Ernest Dempsey's second collection of short stories The Blue Fairy takes a subject that has been dreaded for centuries - 'Death'. It is one of the few works of fiction, which neither treats the subject as the 'D word' by bringing in fantasies of afterlife nor compromises the solemnity by trying to evaporate the reality of death in humor. Instead, Dempsey explores the many sides to the subject that make the final departure a meaningful reality of existence. Inspired mostly by real life experiences, Dempsey's The
Blue Fairy ingeniously integrates dying with living. It is a book for the soul.
Acclaim for the writing of Ernest Dempsey
"There is something about the somberness of his search for moral principles that reminds me of Victorian poets such as Tennyson, Bronte,
Kipling, and Hardy writing in the 19th century. Bringing these themes into 21st century views is an interesting task."
-Janet Grace Riehl, Village Wisdom
"Following clearly in the footsteps of Rod Serling or his distant predecessor,
Edgar Allan Poe, comes a fresh new voice in world fiction. Ernest
Dempsey conveys the freight of emotion with a twist of irony in his first collection of short stories which address the tender lines between life and death."
-Victor R. Volkman, host of Authors Access
About the Author
Ernest Dempsey has authored four books and, in just the last few years, seen the publication of his poems, essays, short stories, and literary reviews worldwide. He is now the editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing
(www.RecoveringSelf.com) and also works as the country editor for Pakistan on the celebrated Internet news channel Instablogs. Dempsey is now looking forward to completing his first novel.
Learn more at www.ErnestDempsey.com
From the World Voices series at Modern History Press www.ModernHistoryPress.com
Read an Excerpt
Ally Wells' Birthday Secret
No woman on campus was as lively and beautiful as the 20-year-old Ally Wells. Given her soothing countenance and cherubic smile, both faculty and fellow students had universally adored her since the day she had stepped into the department of performing arts. Still, there was something aloof about her: the fact that she never invited anyone to recognize her birthday, nor allowed anyone to arrange a gift celebration for her on or off the campus. Just a couple of days before October 18th, her birthday, she would mysteriously disappear and return on the 20th or shortly thereafter.
A number of assumptions went around among those who knew and admired her (and who didn't?): she was a miser; she wanted to arouse curiosity; she had a secret affair; she was a psycho; and so on. Ally never confirmed any of these and she always dealt with questions with "Sorry, no explanation." The secret of her birthday celebration robbed many of their sleep for three years before it was finally discovered by none other than me.
It happened on October 19, last year, when I was returning to my dormitory by bus after a brief visit to my home. At the next stop after I got on, I saw the pretty figure of Ally Wells dressed in black entering the bus. She looked adorable, as always. Seeing me and a neighboring vacant seat, Ally smiled and sat by my side. We exchanged greetings and I immediately remembered that the day before had been her birthday.
"Ally, can I ask you something?" I could not resist thinking about her birthday mystery.
"Yes, I think you're curious to know if my presence here has any connection with my birthday secret." She was so intelligent as well.
"Tell me, if you don't mind," said I, feeling the coming of a grand secret. "I promise I won't breathe it out."
"Okay," she said, and with a bright face and steady voice, started to narrate. "October 18 is a special day for me. You know why, because it's my birthday, but more so because it's a day when I was honored in the most special way I have ever known. Every year I disappear to celebrate my birthday not with friends or family, or a boyfriend, but with someone who died for me."
Her last words came to me as a shock.
"Who was that person?" I could not harness my dismay, my mind spinning faster than an electron.
"My uncle Kevin," she answered peacefully, a deep look of respect and affection shining in her eyes.
"Your uncle!" I could not help exclaiming.
"That's right. My uncle Kevin, as my mom and dad tell me, was a lonesome young man of 28 when I was born. Being the first child in my generation of the Wells family, I was coddled by all. Uncle Kevin worked as an editor in Roseville, from where I got on this bus just now. He remained very busy with his work, never got married, and rarely visited his parents and brothers. But he always called home and asked about me. Only later, I came to know he had been coping with the fear that some accident might engulf me. When I was going to be one year old, Uncle Kevin cried with joy. He bought several gifts, put off all his engagements, and arranged to attend my first birthday.
