Four Petals- The Riddle

In this week’s blog post, meet Battie the bat. Battie is slightly unhinged, but he usually seems to have good intentions. I think this section of the novel gives a good impression of Battie’s personality, and how he interacts with Fiona.

 

The Riddle

Fiona had her chin in her palms. If she hadn’t been so exhausted, she would have been on the brink of tears. She sat alone on trunk of a downed tree. The chiming of the bells had grown quiet and distant, and now the wise words of the Night Bird played over and over and over again in her head.  His advice shifted around her mind like pieces to a puzzle, but at the moment none of them seemed to be fitting into the right places. Fiona tapped her head in frustration; ‘the way out is in there somewhere,’ she thought. ‘It has to be.’

The woods were quiet, and Fiona noticed she could no longer hear the bells at all, even if she tried. She took a deep breath and scribbled patterns in the dirt with the tips of her shoes while she thought. She drew stick figures. There was one of a girl, with her arms raised playfully to the sky; and one of a man and a woman, who were looking on with pride. All of them had big, happy smiles on their faces. Fiona paused for a moment to look at the sketch people, but she didn’t recognize any of them. She gave the whole picture a once-over, then she kicked furiously at the dirt with her foot. She kicked and dug and scratched at the figures; she kicked until the smiles were crooked and the faces were smudged. Fiona stood up and looked at the defiled scene. ‘That’s, much better,’ she thought. ‘I can see us clearly now.’

All of Fiona’s theatrics had raised quite a bit of dust. It swirled in the air, little grey particles adrift in the dim light. Fiona’s throat began to tickle and her nose began to twitch.

“Achoooooo!” The sneeze was not Fiona’s.

Fiona looked upward, to where she heard the sound. As the dust cleared, she could clearly see the face of a bat on the branch directly overhead, only a few feet above where she sat. Fiona jumped up in surprise. When she stood, the bat’s nose was mere inches away from her own. Battie was dangling down from the branch by his feet, he was holding a four-leaf clover tight against his chest, and he appeared to be snoring.

“Battie?” whispered Fiona, staring directly at the bat’s closed eyelids. Their noses were practically touching. “Battie, how long have you been hanging there?” The snoring only got louder.

“Battie!”

It was no use, the curious little creature was sound asleep; his body rose and fell peacefully with his breathing. Fiona took a look at the clover that the bat held to his chest.  She moved in closer to analyze it.  Four petals. The bats eyes popped wide open.

“Oh dear!” squeaked Fiona as she fell backwards with a start.

Battie rubbed his eyes lazily. “Woo, You scared me.”

“I scared you? My goodness, Battie, what in the world are you doing here?”

Battie yawned. “Sleeping.”

“Sleeping? right here? How long have you been perched there?”

Battie stretched his wings and cleared his throat. “The whole time, I’m sure.”

“The whole time?”

“Yes, the whole time you were sitting there kicking dirt and throwing dust and scaring the living daylights out of bats.”

Fiona looked away, embarrassed. “But, how did you know? I thought you were asleep”

“I dreamt it.”

Fiona’s furled her eyebrows. “That does not make much sense.”

“We agree.”

Fiona wasn’t sure how to answer this.

Battie continued. “I got you something special.”

Fiona’s face lit up. “Really? Were you expecting me?”

“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Battie, as if he were insulted by the question. “I never expect anything from anyone, that way I am never let down.”

“That’s not what I meant,” started Fiona. But then she thought better of trying to clarify.

Fiona smiled and took the green clover from Battie’s outstretched claw. “Thank you, Battie.”

“It’s yours because you’re unique.”

Fiona watched Battie swinging there, wrongside up from the low limb. She chuckled. “I think we’re both four leaf clovers.”

“We’re both funny-looking” agreed Battie.

“I meant that we are both special.”

Battie looked off into the woods. “I know that you’re looking for The Way. That’s why you were kicking dirt.”

Fiona nodded. “I tried to remember the words of the Night Bird. But it is all puzzles and mazes.”

