Clockwork Wonderland Author Guest Blog Post: Michele Roger

 

Alice in Wonderland: the Bridge Between Reality and Fantasy

By

Michele Roger

 

It’s a Fine Line

           I discovered Lewis Carol and “Alice in Wonderland” later than most children.  While many of my friends tell me they read it with parents as a childhood bedtime story, I didn’t read the classic tale until high school.  Admittedly, by the time it was assigned to me, I was resentful.  Why was an Honors English class reading a kids book?

 

Thankfully, I was a goody-two-shoes and wanted to impress my teacher.  I dug into the story, assuming it would be a quick read, an easy paper and take me that much closer to kicking off my Spring Break.  Like so many things in my teenage life, I was wrong.  Alice in Wonderland consumed me.  It resembled many aspects of my real life and the people in it.  Epiphany hit me somewhere in the wee hours of the drive from Michigan to Florida as I sat reading in the car on a family Spring Break trip in April of 1988.  I was suffering the microcosm of my dysfunctional family crammed in the confines of a compact Ford Escort for eighteen hours when it hit me.  Lewis Carol took the extreme personalities of people he must have met somewhere in his life and turned them into the most fantastic creatures/characters to help tell a story.

 

I knew people like the caterpillar. I had parents of friends who smoked hash and made it look enlightening.  Caterpillar people loved parties, where jazz played softly in the background and martinis, were served in the library or study where guests could check out all of the books they had read.  These same people rarely spoke to their kids (my friends), drove expensive cars and paid for things with large wads of cash from their wallet.  All the while, they seemed to sit in a lofty leather chair and do nothing.  How they made their money was a mystery to me.  Caterpillars seemed addicted to the excitement of impending metamorphosis and bragged about their state of great change, telling their children they should aspire to it.  In reality, caterpillar people never turned into anything beautiful; much to the disappointment of their children.  I, on the other hand, thought they were entertaining.

 

The rest of that sophomore year and through my first summer job, I decided to find fantasy characters in my own reality.  There was no option out with a glass that said, “Drink me”,  to avoid driving in a hatchback with my parents, younger sister and two German shepherds to go places.  Heading to summer family events certainly felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole at sixteen.  I had the same tumbling feeling when I got my first summer job testing water samples and writing mind-numbing reports for the State of Michigan.

 

Mad Tea Party

The summer of 1988, I met my own personal Cheshire at a beach party. While drinks were flowing under the cover of darkness, I was drunk on a boy. One part bad boy, one part overwhelmingly charming and kind, stunningly handsome one minute, gone the next, not to be seen for weeks; leaving me with the memory of his smile.  He was well read but only shared his love of books quietly, unlike the caterpillars.  As I waited for him to materialize, I read books in his absence, hoping it would give us a chance to have something to talk about.

With all of the reading of classics and sci-fi, something inside me stirred, I was afraid to leave the safety of summer and high school.  Wonderland, Orwell’s versions of earth, the worlds of Omni magazine short stories had become a refuge.  Every college application, scholarship essay and step towards graduation, college and looming adulthood threatened to take my fantasy characters and imaginary places away.  My parents were pushing hard that I change my major from special education to law.  Secretly, I longed to be a writer.

One simply didn’t spring changing my parents well thought plans for my future.  They had their hearts set on a family lawyer.  I couldn’t just change and be a writer. Suggesting such a thing took cunning and skill.  I took an assessment test and had it sent to my mother at home so she would open it.  I waited until the weekend when I knew the cocktails would be flowing and pressed her about my results.  In reality, the school librarian had already informed me of the results, but I wanted to present my case with hard evidence.

As she stirred her drink, prepping dinner, she told me that she nor my father believed in such tests.  It said I should become a writer or a journalist.  Everyone knew girls couldn’t make any kind of living doing either of those things.  All the big work went to men.  I sighed.

 

Return to the Realm of the Queen of Hearts

It’s fair to say that I didn’t understand the Queen of Hearts and the notion of yelling, “Off with their heads!” until I heard my inner motherhood scream, “if I see that kind of behavior again, young lady, heads will roll.”  Fast forward to 2009, I was a mother of young teenagers and unknowingly, I had returned to Wonderland.

