Loving's Touch

Eyes closed
Shiver of cold
Valiant heart is beating.

Soothing hands
Familiar scent
Loving voice is speaking.

Warm breeze
Tickles the nose
Open gate is waiting.

Golden sun 
Fragrant grass
Butterflies are dancing.

Sparkling eyes
Lolling tongues
Flash of tumbling bodies.

Joyous yips
Wagging tails
Rolling ball so inviting.

Twitching tail
Jerking paws
Brave new spirit is leaping.

Rough and tumble
Happy growls
Shimmering pack is leaving. 

Sighing wind
Setting sun 
Happy echoes receding.

© Sia McKye 2012 all rights reserved

Beyond The Shadow of Fear

The beauty and peace of the night surrounded Roxanne with the joyous singing of the peepers and the Katydids.  If only it could be this way always…peace.  Wearily she leaned her head against the two-seated swing in her backyard, absently stroking Xena.  The golden moon rose over the pond at the bottom of the pasture, its silver light deceptively peaceful.
Charlie, her German Shepherd, whined, his ears perked as he looked back at the house.
“What’s the matter boy?”
 Tail wagging, Charlie sat up, and laid his head in Roxanne’s lap.  She caressed the soft silky fur of his head.  He was such a good boy, so loving and protective.  Sometimes he seemed almost human.  Certainly more trustworthy a friend than some people she knew.  Charlie had been on edge all evening, sticking close to Roxanne’s side like a shadow.  Of course, his actions were probably in response to Tony’s dark mood tonight.  Charlie always seemed to sense when Tony was having a bad night or when one of his episodes was imminent.  Maybe Tony gave off a certain scent at those times.  Who knew?

 “Oh God, not tonight.” She groaned.  Roxanne didn’t think she could handle another full-blown argument.  “It’s ok, boy, we’ll just sit out here and maybe it will pass by us.”

The episodes were happening with greater frequency now and little respite between.  Lately, Tony was either up and full of energy, enthusiastic about life and goals, or so far down in the dark caverns of a subterranean basement Roxanne needed an elevator and a bright torch just to find him.  Now the ups were shorter and the downs infinitely longer.

Whatever happened to the loving, funny man Roxanne had married?  Her lover, her best friend?  They had had such bright dreams.  The laughter and fun they shared planning out the house, vacations, the excitement of a baby, everyday was an adventure. They had been happy for so many years.  Good years.  How did they end up here?  When did these little things turn into this living nightmare?
Tony was in a particularly black mood tonight and had been spoiling for a fight since he got home from work.  Nothing Roxanne did was right, he picked at everything.  The house wasn’t as clean as it should be, Xander’s toys were scattered on the floor, and he couldn’t find something or another, so spent ten minutes slicing apart her character.  It was done with the precision of a surgeon, covering everything from Roxanne’s abilities as a wife and mother to her capacity as a lover.
When dinner wasn’t hot enough, Tony erupted into another raging tirade and threw it against the wall, just missing her head by inches.  Absently Roxanne fingered the bandage on her cheek.  The plate had shattered, leaving a messy smear of food on the wall to bleed onto the broken, jagged, glass scattered on the floor.  Much like her marriage.
Xander, playing in the living room, had run to the kitchen doorway, eyes huge with fear, he took one look and quietly went out the front door into the fenced yard and sat on his swing.  Charlie, lying at her feet growling softly, stood and bared his fangs.
“You bite me dog and I’ll put a fuckin’ bullet in you,” Tony snarled and stomped out of the room.
Roxanne checked on Xander in the front yard before quickly cleaning off the table.  Except the mess Tony made.  That, she left as it was.  As she and Charlie walked out to join Xander, Tony reappeared.

“Where in the hell do you think you’re going?  Get your ass in there and clean up that mess!”
Roxanne raised her chin, “You scared Xander half to death.  I’m going out to make sure he is ok.”  She was seething inside but dared not show it.

