Tag Archive: Attic

Apr 16

In the Company of Angels: Episode 10.2 – The Chase (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 10.2 – The Chase (cont.)

“There may possibly be a way we can narrow down which is the more likely of the paintings,” said the Professor. “Some of these might never appeal to a raven, although I’m not sure I’m any judge. At least let’s gather them all together in one place so that we can see how many we have to choose from.”

The suggestion struck them all as sensible, so they carefully looked through the attic. Every painting that was visible and that might easily have allowed the raven to escape through it was brought to the spot where the Orbaratus painting was propped against the wall. When they were done, they had seven total paintings collected.

“Did you store all of these here yourself?” asked Sam.

“Yes, but it has been over quite a few years,” said the Professor. “I’ve lived here since the 1920s, and although I very much enjoy paintings, I do like to shuffle them around once in a while so that I can see them anew.

“This one, for instance, is of a little town in the Cotswolds that I enjoy visiting on occasion. I don’t recall who the artist was; I believe I purchased it at the town market one weekend.

“This next one is a reproduction of a Matisse still life. You may not have seen it before; it was one of his earlier paintings.”

“I don’t think he’d fly there,” said Jill, “I can’t imagine he’d be attracted to a vase with sunflowers in it.”

“You’re probably right, my dear,” said the Professor, “but this next one might be of interest….”

The Professor indicated a small but very colorful painting of what appeared to be a rather friendly-looking dragon coiled around the trunk of a tree. The dragon was reddish gold in color, and the treetrunk around which it had wrapped itself was a deep blue: almost black. The tree had beautiful silver leaves and yellow fruit hanging from it. Beyond the dragon’s tree there were other trees of varying hues. The ground was copper-coloured.

“What a strange painting!” said Jill.

“Yes it is. It was done by one of my students: quite a talented painter. He was trying to depict a scene I had written into one of my stories.”

“Oh! I didn’t know you were a writer as well as a Professor!” said Jill.

“Yes, I am, but only in my spare time. What do you both think about this next one over here?”

And so they looked through each of the seven paintings, ultimately narrowing them down to four that were the most likely to have attracted the bird. But each of these was a portal into an entire world! There were three that were set in the open countrysides of England and Ireland, plus the painting of the world with the dragon. They were at a loss, at that point, as to how to proceed.

It was just as they were each puzzling over the four that Jill heard, very faintly, the sound of a flute. But it wasn’t a flute exactly, and it took her a few moments to realize that she had heard it before.

“Do you both hear that?” she asked.

“Hear what?” asked Sam.

“Something like a flute. It’s very faint.”

They all listened.

“I can hear nothing, my dear,” said the Professor, “but my hearing is likely not as keen as yours.”

“I don’t hear anything either,” said Sam. “But where do you think it’s coming from?”

“Let me see,” said Jill. She listened intently and began to walk away from the paintings. The sound diminished. She returned to the paintings and it became louder once more.

“It’s definitely coming from one of these,” she said, pointing to the paintings.

“Which one?” asked the Professor.

Jill held her head close to each painting in turn, finishing with the one of the dragon. “This one,” she said, “it’s definitely coming from there.”

First the Professor, then Sam bent down next to the painting and listened.

“I got nothin’,” said Sam. “But, if you’re sure it’s coming from this one, I’ll be happy to go through and see whether there’s any sign of the raven on the other side.”

Jill listened once more. “It’s definitely coming from there,” she said.

“Alright then. The sound could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. But we’ve got nothing better to go with at this point.

“This is a pretty small painting; I should just be able to squeeze through; but that might end up being a good thing. If I’m able to find the raven, I may be able to scare it into returning. Professor, do you have that blanket still in your office?”

“Yes…Ah! You want us to wait here, and if the bird comes through, toss the blanket over it?”

“Exactly. That may not be necessary, because this may not be the right painting. But….” Sam looked hard at Jill, “Mr. Luke told me to trust you, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Professor retrieved the blanket, being careful not to leave the hatchway open for longer than a moment, and then they all clustered around the dragon painting. Because it was so small, Sam had to get on the floor and wriggle through.

“OK, here goes. Keep your crystal touching your skin; that may allow you to see the raven coming if I’m able to scare him back in this direction. Oh, wait, before I go, let’s turn these other paintings against the wall. That way if you aren’t able to catch him with the blanket, he won’t have any other worlds to fly off into.”

They turned the other paintings around, and Sam got down on his stomach and wriggled through the glowing frame. They could still see him briefly whilst they looked through the frame from the attic, but then he was gone.

“By Jove!” said the Professor. “I would so love to try that!”

         . . .

When Sam tumbled out of the portal, he landed on a soft, spongy surface. He stood up, brushed the attic dust off of himself, and turned to make sure of the frame’s location. He saw it suspended in space at about the same height as his own eyes above ground level. But as he looked at it, he started to feel slightly disoriented.

“That’s not right,” he said aloud, “I don’t ever get frame fatigue!” Then he realized that it wasn’t the framerunning itself that was troubling him. The ground itself appeared to be gently rising and falling, as if he was standing upon some huge raft that was being lifted on great ocean swells. He looked around him. Just past the portal he could see what looked like a distant golden sea. The sky was golden as well.

