is the following painting by John Everett Millais:

There’s still lots of time to participate in this week’s Speakeasy, so come check it out.

—————————————————————————————

Paw print image: Suzanne Purkis

After the Ending

The Wall

After the Ending

It was late afternoon. The sun dipping behind the tall buildings said it clearly. And so Coralie waited. Just like she’d done every day since the Ending had swallowed up all the normal in her life.

She remembered asking her mother if she could wait outside the grocery store. Coralie loved the strange little merry-go-round with its myriad of creatures, but her absolute favourite was the tiger. She would climb up on its back and imagine she was riding through wild tropical jungles, splashing through streams and chasing monkeys into the trees. Sometimes she would switch it up and climb on the horse instead, pretending to be one of those girls from the other side of town, with fancy matching clothes and shiny shoes.

On that fateful day, Coralie’s mother had smiled and ruffled her hair, and then nodded her consent.

“I won’t be long,” her mother had said as she headed inside the store.

Coralie had climbed up to play Queen of the Tigers, imagining herself thundering through the dense jungle foliage on the back of her fiercest tiger. She’d battled wild boars and saved the prince from a band of outlaws. And then the Ending had begun.

At first, Coralie had thought the low rumbling was just a loud garbage truck going by, but the rumbling had grown louder, like a chorus of angry giants descending on the city. As she’d scrambled down from the tiger, the sky above had gone black. Cars had screeched to a halt and grown-ups all around Coralie had started to scream.

With her tiny heart pounding in her ears, Coralie had run to find her mother, but by then the rumbling had transformed into a weird hum, and when she’d stopped to cover her ears, all the windows in the surrounding buildings had exploded. Glass had come crashing down on the streets like sheets of torrential rain. Terrified, Coralie had simply run for cover, squeezing her small frame through a gap in a chain-link fence and taking cover beneath some scraps of metal.

And then Coralie had waited.

The darkness and destruction had gone on for hours, maybe even days. Coralie had stayed hidden, trying not to notice how thirsty she’d become. At one point, she’d even fallen asleep, only to wake again in darkness. Eventually, the screams and the strange noises had subsided. But the darkness had lingered. On the one occasion Coralie had dared to peek outside her hiding place, she’d seen oddly shaped people moving through the rubble, collecting items in equally odd containers. Coralie did not peek again until the light came back.

When she had finally emerged, the streets were empty and the city was silent, much like it was all these years later.

Coralie had searched for her mother in the rubble, but there were no signs of any life and nor were there any bodies. Coralie had gone home, thankful that she remembered the way, but her apartment building was as empty as the streets. All alone, Coralie had tried to remember all the things her mother had taught her. Look before crossing the street. Never pet a strange dog without asking. Always eat your vegetables. Be kind to others.

Buffeted by thoughts of her mother, Coralie had managed. She’d found food and water and then found safe places to store it. She’d armed herself with iron pipes and pepper spray. She’d even trekked across town to equip herself with fancy clothes and nice shoes. And she’d survived so far.

In her travels she’d come across a dog, the only other living creature she’d seen since the Ending. She called him Max and now they travelled together, scavenging for food, books, and supplies in the daylight and cuddling close in the dark.

Coralie knew a lot of time had passed since the Ending. It was reflected daily by the changes to her height and her strength and her preference in reading materials. So even though she knew it was probably futile, every day Coralie walked back to the merry-go-round where it all began and waited for her mother to return.

———————————————————————————————

This is my submission for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words. We were asked to write a story inspired by the following image:


Photo by Michelle Weber.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: Krzysztof Wiktor / Photoxpress.com