 “Since you made the mess, you can clean it up,” Roxanne said mildly.  Charlie’s head lowered as he stared intently at Tony standing in the kitchen doorway.  Soft warning growls silently rippled through Charlie’s body as he stood beside her.  Roxanne laid a quieting hand on his head.  Tony’s eyes dropped to meet Charlie’s fixed stare.  His mouth tightened before looking back up at Roxanne.

“I will be bringing Xander in shortly and get him ready for bed.  I suggest you chill out before I do.  All this,” gesturing towards the kitchen, “was not something he needed to see.”  Holding Tony’s gaze, Rox continued evenly, “Think about it.”

 Walking out the front door with Charlie, Roxanne’s heartbeat accelerated when she saw Tony put a holstered pistol on the kitchen counter.  Charlie must’ve really scared him.

Roxanne readied Xander for bed, while Tony was watching TV.  The gun had been put away.  Tony had calmed down and apologized to Xander.  That was the odd thing about it—Tony was always genuinely remorseful, almost puzzled by his behavior.  He didn’t seem to realize how horrible he was to them.

“Your dad loves you boy, you believe me?”  Xander nodded.  Xander loved him too, but Tony’s anger scared him.  “Come give me a hug and a kiss goodnight.”

Roxanne feeling much too restless to stay inside, and she hated TV, came out to her swing in the back yard.
She was so damn tired.  Emotionally, she was burned out.  Her nerves were stretched so thin, thanks to the outbursts, Rox felt like she would shatter into a million pieces.  She’d finally followed the Domestic Abuse Officer’s advice and found a new place for her and Xander.  She’d be out of here at the end of the week and it couldn’t come soon enough.
All this secrecy added to her tenseness.  But what choice did she have?  Roxanne couldn’t very well tell Tony she wanted a divorce; she didn’t want to live with him anymore since he refused to get treatment. 
Refused?  Hell, Tony was so far down the river of denial he needed a map just to find his way home.  Just a little bit longer and they’d be safe.  Until then, she dare not tip her hand.  Roxanne had never been afraid of Tony.  But she was now.  And it was eating her alive.
Leaning back, Rox looked up at the stars scattered like diamonds across the sky.   She loved the night.  She could disappear into it, be lovingly enveloped by the peace it offered.  She had never been afraid of the dark, respected it yes, but fear was not part of Roxanne’s nature.  Until recently.
Suddenly the peace of the night was shattered by a bellow of rage from Tony.  Growling, Charlie leaped to his feet, standing between Roxanne and the house.  Jerking upright, she saw Tony in the doorway, a black shadow backlit from the light within the house.

“When were you going to tell me about this, huh?”  Shaking his fist holding a piece of paper, her purse was clutched in his other hand.
Roxanne felt the blood drain from her face.  Oh my God; the rent receipt had been in her purse.  How could she have been so stupid?  She fought the panic.

  “Tell me Roxanne, you faithless bitch, was I going to come home one day to you and Xander gone?  You’re going to that guy at school, aren’t you, you goddamn WHORE!”

“I’m not going to anyone, Tony.  Yes I’m leaving, but there’s no one else.”  Roxanne worked hard to keep her voice calm. She was shaking.
“I don’t believe you.  You’ve found someone else and you are leaving me for him.  Marco tried to tell me, but I didn’t believe him.”

“I am leaving you because you won’t get help!  God knows, I don’t need or want anyone else.  I’ve begged and pleaded with you to get help.  You are scaring Xander.  He’s not quite seven, Tony; he’s still a baby and doesn’t understand all your anger.  It’s affecting him at school and giving him nightmares.  I just can’t let this situation continue or it will destroy us all.”  Roxanne firmly held Charlie to her side.
“Roxanne, I swear, I’ll put a fuckin’ bullet in your head before I let you walk away from me and I’ll kill the sorry son of a bitch that thinks he can take you and my son away.”