Sam turned back to look again at the dragon. “I forgot to ask the Professor if you were friendly or not,” he said aloud. “I’m hoping that if you’re not, he would have thought to mention it.”

Sam looked up at the branches of the tree around which the dragon was wrapped.  It wasn’t very large, and the other trees around him weren’t either. That was good, he thought, because it likely meant that the raven, if it had come this way, wouldn’t be able to perch so far up that he couldn’t reach it.

Sam looked more closely at the fruit hanging from the tree, and it occurred to him that he might be able to pick some of these and throw them at the raven if he found him; that was just as well, since there didn’t appear to be any stones on the ground that he could use for such a thing. Instead, there was some sort of coppery-looking weedy stuff that almost looked woven together. He couldn’t see anything like sand, or soil, or rocks anywhere.

He put his hands on his hips. “Didja happen to see a big black bird flying through here recently?” he asked the dragon. After all, he thought, he couldn’t be sure whether the creature could speak or not. If it was Middle-earth or some other Iconic Realm he was familiar with, he’d know, but this world was new to him.

The dragon seemed uninterested in his words at first, but then it uncoiled itself and started waddling away from him on the forest floor, moving ever deeper into the woods. The creature was only about the size of a largish dog, so it was soon lost to sight.

Sam shrugged and followed. He occasionally had to grab hold of one of the tree trunks as he walked, since the land would occasionally rise up and then fall back down again. He could tell that these were almost certainly ocean swells, because at times, when he looked back, he thought the distant sea appeared to be down a fairly steep slope, but at other times he lost sight of it completely. He assumed that meant that the land had dropped below sea level, as crazy as that might seem..

“Weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of,” he muttered, looking back. When he turned back around to continue following the dragon, he nearly tripped over the creature, which had ceased its waddling.

The dragon had come to rest at the base of one of the many fruit trees and was slowly winding itself up the indigo-coloured tree trunk. Sam peered into the branches and saw something black.

It was the raven.

The raven was eyeing the dragon nervously. Sam walked past the tree and then reached up and picked several of the yellow gourd-like fruits that dangled from an adjacent tree. The smaller ones he stuffed into his pants pocket, but the larger ones he held in readiness. He turned then and watched the raven. The dragon had now gripped the tree tightly and was, serpent-like, gliding ever closer to the bird’s perch.

The raven flapped its wings nervously. Sam thought he could still saw the crystal in its talons. He took aim with one of the gourds and threw it. It landed with a splat on the branch next to the raven, and that was just enough to startle it into taking flight. Sam saw the crystal it was holding in its talons drop to the ground, and he started shouting loudly and waving his arms as he stooped to retrieve it.

The raven circled the tree once, but didn’t dare get near Sam, and as soon as Sam had the crystal stuffed into his pocket, he began throwing more of the yellow fruit at the bird, trying to frighten it back toward the portal.

His plan worked.

The raven, unnerved by the dragon and then by Sam’s unforgivably rude behavior, decided it had had enough of this place. It circled the tree one last time, and then wheeled back toward the edge of the forest. Sam followed after it as fast as he was able, only occasionally losing his balance as the ground continued to dip and heave beneath him. Soon both he and the raven had returned to the dragon’s tree, and Sam saw his quarry tuck in its wings and glide right into the dark portal.

“Gotcha now!” he cried triumphantly. He then ran headlong after the bird and dove through the frame and into the darkness of the Professor’s attic.

         [ To read Episode 11.1, click here…. ]


Apr 09

In the Company of Angels: Episode 10.1 – The Chase



In the Company of Angels, Episode 10.1 – The Chase


“You cannot stuff a raven into a soup pot!” said Jill, whispering as loudly as she dared.

“Well, then what would you suggest?! I don’t see any bird cages handy!” Sam whispered back, fiercely.

They were still sitting in the Professor’s study, and the raven, for the time being at any rate, remained perched on the floor of the hallway not ten feet from where Sam was seated.

The Professor, too, was racking his brain for any item that might be useful for caging a wild bird, but he, too, was drawing a blank. He whispered,“I would suggest that we determine how to capture the poor thing before we divert ourselves too much with housing options. But while we’re brainstorming, how on earth did the creature come by another crystal?”

The raven, almost as if listening, seemed to tighten its grasp on the second blue gem. It had apparently returned to its hoard atop the wardrobe, discovered the first sapphire gone, and had flown out of the open door to see what might have become of it. The creature couldn’t land easily on the bannisters while holding onto the second crystal, so it had ended up on the floor. From there it had half flapped and half hopped over to the doorway into the study to see what could be seen.

Sam glanced at the Professor. “Do you have a towel or a blanket that we could throw over it?”

“Oh, yes, that might work!” whispered the Professor. He slowly stood up and tiptoed toward the second door in the study; it lead to a bedroom just beyond his office. But the raven was having none of this; it hopped away from the door, all the while keeping a close eye upon everyone in the room.

“I don’t know if it’s going to stay long enough for me to retrieve the blanket,” said the Professor.

“Yeah, but it’s still worth a try. Just move slowly,” said Sam.

