Posts Tagged ‘death’

via Episode 1 (Butterflies in the Garden): Danger Above by Vivian Munnoch

Episode 1:

Butterflies In The Garden

Danger Above

by Vivian Munnoch



Photo by Jessa Crisp on Unsplash (edited by Vivian Munnoch)

The dully gleaming ebony feathers of the crow seemed to absorb the daylight into its black mass. The motionless bird stared unblinkingly at the motion below from its perch in a tree, looking more like its deceased and stuffed counterpart than a living creature.

Below him the little butterfly flitted weightlessly, bobbing on its wings over the flowers in the garden, oblivious to the danger above.

The crow blinked just once, the thin membrane moving across its cold emotionless eye a heartbeat behind the eyelid in a slightly off double motion. The bird tilted his head.

Spindly legs reaching, the little butterfly landed on a flower. Its wings moved slowly to some soundless rhythm. It tasted the air with its antennae, picking up only the sweet pollen of the flowers.

Feeling safe, the butterfly stilled its wings, letting them soak in the delightful warmth of the sun.

With slow languid motion, the crow spread his wings and took flight, his shadow passing on the ground below.

The fleeting shade was a cooling pulse across the insect’s back, the warmth returned as quickly. Only its antennae moved in response.

Landing soundlessly on a wooden post closer to the flowers, the crow ruffled his feathers and settled to watch the little butterfly.


More…  Episode 1 (Butterflies in the Garden): Danger Above by Vivian Munnoch

Read Full Post »

Ghost Ship 2 – Return the Illopogas
by L. V. Gaudet
(C) February 2009


     The waves licked wetly at the dock, muted and dull.  The pale moon tried to illuminate the world below with little success.  Dark clouds looming on the horizon drifted in, the first tattered fingers splaying across the moon like skeletal limbs.  Wind drifted across the sandy edge of the water where the tide lapped the sand like a thirsty beast, drawing up specters of dancing sandy ghosts cavorting across the narrow ribbon of beach.  Beyond the reach of the sandy ground tall dry grass whisked and danced stiffly, whispering secrets as the slender stalks rubbed together.

            The incessant buzzing and chirping of insects stopped suddenly as a new duller tone joined the symphony of the waves licking against each other, the dock, and the water’s edge.  It was a duller sound, of water gently lapping at rotting waterlogged wood.

            Somewhere a dog whined, cowering and shivering with fear.

            In the houses the people slept, unaware.

            The dull shadow of an ancient ship silently crossed the surface of the waves, followed by the blackened rotting timber of its bulk.  Tattered shreds of what had once been sails hung limply from the masts, discolored and rotting.  Cracked and pealed, the weatherworn paint of the ship’s name was barely readable, “Illopogas”.  The very air around the derelict ship seemed to darken and grow heavier, stiller, as it slipped silently through the water toward land.

            A homeless old man sleeping in his makeshift shelter at the edge of the beach groaned woefully in his sleep, his face twisting into a grimace of fear.  He was an old salt of the sea, having spent his years from a teen until he grew too old and feeble to tow a line working on various ships.  He had seen many seas, many places, and many strange things.  Only once had he laid eyes upon the ill-fated ancient lost ship that forever sailed the seas empty of crew and cargo except for ghosts and memories, the ghostly Illopogas.  Unfortunately, he lived to tell the tale.

            Of course, none believed him.  Since that fateful day Jebediah, Jeb to his long lost friends and crewmates, had been lost to the ravages of the whiskey bottle, withering in body, mind, and soul.  Jeb had been the sole survivor of his ship, remnants of which later washed up on many beaches, the lumber strangely rotted and darkened.  He had been pulled from the murky waters by a fishing vessel, babbling unintelligibly and lost in a waking nightmare that only the soothing burn of a bottle of whiskey seemed able to quiet.

            He had tried to tell them what happened, had tried to warn them all.  However, they just shook their heads sadly at him, an old sailor who had apparently sailed a few seas too many.  He babbled to anyone he thought, hoped, might listen.  Jeb had become a common sight in the sailor’s watering holes, sitting in a darkened corner, withered and marinated in a brine of stale whiskey, muttering unintelligibly to himself and occasionally entertaining the other drunken sailors with his inebriated ramblings of ghostly ships and monsters of the seas.  He had tried stopping people in the streets to warn them, but invariably they wrinkled their noses with a look of distaste and hurried on their way, trying to avoid the pathetic drunken old man stumbling about in a cloud of delirium and fetid odor.

            A low moan drifted across the surface of the waves, sorrowful and lost, rolling up the narrow strip of sandy beach.

            Jeb woke with a start and stumbled out of his makeshift shelter, staggering to the water’s edge.  His rheumy eyes stared out, empty and haunted, at the expanse of water.

            Tonight the Illopogas returned for him.

            Tomorrow an empty husk of a man would be found on the beach, lost forever within the tormented depths of his mind, a victim of a ghostly apparition.




Feb 15/09 online at Patchwork

Bookmark Ghost Ship 2 - Return the Illopogas by L.V. Gaudet (Horror Flash Fiction)

Read Full Post »

Ghost Ship (The Illopogas)

by L. V. Gaudet

(C) January 2009




     A pall hung over the moon, misty clouds stringing across the sky like the tattered remnants of a ghostly sail.  The endless sound of the ocean forever in motion whispered ceaselessly like the incomprehensible roar of a far away stadium crowd.  Pale light from the moon reflected weakly off the constant gently rolling water, illuminating the upward motion while casting faint shadows on the downward movements of the water’s ceaselessly flowing surface.

            A sound moaned softly somewhere in the darkness.  It was the creak and groan of ancient lumber flexing and bending with the pressure of the waves pressing upon it, trying to bend the wood to its will.  With it came the soft lapping of the waves licking against the slowly rotting timber, carrying it on an endless voyage across the sea.

            Within the dark confines of the ancient ship’s hull, the air hung heavy and stale.  Dead.  Throughout the empty cargo hold was the rotten wood remnants of long ago stalls and pens for the transporting of livestock.  The spaces between these broken lumber remnants were filled to capacity with tightly packed rows and rows of shelves from ceiling to floor.  Littered among these shelves were shackles.  Some were red-brown with the rust of ages, some seemed black as a new cast iron pan and freshly oiled.  Many lay within the ranges in between.  There were shackles on the shelves and lying discarded on the floor like dead metal vipers.  Still more hung down from the low ceiling, swinging casually with the gentle rolling of the ship on the sea, swinging silently except for the occasional light ching when two touched briefly in their never-ending dance.  A thick gritty and greasy dust clung to everything.

