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Fantasy

The Wolf’s Buckle Inn was not a luxurious resort, but it was successful. It was small, no more than 10 rooms. They were always full. Not with the rich rock climbing socialite crowd, with their platinum plated carabiners and four thousand dollar techno fabric fashion jackets, nor with the skiing crowd - there were no ski facilities. This inn was a haven for those who loved the land. 

The man who had trekked the full Appalachian trail three times to raise funds for Virginia coal miners. The woman who had stayed at a base camp on Mt Washington for six years, hiking down to collect data on pine martens and porcupines. Jones, the draft dodger who had lived in the Rockies until word reached him that his dad had died and left him a fortune in Halliburton stock, a rich irony he celebrated by giving most of the money to the Sierra Club. Twenty-three hiking clubs had standing annual bookings.

Kendall Marie was the owner. She had taken over a failing hotel and turned it into the Wolf’s Buckle fifteen years ago. 

Her face wore the same flat plains as the mountains that surrounded the inn. There were  crags, worn down spots, but as with the mountains, you saw the beauty at a distance, and felt awe up close. When people approached her, they did so humbly and respectfully. 

No one knew where she had come from. She appeared to the Smithforts, who were selling, with cash and no terms, and bought it outright. Somehow it seemed to thrive almost immediately. She was a natural. Villagers surmised that she was a wealthy widow. No one knew, but the Inn became her life.

Daisy didn’t consider the Inn her life, but she was grateful for a good job. She’d lived in the gorge as long as she could remember, between one house and another, a foster child with no kin. She had worked at the cafe for about a year when she turned 18, until Luke Davis parked his truck out in front. They’d moved in together three weeks later.

Luke had taken off on his long haul six months ago and just forgot to come back. She realized a week after he left that he had packed up all his video games into the truck. She knew then that he was gone for good. That left her high and dry, and knocked up to boot. 

Kendall had seen her at the village grocery asking for work, and intercepted her. Asked if she could make some basic meals. Could she mix a Caesar? Would she make beds? She figured all that sounded like her regular days at home, right down to Luke’s Caesars. She was hired on the spot. 

Since she started, she had made a Caesar only once, for the guy who came to fix the draught taps. She learned to make shepherd’s pie in bulk, and made lots of beds. Her belly wasn’t in her way yet. Miss Kendall had told her that when she had the baby, she’d better stay at the Inn so she would be safe and cared for. 

It was Saturday afternoon. The Chester Hike Squad were settled in, seventeen hikers in total, all gathered in the dining hall for their afternoon Birder Talk. December’s edition was called Rare Birds of the Rockies. Outside the clouds lowered, grey and oppressive, hiding the top of the mountain across the gorge. 

Daisy was bringing out rounds of coffee and beer, doughnuts freshly made that morning and bowls of potato chips. 

Kendall Marie had been in to say hello to everyone, remembering each returning guest’s name, meeting their newest hiker, Edwina, and listening with interest to the bird lecturer's ptarmigan story before retiring to the office. 

The wind hit with a howl, and the snow started soon after. Daisy got a fire going in the large fireplace, turned up the lights and drew the storm blinds. 

Suddenly the door opened with a bang, and a whirling wind blew through the main room. A figure strode in, unbowed despite the weather. An older man, holding a walking stick, wearing a long grey and black coat. Daisy at first mistook his long white beard for a scarf. She knew they were fully booked, but Miss Kendall never turned people out in a storm, so she invited the man in and asked if he was looking for a spot to stay.

“The lady Kendall. I must speak with her.” The man shook off his tall fur hat and then seemed to focus on Daisy.

“Is that a child?” He stared at her belly. It seemed a weird way to phrase the question, but the regular saucy response she might have offered didn’t occur to her under his scrutinizing gaze. 

“It is. I think it’s a boy,” she said shyly, unconsciously stroking her bump.

He reached towards her, but paused, made eye contact - “May I?” Daisy nodded, holding her breath. 

When he touched her belly, her mind blossomed with sunlight, warmth, birdsong. It felt like Spring had entered her body. She felt as if she were glowing. 

“He will be a fine, strong boy. Strong like his mother.” The word benediction had never crossed Daisy’s lips but that came to her mind… this felt like a benediction. Where had she learned that word? A fairy tale, maybe? 

“Gossam? How is it you are here?”

Kendall Marie stood behind Daisy, and for a brief moment, she touched Daisy’s back and it was as if a current had been completed. Daisy felt a surge of vibrant life coming from the stranger’s hand and connecting with the calm energy of Miss Kendall’s gentle touch. She felt wind, sun, hoarse bird voices screeching praises of freedom into a blue sky. 

Then both stopped touching her and Daisy felt woozy, and suddenly a bit chilly. 

Gossam bowed deeply to Kendall Marie, then clasped her hands within his. “It has been too long, Kendall. Your gifts are missed. We need you.”

“I am needed here.” It was a gentle rebuke. “How came you here?”

Daisy wasn’t sure why Miss Kendall was suddenly speaking so strangely and formally, but it seemed to come naturally to her. The older woman’s voice was deeper, fuller. More purple. What an odd thing to think. Daisy’s head still felt hazy from her electric contact with these two. She guessed that was why these odd thoughts popped into her head.   