As an act of preparation for life, I read Alice in Wonderland to my kids.  We had moved into an old farmhouse in the country.  It was easy to see the characters that real people could be. Raising teenagers required escape.  I began to write, using everything I had learned from my trips down the rabbit hole.  Parenthood was the white rabbit, always in a hurry but never the less, magical and maddening and a beautiful chaos.  Lines between reality and fantasy were blurred from exhaustion but it made life all the more like Alice’s; adventurous and full of discovery.  Three novels and one children’s book later, I am thankful for Lewis Caroll.  I would have made a lousy lawyer anyways.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544785518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493493560&sr=8-1&keywords=clockwork+wonderland

 

Michele Roger is the author of the Sci-Fi novel, “Dark Matter” (2009), “The Conservatory” (2013) and “Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Story” (2015).  She is also the author of the “Mr. Kiwi” Children’s book series under her pen name, Michele Beresford.  When she isn’t writing, she is a harpist; performing and teaching in Detroit.

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_5?qid=1492955702&sr=1-5

 

Book Review: It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World by Curtis M. Lawson

Review of the Curtis M. Lawson book It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World

By Michele Roger

Grinning like a school girl, she said a prayer of thanks to God Almighty and pressed a hand against her ribs. The bones should have been broken. They had been earlier when she lay on the snowy cobblestone in Boston alley. Now there was no pain, and breathing came easily. The blade, which bore the seal of Samael, had performed what it had advertised.”

51ms92t5gxlWhat if eternal youth didn’t come by way of a holy grail, or a fountain? What if it came in the form of a pair of ancient knives? The blades are said to not only take the life of a victim but also transfer the victim’s vitality to their murderer. Such knives are considered the reality behind the mythical powers of Vlad the Impaler and Jack the Ripper, showing up at just the right, or wrong time throughout the world and history, depending on which side of the blade you’re standing.

It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World” is one part ancient relic mystery, much like the Dan Brown novels. Characters the reader comes to trust suddenly commit acts of betrayal. Villains, (and there are a whole lot of them in this story) come from every different background, backstory and motive. In the race to possess the two knives known as the Fangs of Wallachia, an assassin nun sent by the Vatican, a ninety year old occultist, two terminal cancer patients, a junkie, a gun for hire, a cop, and a pawn dealer, a misspent teenager, an antiques dealer and an aristocrat are all entangled in a dark web.

A little slow to start, Lawson’s book becomes a page turner. His characters are richly written with a plot that quickens its pace with every chapter. One part gore, one part Indiana Jones, it was a thrill ride I would highly recommend.

Guest Review : Michele Roger Reviews Seven Feet Under by Matthew Weber

 Seven Feet Under by Matthew Weber

7feetunder

Horror author, Matthew Weber offers seven stories steeped in the urban legends and ancient superstitions of the Deep South. Each story is unique in its own right, with a weaving of tales who’s connection is of hot summer nights and southern culture at its scariest. Characters are multi-layered and many do not live happily ever after; if they live at all.

Weber has clearly done his research, creating a world where the reader is immersed in the supernatural and the macabre. We are schooled in the hard lesson of dabbling carelessly in Voodoo. Then, we experience the tribulations of teenage angst when combined with a quasi-creative writing-telekinesis. In one of my favorite stories, we as readers are on the run from whatever mutant lurks down at the old fishing hole. His descriptions of southern life and backwater people captivated me as a reader and drew me into the minds of his tortured characters.

If I had one thing to improve upon in Seven Feet Under, I would say it was perspective. Readers who are contemplating reading this short story collection all in one sitting should take note. Some of Weber’s stories are written in first person and some in third person. Changing of one’s internal narrator may be required when ending one story and immediately beginning the next. That weak point for me may be a strong point for others. Each story could be read on a lunch hour or two and even better yet, on a flight to the Big Easy.

Seven Feet Under is listed as general horror, but all of its stories are void of extreme scenes, as well as blatant sexual content. So often, I am asked to recommend horror novels to young adults and those copies are few and far between. Alas, Seven Feet Under is one I can recommend safely while simultaneously singing its praises for scare factor and vivid, concise writing for all readers teenage age and up.

