Chapter One

The lanterns were already lit – carved pumpkins strung up on trees, the candle flames flashing through the hollow spaces like glittering eyes. The celebrations had lasted for a few days now, everything in preparation for the festival later today.

The choosing of Samhein.

Sima sat in front of her mother’s long, dirty mirror. She could just barely see herself in it around all the grime. Laughter from outside, at the hazelnut fire, surely, drifted into the room and echoed loudly against the stone walls. They had nothing to worry about. Wee girls, flirting with boys by the fire.

But Sima was kissed by fire; the only redhead in the whole village. People talked: A blonde girl was picked for Imbolic, a brown-haired for Beltane. That only meant one thing for Samhein – and it wasn’t going to be just one of the many black-haired, blue-eyed kids from the clan, that was for sure.

The one chosen for Samhein was different. They had to open and close the gates to Hell and somehow – by some impossible work of magic – control the devilish faeries that came out.

“Are you thinking about that wee legend again?”

“It’s not a wee legend,” Sima said. “It’s truth…”

“Is it now?” her mother continued in a soft voice.

“Or so some say,” Sima amended, and made to turn away, only Tara had her hair in her hands and yanked her back. She consented and put her arms over her chest instead. She was putting it up; decorating it into an elaborate bun with braids and autumn flowers.

“Well I can tell you those legends are simply that: Legends.”

“I know,” she sighed, but really only because her mother was no one to argue with. She was Taibhsear; the village Seer and all-knower of everything. Or some might say…

“There were no legends about Blair before she was chosen for Beltane, and everyone thought Callum, of all people, was going to get picked for Imbolic -”

“Aye, because he has green eyes,” Sima snapped. “Not because of a real legend outside the clan…”

“Donnae worry, love,” she said as she made her finishing touches. “You’re not gonna get chosen.”

“Why?” she asked grumpily. “Because you didn’t see it?”

She leaned down so her face was at Sima’s level and kissed the side of her head. “No. Because I know it.”

The bear horn blared long and loud against the walls of their house, and Sima had to cover her ears. Tara clapped her hands to her daughter’s shoulders. “It’s time!”

“Really? I had no idea,” she muttered between her teeth.

But her mother had already gone; running through the dark wooden door without a backwards glance. Sima had no choice but to follow. She stood up and glanced once more at herself in the mirror. At the pale, freckled face. At the sad, blue eyes. At the pinned up, bright red hair. She looked and saw the legend – the one everyone spoke about. Of the red-haired witch who roamed the highland lochs, drowning herself in tears, and her unfulfilled duty to rescue those stolen.

The horned blared again and Sima ran from the room out into the dark yard. Everyone from the clan had already gathered, the few males kilted and lingering awkwardly in the back. She spotted Callum immediately – tall, black-haired, and lean – and sidled over to him.

Her sister stood up at the front with her mother (they always stood at the front) and the two chosen girls were already on stage. It was hard to tell who-was-who otherwise; darkness engulfed them like a wave, apart from the flickering of the jack-o-lanterns erect on stage. Wooden and old, it had seen better days – but it was only used for this purpose.

The only difference now was a wide cauldron sat in the centre, waiting for something to boil. It gave Sima the shivers. The old shaman joined them on stage, her body feeble and wilting, her hair stark and white, and raised her hands. Everyone fell silent immediately; even the damn broads by the hazelnut fire pit.

“Tonight, we choose our final girl to complete the Celtic trio. A champion, rather, to defend us from the dark faeries who escape from Hell every year on this night,” she said. “The Goddess has chosen one of you,” she hesitated for effect, her blue eyes staring at each person in turn, “to take on this heroic task.”

“What a pot of rubbish,” Callum whispered into Sima’s ear. “The Goddess doesn’t give a shit about us; why else would she let one of us get kidnapped every year?”

“Well it’s mainly the boys anyway. Perhaps she’s trying to unite the women together.”

He rolled his unusual green eyes. “Oh shut it. You wouldn’t be saying that if I were kidnapped, now would you?”

“Are you kidding? I would revel in that miracle. Finally out of my hair.”