            “Is the cargo secured?” a voice called out.  The captain was feeling nervous about the dark clouds looming on the horizon.

            “All secure,” called back the first mate.

            “Secure the masts,” the captain called out, “bring in the sails.”

            The sounds of men scurrying about the deck, voices indefinable and vague, echoed down to the hull below.

            On the vacant deck above, the pale light of the moon caressed across the ship from bow to stern.  The sails hung limply, tattered and shredded, stained and rotting.  The planks of the deck lay clean and dry, repeatedly washed by the waves as though by invisible deck hands.  Endless days under the sun had left the timber bleached.

            The moans and groans of ill and discontented souls oozed up from the bowels of the ship with the creaking and groaning of the timber, the only sound other than the waves and shifting of what remained of the rotting tack that touched the deserted deck.  Sometimes a terrible scream would be carried on the wind, fleeing the terrors locked within the weeping timber of the ship’s hull.

            This is the Illopogas, a cargo ship that was once used for transporting many different types of cargos over the years, the last of which was livestock that was not of the four-legged variety.  Stories of the Illopogas migrate like some of the denizens of the waves, travelling from port to port, whispered in the darkened corners of inns and pubs by sailors who have drunk too much.  Even in the telling of these tales, these drunken louts eye the room suspiciously through narrow slitted eyes, making protective gestures behind their backs, wary of jinxing themselves and bringing the Illopogas across their path when next they sail.

            Few sailors have crossed paths with the legendary ghost ship, The Illopogas, and lived to tell the tale.  None has been able to hold on to their shredded sanity.  Some say that the ship is haunted by vengeful ghosts, others that the ship itself seeks revenge.

            There is something about ghost ships, forever sailing the seas manned by an invisible crew, which strikes fear into the hearts of men.  None as much as the Illopogas.

            Beware the ghost ship.

            Beware the Illopogas.




Jan 19/09 online at MicroHorror


Feb 23/09 online at Patchwork




Bookmark Ghost Ship (The Illopogas) by L.V. Gaudet (Horror Flash Fiction)

Read Full Post »



By L. V. Gaudet

© January 2009



                He dipped a finger into the pool of blood.  It was a casual gesture, dabbing at it lazily like paint in a paint cup.  Careful not to drip the crimson wetness from his fingertip, he brought it to the canvas.  Gently and with great care, he spread the blood about the canvas, creating a brightly splashed picture.

                He didn’t know who’s blood it was, nor even if it were human, animal, or something else.  Where the blood came from did not matter.  It was the magic, the life that once throbbed through the veins of something living and feeling; that is what mattered.  The odor of the blood filled his nostrils.  It was a little sharp, kind of salty.  If he tasted it, he knew it would taste salty, red, and a little bit like smelted iron.  It smelled good, fresh.  It had to be fresh or the magic would have faded away.

                The canvas he painted always changed.  Sometimes it was large, an entire field of battle.  Sometimes it was smaller, a group of marauders falling upon a caravan, or an attack in the dark dirty recesses of a city’s worst areas.  Sometimes it was tiny, the sweet breath of an infant drifting through tiny pouty lips.

                The canvas he worked today with such care was the rocky crags of a mountain.  As he painted, the canvas vibrated with a dull rumble as of a thousand distant hooves stampeding.  This was no stampede, however; at least, not one of living creatures rushing across the ground in a frenzy of fear.  A few pebbles clattered across the rocky terrain, kicking up tiny puffs of dust as they went.

                The group travelling low on the side of the mountain paused, looking around with startled eyes.  They felt the faint vibration of the ground, their ears barely picking up the distant rumble.  A child stared curiously at a small rock that rolled and clattered past.

                With a deliberate and practiced hand, he painted the mountainside, coloring bright red trails down the rock face.  The rumbling grew louder, the ground shaking with increasing fury.  The pebbles and rocks already lightly clattering down the mountainside were chased by larger rocks, boulders, and clouds of billowing un-breathable dust.

                The small group, related families forced to relocate, began to scramble in a frightened panic.  They grabbed at children, dropping some belongings, keeping only that which was essential for survival.  They ran this way and that, growing confused with fear, running for their lives.  One woman tripped and fell, her infant clutched protectively in her arms, scraping her arm and leg on one side on the sharp rocks.  A little stunned, she lay there breathing hard, staring at her husband who had been hurriedly picking through their meager belongings, discarding anything they could not eat.

                He gently dabbed a spot of red upon the head of the man.

                Looking almost bewildered, the man stared at his fallen wife, pleading with his eyes for her to hurry to her feet and run.  A boulder flew by them as if hurled from the mountain by a giant invisible hand, flying past between the two with unstoppable momentum.  After it had passed by, the man’s headless body stood there, wavering slightly, his head now a small red smear being painted down the mountain by the rolling boulder.

                So intent were the terrified people on fleeing the rockslide that most of them did not even notice the dark and terrible winged creature that swooped down silently from the sky, its tattered cloak flapping like the rotting sheet wrapped about a corpse.  The creature seemed somehow indistinct, as though only a shadow of it could touch this world.

                The man’s wife watched in horror, a terrible scream tearing from her throat as she watched the monster swoop down and grab her husband’s headless shoulder with the long fingers of one taloned hand.  It turned its faceless head towards her as it reached down with the other hand into the new orifice that used to be his neck, and tore away the shadowy shade of the man writhing and fighting to remain sheltered inside the dead body.  The creature’s blood red eyes remained motionless and locked on her as it stole her husband’s soul.  With incredible speed, it lifted off, swooping away into the sky with its still struggling cargo.  The man tried to scream as he fought the powerful monster that spirited him away, but could not.  He was but a shadow, without form or a body.  On the ground his body still stood there, wavering slightly, then slumped slowly to the ground, its heartbeat slowing, slower, stuttering to a stop.  Perhaps half a minute had passed.

                He continued to paint his canvas of rock and lives.  Very few would survive.

                The mountain shook violently, those who missed being crushed by the falling rocks found themselves gasping and choking on air that had been replaced by dust, unable to breathe, suffocating.

                The black creature swooped down from the sky again and again, stealing souls from the broken bodies as their life ebbed away.  Always it moved swiftly and silently, with deadly precision.