“Mama! Mama!” Xander screamed from inside, “Mama, where are you?”  Tony whirled around and saw Xander standing behind him, wide eyed and crying.
“Xander…” Tony dropped the purse and tried to pick up his son, but Xander was having none of it.  Xander pushed him away.
“You leave my mama alone.  You’ll make her dead if she gets a bullet in her head.  You are a bad man.  I hate you!  Mama, I wanna go, I wanna go now!”
A look of pain crossed Tony’s face.  Slowly he stood and faced Roxanne.
“You’ve turned my son against me?” Disbelief and hurt colored Tony’s voice. Swiftly his mood turned to rage, the veins in his neck swelled, his face red with fury.
“You’ve fuckin’ turned my son against me,” Tony roared, fists clenched at his side. “No fuckin’ way are the two of you leaving me.  You hear me you bitch, no way!”  He turned and stormed into the house. 
Xander barreled into her arms. 

“I’m scared Mama.”

“Me too, baby.”  Roxanne had never seen Tony like this.  The gun.  Oh my God the gun, he was going for his gun.  She had to get to a phone.  Swiftly Rox picked up her son and her purse and ran to Xander’s room, Charlie at her side.  On the way, Roxanne grabbed her cell phone from the charger in the hallway.  She shut and locked the door and pulled the heavy dresser in front of the bedroom door.  Roxanne’s hands were shaking as she dialed 9-1-1.
Get out of the house and hide, she was told by the dispatcher.  They could hear Tony yelling obscenities and beating on the door.
Roxanne looked frantically around the room, searching for a way to escape.  Crossing the room, she opened the window to the front of the house and ripped aside the screen.  If she could just get down the driveway, she could hide in the trees and wait for the police.

“Open this fucking door or I swear I’ll break it down Roxanne,” he yelled.  She and Xander crawled through the window onto the front porch facing the driveway.  As Charlie leaped through the window she heard the old oak door creak ominously.  It would only hold for a few minutes.
Pulling Xander on her back and telling him to hold on tight, Roxanne started jogging to the drive, Charlie trotting beside her.  She stayed in the deep shadows of the trees.  The crack of the door breaking and Tony’s bellow of rage added speed to her legs. Swiftly Roxanne moved down the drive to the mental chant of oh god, oh god, oh god.  Glass shattered as a shot zinged through the trees behind her.  Tony yelled, but Roxanne didn’t look back, she concentrated on getting to the top of the rise and out of sight.
Distant footsteps crunched in the gravel of the drive; suddenly Charlie growled and veered off and raced back towards the house.  Roxanne tried to call him back but he didn’t listen.  Topping the rise, she heard the chilling growls echo in the night as Charlie went on attack.  Tony yelled in fear.  Roxanne heard the shot ricochet.  A second shot rang out.  Charlie’s high-pitched yelping stabbed Roxanne’s heart and made her stumble.   Xander cried out in fear, burying his face in her hair.  Roxanne hadn’t the breath to console him as she raced down the rise towards the arc of lights at the end of the drive.
“Thank God!  Xander, hang on the police are here, we’re almost there, Baby.”  Roxanne hadn’t a clue where Tony was; she took care not to offer a target, staying in the shadows to the side of the car’s headlights
The car stopped, “Roxanne, over here!  Get in the car!”

 Tom Crestman, the domestic abuse officer, had his service revolver drawn and pointed behind her.  Racing the last couple of feet to the open door, where Tom was braced, Rox slid Xander off her back and into the car, staying low, and crawled in beside him.  Just then two more police cruisers pulled up and around Tom’s and headed up the drive.
Tom squatted beside her, “Are you alright?  You hit anywhere?”

“We’re ok.  Just scared.”
“Shh, baby, it’s ok, we’re safe now,” Roxanne rocked Xander.  “Shh, shh, shh.”

Another shot rang out, but not from Tony’s gun and then the sound of muffled yelling.  The sudden silence was deafening.  The unexpected squawk of the radio made Roxanne jump.

“The area is secure, sir”

“Copy that.”

“Oh Tom, he shot Charlie, I know it.  We have to go and get him.”

Roxanne buckled Xander into the seat.  “Please, Tom.  Go up there; I have to see how Charlie is.” 

