The Ghost Girl - Episode 27

THE RIVER QUEEN

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

As the community council meeting ended and people began to depart, Abby heard a familiar gruff voice behind her: “Do you have a moment?”
She turned to see Sammy smiling at her.
“I thought I might see you here,” he said, and handed her an envelope. “I calculate twenty hours of work… I hope that’s okay, we made a lot of money the nights you worked, and please, come and work at the coffee shop tomorrow if you can.”
“Oh!” she said in surprise, feeling the rather thick envelope. “What a relief! I’m broke right now. Thank you, thank you!” She gave him a hug.
“Let me know your plans, we’re reopening tomorrow.”
“Oh, I wish I could, but I’ll be gone for a day or two visiting my parents in Rivergate. But I’ll come by Thursday or Friday.”
“Don’t take too long now,” he said, and moved off to talk to Stephanie.
Phoebe pulled Abby to the side where they could not be overheard. “Please,” she said, “find out all you can about the real reason for this ‘relocation business’ Pastor Banks was talking about. The state and the corporations, what’s in it for them? I have a guess about that… something we should discuss.”
Abby stared into space for a moment and looked back at Phoebe. “Ah, you’re quick. I can guess too. I’ll get right back to you.”

The following morning early Abby rushed to pack a few things for her journey to Rivergate. It occurred to her that the watchers would certainly notice her departure, and could take the opportunity to search her cottage overnight. The lock on the front door was virtually worthless. The only thing among her few possessions that might interest the Morphy organization was her collection of seeds, so on her way out Abby stopped by Reverend Tuck’s office. He was fine with her plan to visit her parents, and took the bag of seeds to hold overnight. As Abby headed out the gate she noticed the eyes of two men on her. “Okay,” she thought. “I was right. They’ll follow me and see me leave in the boat.” She had to bite her tongue to keep from looking behind her. Like a soldier she marched down toward Main Street, and from a distance saw a group in front of the garden center. Isaiah, Pastor Banks, Ishmael, Cali, and Alison were already standing amid their bags and a wagon of some kind. “There’s my girl!” exclaimed Isaiah. She received hugs all around. 
One of those new super-compact cars sped into the parking lot and came to a stop, skidding on the gravel. Out jumped Sara Williams carrying a huge canvas bag, and ran over to the group. “Just on time,” said Isaiah. “Okay everyone, we’re off. Thank you again, Alison, you’re the best!” Pushing the wagon like an oversize shopping cart, he led the group across the street and down a path to the river’s edge. A few feet of open ground sloped down to the water, and a fair sized boat was aground there, it’s bow wedged into the mud. 
“The River Queen!” yelled Cali, and ran forward. “Sharon!” A tall dark skinned woman in a long-sleeved tee shirt and jeans stood there holding the bow line. Abby noticed she wore a cap identical to Cali’s, with the words Black Hills on the front.
The bow of the boat did not come a point, but formed a flat ramp that Sharon had lowered to the ground, enabling Isaiah to push the cart aboard. Everyone followed and sat on the side benches. Sharon raised the ramp, pushed the boat out into the river, and jumped aboard. In a moment the boat was heading upstream, hugging the shoreline where the current was slow. Soon they passed under the arch of the Main Street Bridge, struggling against the fast water, and then hugged the shoreline again. The branches of willow trees dripped right down to the river, forcing them to duck as they glided through. Pastor Banks sat behind the wheel with Sharon while Isaiah and Ishmael sat on a bench working on the lyrics to a song. Abby and Sara joined Cali leaning against the flat bow of the boat. Cali never took her eyes off the river ahead, and was constantly warning Sharon about floating branches, rocks, unusual currents,and oncoming boats. Abby studied the shoreline and was amazed by the high water, running over the bank and sweeping away anything in its path. They passed small boats on the way, shooting downstream in the center of the current. A man in a canoe yelled out, “Fallen tree, branches, hole on the right! Go left! Left!” In a second he was gone downstream. Cali stopped talking and focused on the water ahead.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 26

THE GROUP HEARS OF THE THREE FURIES

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

It seemed that the meeting was about to end, when suddenly Tom Winkle stood up and addressed the group. “Please, everyone, before we all depart I want to mention something that concerns us all. As a member of what is usually called our Church Council – really the elected Board of Trustees – I want to let you know that we have officially approved of Abby’s position as church gardener.” People clapped and shouted congratulations.
“And in case you’re not aware of it,” he continued, “our long-time friend Jean Garrison is planning to get married and retire from the Church Council in the middle of August, less than two weeks from now. We need a candidate to step forward and run for her position as trustee. I can’t tell you how important it is to elect someone who supports our effort. You should be aware that the Church Council has only seven members, and its decisions are binding on all of us unless overruled by our bishop, Richard Beckett.”
The group looked at Tom Winkle in surprise.
“He’s right,” said Geraldine with a weary sigh, as if she could hardly stand to discuss it. “Fred Peterson and I are also members of the Council, and have been surprised by our friend Jean’s sudden announcement. Of course we are very happy for her, and will host a party for her on Sunday August 2nd. But we want you to understand that a new trustee will have to be elected the following Sunday.”
No one spoke.
Abby was thinking, “Ah ha! The nightmare monster appears, terrifying the town.”
The silence went on. Finally Terrence Williams said, “Please forgive my questions, but I’m new here and need to understand how this works. Geraldine, I see that you and Fred and Tom are three of the trustees, and one member is leaving, so… who are the other three?”
Again there was silence. Abby noticed Tuck looking at the floor. He had grown pale, and picked nervously at his fingernails. Geraldine was clearly reluctant to reply, and looked anxiously to Tuck for help, but he would not meet her eyes.
“The other three members of the Board?” Geraldine finally said. “Yes, well… their names are Wilma Owens, Laura Irving, and Betty Palmer.”
Chester Peterson – Fred’s brother, who had been unusually quiet all evening – suddenly muttered sarcastically, “Meet the Three Furies of Middletown…”
Nervous laughter rippled across the group, and people looked to Geraldine for a reply.
“It is true,” she said, “that they disagree with many of the recent decisions of the Council.”
“To say the least,” added Chester.
“Okay…” said Terrence, “thanks for giving us a picture. But I have no idea who these people are – these are just names to me. I gather they are not here at this meeting.”
People noticed that Tuck had raised his head and was looking carefully at the group. “I think it’s getting late,” he said, in a voice so quiet that people had to be silent and listen. “There are children looking tired. We’ll discuss these things after this meeting for those who wish to stay. I’m just glad we’ve come so far in one evening… Okay, that’s it for tonight. Thanks to you all.”
Abby felt as if dark clouds had suddenly covered the sun, promising a storm on the way. The groups’s mood had changed dramatically over the last part of the conversation. People spoke privately in hushed tones, or gathered up their children to quickly depart. Tuck sat alone, approached by no one.
But Phoebe seemed unaffected by the change, and was surrounded by young volunteers, eager to meet on the coming Friday evening there in the church basement. She promised to hand out invitations on church stationary to all young people needing them for their parents. Sara Williams, Cali, and the band decided to begin their committees as part of Phoebe’s group. The spirit of the young people seemed to rise in defiance of the gloom of the adults.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 25