Then something happened which no one could have anticipated. A horrible highway accident claimed the lives of seven people on the bus, including Uncle Kevin. Gifts he had sent ahead reached us the very next day after the accident. Since he can't come to see me on my birthday, I visit his resting place every year on this special day with gifts and flowers to let him see how well I'm doing and how badly I miss him. That's the secret of my birthday. And I don't mind if you share it with everyone."
"How long have you been celebrating your birthday this way?" I asked, nearly mesmerized by her account.
"Ever since I turned sixteen and got the courage to travel alone, I've been visiting Uncle Kevin by myself," she answered. "Before that, we lived in Roseville, where my parents accompanied me to his resting place."
"Ally, just asking, if you will allow," I started, and seeing her nod in her distinctive, cute manner, proceeded, "haven't you ever feared that traveling thus might prove dangerous for you? If I were in your place, I would think twice before boarding a bus on October 18." Ally laughed gently at this.
"I'm not superstitious," she said, lightly. "But it did occur to me that some accident might take my life. Then it soothed me to think that such an event wouldn't really take me away from my loved ones, just as it didn't take Uncle Kevin away from us. In fact, I think, I'd be closer to my uncle then, wouldn't I?"
The beauty of Ally's question kept me entranced through the rest of our travel together. Ally Wells remained as beautiful for us as ever. She made my feelings about life and love more beautiful by sharing her birthday secret with me. So now I generously share her secret with everyone.
An Innocent Crime
Steve Connors stopped at the library gate and bent his head to the left whence the voice had called. He saw a slender young girl, conservatively dressed, approaching him. Her face seemed familiar, but Steve couldn't recollect where he had seen her. He waited patiently while she came slowly toward him. It appeared from her gait that she was either ill or very weak. She said "Hello" as she got close, and Steve saw that her face was pale, very pale indeed, under curly black hair, a lock of which hung along her narrow forehead.
"Hello!" Steve replied, looking at her face, trying to recognize her. She read the uncertainty in his eyes and asked, "You are Mr. Steve Connors. Am I right?"
"Yes, do I know you?" he asked, still trying to recollect what was so familiar in her face.
"I'm Martha ... Martha Dorey." She gave faint smile, saying, "Can I talk to you somewhere alone, please?" Steve shrugged in uncertainty.
"Well, perhaps we can sit inside," he said, taking a step in through the entrance. She thanked him with a cough and walked beside him. They chose a table downstairs were they might be alone. She sat opposite him and he saw that her face betrayed repressed pain as she breathed in. She looked down at the table quietly for a minute, as if trying to consider how to start saying something, while he looked at her expectantly. It was a little bothersome to sit with someone so apparently familiar, yet fail to remember exactly who she was. And the way she could call out his name while also recognizing him from a distance! She definitely knew him.
Suddenly she lifted her eyes to his face and said, "My name is Martha Dorey."
"Yes, you told me at the gate," he replied with a slight nod.
"Oh!" She smiled listlessly. "Uh ... you don't seem to remember me."
"I'm afraid not," he said mildly, with a formal smile.
"I used to work at Mrs. Anne Geoffrey's, your neighbor's," she said.
"Oh, indeed!" He remembered suddenly. "You're the sister of Kim, the girl who worked for my mother, aren't you?"
"That's right," she confirmed. "I'm Kim's sister." She broke into a cough, and when she lifted her eyes to him again, he saw the redness in them.
"It's nice to see you again after that long a time," he said with a kind smile, continuing to look at her. "I mean, it's been some fourteen years or so since I last saw you. You used to come with Kim."
She breathed out brief, diseased laughter and said, "Yes, that was fifteen years ago. You were just a boy then."
"Oh, yes," he laughed. "And you just a thoughtful little lady who never spoke a word until asked, right?"
A veil of sorrow covered her face as she looked from his face to the shelves beyond; perhaps she missed her past. He felt somewhat uneasy at her expression.
"Are you all right?" he asked with solicitude.
"Yes." She stressed the word and, looking back at him with humility, said, "I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Well, sure," he encouraged her. "But just tell me. How did you find me?"
"I work for Mrs. Wayne at Heamesville. Her brother, Karl, told me about you," she answered.
