Mother’s Angel

A short story by Bekah Ferguson

“Ghosts are the superstitious nonsense of heathens, son,” Pa used to say, but I’d been haunted by one in the forest behind our homestead through much of my childhood.

I was about five years old the first time I saw it. A white entity moving deep within the trees at dusk. Then again one grey afternoon a couple of years later when I was mucking out the stable, and heard a crackle of movement on dead leaves. Gripping my shovel in front of me like a protective spear, I peered into the nearby treeline from whence the sound had come.

We lived in a forest in Upper Canada, trees furrowed and thick, undergrowth prolific and tangled. In some directions you could trail-blaze for days without encountering a single trading post or homestead. Yet there it was some fifty feet within and as tall as a man: a flash of white appearing for a second between tree trunks, disappearing behind others, and reappearing again as it seemed to float along. However, though I strained to see its contours, I could not piece together its form; and as soon as it was there, it was gone.

These apparitions occurred only once or twice a year and always in the same manner: at dusk or predawn, and only when I was working quietly by myself. The times when I helped my father chop wood and gather kindle from the forest, I always kept an eye out for it, but whether due to the reverberating splitting sounds, or the trampling of twigs beneath our boots, it never showed itself when I was with him.

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The UFO of Falcon Lake, Manitoba

As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

On the May long weekend of 1967, an amateur geologist named Stefan Michalak journeyed into the wilderness of Falcon Lake, Manitoba, in search of quartz and silver in an outcropping he’d scoped out the year before. Tools in hand, he was near a veiny section of Precambrian shield rock when a flock of geese spooked him with their harsh honking. Looking up, his heart jumped to his throat at the sight of two glowing hovering discs about 45 meters above. One landed on a flat section of granite and the other flew away. After calmly observing it from a distance for a while, believing it to be a secret military craft, Stefan decided to approach. The scent of rotten eggs filled the warm air around him, and a whirring, hissing noise grew louder. In the side of the seamless, metal saucer was an opening. He thought he heard muffled voices but when he called out to offer his assistance, they fell silent. Stefan crept closer and tried to peer inside but the lights were so blinding, he had to pull down the welding goggles resting on his head.

Without warning, three panels slid shut across the opening. He reached out to touch the metallic casing and the tips of his gloves disintegrated–nearly burning his fingertips as well. The saucer began to move and exhaust from a grid-like vent blew into his chest, setting his clothes ablaze. As he was tearing his shirt from his body, the craft flew away. Stefan ran from the forest, disoriented and vomiting, but managed to make his way back home. His burns were treated in hospital and later formed a distinct grid pattern on his torso. For many weeks afterward he was sick with an unknown illness, and little pieces of metal collected from the cracks in the rocks where the incident took place were tested by the authorities and found to be radioactive. To this very day, the circular landing site remains bereft of moss, even though it grows abundantly in the outcropping all around.

Sources:

CBC News

Atlas Obscura

Image by PhotoVision from Pixabay

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The Fort Saskatchewan Wendigo of Alberta

As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

Swift Runner crouched down in the trampled snow next to the dead body of his hunting partner. After weeks of being stranded in ever-accumulating snow drifts with nothing to eat, Runner was starving. Now, having made up his mind, he pulled a knife from the sheath of his belt. When the feverish deed was done, he fell asleep with a bloated belly next to the stripped bones of his partner. He awoke in the murk of dawn to a hissing sort of breathing–like a man whose lung has been punctured by an arrow. The sound came from a tall form standing in the gaps between trees, snow falling heavily all around. It moved out into the clearing, leaving bloody footsteps in its wake, and peered down at Runner with glowing eyes in a deer-like skull. The smell of decaying flesh wafted from its desiccated body as Runner heard a voice enter his mind, saying, “You have become me.”

