The Winter

That Which Wills Thee [Chapter 8]

Snow began to descend not long after the trees had lost their final remaining leaves. “Momma, what’s that outside!” James exclaimed, looking out the window after the night of the first storm.

Manchester saw snow during those times of the year as well, but it often melted in the heat from the factories and their smokestacks and fumes or was left to settle into dark piles to be tread on by foot and cart alike. The mounds of it pushed about in the streets eventually melted into slush that soaked the shoes and socks and feet of those unable to buy proper footwear. What James saw that morning in the pristine countryside was a covering of pure white, undisturbed by a single footstep or cart wheel, with more descending in light flakes that danced in the wind and gentle light of the overcast sky.

Jane was likely equally as intrigued by the sight, but held back. After breakfast, she dressed her children up in the warmest clothes they had on hand and allowed them out finally. James trudged through the deep and wide footprints left by his father who had departed slightly before to check on the Mills in their home. The drifts were up to the little boy’s knees in places, making it hard to move, but his seemingly endless energy kept him dashing about the best he could. Jane dangled Marie’s feet across the surface, allowing her to experience the cold and fluffy sensations, but the old words of the doctor of keeping her out of the cold returned to her mind. After experiencing enough of the cold and earning soggy, baggy garments, Jane brought her children back inside.

That first gentle storm was only a preview of what was to come. After several more centimeters were deposited upon them, William began to notice the creaking of the ceiling of their home above, not to mention the drips from the melt above their hot fireplace. As a precaution, William stuck his family in with the neighbors yet another time.

“You’ll get to be back in your own bed sooner or later,” Bryna said to James. She had taken little Marie in her lap as well to offer Jane a break, an exchange that both parties did not mind. “Your father just wants to make sure you don’t wake up covered in the stuff. Come here, let’s read that book he got you.”

Unfortunately, William’s foreboding became reality. One morning after the depositing of more snow, he returned to the log house to discover that the roof had caved in. Through cold desperation, he dug out what he could and returned to the Mills’ house to deliver the news.

“The beams in the ceiling couldn’t take it. They snapped some time last night,” he said, depositing the soggy linens at the door.

“A shame,” Lewis sighed, pushing himself up. “I don’t mind if you stay here with us, but we don’t have quite the food for that long. Any luck with your root cellar?”

“It’s buried under some of the collapsed roof.”

“We best get to it, then, before the snow melts and freezes back over tonight.”

“I can’t ask that much from you, Lewis,” William talked back, ashamed.

“William,” Jane butted in, exasperated at the news. “We can’t keep on like this.”

“I’ll help dig through the snow, papa,” James spoke up, jumping from the floor.

“No, James.” William said. “Jane, it isn’t that bad. I imagine I can unearth some things before we get any more snow.”

Between moments to warm himself and rest, William spent many hours of many days at the collapsed home, sometimes bringing back food goods or pieces of clothing, or bringing out tools and pieces of wood to shore up the unstable parts of the building. It was several days later, and after departing that morning, William was out much longer than he had the previous times.

Jane expressed her concerns to Lewis, urging the old man to trudge out to visit the cabin in William’s footsteps. The old man decided to follow Jane’s words. The two men were seen on the snowy path through the window some time later, trudging through the drifts. Lewis attempted his best to support William, a head taller and certainly heavier than him. Jane noticed her husband’s leg wrapped up and dragging behind. She held the door open for them as they made it through.

Little James approached, followed by Marie crawling at them. “What happened, papa?”

William leaned against the wall, not allowing his weight to rest upon the injured leg. Jane noticed the red stain seeping into the cloth around his leg. His face was pale, clothing soaked and encrusted with ice, and hands shaking under the thin gloves.

Lewis looked at his wife, and then Jane, who couldn’t find the words to speak. “Love, how about you have the kids help you heat some water so that Mr. O’Malley can get warm?”

Bryna stood from her chair and shuffled toward them, picking up Marie to take over her shoulder while searching for James’ hand in her own. “Come now, you remember how to start the stove, right, James?”