                When the violent shaking of the ground stopped at last, the rumbling faded away into the past, and the dust began to clear on the soft breath of the air, the aftermath became apparent.  An ugly gash scraped down the mountainside, a trail of broken debris showing the path the rockslide had taken.  Red smears of blood marred the scene, a gruesome testimony to the death and destruction, matching exactly the red smears of blood he lovingly painted on his canvas.

                A child wailed.  A woman’s hand poked feebly from the ground, waving weakly, smeared with blood and dust.

                He had a name once.  It has been so long since he has heard the name uttered that he could no longer remember it.  Most called him by another name.  Death.

                His dark cloaked shoulders shook, the rotting fabric shreds moving as though its tattered remains were made of delicate gauze.  He wept for the newly collected souls.






Jan 23/09 online at Patchwork


Jan 30/09 online at Flashes in the Dark







Bookmark Blood by L.V. Gaudet (Horror Flash Fiction)

Read Full Post »

Snow (Flash Fiction)

By L. V. Gaudet

© December 2008





It was a dark and stormy night.


No, actually it wasn’t.  That is just so cliché.


It was neither dark, nor stormy.  In fact, it was quite bright and tranquil with the snow lazily falling and blanketing the world in a soft downy blanket.


However, there was a dark storm brewing somewhere, deep within the breast of one fateful soul who will have a rather fate-less affect on those around.  Not so much in a way of lacking chance and destiny, but rather in a way of that destiny being one that is lacking in fortune and future.  It would be a fate resulting in no fate, no future, and ending in a finality of fatality.


To everyone else it was a day as any other day.  It was the weekend, Saturday to be precise; and only days before Christmas.  The muffled scrape of shovels clearing driveways and sidewalks didn’t so much echo in the air as it seemed to be carried on the wings of the very snowflakes themselves as they drifted down, billions of flakes carrying the sound on the faint draught of air that could not even be called a breeze.


The distant soprano rumble of sleds bounding across the fields could be felt more than it could be heard.  The sudden grinding of a snow blower starting rattled off the snowflakes like a lumbering abominable chain saw.  The shlish and scream of children tobogganing down a hill somewhere cut through the downy muffled hush brought on the world by the gentle snowflakes.  Somewhere a dog barked.


A scream bounced from snowflake to snowflake.  It didn’t sound right.  It wasn’t the fun filled happy shriek of a tobogganing child.  It was shrill and desperate, torn violently from the throat, frantic and terrible.


The scream didn’t register though, so lost was everyone in their own activities, in their own private little bubbles of their own little worlds within this winter wonderland, separate from all the other little bubbles, bouncing about each other without really touching.


At least, it didn’t register on the consciousness of any people living within their own little private bubble lives.  Most people live in their own little bubble, most but not all.  And dogs, dogs don’t live in bubbles; they are tuned in to the world around them.  It’s hardwired into their makeup.


The dogs heard it.  All around the little town dogs barked and howled.


It could be some time before one of these little private bubble worlds bounced and touched the little bubble world the scream was torn from, before someone learns the terrible truth behind the scream that everyone heard, yet no one noticed.


Perhaps the next snow fall.





The air tasted crisp, so intense was the cold, biting at fingers and toes within their protected confines, making noses sting and lungs burn with each inhalation of chill air.  It was too cold even for Jack Frost to be out performing his public service of decorating window panes with his intricate artwork.


The cool light of the moon seemed colder, more distant, shining with an ethereal pale light wrapped in ghostly light circles as its light refracted off the invisible frozen air crystals hanging suspended in the atmosphere enveloping the earth.  The stars, their light much dimmer, tried feebly to point their little beacon lights to the ground below, like a distant warning.


The clouds rolled in, shrouding the ground below, hiding it from the moon’s view, shutting off its pale light.  The snow started to fall.  Barely at first, scattered tiny flakes drifted down, growing bigger and thicker, multiplying in number, and turning into a dreamy soft down gently touching every surface.


This time there was no scream bouncing off the gently falling snow, just a wet sort of gurgle, low and quiet, and the pristine white virgin snow slowly turning bright red.  This time even the dogs didn’t notice and the people mostly slept, safe in their own little lives and oblivious to the other little lives all around.





A stray dog snuffled about in the snow.  It wasn’t a homeless or abandoned dog, just one that had escaped the rope tethering it in the yard.  The dog walked as if on a mission, purposeful, intent, tail and body tense, sniffing and snuffling at the snow as it went.  Deep tracks followed the dog through the thick blanket of snow.  The dog stopped, snuffling deeper, nose digging down, snorting.  The dog startled with a yip, turned tail and ran away, its trail following like a shadow.  The snow in the hole dug by the dog’s questing nose was stained crimson.  Like a soft sigh, snow began to fall.


People moved about, safely cocooned in their private little bubble lives, each doing their own thing and oblivious to the lives around.


Without a sound one of these little bubbles popped.  The woman walked with some difficulty through the snow along the edge of the trees where the snow was less deep.  She looked about her keenly, every now and then cupping her hands to each side of her mouth and calling.  She was looking for the family dog that had escaped off the rope tethering the animal safely in the yard.  At last she came across a track leading away from the trees and across the field.  Just beyond it lay another track, less defined as though made by less careful movements.  This track led into the trees.  She thought for a moment and decided to follow the next track into the woods.


She didn’t get far before she found the dog.  Well, what was left of the dog anyway.  Her heart thudded hard and fast in her chest, her breath caught as her chest constricted, eyes widening in horror.


Something slammed into the woman, knocking her sideways a few feet and down into the white downy snow.  A crimson stain slowly began to spread across the pristine snow.

Bookmark Snow by L.V. Gaudet (Horror Flash Fiction)

Read Full Post »


by L. V. Gaudet

(C) November 2008






            A large bumblebee flittered lazily around the flowers below the window sill, buzzing softly like a lover serenading his girl.  The flowers gently sway in the light morning breeze as their fragrance is born aloft on the warm air.  The lacy white curtain trembles slightly as a breeze gently slips through the mesh of the window screen, sending a faint patterned shadow dancing across the room.  Wind chimes hanging outside the window tinkle merrily, playing as accompaniment to the love song of the bee.  The sunlight filtering through the semi-transparent curtains glows warmly on the wrinkled face lying in a cloud of grey-white hair.  It is an old face, a spider web of age lines crisscrossing across it like an invisible veil.  Beneath the surreal mask of wrinkles lies the real person, a sad and lonely woman who grew old before she was ready, ever yearning for the youth she still felt in her heart if not in her arthritic limbs.

