Episode 1: Rags – The Roanoke Sessions

roanokeMy dad wrote a book. Big deal. As a list of achievements go, that is pretty small potatoes. Anybody can write a book. Just like anybody can father a child. It doesn’t mean they should. I mean heck, I could write a book. I could, but I’m not going to.

Though if I did, I would tell you everything, even the really horrible stuff. Even the stuff that would make you toss the pages away and run to the bathroom to puke your guts out. I would spill it all.

My dad wrote a book, but he didn’t tell you everything. Not even close. Sure, he told you about a one night stand with my mother. He told you how she committed suicide before I was even born. But he didn’t tell you about his daughter. He didn’t tell you about me.

***

 “Someone left a dead bird on the porch this morning.”

“Hmmmn,” the psychiatrist murmured and raised a brow. “Perhaps a cat?”

“It is possible,” the girl agreed. “They do that. Leave people dead birds and mice and other little gifts… Because they think we’re helpless, you know? That we can’t hunt for ourselves.”

“Is that so? I did not know that… I thought it was just their way.” The doctor lifted a steaming mug of tea to his lips and took a softly slurping sip. He sat stiffly in a leather bound chair beside an empty couch, one leg crossed over the other, with an unused notepad resting in his lap. His “patient” stood with her back to him, looking out the window.

“Maybe it is…” the girl continued. “Of course, I don’t know many cats that can swing a hammer. The bird was nailed to my back door.”

With an uncontrollable snort, the doctor began to choke on his tea. His patient made no move to help him, but just stood there at the window with a devilish smile. The cries of a shabby man with an even shabbier cart echoed down the empty cobblestone street.

“Aughtdogs and Angabers! Inna bun! Aughtdogs and Angabers!”

“What’s his malfunction?” The girl glanced back to her psychiatrist and jerked a thumb towards the guy out the window. There was no answer, save the coughing and sputtering of the choking counselor. Eventually, his fit subsided and he was able to breath normally again. He cracked his neck in an attempt to regain his composure and scratched something surreptitiously down on his notepad.

“Now now. You know that I cannot talk about my other patients.”

“So he is a patient, then. Is he more screwed up than me?”

The doctor took a deep breath and let the question hang there in the silence like a blood splattered shower curtain in a bathroom forgotten to time. Little drips and streaks of red running down the unfortunate bright yellow sunflower patterns. A single unshaded bulb flickering in the socket over head. A distant clock marking the seconds away. Tick… Tick… Tick…

She simply crossed her arms and stared at him. She could go for hours without blinking, if she wanted to. After a few minutes of this impasse, the doctor swallowed heavily and then nodded. “Yes. Grue is a rather… dangerous case.”

“How so?”

“Cannibalism… Don’t eat the hotdogs.” The doctor waggled his brows and grinned, as if daring the girl to call his bluff. Down on the street below, Grue wandered on, still peddling his unsavory wares to an absent clientele.

The girl turned from the window and finally strode towards the couch. Flouncing down upon its well worn cushions, she began to pick at the stitches in a seam. She did not say anything else.

“So… The bird was nailed to your door. Do you think this was another warning?” the doctor asked, resisting the urge to scold her destructive habits. He chewed instead on the end of his pen.

“What else am I supposed to think?” Now it was the girls turn to snort. “Nobody wants me here. That is pretty damn clear! I don’t belong here.”

“And where do you belong?” he prodded gently.

The girl gave a shrug of defeat, pulled her legs up onto the couch, and wrapped her arms around her knees. She fell into silence again. The minutes ticked by. When she finally answered, her voice was no more than a whisper. “Nowhere… I don’t belong anywhere at all.”

***

To say that her childhood had been a strange one would be an understatement indeed. Even calling her family dysfunctional would not really even come close to the mark. For starters, she was born in the sky. Well, amongst the stars if you want to be technical about it. Her grandmother was a comet. That in and of itself was kinda cool, if you can wrap your head around it. And her grandfather was a king, though a more earthbound variety. Technically, this made her part royalty. Neither fact helped her much with her playmates, in fact, they probably made matters worse.

“What are you doing?” one of the star children demanded in a petulant tone. A group of them had discovered her hiding behind the great hall. She was naked, with her hair pulled back, and was smearing stardust all over her skin. It was her tenth birthday.

“Eww. Gross!” another child exclaimed. “That is disgusting!”

The star children, each of them silver haired with fair skin that sparkled and shined, perfect pearly white teeth, long slender bodies, and glowing golden eyes, laughingly surrounded the naked girl and began to mock and tease her.

“Raggedy Rags, looks like a hag, smells like a fish and makes us all gag!” None of them had ever even seen a fish, save in books, but the rest of their criticism was spot on.

Rags was nothing like a starchild. For starters, her hair was wild and red, like her mother’s. Her skin was coppery of hue with just a hint of green, like someone who had spent all summer swimming in the city pool and had started to grow a coat of algae. Her teeth were small and sharp, she was short of stature, and her eyes had an unsettling golden shine. She also had a tail.

Which is why, at the moment, she was attempting another ill conceived scheme to blend in. All the stardust in the world, no matter how earnestly applied to her own pasty complexion, would make little difference; and she knew it. The words of other other children stung deep in her core and fat tears began to leak out of her eyes, creating streaks in the silver dust she had smeared on her cheeks. Sensing their prey’s distress, the star children laughed all the harder and their ordinarily angelic smiles began to sour into something bloodthirsty and feral.

“Bug!” one called out.

“Nah. She is a freak!” another one cajoled. “She belongs in the circus.”

“She is a weed!” a little boy cackled. “Go back to your weedy father!”

“She can’t go to her father, you idiot. She doesn’t have one. She is a bastard!” The ring leader hissed this last word in disgust.