It seemed prudent for Daisy to leave the two to talk, but she wanted to stay within earshot. She slipped behind the bar to make tea, since a warm drink rarely went unwanted, and she instinctively felt this man would not want coffee.

Kendall moved closer to Gossam and their voices dropped. Daisy couldn’t hear their words but his tone urged, persuaded, appealed, and hers demurred.  At one point, she thought she heard “Equinox Portal” and thought perhaps that was the name of a ship. Or maybe a horse? Gossam looked like the kind of man who might likely own a horse. 

Maybe she should name her baby Equinox. 

But no, his name was Bennbrig

She wasn’t sure where that thought came from, but as it formed, she thought a voice not hers had said it in her head. The sentence she heard was actually, “No, my name is Bennbrig.”

She froze, holding the teabags poised over the teapot as she considered this. 

Yes, mother. Shhh. Don’t be scared

She put the bags in the pot and leaned back against the bar, hands on her belly, feeling the fish-swish movement of her fetus… her baby. Bennbrig.

How is this possible? She thought. She received for an answer another sensation of sun-bloom, birdsong, this an echo of what she had felt from the bearded man’s touch. The water rumbled to a boil and the voices behind her fell silent, but she was lost in thought. 

“Daisy?” Kendall came around the bar to her. “Daisy, what’s wrong? What did you do to her?” The last line was directed over Daisy’s shoulder to Gossam. 

“Nothing. I only blessed the child. He is going to be a force to unite us.”

Daisy had never seen such fury on Kendall’s face before. “You fool!” she hissed. “You cannot use that touch in this world! You’ve changed the baby now!”

Gossam was not cowed. “The mother gave permission. And don’t tell me you haven’t been interfering, Kendall Celedon!”

“I am Kendall Marie here,” Kendall replied, and Daisy sensed the woman willing the hot aura of power and command she had exuded to shrink until she was again the Kendall Daisy recognized. 

“Daisy, I must tell you things that will be hard to hear.” Inside her, she sensed the baby Bennbrig listening and sent soothing love waves to him. 

“You are leaving.” As Daisy said this, she knew it to be true, somehow. Had known it these last minutes.

“The Inn is yours now. I will not leave until Bennbrig is born. Another girl will come from the village to help you, as you have helped me.”

“Why?” asked Daisy, feeling tears well up. The pregnancy had not made her overly emotional but she felt a great loss.

“I am not of this world. I came in my… retirement.” Daisy sensed that was not the word Kendall had planned to use. “I chose to help those who work to heal it. I pass that mission to you now. Gossam has come because my world has fallen prey to a menace, and we all must fight it.”

“This menace… it’s going to come here isn’t it?” Daisy felt as if her brain was pulling information from a source she was not aware of. She was thinking and feeling things she had had no sense of five minutes ago. 

“Not if we stop it.”

“And Bennbrig…” 

Kendall Marie tenderly placed her hands on Daisy’s belly. This wasn’t the same as the man’s touch. It was not a benediction. It was a sharing of love. She felt the baby respond. 

“He will play a role in uniting our worlds. Gossam has awakened him, perhaps too soon, but at least this way, he has received the information he will need. 

“Why?” the young woman asked again, wondering if this most fundamental question was coming from her or her child. Daisy was struck by a feeling of being a tiny atom in a large universe. 

“It’s you, Daisy. You are a fallen star from our world. You came here for this reason…to bear this child.”

And the summer light was back in her mind, very strong, and this time she did glow. Bennbrig conveyed his awe and delight. She remembered now, a long fall, the bright places. The confusion. Her eyes clear, she looked deeply into Kendall Celedon’s eyes. 

“Mother.”

And as the women embraced, the first gentle wave of labour rippled through Daisy. 

Gossam lifted her, carried her to the room Kendall pointed to. “The child comes tonight.” 

“And in the morn I will return home with you,” nodded Kendall. 

Edwina, the newest hiker, had broken away from the group animatedly discussing ptarmigan egg discoveries in the next room. She approached Kendall as the latter was about to close the door to the birthing room. 

“Miss Kendall, ma’am,” she said, shyly. “Is there any chance you have any openings here? I don’t have much keeping me in the village, and this view is… I’ll do anything.”

Kendall Marie said, “You’re hired. The Caesar recipe is over the bar. Could you boil some water, get some towels from the linen cupboard behind the bar, and bring a Caesar when you get it made?” 

Edwina was surprised and delighted. As she hastened to add water to the stove, Kendall added, “And Edwina? The child that is born tonight… you must do everything you can to help raise him well.”

January 21, 2022 18:23

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3 comments

Philipe Nicolini
03:24 May 20, 2022

Another opening line as good as RL Stevenson.

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Dustin Gillham
19:56 Feb 06, 2022

Loved it, Charlene. Great work.

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Richard Hann
22:50 Jan 26, 2022

I really enjoyed your story can't wait to find out what happens next, and whether they where successful in uniting their worlds

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