“The solution is simple,” said Battie, rocking two-and-fro on the branch.  “All will be set right if you can answer the impossible riddle.”

Fiona watched him in anticipation. She sat down to listen. Then she watched him some more. Several minutes went by.

“Well lets hear it!”

“Hear what?”

“The riddle”

“But I don’t know any riddles.”

“But you just said—you just spoke of an impossible riddle.”

“Ahhhh,” said the bat, very knowingly, as if he had finally discovered some very elusive truth. “Ahhhh, Yes.”

Then the bat was inexplicably silent again, as if he had never spoken at all. Fiona prodded him. “So?”

“I don’t think I catch your meaning.”

“The riddle, what about the riddle?”

“Ahhh yes, the riddle. It’s impossible.”

“Right. But aren’t you going to tell it?”

“How can I? I don’t even know what it is.”

“Don’t know what which is? The answer or the riddle?” (This question threw the bat off, as he had never thought that there might be a difference between the nature of a riddle and the answering of one. In fact, it had never crossed his mind that riddles would even have answers.  What’s more, Battie was quite sure that he did not even know what a riddle was.)

Battie hung upside down, his mind racing and looping as he grappled desperately with his unruly thoughts.  Finally, after watching the bat languish in a confused silence for several minutes, Fiona broke in. “Nevermind, I can see you are becoming very bothered by all this.  And I am too.  I’ll find someone else who knows the riddle, if in fact this riddle exists at all. It is not your fault that you are hopeless, and perhaps a bit crazy after all.”

With this Fiona turned away from the sad looking bat, and was extraordinarily glad to be done with it (whatever ‘it’ may have been.)

As Fiona walked away, Battie started. “What reflexes like a cat, is nuttie as a bat, and sneaky like a woodland rat?”

Hearing the riddle, Fiona grimaced and stopped in her tracks. Though she felt guilty to admit it, she was very pleased to be finished with the unpleasant encounter with Battie. Now his sudden and unexpected recitation of riddle threatened to pull her back into the chaos. Still, if this riddle could offer a solution to her problems, Fiona knew she had to explore it.

“Did you say something?” asked Fiona.

“I believe I did,” said bat, still hanging by his feet, and now gazing vacantly into the distance.

“Would you mind repeating it?

The bat’s eyes crossed, and then they focused-in on Fiona. “I said ‘what is always on tap, never sleeps when you nap, and is partial to the head like your favorite cap?’”

“No, you most certainly did not.”

“Didn’t I?? Fine, well let me think on it again. I’m sure it will come to me.”

Fiona was frustrated, but she decided to give the bat a moment. ‘What harm could it do?’ she thought. ‘I have already endured this much.’

“Here it is: Who is nightly a loon, rarely a boon, but a dream on a drowsy Sunday noon?”

“You said who. Is it a who now, or a what?”

“What?”

“Is that an answer or a question?”

“I am most uncertain.”

Fiona threw her arms up in exasperation. “But Battie, you are the one who is telling the riddle!”

“What riddle?”

“Nevermind! Just forget it, you Bat! And forget everything I said earlier as well. You are truly and completely out of your mind.”

Battie closed his eyes, and pulled himself closer to the branch. He gave a slight shudder, as if in cold resignation to what Fiona had said, and then gazed back into the distance.

Fiona sighed deeply, slightly regretful at what she had said, and turned again to leave. Battie’s voice froze her again. He spoke in the saddest of tones. “Fiona, I’ve no idea what it means, but I have this strange feeling that I am the riddle.”

Fiona walked off into the dark of the woods.

 

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Four Petals- The Un-Celebration

A Far Cry From Wonderland, are Dreams Such as These…

In some ways, my novel is comparable to Alice’s adventures; both stories deal with a girl’s journey through an odd, fanciful world. Tonight, I feature the section of Four Petals that is most inspired by and similar to elements from the Lewis Carroll novel.