Ultimately the effort proved futile. As soon as the Professor returned from the bedroom with blanket in hand, the raven flapped its way back up to the top of the wardrobe. They knew there was no room there to throw the blanket, so they stood in the doorway considering how best to proceed.

“One thing’s for certain,” said Sam, returning to his normal speaking voice. “We have to get the painting of Orbaratus out of the crawlspace, or at least covered up so that the raven can’t fly back into it again.”

“Oh, gee, Sam!” said Jill. “We should have thought of that to begin with! Professor, can we get back into the other crawlspace — the one Mrs. Mills found us in — without passing by the wardrobe? I’m afraid walking past it might spook the raven and drive him back out of the house again.”

“Yes, there’s another way in,” replied the Professor. He pointed to a small hatch in the wall. “That connects with the larger attic space. The section of attic that houses the wardrobe is entirely separate.”

Sam stepped toward the hatchway and opened it. He recognized this door as one of the two they had first discovered when they were exploring the attic. “I’ll go and turn the painting around toward the wall. That will at least stop the bird from using it to escape back to Orbaratus.” He disappeared into the hatchway.

“Professor, do we know how the raven reached the wardrobe? That is, where the hole in the eaves is located that he might have used?” asked Jill.

“No, I don’t believe so. We would have to go outside the house and look for it. I’m assuming we can’t get to it from inside without frightening the bird away, and if we do that, it may or may not return to the other attic.”

“I wonder if there’s any way I could lure it out of the attic?”

“Do you mean telepathically, or by some other means?”

“Oh, I hadn’t really thought of that! But trying to communicate with it telepathically is certainly worth a try! We’re open to anything at this point, I think.” Jill took a couple of steps into the hallway toward the wardrobe. She shut her eyes and tried to “find” the raven. It took her a few moments, but she thought she sensed the bird, still atop the wardrobe. “But what should I do next?” she wondered. She had only just started exploring the use of her abilities with people; how in the world would she know how to “chat” with a bird?

As it happens, she didn’t get an opportunity. Just a few moments after she was sure that she felt the presence of the raven, she realized that it was on the move. She didn’t need her empathic senses to tell her: a loud squawk followed by the flapping of wings heralded the bird’s abdication of its roost. She tried to sense whether it was still in the house, but could detect nothing.

“Well, I guess we either go outside and see if we can find where it’s ended up, or wait here and see if it returns,” she said.

The Professor was just about to respond when they heard a loud yell and a crash come from the office hatchway. They hurried into the office and Jill stooped down and entered the attic.

“Sam? What happened?” she called out. She could see nothing in the gloom.

“Over here,” said Sam. “The bird came back. It flew past me and startled me. I knocked over something as I tried to see where it was headed, but I lost it in the dark.”

“Quick, Miss Jonsson,” said the Professor from just behind her,”let me in and let’s shut the hatchway door.” Jill stepped further into the attic and the Professor ducked and came in as well.

“Sam, can you hear me?” asked the Professor.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Sam, do you know where the bird came from?”

“Yeah, there’s a hole over here at this end of the attic. Jill and I saw him come in that way before Mrs. Mills found us.”

“Can you stop it up with something? Anything will do: a box, a blanket, whatever you can find.”

“Yes! Good thinking! Let me see….” Jill and the Professor heard a rustling, then a scraping sound from the far end of the attic. By now their eyes had become accustomed to the gloom, and they shut the hatchway tightly behind them.

“Sam, is his escape route closed off?” asked Jill.

“Yeah. I don’t think he can get back out that way at least. Doesn’t mean he hasn’t some other hole in another part of the attic, though. This is a pretty large place to hide!”

Jill moved toward Sam and the Professor followed her. She passed by the spot where the painting of Orbaratus had been and saw that Sam had turned it around and propped it against the wall. He had shoved a small box up against the back of the canvas to make sure no opening remained for the bird to fit through.

“Professor, did you bring your flashlight?” Sam asked as they all collected at the farthest end of the attic.

“My electric torch? No, I left it in my office.”

“OK, we’ll just have to use mine.” Sam took his flashlight out of his pocket and switched it on.

“Oh my! That is an extraordinarily bright torch!” said the Professor. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Sam was about to explain about the LEDs, but Jill nudged him and he remained silent.

“Let’s stick together and go through the attic slowly. If anyone sees anything move, holler,” said Sam.

They stepped through the entire length of the attic twice and never saw the bird, nor any other movement other than the stirring of dust.

“There appears to be no sign of it,” said the Professor, “so either it has a second nest and is in it trying to remain quiet, or it has found another way out of the attic.”

“I think it’s the latter,” said Sam, “but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Jill do you have your ring on?”

“Yes, but I’m not touching the crystal.”

“Better do that now and take a look around us.”

Jill turned her ring back around and clenched her hand shut. The gloom of the attic was suddenly punctuated with a half dozen glowing images. These were the paintings they had first noticed when they arrived in the attic.

“Oh my!” she said.

“Why? What are you two looking at?” asked the Professor.

Sam reached out and grasped the Professor’s wrist. “Take a look at the paintings,” he said.

“Why, they’re glowing!” said the Professor. “Is that how they always look if you have one of the crystals on?”

“Yes, Sir, they do,” said Sam. “We don’t have time to explain everything right now. But we do have one enormous problem to solve.”