He scoffed and pushed her lightly. The girls next to them gave them glowering looks, but the pair hardly noticed.

“Let me reintroduce the two you know so well: Isla of Imbolic and Blair of Beltane!”

First to step forward was a very beautiful, tall, blonde girl with bright green eyes and fair skin. She waved a small, slow wave, one that didn’t make any sense to Sima, and then stepped back when the applause died down. She wore a bright green dress, too, to match the coming of spring, and her hair in a long braid down her shoulder. Blair stomped up next in her purposely tattered skirt made of dead leaves, her hip cocked out and her tongue hanging out her mouth. She wolf-howled to the boys in the back and winked her lusty blue eyes, her curly brown hair wild atop her head. Sima figured she had tousled it like that on purpose to better fit her part as fertility advent. She stepped back.

“And now, the choosing!”

Tangible silence fell over everyone like a cloud as the old woman bent over the cauldron. Her body began to convulse; to shiver and quake. She sank then jumped up, her eyes rolled back into her head, her fingers tight around the cauldron. The flames flickered in the lanterns and the fire cracked.

“Sima!” she called.

A fire immediately erupted in the cauldron, great and burning and bright, and Sima wasn’t the only one who gasped.

“It is Sima of Samhein!”

She felt her body collapsing into her as the entire crowd parted for her with a gasp and a relieved sigh. No one wanted to be Samhein. Even Callum moved away from her, a hint of betrayal in his eyes.

“No…It’s not…It’s not me.”

“Sima! Sima of Samhein!”

“Sima of Samhein,” everyone echoed in a chant, and she felt a push from behind. She stumbled, and tried to catch herself on a person nearby, but they jumped away with a hiss.

She couldn’t remember making it to the stage, but once she realized, she was drawn onto it, the cold, wrinkly hands of the old woman the least of her worries now. The two other girls spun her around and forced her to look into the cauldron, and Sima wondered if they were going to burn her.

“You’re one of us now,” Blair said, and smirked. Sima felt like she was going to be sick.

“Sima of Samhein, Sima of Samhein, Sima of Samhein.”

Just as she was cursing the legends and her mother’s false words, the lanterns went out, dark apart from the crackling cauldron fire. Then, a great roar and a long, drawn-out cackle.

The faeries were already loose.

 

 

 

 

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Revamp – Day 1

Hello everyone —

So I know it’s been a while (I have this unfortunate issue of falling off the bandwagon of these things), but here I am, back at it.

Only this time, I’d like to try and do weekly features of my own writing; whether that be excerpts from my most recent chapters, or even most recently edited chapters, a poem I wrote years ago when I was angry at boys, or even just a quick response to one of the daily prompts this lovely site provides.

The thing is, I initially started this blog because I was depressed for a couple years and felt I had fallen out of my writing. You know when you’re forced out of a country because of an expired visa and you feel you don’t belong in a place where you don’t really love anyone?

Yeah…That was my ass. But the good news is I was able to make it back to that lovely country where I found love and hope and friendship. Well I’ve been here about two months and already found that again. In a manner of speaking…And what do you know, depression gone!

As a Masters of Fantasy student at the University of Glasgow, I do find it ironic knowing I had spent this entire blog focused on regaining this sense of connected-ness, or perhaps even closure, about a place and things I had felt I’d lost.

So, without further ado, here is my revamp of an old poem I wrote that, now that I look back on it, is more than ironic. It is pure hilarious. Written about a boy I had met before I’d left, and now that I’ve returned, replaced by yet another one, who, conveniently, fits right into the stanzas. Except for the green eyes and the ‘don’t leave me’ parts, of course.

MY ROCK:

Green eyes in the dark,
Standing tall, fading arch –
I’ve always loved the dark-haired boys
With their smiles and their noise.

Please stay with me.
You’ve set me free.

Small smile in the night,
Fingers reaching toward the light.
It’s always been you,
You have to know true.

Please stay with me.
Don’t you see?

Driving your car at half past 3,
Reaching the place where you leave me.
I can’t go, I have to stay –
But it’s only me who had to walk away.

Please stay with me
I’m your wee jolie.

