a writer oriented blog
This morning I’m happy to welcome guest author Sherry Isaac back to Moonday Mania. Sherry is a talented author from Toranto whom I met at Margie Lawson’s house during a fabulous week of Deep Editing Immersion. Sherry is continuing her blog, How Paranormal Seeds Grow from last week and giving us insight as to where the ideas for her short stories in her new release Storyteller spring from. Welcome Sherry!
I love ghost stories, stories that make me wonder where the soul begins and where its journeys leads once it leaves the body.
There are ghost stories on both sides of my family tree, none of them frightening in a white sheet and clanking chains kind of way, but stories that prickle along the spine with the knowledge that there is something more.
And I believe that there is more than one way to be haunted.
Settled in the 1850’s, Streetsville is a tiny hamlet on the banks of the Credit River, not far from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The city of Mississauga has grown up around the village, yet Streetsville retains its small town feel. A stroll down Queen Street can easily transport one to an earlier time.
A graveyard filled with crumbling stones dates back to the founding days. One plain headstone was erected in memory of a child. Isabella.
Isabella died when she was four. I have no idea who Isabella was and can’t even say why her stone impressed me. Not far away is another stone, more ornate, commemorating the life of another little girl. But it was Isabella’s stone that captured my imagination and held it fast. I doubt Houdini could have escaped.
On the summer day that I meandered through the grass, the shade, and the stone monuments, another place and time became reality. Cars and busses and trucks rolled by on another plane.
Maybe I’d watched too many episodes of Little House on the Prairie in my impressionable years, but I could not shake the image of a young girl, 15 or so, leaning from the upper window of any one of the original buildings that remained, a silent testament to the early days of the pioneer settlement. A girl who held up her skirts when she crossed the dirt road. A girl who rubbed the nose of her favourite horse. A girl who picked pussy willows on the riverbank, not far from the grave where I stood.
What might it be like to give Isabella life, if only on the page? I pictured that girl walk out of the general store with a friend, giggling over new ribbons for their hair, ribbons they would wear to a fair in a neighboring town, ribbons they hoped would catch a suitor’s eye.
When I sat down to write Isabella’s story nearly ten years later it worked out differently. Left on the back burner of my mind to simmer, Isabella’s story had taken root, its branches stretched in another direction, the blooms took on a different shape and hue. Isabella’s story was claimed by a brother I never imagined she had. His name was Alistair and he’d been instilled with the gift of storytelling.
I handed the keyboard to Alistair and let him tell the story, let him bring Isabella to life in a way I was powerless to do.
Short Story Excerpt
Alistair crept through another crowd in another town, late the next afternoon, shoulders hunched, hands clenched like claws, a predator ready to pounce.
“I was a fool to go out on my own and without my gun, but the bite of hunger overpowered my senses. If you’ve never seen the jungle then ye cannot imagine the trees that grow so tall and thick they block can out the sun, or shield a wild panther.
“The ground was soft, I made my way forward, stalking a bird with feathers of colours so brilliant and rare not even a rainbow has seen them, unaware the giant cat was stalking me. Slowly, slowly I inched closer to my prey, my mouth watering at the thought of its succulent meat roasting on a fire. I stepped on a twig. The bird took flight, the cat roared, terror shook my spine. I looked above me, my eyes wide as I met the cat’s yellow stare.
“My bare arms made a hopeless shield. I closed my eyes, ready to become the big cat’s dinner. A gunshot rang through the air. The cat landed at my feet with a thump, so close I could smell its breath.”
Alistair straightened, his head cocked and his smile easy. “And do ye know who my rescuer was?”
“Isabella!” the children cried.
“Isabella!” their parent’s echoed.
Alistair put his hands on his hips, swayed back as if slapped. “You’ve heard this story before, then?”
“No!” The children’s voices a chorus.
“Aye, you’re right. It was my little sister who came to my aid, with more stealth than any feline hunter, and an eye sharper than an eagle’s.”
Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.