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TWISTED AND UNTWISTED TALES
Star Lady Tales Book 5
BY MARI COLLIER
This collection from author Mari Collier contains sixteen short tales, ranging from the ancient past to our own era and into the far future.
In the past, a man learns of his twin’s demise and receives a dire warning. In modern times, a widow learns her beloved daughter has rejected something they both once held dear. In another contemporary story, a young lady struggles to bake a Plain Cake that her grandmother will accept. The futuristic tales contain a short story from the planet Dunbar, now inhabited by an alien race called Thalians. In another tale, archaeologists visit a shattered Earth to discover a Woman in White, who has waited centuries for them. You will also meet the Sasquatch of the desert: The Yucca people. Not all of the stories will have a twisted ending, but you can still expect a surprise at the end. You will find Twisted and Untwisted Tales in digital and paperback at your favorite outlet.
A DUNBAR ENCOUNTER
Dillon lowered his guitar on the last strummed notes. Tears were in his brown eyes and the eyes of the listeners. He smiled at me.
“That be it, the tale of the one who saved our home planet years ago. Other ballads tell of his bones being buried here in the far western lands where tis said to be known by those that still live out there. Now tell me, did ye like the part where he battled the monsters of the deep or the monsters of the earth before delivering the magic blue crystal to his father? Mayhap ye favor the part where they fight the flying monsters with blue flames?”
“Oh, no,” one of the women at the bar chimed in. “She would have liked the part where the Kenning Woman throws her own blue flames at the witches. Then she marries the blind-eyed one and from that union comes Daniel, the dragon slayer.”
I cleared my throat and looked at Dillon before speaking. His straight, dark hair was parted in the middle and clubbed back. His brown eyes were fixed on me waiting for my answer. No man had a right to be so handsome and broad shouldered.
“Well, I must say the underwater part was quite frightening. You will have to forgive me for not responding right away. Your words and singing are very effective in raising one’s emotions.” I was not lying for his voice had stroked my soul.
Dillion smiled and straightened. The smile showed white teeth, still undarkened by age or by the pina pod skins. He was smaller than the Thalians that settled this planet, but still blocky by Earth’s standards.
“Well, now, since ye liked that so much, would ye like the ballad of Daniel the Dragon Slayer? It tells how he was so mighty that he rid the skies of them and could wrestle them down with brute strength. We can share another brew while I am singing. It does go on for a while.” His smile drew my breath away.
“And his love life was so tragic.” This came from the youngest woman at the bar. She was but barely out of her teens and still slender. Her dark eyes filled with tears just thinking of the ballad.
“No, thank you, Dillion, but if I could return tomorrow night, I would indeed like to hear about a real dragon slayer. We have such legends on Earth, but the passage of time has dimmed any details. Thank you for a most memorable evening.” I stood, and turned off my recorder. The song would be deposited in the records when I returned to the ship. It took a moment to realize the door was to my left.
A chorus of farewells followed me out the door, but so did Dillion. I was truly grateful to be out of that close, drinking hall made of rough wooden timbers. How could an ancient society devolve so rapidly? My head was splitting from the bad brew, a song that could last for hours, and the smell of burning pina pods. Didn’t they know the pods and leaves were much better used for tea, for oils, for a nut snack, anything besides the barely euphoric narcotic they made from it? My head needed to be clear for the notes I would make from the recordings. I was surprised when Dillion took my arm.
“This is the first time you have had our pina brew. Sometimes it hits the Earthers hard. I will make sure ye are safely to your quarters.”
I was about to shake my arm free when I realized his touch was soothing and exciting at the same time and I did seem to have a bit of a problem walking at night in the dimmed street lights. Besides, he is a handsome man. Since I was gathering information on their culture, what better way than a chat while walking to my appointed quarters?
At the door to the apartment I had been assigned, he swept me into those strong, muscled arms of his and began kissing me. It took my breath away and started every nerve end in my body jumping, yearning, and crying out for more, more, more! Somehow the door was opened, we walked through, Dillion kicked it shut, and then he was carrying me into the bedroom.
“Tonight our bodies will sing together,” he whispered into my ear. And sing we did. It was a wondrous concert that went on for hours.
