Under the Ghost Star

 

Erik VanBezooijen

 

 

 

         A Vlakk witch’s 13th birthday is always momentous. For on that day, her mentor gifts her a special insignia and frees her to seek her own destiny. But when Kuma’s 13th birthday came, her grandmother had nothing to gift her but hard words.

         “To I, Bogdana, greatest of her age, the world is as nothing. Yet it devours all others. Devoured your parents. Devoured my body. And while I have breath–” she paused to cough up a wad of toadweed, “– no need of insignia for you. I have abandoned my life’s work, joys, and glories to raise you, and shall not let the world devour you, sweet little clod, molehill. For you and I are all you and I have left….”

         Kuma had expected little else. After feeding Bogdana her breakfast and toadweed buds, she took her sickle-bladed bolline to the garden in their forest clearing to cut more toadweed.

         A sulfurous fog had clung to the forest since the sorcerous Tyberian invasion centuries before, and there were more dead things here than living. The garden thrived only through Kuma’s skill with necromancy.

         Crouched amongst her resurrected weeds, tougher than their original forms, Kuma usually felt some pride: necromancy was a hard magic to master. But now, she felt only bitterness, staring at the spaces between the dead, gnarled trees, imagining herself a stronger witch, a braver witch, adventurous enough to slip through the fog, past the woodland’s edge, and into the world beyond, the world she’d only ever seen in Bogdana’s lore-books–— the crystal fields of the fire horses, the astral swamps of the Shaman Kingdoms, the old dragon-factories of Helesia, the alchemical gardens of Chang’an, the dream scriptoriums at the edge of the Oracular Sea. Yet she knew her grandmother’s hard words were true. For all its seeming beauty, that world was a devourer.

          There was a rustling in the sword-ferns. A scruffy gray cat leapt out and crouched beside her, his single good eye fiery and glaring.

          “Malkin.” She had resurrected him, having found his body floating in the creek, neck wrung – likely killed in some city beyond the forest, and discarded into the water.

         She scratched his ear, but he looked back through the ferns. From past them in the trees the sound of running creek water reached her ears, and then a thin silvery stream wended out from between the trunks, around shrubs and flowers shriveled as mummies’ eyes, through withered gray grass and reborn garden.

         She grabbed Malkin and backed away, bolline in her trembling hand. This might be danger, yet hope flickered in her chest as the current pooled, shining an ever more luminous blue, bluer than anything Kuma had ever seen in her world of black and gray, spiraling into the air, forming itself, finally, into a woman.

         With seaweed hair, pale blue skin, eyes like waterworn stones, a shift shimmering like flaked ice from the crown of the world. An elemental. An undine. Kuma had read of her kind in the lore-books. But only one had the power to walk on land– Julna, friend and fellow adventurer to Bogdana.

         Julna’s voice was like rain on water and her gaze transfixing. “I see on your door the black owl with blood-red eyes, the sign of Bogdana Thrice-Great. So then you are Kuma.”

         Kuma had only ever heard Bogdana speak her name. It felt strange to hear it in the mouth of an undine, and a famed one at that.

         “I’ve no doubt your grandmother’s told you how she gave me the power to walk on land, when still only a young witch, no older than yourself. She’ll have told you to expect me, yes?”

         Kuma was silent.

         “The business I have with her…?”

         “Your pardon. My grandmother…is not what she was.”

         “Cryptic as Bogdana herself. But I have urgent business with her. Please show me inside.”

         What if the stranger was not who she claimed, but one of Bogdana’s old foes? Yet she sensed no danger. No, here was a legend from her grandmother’s past on her doorstep, on her birthday of all days. Kuma bowed her head and showed her through the door.  

         The shelves were lined with dusty moth-eaten books and aged souvenirs of past adventures—stained chalices, cracked dream-mirrors, yellowed djinn-bones. Julna wrinkled her nose. Kuma wished to explain how different it had all once been, but she held her tongue and led Julna to a chipped and weathered grandfather clock adorned with a finial in the shape of a black owl.

         “Grandmother.”

         There was no response.

         She sighed and opened the clock’s bonnet.

         Within, the severed head of Bogdana, once called Thrice-Great, rested on a silken pillow, open eyes glazed and dim. Lank hair framed wart-mottled skin, and black fur covered her lolling tongue – signs of long years of toadweed-chewing.

         Kuma tapped Bogdana’s forehead, blushing as she felt Julna’s stare.