THE COUNCIL MAKES A PLAN

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Suddenly Shannon, captain of Phoebe’s soccer team, raised her voice. “Hey everyone! I’m only fourteen, but Reverend Tuck invited us, so can I say something?”
“Please!” replied Tuck. “Let’s hear it!”
Quiet settled over the group. Shannon managed to get a few words out. “Well… you know, we’ve said a lot of things so far, but what are we actually going to do? My friends and I want to do stuff, get a chance to be somebody…”
“She’s right,” boomed Fred Peterson. “It’s late, and we don’t want to lose this chance to get organized. Sammy, what do you suggest? For many of us older folks wanting some changes, you’ve been our hero. How did you get the new energy going?”
Sammy looked up at the crowd and thought for a second. “Mmmm… well, mainly I just wanted to do it. I’m an old man, and want to do something to be proud of before I die. So I took some risks, and Gilligan did too, with the concerts, the greenmarket, the soccer field, giving the kids leadership to do things. I’m a careful man, but I thought to myself, I’m being a little too careful, too afraid, and time is going by. Phoebe helped me get started. And then other young people jumped in, and pretty soon they had this whole new world going on before our eyes.”
“I get it,” replied the old farmer. “So Phoebe, say something. You’re kind of famous now, and deserve every bit of it. We’re glad to see you here and staying out of trouble.”
Abby was thinking, ‘Yes, yes! Now we’re going to get this moving!’
Phoebe stood up, looking much better than a few days before. Her bruises were only visible from close up, with small bandages covering the stitches. “Well,” she said, “I’m not any sort of expert, but one thing I do know: It’s so much better to work than sit around feeling depressed.”
Everyone smiled. All were quiet, waiting for more.
“People have made great suggestions, and I think we just need to put them together. What if we run fairs on Saturdays in the churchyard? It will take us a couple of weeks to get ready, and then we could run five or six fairs before it gets cold. Each one could be a benefit for the causes we’ve talked about so far. The first one could be for Rivergate, the second for fixing up the church building, the third about the movement to stop climate change, the fourth maybe a harvest festival.”
Isaiah had been whispering to Ishmael, George, and Eddy, and then he said, “Our band will play for free. We hope we can bring a large audience to the fairs.”
“We want jobs,” said Shannon, and the other teenagers clapped and made loud remarks.
Phoebe jumped back in, saying, “Are you all aware that the concerts and the greenmarket are banned from the toy store and the coffee shop? I’m not sure why that is -- probably complaints from the usual group -- but it sure fits in with our plans for the churchyard. The greenmarket and the concerts need a new place to open. But it won’t work unless everyone helps to make these events big, really crowded. We can’t count on large donations, so we need lots of people. And that’s our strength.”
“I volunteer Phoebe to lead the Youth Council,” declared Shannon. “And I’ll help her.”

The Ghost Girl - Episode 24

THE JOURNALISM STUDENT ENTERS THE SCENE

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Terrence Williams, standing behind the circle with his daughter Shannon, spoke next: “My daughter and I live in Half Moon and are new to this church, but I want to say that we love what we see. You’ve got something good going on in this town, something we believe in. I’m a lawyer with a few connections, I manage my daughter’s soccer team that has been practicing behind the toy store and the coffee shop, and we will do all we can to support this group.”
The children began cheering as if they were watching their sports team win the big game.
“I’d also like to introduce my niece, Sara Williams, a journalism student from Evansville College. She may be able to present our story to the public in a more accurate way than… some other newspapers…” Laughter broke out around the group, but Terrence went right on, saying, “She may be able to reach out to people by telling the truth. Go ahead, stand up, Sara, let the people know who you are.” He waved to his niece, the new girl sitting next to Stephanie.
Sara rose as people waved to her and said hello. “Hi everyone,” she replied, “I’m doing an internship with Stephanie’s uncle, Freddy Baez, at the Evansville record. You may have seen his article and photos in yesterday’s paper. He’s asked me to follow developments here and write articles for the Record. I’m very interested in all that you’re doing, and I want to win support for the projects planned by this council.” She looked people in the eye and smiled. Her Afro hair-cut was tied up in a red bandana, and her face seemed to glow with enthusiasm. “I’ll be here often over the coming school year and I’m excited to meet everyone.”
People clapped again and a few stood up to shake her hand. Side conversations began to expand around the room, but Terrence had not finished. “One last thing I’d like to say! I think we should ask Phoebe and Gilligan and Sammy and their friends how they’ve been able to draw such crowds and help their stores prosper for all of us, despite the obstacles the powerful have thrown in their way.”
The eyes of the group moved to Phoebe and Gilligan. Suddenly someone yelled, “Hey! Sammy’s here too!” Cheers and yells, questions and comments erupted across the circle as everyone turned to Sammy, who was standing quietly near the door. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. “How’d you get out of jail?” someone yelled. “Is the coffee shop reopened? Congratulations to Sammy!”
The old man had tears in his eyes and waved his hand. “Terrence,” he said, “you and Wyndaman and the other lawyers… and Stephanie, you and your uncle at the Evansville Record, all deserve the credit. We'll be open for business tomorrow.”
“That goes for us too!” cried Gilligan from the other side of the circle. “The toy store will be open, same time, same place.”
Again cheers rang out. Some of the children and teens yelled, “What about the soccer field? What about us?”
“Yes!” Phoebe had to raise her voice to be heard. “Luis and I opened the field today for a couple of hours, and everything will continue as before. Shannon, Nico, Hoel and Geo ran over to talk to Phoebe, and people began to speak in small groups about the news.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 23

PLAIN TALK ABOUT THE PROBLEMS WE FACE

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Reverend Tuck gave thanks to the band and said he hoped to see them again often. Soon the crowd resumed their seats, waiting for the discussion to begin. People began whispering questions and comments to each other, and the murmuring spread around the circle. Finally, tall bearded Fred Peterson, standing with his wife outside the circle, spoke like a prophet come in from the wilderness:
“I agree with all that has been said so far. But the devil is in the details, so I’d like to risk some plain talk about the problems we face.”
The murmuring stopped.
“I think many of you are wondering why these floods are growing all along the Half Moon Valley, and why Rivergate and many other places are so vulnerable. I’d also like to give my opinion on why our church school building has been abandoned and needs repair, and what we can do to fix these problems.”
The tall farmer had their attention.
“I have relatives in Rivergate, and have studied the weather like any farmer for forty years, and I can tell you that our weather patterns have changed. The warm wind from the south brings a lot more moisture up into the forest preserve, and these storms and thunderheads are pushed west along the barrier of the Half Moon Cliffs toward the wetlands. Sometimes these storms come right over into Middletown, but mostly the clouds veer off into the wetlands, hit the cooler air from the north, and leave their moisture there. Yes, we got a bad storm here last Saturday, but it rained four times that amount up the Snake and Half Moon rivers. I drove some of my workers back to the trailer park yesterday, and Highway 71 was closed as trucks brought in tons of gravel to protect the edge of the highway from the rising water. I hear over the radio that streets in Evansville and River City were flooded on Monday. So the rising water affects the entire valley. The people with money and organization, such as our state government and the large corporations, have for years been pretending that this problem is simply not happening, or will somehow go away. But as they just said in the song, ‘one of these days that water’s gonna flow in here'.”
The crowd gave this speech a round of applause, but Fred Peterson wasn’t finished yet.
“And I’ve got one more thing to say. It used to be that the fortunate and wealthy families in Half Moon and Middletown generously supported our church and its building maintenance, its programs, and its charity to the needy. But that support has diminished over the years. And now – as our campaign to fight climate change grows – the rich and their supporters are running their own campaign to boycott donations to this church. We can expect that boycott to continue as long as we insist that climate change is an urgent moral issue for us all. And I say to you, do not expect help from the wealthy for either our church or for Rivergate. That group thinks people in Rivergate County should just move away, the sooner the better, and they hope that our minister here and folks like me would disappear as well.”
Fred Peterson took a deep breath. “We’ve seen this struggle coming for years, and most of us have been afraid to say publicly what we all know to be the case. But I think those days are over. We’ve got to take action now just to survive and live with our own consciences… Thanks for your attention, I’m here to help in any way I can.”
The farmer towered over the circle, his face both serious and sad.
“Hear! Hear!” shouted someone, amidst the clapping and cheers.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 22

