Blooming Howls 2014

This is my posting for the fabulous Magaly Guerrero's blog party, Witches in Fiction: Crafting Blooming Howls



Tradition Lies Deeply


“I am telling you Fernando, esa chica es rara.”

“Fernando,” Angela said, “do you want to tell your sister goodbye this time or shall I do it?”

Ana could see the weary look in her father’s face from the crack of her bedroom door. “Natalia, we all know how you feel. Now please go and let us deal with our daughter.”

Ana couldn’t quite hear what her aunt mumbled as she went out the door, but her mother’s disgusted 
“Idiota supersticiosa” and the slam of the door carried quite clearly. She scampered back to her bed, clutching her stuffed fox tightly, knowing her parents would be in to see her soon.

They didn’t appear to be much more pleased with her than they were with her aunt.

“I’m sorry I didn’t behave at dinner,” Ana said quietly.

“Ana, you are a big girl now,” her mother said. “You must know better than all this locura about fairy tales and talking foxes – or at least be old enough to know to hide your baby games!”

“You were rude to your tía, mí hija. Whatever possessed you to say such things?”

Ana looked down at her blanket and said nothing. She didn’t think her parents would appreciate “because she’s mean” as an answer.

When it was clear no answer was forthcoming her father sighed. “You know, if I were rude to an adult like that when I was young my parents would have brought out un cinturón and I wouldn’t sit right for days.”

“Or anything hard, wooden, and nearby” her mother said with a nod.

“I won’t do it again. I promise.”

“I’d tell you have to stay in your room the next week, but you are already in here alone all the time as it is. Why don’t you go out and play more with the other kids?” her mother shouted.

“Angela, por favor,” Fernando said, laying a hand on his exasperated wife’s arm. “No postre, for a week. And no fairy tales. Just school reading or something we pick.”

They walked out of the room, her father only stopping to remind Ana to say her prayers before he turned out the light. Ana could hear that they were still talking. Creeping quietly to the door she opened it a fraction to listen.

“You don’t believe your sister’s tontería about demonios, do you Fernando?”

“Of course not. But you said it yourself. Ana needs to get over thinking she’s in a fairy tale or people will think she’s crazy.”

Ana closed the door and went back to her bed. All the talk of demons made the shadows in the room seem extra ominous. She lay under her blanket, saying every prayer she learned in Catholic school. But it was no use. Ana was sure demons were lying in wait for the bad child who told her aunt that a fox would pluck out her eyes for snooping in her room.

“Yuuki” she whispered.

“I am here Ana-chan.” A three tailed fox leapt onto her bed and curled up beside her.

“There aren’t any demons in here, are there Yuuki?”

“Nothing besides me.”

“You aren’t a demon. You’re nice,” Ana said as she sat up. “I’ll bet you’ve never got in trouble for saying something you shouldn’t have.”

The fox shook its head, “Wrong on all three. I’ve been called a demon many times. I’m most assuredly not nice. And yes, I’ve acted and spoken in haste only to repent later.”

Ana’s skeptical look amused Yuuki. “Alright small one, I suppose I shall have to prove it. Your father said you could not read any fairy tales, but he did not say you could not listen to one. You can judge for yourself afterwards, though the very fact I am telling you a story despite the fact we both know your parents would not approve shows I am not nice. Nice creatures do not help young ones disobey.”

“I had been trapped for many generations at this point, bound to serving one family to its 100th generation. My homeland had begun to change since the arrival of Admiral Perry, but my family weathered the changes well, with my help of course. The age of the samurai had gone, but wealth and status were always in style, and my family kept theirs. The one I served at that time was a lovely, but very spoiled, woman. Her husband had met with an unfortunate hunting accident soon after she bore him a son, but she was not lonely. She often attended social gatherings, reveling in the attention she received as a beautiful, tragic figure. Eventually, the attention began to fade, as other topics became more interesting to the circles she traveled in.

She did not care for calling upon my aid too often, but after my assistance with her husband's final hunting expedition, she became less shy about such things. So one evening she called me, demanding I do more to keep her the center of attention.

‘My lady,’ I said, ‘I already use my powers as a kitsune to enhance your beauty so that you are admired by all men and envied by every woman. You know how these aristocratic groups are. Only the most recent gossip of the moment is of interest.’

Her eyes lit up at my last sentence. ‘Yes, it is so,” she replied. ‘It is also so that the one who knows the best and juiciest gossip never wants for attention.  Kitsune, could you sneak into the houses of some people and bring me back whatever news you found interesting?’