As soon as Tom’s car stopped near the flashing police lights, Roxanne was out of the car and sprinting to Charlie.
Tony kneeled, handcuffed and belligerent, at the feet of a pair of officers.

One of the officers was squatting looking down at Charlie.
“Is he alive?” Roxanne called frantically.  At the sound of her voice, Charlie lifted his head and tried to stand.  “No Charlie, stay.”

Seeing the compassion in the officer’s eyes, Roxanne knew it was bad.
“Oh no, no, not Charlie, please…” Seeing the young officer shake his head Roxanne knew he was dying.  Wiping the tears away with the back of her hand, she pulled in her emotions that would only upset Charlie more.

“Charlie?” She dropped to her knees by the dog’s head.  Charlie was a mess.  Roxanne had worked on too many animals not to recognize dying.

Charlie wasn’t going to make it.  And it was all Tony’s fault.

“Hey Charlie, what a good boy you are.  You are so brave, oh baby, I’m so sorry you’re hurt.”

Taking Charlie’s head on her lap and bending down Roxanne kissed his muzzle.  Charlie weakly thumped his tail and licked her face.  She saw way too much blood.  He was bleeding out and bloody bubbles came from his nose and mouth.  Roxanne couldn’t stop the bleeding.  The nearest Vet was fifteen miles away and Charlie would never make it.  He was getting weaker, his breathing more labored.  She sat there stroking him.
 “Go to sleep boy, we’re safe.” Roxanne filled her voice with calmness and love. “Go to sleep my beautiful Charlie, mom’s here.   It’s okay.  Sleep now, my brave friend.”
Charlie licked her hand as Roxanne gently stroked him with the other. Closing his eyes, he gave a sigh.  Just like that, he was gone.  At least Roxanne had been there and he had known she was safe and that she loved him.  Dropping her head Rox cried, deep silent sobs racked her body as she held him.  Cried until the tears were gone.  A deep burning rage started in her belly, stiffening her spine and swept away the grief.  Roxanne gently closed Charlie’s eyes and moved his head from her lap. Roxanne stretched, trying to work out the pins and needles stabbing her legs and moved to stand up.  She stumbled briefly before making it to her feet.
Tom’s hands were there to help Roxanne up, holding her for a moment while she gathered herself together.  Stepping away from the comfort of Tom’s arms, Roxanne answered the officer’s questions and gave a statement.  Tony was crying and babbling the whole while, in the background.

“Roxanne, it was an accident.  I didn’t mean to kill Charlie.  I swear to God, I didn’t mean to kill him.  Roxanne, I loved him too, we’ve had him since he was a baby.  I love you and Xander too.  I would never have hurt you. You gotta believe me.”
Roxanne squared her shoulders she lifted her chin.  Her eyes were like golden chips of ice, as Roxanne looked over at the man responsible for Charlie’s death and Xander’s terror. And for the abuse he’d meted out for far too long.  Roxanne wanted to rip him apart.  She noted the bloody lacerations on his upper body and arms.  She felt no pity.  Tony could rot in jail as far as Rox was concerned.  It wasn’t nearly enough to answer for what he had done.
Turning her back on Tony’s pleas Roxanne calmly walked down to the car.  She never looked back. 


Recently, my writing group did our annual contest of Dan Brown styled short stories. This was my entry. It was a lot of Fun. One of our members did mock book covers. He's a highly trained Graphic Artist.