THUNDER ROLLING

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“Thank you to everyone!” Pastor Banks said. “I’ve promised you some music before we open our discussion, so let’s hear it!”
The crowd gave another round of applause, as George walked over to Isaiah and Ishmael and plugged in the cord from his guitar. Isaiah made a spooky rattling sound with his tambourine, and nodded to Ishmael, who began to play a rolling melody on the bass notes. Isaiah looked at the crowd and spoke, his voice flowing with the music, saying: “We share more than we can ever know, so here we go!” Ishmael played the riff with greater volume. George joined in with some lead notes. Isaiah sang:

I woke up this morning it was dark bout half past three
A thousand miles of thunder clouds was hanging over me
You can say what you want, but a mighty wind is gonna blow
I don’t think it’s gonna stop just cause we say so

Batten down the hatches close the shutters lock the doors
Lightning’s gonna flash thunder’s gonna roar
I think we all hear that rumbling sound
Go out and listen, take a good look around

We see the water risen from the rivers and shores
Don’t think it’s gonna stop, it’s gonna rise some more
I hope you all hear me, hear me loud and clear
One of these days that water’s gonna roll in here

Ishmael took over with a guitar solo, and then Isaiah sang again, almost as a rap:

Tornados run across the plains, the hurricanes bring rain insane
The waves are sweepin over the land, who knows how long we can stand?
They tell me I’m makin it up, that I’m imagining things
But what’s that in the distance? Sounds like thunder rolling
Thunder rolling
Thunder rollinnnggg!
THUNDER ROLLINNGG!
THUNDER ROLLINNNNGGG!

The guitars and tambourine brought the song to a swift and smashing end. The audience looked stunned for a moment and then began to clap, and finally stood up and cheered. The musicians looked around the circle, surprised by the enthusiasm, and took a bow.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 17

IN REVEREND TUCK’S OFFICE

Illustration By Lawrence Tate

Illustration By Lawrence Tate

After Jeremy’s departure Abby made another nut butter and honey sandwich and drank a cup of Breakfast Mixture, hot and full of the flavor of bitter chocolate and mint. She realized that Tuck should know as soon as possible about their decision to refuse to press charges and appear in court over the assault on Phoebe and Abby at the haunted house.
“And I’ll call my parents too,” she thought. She had tried several times over the last two days to reassure them that she was okay, but had received no answer. In fact she hadn’t spoken to them for months, and her feelings of guilt -- and her constant self-criticism -- had been increasing every day.
Abby knocked on Tuck’s door for almost five minutes and was about to leave when he finally appeared. “Sorry,” he said. “I was in the middle of a phone call. What’s up?”
“I need to use the phone too,” she replied.”
“Get a cell phone as soon as you can. We have reception now all the way to the forest. That new Phones and More store on Main Street sells decent used phones.”
In Tuck’s office Abby sat behind his desk and looked out the window. The same two men lounged on a bench in front of the Middletown Standard office across the street. “They must be Morphy’s watchers,” she thought. “Are they really observing the churchyard 24/7? It’s hard to believe… this conflict is still heating up!”
“Reverend Tuck,” Abby said suddenly, “I need to tell you something.”
“Yes?” he said, taking a seat opposite her.
“I’ve been thinking it over, and I really can’t be certain who the men were – you know, the ones carrying the torches Saturday night. The light was crazy, and I was back behind the front door until the very end. And you should know that Geraldine and Phoebe can’t be sure either. I just don’t think Chief Santiago can bring any charges unless there’s some new development.”
“Well, well,” returned Tuck, “You young folks certainly know how to pick your battles.” He smiled. “Don’t forget, I was there too, and I can’t be sure who was there either.”
“And there’s more news I want to tell you,” Abby went on. “I hear that Phoebe and George and Jeremy – and probably Stephanie and Eddy and others – are coming to this council meeting tomorrow night. They want to join as permanent members with me, and we already have ideas.”
“I’m thrilled to hear it! But about these ideas… can I get any advance warning?”
“We’d like to plan fund-raising events for the church and Rivergate both. Maybe a series of festivals with music, food, children’s games, and a tour of the work going on in the churchyard once it’s ready for an audience.”
Tuck was speechless for a moment, and then exclaimed, “This is exactly what we need! We – meaning this church – need help even more than you know. Our finances have been an impossible challenge over the last five years. The Sunday offering pays only a fraction of our yearly budget. We depend upon grants and donations from the very wealthy for the rest. And you may be aware that people with money don’t like us. We usually don’t share the same goals.”
“But that’s what we all admire,” Abby said. “Your courage in the face of the powerful. We’re just copying you.”
Tuck laughed. “We’ll work together,” he said.
Abby dialed her parents’ number, and was answered by a voice recording. She gave Tuck a look of dismay. “It’s no longer a working number,” she told him. “I guess they’ve moved or something.” Her eyes shifted vacantly around the room, seeing nothing.
“I’ll help you,” returned Tuck, trying to make eye contact. “Don’t worry, I’ll find a forwarding address in a hurry. I’ve got the phone numbers and emails of hundreds of people. Promise me you won’t brood over this. I’ll speak to you as soon as I have news.”
Abby walked back to the cottage deep in thought. She lay down and stared into space.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 15

THE THREE MAKE A PLAN

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

A rushing noise came from a distance, and then the trees swayed in the wind. Wispy clouds passed over the moon. The weather was changing.
“I’m glad you’re coming out so strong!” Phoebe told Abby. “We’ll all follow you. By the way, Jeremy and Stephanie and Eddie already begged me to avoid the whole mess. They say the most expensive lawyer always wins. And I’ve certainly got other things I want to do! We need to reopen the toy store and the coffee shop and the soccer fields, and get some kind of leadership going on around here. People actually look up to us! They follow what we’re doing. We have a responsibility.” Her voice scraped and cracked from the constant whispering. Abby’s heart went out to her, expressing such emotion with her face still black and blue.

“And I’m going to need your help,” whispered Abby. “We’re beginning a new campaign at the community council meeting on Tuesday. It’s more important than you know… there’s dangerous issues just two weeks down the road. Please come.”
“We already plan to be there,” George replied. “All of us. And I know Ishmael Banks – the pastor’s son – from hanging around the Half Moon Music Center. He’s the best guitarist I’ve ever heard, and he’s younger than me. And they’ve got a mission too. The bridge to their town is flooded out!”
Abby leaned forward and whispered, “I need your help on one more problem.”
“Tell us,” returned George. “What can we do?”
“Tuck doesn’t let me out of here yet, so I need someone to go to the haunted house for me. I could sneak out but that house will be watched and I’ll be followed. But I need a few things that are hopefully still there. On the second floor in the room just to the right of the stairs there’s a hole in the sheet rock. Reach along the wall to your left and you’ll find a backpack full of small packets of seeds. I need them very, very badly.”
“Got it,” replied George, taking notes.
“And if you’ll reach back there to the right you’ll feel my guitar in a canvas case. I need that too.”
“You play guitar?” asked George in amazement.
“A little bit,” Abby shyly replied. “Just for myself. But I’ll show you sometime.”
“That would be… I mean I would love that.” He was clearly thrilled.
“Oh!” Abby went back to her previous train of thought. “In my basement room – Phoebe will tell you where it is – my sleeping bag is there. I’m going to need it. And under the collapsed back porch is my bike. I know it’s a lot to ask… but I would be very grateful.”
“I’ll do it,” said George.
Phoebe shook her head. “George, I know it’s a pain, but you shouldn’t be seen collecting this stuff and riding back into the churchyard. In a way we’ve been successful by not appearing to be a group. You’ve convinced them that you’re mainly interested in money and moving up in the world, and have no other goals or loyalties. They can work with that. They understand making money and moving up in the world. But as soon as they see you’re all about being tight with us, your opportunities as a spy will be over, and they’ll take revenge. You might need to quit this spy thing soon...”
Abby cut in, saying: “Tuck has stressed these rules to me over and over: no friends in the cottage, no anything that could be photographed and used against us. Tuck is scared. He could lose his job. The old school building looks abandoned, and the church must be broke. And an election for the board of trustees is coming up in two weeks! We’ve got to help raise money for the church and Rivergate both. Don’t forget, I was born in Rivergate, I have relatives and childhood friends there. They are my people by birth.”
Phoebe and George waited quietly. This was a side of Abby they had only seen from a distance, and it had given Abby a cloak of mystery. But now they were seeing her heart close at hand.