            A quiet gasp escapes past the age-chapped lips.  Her eyelids flutter open as her mind gropes its way out of a deep sleep with a realization of the silence.  To the old woman, it seems as an almost deathlike stillness.  The silence is broken only by the soft purring drone of the bumble bee playing a duet with the tinkling chimes outside the window.  The old woman is deaf to the subtle sounds drifting in through the window, her ears hoping desperately for other, more domestic, sounds.  Sounds she knew would not be there.

            She sighs depressingly, knowing all too well that this morning will be like all the others.  Her life now is an endless stream of mornings greeted by gloomy silence; suffocating and still, like an ancient tomb where life hasn’t tread for centuries.

            Her thoughts, still fuzzy with sleep, turn automatically to memories of the past, as they do every morning.  Days when each morning was welcomed by the delicious smells of breakfast cooking, the unmistakable sounds of running feet and voices of children laughing, arguing.  Most unmistakable of all to her lonely mind was the gentle voice of her beloved husband.

            Those were the days when she was happy, fulfilled; a lifetime ago.

            Now she lives alone.  Her children are all grown up with children of their own, and her loving husband has been dead for five years now.

            Wearily, she pulls herself into a sitting position, considering whether or not to bother getting out of bed today.  There seems little point in it.


            There is a light half-hearted scratch at the bedroom door, then a small meow, and then a Pause.  After a brief moment a more determined scratch came, followed by a loud demanding “Mrraaoow!”

            Lovingly, she looks to the closed bedroom door where Charlie is meowing loudly, demanding attention.  He is her only relief from this suffering loneliness, but somehow not quite fulfilling her need for companionship.

            She slowly twists her body, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, blue varicose veins weaving a rambling pattern down them like a live road map.  Loose skinned and frail looking, her arm stretches out, reaching for her cane, her hand knobby with purple-blue vein bumps.  She gripped the bed post with the other hand to steady herself.  Her silver-white hair, the tangled mane of a banshee, falls across her pale creased face, half obscuring sunken brown eyes.  She mutters incoherently to herself.

            If you saw her, you would wonder if even she knew what she was saying.


            Using her cane to pull herself unsteadily to her feet, the old woman slowly made her way to the door with an unsteady shuffling walk.  It creaked slightly as she opened it.  Looking down, she saw a large orange striped tomcat stretching stiffly on the weathered floor at her feet.  The cat was mostly an indistinct blur of orange, a fuzzy blob at her feet.

            He gazed up at her affectionately, meowing his good morning.  An understanding look passed between them.

            “Alright, let’s go and get you looked after,” the old woman said as Charlie rose painfully on stiff arthritic limbs and preceded her stiffly to the tiny kitchen.

            As the old woman was finishing the daily morning ritual of dressing, cleaning, and feeding Charlie and herself, she wondered if she should call her son Dave and ask him to visit.  Still sitting in her favorite chair in the living room, her plate holding a meager breakfast balanced precariously on her lap, she ate with arthritic numbed fingers.  Each bite was an effort to hold with those fingers that couldn’t quite grasp as they should, a faint tremble to her hands.  In this chair she can look out the window and watch the people passing by on the street outside.

            Just as she decided to wait until later to call her son the doorbell rang, its chime calling out urgently through her small home.  Excited at the thought of company, she set her plate aside and pushed herself out of the chair with difficulty.  She waddled like an anorexic penguin slowly to the door, peering through the peephole when she finally reached her destination.

            On the other side a pretty girl stood.  She had the smoothly tanned complexion of youth and long curly dark brown hair.  She is eight years old.

            To the old woman’s rheumy eyes the figure through the peep hole is fuzzy and hard to see.  Straining to reach high enough to see through the peep hole, she can see only a blur in the shape of a human form.  She can see no distinguishing features to tell her who her visitor is.

            “Who’s there,” the old woman called through the door.  Her voice is weak and cracked, an old crone’s voice, as ancient as the mountains.

            “Grandma, it’s me, Sherry,” a soft melodically low voice replied through the door.

            Cautiously the old woman opened the door.  The face is still not clear enough to be recognizable.

            “I don’t know you!  What do you want?” the old woman complained to the girl standing in front of her.

            The happy girl’s expression changed to a crushed one.

            Feeling hurt, Sherry explained.

            “It’s me, Sherry.  You know; your granddaughter.  My dad is your son, Dave.  We visited you last month.”

            “Oh,” the old woman exclaimed, “well don’t just stand there, come in, come in.”  She moved her withered frame away from the door to allow her granddaughter to enter.

            “No wonder I don’t know who you are, when I see you once a month,” the old woman muttered irritably.  Adding as an afterthought, “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you dear.  I can’t see a damn thing through these glasses anymore.”

            “Um, Grandma,” Sherry said carefully, “you aren’t wearing your glasses.”

            “That’s because they don’t work,” the old woman snapped.

            Shrugging it off, Sherry suggested as she walked past the old woman into her house, “Well then why don’t you get new glasses?”

            Ignoring this, the old woman turned and walked back to her chair, grumbling.

            “I don’t like being called ‘Grandma’, it makes me sound old.  Call me Eve.”  The chair protested as she settled her slight weight into it.  She motioned Sherry to sit down.


            As the ancient clock on the wall chimed its announcement that it is two o’clock, the old woman and Sherry were interrupted by the bing bonging call of the doorbell.  The old woman motioned for Sherry to answer it, complaining about how hard it is on her stiff joints when she has to keep getting up.

            Her sprite narrow frame hopping up from the floor where she sat cross legged in front of her Grandmother, Sherry strolled lightly to the door.

            “Look through the hole before you answer the door,” her Grandmother warned.  The rest was muttered incoherently under her breath, perhaps something about strangers lurking outside her door.

            Grasping the handle she found that, although her grandmother is a short woman, she has to stand on tiptoes to see through the peephole.


            On the other side of the peeling door is a tall, slightly chubby man with thin black hair, balding on top.

            “It’s Dad,” she exclaimed, opening the door and eagerly standing aside to allow him to enter.

            Seeing her son, who was a tall indistinct blur to her ill-working eyes, the old woman immediately started on a tirade, preaching about his cruelty to her in being too busy to come visiting more often.

