Disvillage Story 6 – Dulcinea “The Mother”

Her head moved to a position that her ears thought made them hear better and listened for a train.  No train appeared to be coming.  What had caused this unexpected wave of emotion? She didn’t know.  The overwhelming sensation had abated, but the feeling of horror clung to her.  It was not terror, but horror.  It was not a feeling she felt often.  It overwhelmed her and upset her.  It was the second time she had felt it at this spot on the trail that ran along the train track she used as a short cut between her house and her brothers.  She picked up her daughter Tabitha, who had started crying.  

“What is that mommy?”

Dulcinea looked at her daughter. Her heart tightened and a little tear escaped her eye.  Tabitha had felt it too.  Yesterday she had thought she had made it up.  Now she wasn’t so sure.  She looked around.  It was quiet. There was no train.  No birds either.  No rabbits or squirrels rustling in the bush.  The feeling of being watched made her grab her daughter tighter and hurry on.  Running seemed pointless as anywhere to run was to far.  It seemed best to pretend that nothing was happening – to discourage a confrontation.

“It was just a stick, baby. I thought it was a snake too.” She said aloud, inventing a reason to be upset.  Miraculously, Tabitha said nothing and stuck her finger in her mouth.  As she walked away, the feeling left her.  Maybe she had made the whole thing up.  

She was almost in bright spirits when she reached the door of her brother’s, Jamison Lee.  It was hard to shake the feeling that her spirits were so bright because she had just escaped something.  She thought about the non-existent serial killer that didn’t live in her town.  Had he recently killed there?  Had he been watching her?  Did she fit his profile?  Did she seem vulnerable?  Was she an outsider?  She knew she wasn’t main stream, but she had never thought of herself as “that” different. Somewhere inside of her head she heard a voice say, “Nice girls don’t walk alone in the woods.  Nice girls aren’t single mothers.”  If this was her mind saying these things it was a betrayal of everything she believed about herself.  Or… maybe she was just making the whole thing up she thought firmly to herself.  

She had walked the same way at the same time of day more than she could count.  She had created a pattern that, imagination running wild or no, she would not repeat.  The path had been a staple of her routine.  Before this week she had walked it many times in enjoyment.   She was sad to lose it.        

She knocked on the door of her brother’s house.  He and his spouse Tyco had agreed to watch Tabitha so she could go out on her date. Tabitha escaped her grasp as just as the door opened so that she could bust in.  “Uncle Jamie,” she yelled running past her uncle Jamison Lee searching for Tyco.  

“We look nothing alike, but somehow being a couple has made us twins,” remarked her brother inviting her into his house.  

“Thank you so much for doing this.  I can’t stay. If I don’t leave now I’ll be late,” she said declining his invitation with a kiss on the cheek and a step backwards. 

“Pick her up in the morning. Sometime before noon,” said her brother in goodbye.   

Dulcinea continued her walk to her date.  There was a new pedestrian overpass and now access to downtown was more readily possible. When they had originally put in the freeway it had completely cut off walkers from the town.  Progress always seemed to be designed for someone else. She was pleased to be utilizing progress that seemed to benefit her.  She felt reunited with community.    

The mood of the path near the train track was wearing off and she was starting to get excited about her date.  There were no expectations.  She was just excited to be hanging out with a handsome man.  

She had run into him while she was helping a homeless person find a church that was offering food and respite.  Michael had been arguing with a neighbor of the church about the line of homeless people with shopping carts in front of the building.  The neighbor was trying to sell his house across the street.

“Are you even zoned for this?” he had demanded of Michael.

“We are zoned to be a church.  Helping those in need is the work of the church.  What do you think a church is?  A country club?”

“You know, I’m a Christian too!” the neighbor snapped and then stormed off.

Michael had sighed with frustration and then turned to Dulcinea to ask her if she needed help. Dulcinea explained her situation and waited patiently for Michael to explain the services to the homeless person – who then left them suddenly, alone together, heading into the respite of the church.

The absurd situation had made them comrades and after a brief pause of silence between them, he said. “I get it.  I mean, if it were my yard, I would like it to be free of needles and human feces too.  But helping these people didn’t bring the problem here.  They were already here.” He finished turning to her with a sigh clearly eager to change the subject.  “I’m Michael.” 

“I’m Dulcinea.”

Michael was a Christian. At first that had concerned her. The bible had a tenuous relationship with those gifted with magic.  Sure, there had been magicians at Christ’s birth, but the book also gave instruction on avoiding witches and killing them when possible.  In the bible magic was the soul property of prophets.  

But Michael wasn’t a Christian of the “dreadful sort”.  Which seemed to mean he asked more questions than he pretended to have answers to. She had even gone to church with him. When she had lifted her hands in prayer, she had felt power.  There was magic in that old church.  While it hadn’t made her want to “come out of the broom closet” to him, it had turned out that him being a Christian was not a show stopper.    