“Why don’t we ask Jeremy to pick up Abby’s things?” suggested Phoebe. “No one thinks he’s close with Abby, and he doesn’t work in town where he’s easily watched.”
“I’m fine with that,” whispered Abby. “But remember: this new agreement with Morphy won’t stop them from following us, trying to learn our secrets, and taking pictures they can try to put a spin on. They want Tuck and I out of here. They want the whole town and mining rights in the forest. They’re looking at the kind of money that’s got them foaming at the mouth.”
“None of us will forget,” Phoebe said, and put her arms around them. Their eyes were used to the dark. They could see each other’s faces beaming in the moonlight. Abby led them back down Tiny’s path and unlocked the iron door. Phoebe and George disappeared into the night.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 14


A BIG DECISION

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

“So we’ve got to decide tonight,” George told them.
“Wow!” whispered Abby. “What do you make of it? Can we trust Morphy at all? I mean, we know what his big plan is, and he’s not going to stop.”
“That’s what I say,” muttered Phoebe.
“I’ve thought it over word by word,” replied George. “Of course he hasn’t changed his plan. He’s cold and angry, and when he talks his hand moves like a karate chop. He’s not giving an inch out of good will. But he is a trained lawyer and super successful business man, rich beyond anything we can conceive of. He didn’t get there by beating his head against a brick wall. It’s clear he sees this situation as a setback and wants to retreat. If he thought there was anything to be gained by attacking us he would have done so. Our only question is this: will we also lose by attacking?”
“You know,” Abby burst out in a loud whisper, “Geraldine asked me some hard questions just a few hours ago. Do we want to spend the next couple of years tied up in court, and probably accomplish nothing? A lot of people will get hurt. And this community council meeting event the day after tomorrow has got me thinking. I spent the first ten years of my life in Rivergate. I remember Pastor Banks. And most of the people in Rivergate are descendents of families driven out of Hidden Valley at the time the old Georgi house were burned.”
“Whoa!” whispered Phoebe. “I’m beginning to understand.”
Abby leaned forward. “Now, you probably don’t know that the haunted house where I was living used to be a Georgi house, a place where the family stayed during the winter to be near town. Do we want all this coming out at a trial? Given our mission as it stands, I don’t think we do, not at all.”
Abby’s voice was rushing along when suddenly they heard the sound of a breaking stick, an unmistakable snap. The noise seemed to come over the churchyard wall. They all froze, listening. Very faintly, Abby heard a crunching noise, like steps.
“What was that?” asked George in a faint whisper. “Am I imagining things?”
They waited. The voice of an owl seemed to enter the conversation. The whoo! Whoo! call seemed almost on top of them.
“Could someone have heard us?” whispered Phoebe.
“Noise could carry outside the wall,” answered Abby, “but I don’t think anyone could make out our words from there.” She tried to shake off her fears. “Look, let’s finish up. I’m in favor of accepting the agreement.” She turned to Phoebe. “I don’t want you charged with assault. Period. Do we want you struggling with this? We’ve got other more interesting and useful things to do. Plus, I think you both know why I don’t want attention focused on the events in Hidden Valley. I mean, that’s what we’re protecting. That’s what the Protectors of the Wood do! And people in Rivergate have reason to be scared. They’ve suffered horribly in the past and are coming to us now as their homes get flooded. We’ve got a lot to lose too…”
“I agree with Abby,” George whispered. “I already thought so but now I’m sure.”
They looked at Phoebe, who was quietly biting her lip. “I’m so grateful,” she whispered. “I love you both.”
www.protectorsofthewood.com

The Ghost Girl - Episode 13

GEORGE TELLS HIS STORY

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"Is it really you? Oh, I'm so happy! I'm so happy!"
"Is everything okay?"
Abby nodded, locked the door, and beckoned them to follow. Up the narrow path they went in single file. As they entered the mulch pile the sky opened up and the moon shone on their faces. They sat down cross-legged on the dry leaves, making a small triangle. "Talk in whispers," Abby warned them. "The watchers are on duty all night across the street." They looked at each other, waiting for someone to begin.
"Phoebe," whispered Abby, "You saved my life last night. I owe you. I'll always remember the... the way you..." She was at a loss for words. Phoebe embraced her, and whispered in her ear, "It's okay. I wanted to do it. I would do it again."
"I'm your friend forever," Abby replied. It was something she had never said to anyone before. Then she became aware of George, looking on at this emotional scene and shifting away from the girls as if he were an intruder. She turned and pulled him closer by the shoulders, and hugged him. "George, I'm so glad to see you! But... aren't you taking a big risk coming here, with this business of being a spy? They'll take revenge like they've tried with me."
"That's one big reason we're here tonight," Phoebe cut in. "George, you tell it."
He looked at Abby and said, "You should know from the start that we're under pressure. We have to make decisions tonight."
"Go for it," said Abby.
"Well, this morning Peabody came up to me on the sidewalk and said we had to talk right away about what he called 'a very sensitive job'. So we crossed the street to his office, and he walked me into the back room. And who should be sitting there but Milton Morphy, the great robber baron himself! As soon as I sat down he just goes off in that angry voice, saying I betrayed him, sold photos to the enemy, can't be trusted, and they'll deal with me accordingly. I told him I'm not under any contract, and I'd earned ten times more money from The Evansville Record in one hour than I'd made from their newspaper over the last three months. Peabody got all frantic and told me I shouldn't talk to Milton that way, that it could hurt me forever, but Morphy just waved him off and said, 'No, no, I understand, I see the boy has ambitions. He wants to make money.' Then he came to the point and said he had an important job for me, where I could make more money than I'd ever had before."
George took a deep breath. 
"Go on, go on," whispered Abby.
"Morphy said there had been 'unfortunate misunderstandings' last night, and one of his colleagues had been hospitalized with a serious injury. He knew that Phoebe had hit him with a club and broke his arm, and said that she should be charged with assault and spend jail time. But then he added that some people in town had gotten 'a little hysterical'... so Phoebe may have thought she was defending herself. And now the police are trying to identify those people who became hysterical, the mob who thought magic had caused the storm and the car accidents and the blocking of the street, and went to that house in the forest in search of a witch." George saw he had all their attention.
So..." he went on, "Morphy said he'll make 'a little informal agreement', and let the whole thing alone if Phoebe and Tuck and Dr. Bear will also agree to do the same. Then he added, 'Nothing written, mind you! And if my name comes up at all you'll be very sorry, I promise you that!'
"It was really tense," George whispered. "I couldn't come up with a word to say. And Morphy just stares at me and says, 'Well, I'm waiting.'"