“And what is that that?”

“We need to figure out which of these half-dozen worlds the raven flew into! And even if we knew that, how on earth would we ever be able to capture him there?!”

They all stared at the various images and Jill felt her heart sink.

         [ To read Episode 10.2, click here…. ]



Mar 19

In the Company of Angels: Episode 8.2 – The Wardrobe (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 8.2 – The Wardrobe (cont.)

“Perfect!” said Sam. “Just close me inside, won’t you, and I’ll see what I can find.”

“You should never close yourself into a wardrobe, young man. It’s possible that the lock might catch and you’d be trapped. And in this particular instance, I’m fairly certain I don’t have the key to unlock it. It’s quite an old wardrobe, as you can see.”

“I’ll not be trapped, Professor, even if the lock does catch; trust me,” said Sam, grinning broadly. He stepped inside and pulled the doors closed.

Several minutes passed. The Professor seemed nervous, and he couldn’t help but pace back and forth while he and Jill waited. But after several minutes, he was unable to control himself; he gently pulled opened one of the wardrobe doors and peered inside.

The wardrobe was completely empty.

“Don’t worry, Sir,” said Jill. “I know it’s startling the first time you see that happen, and it only happened to me for the first time yesterday; yesterday in my world, that is. But I think we’d do best to close the door and wait for him. He’ll be back soon, I promise.”

The Professor seemed dumbstruck, but he shut the wardrobe door once more and resumed his pacing. They didn’t have much longer to wait.

With a bang, Sam announced his return. The wardrobe door was flung open and the exuberant young fellow came tumbling out.

“Found it!” he said, beaming, “or, that is, I have a pretty good idea of where it must be.”

“Where?!” asked Jill and the Professor at the same instant.

“Very close to where we are standing now, but I’ll need your help to locate it precisely. Here’s what I found: I believe the raven collected a woman’s compact or some other small round mirror, and stowed it in his nest along with a lot of other items. I could see some marbles, some tinsel, and a few colourful bits of cloth and string. Those plus a sapphire.”

“You were able to actually see the sapphire?” asked Jill.

“Yep! Plain as day! Well, not exactly plain as day. The light was pretty dim.”

“But could you see where the nest was located?” asked the Professor.

“No, not really, but that’s where I can use your help. I could hear you both talking when I put my ear up to the Maze portal, so I know the nest has to be somewhere very close to us: definitely in this part of the house.”

“OK, then how can we help find it?” asked Jill.

“Here’s the plan,” said Sam, “and it’s pretty ingenious, if I do say so myself….”

Jill rolled her eyes.

“No, really! You’re gonna love this! See, I’m going to go back into the Maze, find the mirror again, and reach through with my fingers. I’ll try to make enough noise with them so that you can track down where it’s coming from.”

“How are you going to do that?” asked Jill.

“By tapping, or rustling around, or scratching, or whatever else I can do to make a disturbance. See, I can only get a couple of fingers through the mirror, else I could probably snag the sapphire and we’d be done.”

“Actually, Sam, we wouldn’t really be done, would we? We don’t know how the raven is getting in and out of the paintings. It may have more than one crystal.”

“Yeah, that’s true, though I’m still betting its using that crystal to do its framerunning. But, first things first. Let’s find the nest….”

Sam stepped back into the wardrobe. “Give me a few seconds, then start listening. I may not be able to make much noise, but see if you can locate where it’s coming from, whatever you hear.” He pulled the wardrobe door shut and they waited. After about a half minute had passed, they both heard a rustling sound, and then a tapping, as of a fingernail against wood. The sound seemed very close: just above them, in fact.

“I do believe it’s coming from the top of the wardrobe itself!” said the Professor.

“Are you tall enough to see what’s up there, Sir?” asked Jill.

“Not clearly. Let me get an electric torch and a stepstool. I shan’t be a moment….”

Jill thought Sam must have heard them, because the tapping ceased. After a minute, the Professor returned and set up the stepstool to one side of the wardrobe. He was then able, with the aid of his flashlight, to see the entire top of the wardrobe clearly.

“Ah!” he declared, “There it is in the far corner! Well done, Sam; that is, if you can still hear me. We’ve found it! You can come back out of the wardrobe now if you wish.”

Sam opened the wardrobe door again. The Professor looked down at him and asked “should I retrieve the sapphire? There does only appear to be a single one in the nest.”

Sam furrowed his brow and looked at Jill. “I guess getting hold of the crystal comes first; after all, that’s why we came. But then we still have figure out what to do with the raven. Does that all sound right to you?”

“I thought you were the boss around here,” said Jill.

Sam turned bright red. “No, no one’s trying to be the boss; we’re a team — aren’t we?”

It was now Jill’s turn to turn bright red. She had, unbidden, just felt a wave of emotion coming from Sam that she had never experienced before. It was nervousness, embarrassment, excitement, and — this was the strangest part — happiness. It was happiness at the thought, she realized, that the two of them were working together, and that they were doing something important.

“Well…of course we are,” she answered. “I’m sorry, I was just being, well, I don’t quite know the term.”

“I don’t think it precisely qualified, Miss Jonsson, but here we’d likely call it ‘being beastly’,” said the Professor as he looked down at them both. “But, shall I retrieve the gem or not?”