Lingering with the sunset,
Owing you my forever debt;
Shining in your eyes,
Dying when the plane flies.

Please stay.

Day 3

Yes, I know, this post came much quicker than the last one, didn’t it? Anyway, à jour trois…

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So, to start, there’s something strangely magical about these guys. And no, it’s not their beards. Many years ago now, I went to the London 2012 Olympics and my family and I shot up here, to Glasgow, so we could make use of Central Station. We were heading to Edinburgh, naturally. Well — these lads were here that first time, playing in this exact same spot. Then, come the first day I’m making my way back up Buchanan Street for this second jaunt across the pond in 2015, and here they are again. Greeting me like last time. It was rather an odd coincidence, I must say. Good thing I don’t believe in coincidences.

What I would do differently? This time, I’ll make sure to buy one of their CDs. If only for aesthetic appeal because my computer no longer has a disc drive…

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I know what you’re thinking: “She’s going to say that next time she won’t be a stereotypical American and take a picture next to a telephone booth.” WRONG. This next time, I WILL take ANOTHER picture next to a telephone booth, but perhaps I’ll go to the lime green one farther down Buchanan…I used to walk by it all the time when I was headed to Central to meet Sam for riotous outings, or when I was going for a calming walk in the rain. They have free Wifi so I don’t see the point in avoiding them. I don’t care how American it looks – I’m working on embracing that side of myself again, okay? I don’t really like it but what can you do when you fall in love with an American or two…

Check it out:

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Pretty great, huh? Makes for a good, nostalgic shot, and with the banners and the rain and the lights…

Day 4 to come soon.

“A few thousand miles and an ocean away, But I see the sunrise, oh, just like the other day, Picture your eyes as I fall asleep, Tell myself it’s all right, oh, as the tears roll by.” -Oceans Away, ARIZONA

Day 2

So, as promised, here is day 2. Not that anyone is reading, but it’s good for my mental health so here we go.

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When I arrived in Scotland the first time, I, as you saw in the last post, had 5,000 bags – so, naturally, when I attempted to transport them through the airport, they weighted a ton. I didn’t realize at the time that the luggage carts had to be pushed down at the handle to carry the weight for you. Well – you can guess what I did then. Pushed the whole freakin’ load myself. All the way through the airport. I was sweaty and surely smelly and felt like an idiot. I really had to put my back into it! But I was certain I covered it well. No one commented anyway. Our old family friend Paul didn’t even look disgusted when he hugged me before escorting me into the city.

Anyway, next time, I’ll know to push the handle down before pushing the cart forward. And this next time, that is exactly what I’ll do. Maybe this next time, I’ll even hold off on scoffing at how fake the sunshine looks in this photo. (It really is a rare occurrence, folks).

 

Day 3 to be posted in the next few days!

 

“You’re dripping like a saturated sunrise, You’re spilling like an overflowing sink, You’re ripped at every edge but you’re a masterpiece, And now I’m tearing through the pages and the ink.” – Colors, Halsey

Day 1

So – I decided to do a thing. For whatever reason, I’ve been trying excessively hard to be doubtful about my upcoming adventure (aka Return To Scotland). I’ve been jealous, lost, uncertain. I know – not nearly as confident as my old Scottish self. And that’s when I realized: I should revisit that person and remember WHY I wanted to return. Because, I mean, it really was a spectacular 6 months.

To fill everyone in: I just graduated from undergrad at Cal Poly Pomona with an English Literature degree. YAY I can certifiably write and read things now! Well, that’s the thing – undergrad wasn’t enough. So I spent an entire year of my life preparing to go to graduate school (specifically the University of Glasgow in Scotland, naturally), applying to scholarships, grants, applications. And yet, when I finally got my acceptance into the Fantasy Literature Masters program, my reaction was rather shocking. I wasn’t ecstatic. I wasn’t relieved. I wasn’t even that proud of myself. Sure, it hadn’t been my initial program, but hey, it was still a similar program, one I would enjoy more and would benefit me more, in fact, and it was still at my dream school. So – what’s the problem? you’re thinking. Funny you should ask because the problem was, well, me. I had talked myself out of it. Convinced myself I could only have one home and that home was no longer in Scotland. Scared myself silly thinking my new California soulmates would abandon and forget about me as soon as I left. Or that I would immediately abandon and forget about them as soon as I got off the plane.