            “It’s been a month since I last saw you!  Are you too busy to see your poor old mother, who raised you and cared for you!” she demanded.  “Or are you just too good now to spare any time for me.”  It was not a question, but a pronouncement.

            Having only begun, she continued.

            “I sit here alone day after day, waiting for someone to bother to find the time to visit me.  I’m not safe here all alone, an old woman like me, strange people lurking out there, coming to the door and trying to trick me into letting them in and at me …”

            Frustrated, Dave cut her off.

            “I have a family to spend time with.  I can’t spend all of it with you.  Besides, why don’t you get out sometime and make some friends.  Then you won’t feel so lonely.”

            “Don’t I count as family anymore?” the old woman muttered under her breath.  When Dave ignored this she continued in a defeated whimper.  “You’re just making excuses.  You don’t want to waste your precious time on a useless old woman.”

            Getting angry now, Dave raised his voice in protest.

            “Stop it Mother!  Stop being so miserable!  If you didn’t complain so much about how nobody has time for you and whine so much about how hard on you we are, then maybe it would be easier to want to make time for you.  You’re just being paranoid that nobody wants you!”

            His anger flared further as he watched the old woman fumbling blindly through her knitting basket, pulling out a large print magazine, and holding it so close it touched her nose as she squinted and pretended to be trying to read it.

            “And for God’s sake put on your glasses!” Dave fumed.

            With a loud “Hhmph!” the old woman snatched her glasses off the little round corner table beside her chair with surprising dexterity that didn’t match her decrepitness and put them on.  As she did so everything suddenly jumped into clear focus.  She squinted at her son angrily through the glasses, wrinkling the magazine noisily as she brought it back to her nose, holding it far away, and back to her nose again, making a show of being unable to read the magazine, proving her point that the glasses don’t work.

            Breaking the uncomfortable silence that has fallen between them, the old woman quietly despaired.

            “It’s true though, nobody wants me.  I’m just a useless old woman,” she moaned.

            Dave sighed with exasperation.

            “We do love you,” he continued, “but you have to make a life of your own.  We can’t all revolve our lives around you.”

            “I did,” the old woman thinks to herself, remembering the years she spent revolving her life around her children, raising them.

            Slouching with dejection and tired of it all, Dave added, “I don’t want to hear any more about how hard up and neglected you think you are.”

            With a hurt look the old woman retreated into silence.


            Following an afternoon filled with tension, Dave noticed that Charlie hasn’t been in his usual spot, purring on his mother’s lap.  Hoping to distract his two women from the angry moods they have both slipped into, he commented on the cat’s conspicuous absence.

            “I haven’t seen Charlie today.  He’s always the first to reach the door when he hears the bell,” Dave said.  Thinking about it briefly, he continued,” I’ve never known him to miss out on company.”

            “Maybe he’s taking a nap,” Sherry suggested, her slender arm snaking out to snatch another cookie off the plate sitting on the old age-worn coffee table.

            Thoughtfully, Dave looked at her for a moment.  He shook his head and replied, Beginning slowly, absent mindedly, and almost slurring his words so deep was he in thought.

            “I don’t think so,” Dave said.  “I have never known that cat to nap through company and miss out on being the center of attention, no matter how tired he is.”

            “Yeah,” Sherry agreed thoughtfully, “but he is pretty old.  He must be tired a lot.”

            Not about to miss a chance to suggest that his mother get rid of the ancient feline, whose limbs are now stiff and arthritic, Dave looked at his mother, trying to catch her eye.

            “He is pretty old you know,” Dave said, “I mean, Charlie is already half blind with cataracts and almost crippled from arthritis.  Half his organs are failing with age.”

            Ignoring the shocked looks he was receiving from both his mother and daughter, he continued in a bored lecturing tone.

            “You know, he really should have been put down when that car hit him two years ago.  He never did quite recover from that,” Dave lectured.

            Dave looked quite pleased with himself.  His face suddenly lit up with excitement as he pretended to have just had a wonderful revelation.  Eagerly, he made the suggestion he has tried to find the words for every time he came to visit.

            “I know!  Why don’t we take him to the vet and have him put out of his misery now?  Today!”  Dave’s eyes gleamed with triumph, as though he just offered them the fulfillment of their hearts’ every desire, looking to the two sets of eyes staring back at him in horrified shock,

            It was very badly put.

            The old woman’s mouth dropped open as a blank look of shock claimed her face.  Her jaw opened and closed spastically a few times, the creases around the corners deepening.  Her eyes widened with hollowed shock.

            His daughter, Sherry, gaped at him in shock, disbelieving her own father could say something so cruel.  Poor Charlie!

            “H-How could you suggest a thing?!” the old lady exclaimed incredulously, her voice rising in pitch.  Her shock turned to hurt, the expression of horrified amazement sinking into an injured look and then to a trembling anger.

            “Charlie has been with me for sixteen years now!  It would be MURDER to kill him!”  She would have spit when she talked if her salivary glands weren’t so dried up with age. Her eyes began to shine with the threat of tears.

            Her lower lip trembled and a slight whimper entered her voice.

            “He can’t even defend himself from you,” the old woman said, turning away from her son in angry despair.  Her eyes looked about, desperate for a sign of her cat, feeling the urgent need to protect the feline from her murderous son.

            “Oh how could I have birthed such a horrible monster,” she wondered to herself, “Cruel, cruel, cruel.”

            “Besides, he’s all I have,” she finished admonishing her son, her voice cracking, not turning to look at him.

            “But Mom,” Dave exclaimed, interrupting, “you have us!”

            Angered by this the old woman spun around to face him, rising slowly and unsteadily from her chair, head low and menacing, her squinting eyes burning with anger.  Her anger exploded from her.

            “That is a LIE!”  The old woman screamed.  “I don’t have you!  I have no one!”  Finishing in a sarcastic tone, she continued, “You can’t even be bothered to spare any time from your precious schedule to come see me more than once a month.”

            They stood there in a standoff, staring each other down.  The old woman stood rock solid and breathing heavy.  Dave trembled slightly, the little boy who broke the bad neighbor’s window having to fess up to his mother, who would be angry at having to spend their meager grocery money to repair the damage.

            The old woman’s voice quavered as she continued.

            “Is this what you’re going to do to me?” she demanded, staring down the little boy standing before her, making him shrink within himself, trying to hide from that stare, trying to disappear.