“Yes, let’s,” answered Jill. “It’s like Sam says; that’s mainly what we came for.”

The professor reached over to the back part of the wardrobe. Then he stepped down and opened his palm. There was the large, round-cut sapphire. It was identical to the two others they had seen on Orbaratus.

Sam reached out and took the stone into his hand. His brow furrowed again. “Professor, do you have any paintings in your study?”

“Certainly,” said the Professor. “Why do you ask?”

“This doesn’t feel quite right to me,” said Sam. “That is, I don’t get the same sensation from touching it that I do with one of the crystals we’re familiar with. I need to see a painting to make sure.”

They all returned to the Professors’ study. On one of the walls was a landscape of an Italian village. Sam walked over to it, holding the crystal, and touched its surface. Then he put the round gem into his pocket, grasped his own pendant, and, to the Professors great delight, reached his hand into the painting.

“Extraordinary!” exclaimed the Professor.

“Actually, it isn’t,” said Sam. “That’s the way they’re supposed to work, but this one doesn’t. It makes no sense.”

“But Sam,” said Jill, “we know that’s the same as the others on Orbaratus, don’t we?”

“Well, I believe it is. It’s round, like they were, and about the right size. But if this is the one that was stolen, it leaves us with even more questions than we started with!”

“Forgive me,” said the Professor, “but if you could explain the predicament more clearly, I might be able to help you with it. That’s often the case with intractable problems.”

Sam looked doubtful, but Jill piped up. “You’re right, Sir! My father used to tell me that sometimes, when he had a particularly difficult puzzle to work out, the best thing he could do was to try to explain it to somebody else. Even if he doubted they fully understood what he was saying, just talking about the problem often helped him to see the solution!”

She turned to Sam. “See, sometimes we get caught up in our own heads and we can’t see the forest for the trees. So, let’s try this. Let me explain everything to the Professor. You listen and correct me if I get anything wrong. That way we all get to step through the situation we’re in, and perhaps we can figure out what’s best to be done, together.”

“But I still think the less the Professor knows, the less likely we are to change something in this time that we’d regret.”

“But aren’t we long past that? The Professor already knows a lot. And wouldn’t it be best to decide what we should do and return to Orbaratus as soon as possible?”

She felt more than saw Sam agree with her, so she proceeded to explain to the Professor, more fully than they had before, where they had come from and why. She then explained that, although they now had the sapphire — or whatever this gem was — that they had come for, they had an additional problem in that the raven seemed able to framerun, somehow, and not by using this crystal. So, they needed to make sure that the raven couldn’t return to Orbaratus and steal the sapphire back again once they returned it.

The Professor listened intently and followed Jill’s account with great enthusiasm. “That is a fascinating tale!” he exclaimed when she was done. “You really ought to write it down someday, you know….

“But, you’re correct: if the raven stole the gem in the first place, it must still have some means of returning to this place, Orbaratus. And if that is true, we must find out how it does so and remove that means. That, or we’ll perhaps have to find a way to keep it from causing such harm going forward. I could cage the poor thing, but I hate the thought of it; ravens are very bright, and it would suffer inordinately. I could also cover all of my paintings so that it could not continue traveling between worlds, but it might find some other paintings in someone else’s attic that it would use as portals, and then heaven only knows what additional mischief it might cause.”

The Professor stopped to consider the matter again, and reached for his pipe. He packed it, lit it, took a few puffs, and then turned back to look thoughtfully at Sam and Jill.

“I believe, unless either of you has since thought of a better plan, that the best thing to be done would be to take the raven back with you. Perhaps the other members of your team might find a kinder way to prevent future problems than I am able to suggest at present. Remembering, of course, that time seems to be of the essence here….

“…and even aside from that,” he said, with a wink, “Mrs. Mills would be delighted if the bird was removed from the attic permanently, although I would never consent to having it harmed in any way in order for that to be achieved.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Sir,” said Sam, “we’d certainly never hurt it. But I think you’re right: we do need to make sure it can’t continue stealing things from other worlds.”

“So, then, what’s our plan?” asked Jill.

“To capture the raven,” said Sam.

“Good,” said the Professor, “but, then, how do you propose we manage that?”

“I honestly don’t know, Sir,” said Sam.

“Neither do I,” said Jill, “but I get the feeling we’d better figure out how, and fast.”

“Why is that?” asked Sam.

“Because,” said Jill, pointing into the hallway outside the Professor’s study, “There’s the raven now, and it sure looks to me like it’s got another one of the crystals in its talons.”

         [ To read Episode 9.1, click here…. ]




Mar 05

In the Company of Angels: Episode 7.2 – The Attic (cont.)



In the Company of Angels, Episode 7.2 – The Attic (cont.)


“What do you two have to say for yourselves?” the Professor asked, opening the door to his study wider, and crossing his arms over his chest. He looked at both of them expectantly.

“Well, Sir, we’re…um…we’re students.” said Sam.

“Yes, that’s entirely possible,” said the Professor, “but is it common for American students to invade the homes of English professors without their leave?”

“Oh! So we’re in England!” Jill said.

“Where else might you think you were?” asked the Professor.