She wasn’t sure what she would tell him or even how to broach the subject.  I’m a witch?  What did that mean anyways?  For her, witchcraft wasn’t so much about a belief system or a deity structure.  It was more like a language not everyone could speak.  

Regardless, Michael made her feel good.  It had been a pleasure to help him go through his closet looking for things to donate. They had found an old uniform of his. Michael had been a Mounty – of course he had.  He was one of the good guys.  She couldn’t help leaning into the feeling that this Christian Canadian was the Dudley Do Right to her Penelope Pit Stop.  

She hated that analogy. It was too accurate and at the same time not at all who she was.  She was perfectly capable of getting herself out of any jam she got herself in. However, it was undeniable she was always getting herself into trouble.  Or that trouble had a way of finding her.  Eglantine attributed it to her green eyes. “The lipochrome attracts magic, wild magic, unpredictable magic.  It creates a vortex”, Eglantine had once explained.  What ever the cause, it might be nice to have someone who’s hand she could depend on taking from time to time.  It was exhausting figuring it out by herself all the time.    

Dulcinea reached the restaurant and descended the stairs into the lower part.  They would not be dining at the fancy restaurant on top, they would be eating at the bistro underneath – listening to the Celtic Rock Band playing in the corner.

Michael smiled when he saw her come through the door and stood up to pull out her chair.  “How was the walk?” he asked her.

“Funny you should ask. I feel like I just walked through the worst cloud of evil,” she replied dismissively as she took her seat with a little chuckle expecting him to take it as a joke.  

“On the path near the train tracks?” he inquired.  The question caught her by surprise and she almost fell into her chair.  

“Why would you say that?” she asked.  

Disvillage Story 5 – Eglantine “The Crone”

“Is this dough ready?” asked a mousy albeit flamboyant girl who was probably closer to middle age than childhood.  She really had no business being so thin in this occupation.  Her small waist certainly kept her young – that and the big silly bow in her vibrant red hair.  In reality, anyone younger than Eglantine by ten years was considered a girl in her head. She was careful to be patient with herself when she had these ageist thoughts.   She hated growing old, but it did make each season dearer.  She had always loved autumn.  Now she wondered how many more there would be.      

It was early morning, about an hour before sunrise (or late at night, depending on which circadian rhythm you were dancing to).  The first chill of the season could be felt outside, but they were warm and snug in the little shop.  

“It needs to be kneaded” replied Eglantine to her assistant baker.  

“I need you” whispered Dulcinea setting her head at level with the bread dough.  

Eglantine wondered if the girl were simple, trying to be funny, or gifted.  It was a thought she often had in the many years she had known her. Not for the last time, she was sure. 

They both set about adjusting the shop getting ready for customers.  They flipped the sign open, turned on the customer music (for some reason they preferred to work in silence) and sat down to one of the small bistro tables.  Eglantine with her croissant.  The croissant being the shops signature bake.   On the inside was all the chewy doughiness of an American croissant.   On the outside was a crisp explosive French inspired shell guaranteed to blast crumbs all down your front.   And, Dulcinea with her paper and black coffee.  Coffee was their other signature.  It was roasted especially for them by a roaster in the mountains hundreds of miles away.  It had a unique and delicious flavor.  People drove almost as far to buy it from them. Together they waited for customers. 

“The serial killer has struck again”, stated Dulcinea absently as she continued to read and sip her black potion.  

Eglantine wasn’t exactly sure there was a serial killer in the area – even with all the mysterious deaths. However, she did know there was a demon in the city.  There had been for 20 years.  

Eglantine was a witch. She knew these kinds of things.  Her gift had always been identifying the supernatural.  Just as Dulcinea always seemed to know the difference between truth and lies and could guess the truth when she heard a lie.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at the situation, neither of them knew (if there even was one) who the serial killer was. Funny, she thought to herself, she was always one-hundred percent sure of her own gifts and only fifty percent positive of anyone else’s.  Eglantine, Dulcinea, and Tabitha; Dulcinea’ s daughter, made up their little coven – the maiden, the mother and the crone.  Tabitha was not yet even five.  It was hard to know what her gifts would be.  

Dulcinea was the daughter she never had.  She had come pregnant and desperate to the little shop some years ago looking for work. The shop had crackled with magic as she walked through her door alerting Eglantine to the presence of power.  She had thought she was barren, yet she knew this was her daughter the moment she walked in to her life.  

A few years later when relationships had been established and Eglantine had shared her first impression of Dulcinea with her, Dulcinea had asked, “does that mean Tabitha is your granddaughter?”