            “Have me ‘put down’ when you’re sick of me?  Is that your solution to anything that gets old and useless?”  Her voice shook with age and anger, dripping with hatred.

            Dave just blinked back at her, still the little boy staring up at his all powerful mother, protector, and punisher all in one, instead of the man who stood before his decrepit old mother.

            Spent and exhausted from her angry outburst, she lost her determined fighters stance, shoulders slumping in defeat.  The frail old woman suddenly looked much older.  Her voice dropped to barely a whisper.

            “I have no one but Charlie.”

            Dave just stood there, voiceless, scuffing the toe of his shoe guiltily on the carpeted floor, toeing the frayed strings of the worn carpet.  His slouching shoulders hunched up protectively like a turtle trying to hide its head, but for some reason can’t pull it inside its shell.

            “You are heartless!” the old woman demanded, almost in tears now.  Her voice stabbed at Dave like a knife.  “You want to take away from me the only one who cares, the only company I have to get me through these lonely days.”

            Dave visibly cringed with every word she emphasized.

            With vehemence the old woman screamed at him again, her anger renewed.

            “You stay away from my Charlie!”  Her dried up salivary glands managed to let fly a loose spittle this time with the force of her words.  She breathed heavily, glaring at her son with a baleful look comparable in potency to that of Medusa, who was notorious for her ability to turn most men to stone with just a gaze, or perhaps the mythical salamander.

            Biting her lip so hard she almost drew blood in her effort not to cry, Sherry looked from her father to her grandmother.

            “Please don’t say these things,” she pleaded quietly.  “Don’t fight like this.”  She begged them with her eyes.

            Ignoring his daughter, Dave sighed exasperatedly.  He did that a lot when he visited his mother.

            “Fine,” Dave said in frustration, “you won’t have to be alone.”  He paused, and then continued.  “I’ll get you a new kitten.”  He regretted the words even as he said them.  He knew his mother would have to go into a home soon, if she didn’t die of a stroke or something before then.  Either way, he’d have a whole new fight on his hands trying to get rid of the new cat against the protests of his wife, daughter, and his mother … if she was still alive by then.  Damned cats!

            The old woman turned her back on him stubbornly.

            “I won’t let you take Charlie away from me,” she insisted, “I won’t let you murder him.”  The hated word dripped with venom.   “I don’t want a new kitten,” she added, “Charlie can NOT be replaced!”

            Through most of this Sherry sat quietly, considering where Charlie might be.  Surely he couldn’t have slept through all this shouting.  She just couldn’t think of any place, and he never goes outside any more.  Finally she interrupted the two arguing adults.

            “Where is Charlie, Grandma?” she asked.


            Truly realizing for the first time that no one has seen Charlie all afternoon, they all looked around dumbfounded.  Despite arguing about it, the reality hadn’t really sunk in until now, nor did the significance.  The old woman fell back stiffly into her chair, eyes downcast.

            After a few awkward moments of silence, the old woman pushed herself out of her chair with visible effort, grunting with the pain and stiffness.  Her boney knuckles turned white as the dry papery skin pulled tight over the bones and cartilage of her hands.  Grasping her cane tightly with the anger which still hasn’t left her, the old woman slowly shuffled out of the room, calling Charlie with a dry age-cracked voice.

            “Charlie, here kitty,” she called out, “where are you, you lazy tom.”

            Sherry jumped up, following the old woman to help in the search.

            Dave watched them go, standing stiffly, slouching.  His head hung low and his hands were thrust in the pockets of his trousers like a rebellious boy who has just been scolded.  He shifted uneasily, feeling bad now.

            Finally, Dave moved into action with jerky movements, joining the search for the cat.  He wasn’t really looking, just going through the motions mostly.

            Dave searched the living room while his mother and Sherry explored the kitchen and bathroom.

            “Lucky she moved into a small home after Dad died,” Dave thought to himself.

            After they exhausted the searches in their individual rooms, they switched without comment or even really thinking about the fact that the rooms have already been checked.

            Inside the kitchen, Dave shook his head in disgust at the shallow china bowl of drying canned cat food sitting on the floor in a corner.  The edges of the food looked dried and cracked, darkened.  It looked old and gross, an insult to the delicate pattern of the china that belonged behind glass doors.  Beside it sat a chipped china bowl of a different pattern.  The milk seemed chunky.  A foul odor wafted up on the air from it.  He looked around the kitchen dismally without really looking while Sherry and the old woman frantically searched the living room.

            Still, they had no luck.

            “I’m going outside to look,” Dave declared, giving up the search indoors.

            “But Daddy, you know he never goes outside,” Sherry reminded him.

            “I’ll look just in case,” he said, closing the door behind him.  He didn’t really intend to look outside; he just needed to get out of there for a bit.

            By now the old woman was back sitting in her chair, too upset and tired to continue the search.  Sherry sank down into another chair.

            “Grandma,” Sherry exclaimed, her eyes lighting up, “we didn’t check your bedroom.”

            A glimmer of hope sparked in the old woman’s eyes, blossoming into confidence.

            “Well, that’s obviously where he is then,” she said.  “Why don’t you go fetch him dear?”  She remembered that the door to her bedroom had been closed.  Poor Charlie simply couldn’t get out.  His hearing wasn’t too good these days either, he probably didn’t hear the door and just curled up for a nap.

            Eagerly, Sherry hopped up and skipped out of the room.


            Sherry twisted the door knob slowly and swung open the bedroom door.  The door hinges creaked quietly as metal ground against metal; their lubricating oil wearing down.  Entering the room, her eyes darted about from one end to the other.

            A faint sickly sweet odor hung in the air.  The ‘old woman smell’ is present as always, but it seems somehow different, stronger, today.

            “This room smells awful,” she whispered to herself, gasping slightly at the shock of the putrid odor.  The breeze wafting in through the open window did little to stir the air.

            Not seeing the cat, she crouched on her hands and knees to check under the bed, involuntarily holding her breath.

            There is nothing there but a pair of worn pink fuzzy slippers.  They are half bald.

            Standing up, she crossed the room to the closet near the foot of the bed.  Opening the door, she is hit with the overpowering stench of mothballs mingled with other unidentifiable scents.  Sucking in her breath and holding it, she quickly shifted around the clothes hanging on the bar and the few items on the floor.  Her eyes burn and water a little from the odor.  When she didn’t find the cat she quickly closed the door, her eyes had turned a little red from the mothball fumes.