“Well, Sir, that might take some explaining,” said Sam.

“Well?! Well?! If it requires some explaining, then please proceed! But, Mrs. Mills, so that we do not begin to obtain a reputation for uncouth behavior toward foreign students, will you be so kind as to make us some tea? We’ll take it in my study.”

“Your study, Sir?” Mrs. Mills asked. “Well, I would have thought it more suitable to serve it in the childrens’ room, but as you wish….” The woman turned and tromped heavily down the stairs. A few moments later, Sam and Jill could hear the clanking of pots and pans in what must have been the kitchen, below. In the meantime, the Professor ushered them into his room.

The space was somewhat unkempt. There were books and bookshelves everywhere, and a second door across the room led into either a closet or another room. A desk was situated beneath a window that overlooked a well-tended yard and garden. Jill saw roses trained onto an archway in front of the house, and through this the walkway to the house appeared to pass. She noticed a cat slinking past the roses; it quickly disappeared into a hole in the hedge.

The colors and smells of an English summertime permeated even the mustiness of the Professor’s retreat, but Jill loved the bookish aromas and the scent of pipe smoke that surrounded them. These reminded her of her own library, and of her father: he had also loved books and had smoked a pipe. Involuntarily, she felt tears welling up in her eyes, but she immediately tried to stop them. “This is not the time or the place to be thinking of father!” she told herself.

The Professor closed his study door behind them both and gestured to chairs. “Please do make yourselves comfortable. The tea will be along shortly; or perhaps longly, given Mrs. Mills’ current mood.” He chuckled. Once they were both seated, he turned his desk chair around and sat facing them.

“Now, do please tell me who you are and where you’ve come from. And kindly don’t repeat whatever story you might have told Mrs. Mills, if indeed you offered her any explanation at all. I know you aren’t American students on holiday. So, who precisely are you?”

Sam and Jill looked at each other, and Jill gestured toward Sam. “You should tell him,” she said.

Everything?” he asked.

Jill shut her eyes for a moment and tried to get a sense of just who this Professor might be; whether he was someone that could be trusted. All she could perceive about him through her newly-emerging empathic sense suggested that he was a bright light in a dark world…someone very unusual. She almost perceived him as having a sparkling halo — similar to what she felt whenever she was in telepathic contact with Polydora. She opened her eyes and gazed at him with a feeling of wonder.

“Who exactly are you?!” she asked.

The Professor smiled broadly. “Why, no one in particular, my dear. But you two…there’s something about you two that is quite different. I’m used to children coming here you know…since the War. But none were ever Americans. And even Americans don’t dress as you two are dressed. So, where exactly are you from? And what are you doing in my house?”

“He’s safe,” said Jill to Sam. Sam nodded.

“OK then, what I am about to tell you might make you think I’m kidding. I’m not. We’ve come from another place,” Sam said, “and maybe even from another time…. Gee, I wish Mr. Luke was here; he’d know what to tell you. But, let’s just say that we came here because we are trying to get some answers to some important questions and to retrieve something that was stolen from…from its rightful place. We didn’t mean to break into your house; we were, well, sort of led here….”

The Professor leaned back in his chair and studied Sam carefully. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Sam Deckard,” Sam answered.

“And yours, my dear?” the Professor asked, turning to Jill.

Jill suddenly had an intense urge to do something she had not tried before, except with Polly. She tried to answer by speaking to the Professor with her mind.

“My name is Jill Jonsson” she thought, as “loudly” as she knew how.

The Professor’s eyes opened wide. “Oh my!” he said aloud.

“What?” asked Sam.

The Professor looked slightly bewildered. “Jill Jonsson?” he asked Jill directly.

“Yes,” she thought back to him.

“Oh, this is marvelous!” said the Professor.

“What is?” asked Sam.

“I’ve been talking to the Professor the way Polly taught me,” said Jill.

Sam’s eyes went wide, but he held his tongue.

The Professor, now sitting forward in his chair, looked with wonder at Jill. “Are you of the spirit world, my dear, or human?” he asked.

Jill was perplexed. “I’m just a girl, Sir,” she said. “But I seem to be able to ‘hear’ some things that other people think, and I can sometimes talk with people without speaking. But this is all pretty new for me, so I’m not sure I’m that good at it.”

“Extraordinary!” said the Professor. “I’ve never encountered anything like it!”

“But, Sir,” said Sam,”we actually came here for a reason, and we really can’t stay long; we have friends waiting for us who need our help. I can’t tell you much more, because there’s a lot of danger involved with talking about such things. Mr. Luke warned me that we might be entering a time-tethered realm, and if that’s the case, the less you know about us, the better for us and for you.”

“I’m sure I haven’t understood half of what you just said, young man,” said the Professor, “but I do see that you are both part of something that I ought to take seriously., even without understanding it. Tell me what you can and what you need help with. I’ll promise nothing up front other than to listen, but I am not unfamiliar with…hmm…how should I say this? With magical things. So, I promise to help if I believe I can and should.”

“Well, Sir,” said Sam,”what we need help with, at least mainly, is a raven.”

“A raven?!”

“Yes, Sir. A raven. It’s one that spends some time in your attic, it seems.”