"Oh, yes, Karl's my colleague. He's a good guy ... But where is your family now? I mean Kim, your mother, and that roguish cousin of yours, what was his name?" He narrowed his eyes, trying to recollect the name.
"Edgar. He's Kim's husband now. They got married soon after mother died, five years ago," she said glumly.
"It's all right." She locked the fingers of her hands together, saying, "I went to your office an hour ago. They told me I could find you here."
"Well, thank you, Martha. I'm pleasantly surprised to see you here, but you really don't look in good health. May I ask what the matter is?"
She grew still at this question, her eyes fixed on the shelf behind him, and she looked lost in an undefined space. Then he saw tears welling up in her somber hazel eyes. She pressed her lips inward against each other. Then, with an effort, she sighed and said, "I'm ... I'm about to die ... perhaps." And with this she quickly repressed a sob.
Her words stunned him. He looked at her with still eyes. Her face, for a moment, looked white as death itself.
"Uh ... it's ... it's really a bad thing to hear," he started, trying to find something reasonable to say. "I'm really sorry. May I ask why, if it doesn't offend you?"
She glanced at him, and for a moment fixed on the shelf again. Then she gathered her strength and said, "The doctor told me that my tissues, mainly of my heart, have deadened. I'm going to be operated on next week. I may fall into a coma, in which case I'd be given euthanasia." She stopped to breathe before going on to say, "I've already signed the papers."
Steve kept his gaze on her face. He didn't know how to express his sympathy toward her. And before he could come up with something worth saying, she preceded him.
"I have something important to say to you. Actually, I have something that belongs to you, and you must keep it."
Steve frowned a bit in wonder. "What could that be?" he asked.
She put her hand in her black purse and took out something wrapped in a brown cloth. She then took the cloth off and extended her arm to him. He saw a wristwatch in her pale fingers. The watchband was red. She was looking down at the table, waiting for him to take the watch.
"What is it?" he asked with some wonder.
"It's your watch," she said, looking at him. "Your uncle, Mr. Smith, brought you this. Do you remember?"
He remembered suddenly. "On Christmas, back in '79!" Then he took it and turned it in his fingers a couple of times. "How did you get it? Did I drop it somewhere?" He was still lost in wonder.
She looked down. "No." She hesitated a little and then uttered meekly, "I stole it from you."
The awkwardness of the situation struck him head on. A dying girl was there to return to him the watch she had stolen in their childhood: an innocent crime for which she sought penance in the shadow of death.
He didn't know what to say. He kept looking at the watch in sorrow and inexplicable guilt.
Then she looked at him with light clear eyes, her gaze piercing through him.
"I liked it a lot when you wore it. We were poor, and I craved it from the first day I saw it on your wrist. I'd dream about it every night. And one day when I found the chance to be alone in your room, I took it secretly. You thought it was lost and you seemed to care rather little about it. But I haven't been happy all these years while living under the dismal thought of unfair possession." She stopped to breathe.
Steve remained silent, almost dumb. Then her voice moved into him.
"I used to wear it, secretly, at night. In the day I kept it hidden under my bed. I tried to return it to you a couple of times but my heart failed me. So I kept it, believing that someday I'd be able to return it. I think now it's time. You would forgive me for this?" She looked at him in entreaty.
"Oh yes, of course!" He really felt awkward. "It was an innocent crime, just like laughter or something." He sounded silly to his own ears. "You need not have taken the pains."
Tears rushed to her eyes. He looked down.
"I hope you get well," he said, changing the topic. "Don't despair, your operation may result in a new life."
Her gaze shifted from the shelf to his face and returned to its previous point. Then she moved a little forward in her seat and said, "I think I should go now."
He shrugged and said, "If there's anything I can do for you, I'd be happy to."
"No, thank you!" She stood up. "I feel better. I'll inform you if I live." The stress on "if" was desperate and held a yearning, a staggering desire to live.
"I wish you well." He stood up too.
"Thank you!" She looked at his face for one last time and went off. He turned to see her leave, hearing only the rustling of her skirt.
As she went out the door, he glanced at the watch in his hand. It showed 5:30. A dullness filled with sorrow overtook him. Very slowly, he went to where she had been a moment before. He sat in the chair she had sat in, the watch in his hand. His glance wandered to the shelf where she had been looking while talking to him. The reflection of the light coming from the window had turned the glass of the shelf into a mirror. He could see his face in it. And it told him how he appeared.