         “Grandmother. Wake up…”

         Bogdana blinked and coughed. Her furred tongue slid behind her frown. “Molehill…What’s this blue person…doing in our home…”

         “It’s Julna, grandmother. Your old friend.”

         “Friend!” Bogdana coughed again. “Friends don’t let friends…languish alone in drear woodlands…Swim away, swim away, timid little minnow–you–fish-wife–you–trout–!”

         Julna steered Kuma aside, taking her place before the clock. “Bogdana. Tonight the Ghost Star conjuncts Adeyron. The night of our pact–”

         Bogdana yawned.

         “– the night to resurrect Traejun.”

         “What can Choronzon do to me?”

         “He will take your soul, Bogdana. Think of yourself, if you care nothing for me, or for Traejun.”

         “My soul! Let him have it. He won’t have my mountainous-ness. My oceanic depths. My storm-winds or fire…”

         Kuma was always restless when her grandmother referred to herself – or Kuma, or things around her – as patchworks of elements. But Bogdana’s rant was cut short as her eyes glazed over and she fell back into her stupor.

         Kuma dug her nails into her palms. “Your pardon,” she said at last. “Who is Choronzon…”

         “The Death Spirit that dwells beneath the crossroads in these woods. The Forest People summoned him to destroy the invading Tyberians, but it destroyed the Forest People as well. It has fed off the life of these woods ever since, and will have our lives by night’s end, if the pact is not kept.”

         She ran a measuring gaze over Kuma. “You are Bogdana’s granddaughter. She’ll have taught you necromancy, no? Your garden would not otherwise thrive so, in a place like this. We need to resurrect a chimera.”

         “But… I…do not have an insignia.”

         The undine touched her shoulder, her fingertips like cool mist. “Choose your words with care. Bogdana will have taught you a witch does not speak her weakness.”

         But her breath caught in her throat. It was one thing to resurrect toadweeds and dead cats, quite another to resurrect a chimera. Yet, even as her stomach turned and visions of sorcerous death, such as her parents had suffered, crowded her mind, she knew she could not abandon her grandmother. Bogdana had spoken truly that morning. You and I are all you and I have left…

         “Now. I gave Traejun’s claw to your grandmother long ago for safekeeping, the only remnant of his body we have to recall him with. Where is it?”

         Kuma frowned. “A claw…black? Thin, like a cliff-eagle’s…?”

         “Yes.”

         “It shivered in my hand. I can still feel the sharpness of its power.”

         “Yes. Get it. We haven’t much time.”

         “…grandmother had me sell it.”

         “What?! To whom?”

         “A gnome…for drugs.”

         For a moment, Julna stared at Bogdana’s head as if ready to pull it down to watery depths. Then she narrowed her eyes at Kuma. “Then we must visit this gnome.”

 

         It was near twilight when they reached the clearing in the woods where the gnome’s tunnel entrance lay, darker even than the shadows of the gaunt trees surrounding it.

         From her satchel Kuma brought out a clay bowl filled with shining and translucent rocks. She drew a circle with her bolline on the ground before the tunnel, placed the bowl within, and called respectfully into the dark.

         A gnome’s pinkish eyes peered out from the darkness.

         “Spawn of Bogdana’s spawn. It’s been some time. And the unnatural land-walking water creature!” he looked askance at Julna.

         Kuma gestured toward the bowl. “We brought this gift for you.”

         The gnome shrugged and looked sideways at the bowl. “No witch’s gift ever came without strings attached.” But his eyes went over each rock, their glow the brightest thing in the clearing.

        He picked the bowl up with a sigh, yet held it tight. “I’ll wager it’s not for my special mixes you’ve come, this Ghost Star’s eve, but to steal back the old crone’s last gift.”

         “The claw…”

         “Chorozon would char me like a Tyberian, if I gave you Traejun’s claw. After he’s eaten your souls, that is.” He leaned close, and Malkin hissed. “Then again, I’m no lover of the crypt-god. I might be persuaded to help – if only you had any real power to your magic.”

         Julna leaned over him. “Careful, groundling. Kuma Black Owl is a witch of the Vlakk lodge.”

         “Careful, yourself! The friend you seek is dead of her kin’s magic. I’d not be so eager to unleash it.”

         Kuma summoned up her courage. “The claw was held in sacred trust and not Grandmother’s to sell.”

         “Not my problem young witch, the deal is long done.”