Many authors test their chops by way of short story. Fan bases and readership are made from horror anthologies. It is my sincere hope that Matthew Weber gleans an audience for his back country, home-spun horror tales. If we are lucky, perhaps he will delight his readers with a much longer, full length singular tale that will let us get to know the types of characters that I love; simultaneously flawed and heroic, a mixture of good and evil.

As the days get longer and the nights grow colder, new books call to those who love to read. Whether you take Seven Feet Under with you as you crawl under a pile of blankets or you beat the cold by traveling south, this book is a worthy page turner.

Wicked Women Writers and Masters Of Macabre

For Episode 130 of the Horror Addict podcast we will be highlighting the past winners of our Wicked Women Writer’s challenge and the Masters Of Macabre contest. The Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge started in 2008 by Michele Roger as a distraction to the monotony that can be writing as a woman in a genre dominated by men. It was also meant to bring attention to female horror writers and podcasters.  In 2011 Horroraddicts.net started the Master’s Of The Macabre contest to give male horror writers/podcasters a chance to compete. In each contest the participants are given a theme, a place and object with the goal of writing and reading the scariest story. In celebration of both contests here is a little information on each winner and what they are up to now:

www98012010497226_786392101430051_367125154057381978_o In 2009 the first winner of WWW was Heather Roulo the theme was doing away with your spouse. Heather’s story was called Graveyard Shift and was published in The Wickeds: A Wicked Women Writers Anthology (Volume 1). Heather is a writer of science-fiction, horror, and fantasy and has  a BA in English from the University of Idaho. Recently she released a new book called Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome.

http://www.heroulo.com/

TMOADOur 2010 winner was Rhonda Carpenter. The theme was seven Deadly Sins and Rhonda’s story called Barring Lilith. The Sin in question was lust and gets into what it is like if you are married to the demon of lust Asmodius. Rhonda is the author of the book Mark Of The Druid and was co-host of the podcast Podioracket.

http://www.rhondacarpenter.com/

2969162The winner in 2011 was Laurel Anne Hill for her story Flight Of Destiny. Her story stirs steampunk, infidelity, jealously, and a radioactive poison into a delicious hot-pot of horror. Laurel Anne Hill has been published in several anthologies including How Beer Saved the WorldShe also has a novel available called Heroes Arise

http://www.laurelannehill.com/

 

Obfuscate-Final-CoverIn 2012 Killion Slade won the Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge. Killion was assigned a holiday: Passover, a location: A Seashore and an object: A Garden Rake, she submitted Children of Angels. Killion Slade is a loyal reader of dystopian urban fantasy and has written two books in the World Of Blood series: Exsanguinate and Obfuscate

http://www.killionslade.com/

2013’s  winner was Maggie Fiske. In her story called A Quarrel for Jimmy Kills Crow,  the theme was the apocalypse and she had to write about solar flares while hunting in the mountains with a crossbow. Maggie had a lot of fun doing the sound effects for her story and made it sound like a professional radio play. Maggie has also written a novella called The Last Man to Die in the Nebraska Electric Chair. 

15838245DM Slate won 2014’s contest with her story Photo Finish . Her challenge items were a Dragon, Japanese Night Club, Hairspray and Hallucinations. D.M resides in Colorado and has a business degree from the University Of Northern Colorado.  She writes Horror, comedy and mystery. One of her novels is Roots Of Deceit.

http://www.dm-slate.com/
3841772015’s contest got a lot more difficult with each contestant having to do an audio production with more than one voice involved. Jaq Hawkins won with her story The Sun Child. Jaq is a British author in the genres of Steampunk, Fantasy and the occult. She wrote The Goblin Series along with several other books on magic.

http://jaqdhawkins.co.uk/

 

masters

2011 was the first year that horroraddicts.net hosted the Masters Of Macabre challenge and the first winner was Shaunessy Ashdown for his story Spectrophobia. Shaunessy is a fan of the Wicked Women Writers Challenge and was happy that he had a chance to compete in a challenge for the men and when he won he compared it to being kissed by Elvira. Shaunessy  is an editor for a German school book publisher.