Cry of Pain
Another light pricking sensation shot through Stephen's back. He uttered a faint, brief moan. It was the third day since he had first acquired that skin condition. First, a rash appeared on his back, his chest, and a little below his armpit. He took it for the effect of heat, as the summer was brutally hot that year. But that morning, one of his friends told him that it was herpes zoster, a viral attack. He decided to see the doctor the next morning after his fever was over. He figured he could bear the pain for just one night.
As bedtime approached, he thought he should have seen a doctor earlier. The rash had grown into small blisters filled with a viscous whitish fluid. Those on his back pricked him every few minutes. He picked up a draft of his graduation thesis and began to review it. The pain seemed to intensify a little. It was hard to concentrate on reading, so he gave up, deciding to review it again in the morning. He went to the bathroom to wash. The first thing he thought of, on reentering his room, was to take up his "Halliwell's Guide to Movies." Perhaps it would be a good way to kill time, he thought.
At this moment there was a knock on the door. His friend Jerry came in. They exchanged hellos.
"You've been out all day?" Stephen asked.
"Yes. We were out. Andy is dead," Jerry said in a sinking tone.
Stephen could hardly hear what he said, his face and attention directed toward the cupboard.
"What? You went to bring Andy here?" he inquired.
"Andy is dead." Jerry stressed each word.
"Oh, God! No!" Stephen was shocked. "When?" He felt his heart sinking. Pain had gone for the moment.
"But, how did he die?" Stephen felt tears struggling to surface from inside him.
"He was killed by his brother." Jerry went on to explain how a bitter argument between Andy and his younger brother had led to the tragic event.
Grief spread its wings over Stephen. Tears started from his eyes.
"I think you'd better wash your face. We may go out to have some coffee. You need it, and I do, too." Jerry's words sounded reasonable.
Stephen obeyed listlessly. As he was returning from the bathroom, his pain woke up again.
Over the next hour, they shared their memories of Andy. Stephen returned to his room with pain increasing every second. Even reading was impossible. Needles went on pricking his back, causing his breathing to become unsteady now and then.
Then his amiable friend Fred came to stay with him for the night. Stephen knew that Jerry would have told Fred about his illness. Fred's arrival relieved him for a while. They sat up till midnight.
The pain suddenly became severe. Stephen began to moan, his thoughts arrested by Andy's murder. He felt as if Andy's wounds were mutilating his body. Fred suggested taking him to the hospital, but Stephen refused to go, saying he would endure it all. The pricks had now become little electric shocks, each jolting his back. He looked at the clock. It was past 1:00 a.m., a long time until dawn. How was he supposed to bear it?
Stephen told Fred to go to sleep and switched off the lights. Shocks continued to shoot through him. He was trying to stop moaning, for he did not want to make Fred rise again and try to console him. The painkillers did not seem to bring any relief either. About half an hour passed like that.
Suddenly Stephen rose again in his bed with a sob. Fred turned on his other side.
"Fred!" Stephen called. "I need to turn on the light!" Fred did it for him.
"This is not going to end," Stephen said in near soliloquy.
"What?" Fred did not know what he meant. "You mean the pain?"
"The pain, and the fear, and lies, cruel things, all very...." He was delirious.
Fred did not understand. He watched Stephen uttering in his confusion. The shocks now came in pairs, each pair rhythmically succeeding the first. Stephen looked at the clock. It was half past two. Time was so slow. Why did it not run? Morning was still a far cry. Fred insisted on taking him to the hospital or calling an ambulance. But he was doggedly refusing, showing irritation with pain.
Excerpted from "The Blue Fairy and Other Tales of Transcendence"
Copyright © 2009 Ernest Dempsey.
Excerpted by permission of Loving Healing Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Ally Wells' Birthday Secret,
An Innocent Crime,
Cry of Pain,
Just a Kilometer,
The Beautiful Six Years,
The Birds Return,
The Blue Fairy,
The Child and the Dead,
The Fourth Attempt,
When the Straw Leaves,
Tears for Blood,
About the Author,