Of course I could. It was possibly the easiest thing I had ever been asked by a member of that family. So for a week I crept in and out of the finest and most noble households of that district, reporting every salacious deed I saw. She clapped her hands with delight at all I told her and at the next gatherings she attended, my lady sprinkled the stories onto very attentive ears.

Inevitably, the remarkable accuracy of her tales was soon noted. In my travels I observed that several of the individuals I had reported back on were attempting to send spies of their own into my lady’s household, to see how she came by her knowledge. I advised her it would be wisest to discontinue our activities for a time, at least to allow me to deal with the other spies, but she was reluctant to give up her popularity.

‘My Lady, surely you must see they will not be satisfied until they have some sort of explanation. They will not rest until they know what skilled spies you have or magic you possess to know so much.’

Again, my words provided a spark to her mind. Magic, yes, but not the magic of a lowly servant - magic of her own was the answer. She started putting it about that since the death of her husband she had become more sensitive to spirits and could hear all the secrets they uttered. When pressed for evidence of this power she started giving spiritual sessions as a diversion at parties. Of course I needed to be close by to feed her information. She decided I should be beside her during all these events, in the guise of a simple lady's maid, giving her information through secret signals. I have no great skill in fortune telling, but with all the time I had spent prowling through the various households it was easy enough to predict the outcomes of many of the questions she was asked.

The charade amused me on so many levels. The majority of the people she was impressing normally would trip all over themselves to prove how modern they were, how they had left silly, old beliefs behind. But oh, how those sons and daughters of Old Japan loved tastes of the old tales, provided they weren't too frightening or threatening to their image as modern, enlightened people. I don't believe anyone really thought she was a medium. There were too many attempts to find out what lay behind her knowledge to presume they fully accepted her story. From my spying I found that the general consensus still was, rightfully, she had some sort of secret access through a clever spy or group of spies. But they loved playing along with the story. 

Her fame and popularity grew once more, but it was not long before she was dissatisfied again. Discontent came in the form of a simple girl, the daughter of farmers, who was making a name for herself in some of the villages as a skilled medium. Certainly, the girl was of little real threat to her popularity, but all it took was a tart remark or two implying in this modern era that a peasant was the equal of an elite woman and she conspired to have her thrown in jail. I was not part of that directly as I was quite busy with spy work. But because of information I gave her, my lady held a certain amount of sway over the local magistrate and the girl was brought in. My lady wanted to see her punished for her insolence, so made sure she was available at the time of the girl’s arrest. I stood beside my lady, as was my place as her handmaiden, and watched as they flogged the girl and then threw her in a cell.  

Two things came to mind as I watched. First was that although my oath bound me to serve the family, it did not say I could not serve others as well. The second was that although my oath was to protect my charge from physical harm, nothing was ever said about gossip.

I arranged to spend time at the jail between spying missions, disguising my voice to resemble that of one of the guards. I brought her small treats of good food, to gain her trust and get her to talk. She indeed was a seer of remarkable talent. She only needed to touch another person’s hand and she could see who they were and where their path was leading them.

I convinced my lady she should be there the day of the girl’s release to make sure she had been properly humbled by her experience. Gleefully, my lady agreed, and together we went. As the girl was led out of her cell, I put on my haughtiest voice and said “Wretch, you are in the presence of your betters. Show the proper respect!” And I made sure to grab the exposed skin of her wrist as I pulled her forward.

Of course she knew the second she felt my touch. She pushed me away in horror, as any sensible person might, causing me to lose my balance and fall, revealing my fox tails under my disguise. 

“Kitsune!” she screamed.

All the villagers who had assembled in curiosity at my lady’s visit now were yelling in horror. Perhaps I have a perverse sense of humor, but even during what followed I could not help being amused by how quickly these modern, rational people became no different from the people who lived hundreds of years ago when they faced something out of the ordinary.

“Demon!”

“Evil deceptive spirit!”

“The lady is kitsune possessed!”

“Get out before you curse us all to suffer at the hand of the kitsune!”

I managed to get us both out before any of the stones that were thrown could hit us, as was my duty. My lady stayed shut up in her room in shock for several days. Her other servants left quickly once word had spread that their mistress consorted with evil creatures, and of course there were no more invitations to fine parties after that. Happy with my work, I thought all I needed to do was wait for my lady to waste away in grief over not being the most admired woman in the district and my service would pass into the hands of her insipid son.