23261059Philip Carroll won in 2012 , the theme was curses and Phillip’s story was The Curse Of The Lottery. Phillip likes to write urban fantasy but took a trip to the darkside with this one. Phillip is an Army trained Certified Orthotist and a master storyteller that has worked on several podcasts. He is also author of the book Flypaper Boy.

http://norvaljoe.com/

The theme for 2013 was haunted houses. Rick Kitagawa included a double wide mobile home and a black and white television for his story Uncle Neal’s House and won the challenge. Rick is a San Francisco-based fine art painter, illustrator, and storyteller who creates paintings, short stories, and illustrations in the horror genre.

http://www.rickkitagawa.com/about.html

205492262014’s winner was Solomon Archer for his story Surface Tension. The Theme was creature feature and Soloman’s story included New York City, a teddy bear and an Oceanic trench. Solomon is a criminal psychologist by day and writer by night. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies and he is the writer of PsyKu.

https://psykubook.wordpress.com/the-author/
51Rhbl0zlNL._AA300_In 2015 Rish Outfield won for his story Miss Fortune. Rish is a writer and a podcaster whose main goal is to scare their children into behaving, into going to sleep, or keeping their mouths shut about what they saw take place in the woodshed.

https://www.amazon.com/Into-the-Furnace/dp/B01FXVT6VO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468068806&sr=8-1&keywords=rish+outfield

http://rishoutfield.blogspot.com/

Audio Flashback: Michele Roger’s take on Gluttony

Audio Flashback:

Michele Roger’s take on Gluttony

for the Wicked Women Writer’s

Challenge, 2010

Horror Addicts Bonus Episode
Hosted by H. E. Roulo and Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: James Perry
http://www.jamesperrymusic.com
—————————-
Theme: Seven Deadly Sins
Featured Author: Michele Roger
Sin:  Gluttony
—————————-

Kidnapped Blog: Michele Roger

halogokidnapped

Who’s Afraid of Edwin Pool?

A short story by Michele Roger

“Hello?,” groaned Molly, reluctantly picking up her cell after the fourth ring.  She was awake in the sense that a phone to her ear elicited a groggy greeting; but not much more.

“They caught him!  I mean, well,” Jasmine was stumbling over her words with excitement.  Molly looked at the clock.  Eleven-thirty suggested her excitement probably involved a night spent with Prince Vodka. “He’s dead!  Your stalker guy.  I just saw it on the eleven o’clock news.  They just identified him.  He tried robbing a liquor store down on Mac Ave.  He went from holding the night manager at gun point to pointing the gun at police when they answered the silent alarm.  Molly, they shot him!”

Molly sat up trying to wake herself from an exhaustion-induced sleep.  Had she heard that right?  After  two years of changing her phone number, taking short apartment leases, moving every six months and three personal protection orders, could it really be all over?  In her sleepy confused state, she looked for the remote to turn on the news.  A moment of clarity came as she looked around at her most recent apartment, stacked from floor to ceiling with fresh packing boxes newly delivered by the movers.

“That’s great news, J,” replied Molly.

“What’s wrong with you?  That creep ruined your life.  You should be celebrating!  As a matter of fact, I’m bringing over a bottle of champagne right now.”

“Hold on, hold on,” Molly struggled.  “I really appreciate it J, but the movers arrived today and I’m spent.”  In actuality, she needed to think.  There was no instant relief, no overwhelming sensation of a weight being lifted.  Was he really dead?  Somehow, this moment wasn’t turning out how she had dreamed it.  Something in her voice was pleading and Jasmine recognized the sound of insomnia and fatigue.

“Fine,” Jasmine growled.  “But I’m dragging you out for drinks tomorrow.  No excuses.  We are going to dig through your boxes until we find your hottest outfit.  And then you and me are hitting the town to enjoy your new-found freedom!”

“How about dinner at The Bay, instead?” Molly countered.  She hadn’t been out without some form of security or a heart pounding sense of fear in two years.  Dinner with her best friend sounded like a much more feasible first step towards enjoying her liberation.

“You know you’re the most boring musician on the planet, right?”

“And for your relentless patience and willingness to show your face in public with me, I will let you engrave that on my tomb stone.  It will read, ‘Molly Brennan, the world’s most boring musician.’ How does that sound?”