In the spring of 1879, years later, Swift Runner’s estranged Cree community began to question the whereabouts of his wife and five children, who had not been seen by anyone since the early winter. Unsatisfied with Runner’s explanation (he claimed they’d all starved to death that winter) and noting his rounded torso—they sent the police in to investigate. After days of searching the woods, a pit of charred wood and ashes was discovered, with human skulls and weathered bones scattered about. A tiny Moccasin shoe had been stuffed inside one of the skulls; a beading needle protruding from the eye socket. The police gathered the remains together and determined them to be Runner’s missing family; accusing him of cannibalism. He denied nothing, saying, “I did it,” and became the first man to be legally hung in the Canadian Northwest Territories.

Sources:

Wikipedia

Legends of America

Murderpedia

Image by Tomasz Manderla from Pixabay

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The Red River Ox Cart Ghost of Manitoba

As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

“Ghost Scene at the Fort: Nightly Vigils of the Sentries Made Hideous by an Apparition” was the title of a newspaper article in the August 29, 1903, issue of the Morning Telegram. In the 19th century, the Red River Trails in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were a trade route of ox cart roads that connected the Red River Colony and Fort Garry in British North America all the way to the Mississippi River in the United States. In those days the area was inhabited by Scottish settlers and the Métis—who at the time, were disparagingly referred to as “half-breeds” due to their French and First Nations heritage. The land was not shared mutually between the two groups, and thus, as regards the haunting at Fort Garry, the newspaper speculated that “the first owners of the Red River Valley [were] resenting the intrusion of the North-West Mounted Rifles upon the grounds sacred to their dead and making their displeasure severely felt.”

One ominous summer evening, in the wee hours of the night, a lone soldier standing guard outside the Lower Fort Garry saw something dark and looming approaching in the mist. Next came the rhythmic clip-clopping of hooves. An ox cart appeared from the gloom, driven by a Métis man and woman. Though puzzled by the out-dated look of the lot, the soldier shrugged it off and said nothing as the cart slowly lumbered by. A few minutes later, however, another dark form appeared in the distant mist and what seemed to be the very same ox cart travelled by again. The third time it appeared the soldier began to tremble; palms damp and sweat on his brow. He ordered the cart to halt but no sooner had his authoritative words rung out when the entire apparition vanished like smoke in the wind. Seconds later it reappeared in the distance and disappeared again when he hysterically cried out for it to stop. By now he was in a full-blown panic and threw his rifle to the ground, running away. Back at the fort his fellow soldiers laughed off his story; but the next night, another soldier on duty had the same experience. One by one it happened to them all until there was no left who could mock.

Sources:

Canada Post

Cision

WinnipegREALTORS

Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay, adapted to a nighttime scene by Robbie Ferguson.

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The Tunnel Monster of Cabbagetown, Ontario

As retold by Bekah Ferguson

In the early 19th century days of Toronto there were many rivers, streams and creeks branching across the land like veins and arteries. Endless trees towered above the developing city rather than skyscrapers. And down in the riverbeds of these yet rural wilds lived a race of water spirits known in Algonquian mythology as Memegwesi (pronounced “may-may-gway-see”). These elusive humanoid creatures were elfish, small and hairy, with voices said to be like the high-pitched drone of a dragonfly. When city builders rerouted these waterways into solid underground tunnels that merged with the sewer system, it is thought that the Memegwesi were unknowingly buried with them.

By the early 20th century, Torontonians had long forgotten the existence of these vast tunnels—that is, until one summer’s day in 1978 in an area of the city known as Cabbagetown. A man named Ernest stumbled upon a secret entrance to the tunnels while searching for a lost kitten. Certain he had heard distressed mewling down in the alley beside his Parliament Street apartment the night before, he decided to army-crawl into the culvert about ten feet, flashlight in hand. The tunnel gradually widened, its black depths like an abyss. Something skittered ahead and he steadied the flashlight beam, hoping to see his kitten. But it was no cat caught in the beam. A pair of slanted red eyes bulged at him above the gaping, large-toothed mouth of a hairy, grey, bipedeled creature about three feet long. “Go away, go away!” it screeched, then ran off into a side tunnel. Terrified, Ernest shimmied backward out of the tunnel and waited a full year before admitting to the Toronto Sun newspaper what he’d seen. However, when they went in search of the tunnel’s entrance, they found it collapsed in upon itself, and no one has ever admitted to such a sighting again.

