Tag Archives: Historical

The First American?

Flames licked the reindeer, fat dripped, and the fire flared up. Startled, Kayla turned the spit. Last year she’d been a child stampeding prey toward the hunters’ ambush. She’d peeked from behind rocks as the shaman released the spirit of each captured animal and bowed her head in gratitude as he dedicated their bodies to feed the tribe. This year she was newly a woman, and …

Don’t think about it.

She gazed around the camp saying a silent farewell to the familiar. Marc, Iro and Rog stood together, far from the fire’s warmth, their breath clouding white in the cold. She watched from the corner of her eye and matched her breathing to Marc’s.

“Daydreaming are you?” Luna took the spit from her hand.

Kayla blushed and stepped aside.

“Ola is waiting for you.” Luna’s frown revealed her jealousy.

Kayla struggled to keep her mind empty while Ola dressed her in fine skins. The old priestess was reputed to see what others were thinking, and terrible punishment awaited those who defied tribal rules.

“Don’t be fearful, Kayla. You are blessed. Tonight, when the moon is high, the shaman will take you to the sacred caves.” Ola’s words, spoken in kindness, fell like stones on Kayla’s heart.

Her father was an artist, one of the few tribesmen allowed in the caves. He’d told her about the pictures, the star map that guided travelers and the animals that beseeched the spirits for a successful hunt. He’d drawn star maps on the ground and showed her the beasts that lived in the sky, but he never spoke of the priestesses who lived there.

When Kayla was chosen, her mother had wept at the honor, but her father showed no joy. The next time they were alone, he’d told her about warm and fertile lands that lay across the great water. Many hunters had set sail, following the star maps, but few returned. The shaman had decided the trip was too perilous, and now it was forbidden.

Ola finished braiding her hair and escorted her back to the fire. Lines of tribesmen spiraled away from the warmth. Flames reflected amber on their hungry faces. Artists came first followed by toolmakers, hunters, women suckling babies, and lastly the other women. Children ate with their mothers.

Kayla took her place at the very front. Moments later, a procession moved down the hillside; the shaman had finished his fasting and prayers. He blessed the roasted reindeer then sliced the smallest with his long blade and offered the choicest part to Kayla. Only after she’d been served did the elders step forward to receive their portions. They carried their food to the sacred table, and the young women served the other member of the tribe.

Kayla ate sparingly. Marc would do the same, and he would hide food in his clothes, as would Iro, Rog and their women. When the bones had been picked clean and the rest of the tribe lay heavy with meat, they would be swift. Later, the meat they’d hidden would sustain them until they reached the great water where fish swam in shoals.

The shaman had finished eating. Ola signalled that it was time. Kayla walked toward the huts where she was to make her final preparations. As soon as she left the fire’s light, she changed direction and began running. Marc met her by the rock where she’d hidden warmer clothes. She changed quickly, and they raced to the river, where the others waited.

“Hurry.” Iro pointed toward the camp. Dots of light spread out from the fire, torches moving up the hillside and down toward the huts but not toward the river—not yet. “They’re already looking for her.”

Nila, Rog’s woman, was with child and would slow them down, but with this head start, they’d reach the boats hidden where the river’s ice became water. The river would carry them to the great water. The star map in Kayla’s head would guide them to the new land.

Eleven moons, two deaths and one birth later, two small boats entered the bay that one day would be called Chesapeake. Gentle waves rocked their boats. The motion soothed Baby Dora, who’d been howling since being removed from her mother’s breast so that Nila could pull in a net filled with fish.

“Do you want your child to be born here?” Rog said.

“Our child will be born here whether Marc approves or not.” Kayla rubbed her swollen belly. Already, it had begun to tense and release in the rhythm of birth.

They beached the boats and constructed a shelter of bent saplings and the skins they no longer needed for warmth. That night they enjoyed the plenty that this land provided. They thanked the spirits for their generosity and asked that blessings in the afterlife be bestowed upon Iro and Joa who’d disappeared when their boat capsized in icy waters. The next day, as the sun poked its first rays into the sky, Kayla gave birth to a son.

Bio: Writing is Patricia Dusenbury’s second career. In her first, she was an economist who wrote numerous reports that peoples’ jobs required them to read. Now, she writes mysteries to entertain readers and, perhaps, atone for all those dry documents. Uncial Press e-published Patricia’s first three books, which are now also available in hard copy. A Perfect Victim was named 2015 Best Mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC). Secrets, Lies & Homicide was a finalist for EPIC’s 2016 best mystery and a top ten mystery in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ poll. A House of Her Own was nominated for a RONE award and is entered in the 2017 EPIC contest. A member of the Sisters in Crime NorCal chapter, Patricia lives with an aged Malamute on a very steep hill in San Francisco.
More information about Patricia’s writing is on her webpage PatriciaDusenbury.com. She is on Facebook as Patricia Dusenbury and on Twitter as PatriciaDusenbu.