The Ghost Girl Blog - Episode 12

A SECRET MEETING

Illustration By Lawrence Tate

Illustration By Lawrence Tate

As soon as Geraldine was out the door, Abby opened her second note of the day. It read: 

Abby, Be There! The back door at 1PM tonight. More important than before. With Love and Hope,
Phoebe

She read both notes twice and then ripped them up and threw the pieces into the wood burning stove and lit them. “There’s got to be some danger for Phoebe to push me like this,” she thought. “It’s like waving a red flag and saying, ‘Look out, look out!’” 
Abby lay down on the bed and stared vacantly at the peeling paint on the ceiling. “I’ve got to get myself together and eat something,” she told herself. “I’ve lost my appetite again. I’m too jittery.” She stood up and paced the room, walking back and forth in the tiny space. “But at least I’m going to see Phoebe! I can’t wait. To think of how she helped me! She believes in me, no matter what I do. Now if only George and Jeremy and Stephanie and Eddy could come too. At least George! There must be some kind of threat.” 
Abby paced back and forth. “Oh! I’m sure they have news for me. Let’s get this new life going!” Finally she calmed down and ate a nut butter sandwich with a glass of apple cider. Then she set her alarm clock for 12:30 and lay down again. Soon her thoughts rushed along like the flow of a river. Pictures from the evening before at the haunted house came back to her. She re-lived the scene there in the dark with a crowd threatening Phoebe and her with torches, and the crazy firelight bending and shifting with the trees in the wind. Abby gasped, breathing rapidly, and sat up on the edge of the bed.“Definitely post-traumatic stress,” she told herself. “Geraldine was right about everything.” Then her thoughts turned into dreams.

The alarm clock rang in what seemed like a moment later. Abby threw cold water on her face, made a cup of Breakfast Mixture and drank it slowly. She felt good, relaxed but ready, eager for the coming adventure. The minutes ticked by. She put on her trademark dark jeans and long sleeved black tee shirt, and paced the room again. Finally she put the key in her pocket and climbed out the back window. She was fairly certain someone would still be watching from the bench across the street. A yellow moon shone in her face, and glimmered on the twisted and broken old apple trees and the high churchyard wall. Nothing moved. The night was still, the song of the crickets the only sound. She passed like a shadow behind the apple trees, and then crawled into a tiny opening at ground level between the hedge and the wall. Pushing up gently through the leaves, she rose into the mulch pile. She waited there and listened for a few minutes in silence. Then she brushed the leaves off her hair and clothes, and continued across the leaves and down Tiny’s path along the wall. In a moment she entered the secret place. Still no sound but the crickets. Abby slipped the key into the lock of the iron door, turned it with a faint click, and then leaned against the wall, listening patiently. In a few minutes she heard steps, the soft pat-pat of shoes on the ground. 
"There’s more than one person!” she thought. “I should have left the door locked!” She moved back a few steps along the wall, ready to run if necessary. The steps came closer, closer, and then stopped. Seconds ticked by. 
"Abby,” came a whisper. “Abby, are you there?” She knew instantly it was Phoebe’s voice! Abby opened the door, and Phoebe burst in with George on her heels, colliding with Abby in the dark. All three wore black, and could hardly see each other. "Phoebe! George!” 
"Abby!” They whispered to each other and embraced, all three at once.

The Ghost Girl Blog - Episode 11

WHEN WOULD BE A BETTER TIME THAN NOW TO BEGIN?

Illustrations By Lawrence Tate

Illustrations By Lawrence Tate

After Glenda, Tiny, and Lucy had departed, Abby knocked on the side door of the church to request the use of Reverend Tuck’s phone. She had not spoken to her parents for weeks, and felt sure they had seen her on TV News and were afraid and worried. But the number rang fifteen times with no answer.
Coming back to the cottage in the dim light Abby was startled by a dark shape at the door. In a few seconds she recognized the reassuring silhouette of Geraldine.
“Hello, dear,” said Geraldine softly. “I’m glad to catch you. I have presents from your friends, and I wouldn’t want them to go to waste.”
As they entered Abby asked if she could stay for a few minutes.
“Of course, I’d be happy to. And here’s part of a smoked salmon, a loaf of Penny’s bread, and another note for you!” She set the bag on the countertop. “Now, tell me about your day? How are you feeling?” Geraldine took a seat, and looked carefully at Abby across the table.
“There’s a couple of things…." Abby said. "Remember you said this morning that if I need to talk to let you know? Well, I could really use your help now.”
“Go right ahead, dear, this is a good moment for me. I don’t have to be anywhere.”
“I was behind the door listening at the service this morning, and I heard you read from the Bible, and heard Reverend Tuck’s sermon, and I was… well, both happy and frightened. I mean, I admire your courage, but wasn’t it all a bit provocative for such a day? I mean, on my first day here at the church, for you and Tuck to proclaim the daughter of God, and for Tuck to mention the burning of the old Hidden Valley houses with some of my ancestors in them… and to invite Pastor Banks from Rivergate… well, it kind of brings the long war out in the open, doesn’t it?”
Geraldine nodded. “I appreciate your confiding in me,” she said. “You see, I never knew until this moment that you had ancestors living in Hidden Valley in the early 1940s. That was back before I was born. But I did know that the population of Hidden Valley fled to Rivergate at that time.”
“But… how did you know that?”
“I’ve been there often in the course of my work, making home visits to families with children recovering from operations and illnesses.” Geraldine paused and caught Abby’s eye. “You may not remember, but you were one of them.”
Tears came to Abby’s eyes. “I’ve never forgotten! And I know I never thanked you. It’s just hard to mention it…”
“I understand, dear.” Geraldine held her hand. “You thanked me with your eyes. You communicated more than you know.”
They were silent for a moment.
Geraldine continued, saying, “Your parents never discussed their history or family of origin with me, and I never asked. But I’ve been well-aware that most of the Rivergate people are at least partly descended from the original inhabitants of Hidden Valley. It was their land, as was the entire Half Moon Valley once upon a time. The people from Hidden Valley stayed far longer in their ancestral home than most of the Half Moon People. But after that lunatic mob from Middletown burned the houses and barns – a whole small town, really – most of the people fled to Rivergate, where their relatives already lived.”
“People don’t talk about this,” muttered Abby. 
“Oh yes they do, as you well know.”
“But I have good reason to be afraid,” cried Abby. “Look what happened to my father’s parents and to so many others! We moved off to Ridgewood to hide from all this, but it won’t stay hidden! And now here I am in the middle of it, stirring up the town to violence.”
“Now now! Don’t take that all on yourself," Geraldine replied. "You didn’t start the violence. Even when you were young, people could see a spiritual quality about you. You used to have a nickname, do you remember?”
“You mean ‘the Ghost Girl’? That was just to tease me. I was sick and pale and thin as a ghost. People thought I was half-dead already.”
“Ghost is another name for spirit. You have a glow about you, and a particular destiny is pulling you along.”
Abby burst into tears. “I can’t bear to have people know all this.”

Geraldine waited for Abby to recover, and then began again: “So, can you see now that post-traumatic stress is not just my excuse to keep people from bothering you? It goes way, way back. The people of Rivergate suffer as a group. And the mob of murderers from Middletown suffer from it even more, but in a different way. Their consciences eat them up. The stain of guilt is upon them, even if it’s the guilt of their ancestors. And I think you’re aware that most of humanity suffers from this, all over the world. In a frenzy we are destroying the very world we live in. We’re in the process of destroying ourselves.”
“I know, I know,” Abby murmured, her head in her hands.
“That is why Reverend Tuck and I are going public with the Sophia scriptures you heard this morning. We feel that a call is going out to all people to change, to live differently, to love the earth and save this world for their children and the life to come. When would be a better time than now to begin?”

The Ghost Girl Blog - Episode 10

THE GROWN-UPS ALWAYS RUIN IT

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Abby, Tiny, and Lucy gazed at the lovely new place they had discovered.
“Awesome job exploring, girls!” exclaimed Abby. “Look what you found!”
The space was shaped as a triangle, with the stone walls covering two sides and the long fallen tree covering the third. Abby was amazed that the gigantic old maple tree had never been removed. The result was a virtually impassable cocoon of vines, young maple trees, and thorny brambles. As the slope of the yard received less sun in the shadow of the wall, smaller plants and herbs grew, until in the corner by the door only some thin grasses covered the ground. Except for the locked door to the outside world, only the narrow path from the privet fort provided an entrance to this hidden domain. They walked along the back wall and found a pile of branches and short sections of the fallen tree. Years ago someone must have cut it off the wall. Abby rolled three circular pieces to the open space near the door to serve as seats, and then rolled a larger piece to serve as a table. They sat down to consider their stunning success.