Sources:

The 13th Floor

Fandom

Little People (Mythology)

Memegwesi

(Image via the archives of the Toronto Sun newspaper.)

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The Poltergeist of Baldoon, Ontario

As retold by Bekah Ferguson

In 1829, in the Scottish settlement of Baldoon, Ontario, the John MacDonald family purchased a two-storey farmhouse and soon found themselves terrorised by a violent poltergeist. For reasons unknown, there was a land dispute over the sale; in particular, by an old woman who was very much opposed. Her threats and misgivings were left unheeded, however, and the MacDonalds moved in. The hauntings began straight away: The lid of the kettle flying off as the kettle flung itself to the floor, the poker and broom in the hearth jangling in an unfelt gust of wind. Stones smashing through windows with no culprits in sight, and an Indian knife lifted from its mount and thrown at the window; piercing the casement firmly. Once John marked one of the stones with paint and threw it into a nearby stream, only to find it back on the floor of his house a few hours later. But the worst was yet to come. One day the house randomly caught on fire and burned to the ground. The family escaped unscathed, and after briefly living elsewhere, returned to the property to live in a tent, perhaps planning to rebuild.

At this time, a country witch doctor came along and spoke to them. He claimed that the Ojibwe who lived in the same Great Lakes area believed that it was not a poltergeist tormenting the family at all, but rather forest faeries. The house had been built on a faerie path and they were simply in the way: the hauntings were intended to scare them off. But as later recounted by John MacDonald’s son Neil, a local teenage girl with second sight had different advice for the family altogether. She told them to fashion some silver bullets and go in search of any unusual geese in the area. John found a white goose with a black head near the river and proceeded to shoot at it. His aim was bad and he nicked only the wing; breaking it. So he chased after the wounded goose through the hillsides and forests until he lost track of it. It was then he discovered a cabin in the woods–the house of the old woman who had contested his purchase of the land. And there she sat in a rocking chair on her porch, muttering curses, and cradling a broken arm.

Sources:

Skeptoid

Mysteries of Canada

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Why I changed my genre (Pt. 2)

Previous: Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

Beginning with my first elementary school trip to a pioneer village in Port Carling, and to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto with my grandparents, I developed a lifelong fascination with all things 19th century, especially the Victorians.

Over the years I’ve carted the hubby and kiddos along to several pioneer villages. As we wander from one creaking room to the next, cicadas buzzing and birds chirping outside the windows, there’s this feeling of stepping into liminal spaces; of being caught in a time warp between two worlds. But I also feel something else: a craving for tiny doors too small for even my foot to fit through. Tiny doors that lead…where?

As a teen, I discovered by chance that I loved Celtic instrumental music. It was both melancholy and uplifting, and so enchanting and mysterious; whisking me away. I was a maiden standing on the edge of a cliff, skirts and shawls flapping in the wind as I gazed out to sea. It was a mood I found haunting yet strangely decompressing. I’m second-generation Canadian born, but because I have mostly Scottish and British ancestry, I’ve long felt a connection to the United Kingdom. So for me, Celtic music was a portal between worlds.

I grew up in Muskoka, Ontario, with a family cottage in Haliburton County. My parents love the woods and took me and my siblings on endless hikes, canoe rides, and drives through the countryside. For as long as I can remember, forests and woody landscapes, fields, barns, and century homes – especially decrepit and abandoned/boarded up ones – have struck a chord in me.

Sunbeams on a forest floor, wildflowers, mossy logs, brooks, swamps, ponds, lily pads, gnarled trees… I’ve always looked at them with a sense of whimsy or an eerie intrigue, as though a faerie might appear or some sort of spook. I also feel a mild disappointment each time when of course, nothing ever does appear; my mind urging me to fill those nooks and crannies with otherworldly, shapeshifting creatures.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Whenever I’d see a hole in a knotted tree I’d shrink down and explore it from a squirrel’s eye view. A Victorian mansion? I’d explore the rooms in my mind’s eye, searching for secret passageways leading to mysterious chambers, attics and cellars. An overgrown country cottage being consumed by nature? I’d peek into the decomposing rooms and hear the whispers, see the shadows, of wandering spirits. Modern shops housed in 19th century buildings? The street becomes overlayed with horse and carriage; the pedestrians garbed in wide-skirted dresses and petticoats, feathered hats, tweed suits and top hats.