“Good heavens no,” stated Eglantine emphatically.  “I will never be anyone’s grandmother!  I will be her fairy godmother.”  

Tabitha had started preschool this year.  Eglantine looked wistfully to the corner of the shop where her playpen used to live. 

The bell over the door rang announcing a customer.  It was Gwydion their demon, and first customer always.  She greeted him warmly and without pretense.  Yes, Gwydion was always their first customer, followed by the truck drivers, then you had your business owners, followed by laborers and professionals, and finally ending with students and those in service.  

It had scared her when Gwydion had first walked into her shop.  She had been terrified.  Even more so when she learned he had purchased the local hot springs and was to stay.  She had never thought of her town as the type to attract a demon.  But, apparently there had been just enough indifference in the community for him to settle.  

A young man had been murdered 21 years ago.  He had been pushed by a pack of boys off a bridge.  One of the boys who had pushed him had been the chief of polices son. The only eye witness had been a homeless person that soon after disappeared.  The young man that had been murdered had an effeminate way about him that made a lot of people uncomfortable.  It had been ruled a suicide.  There had been no outrage from the town.  No uncomfortable questions were asked of the police, just silence came from the community.  It was enough.  It was enough for a demon to slip in.  

She was the third generation to own her family’s business, but she had seriously considered selling and moving.  She knew what the blight of a demon looked like.     

But, Gwydion (it seemed) would not fulfill her expectations.  Mysteriously he seemed to be hell bent on doing good.  His business attracted an upscale clientele and like many shops in the town, her little business thrived.  She often made deliveries to the resort.  She was amused by his use of old magic to organize the hot springs.  Old magic, gray magic, magic that had not been designed for the service of good or evil.  It was the same magic given to the earth to spin and the sun to burn.    

Gwydion had arrived looking well worn for a man in his twenties and now looked well preserved for a man in his forties.  When the time came, he could probably pull off claiming fifties.  But, unless there were amazing breakthroughs in plastic surgery, sixty he would have a hard time claiming to be.  She wondered if his time here was coming to an end.  An immortal could only pretend at mortality for so long. Just as the serial killer could only pretend at being God before mortality caught up to him.  She was old and knew the strength of youth did not last forever.    

While his evil nature and demon spirit had not attracted the crime one expects to follow his goblin footsteps, perhaps it had attracted a serial killer. It was a serial killer that made accidents happen to homeless and vulnerable people insisted Dulcinea.  A body found floating in a canal, someone hit by a train, a person slipping and cracking their head while walking in a ravine – these scenarios hadn’t happened just once.  They happened over and over again.    

Evil always makes way for evil.  Even she had fallen to the snares of his charm.  Here she was every morning genuinely welcoming him to her shop – breaking bread with the devil.  Yet the world was complex.  She trusted in the fact that her vision was limited.  Maybe the larger picture was a combination of prettier colors she did not have the view to see.  

Disvillage Story 4 – Cat and Mouse

Tasteful wall paper greeted Gwydion as he entered the light airy room of the empty resort suite. It was one of the better rooms – large, spacious, and… impersonally decorated. It was a place to make memories, not a place to face your memories. His opinion was that a hotel room should not remind you of your home or your ordinary life. Like a fantasy novel where the main character retreats from the common world to an alternate one, the hotel room should provide escape. Gwydion catered to fantasy and enchantments – the fantasy and enchantments of the rich.

Today Gwydion would not be indulging in fantasy.  He would be addressing the very practical reality of cleaning a room.  He had come to this suite to meet with his new employee Donny.  House keeping had alerted him to spoiled towels.  Towels meant for decoration (and occasional guest use – by those indulgent enough to use the ornately patterned towels in place of the lush white ones) had been used to clean the floor.  

Donny had used the wrong towels, Gwydion explained.  He had used the good towels.  Gwydion handed him a pair of rubber gloves and they began instruction in housework. 

As they talked about the finer art of cleaning a room, Gwydion eavesdropped on Donny’s mind.  Donny had not grown up with good towels.  He had grown up with working towels or towels that needed to be retired.  The idea of a leisure class towel had never occurred to Donny.  Donny was a good towel, Gwydion chuckled to himself, and he was too common to appreciate the art of not working.   

Gwydion took the opportunity to measure Donny’s soul.  It was something he did with all new employees.  He required good in his employees.  Evil was for the guests.  The evil Gwydion desired grew best in good soil.  

Donny had a small stain of theft and lies on an otherwise blameless soul balanced by an aftertaste of guilt and remorse.  It was a flavor Gwydion did not enjoy, guilt and remorse; it ruined the taste of sin. But there was no need to worry. The environment that Gwydion would provide Donny would soon scrub his heart and leave it pure.  