“Prince Charming never kissed a sleeping princess, you know.  How can Mr. Right find you unless you’re out there calling for him from some high tower, or beating him in an archery contest?  How are you ever going to have a love life eating at The Bay and wearing your faded jeans?” Jasmine asked, hoping to break Molly in her half asleep state of mind.

“I will read Sleeping Beauty to you at dinner.  See you then.”  Molly hung up.  She walked to the box-filled kitchen and looked for anything labelled ‘cups’.  No luck.  Her tv, radio and lap top were also still somewhere in the post-move heap.  Making her way to the bathroom, she stuck her head under the sink and drank.  Then, she crawled back into bed and clicked on her phone’s news app.  She read the words for herself, “Local man suspected of several stalkings of Metro-area musicians shot dead in altercation with police tonight at a Mac Ave liquor store.  Edwin Pool was pronounced dead at Detroit Medical Center…”  The article continued but Molly read and re-read the same five words over and over again.  “Edwin Pool was pronounced dead.”  Dead!  She started to laugh and to cry all at the same time and immediately fell into a worry-free sleep that she had not felt in two years.

Molly woke late the next day.  She stumbled into the kitchen and prayed to find the coffee maker easily.  As she rifled through boxes, opening them by peeling off the tape, rummaging through haphazardly and moving on to the next.  By the time she had reached box six, she decided it would be far more productive to just call for delivery.  Was there delivery coffee like there was delivery pizza?  There must be, she assured herself in a sleepy fog.  Molly plopped back on her bed and reached under the pillows to find her phone.  It wasn’t there.  She flipped over the empty laundry basket working as a makeshift nightstand but nothing.  It wasn’t under the bed.

Beginning her search in less likely places, she went into the bathroom. It wasn’t on the counter or in the medicine cabinet.  She scanned the hall.  Maybe she had dropped it?  No sign of the phone.  Moving on to the ridiculous, she looked for it in the refrigerator, next she opened each of the kitchen cupboards.  Nothing.  With a desperate need for coffee and connection to the outside world, she threw cushions off the couch, opens both doors of the washer and dryer and peek in the garbage can.  Nothing.  Molly sat on a box and replayed the night in her head.                  A faint knocking sound broke the ticker tape of unlikely spots yet to check.  Molly went to the front door.  When she opened it, no one was there.  Dear God, she thought, I’m loosing it.  She laughed out loud.  As she stood in the silent apartment, surrounded by stacks of boxes, Molly retraced her steps from the night before.  Jasmine had called, she had looked up the news report on her phone.  Edwin Pool was confirmed dead.  With that thought, a small trace of fear that she couldn’t explain ran down her spine.  He’s gone.  For good.  She had to reassure herself.

The faint knocking started up again.  This time, Molly walked slowly, listening to each rap before taking steps to locate its source.  Rap, rap, rap.  The sound was dulled and yet slightly metallic.  Rap, rap, rap.  She walked through the kitchen and into the small, box-laden dining room.  She waited and listened.  Rap, rap, rap.  It wasn’t in the living room.  She stepped into the hall.  Her heart pounded harder and it made a ringing in her ears.  Rap, rap, rap.  She followed the knocking to the bathroom.  Quickly, she threw the switch for the light and held her breath.  Everything was normal and empty, just as it had been when she walked through it with the landlord.  Her eyes searched every corner, she peeked behind the door.  No sound.  No mice.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  She stared at herself in the mirror, searching for visible signs of mental breakdown.  The lines around her eyes looked a little deeper.  Was her hair a little thinner?  She leaned over the sink, closer to the mirror to look in her eyes and the knocking came again.  She jumped back, wide eyed.  With each rap, the mirror moved ever so slightly, making her reflection minutely blurred for a split second.  She went to reach her hand out to touch the mirror when a huge thud made her jump.  The sound of Jasmine’s voice immediately followed.

“Molly?  Molly are you ok?” Jasmine called out.  Without a word, Molly ran through the kitchen and to the front door and wrapped her arms around her puzzled best friend. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all morning.  Your phone just rings and rings.  Did you forget to set up your voicemail for this new number?”  She pushed Molly off, detaching herself from her intense strong hold.  “Here,” Jasmine handed Molly a paper cup.  “I figured you could use a cup, in the event you didn’t find the coffee maker.”  Molly stood silently, watching her friend flit like a hummingbird from one thing to the next.  “I also got cleaning supplies, a new playlist on my iPod to inspire happy organization and, of course ‘Vogue’, ‘Cosmo’ and to humor you, ‘The New Yorker’.”  When she took a breath, Jasmine stood slowly and stared at Molly.  Her demeanor changed instantly as she looked at her friend standing stiff and pale.  “Oh God, what is it?”