         “Do you want to be on the bad end of a witch’s given word violated?”

         “Rather than face Chorozon’s wrath. Show me proof of your skill.”

         “Name your proof.”

         The hairs on Kuma’s arms prickled as with a sinister light the gnome’s eyes flicked to Julna. “I’ve heard Vlakk witches can separate an undine’s water into tiny droplets– and rejoin them.”

         A cold weight sank into Kuma’s stomach. She knew this spell. The slightest mistake could kill the subject.

         “One who could do this could surely also best Choronzon.”

         “A good display of Kuma’s power.” Julna looked at Kuma. “Your grandmother performed this spell on me. It was a most pleasant sensation.”

         Kuma stared at her.

         “As for the claw, groundling – she must use it in the spell. We swear not to leave before the spell is done.”

         The gnome glared at Julna and withdrew, taking the offering with him. It was a long wait before he resurfaced, carrying Traejun’s glittering black claw.

         Kuma gripped tight the sharp brilliance of the curved thing, shocking in it power and life. With her bolline she drew a circle on the ground around Julna, then pricked Julna’s thumb upon the claw. Beads of clear, dew-like blood sparkled at its tip.

         Kuma laid the claw upon on smooth, flat stone, allowing Julna’s blood to drip onto it, then drew a circle around herself and the stone. Her voice filled the evening air with a high, reverberant note. She let herself float with the sound, and see in her mind’s eye the blue-gray tone on the Vlakk color-scale for the elemental plane of Water.

         Through that color, a world showed itself, swirling mist filling the clearing, chilling her skin, and into those mists she spoke the name of the lord of that world — a name bizarre, labyrinthine, grimoire-pages long, requiring trills and buzzings of the tongue. She breathed in time to the Fourfold Pattern, as Bogdana had taught her, for speaking a deity’s name asynchronously could rouse its anger.

         But the gnome’s taunts crackled at the edge of her awareness. “How solemn she looks – how much more solemn she’ll be, damned to Choronzon’s clutches – side by side in the void, with her grandmother…”

         Kuma faltered very briefly. Focus, she commanded herself, and continued the naming.

         But then she found something more in Julna than water, and nearly lost her cadence. What was this? Nevermind. Just finish the name.

         When she’d brought forth the name in its entirety, out of the mist a vague shape coalesced, swirling at the edge of her circle.

         “Elemental Lord of Water! Kuma, daughter of the Vlakk Lodge, charges by claw and blood that you part the water within the water-child Julna, then rejoin it just as it was, so that all might wonder at your glory, your supreme subtlety…”

         Mist circled Julna, blurring into a ghostly gray radiance obscuring sight of her and the last red glints of the setting sun through the black trees behind her.

         But then the light flickered, and mist swept into Kuma’s circle, enveloping her. She gasped as the droplets flung themselves against her with piercing cold. The gnome shrieked. Malkin hissed.

         She brought to mind the color-tone of the mist-world and chanted — “Elemental Lord of Water – I charge you –.”

         — Charge me? A voice whipped along with the mist-currents, sinuous and chilly. You have maligned my name and made me no offering.

         The torrents of water droplets raged harder. Kuma’s hair whipped around her like black flame. Malkin yowled. The gnome ran screeching into his tunnel.

         Kuma shouted above the howl of the waters. “Lord, name your offering!”

         — The claw.

         She held Traejun’s claw tight against the tugging of the whirling waters.

         “Lord of Water, this claw is nothing to you, but would save Julna and my grandmother.”

         — We have no love for Julna, or Bogdana. They have abused our powers often enough. Give me the claw or lose your miserable lives.

         The torrent tore harder at them from every angle. She felt the breath pulled from her lungs.

         Kuma held the claw aloft.

         The luminescent mist pulled the claw from her hand, closed over it, and vanished. At once, the waters withdrew.

         Silence. The undine stirred and blinked. She took a long, gasping breath. “Not your grandmother’s version.”

         “I’m sorry. The spell broke apart when it found more in you than water.”

         “Ah! I also embody a portion of earth, thanks to your grandmother. It allows me to walk on land. So I am of two elements.”

         “Grandmother speaks as if she were filled with elements.”

         “She is, The more she gathered and mastered, the more power she gained. Now…the claw?”

         Kuma hung her head, “Taken.”         

         “There is no time to get it back. We must be at the catacombs before midnight.”

         “But I can still feel it as if it were in my hand.”