This blog post will also introduce you to another character from the Four Petals novel. He is a startling character that Fiona encounters in the strange woods, and he is far different from any of the characters introduced before. You may find the scene slightly reminiscent of the ‘UnBirthday’ scene from the Alice and Wonderland movie, albeit a little more dark and a lot more twisted. Enjoy the excerpt.

The Un-celebration

At a clearing in the forest…

All the animals were sitting quietly at the table, vacant and expressionless. There were about a dozen of them. Each pair of eyes trained on the empty plates and unused silverware in front of them. There was complete and utter silence. It was a thick silence, the kind of silence that comes not from lack of noise, but from the thickness of the air coming down so heavy on all the sounds that none of them can move around or raise up to be heard. Every once in a while, though, a single sound can squirm lose from the heaviness of all that air; it can wriggle free and get just enough room to softly slip into an ear.

The long rabbit ears flitted, just slightly, as they picked up the hint of a noise– Just one tiny, wriggly hint of a noise that had managed to twist free of all that weight. Underneath the ears, The Bunny Man slowly lifted his head. From beneath the scars on his forehead, his one good eye- shiny and silver- scanned the listless faces of the animals around the table. He wore a severe scowl on his face, very displeased from having been disturbed.

He looked to the trees just beyond the table, and squinted to find the blurry shape of a figure emerging from the woods. The empty socket on bad side of his face creased and wrinkled as he strained to make out the shape. He groaned from the pain, but the air crushed the sound as it left his mouth. As the blurry entity approached, it took the figure of a girl, and the Bunny Man clenched his misshapen teeth at the sight. Then he simply put his head back down toward the table.

It was only the Bunny Man who noticed as Fiona walked up. She stumbled upon the scene as if she did not notice the thick air and the silence. But she did notice the strangeness.

“Dear me, what are you all doing?”

Tortoise whispered from his seat, still looking down. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

Tortoise very cautiously lifted one eye. He started to speak, but the Bunny Man interrupted him quite sharply, before he uttered a word.

“Nothing,” Bunny Man snapped.

“Okay.” Fiona responded hesitantly. She looked around. All of the animals were still staring blankly, almost mindlessly, at the table. Each pair of eyes appeared empty and glazed over. Then she noticed it. The quiet. The strange, heavy quiet. Fiona didn’t understand what was happening, but she had a sense that it was something very bad. She started to feel a sense of panic. “Am I interrupting something?”

The Bunny man replied again, very slowly, and still looking down at his plate. “You most certainly are not.”

Fiona was confused. Without even realizing it, she had started back-peddling toward the woods. Another wrong turn, she thought. Another place I don’t belong. Her feet were moving faster and faster— towards the trees. Just as she felt the gentle touch of leaves on her back, she ventured one last look towards the table. Bunny Man’s head swung suddenly upward. His eye flashed open and locked with Fiona’s. His words were jagged. They cut through the silence like a knife. “Why won’t you join us?”

Fiona was nervous, she tried not to show it. “But you all are just sitting there, Mister Bunny Man. From the looks of it, you aren’t doing anything at all,” she said.

“Yes.” The Bunny man stared back blankly, through a hollow gray eye. “We are not doing anything at all.”

“Then…” Fiona swallowed her own spit. “…then with all due respect, Mister, why would I want to join you?”

The Bunny man gnashed his teeth. He seemed to ignore Fiona’s question. “We are not celebrating Mouse’s anniversary,” he said.

Fiona looked across the table. Mouse was sitting at the very far end, her eyes were averted, like all the rest, downward at her empty plate. There seemed to be a quiet sadness about her. Fiona glanced back at the rabbit, who’s one-eyed gaze seemed to burning through her skull. She tried to be courageous. “Oh, Well did you ask Mouse how she felt about missing her anniversary, Mister Bunny?”

“Its mister Bunny Man!” snapped the rabbit. He gnashed his teeth down hard. “And don’t you mind Mouse. She fully understands the situation.”