But my lady proved hardier than I thought. In a month’s time, this time disguised as a manservant of her son’s, I was boarding a large ship set to sail far away from my homeland, never to return. I heard my brothers and sisters wail for me as the boat departed, but what could they do? The terms of my service were clear: serve for one hundred generations. So where my lady went, I was compelled to go as well. It was well that my lady never addressed me again as long as she lived because I was filled with nothing but bitterness in this strange new land, not understanding a word that was said with no one I could call friend.

Oh yes, I regretted my actions. And how nice can I be if I spent years regretting a helping a luckless girl? The villagers knew me for what I was, a demon,” Yuuki concluded.

Ana looked back at the three tailed fox. “A really evil demon wouldn’t have felt sorry for her in the first place.”

Yuuki gave a barking laugh. “So you’re determined to see me as nice?”

“No,” Ana said. “You like sneaking around and playing tricks. You aren’t nice. Neither am I. Because I am not sorry you had to leave Japan, otherwise I’d never know you. And I am not sorry I said what did to my aunt. She’s awful and someone needs to tell her so. I just could have been smarter about it. That lady you worked for was awful and someone needed to show it. Maybe it wasn’t the nice way to do it - and I still think people should try nice first - but sometimes I think not nice is needed to get the job done.”

“You are an incorrigible child.” Yuuki said. “Do you need me to stay until you are asleep?”

“No. I feel better now. Especially because I think you are trying to go so you can play a trick on someone.”

“I must be getting more obvious as I age.”

“Nope. I know, because it’s what I would do if I were you. Just remember to tell me what my aunt’s face looks like when you scare her.”


“It would be my honor.”


Song Choice: Goodnight Demon Slayer by Voltaire. If Yuuki ever sang a lullaby, it'd be this one

Hunger pains

Just a quick short story I wrote inspired by a conversation from another writer friend. 




Hunger Pains


There was no question; his mews were less robust than his brothers’ and sisters’ from the moment he was born and now they had gotten even fainter. None of the litter had opened their eyes yet but Mayra knew that one would not get the chance, even if she did not intervene. She looked down at the pitifully undersized creature.

 A patched tabby strutted into the alley where Mayra and her brood lay. Lyla gave her a contemptuous look as she got closer.

“You haven’t done away with it yet?” Lyla scoffed.

Mayra didn’t look up. She continued to look at the small kitten, wishing things had been different, wishing he was as strong as the others.

Small white paws…dark fur…white patch on the throat…dark nose…Mayra tried to fix in her mind every detail about him she could.

“Oh, move out of the way. I’ll do it if you won’t. It’s a shame to waste food, even if he won’t make much of a meal.”

Mayra hissed at Lyla. “I’ll do it.”

I don’t know if I can care for the others, or myself for that matter, Mayra thought. She had a hard time finding much to eat as of late, even with Helia’s help, and worried if she could make enough milk for all the kittens. She had hoped for a miracle. Sometimes she’d day dream about one of the two-leggeds taking her and her children into a warm home. But she had found nothing more comforting from them than glass bottles thrown her way.

There was going to be no miracle. Nothing would help the small one now. She knew that this would give her food she desperately needed and buy the rest of her children just a bit more time. But her heart still ached. It would be crueler to let him linger like this.

Mayra opened her mouth and in a few seconds it was done.

“There now. It wasn’t that hard. You first time brood carriers, always so dramatic. You actually have tears right now! I’ve eaten at least 4 of my own kittens and it never bothered me once. They were actually quite tasty. If it wasn’t such a strain to bear the little beasts, I might have another litter, just for the chance to taste one again.”

Mayra hissed and spat again. Lyla raised her paw to strike.

“All right over there Mayra?”

A scarred pit bull loped over to the two cats. She barred her teeth at Lyla. “You wouldn’t be thinking of hurting a new mother, would you Lyla?”

Lyla turned tail and fled. Helia gave a snort in her direction. “I never did like Lyla all that much. She bothers you again, I won’t feel bad about taking a nice big bite out of her backside. Oh, I almost forgot. I got something for you.” Helia ran to the front of the alley and came back again, bearing a large mouse. She wagged her tail excitedly, dropping it at Mayra’s paws. “This is nothing. There’s a whole warehouse full of ‘em. When you and your babies can move, I’ll take you to it. The two-leggeds would probably love having some good mousers. Maybe they’ll need a guard dog too. I already had plenty. This one is for you.”