         Julna’s eyes bore into her’s. “The Law of Likeness. Then we have a chance.”

         Kuma followed Julna into the darkening woods, gripping a phantom chimera claw. Malkin slunk along beside her.

 

         A stony cavern marked the entrance to the Forest People’s ancient network of tunnels, the rounded earthen walls glowing with phosphorescing lichens and mosses. Their swift footsteps fell silent on the soft ground. Julna knew the way through long turnings and twistings. Finally they entered a narrow passageway, lined with stone carved in pictographs like tangled roots and branches, in the mysterious language of the long-dead Hewutians, the Forest People.

         “This is the Fivefold Catacomb, beneath the Crossroads but shielded from the Death Spirit. Traejun’s burial chamber is close now.”

         Julna led the way to a hallway ending in tall carved wooden doors. She pulled and slowly they creaked open. Blue spiritlight flickered over a stone tomb and shone up onto a ceiling painted with guides to the afterlife path.

         Kuma sprinkled a circle of spellwater around the tomb, and in an offering bowl lit incense, sharp, strong, bittersweet. She lay the phantom chimera’s claw atop the bowl and the smoke curled around it..

         Wordlessly, witch and undine and cat closed their eyes.  

         Against the darkness of her smoke-sharpened mind, Kuma formed images of Vlakk glyphs spelling out Traejun’s name, and imagined them turning, each twisting shape a key into the multi-locked door to the house of the dead.  

         “Release him from the realm of the dead,” she whispered. “Bring him back, for we have given you this part of him and the part is the whole, the part is the whole, the part is the whole…”

         But now a voice half her own, half Bogdana’s, rose in her mind.

         A gnome got the best of you…

         Who are you to brave the realms of the dead?

         She tried to stop her hands’shaking. But the voice would not quiet.

         You have already failed!

         The powers beneath the earth are strong, and you are nothing, nothing…

         A grinding noise – stones shifting. Earth splitting.

         Laughter rose from the depths. A voice like scraping coal-blocks filled the chamber.

         “Who are you, weak little apprentice, with this most pathetic offering? Demanding the laws of life and death, matter and spirit, be bent to your insignificant whim?”

         Kuma clenched her shaking hands. “I am no apprentice but a—a witch in full, and I… demand Traejun be returned to life, in keeping with the pact–”

         The ground split beneath her. She plummeted down to land in a darkness reeking of carrion.

         “You demand nothing, little creature. This is my earth and my world. You shall remain at my crossroads forever, false witch, be my most ardent worshipper, cleaning these chambers, supplying my sacrifices. And in exchange I shall one day free you from your misery, the insignificance that is your life.”

         Kuma struggled to breathe through the stench of decay and the voice crushing, flooding her.

         “Or perhaps I shall not gift you servitude followed by death. No, starved and buried, your body and bones shall rot and the roots of this place shall feed on your soul and mind, which shall remain forever in the dark earth…”

         And with that her grandmother’s words from the morning struck her: “My soul! Let him have it. He won’t have my mountainous-ness. My oceanic depths. My storm-winds or fire…”

         Bogdana’s odd habits of speech, her way of looking at herself and all else as composites, suddenly made sense to Kuma. All parts of her would live on, whatever became of her temporary being. This was where Bogdana found her courage. This was why she had never feared for her life.

         In her mind’s eye Kuma looked at the Four Realms and knew she herself contained those immutable forces. A hair’s breadth from her soul being consumed, she reached deep for her own elements. For the earth, air, fire, and water, merged for a lifetime, returning to the realms of gnomes, sylphs, undines, and salamanders when she was gone. Even as Choronzon cackled and howled, her body bruising in the earth and stone holding her, she slowed her pulsebeat to the fourfold pattern, and in her mind recited the true, ancient name of the Ghost Star to its own ethereal rhythm.

         “So this taste of eternal rot is not to your liking halfwitch?”

         Kuma spat and laughed. “I would ask you, halfgod hidden in darkness, what an eternity of rot could mean to me. For I have come from the elements, and will return to them, whatever becomes of my soul, while you…you are nothing but a passing shadow upon the earth.”

         Her laughter filled the darkness and Choronzon pulled back. Her limbs sang with lightness and she continued the silent recitation.  

         “You,” said the Death Spirit, “are an unpleasant young woman.”

         Kuma laughed harder.

         The darkness retreated.  “Cease! Your laughter burns,” he snarled.

         Kuma howled with joy and power.