“Well if you ask me, that seems a bit rude, and—”

“–No one asked you!” Gnashed Bunny Man. “We’ve decided that there is no reason that Mouse’s anniversary should be any more important than any other day. We did not celebrate anything yesterday, and we have nothing to celebrate tomorrow. So it is only fair that we will not celebrate anyone’s anniversary today.”

Bunny Man was glaring at Fiona. “You don’t have a problem with any of that, do you?”

Fiona shook her head. She decided it was not her place to argue the way things were done here in the Forest.

“Good,” said the Bunny Man. “And since you have no reservations, you will of course join us in our un-celebration.”

Fiona wanted to refuse, but the menacing scowl from the Bunny Man persuaded her to reconsider. Searching for an open seat, she slowly made her way around the table, shuffling past chairs and inching behind the backs of dejected, hunched-over animals. She found an empty spot next to Mouse and reluctantly knelt down at the table.

“Oh Good!” Hooped the Bunny Man. He raised an empty teacup in hollow cheer. “We are so very glad to have your company, Fiona. Not celebrating tends to be exceedingly dull, and it always seems to make the situation a bit more tolerable when your friends are present.”

Fiona sat quietly on her knees for what seemed like ages. Her legs were beginning to get sore, and all the time she felt the unwavering eye of the Bunny Man perpetually burning a hole through the top of her bowed head. There were moments when Fiona thought she also felt the timid eyes of a tortoise rest upon her, or a sideways glance from a crestfallen squirrel, or a fleeting peek from a pondering parakeet, but before long the creatures would be again be fixed to the empty table– heads forced downward by fear and heavy air. The wandering eyes did not rest on Fiona long— she could feel that— but they touched her for just long enough to remind her that she was indeed in the presence of friends, and that many of those gathered around the table were not just animals, they were her companions. Fiona could feel tears welling up in back of her eyes. She held them back though, not wanting to appear weak or vulnerable to the ever-vigilant Bunny Man.

The rabbit ground his teeth. He looked over at Fiona, who was staring dejectedly down at her empty soup bowl.

“Cheer up Kiddo. It’s not so bad if you don’t make it out that way. It’s all a matter of perspective. Try to understand- this day, these circumstances are simply not important enough to merit such a gloomy disposition.”

Fiona did not look up. She refused to as much as acknowledge the Bunny Man’s comments.

“Oh my Dear, foolish Fiona,” The Bunny man continued,” louder than before. “Can’t you see the inconsequentially of this moment, of this day? You say it is rude not to celebrate Mouse’s anniversary, when in fact it is the only honest thing to do. Today does not deserve our celebration any more than yesterday. The sun rose today, no different than it will tomorrow.”

The Rabbit clicked his incisors. He raised his voice higher to address the entire table. “The world goes on dear chaps, Spinningspinningspinning in monotonous infinity! The fox forever chases! We are born and we die, and our short tenure here is of little or no significance to the universe at large!”

The Rabbit lowered his voice again, and looked squarely at Mouse as he continued to speak. “So my best advice to you, my friends, is to simply pretend that today is any other day. That is the point after all- there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING special about today.”

Fiona heard tiny tear-drops tapping the ground beside her. She checked her eyes with a finger, but the tears were not hers. From the haze of her peripheral, Fiona discerned the miniature figure of Mouse. Her furry little head was bowed in silence, and tiny beads of water were forming on the tip her snout.

Fiona began to shake visibly with anger. “I do not have much tolerance for bullies. Especially ones with oversized teeth and silly Bunny ears.”

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Four Petals- Dreamer’s Etiquette

So here it goes! I am back to blogging, and I have a new schedule to keep me on track. Instead of trying to split my time between a number of projects, and getting nothing done, I will re-focus this blog primary on the novel I am currently writing. This should be a great way to and to focus my energy, as well keep the blog interesting for readers. The novel is still in its fledgling stages, so it will be fun for me to watch this story start to really take shape along with you guys.  Each week, on Thursday, I will be posting an excerpt from the novel I am working on. BUT I’M STARTING WITH ONE TODAY.