After surveying the scene in silence, Lucy said, “We need to bring cups and cider.”
“And chocolate,” added Tiny.
“It’s a secret place, only for us,” said Lucy, looking at the others to emphasize her words.
“Can we tell Glenda?” asked Abby.
“Only Glenda,” said Lucy generously.
“I have a few friends who help me,” said Abby. “They know how to keep secrets.”
“Phoebe is one of them,” said Lucy.
“How do you know?”
“Chester said that Abby and Phoebe won the day.”
“Dawn said that Phoebe’s okay,” said Tiny.
“That’s all right then,” conceded Lucy. But she turned to Abby and laid down the law, saying, “You and your friends have to promise to not let them ruin it.”
“What do you mean? Who’s going to ruin it?”
“You know, they always ruin it. The grown-ups don’t like these places. They never let them be. You’ve got to promise!”
“Whew!” whistled Abby. “That’s a tall order. I’m supposed to be the gardener here. They’re going to want me to clean up this place.”
“See! See!” returned Lucy. “They never understand! Never! You can’t say anything to them! What good are you and your friends? I thought you were on our side.”
“Dawn says she wants you to promise," declared Tiny. "Where’s Emily going to play? That’s what Dawn wants to know. Someday Dawn’s coming to Middletown, and Emily is going to play here.”
“Oh my,” muttered Abby, “this is all more serious than I thought.” Some water in her eyes ran onto her cheeks as she shook her head. “I wonder what Reverend Tuck will think if I tell him we can’t touch this…”
“Well, maybe you can touch it,” said Lucy, willing to compromise a little. “But you can’t ruin it.”
“Okay, hopefully we can manage that. I promise to do my best. And my friends will promise too, I know they will. We already promised to protect the forest.”
“That’s what Chester said,” Lucy told them.
“But I need you girls to understand,” warned Abby, “I am not the king of the world. Sometimes I have to change my plans. Like for instance I notice a lot of poison ivy over there. Do we want children to play here and get poison ivy?”
“No!” They exclaimed. 
“And what if they want a path to this door so people can walk through and see the birds? But I promise to do the very best I can to protect this place and make the world as good as I can.”
Lucy looked at Tiny, and Tiny nodded. “Okay,” said Lucy. “That’s fair.”
Deep shadows were growing around them. Mosquitoes and fireflies roamed around them. Abby jumped up and said, “What will Glenda think? It’s getting dark. She’ll have no idea where we are.”
And in almost no time they were filing out of the privet fort and walking to the cottage door.

The Ghost Girl Blog - Episode 9

THE SECRET PLACE

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

At that moment came a knock on the door. “Yes, come in!” yelled Tuck.
The door opened part way and a gray-haired woman leaned into the room. “I’m sorry to bother you, but Glenda Trimble with Tiny and Lucy insist on seeing Abby.”
“Yes!” cried Abby.
“Ah,” replied Tuck. “Send them in! Thank you so much, Janet.”
Suddenly Tiny burst into the room, scanned it in a microsecond, saw Abby and shrieked, “Abby, Abby!” running to her with outstretched arms. “Abbyyy!”
Abby embraced Tiny and lifted her up, swinging her through the air. Lucy Winkle immediately followed, and stood taking in the whole room with surprising composure for a five year old. Glenda entered rather timidly, clutching a briefcase and looking apologetically at Reverend Tuck. “I didn’t realize we’d be interrupting…”
“Not at all, not at all,” replied Tuck.
“We saw you on TV,” Tiny told Abby breathlessly.
“Oh! I was worried about that,” Abby replied. “I hope it didn’t scare you.”
“You’re famous,” Lucy announced.
“Me? Not so. I’m nobody.”
“Yes so!” returned Lucy. “You stopped the cars and escaped from the men. My Grandpa said so.”
Abby smiled. “Okay! It must be true then. Do you think they’ll leave me alone now?”
The words popped out of Abby’s mouth without thinking. She immediately regretted it. 
“I don’t know,” replied Lucy with a frown. “Tiny said they’re after you.” 
“No one’s going to bother me here,” Abby tried to reassure her. “Let’s… take a walk in the churchyard. It’s still a nice afternoon."
“Yes!” cried Lucy. “We want to explore.”
“Can I interrupt for a second?” asked Glenda. “I’ve got a research paper due tomorrow. I got nothing done this weekend, so I brought some work with me. Is it okay if you explore without me?”

And so as Glenda worked in the cottage, Tiny, Lucy, and Abby walked out into the glow of the setting sun. The shadows stretched across long grass, wild plants, fallen branches, and leaves. There were dark corners and shifting light as the breeze blew. The yard had been neglected for years. “No wonder they need a gardener,” Abby thought.
“Dawn wants to go this way,” announced Tiny. Abby and Lucy were familiar with Tiny’s apparently imaginary characters, Dawn the Good Fairy and Emily her daughter. Tiny often spoke of them as if they were actually there to talk to.
She led the way past the row of apple trees toward the back of the churchyard. Soon they reached an enormous privet hedge, almost eight feet tall. Tiny followed the hedge part way across the yard, and then turned left as the hedge ran down toward the back wall. Suddenly an entrance with an arched roof of privet branches opened into the oldest and largest mulch pile Abby had ever seen. An area about twenty-five feet square was full of a hill of leaves about six feet high in the middle. The children laughed and ran about, jumping and throwing leaves in the air. Tiny inspected the edges of their fortress of leaves. “Dawn wants to go this way,” she said, and pointed to a narrow opening where the privet hedge met the churchyard wall. Walking slowly, they passed the upended roots of an old fallen tree, thickly overgrown with Virginia creeper and poison ivy. They slid along the wall past raspberry bushes with sharp thorns, and suddenly emerged onto a small open slope that descended gently to the back wall. An old wrought-iron door led to the dirt road and cornfield beyond.
“Ah!” thought Abby. “This is where I’m supposed to meet Phoebe tonight!”

Lucy and Tiny ran a few steps to the door and found it locked. Abby joined them, and ran her fingers across the upper edge of the doorframe, and found a long silver key among the dust and crumbled fragments of leaves. She slipped the key into her pocket. “Awesome job exploring, girls!” exclaimed Abby. She waved her hand at the small concealed space, a special place all their own. The children’s eyes glowed with excitement and satisfaction.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 7

THE PRAYER OF ALL LIFE

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

THE PRAYER OF ALL LIFE, illustration by Carlos Uribe
Back in the tiny churchyard cottage, Abby’s mind was flooded with too many questions to think clearly. She needed someone to talk to. Suddenly she felt very alone and scared, practically imprisoned in the churchyard, isolated from her friends. She began to pace around the room, disturbed by a feeling that she was missing something. With a sudden inspiration she remembered the envelope from the grocery bag brought by Geraldine, and her hand flew to her pocket. There it was, plain and small and thin, with her name written boldly on the front in pencil. She tore it open and discovered a note from Phoebe. Feeling her heart pounding, she read:

Abby -- I miss you already! I’d like to give you time to get settled, but things have come up that we should talk about right away. As you know, Tuck is not allowing us in the churchyard, and you will be watched and followed wherever you go. The men from that mob last night are likely to be pretty nervous about the outcome of all this. I’m sure George wants to see you, but I think it’s too risky for him. But I will come to the back door of the churchyard, tonight at 1AM. I’ll continue to send notes through Geraldine, who is very cooperative.
With Love and Hope,
Phoebe

“Ah!” thought Abby with relief. “That helps. But why does Phoebe need to see me so badly? And why is it especially dangerous for George?” She began to pace around the tiny cottage like a caged animal. “And where is Reverend Tuck?” she wondered. “This Church Council meeting seems to be going on for a long time.”
Abby recalled everything she knew about the Church Council. The picture that came to mind was not reassuring. The Council would be voting, maybe at that very moment, on whether or not to allow her to be the church gardener and live in the cottage rent-free. She had moved heaven and earth to achieve this change, and was already planning the gardens and orchards she would plant, a dazzling array of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, all from Wendy’s seeds and cuttings.
“My seeds! Oh my God, I don’t have my seeds!” She remembered in a panic that her seeds were carefully hidden behind a decaying sheet rock wall on the second floor of the haunted house. Her guitar and whistles were back there too. And her bike was under the floorboards of the broken porch. Abby felt certain that the haunted house would be thoroughly searched sometime soon, if it had not happened already. Her seeds had been carefully chosen over years of planting in Wendy’s gardens. They were an irreplaceable treasure. Worrying frantically about the council meeting and her prized possessions, Abby could not sit still, and felt her heart race. The loss of her new home would leave her with nowhere to go. It was all more than she could bear.
“Help me! Help me!” In her thoughts she called out, looking for the voice of her inner friend, the green being from her vision. 