William hobbled to the open chair as the old woman and the little ones disappeared around into the side room. Lewis hunched over stiffly to unwrap the covering. The breath caught in Jane’s throat. The blood was soaked into the torn pant leg, not enough to seize her, but as she caught sight of the bone protruding from the wound at William’s shin, she couldn’t help but feel faint. “What-” She began weakly.

“The last bit of… the ceiling collapsed on my leg when… I was trying to… support it.”

“The snow we got this mornin’ got all melted!” Came the energetic call from the back door. William yanked the wool blanket from the arm of the chair beside him and pulled it over his bottom half and crooked leg as the young boy returned.

Bryna was right after, holding the metal basin and washrag. She knelt beside the chair and began to wipe the dirt and sweat from around William’s neck with the damp cloth. He took the container in his lap, allowing his fingers to tingle once again as they soaked up the warmth coming through the metal.

James sat on the ground. “You’re not going to take off your boots, papa?” He asked, running his fingers along the seams of the leather.

William winced and leaned his head back. “They’re actually… quite warm… still. Leave them be.”

Lewis composed himself finally after the strain of supporting William and glanced out the window. He whispered to Jane, “He was trapped there, says for a good twenty minutes of trying. I don’t think he lost a lot of blood, but when he warms up, it may be worse.”

Jane bit at her lip and held tight to the hem of her dress. “How do we…?”

“The village doesn’t have a doctor for something like that. I’d say we have to bring him to Manchester.”

“My father employs a good doctor, he’s seen us before,” Jane asserted. “You can find him at Flint Textiles, one of the big factories on 3rd Avenue. William knows-”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, lass,” Lewis said, sighing in concern. “It’s still a three-day trip there, maybe more with the snow. We can only hope he remains stable for that long. At the very least he can lay down if we take your cart.”

“Take it, take it.”

Lewis glanced at William, still attempting to encourage James through the situation. “It’s already late, but… suppose can’t be helped. Lad, you’re gonna have to help me hook up the cart so we can take your pa to the doctor. Get him checked up on.”

“Sure thing!”

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Am I Enjoying The Summer? [Vlog]

We’re two weeks out to the first day of school, and my return to work. The first work emails are starting to come in. I was asked if I can help set up a printer. I would say I still want to enjoy these next couple weeks peacefully, but its hard to say whether or not I enjoy the summer at all.

The Home

That Which Wills Thee [Chapter 7]

Despite her city upbringing, Jane O’Malley began to learn and adapt to nature and the facts of living among it and the lack of all things that would have been given in the city. She dealt with the dirt and the mud which covered her shoes and clothes. She dealt with the insects that buzzed everywhere, especially after the rains. She dealt with the lack of modern facilities used to cook upon, and also those used for cleaning herself and her children. At least for the last part, the Mills had and allowed them use of their spring and their basins of its water.

It was a little over a month of time before the land the O’Malleys had chosen was cleared of brush, and the walls and roof of their would-be home came together. The floor inside was still dirt, the windows only covered by cloth, and they had hardly a piece of furniture to sit or sleep upon, but it was finally their own.

With his wife’s sense of comfort growing, and the shelter complete, William determined that a short departure was possible. It was a two-day journey in the cart, to the little village to the west, where he could purchase for all of them some simple pieces of furniture and more supplies with which to cook and make home.

The four days and a little more seemed only a short time, but Jane couldn’t help but feel uneasy most of the waking hours. The sounds outside seemed louder than ever before. Despite never seeing more than some squirrels and a skunk or two in the neighboring woods since their arrival, the stories from the Mills hung in her mind. While the old couple told her that a visit would be no issue during the time of her husband’s departure, she decided that she would not let her irrational fears overcome her. Furthermore, in those long days of waiting, little James’ active mind and body kept her busy, not to mention the needs of the restless Marie.

William returned on the day he was expected. With the comfort of his presence, he also brought some small bits of furniture, a couple of thick blankets and rugs, some tools to replace the ones worn out, and seeds to plant for the late summer months. Soon enough, with the fresh supplies, they had a bed upon which to sleep, a place to keep their clothes, and a safer and more comfortable space for their children to play in.