It was PTSD, really. Not to inappropriately use the term, but I really did have a hard time. I’d just overcome a 2-year heartbreak, after all, and I wasn’t quite in the mood to take on another. Life is tiring when you’re constantly breaking your own heart.

So! My decision is this: From now until the day I leave for this journey and kilt-clad adventure round 2, I will post a picture or two (or three heh) from my old Scotland trip and will discuss what I did in that moment, what was special about it, etc, etc, and most importantly, what I will do differently this next time around.

Because, let’s face it, a large part of my heart is still stuck in Scotland and it would be silly to sit here and pretend that is no longer true because things have changed. In five months’ time, I will embark on a journey filled with opportunity for myself, for my writing, for my future, and I have absolutely no excuse to be a bitch about it.

To start off:

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I am going to pack WAY better than I did before. What is this shit? Come on – you’ve got to FOLD your small shirts and stuff your sweaters in the corners so they don’t take up so much space. But I guess I wasn’t savvy then. I hadn’t yet embarked on two separate backpacking trips around Europe.

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Don’t you children worry, I’ve learned from this mistake as well. It was only a few weeks ago I packed 12 different outfits into that wee duffel bag in the back. The black one? Yeah, that’s right. I did that. So clearly here, I was not that inventive. But I was excited, you know? It was a new environment, a new life, a new scene. I had to bring it all. This time around, I’m only going to bring 18 hangers and will split those between pants and sweaters. Or — trousers and jumpers. See? Already practicing.

It’s going to be a fun year, I can tell you that.

 

P.S: Some of you may recognize these photos. I swear the content is different though. Trust me. Just keep reading. It’ll be great.

 

 

“I will fly, chase the wind and touch the sky” – Brave, Touch the Sky

 

People Make Glasgow Day 6

So I’ve been out for a few weeks. The Disneys have even stopped, but that’s more because I just haven’t been in the mood, tbh. They will start up again in a few weeks when my work has quieted down. Apologies for all that! But for now – onto the necessary and rather late day 6 of my study abroad experience in Scotland.

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With my reputation for parties before me, I set out for what is known in Europe as a ‘Carnival Party’, or a Halloween-like party literally at any time of the year. With that in mind, the only catch to attend is that you MUST be dressed up. So, after fussing with myself and my roommates over what to wear all week, I decided that I could easily go as a wolf. I owned the appropriate wolf hat, the leggings, the cropped top. All that was left was the makeup. So there I was, already slightly buzzed from two pints at Bar Home with mountaineering club (first time out with them), getting ready for yet another party. As I swaggered through Birkbeck Court, someone threw open their window and howled down at me. I raised my arm, drink in hand, and wolf-howled right back. Little did I know that I would soon be howling myself into the ground and become known as the ‘Da wolf!’. Safe to say that it was a good end to week 3.

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The very next day, Friday, I already had another evening planned. I was hardly ready. Despite my eagerness, I was quite the grandmother inside and had a hard time keeping up with my own antics. Nevertheless, I dolled up just enough for a silly international pub night where I met one of the most interesting people yet. A boy, of course. One straight from France. He wasn’t someone who studied at Strathclyde, unfortunately, but was visiting one of our other French friends. Needless to say, we got along just splendidly. And stuck together like glue the rest of that very drunken, slightly blacked out, night. If you’re curious, he’s the one right below me in the picture, with his tongue sticking out.

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Well — only a few days later and I’m following this French man like a loyal Labrador. I became greatly attached to him, actually. I figured he felt the same; yet ever since that one, fateful night where I gave more of myself to him than I probably should’ve, he had been a tad cautious and hesitant around me. I tried to ignore it. But, despite my efforts, it stuck out to me very clearly. Almost as clear to me as this rainbow, which I swear was sitting right on top of us. Still couldn’t seem to spot the pot of gold though. He had invited me to Edinburgh with him and his French lads. It was a grand ol’ trip. We spent the day walking, talking, joking. Here, we hiked up Arthur’s Seat – the famous spot where Arthur himself tore the sword out of the stone. Or so the rumor goes.