         Choronzon wailed in pain. “Go, foul witch!”

         With a grinding and burning of earth and stone, a shaft opened above, and blue light shone on her face.  The Ghost Star had found her in her elemental joy. It raised her up from the death god’s depths, into the spirit-lit chamber of the tomb, where Julna stood with Malkin. The pit closed beneath her feet, and the blue light set her down.

         Her lungs swelled with huge, relieved breaths. Malkin rubbed against her and Julna moved to stand with her in the Ghost Star’s blue light. It had burned a hole through the earth above them to reach Kuma. It shimmered and swirled through the chamber, freshening the air, warming them, reverberating a high, steady, bittersweet note. Then the light swirled up, back to the Ghost Star.

         And the tomb door swung open.

         A scent of death-flower poppies wafted out, followed by a lion’s head, from which Traejun spoke, a goat’s head from which he could breathe flames, paws, talons, adder-tail – all upon a furred, scaled, eagle-winged body. A vertical white line marked each face’s lips — the Sign of Silence, forbidding the resurrected dead from ever speaking a word to mortals of what awaited in the afterlife.

         Traejun strode from his resting place to Kuma, his sides expanding with breath.   The phantom claw took up it missing place on his paw. She found herself reflected in amber eyes, held by a sparkling intelligence, a mind, a soul she had helped restore.

         “You are a young witch indeed to be resurrecting the dead,” he said. “But I do thank you, for it is good to smell earth’s air once more…” His eyes turned up to the Ghost Star. “Ah! My star is out…”

         “Traejun! Have you been gone so long you’ve forgotten old friends?”

         Traejun’s eyes blinked, then sparkled. “Julna. Still no crypt too musty for you to rummage through, I see.”

         “Death has not improved your manners,” Julna said, more gently than Kuma had heard before. “And this young witch is Kuma. Bogdana’s granddaughter.”

         “Ah, that would explain the skill and power in one so young. But no insignia, Kuma?”

         “My grandmother did not think me worthy…She is not easily impressed…”

         A rumbling sounded in Traejun’s throats. “Her soul would have been god-food, had you not fulfilled her pact. But let us leave this place. I’ve spent time enough here.” He bent low. “Come, l can bear you both.”

         They climbed onto his back, Malkin nested in Kuma’s arms. Traejun’s wings unfurled, smelling not of dust or death or animal hide but of poppies, and he rose from the burial chamber, up through the scorched ceiling, up through the shaft the Ghost Star had burned on its way to her rescue, up above the crossroads, above the tops of the trees. Kuma nearly swooned from the vertiginous sense of so much distance between her and the ground, but when she realized Traejun had moments ago been long-dead, she felt not just safe, but invincible.

         A feeling settled over Kuma, not from within but without, a feeling that she and Julna and Malkin and Traejun were more than themselves, ink figures drawn upon the night’s vellum by some skillful, mysterious hand.

 

         The night sky was fading, the Ghost Star dwindling.

         Kuma, followed by Traejun and Julna, stepped through the hut’s door.

         The clock bonnet was open. Bogdana’s head rested inside, bloodshot eyes blinking.

         “Kuma…” she spat. “You must fetch me a poultice. ‘Twas a bad batch of toadweed you plucked, for before me now looms a phantasm…”

         “It is no phantasm, grandmother. It is Traejun. Returned by my power.”

         Bogdana’s nose wrinkled. “So you’ve brought the beast back. Secondhand grit and embers, shoddily re-sewn —”

         Seeing her condition, Traejun spoke softly. “Bogdana. I do not resent your failure to fulfill the pact—“

         “As well you should not! It was not my doing your beastly assemblage of a body exploded, but yours…”

         “No one is to blame for my end–”

         “He’s told you I destroyed him, hasn’t he, Kuma? Insipid thing–believing whatever she hears or reads–It was in the Seventh Oasis of Sartesia, I had swallowed just enough Oracle Root to commune with its spirit, when–fool beast–he got in the way, stumbled into the working– mind gone, through hedonism, mind you, base hedonism!—”

         Bogdana rambled, until finally Traejun roared: “Your granddaughter has come of age, and proven her skill. She deserves her insignia.”

         “Accursed beast! What happened to us was your fault–yet you blame Bogdana, who freed you from Dalibor, gave you a life for the lore-books! And now you would take from me the last thing I love in this world, all I have left, throw her into a world she will not survive–to spite me—”

         “Grandmother. I am leaving. With my insignia, or without.”