Molly opened her mouth and instead of hearing a voice of reason and logic, she heard herself begin to cry.  Her hands began to shake.  “I can’t find my phone and I swear I left it on the nightstand after I talked to you last night.  And then,” Molly grabbed Jasmine’s hand and the two ran into the bathroom.  “Listen,” Molly whispered.

The two women stood silently in the bathroom.  Molly stood intently before the mirror, her eyes wide with anticipation.  Jasmine, bewildered whispered, “What are we listening for?”

“There’s a knocking sound coming from my mirror.”

Jasmine dropped Molly’s hand.  Her normal, indoor tone of voice returned.  “What the hell are you talking about?  It’s probably the thin walls and the neighbors having sex.”

The neighbors aren’t behind my bathroom wall, my bedroom is,” Molly replied, looking more terrified than ever.

Jasmine snorted.  “Well we all know nothing ever happens in your bedroom.  It’s gotta be your pipes.  Come on, let’s drink some coffee and look for your best Girls Night Out dress.  You clearly need a night out.”

“Seriously?” Molly asked incredulously.

“Mol, I love you but look, you’ve been on edge for a long time.  Rightfully so, in my opinion.  You’ve had a whack job following your every move and it’s enough to make everyone a little paranoid.  Your phone is somewhere in all of those boxed chaos known as moving.  Your pipes shake when too many tenants take late Saturday morning showers.  In a week you’ll be talking to me on your phone laughing about the whole thing.  Now come on.”  The two drank their coffee while sitting on boxes and staring at the enormity of the job ahead of them.

Jasmine laughed.  “Most people unpack their kitchen first.  Not my Mol.  She unpacks big Bertha and the sheet music.  Who needs necessities as long as there is beautiful music.”  She waived her hand in the air for added effect.

Molly scowled.  “My harp isn’t Bertha.  Don’t call her that.  You’ll hurt her feelings.  Her name is Bellissima.  It means ‘most beautiful’ in Italian.  For short, I’ve been calling her Bells.”

“Yeah, because naming one musical instrument after a completely different musical instrument isn’t weird or anything.”

“You’ve never liked Bells.”

“I don’t like anything that is even remotely attached to you know who.”

“I know,” Molly said quietly.  “It’s not her fault though.  Edwin Poll was just the delivery guy.  Who knew he used his job in order to meet and stalk women?”  The two were quiet, staring at the large floor harp.  The sun streamed in from the window, reflecting off its guilder gold column.

Jasmine broke the silence first, saying what they both were thinking.  “I’m glad he’s dead.”

“Me too.”  The moment was awkward.  Molly pushed a box up to the harp and started to play.  A huge smile spread across Jasmine’s face.  She tried to figure out the song as Molly’s fingers floated over the strings.

“Let me guess,” Jasmine smirked, “Handel?  No, uh Rockmoni-something.”  They were the only two classical composers she could remember from the program from Molly’s last concert.

Molly giggled, “You Are My Sunshine.”  Jasmine burst on laughing.  Molly’s giggles turned to a screech as the thick, lower octave string suddenly broke and caught her in the face.  The wire breaking under such tension recoiled and cut Molly across the face, just under her eye.    She cupped her face and went to the bathroom.  Jasmine followed.

“And you wonder why I don’t like her?” Jasmin spat.

“Strings break.  Call it a job hazard.”

“They cut you in the face?”

“Well no, that’s never happened, I admit.”

A sick sounding melody, much like that from a broken, worn down music box came lilting from the living room.  The two peered around the corner to hear the sick sounding music and watched as each string vibrated and unravelled, breaking one by one.  With each pop of the string, the two jumped.  Molly began to hyperventilate but Jasmine held her ground.