The book is called Four Petals. It is the story of a girl’s journey through a strange, whimsical world, on a quest to help her friends, find her freedom, and ultimately discover a little bit about herself in the process. After much internal debate about over how to introduce my story (Because apparently starting at the beginning would have been too easy,) I have decided to jump right in and post this excerpt. Although this piece does not come from the beginning of the novel, I think this segment does a good job of introducing the novel’s main character, Fiona, as well as giving a little bit of a glimpse at the people in her life who made her who she is.

And, remember, this is a work in progress, so your constructive criticism is of course welcome! Enjoy!

 

Four Petals- A Dreamer’s Etiquette

There was not much orange juice left. It wouldn’t be much longer before Fiona would have to put the cup down and face her mother. But she knew how much easier pretend drinking was than real-life talking, and she was dedicated to making this last. Fiona put the cup to her lips and tipped it upside down. As she shook the last drops into her mouth, she eyed her mother with one eye through the empty glass.

Her mother sat cross-armed and unimpressed on the opposite side of the table.

“I’m still thirsty,” said Fiona into the hollow chamber of the cup.

“That’s fine,” said her mother, mirthlessly. “There’s water in the kitchen. I’ll be sitting right here, ” she added.

This was a waiting game that Fiona knew she could not win. Nevertheless, she played her role. Fiona rose nonchalantly from the table and, grabbing her glass, sauntered casually into the adjacent kitchen. Orange juice, coffee beans, Cream soda– Fiona ran her finger across the counter top. Her hand came to rest on a pitcher and she poured herself a full glass of water. Fiona studied the liquid, which she most certainly did not intend to drink, and she began to think aloud.  “The water is like the woods before the dark appeared. It’s joy and the happiness.” Fiona shook the cup with both hands, stirring the left-over orange pulp from where it rested on the bottom. The pulp swirled about, clouding the glass. “And the pulp… the pulp is like the mysterious darkness, slowly spreading and making everything impure.”  She thought regretfully about her woodland friend. “No wonder the water made Mr. Frog sick, it was contaminated with pulp— with evil and fear.”

“You may bring your drink back in here, Fiona,” said the voice from the other room.

“Already done,” Fiona replied as she poured the rest of the water into the sink. But she wasn’t ready to confront her mother just yet. She would much prefer to be in her own mind; in fact, she had rather learned to like it there. Fiona opened the door to the refrigerator and peered inside.  “I’m hungry too, what is there to eat?” she called.

“If you are hungry, then perhaps you should have thought about that at dinner time, when you were out romping through the woods and scaring Mr. Gavin half to death for your own amusement.”

Fiona winced. She had walked right into that one.

“Yips, chattering, howls? Fiona, sometimes you really do worry me. Please come in here and sit down so we can discuss this.”

“That wasn’t me,” said Fiona. She returned to the room and reluctantly plopped back into her seat.

“Then who was it?”

“I don’t know, mom.”

“Mr. Gavin said he found you sitting alone in the woods, maniacally laughing like you were some sort of crazy person.”

“I was laughing at a joke.”

The mother crossed her arms even tighter than before. “A joke told by whom?”

Fiona sighed and looked down at the old, wooden table in front of her. “I know how I must sound, but I was having fun with my friends. Mouse made a very funny comment and I could not stop laughing. I’m sorry I scared Mr. Gavin.”

“Okay, let’s hear it then.”

“Hear it?”

“Yes, let’s hear the mouse’s comment.”

“Well, you see,” Fiona started. “You see, mice are very tiny and they’re usually very good at tucking away and vanishing. But every time we play games where we have to hide, Mouse is always the first one to get caught. So today, Digger the groundhog asked her about it— in his usual, endearing groundhog way, of course. He said, ‘Ms. Mouse, now I know I’m used to digging and navigating the likes of tunnels and all that, so my expertise in small spaces is surely quite superb and whatnot. But I dare say, Ma’am, with all that commotion you make, even if I were absolutely mole-blind, you would be one easy rodent to spot.’ So then, of course we all looked over at cute little Mouse, who was blushing through her whiskers. She peeked up at Digger, and was quite innocent and sincere when she humbly told him that she guessed she just wasn’t any good at “Hide-and-Squeak.”