In the Trenches By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

WW I

WWI

The night is quiet from the day’s deafening bombardment of bombs and screeching sounds of dying men, some not more than a foot away. I sit in this piss-laden trench wondering when my time will come. Will it be tomorrow or the next? Numb from all this death and suffering, I don’t care anymore. If I’m meant to end on a French battlefield, then it’s better than being shipped home with a missing limb.

Charlie was sent home last week due to trench foot. Most of his toes were gone from gangrene. He’ll be glad to see his family, even if it means hobbling for the rest of his life. John was looking forward to going home next week. A sniper’s bullet pierced his helmet while we were talking about those lively cancan girls we wanted to see on leave.

Why are we here? Because an arrogant bastard, the Keiser, wanted to rule all of Europe and maybe the world, too. Sinking the Lusitania was the turning point. I was full of patriotic fervor when I signed up. I joined to protect the United States from tyranny and a malicious underbelly. The cause was right and just—freedom for all. My starry eyes blinded the realization of what war really meant. War is killing—killing the sons, brothers, and fathers of others who just believe in taking the enemies’ lives. Here we are. Two sides praying to the same God for a victory.

Armentières was a hell storm, or so I’ve been told by a British soldier when he came to our camp searching for his fellow platoon mates. I have no idea why a song was composed about that city in France. You know the one I’m talking about—“Mademoiselle From Armentières, Parlez-Vous.” Funny how silly things come to mind, like a song, when I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow, or much of it.

We went by foot to this place. Ruin and devastation nearly everywhere we looked, and then a pretty wildflower took me back to home. My mind saw Mama at the stove making the best beef stew anyone ever tasted, my young sister helping her by gathering the ingredients and placing them on the counter. I went to take a taste from the worn wooden spoon. “Stop that! It’s not ready yet.” Her words rang in my ears. She’d then kiss my cheek and I’d feel her loving hand stroke the hair on my head, just as she did when I stood no higher than her apron sash.

Poppa is a mechanic and owns his own business. He’s got plans for me to join him when I return from this war. Even has a sign at the back of the shop with “and Son” on the end of the name. He told me he had that sign made when I was born. I learned a lot from him—what’s right and wrong, fear of God, respect women, and a man is only as good as his word. Seems to me there are too many in this world who haven’t learned those lessons, or else don’t care about them.

This is supposed to be the Great War, and the War to End All Wars. Somehow, I don’t believe it. There’s just too much hate in men’s hearts and the thrill of power and rule make them seek ways to strike down those who disagree with them. I fear this is only the beginning of what’s to come for a hundred or more years from now. I’m just a common foot soldier and know nothing about war plans and strategies, but I know this—as long as men refuse to accept differences in others, this war is the reflection of intolerance, and conflict will be the normal way of things to come for generations.

WW I.2
WWII

 

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

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Bio

Life’s circumstances put Cynthia’s dream to be a write on hold for most of her life. In 2006 she ventured to write her first novel. Front Row Center, is being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and known Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, Scott C Brown. She has vast interests in art and history. Cynthia shares, with other authors, the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, which she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. She garnered the Excellence in Writing Award from It Matters Radio for her short story It Ain’t Fittin.

What Did I Do Wrong? by Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

pic 1

All pleadings left unheard. Why? The air stinks of blood. Cheers and roars from the crowd pound my ears, and eat at my soul. One by one they leave only to be replaced by new faces—some I recognize—all doomed like me. Terror reigns in their eyes as the guards push them into cells filled with the sickening stench of human excrement mixed in the rotting hay piles. The poor fools try to drink the rust-laden water.

The guard approaches. Yellowing filthy teeth frame a sardonic smile accentuated by his foul breath from rotting teeth. No words needed. A long lust-laden gaze communicates his intent. “You don’t have to worry, Madame. Not as long as you are friendly. The friendly sorts remain a little longer.”

I swallow hard. My eyes fix on his. “Why am I here? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

His sinister chuckle chills me. “Nothing wrong? You’re friends with an aristocrat. That’s crime enough to sever your head. There will be no aristocrats left in France, nor those that are friends with them.”

“I was only an acquaintance of Madamoiselle Gaultier. I met her once at a party,” comes my plea. “My husband was a doctor. I’m a plain person as you.”

“Like me, you say? Not very well likely. You dressed in fine silks and satins.” He inches closer to the cell bars. “Did you not come by those clothes from being friendly with the male Royals your husband tended to? Like I said, do me some favors and you might keep your head a few days longer.”

His hand grazes the crotch of his breeches.

I give no reply.

The jailer turns with an air of triumph, clearly knowing he has the upper hand.

~~#~~

Night. A stream of silver colors my dank and dark surroundings. That small window is my only connection to the outside world. Wailings and moans fill the air.

A woman in the cell next to mine sidles to the bars separating us.

“Have you been here long?” she whispers. Her eyes are wild with fear. “Do you know when they will do it?”

“Some are chosen quickly.” No need to give her false hope. “Others have been here for over a week. I have no idea why. I pray this madness will end before I’m chosen.”