G.K. Chesterton put it well when he said of such peculiar sights: what story waits here to be told?

This is how my mind works, how I think, but I’ve kept it largely to myself until recently. When it comes to much of my fiction writing, I’ve barely scratched the surface of my imagination – I was too busy writing for adults! Well, now the time has come to put to pen what I’d previously chalked up to childish fantasies. I find cryptids and faerie lore most fascinating, and that’s why my first youth fiction is about a werewolf.

C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

I’m old enough now to start writing them… 😉

Image by AD_Images from Pixabay

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Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

I’ve always been a bookworm but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I seriously began tinkering with fiction writing. Over the course of the next decade I proceeded to co-write a murder mystery novel with my youngest sister and two solo novels in the contemporary Christian fiction genre (which is drama with a subplot of romance).

Then one day, while I’d already started a third solo novel, my other sister asked if I wanted to co-write a fantasy genre novel with her. She had already plotted it and created the characters and setting, so I took a look at what she had and quickly agreed. After that it took us four years of collaborative writing to complete the novel, and we named it The Attic.

While absolutely LOVING the experience of writing fantasy (especially exploring all those secret passageways in the Gothic mansion!) and considering it a marvelous adventure, I didn’t quite feel I was capable of plotting fantasy fiction on my own. So I finished writing my third solo project: another Christian drama/romance.

BUT once that novel was completed I distinctly felt like I’d reached a dead end: or a finish line if you will.

The wind was out of my sails. I felt like I’d said all I ever wanted to say in the contemporary Christian fiction genre. So what to do next? I didn’t want to write drama without romance and I didn’t want to right full-blown romance either. I also didn’t want to write murder mysteries because they require too much knowledge of police and detective work (all that inside legal and procedural stuff, not to mention forensics).

So it was at this point that I began writing short stories in order to play my hand at a variety of genres. And it was here I serendipitously discovered in allegorical fiction a niche in which I could write for a mainstream audience (like we did with The Attic) while still being inclusive of my Christian faith and values.

Then one summer on a whim, I bought a youth fiction novel because the synopsis appealed to me and it had a delightful title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano. It had simply never occurred to me before that I might enjoy youth fiction, of all things, but the book just popped out at me from the shelf. I went on to read many more novels for middle graders after that first one. But in reading this particular book I felt an awakening, like I’d found something I didn’t even know I’d been looking for!

Continue reading Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

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Holding those with opposing views to a higher standard than we hold ourselves

I’ve been reflecting on humility and meekness as Christian virtues, and how Jesus said that “the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).”

See here’s the thing with liberals and conservatives on social media: both sides are saturated in self-righteous pride. Each side believes they have the enlightened truth (liberals are “woke”, conservatives are “wise”) and that the other side is bigoted and stupid. Liberals view themselves as gloriously open-minded and conservatives view themselves as gloriously high-minded.

Yet liberals aren’t open-minded toward any conservative views and conservatives don’t acknowledge that a liberal’s moral code is as strong as theirs. Each views the other side as morally bankrupt.

It’s all a matter of perspective though, for we’re all the same, we really are. Human nature is human nature. With the exception of pride (which seems to be distributed quite evenly on both sides), our sins are collective and unique (yet only unique in the sense of individual). All the same wrongdoings are committed across the board, no matter how disguised they may seem at first glance. We are mirror images, photos and negatives, heads and tails.

Which brings me to my next observation: the difficulty of having a close relationship with friends and family members on opposing sides of the political (and religious) spectrum. There’s a sadness here, especially when it comes to the parent-adult child relationship.