I didn’t waken until the sun was directly overhead and high enough to beat through the heavy layer of clouds that seem to cover the seacoast of Dunbar. For a few seconds I simply blinked my eyes and tried to remember where I was. My head was still throbbing and I stumbled into the adjacent room looking for facilities and a Comfort. At first I was shocked staring into the wavy mirror. My eyes seemed to be turning a light brown instead of the green with brown flecks bestowed on me at birth by the genetics of a blue-eyed father and a brown-eyed mother.
Once I finished washing my hands and splashing water onto my face, I realized the Comfort was in my case. I stumbled back into the room when the insistent beep-beep from my com demanded an answer.
My “hulo” came out slurred. Even to my ears it sounded wrong.
.“Lynne? Ms. Laven, is that you?” Captain Jessup’s voice seemed to roar in my ears.
“Aye, sir,” came out mumbled.
“What’s wrong?” He demanded.
“My head; it’s all fuzzy and my eyes are turning brown. I think my hair is still light brown.” The last must have been incomprehensible to Captain Jessup.
“That’s it. A carrier is being sent for you. You’ll return here for evaluation.”
“But I promised Dillion I would listen to his ballad of Daniel, the Dragon Slayer.” That came out as a wail. Something inside was drawing me back to that wood, smoke filled room of gentle loving people and a masterful man in bed. I wanted to experience it all again. I could almost feel the nerves below tingling in anticipation of beholding Dillion’s dark eyes smiling at me or his hands stroking my body.
“Be ready in ten minutes or they’ll use force to return you.” The com went dead. I tried to re-establish a connection, but there was no response. I hurled the thing across the room. There was just time enough to grab a quick bite and smooth my hair. I ran the few blocks to the wooden building, but it was locked against the daylight.
I choked back a sob when I realized it would not open until the soft light of the evening hours no matter how hard I pounded with my fists. Where, where did these people dwell? In their homes, of course. Obviously, my head was still not operating up to par. Why weren’t some of them about? Where was Dillion? I turned, hoping that some movement would tell me which direction I should go, when a pair of Uniteds came quick-stepping down the street.
“Ah, Ms. Laven, come with us, please. Captain Jessop has ordered you back to the ship.”
I stared at them. How did they find me so rapidly? I looked at my hands. Somehow the sides of my fists were bruised. How long had I pounded on that plank door?
The two were now on either side of me and guiding me towards a silvery capsule almost as large as a house. The sunlight gleamed against it.
“Oh, how lovely, that is. Someone should compose a ballad about it and the brave men who pilot it.”
“Yes, ma’am.,” they replied and belted me into a seat. I fell asleep immediately when ensconced in the comforts of the cushy seat. How unlike the hard, wooden stool I sat on last night. My dreams were of smoke and music sung by a wide-shouldered, dark haired man with white teeth. I woke briefly while they docked and tried to flee.
It took the two of them to drag me from the carrier. I kept begging them to take me back. They must have called ahead for the hover gurney and a white clad droid was waiting for me by the door. Struggle was useless. I was belted down and taken to the Med Lab. I remember thinking what beautiful sliver and blue walls. The white gurney and white clad med clothing looked so lovely as they attached a tube to my arm and the darkness closed over me.
I awoke in a pink room, in a bed with paler pink sheets and covers. A female in a white pant suit was smiling at me.
“I’m glad to see you awake, Ms. Laven. I’m Doctor Mavis Melan. “Do you remember me?”
My head must have nodded yes as she continued. “You took in quite a heavy dose of pina liquor to have induced that state of intoxication. How often had you indulged before?”
For a moment I stared at her stupidly before replying. “Liquor? I had a couple of bad beers made from the pina pods and some other kind of grain; that is, I assume there must have been some other grain. That was the first time I had ever had any type of food or drink from the pina pods. How long have I been here?”
“Oh, it’s been about twenty hours since they brought you aboard. We’ve done a blood cleansing procedure and a sauna treatment. That seems to have cleared the narcotic out of your system. Now I need to determine if you are rational again.” She smiled and began the questions.
“What is your position with the United Federacy?”
“I am Chief of the Archaeology/Anthropology Survey for this trip.”
“Good. What is your main objective?”
“I’m to locate any Earth artifacts to prove an Earth connection with this planet. We need that to claim administrative oversight and to keep out the Clarians.”
“How was your night on the town related to that objective?” Her stare became quite stern.
“Thalians weren’t that musical on their own planet. Here they have a tradition of ballads for the old legends and singing them in their gatherings in a brew hall. Folklore usually has a connection to the realities of the past. Dillion, the balladeer, did mention that an Earthman is part of the legend of early arrivals.”