Fiona’s mother looked across the table at her daughter. Fiona was sitting there, looking quite innocent and sincere in the telling of her own story. Her mother couldn’t help but smile, though she tried her parental best to hide it.

“Oh Fiona, I’ve told you, you simply must stop with all these fanciful tales. You’re just…”  As Fiona’s mother tried to formulate a proper way to respond to such an odd story, her cell phone began to vibrate in her pocket. She looked down at her phone and then back up at Fiona, as if to apologize for the call she was about to take. It is hard to tell who was more relieved, Fiona or her mother.

The mother answered her phone, and within seconds her soft smile transformed into a look of deep concern. She hurried into the other room to take the call in private.

Fiona alone sat at the table, where she once again became absorbed in her own mind. It had been a rough past few days (or was it weeks? Fiona couldn’t remember,) and Fiona had a lot to think about. She was certainly worn thin, but there was something new underneath the tired— a sort of comfort in her own skin.  Fiona closed her eyes. She knew that, before she could focus on fixing her own problems, she would be asked to explain the impossible to her mother. She could hear the concern in her mother’s words through the wall. Part of her was thankful that the worry was no longer directed at her. The droning, dreamlike quality of her mother’s half-audible voice seemed to blend with the concerned voices in Fiona’s own mind. Each pained sound from her mother seemed to pull on her heart and leave a vague shadow in her head.

Fiona was not sure if she was asleep or daydreaming, but she had to crawl out from somewhere deep in her subconscious when her mother finally returned to the room. Her mother came back to the table defeated. Her eyes were red and swollen; they had the glossy appearance of smeared tears. This certainly is not just about me anymore, Fiona thought.  Fiona’s mother sat down next to her, but she was avoiding direct eye contact. “I try so hard,” she said, still looking away.

Fiona scooched closer to her mother.

“I just don’t know what to do anymore, Fiona. I try so hard. And he just makes everything so much harder.”  Her mother began to weep quietly. Then she wiped her eyes, and turned again to Fiona.

“We all have chinks in our armor. Each and every one of us. The key is to surround ourselves with people who help us rebuild the parts that are weak. People who will protect our fragile parts.” The aging women shook her head defeatedly. “But your father… your father likes the look of his armor so much that he’s always seeking out friends who wear the same coat. Instead of rebuilding, they take turns chiseling away at each others’ suits. And they laugh while they do– they drink and they shout. And they call it freedom, they call it fun.”

Fiona watched her mother with big, sad eyes.

“My God Fiona… I’m sorry.” The mother knelt beside her daughter and hugged her close. “You don’t need to hear this kind of thing.”

Fiona reached over and rubbed her moms head. “It’s okay mommy.”

“No it’s not. Sometimes I find myself just talking, venting– even when I’m absolutely sure the person I’m venting to doesn’t understand a word of what I’m saying.”

Fiona thought for a second.  “Sometimes I tell people things because I KNOW they won’t understand. If they did understand, they’d believe me. And instead of thinking I was crazy, they’d just be sad at the truth.”

Fiona’s mother smiled a little bit, and she looked in wonder at her daughter. “You are wise beyond your years, Young Lady. I have to be more careful with what I say around you.” She looked into Fiona’s clear, innocent eyes. “But what could you possibly have to say that would be so sad and so hard to believe? Those aren’t the kind of things young people should have to worry about.”

Fiona lowered her head and looked away. Her mother’s brow furled in concern. “You wouldn’t be referring to those tall-tales about your animal friends again, would you?”

“No mother. Of course not.” Fiona bit her upper lip until it started to bleed. “Everybody knows those tales could never be true.”

 

 

 

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