I look at her finely manicured nails and coiffed wig. “Why did they take you?”

“My lover was an aristocrat.” Tears fill her eyes. “They killed him last week.”

“Madame Guillotine took my husband seven days ago. I can still hear his pleadings for mercy in my ears. They might have met in the same wagon.” She looks so frightened. “You’re young and pretty. You might be spared. There’s always hope.”

“You mean, sleep with those filthy jailers?” Her gasp escapes. “I was a mistress because I loved him—not a common whore.”

“Adjust your morals.” She needs to understand the price of survival. “Letting a guard have his way is better than if you don’t.”

~~#~~

Heavy footsteps approach. Keys jangle. Is he coming for me? No, it’s night. Beheadings are during the day after the crowd gathers. Has he come for payment for sparing me one more day? My breath catches in my throat. I dare not move and pretend to sleep.

I peek through my eyelashes. The guard stands there, sizing up his victim–a man picking over the display on a fruit stand.

Please choose someone else.

His hand plunges into his pants encouraging his lust. The guard steps closer. Only the bars separate us until he makes his decision. He turns to the cell next to mine. Please, God, let it be her and not me! Metal on metal sounds from the key turning the lock. The creaking door screeches in my ears. His demonic laugh pierces my soul. I don’t move, still giving the illusion of sleep.

A screech comes from the next cell.

“Please, sir. Don’t!” the young girl cries out.

“What? I’m not good enough for you?” he bellows. “My manhood not adorned in Royal finery?”

“I might be with child,” she begs.

“What is that to me?” He unbuttons his breeches. “If you do well by me, and often. “You might keep your head. Small price for fifteen minutes work. Now, spread your legs.”

The jailer lunges after her, pushing her against the wall, and lifts her skirt. I turn my head in disgust. Her cries and sobs mingle with the others in this rat-infested hellhole. His grunts and moans grow faster. Soon, the young girl’s reprieve from this barbaric torture is at hand. Maybe, just maybe, he will favor her and her life will be spared. This reign of terror must come to an end.

Will I survive? Will she? How many more sunrises are in my future?

~~#~~

Morning.  Sunlight brightens the cell with hope. I begin every day with a vision of freedom.

The gathering crowd cheers for the killings to begin. Hawkers offer handfuls of hair cut from the once coiffed heads of well-known aristocrats.

Heavy, footsteps come closer. The bloodthirsty games have begun once more. I hold my breath. Is it today? Will I join my husband? Two guards swing open the door. A lump forms in my throat. Do they demand favors—or death?

A gruff jailer grabs at my upper arm, tearing my sleeve further. “Come along. You’re turn to go.”

“No!” I scream. “Not yet!!”

I struggle to pull away. His grip tightens. Another guard grabs under my armpit.

God, accept my soul into Your heavenly Kingdom.

A third jailer yanks the Rosary beads from my hands. They walk me out into the daylight, and up the steps to a wagon. I stand with others, who all share my fate—all sport the look of shock and disbelief.

Eager peasants yell with glee and run alongside as the wagon rattles on the uneven cobblestone street. The ride is swift. The abrupt stop echoes the abrupt end of our lives. Lives brought short by this insane mob.

I’m the first . A kind-eyed soldier extends his hand. He looks sympathetic, but is loyal to his orders.

“Please, Madame,” he offers. “Watch your step.”

Despite my tears, I smile knowing his kindness is the last I will ever experience. He leads me to the scaffold steps. Dripping blood, from the guillotine platform, puddles on the ground below. Hungry dogs lap up this treat. Two men stand there, waiting for me—one holds the rope that controls the blade. Another binds my hands with harsh rope. He cuts my long mane at my neck and offers it to the crowd with outstretched arm. “What will you give for this Royal hair?” Their jeers ring in my brain.

All too soon, he pushes me onto a plank. My head is roughly positioned on a jagged neck support. It is wet, cold, and sticky with blood. The crowd chants, “Off with her head! Kill the sow!” Another board secures my neck. I look at the faces eager for my death. All eyes look in the direction of the blade-keeper. The swift thug of mental to flesh sounds. Crushing, burning pain. Someone lifts my head by the hair. I see them laughing.  My eyes close. All is black. I am free.

©2014 Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Bastille Day, July 14, is celebrated by French nationals. The excesses of the ruling classes oppressed the common people to the point of abject starvation. This lead to mass hysteria during the Reign of Terror. Approximately 40,000 died. Of those, it is estimated that 80-85 percent were common citizens.

Author Bio

Born in Mahopac, NY, raised in Yorktown Heights, NY, Cynthia longed to become a writer. Life circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. Some eight years ago she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award and is now being adapted to screen with a script is in development by she and Hollywood screenwriter, Scott C Brown. Since then Cynthia shares with other authors the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, by Clayton C Bye. It Ain’t Fittin’ earned her the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio. Cynthia enjoys her retirement from her profession as a registered cardiac nurse in Florida, caring for her husband and five poodle-children.

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