The Franciscan's Message

“The Holy Father tainted with such evil? How can this be, my brother?” Father John made the sign of the cross as he grappled with the message the Franciscan whispered in his ear.
The Franciscan’s gasping breath echoed in the dark cavernous hall after falling under the assassin’s attack in the priory’s forest. The good father had been waiting at the doors for an emissary to arrive with the necessary objects for the ritual. Somehow, no doubt by God’s own mercy, the Franciscan had made it to the priory doors before the great red eyed beast chasing him was able to finish him off. He had collapsed and Father John had pulled him into safety and rushed to shut the heavy doors. A heavy thud hit the doors just as he closed them. The burnished oak held. The unearthly howl raised what little hair Father John had left. He cried out to St. Agrippina of Mineo for protection against evil. He threw the bolts locking evil out. He leaned weakly against the door. Never had he seen such a beast.
Father John looked down and saw blood staining the floor around the unconscious Franciscan, glistening in the darkness. It called him to his duties—offering succor to an injured and probably dying man. Ripping the aside the brown robe he was taken aback to see the tattered flesh that looked to be ripped asunder by a wild animal. The brother was dying. He tsked as he laboriously got to his feet and moved to the cabinet near the window. I’m much too old to be dealing with the likes of this. As he passed the window, he cried out in shock at the dual glow of red from a dark shape on the other side of the glass. He made the sign of the cross and looked away from the snarling beast that seemed to be calling to him.
Grabbing the medical kit he returned to his patient. Kneeling he opened the kit and took out the purple and gold vestments placed them around his neck. He recited the Sanctification, invocation, and as he began the Dedication of the soul, the Franciscan opened his eyes.
“No! It’s too late for me, father,” the Franciscan gasped and seized his arm in a powerful grip. “You must take this to the council for the ritual. There’s no time to waste. The survival of the Church and the world depends upon it.” He hand fumbled in his robe as he brought forth a flat jeweler’s case. “This contains holy relics to aid in the ritual. A finger bone of the mighty hand St. Peter and a strip of the holy cloth of Turin.”
Father John was shaken by the thought of the holy shroud being cut and desecrated, even for such crucial task as this.
“You must relay to the brothers, this message…” He whispered for several minutes in Father John’s ear. “Do you understand, father? It must be done just so. Only this way can the Almighty bring forth the one who will decipher the clues and save the Church. Save the Holy See.”
“How can such evil control the Holy Father?” Father John’s old voice quavered.
“Father, there is no time for the wringing of hands. Action must be taken and must be taken tonight. Go.”
With his dying breath the Franciscan roused himself enough to shake Father John’s arm. “You must go now. Go!
Father John scurried along the edges of the priory muttering the Franciscan’s message to himself as his black cassock whipped around his bony ankles. These were dark times for the Church. The stygian blackness of evil surrounded them all; even the Holy Father was not immune.
Father John’s breathing was labored as he reached the door of the inter sanctum. The heavily armed guards ushered him in. The red robes of the bishops made up the prayer circle around an altar lit by the tapers of prayer intentions.
One of the Cardinals separated himself and made his way to Father John.
“The emissary, Father John?”
“Your Grace, the Franciscan gave me this message and package to give to you. I’m sorry to say, he was mortally wounded by great beast of evil.”
Cardinal Guido bowed his head for a moment before looking up. “His message, Father?”
Father John relayed the message. Twice. Cardinal Guido nodded. “You will wait here, Father.”
        Cardinal Guido returned to the group and quietly conferred with them. One of the bishops broke from the group and hurried over to the chanters. Cardinal Guido carefully opened the jeweler’s cask and after prayer, lay on the altar.
The chants resumed but with a deeper and more reverent tone. Father John watched the prayer circle. He finally kneeled facing the altar and bowed his head. Just as he thought he had either got the Franciscan’s message wrong or his knees would give way from kneeling so long, a bright flare of light lit the room.
Father John’s mouth fell open in shock as a man dressed in dark clothes stepped through the light. This must be a mistake. This man can’t possibly be the savior of the Church and the Holy See.
Cardinal Guido stepped forward to greet him.
“Professor Langston. I am Cardinal Guido. We thank God we were able to reach you. The Church has great need of you and your talents in these dark days.”
Robert Langston blinked as he looked around the sanctum, taking in the sea of red before him. An ironic smile graced his lips as he looked back at the Cardinal. “You’ll forgive me, Your Grace, I don’t think I’ve ever heard those particular words from a cardinal or the Church for that matter. Where exactly am I?”
“It’s a matter of when, Professor, not where.”
Robert cocked his brow. “When?”
“Yes, yes. When. Welcome to the future, Professor. Or to be precise, thirty years in your future.”