It was that fall, while William was chopping wood for their fires, that little Marie took her first steps. James, who had always had varying amounts of interest in his little sister, found his father to relay the news. “Marie is walkin!”

William managed to take in a few of the clumsy steps before the little girl settled back down to all fours. Jane smiled just as she had when James had undertaken the same challenge, and William couldn’t help but take the moment to sit and relax with his family.

“It bet it wasn’t that hard for me!” James chimed in, watching Marie struggle to balance on her little feet once again.

“Well,” Jane smirked. “You fell a good few times. But that sort of thing can’t be helped before you get it down perfect,” she concluded, rubbing her hands on the bristly rug made of rough woven fibers.

“It may be for the better if we had a slightly more fine rug for this sort of thing.”

William shrugged. “That’s all they had, but next time I’m away…”

James rolled on his back on the surface, ruffling up his shirt. “We usedta’ have a nice one… a red one. Where did that go, papa?”

“It got left back in Manchester. It was too much to bring with.”

James rolled his eyes in thought and sat up, splaying his hands out across the rough surface. “We ever goin’ back there?”

Jane looked at her husband, having never thought of the answer to such a question. “Likely, yes. My dad… grandpa Flint still lives there, your uncles too.”

“I wanna see grandpa Flint again… the tall smokestacks too.”

William sighed. “We’ll visit back there someday, that’s a sure thing. Maybe after your sister is a little bit older, though.”

James pushed himself up and marched on all fours to his mother’s lap, where Marie was reposed, looking up at the ceiling. “Get big and strong, okay? It’s lonely playin’ all by myself.”

Autumn came to rest upon the countryside. Despite the late start, the virgin land, and Jane O’Malley’s untrained hands, the crops came in just fine. The majority of the earth’s bounty were tubers and root vegetables; things able to keep over the winter months.

After finishing construction on the home, William went to work with Lewis to hone his hunting and trapping, both for meat and for the animal’s furs that would be a necessity for keeping the family warm during the coming cold months. The Mills’ experience and knowledge of the land proved invaluable during those times, and William’s youthful strength and energy made sure that both families would benefit.

Between both families, they attempted to share the best they could and keep watch out for each other. Preceding the cold months of winter, William departed again for the village to the west for their remaining needs to last them; matches, candles, fresh and warmer sets of clothes for everyone, and supplies for preserving the meats brought in from the various hunts. For young James, who was coming of schooling age, even received his first book that could be read to him by his father.

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The Sights and Sounds

That Which Wills Thee [Chapter 6]

In their area of choosing, the O’Malley’s ran across the planted fields and simple home of their neighbors, an aged couple whose family had tended the land since the generation of their grandparents. With no children of their own, the couple, Lewis and Bryna Mills, had long since imagined the land returning to nature after age took the better of them. When the O’Malley’s arrived to greet them, however, they were more than happy and certainly open to sharing the land.

With a generous distance apart from the Mills’ home for the sake of privacy, the O’Malley’s settled down and splayed out their belongings. It would be several months, William figured, before a proper dwelling could be constructed. Nevertheless, he got to work without delay. The days were spent felling the trees for lumber and clearing and flattening the land for what would become their dwelling and homestead. Jane aided the Mills’ in their garden, learning the ways of planting and preening while they watched over the children. The nights under the covering of the cart reminded them of how distant and isolated they were, but that their life was likely on the turn for the better.

Little Marie began to react well to the new surroundings and fresh air and seemed to be growing the day, her appetite better than ever before. She even began to sleep perfectly well with no coughing and without tricks to aid in her drifting off. James, her elder brother, however, was not at ease in the vast darkness and loneliness.

“Mama,” he spoke up one night, packed in with his parents and sister under the canvas. “I can’t sleep with the sounds of grating and chirping.”

“Those are the crickets, love,” Jane explained, “They sleep when we are awake, and wake when we sleep.”

“What for? And when they can’t see in the dark?”

“They call them ‘nocturnal,’ and I’m sure they have ways of sensing their surroundings,” she explained, “Surely it is preferable to the sound of the mice in the walls of the high rise?”