“I’m calling Jack at the studio and telling him to pick up the harp and repair it there.  You and I are going to find the antiseptic, clean you up and unpack this mess.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

In four hours, the two friends had managed to unpack nearly the entire apartment.  They had a system down to a science thanks to Molly moving so many times.  With nearly everything sorted and put away, they headed into Molly’s room to decide on the outfit for the night.  Molly flopped on the bed! in a passive aggressive protest.  Jasmine ignored her and slid hanger after hanger from the left to the right.  With each swipe of the hanger she passed judgement, “boring, outdated, your mom bought it, boring, boring.  God Molly, do you own any evening wear that isn’t black?  Go crazy, try green or blue for a change.”

“Orchestra requirement. Besides, what’s wrong with black?”

Before she could answer, Jasmine swiped a dress on its hanger only half way and smiled at the possibility.  “Firstly, how about this one? Secondly, how have I never seen this before and stolen it from you?  This dress is fabulous.”

Silver and sequined, the dress sparkled making tiny rainbows on Molly’s ceiling.  “That’s not mine.  I would never, in a million years wear that,” Molly argued.  Jasmine started to protest but Molly insisted.  “Seriously, that isn’t mine.  I wonder if the movers gave me an extra box by mistake.”

“All the rest of your clothes are here.  I don’t see anything else that I don’t recognize.”  She swiped the clothes again, this time in the opposite direction and much faster.  “Weird.  All yours but this dress.  Sure you don’t want to wear it tonight?”

“More than sure,” Molly insisted.

Jasmine hung the dress back up on a hanger and proceeded her inspection of black dresses.  The silver dress fell off its hanger and Jasmine picked it up and put it back on the hanger reflexively.  Then, she started again looking through the close.  The dress fell off its hanger again.  This time, falling outside the closet.  Molly sat up and watched as Jasmine replaced it on its hanger again.  As Jasmine began to pull out a sleek black semi-formal, the window flew open opposite the closet, letting the wind blow through.  Wind swept abruptly through the bedroom and the silver dress was caught up in the air currents and landed in a wad up on Molly’s bed.

The two women stared.  Jasmine smoothed out the dress on the bed and saw there was still a tag.  She turned over the tag and there, spelled out on the Manila cardboard of the tag was the note written in bold red letters, “To Molly, Love E.”

Furiously, Molly crumpled up the dress and threw it in the trash can in the kitchen.  Jasmine was speechless.  “When was he ever in your closet?  You never told me he sent you clothes.  Why would you save that dress if it was from him?”

Molly leaned up against the kitchen counter, her head pounding as she tried to find a logical explanation.  “I didn’t save it, J.  Today is the first time I’ve ever seen that dress.”  She began to cry.  “I’m never going to be rid of him.”  Jasmine sat next to Molly, rubbing her back.  She was beginning to feel strange in the apartment.  She didn’t want to leave Molly alone.

“Its been a long day of hard work.  How about we order a pizza and have a slumber party?  I will look for your phone one more time.  Half the fun of a friend who moves all the time is discovering the best pizza place that delivers.”

As Jasmine looked for the phone, Molly stared at the dress in the trash can.  She listened for the knocking on the mirror.  Had she dreamed it all?  She rubbed the cut on her cheek.  What logical explanation was there?

“Found it!” Jasmine hollered from the kitchen.  “Woo hoo!  You left it on the stove.  God knows you can’t cook so who knows why it would be there,” she teased.  She handed Molly the cell phone.  “It says you have one recent photo.  Open it, let’s see what pictures you take while sleep walking!”

Molly stared intently at the photo she had opened.  Jasmine could have been saying any number of things, but Molly heard none of it.  She stared for several very long minutes trying to find a logical explanation.  Finally, she slid her thumb over the phone screen.  Molly opened her mouth and her voice cracked when she spoke.  “The time stamp on this picture is from twelve thirty last night.”

“Hey, you look pretty good, all sleeping and gorgeous.  It’s actually a great picture of you.  Maybe you could use it on your next album cover or something,” Jasmine smiled.  The irony was lost on her.

Molly made the situation clear.  ” J, this picture was taken at twelve thirty last night. While.  I. Was. Sleeping.”

“So?”

“So, J, I live alone.  I sleep alone, as you so gently reminded me today.  Who the hell took this picture?”