Mayra ate, grateful for the extra food. She tried not to think that this was the first time her belly felt full in a while. “Thank you Helia. I don’t know why you’re so kind to me.”

“Already told ya. You look like the cat from the place I was before. She was the only good thing about that place and the only reason I made it out.” Helia noticed there was one less kitten curling up to Mayra to nurse. She licked the cat tenderly, deciding not to bring it up unless Mayra did. “It’s been a busy day. I don’t know about you, but I could use a bit of rest.” Helia placed herself in front of Mayra, and lay down.

Mayra picked her head up drowsily. There was something in the sound of the wind that woke her. She sniffed the air. Beside her, several kittens shifted restlessly in their sleep, squirming more closely against each other. A faint whine came from Helia, but she still slept. Blinking, she looked more closely at the shadows near a stack of slowly rotting cardboard boxes. Mayra never had trouble distinguishing objects in shadow before, but instead of the broken glass, mildewed rags and other assorted city trash she was used to seeing, all she could make out was an inky haze pooling around the boxes. As she watched, all of the shadows seemed to take on the same velvety darkness. Mayra shook her head as if that might clear her vision, but the shadows started to congeal into shapes with no relation to their surroundings. A legion of small, fragile figures could be made out, some of which occasionally shifted back to the formlessness of the larger shadow before coalescing into a tiny feline form again.

“Mama” came a tiny mew and dozens of equally high pitched mews of “Mama” followed after.

Mayra hung her head, “I am sorry, little one. You should have been born to a mother on a comfortable farm somewhere, with kind, big two-leggeds to bottle-feed you and kind, small two-leggeds to adore you. I am sorry I was not enough to save you.”

“We know,” answered dozens of tiny mews. “You cried Mama. Only Mamas cry. Not everyone cries for us.” The words repeated again and again like ripples across a pond.

Mayra blinked, “We? Us? There was only one kitten I…” She turned to look at the rest of her babies. They were all still there, still asleep and moving fitfully. “Who are you?”

“Ones who could not survive. Lost and found ones. We have each other. But we still need a Mama.”

“Why?”

“Feed us Mama. We are so hungry. Please feed us.” The small echoing mews filled the alley.

“I don’t know how. I wish I did. You’d still be alive if I knew how.”

“Feed us Mama! Feed us!” came the insistent mews, rising ever higher in pitch and volume. “We’re so hungry!”

“I don’t know how!” Mayra screamed.

“Whoa, Mayra. Hun, you alright?” Mayra felt a large wet tongue on her side. She opened her eyes and saw Helia’s worried face. One of her kittens started to mew and she flinched. It was a perfectly normal and healthy mew of a hungry kitten. She trembled and gave it a tentative lick. The kitten was warm and solid. Mayra moved to start to nurse her and the others started to move closer.

She looked at Helia. “Just a nightmare. I guess I knew the little ones needed to eat now.”

When Mayra was finished nursing her children Helia got up to leave. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to go to warehouse and get us some food. It’s going to be all right Mayra. Just a couple of days and we’ll all go together.”

Not too long after Helia left, Lyla came into the alley, followed by two cats Mayra didn’t know. “I know Helia’s gone. She won’t be back for a while.”

The fur bristled on Mayra’ back. “What do you want Lyla?”

“Breakfast.”

The three cats started towards Mayra. She hissed at them. All I need to do is hold out until Helia comes back, she thought. I can do that.

But even if she had been well-fed and not weak from giving birth three days ago, Mayra was small and young. The two cats with Lyla were strong and well used to scuffling with bigger opponents. After the first few blows, Mayra was dizzy. The world started blur in front of her. As she fell, she could hear the kittens crying behind her.

I can’t feed you, she thought. And as soon as I’m gone they will eat you.

“We’re hungry Mama,” came dozens of little mews.

“Little ones, I wish you could eat them,” she whispered.

Immediately the shadows from the alley gathered and a sea of small, indistinct shadows crashed over Lyla and her friends. Myra heard their pained yowls but couldn’t see anything besides the forms in shadows pouncing over and over again. Eventually the yowls stopped and even the mass of shadows stopped moving. One small figure came away from the larger body of shadows, and dropped a bit of meat in front of Mayra.

“For you Mama.”


“Thank you sweetheart,” Mayra answered.