“The mice musa’ been looking for food, though,” James said back, unsure, “what sort of thing do these things get from making a buncha’ racket all night long?”

“Hmm,” Jane hummed, wondering the same thing, but deciding not to say so aloud.

“They’re talkin’ to each other,” William spoke up, rolling over under the coverings to face his son. “Like the people on the street on market day.”

A nod of agreement came from Jane, who stroked James’ chest to comfort him. “Yes, so let’s try not to be rude and eavesdrop on them.”

“It sounds like…” James pondered aloud, rolling on his stomach to better look out into the darkness, “they’re screaming, afraid of the dark.”

“Let’s show the little bugs, then, that there is nothing to be afraid of,” Jane spoke softly.

With those words on his mind, James rolled back to his side and eventually drifted off without another word. That would not be the end of his worries, however.

The summer months in that part of the country often brought heavy rains. One night after a day of rolling, dark clouds the downpour came. The taut canvas covering the wagon was thoroughly waxed, protecting the family from the weather, but the pounding of the heavy drops on the covering and the leaves of the trees outside was alien and disturbing to the boy. He awoke to the repetitive din.

The overcast sky that remained from the day erased all of the normal shine of the stars from the sky, draining the land of any of the remaining light. Even after blinking furiously to allow his eyes to focus on the darkness, not even his hand would appear before him. The drip-dropping and pitter-pattering grew louder as he pushed aside the flaps of the canvas covering in their cramped sleeping establishment. Just as young James considered pulling back inside and returning to the warmth of his father’s and mother’s sides, a sole light caught his eye.

The orb was of a fuzzy glow, floating above the ground, seeming to dart behind the trunks of the trees, disappearing for fractions of seconds. James yelped and pulled back inside, his hands fumbling about for his father’s chest.

“Something is out there, papa-“

In the boy’s distress, little Marie awoke. William, suspecting the attack of a wild animal, jolted up and pushed aside the canvas and looked out. There was no light, and no sound apart from that of the precipitation. “What is it, boy?”

“A light.”

“Nobody would be out in this weather.”

“Not a person.”

“You must have been dreaming,” William said with a sigh. In the dark, Jane stirred, listening to the exchange while rocking Marie back to sleep on her chest.

The next day, when the weather remained with no signs that it would cease, the family headed to the old couple’s home. They were allowed inside to escape the damp and to be allowed space to spread out.

“James says he saw a light last night,” William joked with Lewis. “You weren’t perhaps out in the dark and rain?”

Lewis took the words with a stern face. “No, sir. Perhaps what he saw was a wisp.”

By this time, the boy had taken to the conversation among the adults. “A wisp?”

“Perhaps we shouldn’t with the talk of frightening things,” William sighed, “The boy already has enough trouble sleeping.”

Lewis crossed his arms and drummed his fingers. He glanced at the boy’s still engaged look. “A floatin’ light, perhaps, did ya’ see?”

“That’s it!”

“A will-o-the-wisp, they call it.”

“Yeah,” Jane prodded, “the family maid used ta’ tell us stories about boggarts and witches and wisps and fairies, Lewis. Folk tales. Boy, there is nothing but crickets and toads and owls that dare come out around these parts in the depth of the night. Nothing a bit dangerous. You’ve told me that, right, William?”

Lewis sighed and continued, a serious tone to his voice. “She do be right, the wisp is not a dangerous thing, at least if you dun’ follow it.”

“Don’t follow it?”


“Where’s it go?”

Lewis leaned back and held a hand to his wrinkled chin. “Well, they say the wisps are the spirits of people who lost the path, never returned home. Some say they lead others to the same fate, lead them off the path to the bogs and then disappear, leaving them stranded.”

“That’s quite enough.” Jane finally caved, standing with Marie in her arms. “The boy has an active enough imagination. Everyone knows that the good Lord would never let a soul suffer here on Earth. Send em’ up high or down low if they did somethin’ deservin’. Speaking of which, do ya’ have the Bible about? We’ll read a few verses, calm your mind.”

“Ah, yes, it’s about here somewhere.”

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