            Turning toward the bed, she noticed the furry tip of a tail poking out from under the tangled bed sheets.  She couldn’t have seen it from the doorway.

            Her face burst into a triumphant grin and she called out happily.

            “So there you are!  You silly cat, were you hiding from us?”  She approached the bed, expecting the cat to sit up or roll over lazily at any moment.

            “Is this a new game you learned?” she asked the silent cat.

            Reaching out, she slowly pulled back the blanket and saw Charlie.


            The orange cat is laying half curled, his tongue hanging out slightly as though he were too thirsty and weak to hold it in place.  His eyes were open with a blank, glazed expression, dry and looking more like marbles than eyes.

            He looks kind of flat, almost like he sank or caved into himself, his flesh sagging lifelessly into itself, shrunken.  His once luxuriant fur dull and scraggly with age now looked more like cheap imitation fake fur that has been chewed up and spit out.  He looked stiff, without even having to reach out to touch him and see.

            A foul odor rose to Sherry’s nostrils, making them flare in disgust.  Reaching out her hand tentatively to give the cat a gentle shake, disbelieving what her eyes clearly saw, she noticed the grayish pallor to the skin under the cat’s thin fur.  She also noticed with her eyes and nose both that the feline’s bowels had emptied themselves as he lay there, the mess having oozed out onto the bed.

            Shocked, knowing the truth but unable to readily accept it, she shook him anyway to be sure.  Charlie rocked slightly at her gentle touch, stiffly, like a wooden carving of a cat.  His stiffened joints and flesh didn’t even move.

            Yes, he’d dead.

            Gently picking him up, she cradled him in her arms and dejectedly stumbled out of the room in shock.


            The old woman looked up as the young girl entered the room with her grisly cargo.  The expression on the old woman’s face changed from confident expectancy to curious to disbelief, and finally to horror.  Her eyes locked on the bundle cradled in the girl’s arms.  Her head swiveled slowly, following the girl as she stumbled into the room with her terrible burden.

            Seeing that her beloved Charlie seems limp and deflated, yet visibly stiffened, she immediately knew that her only relief from complete desolation and loneliness is now gone.

            Paralyzed with the sudden ache of an intense loneliness that she hasn’t felt since the death of her husband, the old woman would have collapsed to the floor if she were not already sitting down.  She seemed to have suddenly shriveled and shrunk into herself like the deceased feline had as his body sank into the long sleep of death.

            A tremor gripped the old woman’s body.  Shaking and feeling tremendously weak, she wished she could just drop into oblivion.  She stared dully at the door as it slowly creaked open and her son, Dave, walked in shaking his head.  He was about to say something, to say that he searched everywhere and could not find the cat.  He started opening his mouth to talk.

            The old woman glared at him, giving him a bitter “Are you happy now?  You have what you wanted,” look.

            He looked questioningly at her, then at his daughter.  Seeing the cat grasped to the girl’s chest, he knew immediately from the stricken look on her face and the cat’s stiffly unreal appearance that the animal was dead.  His stomach turned with revulsion at seeing his daughter clinging to the dead creature as though it were one of her baby dolls.  He pounced on the girl, knocking the dead animal from her arms.

            The old woman gasped in shock and horror, watching her beloved Charlie falling as if in slow motion, turning and bouncing slightly as he hit the floor.

            Sherry stood numbly, staring into her father’s face, confused and stricken by his angry behavior, shocked as the poor animal tumbled from her grasp.

            Dave sat down heavily on the couch and looked at his mother, making the effort not to stare with grisly fascination at the dead cat laying abandoned on the floor, feeling guilty now for the things he said.


            They all sat in silence, trying to avoid each other’s eyes, not knowing what to say.  Charlie lay on the floor, now wrapped discretely in an old towel.

            Finally, Sherry voiced what nobody else wanted to.

            “Charlie is gone now,” she said, looking questioningly at her father, then to her grandmother.

            Timidly, Sherry asked the old woman, “Do you want a kitten now, Grandma?”  Pausing awkwardly, she added, “You were worried about being alone.  You’re alone now … a kitten would change that.”

            “We could take a drive right now to pick one out,” Dave put in immediately, his voice raised eagerly.  He had no intention earlier of doing so, despite making the offer.  But now he was tied in knots with guilt.  He’d do anything to buy his way out of it, even if it was only himself he had to pay off to be rid of the guilt.

            “I don’t want a kitten,” the old woman spat, not pleased with the suggestion.  Her temper flared, and she fought to control her voice as she continued, articulating slowly and deliberately.

            “Charlie … can … not … be … replaced.”  Her voice was firm despite its cracking with emotion.  She crossed her arms over her chest in a gesture of stubbornness, refusing to give in.

            “We’re not trying to replace him,” Dave replied, “We just don’t want to see you lonely.”

            “Is that why you wanted to kill him?” she snapped back bitterly.

            “Come on, Grandma,” Sherry said, desperate to comfort the old woman.  “You don’t have to get a kitten.  Just come for the ride.”

            Finally, they broke through the old woman’s fierce determination to be bitter and sullen, convincing her to ‘just come for the ride.’

            All the while looking at the kittens, the old woman continued to insist she doesn’t want one.  She shuffled along stiffly, sullenly, shaking her head and muttering under her breath, casting angry glares at her son.

            However, there was one tiny kitten whose cage she was a little hesitant to pass by.

            Giving up the effort, the trio stalked off back to the car, Dave and the old woman both angry and stubborn.  A wordless look passed between Dave and his daughter.

            As Dave and the old woman walked to the car, Sherry made an excuse and ran back to buy the kitten.  The old woman’s pause at the cage hadn’t passed unnoticed by her two escorts.


            The old woman glared at the young girl as she climbed into the car with the tiny bundle of mewling fur.

            “I said I don’t want a kitten!” the old woman yelled and lapsed into a sullen silence, staring straight ahead.  Then she added more quietly, more muttered under her breath than directed to anyone in particular, “I won’t keep it.”

            Sherry looked down at the shivering little bundle of bones and fur in her lap, pouting her disappointment.

            “Well then just babysit her for me, ok?”  She looked up at her grandmother hopefully, not quite hiding her hurt feelings.  “Just for a few days Grandma, please?”

            The car pulled up in front of the old woman’s home.

            “Why don’t you just keep it for a few days,” Dave suggested, “we already paid for it anyway.  If you don’t want it then, I’ll take it back to the shelter.”