Occasionally true evil did reside in the poor, but it was rare.  True evil grew best in the hearts of the rich and privileged.  If a beggar had to choose to steal or starve than the sin was with the person the beggar stole from.  True evil did not grow well in necessity where things done the wrong way for the right reasons had a habit of working out for “the best”.  

He had one such soul almost ready for harvest – that rare person born to poverty capable of true evil. It was a boy born of the wrong cast and color – born to loving and generous; but, poor parents.  

The man had been born with two balancing gifts.  He had been born with a gift for charity and a gift for cruelty in equal measure.  This was a man destined for greatness who could do great good or great evil.  

Gwydion had ensured that a path to success was paved for him – a path to privilege.  He had been oppressed along the way, of course, human nature being what it is – always looking to kick a perceived inferior.  The oppression had made an impression on the man and the seeds of desire were sown.  The oppression had created a crossroads of destiny.  This man could go down either path.    

Gwydion had made sure that there was always a balance of someone helpful – to provide charity for him. Someone that got the man into an Ivy League college his parents could never afford – someone who had shown him grants not readily known about.  Another someone that introduced him to the right people to get him a cushy elite job – a job never posted to a pool of candidates.  And finally, support to implement a rise to power in his corporation – the right over qualified secretary, an HR manager charmed by his meager beginnings, a boss ready for retirement that never got in his way or took credit for his work.  In other words – “luck”. 

The man had rejected any notion that he was charmed believing all privilege he had acquired had been his own hard work.  He, who was beholden to everyone, believed he was beholden to no one.  It had been a gamble by Gwydion to provide him with charity in hopes that the man would not recognize what was being extended to him (goodwill) and invest that understanding in fostering his own talent of benevolence.  It was a gamble that had paid off.  It had made the corruption of the man’s soul that much more delicious.  Things could have gone a different way.  He could have recognized the generosity of others and been humbled by it.      

By providing luck, Gwydion had groomed and fostered a talent of disregard and callousness until it had led the man to the great sin of his soul.  It had led him to a turning point.  

The man was faced with someone who had helped him climb his mountain of success.  It was someone like the man.  Someone born to all the same disadvantages and blessed with none of the charms and assistance.  Instead of raising this fellow up and passing on his good fortune, he had done the opposite. He had chosen to oppress him.  He had treated the employee as an inferior and had reveled in his authority and power over the employee.  He who had been oppressed celebrated the joy of providing oppression.  The man had realized that he had not been working for riches but for power.  He now had the power to inflict harm on the innocent.    

The man had chosen to never invest in his gifts of charity and had allowed his soul to tarnish leaving no path to redemption.  Ironically, an investment in altruism would have provided the true greatness this man envied in others – greatness only found in humility. Now he would always be dissatisfied because a part of him would forever know that he had missed his opportunity to be the great man he could have been.  The man was dissatisfied and cruel – flavors Gwydion relished.  His soul was ready.  Gwydion would devour it.  Like a cat bating a mouse, it was time for him to pounce.  

Gwydion was a demon.  

Gwydion thanked Donny for his work and dismissed him taking his gloves and then removing his own. Donny departed the room and Gwydion was left with the back of the hotel suite door.  And a mirror – that (had he been hungry) would have been blank.  Because he was full, the mirror provided Gwydion with an image of himself. It revealed his true visage; what humans would describe as a classic vampire.  But unlike a vampire, Gwydion did not drink blood.  He drank souls.  These souls needed to be sweet, delicious, and corrupt beyond redemption.  And while no one was beyond redemption, these souls had rejected it.  They had rejected a call to humanity and embraced their selfishness.  They no longer had a desire to be good, to do the right thing, to think about others.  

Gwydion looked good. He did good.  He fostered good in others.  But he was evil.  He needed to be surrounded by these very good people to bring out the evil in others that he so desired.  These wicked humans that could be feasted on.  

Gwydion was a being of selfishness and soullessness.  And, the soulless had no reflection.  When Gwydion was well fed, he had a soul and could see himself.  The mirror; however, did not show him what his magic hid.  A glamour allowed him to look living, hid his fangs, and made his livid red eyes brown.  It was a glamour the mirror did not replicate.  While he was full of soul, he could reflect on himself and indulge in humanity.             

An Angel had once asked him if hell approved.  It had been an amusing question.  Hell did not approve of anything.  Hell was not organized.  There were no allegiances.  It was every demon for himself.  Hell was not a place but a state of being.  He wondered if heaven was really a state of being as well.  He wondered if the cooperation of the good created a community that gave the illusion of space.  It was a question he was not capable of, except when devouring the souls of the living. These sorts of questions were almost repentant.  They required a statement of “I” which led to a realization of self which led to a realization of others.  The irony amused him.      

Gwydion approved. That was enough.  His motives and alliances were his own.