“Ah! That must be the one Mrs. Mills is constantly complaining about. She has tried to shew it out whenever she has found it there, but it always comes back. It even creates new holes in the eaves for itself whenever we close up the old ones. But I haven’t the heart to harm it; it strikes me as a very unusual and clever bird, and I’m fond of all manner of creatures. But, whatever do you two want with it?”

“Well, Sir, we think it’s got something: something that doesn’t belong to it. And we need to get that back so that we can prevent a lot of bad things from happening,” said Jill.

“Well, I wouldn’t put thievery past any raven. They love collecting things, you know, especially shiny ones. I remember finding one’s nest as a boy, and it was filled with bits of tinsel, ribbons, marbles, and even broken bits of glass and mirrors.

But, that’s neither here nor there. whatever is it that has this one has stolen?”

“A gem, Sir. A sapphire, we think, not unlike this one.” Sam pulled his own crystal pendant from beneath his shirt and held it out to the Professor.

The Professor went to reach for the sapphire, but then stopped. “That’s no ordinary gem,” he said.

“What do you mean, Sir?” asked Sam, nervously.

The Professor looked Sam directly in the eye. “I mean that it has some property beyond just being a pretty thing. There’s a…a power in it, it seems to me. Am I right?”

Jill nudged Sam. “I told you; he’s safe. You can tell him.”

“Well, Sir, yes, you are. This crystal, and others like it, allow a person who wears it to do things that might seem pretty strange to most folks.”

“You mean like travel to different worlds? Or to different times?”

“Uh, yes Sir. But, like I said, we really shouldn’t tell you too much because it might cause us all a lot of problems,” said Sam, “but could I ask you a question?”


“Can you tell us where we are, and what year it is?”

“Properly speaking, young man, you should ask me ‘would you tell us’, not ‘can you tell us’.”

The Professor shook his head and muttered under his breath,”Whatever do they teach them in American schools?” Then, in a louder voice, he said, “But, laying that aside, do you mean to say you don’t know where you are? How extraordinary! But, it has been a day of extraordinary things. So, to answer you, you are in Oxford, England,” said the Professor.

“And the year is?”

“The year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty six.”

“Oh no!” said Sam.

              [ To read Episode 8.1, click here…. ]



Feb 26

In the Company of Angels: Episode 7.1 – The Attic


In the Company of Angels, Episode 7.1 – The Attic


Once Jill had waved to Polydora through the portal, the Ferrumari’s head disappeared back into the painting. The painting itself, still glowing brightly, depicted the very plaza that she, Sam, and Polly had been standing upon just a moment before. The scene looked nearly identical to the current state of the plaza, and seen now housed within a plain bronze frame, the painting appeared frighteningly apocalyptic — much more so than the one in Mr. Luke’s Gallery that had first brought them to Polly’s home world.

 But Jill had little time to think about Orbaratus now. She turned around her and surveyed the space within which she and Sam were standing. It was a bit stuffy, and she loosened her cloak and pushed it back from around her shoulders. Then she noticed the smells: of old wood, of dust, and of something else, something quite sweet.

 “Are those flowers?” she wondered. But just at that moment, very clearly in her head, she heard the word “Roses!” She turned and looked at Sam. He smiled at her and said, in a whisper, “I think I smell roses blooming! They must be outside. It must be summertime here!”

 It was a disconcerting moment for Jill, because, for the first time ever, other than with Polydora, she realized that she had caught a whiff, if you will, of someone else’s thoughts. She didn’t know if she was going to like what struck her as eavesdropping on other people; she wondered then if being an empath would prove to be something she could turn on or off, like the volume control of a radio, or whether it would just be a new form of background noise that she would have to get accustomed to. She didn’t know what the answer would be, but thought perhaps she should ask Polly, or Mr. Luke, once they returned to Orbaratus. For now though, she had other business to attend to.

 Sam gestured around them, and Jill could see that he was pointing out the many other paintings that were stacked haphazardly about within the crawlspace. These were scattered along with old pieces of furniture, lamps, wooden chests, and even the headboard and footboard of a bed frame in one corner. All of these  were covered with varying layers of dust, but the paintings were stacked vertically so that, for many of them, you could still see the images clearly within their frames. These images were all glowing with that otherworldly light that Jill had come to recognize. She unclenched her hand and turned her ring around, and only then did the lights fade.

 “I don’t see any sign of the raven,” she whispered.

 “No, me neither,” said Sam, “but let’s look around and see if maybe it’s built a nest in one of the nooks and crannies of this place.”

 “That’s going to be hard in all of this murk,” said Jill.

 The crawl space was high enough to stand near one wall, but the beams of the roof, with wood slats nailed across them, tapered down from the top of the wall to the floor. In the very farthest corner of the angle made by the roof beams and the floor, there were cracks of light that came from the eaves, and these provided the only illumination with which to see in the cramped space. There were shadowy corners into which the raven could easily have flown and they would never have been the wiser.

 But Sam grinned broadly and pulled a small flashlight out of his pocket. “Never worry! I was a Boy Scout once,” he whispered, “‘Be prepared’ shouldn’t just be their motto. We should adopt it for The Framerunners as well!  Ever since I was able to find an LED flashlight that would run for days on one set of batteries, I’ve never been without one. You’d be amazed at how many dark places you find yourself in when you’re jumping from world to world!”