            The old woman glared at him, and then stiffly climbed out of the car.

            “No!” she shouted angrily, eyes burning and teeth clenched.

            Before she knew what was happening, the tiny mewling kitten was thrust into her arms and the car sped away.

            Although upset at the attempt to replace Charlie, the old woman felt inexplicit relief that she won’t be entirely alone.

            Entering her home, she plunked the kitten down on the living room floor and warned it sternly.

            “I don’t want you!  Just stay out of my way!”  With that, the old woman shuffled out of the room to the kitchen.

            Charlie still lay wrapped in the old towel on the floor before the old woman’s favorite chair, stiff, cold and forgotten.  Dave was to bury the old cat in the small back yard of his mother’s tiny house when they returned, but had forgotten.


            Round green eyes, seemingly too large for their tiny head, stared in bewilderment at these strange surroundings.

            Tentatively raising a clumsy little paw, the kitten moved to lick it, changed her mind, and lowered it again.

            Confused and frightened, she mewed experimentally.  It was a weak and pitiful sound, barely loud enough to hear.  Nothing happened.  She looked around, ruffled her fur, stretched her head out, and a loud wail expressing all the grief and anxiety she felt trapped inside her tiny shivering body escaped up her trembling throat.


            On hearing the kitten’s cry, the old woman set down the small china bowl she was about to pour milk for the kitten into and shuffled in a hurry back to the living room.  She shuffled to her favorite chair, turned around awkwardly, and sat down in her chair.  She used her cane to brace herself with as she lowered her frail body shakily into the cushioned chair.

            With a sigh of defeat and exhaustion, she watched as the kitten clumsily made its way towards her, lifting her paws gingerly and placing them carefully before her as though not sure where to step.

            Feeling a twinge of emotion for this helpless little creature, the old woman leaned forward in her chair, reaching and spreading her fingers to touch the kitten.  She froze suddenly as a paralyzing sharp pain tore through her body.  Her muscles clenched, her eyes widened, her breath caught in her chest and rattled.

            The kitten stretched its tiny pink nose, a little jumpy at the woman’s strange behavior, sniffing delicately at the tips of her fingers, its tiny pink tongue reaching out to delicately tap a finger tip.

            A steady ache replaced the pain running through her chest and down both arms.  A frightening numbness followed, creeping much more slowly, like a jungle cat closing in on the kill, consuming her body.

            Somehow through the pain and numbness the old woman knows that, finally, she will be freed from waking ever again to the gloomy silence that has filled these past lonely years.

            She’s not afraid.

            She struggles to straighten up in her chair, wanting to meet her destiny sitting tall and proud.

            Again, agony wreaks havoc through her body, freezing her in position, doubled over and leaning almost out of her chair as her heart clenches as if being squeezed in an iron hard fist.

            She sees her dear lost husband, Charlie sitting at his side luxuriantly curling and uncurling his tail in a mix of pleasure and impatience.

            I’m coming my love,” she gasps through pain clenched teeth, “I’m coming Charlie.”

            I’m here, waiting,” her husband replies gently.

            Charlie cocks his head then throws it back, his chin in the air.  An expression that has always meant, “Well come on then, I’m waiting.  But don’t make me wait too long.”  The cat has always had a bit of an attitude about him.

            A thin smile crosses her age chapped lips, a look of utter peace settles on her wrinkled time-worn face, the years seeming to magically melt away with the slackening of her flesh.

            Suddenly all is blackness … nothingness.


            The kitten looks up at the massive creature towering above her, this creature sitting on a strangely shaped mountain, leaning down with a strange large paw outstretched.

            She takes a hesitant step and falters, afraid.  Her eyes widen happily as she remembers the gentle fingers she has experienced before.  It is not her mother, who already has begun to grow fuzzy in her tiny memory, but it will do.

            Clumsily, the tiny kitten toddles over to her new protector.

            The large creature made a strange gurgling noise, startling the jumpy little kitten.  The kitten stretched its tiny pink nose, a little nervous at the woman’s strange behavior, sniffing delicately at the tips of her fingers, its tiny pink tongue reaching out to delicately tap a finger tip.

            Startled, the kitten paused, crouching timidly, looking up as the woman sitting above her doubled over.  The woman mumbled something unintelligible.

            Slumping forward, the huge body is reflected in the bright green eyes looking up and seeking reassurance.  The old woman slips from the chair, landing with a soft sound on top of the kitten.


            A terrible crushing weight pins the helpless kitten to the floor.  Her head and front shoulders barely poke out, front legs splayed out uncomfortably.

            Squirming and fighting desperately to pull herself loose, the tiny kitten starts gasping as it becomes harder and harder to breath.

            She mewls softly, plaintively, unable to do more.  Fighting less and less, her strength diminishing, the breath slowly being squeezed out of her tiny body.

            The tiny kitten wheezed out the last of her air and her beautiful green eyes bulge, mouth open as if to call out one more time, her eyes begin to glaze over.


            A soft noise, like warm mud squishing between your toes, emits from the old woman’s body accompanied by an unpleasant smell as her bowels released their contents.

            The smell assaulted the kitten’s tiny pink triangle nose, making her gag.

            Her cries have become silent though her mouth still opens and closes, desperately trying to cry out.  But her frail little body is no longer able to pull sweet air into her painful lungs.  Her glazing eyes are having trouble focusing, turning everything to indistinct shapes and blurs.

            Finally, she stops struggling and looks around hopefully, but no mother cat appears.

            Her small bony frame shudders … blackness engulfs her … nothingness.


            Only a few scant minutes have passed since the old woman sat in her chair and leaned over to comfort the little kitten.

            On the floor at the foot of an old chair, an old woman’s body slowly cools.  Beneath it the tiny frame of a kitten, too young to understand what death is, lays trapped and stiffening.  The kitten’s head and shoulders are barely visible sticking out from beneath the old woman, showing bulging green eyes and a tiny blue tinted tongue, a pale bubbly froth at the corners of her mouth.

            A few feet away lay the stiffened body of an ancient feline wrapped lovingly in an old towel.

            A sickly sweet odor mingles with the foul scent of body excrement and ‘old woman’ smell, filling the air, permeating the small old house.


            In death, Eve has more companionship than she did in the last years of her life.









Bookmark Charlie by L.V. Gaudet (Fiction Short Story)



Published  May 11, 2010 on Angie’s Diary (blog)


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: