Copyright © 2015 FOWLER ROBERTSON


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


The characters and events in this novel are fictitious.  Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended by the author. 



Printed in the United States of America






“For what we learn as children grows up with the soul and becomes united with it.”


~ Irenaeus Polycarp




My troubles began the night I was born. It was storming outside, lightening, hail and pouring rains. The hospital lights flickered on and off until the labor roo
m collapsed into a steely black.  I
made my entrance into this world swallowing the dark in little gasps while the blackness slithered down my throat like a frantic snake. A few minutes later, the lights returned a sterile glow but it was far too late for me. The pitch
had found a home.  It
coiled up next to my heart for refuge, a solid and firm foundation that would house many rooms, shadows and secrets, and there it would remain to keep a watchful eye. In the Hart family, this was a sign. A splendid and terrible sign.




“Go fish!”  I said smirking under my breath. I matched a set of cards and slam them down on the porch. Mag’s eyes go into small slants and her left eyebrow raises in warning. I can read my sister’s body language like a meteorologist reads the weather. Playing cards with Maggie Storm is like entering the eye of a hurricane. She gets her middle name honest, that’s for sure but she’s a sore loser at games, which is why her next move was obvious.

“I’m being smothered to death by a clown.” Mag said.  She jumped up and
reached between her legs and gave her shorts a yank and then twisted and twirled about the porch. Her roustabout didn’t fool me in the least.  It’s simply a distraction. We both look ridiculous in patchwork, who wouldn’t, for that matter. Thanks to the mad sewing skills of grandma Dell, Mag and I stay in clown hell. I swear the woman has more quilt scraps than good sense.  

“I hate these things.” Mag screamed through gritted teeth. “What’s next?  Toe sacks? Rope sandals?” She yanked, tugged and twisted. “When I grow up I’m not wearing this backwoods hillbilly crap.”  

“We’re redneck. It's a given. Now can we get back to the game?" I lifted 
a pair of cards with one hand and put an L on my forehead with the other.  I spelled out my thoughts.  “L—o—s—e—r.”
  Mag didn’t think it was funny.

“Redneck. Hillbilly. Whatever. It’s all the same.” Her arms went stiff and she huffed. She showed all the signs of a lit bottle rocket. Of course, this was prelude to a rant. And there she went, orbiting the porch, griping about the southern mentality of families,
ours in particular. 
She conveniently leaves herself out, of course, as if she sprouted from a bean, left over in one of them toe sacks. If left to Mag’s doing, it would be a toe sack trimmed in gold and lined with rubies.   I blame Maw Sue for that nonsense. Our 
 great grandmother informed her that her namesake was from a sovereign kingship and ever since, Mag has been seeing
I wa
s suspicious from the beginning but who was I to talk?  My
namesake was a
combination of some sorts, as if my parents rolled the dice or flipped a quarter for heads or tails.  I was a simply a compromise
involving James Dean and a Willow tree.  So I had my own troubles to deal with. Maw Sue said that was thing about namesakes—only the bearer could fulfill the journey.    

“I’m ready to grow up and get the hell out of this God forsaken town.” Mag railed, stomped and twisted. I rolled my eyes, fiddled with the cards and watched her
parade around.  This was nothing new.  Of course, I was the opposite of my sister. 
I wanted to stay right where I was. From my viewpoint, the grown-up world wasn
’t all it was cracked up to be.  Heck, just watching Maw Sue struggle with life was enough to give me pause. 

Maw Sue was four foot nine and a ball of fire. Wishy and washy.  Rose petals and rusty nails. Mystical and mad. You never know what you’ll get with that woman. Her moods metered up and down like the red bubbles in a thermometer. Mag and I learned to tip toe lightly around her till we established what frame of mind she was in. She always wore one of those straight line lounge dresses pelted with an assortment of flowers and snap buttons down the front. Around her neck was a delicate gold chain, tarnished and aged with time and hanging on it was a 
pendant the size of a nickel.  The pendant was
oval shaped with edges of copper filigree and inlaid with a 
stone, ruby red in color with an eerie yellowish streak in the center, an eye plucked from a dragon or that’s what I saw. 
Maw Sue rubbed it constantly for comfort and said it soothed her weary mind. There was something about the necklace that bothered me, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. When I looked at it, it would grab my eyes and pull me into it, visually moving me, although my feet never
budged.  It seemed alive and alert to me at all times.  The red color was so richly red it was like fresh blood pooling into the stone, so much I suspected it was connected to Maw Sue’s skin somehow, attached to her veins
, surging with life, beating with each heartbeat, draining in and out.   It pulsated and its wet fingers would leap outward and grab me.
I was scared of it and kept my distance.  Maw Sue denied my accusations as poppycock and said it was simply a necklace.  We agreed to disagree. 

Maw Sue was as superstitious as they come.  She threw salt over her shoulders for luck. She rubbed rosemary and sage on her wrists to keep the bad mojo away. Here recently she keeps a bell on every door.
That’s our fault.
Mag and I would slip in unnoticed and it would scare the ever loving bejesus out of her. The next thing we know, there’s a clanging bell ringing out our entrance. She had rituals too.
Strange rituals.
The kind you’re not sure you want to tell anyone about, less they think you fell off the crazy train. 

I spent the night with her once
and fell right into it.  Her house was all sorts of horrors by itself, so adding spooky rituals didn’t help matters none.  Right before bedtime she told me to follow her to her bedroom.  I tagged behind a little ways
, walking in my bare feet, across the squeaky living room
floor until I saw shadows on the wall that wasn’t mine, nor hers, and then my feet could barely keep up with each other. My mind filled with dark thoughts as it was prone to do. 
I caught up and latched onto the daisies on her skirt,
while I eye squinted.  She dragged me into the dark of her room.  The door closed behind us and I nearly hit the ceiling.  I couldn’t see a thing in the pitch of dark. 
I expected her to turn on a light but she just sat on her mattress, while her boney hands grabbed me and even though I knew it was her, it scared me
It got so dark, the dark turned a blue, a deeper than deep sort of blue, like the depths of the ocean blue where lurking in the darkness, are creatures no man has ever seen nor would want to see. In my mind, I was convinced that no man could enter the depths of deep blue black without turning dark himself. 
It was the chameleon of nature, light turns to light, and dark turns to dark. 
We sat and sat and sat. My eyes rolled around like marbles in a deep well. I could hear my heart thrashing in my ears and a slight whistle coming from my nose. Suddenly, I hear chatter and weird sounds break the air and then I realize it’s coming from Maw Sue. She’s chanting or praying, I can’t make sense of it. She squeezes my hand.
My gut locks up. 
I inhale deep breathes to keep from hyperventilating. 
 Has Maw Sue gone coo-coo?
Over the top?
Folks say she’s a bit eccentric but that’s what I love about her but now I have to wonder.
 I hear scrapes of long, dreadful fingernails. My heart leaps. I cling to Maw Sue.
More scrapes.
The room lights up to an amber glow
when Maw Sue lights a small candle. 
I sink
back to my normal scaredy-cat self.  It wasn’t fingernails, only the strike of a match. 
I could smell the after burn
of the sulfur.  
The candle c
ast a crew of leaping shadows on the wall, as if people were people going about their lives, all around us but we could only see them through shadows.  I snuggled a little closer to Maw Sue.  She holds the candle and rubs that stupid red stone around her neck.  All I can do is rub my forefinger against my thumb. 

“Willodean” she says, “Are you afraid of the dark?” I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. 
Of course I was afraid of the dark.
I’m afraid of this house, afraid of my mind, afraid of the thoughts that enter it, afraid of that stupid red stone, afraid of what I see and what I don’t see.  I would say, yes…I’
m afraid of most everything.
But instead of saying it out loud, I just mumble something lame and stupid.


” Maw Sue paused and gazed at the shadows leaping.  “
You shouldn’t be. You want to know why?”

“Yes.” I lied.  I didn’t want to know the answer.  Not really.  I was always afraid of the answers, like it wasn’t going to be what I expected. 

“Because it is the lesser light” she says staring into the candle. “God made two great lights—the greater light of the sun to govern the day and the lesser light of the moon to govern the night. So if there both lights, then what is there to be afraid of?” 
I could think of plenty. My mind was an abattoir of dark things.

“I used to fear the dark, among other things…” She paused and looked past the walls of leaping things as if she saw something else in another dimension. 

“My mother told me the same thing and I’ve never forgotten. That’s why I face the darkness every night before I go to bed. I sit here and I face it, eye to eye, dark to dark because I know it’s only a lesser light. Does that make sense Willodean?”

I wasn’t for sure but I nodded anyway. 
She blew out the candle and tucked me into bed.  Of course, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep, my mind full of the terrible awful.  I wasn’t like Maw Sue.  I could not face the darkness.  It was already in me, bedded up in my bones and I couldn’t shake it if I wanted to.  Who cares about facing it when it’s living inside, already?  I simply preferred to let it be.  I’d be fine by that. 

Despite Maw Sue’s strange rituals and eccentricity, she was a great storyteller.

“Now Willodean and Maggie,” she’d say, “It’s very important to live out your namesake. Be who you were created to be.” Her breathe smelled l
ike dripping pomegranates, a promise of a sweet fruit in our future. 
“But beware of the Amodgians because they will take what is rightfully yours
” and then it would turn sour like the bitter bite of a crabapple. 
I could have lived without this part
of the story. 
She’d get dramatic and point out invisible phantoms called Amodgian
’s.  I didn’t want to see them, but I couldn’t help but see them.  It was different each time as if they disguised themselves to fool me,
subtle glints out of the corner of my eyes, a streak of shadows here and there, and then gone. 
Tricks of the mind.
  Their presence was like the boogeyman of my nightmares lingering into my days, seconds and minutes.

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