 He switched on the flashlight and they were able to clearly see the crawlspace in all its musty, dust-filled glory. But Jill noticed that the dust on the floor was largely undisturbed; apparently the attic wasn’t very often used. That would be good for them, as it meant they would be less likely to be discovered.

 They worked their way from the Orbaratus painting to one end of the long crawl space. There they found first one, then a second small doorway that they guessed must open onto rooms of the house at that end. Then they doubled back, passed their painting again, and continued to the other end of the attic. There they found an additional door. The crawl space appeared, then, to run the whole length of the house.

 “I wonder if this is something like a row-house, with openings into different people’s homes?” whispered Jill.

 “I don’t know,” said Sam, “and I hope we don’t have to find out. But can you see over there in the far corner? There’s a lot of light coming in near the floor: a bright spot. I’m betting there’s a hole there, and maybe that’s where the raven has gotten to.”

 “But what if the raven just flew into a different painting? There have to be at least a half dozen we’ve seen that it could have gotten into. That is, if it’s still carrying one of the crystals.”

 “Well, we don’t even know if it has a crystal, but I see what you’re saying, and that would be mighty bad news if you’re right,” said Sam. “On the other hand, there’s one thing we haven’t tried yet. Remember Mr. Luke said to let you have a go at finding the bird; that maybe you could sense where it was even if we couldn’t discover it outright. Want to give that a try?”

 Jill nodded. “I’m new at this, but here goes….” She shut her eyes and did her best to sense what was around her. She knew Sam was there, but what about past him, past the confines of the crawlspace? She listened and tried to see if she could feel the presence of anyone other than Sam.

 At first she could detect nothing at all. But then she began to have the growing sense that there was a person nearby. She imagined it must be a woman; she wasn’t sure why. But this woman, whoever she might be, appeared in her mind to be busy with something. Jill listened. She “heard” snippets that might have been coming from the woman’s head.

 “All this dust…must get the tea on soon…wherever did I put the dustbin?…Professor will be having company later…” Jill experienced these as fleeting images more than as words, but they struck her as the sort of things someone would be muttering to herself while bustling around inside of a house.

 “I think there must be a housekeeper, or someone like that, nearby. Maybe in the room on the other side of this door,” she whispered to Sam.

 “OK. Anything else?” he asked.

 Jill concentrated once more. There was another presence, she thought, but not as busy as this first person. Someone concentrating his attention inwardly. “So it’s a ‘he’ rather than a ‘she’,” Jill thought. But he was not close at hand. Rather, he seemed to be down toward the other end of the house.

 But just then Jill’s attention was taken away from listening, for she detected, or thought she detected, something like  rapid movement, and the feeling of being watched. She opened her eyes and gazed in the direction she had felt the movement come from.

 “Sam, look over toward that bright spot you mentioned.”

 Sam turned and they both watched the patch of light in the corner. After a moment, they saw movement, and something that made the light blink out, and then back on again. Sam turned his flashlight toward the patch of light, and it glinted off of the beady eyes of the raven, which had apparently just flown back into the crawlspace.

 “There he is!” Sam exclaimed, forgetting to whisper. The raven froze in the light for a moment, but then turned around and dove back through the hole in the eaves.

 “Oh, blast it all!” said Sam, and stamped his foot.

 “Shush!!!” whispered Jill, but it was too late. She could hear footsteps just outside the door beside them, and then, a moment later, the handle turned and light streamed in from the room beyond. A middle-aged woman, slightly plump, was standing in the open doorway peering intently in at them.

 “Oh!” she said. “You two gave me such a start! The Professor didn’t say anything about any children in the house. But where have you stowed your things? And what on earth are you doing in this musty old attic?!”

 “Well, we, uh…” said Jill.

 “Americans no less!” said the woman. “Well, come along out of there, dearies. I’ll need to be setting up places for you both to sleep, I suppose. The Professor is so busy with his own work; keeps me on my toes, he does, never letting on who is coming for supper or…. But, that’s not your problem, dearies. Come on out and I’ll check with the Professor to find where I should put you, though I expect it will be in the children’s room, I shouldn’t wonder. Do you know how long you’ll be staying with us?”

 Sam and Jill had no option but to accompany the bustling woman from without the attic space and into the adjoining room. It was a large room, brightly lit. They followed the housekeeper (for so she appeared to be) into a hallway just outside, and then into another room past the head of the staircase that led to the ground floor below.

 The woman knocked on the door. “Professor, I’m here with the two children. Shall I set them up in the children’s room, as usual?”

 Sam and Jill heard nothing for a moment, but then the door to the room opened and a tall, middle-aged man with a receding hairline opened the door. Past him, they could both see that the room beyond must be a sort of a study and library.

 “Mrs. Mills, do be so kind as to explain yourself. There are no children in the house to my knowledge. That all ended months ago.”

 “Well then, how do you account for these ‘uns?” asked Mrs. Mills.

The Professor looked past Mrs. Mills at Jill and Sam, and was clearly startled. “My goodness! I’ve never seen them before in my life!

              [ To read Episode 7.2, click here…. ]