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Of course, as we made our way over to the seat, I couldn’t deny myself a shot with my inspiration’s old hotspot. The French boys wouldn’t let me go inside. They were on a mission, apparently. But I was able to at least snag a photo of the outside, with a whispered promise to return to it eventually, where I would go inside and write my own novels’ notes on scraps of coffee napkins.

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Besides the rainbow and the mysteriously missing pot of gold (I suppose it isn’t Ireland, is it?), the top of Arthur’s Seat offered a view such as this one. Basically one like no other. At least in Edinburgh, that is. Here, one can see that night is falling. The unusual sun sinking below the horizon. And you know what? Despite the cold, I didn’t want to leave. I could’ve stayed up there for as long as the weather and the French boys would’ve let me…

Peace. Cheers. Love. xx

Day 7 to come next week (Promise this time)

People Make Glasgow Day 5

At this point in my stay at Strathclyde, I was getting very invested in the people. Hence the title of this whole series. I mean, Glasgow itself portrayed the banners all around the city. In the West, Center, and even the East. I was also steadily involving myself with what appeared to be the stereotypical ‘freshman experience’. But you see – I had never experienced this ridiculous, wild side of myself before. So it was quite fun to experiment with my possibilities and opportunities. Even if it had only been 2 weeks since I’d landed in the land of the brave, true, and the rain.

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The day after the wild club night where unspeakable things happened, I followed my flatmates and fellow Pomona friend to the famous Glasgow Necropolis. It was very conveniently located behind Strathclyde. This beautiful structure before you was just one part of it – we weren’t even at the graveyard yet. Just you wait. The beauty only got better.

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The snow was a day or two old, but the air was bitter cold. Though the sun was out. A decent number of names and dates were so old, that even though they were carved in stone, I couldn’t even attempt to read them. I waltzed among the trees and gravestones as my flatmates and friend engaged in a rather unnecessary snowball fight. But I didn’t let them spoil my own private fun.

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We stayed until the unveiled sunshine began to disappear beneath the hills. I particularly love this picture because of the way the fading sun cast magnificent shadows across all the tombstones, so that they looked like silhouettes. It was probably about 3.30 p.m. We were still into late January, so the sun was barely awake this far north. Up at 8 and down again at 4.

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The following week, I was invited out to what was called a Pub Golf outing. One of my newly acquired Scottish friends from Arthurian Legends, the girl on the left, in fact, was going with all of her Scottish friends and so of course, naturally, I was invited, too. The middle guy was in my Order and Nature in Renaissance Writing course as well and had been one of my first friends here. Pub Golf is a massive bar hopping event where you must dress up as a ‘golfer’ or you will automatically get points taken off. You also hit 9 pubs in one night. You know, like a small round in golf. Apparently they had even crazier events here called Sub Crawls, where you got off at every stop on the subway to get a pint. I didn’t dare try that one yet however. This night was yet another one where I surprised myself. It was a blast and I managed to survive. Didn’t even black out or anything. Though I did end up kissing yet another boy – 3 in 2 weeks. Definitely a record for me, at least.

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By the end of the second week, I had broken a boy’s heart, ditched another one, and kicked the third out of my flat without his socks. Naturally, I needed a girl’s night. So here I was – invited out for the third time with another of my newly acquired Scottish friends. She’s not pictured here because we didn’t have any good club selfies. Once again, naturally. This one was a random gem. And this girl remains an amazing individual who helped my experience foster into one I would never forget. Next time, I’ll picture the lovely lass who invited me out, considering she’s still one of my best friends. The four of us hit a pub first, where we ranted about feminism and all its glory, shared 4 pitchers of alcohol, then I proceeded to get nachos at The Counting House and impress this lovely lass here with my love of Irn Bru and finally, we hit the club. The Garage, it was called. The one I had meant to go to last Friday. Long story there. The night ended up being perfect and just what I needed.

Peace. Cheers. Love. xx

Day 6 to come next week.