If one’s chiselling of views didn’t come about until adulthood, what tends to be experienced is that a once seemingly close relationship quickly grows distant – there is a disconnect, a divide, a wall. To the adult child this feels like conditional love (“my parent will only truly love and accept me again if I embrace all the same views they have”), and there is resentment and a feeling of disillusionment. But I would imagine that this sadness is felt by the parent as well: they too feel the wall and have the feeling that “my child will only truly love and accept me again if I embrace their views instead of mine.”

So, both parties feel like victims of conditional love.

Now, of course it’s true that it is exceedingly difficult to feel close to someone who holds opposing views, many of which may be downright offensive and deeply hurtful – but I’ve noticed a self-centeredness here when I’ve seen this issue discussed on social media:
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Catching Nuance

In the musical, My Fair Lady, by Alan Jay Lerner, a professor takes on a cockney flower girl as his protégé and gives her speech lessons until she can pass in public society as a lady. And indeed he succeeds. Yet in the end this young woman finds herself caught between two worlds: she no longer fits comfortably in the cockney world she came from (a world she can never fully return to for her speech has forever been altered), but neither does she feel at home in the posh world.

I’ve come to see myself in a similar way, as a “My Fair Lady” of sorts. I would rather be myself, authentic, instead of pretending to believe this or that just to fully fit in on one side or another. But it means sometimes journeying through no man’s land. I will be misunderstood. A lot.

It’s my experience that people don’t ask questions, they just write me off. If they hear I’m a feminist they assume I’m pro-choice, if they hear I’m an evangelical, they assume I’m anti-LGBT. You get the drift. But I wonder … how many times have I made similar incorrect assumptions about others? Continue reading Catching Nuance

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Howard Reed’s Brain

A short story by Bekah Ferguson.

Howard Reed submitted the signed paperwork promising he’d donate his brain to science, and died six years later.

At the hospital where he passed away late one night, a Brain Bank employee arrived to collect and transport the organ to a nearby laboratory. But unbeknownst to family, it never arrived there. Instead, during transit, his brain was deliberately swapped with a John Doe’s. Thus, as far as everyone was concerned, Reed’s brain had gone just where it was supposed to go and where it would be sliced in half: one side to be frozen, and the other to be set in formaline for the purpose of autopsy. The identity of the donor would forever remain anonymous to the researchers who would only receive such tissue after their protocols were first approved by a Research Ethics Board. But Reed’s brain was not to be divided after all; nor was it anonymous. At least, not to the two scientists who bided their time awaiting his death, and had deliberately stolen it.

Inside their undercover laboratory—housed in the back corner of a private, sequestered hanger—they set to work. The equipment had long been prepped for the expected arrival and after a few switches were flipped here and a few keys punched there, machines and pumps were roused from their slumber. Industrial lighting flooded the corner area with artificial sunlight, above which black tarps had been draped to the floor in a tent-like fashion; blotting out the light. Any rare vehicle that might happen to drive by on the dirt road out front would see only the moonlit sketching of an abandoned building.

Cradled by latex-gloved hands, the brain was removed from its temperature-controlled traveling case and set down within a round glass container, not unlike an astronaut’s helmet. The body of the man had indeed perished but his brain was still very much alive. Micro-circulation was restored to the blood vessels with absolute precision from bags of artificial blood, and electrodes were inserted all over the organ. Attached tubing trailed away from both the brain and the container: down over the side of the lab counter, straight across the floor, and up into the sides of a tubular liquid-filled vat.

Through the oval windows of the vat a two hundred and eighty pound Sus domesticus pig floated in the greenish water; a myriad of internal cables gathering together where they’d been attached around the sides of the animal’s skull, connecting to the memory center of its brain. More measures were taken, a lid sealed into place encapsulating the human brain in its preservation chamber, and levels were checked on the various computer screens. Then the meticulously-planned upload commenced.

With the next few moments, the deceased Howard Reed awoke to find himself fully conscious inside the mind and body of a piglet.

Continue reading Howard Reed’s Brain

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