They no longer bothered with teasing rhymes, or sing song games. They turned to kicking and pinching and spitting on the outcast instead. She did not even tell them to stop, she just curled up into a ball, covered her face, and wept.

The scuffle most likely only lasted a few moments, but it felt like an eternity when subjected to their painful blows. Another voice, this one ancient and stern, cut through the jeers of the children and stopped their violent outburst with a single word.

“Children! It is unbecoming of you to torment so this inferior creature. Do not sully your voices, nor your flesh, by stooping so low. Begone, and let this moment pass from your day.” The children scattered. The voice was her grandmother’s.

The elder matriarch reached out and wiped away the spittle with the hem of her gown, then gently lifted the girl’s chin and gave a sad smile. “They are gone now. Come. Walk home with me.”

“I don’t have any clothes,” Rags murmured in protest.

“I can see that,” her grandmother chuckled. “However, it was your choice to remove them, and it would be quite unbecoming for me to lend you mine. Can you imagine the stares? The swooning, the mooning, the annoying attention should I walk down the street in such a state. I would have so many proposals en route that we would never even arrive at our door. Now, on your feet child.”

“I won’t have any problems with proposals,” Rags muttered as she rose to her feet.

“No,” her grandmother agreed, “you will not.”

They walked home in silence, receiving veiled glances of disapproval from the celestials that they passed. Of course, Rags got those even when she was fully dressed. Her left eye began to blacken and swell shut, and she hobbled along with a slow and painful limp due to the bright purple bruise forming on her hip. Finally, she summoned up her courage and asked with hesitation, “Why don’t I have a father?”

Her grandmother sighed and kept walking. This was a conversation they had rehashed, in one form or another, many times before. “You do have a father. But who he is, or where, I do not know. Your mother won’t say.”

“So why doesn’t he come get me and take me home?” Rags persisted.

“Most likely he does not even know you exist,” her grandmother answered tersely.

“Because Mom never told him?” She put her thumb in her mouth and gnawed absently on her fingernail.

“Child, your mother hardly even knew him. When she fled your grandfather’s kingdom, I doubt she even knew she was carrying you inside. She only took solace in the arms of a lover to gain the courage for what she needed to do.”

“She set herself on fire, so she could come back to the sky.” Rags recited, though they were just words. She had no mental picture of the event. She had never seen her mother as anything more than a bright and fleeting blaze of flame. “It was glorious.”

“Yes child. It was glorious indeed.”

 ***

“Ragnaline!” the doctor called her name again, this time more forcefully.

She blinked and lifted her chin from her knees in confusion. “Sorry. I was…” She gave another shrug.

“Thinking about your mother?”

“Sorta… Thinking about my grandmother.”

The doctor nodded, and flipped back a few pages in his notes. “Ah yes. The woman who raised you. It was she who gave you your name as well, yes?”

The girl gave a wry harumph of amusement. “Yeah. After the wife of Gawain. Sorta. She got it wrong, after all. Better than being named Oprah though. That lady got her name from a typo.”

“But now she is rich and famous. Powerful too, with a TV show and everything. Funny that you should bring her up. Is that what you aspire to be, Ragnaline?”

Rags shook her head with vehemence. “Hells no! I don’t want to be famous! Rich wouldn’t be bad, for sure. But famous, no way. I just want to be left alone and all. You can’t do that when you are famous.”

“And powerful?” the doctor prodded.

“Who says I ain’t?” The girl winked and flashed a dangerous toothy grin.

“You father is a little bit famous, isn’t he?” The doctor steered the conversation down a side street as he lifted his note pad and jotted down a few more reminders for later reference. “Or perhaps infamous is a better word. He wrote a book and everything.”

She snorted again. “Yeah right! My father the scoundrel, rogue, and professional liar… It is his fault I am here, in this hell hole.”

The doctor quirked a brow at her language and looked up from his notepad with a disapproving frown.

“Sorry. Not your office… Ugh! You know what I mean.” She waved her hand towards the window in frustration. “Trapped. In this screwed up town. What a sick twist of fate, huh?” She fell silent again for a moment, and then hopped off the couch with another shrug. This time she headed towards the door. “Sorry doc. Our time’s up for today.”

The doctor took a deep breath and sighed, setting the notepad back in his lap and steepling his fingers with his against his brow. “You know, Ragnaline, we won’t ever get anywhere if you will not talk to me about your past. Your demons cannot stay shut up in there forever. That is why I am here. To listen, to advise, and to help you work through your fears. To help you become whole again. To face the world with strength and dignity… But you have to meet me halfway.”

Rags paused at the door and turned back, her eyes drifting to her father’s book idly tossed upon the doctor’s desk. She might try to seem casual and unaffected by the whole ordeal, but there was a bitterness in her tone. A buried wound that would not heal.

“Whatever doc. You think you know me? You think you know my dad, just because you read his book, huh? Not quite… He never tells the all of anything. He keeps his secrets close and spins out a fancy tale instead. To shake you off the trail. I mean, get real, how much do you really think you know? He didn’t even tell you about me.”

***

Long after the door had closed and the girl had left, Doctor Ignatius Fade sat at his desk, still scribbling away. Pages upon pages were torn out of his notebook and crumpled into balls, scattered across the floor like errant tennis balls; yellow with parallel blue lines. On his pad was a single phrase, written over and over again, the script of the words becoming more frantic each time it was repeated.

“The scissors shall set us free… The scissors shall set us free… The Scissors shall set us Free!”

He paused in his manic writing, cracked his neck, and took another sip of his now cold and bitter tea. He ripped out the page, crumbled it up, and tossed it aside to join the others. With a fresh blank page, he began again. “The scissors shall set us free.”


Episode 2 – available here!

Copyright 2015 by Robert A. Turk – All Rights Reserved

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