Thumbing through her copy of Black Elk Speaks, she was reminded of a strange idea that had grown in her heart since childhood. Many times she had been moved to tears by the words near the end of the book, the part where Black Elk says, “And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth – you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”
And then Abby turned to his last words in the book, where Black Elk prays from a mountaintop, crying aloud:
“It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds… In sorrow I am sending a feeble voice, O Six Powers of the World. Hear me in my sorrow, for I may never call again. O make my people live!”

Each time Abby read these words, she thought of the urgent sadness in the eyes of the green being, her earth angel, and she imagined that Black Elk and the angel were the same being, that an angel had been born as Black Elk, and became an angel again when he died, a guardian of souls, and of all life. And his vision, his dream of helping the sacred tree to live – that dream was not dead, but was fought for by angels, and lived in the heart of humans. Wendy had taught Abby that this is the prayer of all life.

“Let it live! Let it live! Let it live!” came the voice, surging with fierce energy inside her. 

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Mysteries arise as Phoebe unravels the secrets in her small town. Deep in the marrow of her bones, she feels that all her hopes are in danger of being lost. A powerful gem called dreamstone appears at the heart of the mystery.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 4

Episode 4


THE CHURCHYARD COTTAGE

13738219_1151511474890048_8186973258326712679_o.jpg

“Have you fallen asleep?” asked Reverend Tuck quietly. He stood beside her in the darkness. “It’s been a long day I know.”
Abby looked up and realized that she was still sitting outside under the stars. She shivered in a cool night breeze.
“I know we’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Tuck went on, “but for now I just want to mention a few things. Have you prepared a place in the cottage to sleep?”
“Yes, that’s fine, I’m all ready.”
“Okay, I’ll let you go in a minute. Let me remind you that tomorrow we have our 11AM church service, and with all this uproar and publicity it will be packed, and require a response from me. Dr. Bear has taken the liberty of telling reporters and police that you are recovering from a traumatic experience. You already answered a few major questions on television last night, and a video of that little interview has spread over the internet. I think that’s enough exposure for the present. Our job now is to keep you quiet and hidden away, and let this hysteria die down. So tomorrow fix up this cottage, or whatever you like, but stay inside, out of circulation. Dr. Bear will handle the outside world for you. People have offered donations, and she will receive them for you. We will bring food. So stay out of sight. No visits, no interviews…. Any questions?”
“Not now,” replied Abby. “Maybe tomorrow.”
“Then get some sleep. I’ll see you after the morning service. No, it will be a little later than that. I have to meet with the Church Council.”
Abby stood up and looked at Tuck in the faint light from her cottage. “Thank you! I appreciate all you’ve done, so much I can’t tell you.”
“That’s all right,” said Tuck with a smile. “I love my job. We’re glad to have you as a part of our family here.”

Abby awoke in the full light of day to the noise of beautiful blue jays making a ruckus outside her open window. The cottage felt peaceful, a much-needed haven. It was true that it lacked decent furniture and a refrigerator, and needed an enormous amount of work. And despite a night of open windows, the cottage exuded a damp, sour odor. 
“But that’s why no one else wants it,” she thought. “That’s why it’s all mine.”
She thought for a few minutes about Wendy: “Will she be lonely? Yes, most definitely. And I will be lonely without her. But this is my future. I have a mission in the world, as she has told me so many times. And I know she believes it. She proved it by letting me ride Hilda.”
‘Hilda’ was Wendy’s name for the flying stick, the Volador, sometimes called the broom. Abby often wondered about the nature of Hilda, the spirit of the broom. In Abby’s view, Hilda expressed a personality even though she could not talk. Yet she could listen and move and respond. Her movements could express disagreement or annoyance, or even happiness and joy. When Abby asked about Hilda, Wendy had said: “She offered me this favor long ago, when I chose this mission. Always respect Hilda, she is smarter than you.”
Abby had replied, “But she is not a person!”
And Wendy had replied, “She was a person at one time, and now she’s a kind of angel, you could say, a gift from heaven.”
Not to be put off, Abby had asked, “But what are angels?”
And Wendy said, “That’s the last question for today! They are messengers between heaven and earth, the Guardians of all life, our helpers from the other world. You don’t think life could grow up to heaven without help, do you? And you don’t have to call them angels. I just use that name because people here understand it. Your ancestors and mine on your father’s side had other names and ways of seeing them. I wish you knew more about that!”
“I wish I did too,” thought Abby.

A faint knock made her jump as if she'd heard a scream. She opened the door to see Dr. Geraldine Bear carrying two shopping bags.

The Ghost Girl - Episode 3

Episode 3


YOUR MISSION HANGS BY A THREAD

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Abby found herself watching a small, very bright sphere approaching them from above. The golden light was surrounded by sparks or tiny flames, and grew so bright that Abby had to close her eyes. When she looked again a third being stood before her, with a body covered by a golden film. Within the light was the shadow of a very expressive, almost seductive face.

“We are all overjoyed to see you,” exclaimed the red being, and then bowed with the others. “If you have advice from above we sorely need it!”
“I am bringing a message of both hope and fear,” said the new arrival, looking steadily at Wendy. The tiny golden flames flickered and grew around that beautiful head.
“Please,” replied Wendy. “Tell us. I have no secrets.”
The being stared at Wendy as if no one else existed, and declared, “This much I know with certainty: your mission hangs by a thread. The Adversary is free and active, more determined than ever to prove this long experiment a failure – here on earth above all! Whatever help we have provided, humans have not stepped up to the challenge. Over the coming ten years the crisis will come like a flood, and if the tide does not turn, the destruction will become irreversible. But you have a chance of success. Follow through with your plan – your whole plan, mind you – and do not be thrown off course by anyone or anything. I bring you this message: ‘Take courage,’ they said. ‘You are our beloved daughter. This is your hour!’”

Wendy’s face remained hidden in shadow, and with hardly a pause the messenger added in a different tone of voice, looking at the countless lights in the wide circle: “We are taking great risks here. Our presence will be discovered.”
“Do not fear,” replied Wendy. “I am nearly invisible, one of many humans, nothing special. And we are now finished here, my purpose is complete. I am very grateful to all of you.”
“Just a word before we go!” For the first time the green being’s powerful voice rang out, addressing Wendy. “I have served you across the heart-breaking years, and shared your hopes and labors here on earth. My power is limited – the work ahead will need the hand of the Hidden One to succeed. But all I can do is yours.”
Then the green being turned to Abby and spoke: “Little one, I hear an unspoken request in this meeting, and my answer is yes. I will be your guardian.” The strange face looked at Abby and expressed a complexity of identity and emotion that she would know forever, and left her speechless. ‘He will be my inner friend,’ thought Abby.
“Call on me from your heart. You know me.” The being turned back to Wendy and said, “Is that what you had in mind?”
Wendy’s eyes blinked and glistened. She bowed, concealing her tears. “More than I can say,” she answered, trying to control her voice.
In the next moment Abby saw the throng of lights recede into the night sky, back among the swirling billions, the perhaps infinite lights in the vast and mysterious cosmos. All but the green being, who disappeared into the forest.