         Bogdana closed her eyes for a long while. When they opened, they seemed even emptier than before.

         “Kuma. If you would so bereave me…I will give you your insignia. You will need all the aid you can get…”

         She stepped through the shadows toward her grandmother.

         “Place your hand upon my head.”

         Kuma placed her hand upon Bogdana’s oily, wart-covered brow.

         “It is a tradition of the craft that the great witch bestows upon her apprentice an insignia to represent what she believes the apprentice will do in the world. What her magic will wreak on this creation the Goddess has abandoned…”

         Kuma winced as heat seared her palm, but kept it in place until the mark had been made.

         “See now the insignia I have given you. The mark I know you shall leave.”

         Kuma looked at her palm. She bit her lips.

         An empty white circle. Zero. The Vlakk glyph for nothingness.

         “Nothing,” said Bogdana. “You shall leave no mark at all. The world shall devour you as it has devoured all else I have loved. And if you do leave, do not think I shall ever have you back. I have given all I can—”

        Kuma stumbled out into the ghostly dawn. Bogdana’s weeping followed her. She felt her elements still tied to her grandmother. But, perhaps this was what her soul was for – now she ran, knowing if she stole a glance back she might be fixed forever in place, a cursed tree heavy with fruits of bitterness and remorse.

         Halfway to the wood’s edge, she collapsed in the fog-chilled grass beneath a bent, blackened oak. She looked at her marked palm.

         Traejun came and knelt beside her.

         “Zero means more than nothingness – it is the totality and cycle of life.”

         Julna approached, with a brush and a jar of ink from the hut. “Kuma, you have faced death and begun the gathering of elements. Give me your hand.”

         She painted sinuous crossing lines within the circle, a figure-eight glyph turning Kuma’s insignia to ‘eternity’. Then she painted the symbol for each of the four elements around the circle. When she was done, Traejun breathed his poppy-breath upon the ink. It dried swiftly, permanent as a scar.

         “Now,” said Traejun. “You are a Vlakk witch in full.”

         Kuma stared at her hand, then into their eyes, and whispered her thanks.

         “Now, time to be on your way!” said Traejun. “We’ll stay here and help your grandmother.”.

         “What!?”

         Julna touched Kuma’s shoulder. “We’ve had our years of adventuring. Now the greatest adventure of all will be saving your grandmother from herself. Though… great witches are notoriously stubborn.”

         “She is not what she was,” said Traejun. “But there is no telling what she may become. Thank you for risking all to bring me back. And….” He placed the phantom claw in her palm, over the insignia. “It is yours. If not for witches such as yourself, the underworld would be too full, and death too final. Farewell.”

 

         Past the woodland’s end, where silent birds stared from dead trees and smells of rust and ashes soured the air, through a vale still blackened from the Tyberian invasion, still littered with crumbling war-colossi and hidden, cursed magic circles needing careful side-stepping, up the steep, sooty flanks of the hills lying on the vale’s other side, the dark figure of Kuma swept, Malkin in her arms, chimera claw still gripped in her hand.

         She reached the hilltops – and gasped.

         Sunlight. Blue sky. Jeweled with yellow flowers and clothed in green grass, the hills sloped down into a fertile valley at whose center an unwalled city spread, perfuming the breeze with chimney smoke, baking bread, dung-filled horse stalls – scents of food and labor and life.

         “It’ll be easier living in the world this time, Malkin, with a Vlakk witch to protect you.”

         Malkin licked her face. She smiled and set him on the grass.

         They started down toward the city, Kuma’s insignia tingling as she remembered herself reflected in the amber gaze of a soul she had returned to life. She wondered what other miracles she might coax from the star-haunted world.  

 

END

 

 

 

 

“Under the Ghost Star”, © Erik VanBezooijen first published here in Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores on January 29, 2024
Erik VanBezooijen is a Brooklyn-based newsroom editor, freelance journalist, and writer of fantasy, horror, and weird fiction. His nonfiction pieces on horror movies, noise music, and theology have been published in America Magazine, the Jesuit Review of Faith & Culture.

Under the Ghost Star” is dedicated to his grandmother, Noreen Toscano, for her love and encouragement.

 

Lead pic by Fran Eisemann, using stock by Wyldraven; also “Nocturnal Whisperings” and “Mystical Forest” backgrounds by Wyldraven, who can be found roosting here amongst much beautiful artwork.

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