Her face softened and she continued. “Have you had the pina brew previously?”
“Never.” My response vehement. “I just had two. It couldn’t have put me so totally out of touch.”
“Well, it did if they did not add anything to your drinks. Here, you need to know what you were doing the next morning.”
The pink wall turned a shade of white. There I was pounding on a wooden door, screaming and crying for them to let me in. The Uniteds were reaching for my arms. It then showed me screaming and kicking to get loose while I screamed for Dillion. Obviously, I was trying to escape them and return to that smelly brew hall and resume my affair with Dillion.
“That is disgusting. How can that be me? I swear I did not have more than two at the max. I didn’t notice anyone else that was so drugged from the brew. Did they give me something different?”
“Captain Jessup is investigating that aspect of the incident. You’ll have to ask him. The pina intoxicant was in every cell in your body. It would be interesting to determine if all of the inhabitants of Dunbar are so infected or if it simply constitutes the patrons of that bar.”
“I am thinking rationally now. Am I free of the pina intoxicant?”
“Yes, you are,” she answered, “but you have a debriefing with Captain Jessop in two hours. I suggest you use the time to write down everything that you can remember. If you are able to remember what happened and how many drinks you were served, please note that. We have the recording and the video from your command insignia and will be able to verify anything you write.”
“What if there is there a variance from what I told you?” Her response made me question my abilities.
“I wouldn’t know Ms. Laven. My job is your physical body, not the worldly spying you do.”
That brought a frown to my face. “ArchaeoSocialogists are not spies, nor are we classified as spies. We do not spy. We simply gather information and note the surrounding cultural habits to see how they relate to generations past. Our information is shared with other bureaus.”
“Yes, of course, Ms. Laven.” The last was a bit too hurried and far too perfunctory, but not worth any harsh retort. It’s possible that I would need a doctor again if this planet could undermine one’s mental and physical abilities so rapidly.
I decided it was time to go. “Where are my clothes?” I asked as I swung my legs over the side. “The sooner I start on my report, the sooner I return to Dumbar. I’ve discovered some local history that bears checking. Earth may have been a bigger influence here than we suspected.”
I grabbed the clothes she handed me and hurried into the bathroom. I feared looking in the mirror, but I did. My eyes were normal again. I gave a sigh of relief and closed my eyes. Dillion’s handsome face was in my mind, and it hit me. I would never feel those wonderful hands on my skin again; his sweet lips pressing mine, or that muscular body entwined with mine. My mother’s warning was all too true.
“Never fall in love with someone one you cannot wed. You will regret it your entire life.”
I remember laughing at her words. “And how does one avoid that? How does one forget someone you love?”
Her response was harsh. “What matters is how you live your life afterward. You may have to prove to the world that you are still a competent, functioning person.” Mother had turned her back and walked out.
The memories faded, but the words didn’t. I couldn’t lean against the mirror and weep. This was the medical section of the ship. The cameras were everywhere and every move recorded. One simply ignored the fact that every member of the crew had been seen naked at some point.
I made sure my uniform was clean before dressing and returning to the room with the Medical person. “I believe my shoes must be here.”
She waved a hand towards the nightstand, but I realized she was watching my every move. Ready to buzz for help if I did something stupid. Had someone else indulged in the pina pod brew? I slipped the shoes on and stood.
“Thank you for the procedures and the information. You may inform Captain Jessup that I shall be on time.” I nodded at her and walked out of the room, my head held high. Somehow I would return to Dunbar.
Mari Collier was born on a farm in Iowa on a mattress her parents had made. It was covered with an oil cloth. The farm where she grew up had no electricity or inside bathroom. She has lived in Arizona, Washington, and Southern California. She and her husband, Lanny, met in high school and were married for forty-five years. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, and still serves as a Docent. She has worked as a loan collector, bookkeeper, receptionist, and Advanced Super Agent for Nintendo of America. Her short stories have appeared in print and electronically, plus there are five anthologies. Twisted Tales From The Desert, Twisted Tales From The Northwest, Twisted Tales From The Universe, Twisted Tales From A Skewed Mind, and Twisted and Untwisted Tales. Earthbound is the first of the seven Chronicles of the Maca series. Man, True Man is the first of the three Tonath Chronicles. As in all of my tales, these are fiction.
Links to Mari’s website, blog, books, etc.
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