Abby’s dream-vision ended there. The next thing she remembered was waking in the hospital, breathing through a respirator. Her desperately anxious parents were sitting nearby. She was a very skinny ten year old with chronic asthma, recovering from pneumonia.

PHOEBE COMES HOME (Book I) 
PHOEBE BREAKS THROUGH (Book II)

THE GHOST GIRL (Book III) 

by John KixMiller

The Ghost Girl - Episode 2

Episode 2

THE GUARDIANS OF THIS WORLD

Illustration By Carlow Uribe

Illustration By Carlow Uribe

They arrived in a large meadow Abby had never seen before or since – a meadow like a great cathedral between rows of tall trees with branches arching above like a vault.
“Wendy, what’s going to happen?” Abby asked in fear.
The Guardians are coming,” Wendy replied. “The Guardians of this world.”
The stars came down as many spheres of searing light, a throng that assembled around the meadow in a vast circle. Abby could distinguish some of their features by shades of shadow amid the radiant glow of their bodies. They were strikingly beautiful, pulsing with color and a sort of musical hum, the uncanny melody.

One of these glorious beings stepped forward, bright with a reddish light even to the hair and skin. Another entered from behind Abby and stood next to the first. This second being presented a radically different appearance, with skin a dark green color, and a smooth head that came to a point like certain kinds of fish. The body was partly covered with clothing like leaves in autumn, and glowed with a greenish glimmer. Abby risked taking a look at the glistening eyes, and found them staring back with great urgency and sorrow. Wendy appeared dim, frail, and tiny amidst these beings from the sky, and Abby felt even smaller and totally useless. Her whole body was shivering. “What am I doing here?” she wondered over and over.

The being with the red glow advanced even closer, and Abby saw a face so beautiful she felt her heart jump. The pupils of the eyes sparkled with an intensity of life and color she could hardly endure. 
“Yes?” asked the being in a warm voice with an undertone of anxiety. “As you see, we have come.”
“I am forever grateful,” said Wendy in her broken voice. “I present one of the young warriors, as you have foreseen.”
“Their future leader?”
“No, for they will have many leaders. She will be their representative to you.”
“Why do we need such a person?” asked the being. The sparkling eyes gave Abby a piercing look that made her turn away.
“My work draws to a close in the coming years,” replied Wendy. “But the transformation on earth will go on for a long time, nearly a century. Trust me, this meeting will prove important for all of us.”
Abby shuddered. “Her work draws to a close?” she thought frantically. “No! I need her!”
“We shall see…” said the being, conveying uncertainty and doubt. The glowing eyes of the multitude were riveted on Abby, and she felt her heart racing. “Yes,” said the being, who had stared long at Abby. “She has the talent, if it develops. Dreamstone will help her.”
“So… You will know her,” said Wendy.

“I will,” said the red being. Then he raised his voice: “But tell us! Your long labors draw to a close? Yet the most important things are left undone! You stay in retreat and do not cooperate with Teresa!” The being paused as if to control the anxiety pouring out, and the voice became sad. “You have given complete devotion to this work, yet you have accomplished very little given the need. Yes, yes, we know you have potential and strength in reserve…”
The red being paused, staring at Wendy, and then said in a tone of fierce warning: “But we also know that this great era of time is coming to the crisis, and you do not seem ready! Eons of development are in danger. The outcome is shrouded in darkness!”
“I chose the dark path on purpose,” replied Wendy, her voice uneven and frail. “I am hidden until the end, but that does not mean I am unready. And never forget that I cannot force people and events. I must inspire them. People are as free as ourselves to choose their path.”

PHOEBE COMES HOME (Book I) 
PHOEBE BREAKS THROUGH (Book II)

THE GHOST GIRL (Book III) 

The Ghost Girl- Episode 1

Episode 1

A NIGHT UNDER THE STARS

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Later that night – after the state police and the reporters and the television crew had all gone – Reverend Tuck told Abby she’d better make herself a decent place to sleep in the gardener’s cottage. That small, flimsy two-room structure had not been lived in for a decade, and needed work and supplies. Tuck gathered sheets and blankets and a pillow, a broom and dustpan, light bulbs, sponges, two kinds of soap, toilette paper, some dishes and cups, a small pot, and a frying pan. “But don’t sleep yet,” he added. “I must have another word with you before tomorrow.” Then he turned to Middletown Police Chief Santiago and Dr. Geraldine Bear to continue their conversation.

Abby took five trips from Reverend Tuck’s living quarters near the sanctuary to the cottage in the churchyard, taking all the above items as well as her duffel bag, striped red blanket, a handful of tea bags, and some leftovers from their excellent dinner. Long after midnight she finished cleaning and organizing part of the kitchen and a place to sleep. Then she rewarded herself by taking an old folding chair outside and sitting under the amazing night sky. A breeze blew through the leaves of the giant maple trees. The world was blissfully empty of people. She scanned the tumultuous events of the day, and their happy ending.

“This happened to me!” Abby thought. “Something special happened for me!”
She leaned back and took a deep breath of the fresh air that had blown into Middletown some hours before, sweeping out the enormous thunderheads and drenching rain, and leaving a crystal clear sky and a sense of a new world beginning. The stars were unusually bright and colorful, and dazzling in their swirling multitudes, going on forever. Abby began to sense a strange shift in her awareness, a sense of another world she had experienced since childhood. She normally avoided these feelings whenever possible, and quickly tried to snap her attention back to the mundane objects close at hand. But it was too late. The stars had triggered her most powerful memory…

Already she saw the stars coming closer, and felt the eerie sensation that she was rising to meet them. The small gray shape of Wendy was walking ahead of her through the dark forest. Abby could hear an uncanny melody, with a high voice singing. Her memory of the song obsessed her as the years went by. 

Through heaven and earth a tree is growing
Around the world a river is flowing
We can travel by secret ways
Like a shadow through our days
Follow me, come and see
We’re climbing the world tree

As the ages have gone by
The abyss has grown so wide
Heaven and earth are separate now
A journey no one know how
Follow me, come and see
We’re climbing the world tree

Do you see how we come closer
We’re on the pathway to the stars
Reach out your hand and touch the heavens
It’s not far, it’s not far!
Follow me, come and see
We’re climbing the world tree

PHOEBE COMES HOME (Book I) 
PHOEBE BREAKS THROUGH (Book II)

THE GHOST GIRL (Book III) 

by John KixMiller

THE GHOST GIRL BLOG! STARTING MAY 6th!!!

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TWO EPISODES A WEEK!

Our deepest thanks to all of you from around the earth following our story of a group of misfit teenagers who save the world from climate change. In Books 1 and 2 we saw the action from the point of view of Phoebe, an eighteen-year old girl who returns from college to find her hometown suddenly in the grip of mystery and danger.

In book #3 Abby becomes the church gardener and moves into the old, run-down churchyard cottage. She soon discovers that she is watched night and day by professional investigators hired by the colossal corporation trying to take over the town, and force Abby to reveal the secrets of the forest and the source of dreamstone.

Reverend Tuck, Abby, and their allies form a community council to run churchyard events and gather support for their efforts to engage the church in the fight against climate change. The community in Rivergate, an island in the wetland preserve, and Abby’s childhood home, joins their mission. The struggle with Milton Morphy and his corporate empire reaches a dangerous climax as Abby flees for her life into the forest.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Protectors of the Wood #3 by John KixMiller

Protectors of the Wood #3

by John KixMiller

Giveaway ends May 05, 2019.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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