Monday, 30 January 2017

The Miskin Legacy - Generation Three, Part Five: A Double Wreath of Wrath (or, History Repeats Itself)

Montague Miskin couldn't be happier. 

Mordecai, his eldest son and heir, was finally married. Milo and Miranda were both thriving and flourishing. His new daughter-in-law, Lily, was expecting a baby... yet another grandchild who was bound to make him proud. And by all accounts, Matthias, Aaron and Tamara were doing wonderfully, too. All of the pain of the past - the suffering he had brought upon himself and his loved ones through that foolish deal - was ancient history: long forgotten, and not something that would ever trouble them again.


Or so he thought.


One Autumn afternoon, Montague sat in his study, working on a compendium of his best jokes and routines. Now well into his twilight years, he intended for the work to be released after his death, to help ensure his future relatives would always have some income - just in case of a rainy day. 

As he focused intensely, trying to wring out his greatest hits from the murky recesses of his memory, his calm concentration was broken by the sound of shattering glass.

Then a thud.

And finally, a scream.

Leaping to his feet, Montague scurried as fast as he could to the doorway of his study. As he threw open the door and peered through it, looking into the kitchen... he felt his knees go weak, and his heart being torn out of his chest. Letting out a breathless gasp, he stumbled against the door frame, utterly horrified by what he saw.

Mordecai and Lily, trembling and weeping... over the dying body of his wife.



"No... Rebekah..." Montague whispered. "Oh God, not my Rebekah..."

The room grew darker. Montague felt a cold wind coming in from the window behind him, rushing over his shoulders. A dark cackle echoed in his ears. Looking over his shoulder, he found himself staring into the empty eye sockets of an old enemy.

The Grim Reaper.

"You thought you would be free of me so easily, mortal?" the shadowy figure scoffed. "I permitted your son and his half-breeds to survive. Now, I will take my payment in another way. And such perfect timing, wouldn't you agree?"

Montague reviewed the situation in his head. 

A child, unborn, and a grandparent eager to meet it. 

Them passing away a matter of weeks before it was due to arrive - desperately hoping that they might have had more time.

That's exactly what had happened to Myron. 

Only Montague had saved him. At an alarming cost.

Too horrified to take a step, Montague turned back towards Rebekah. Her breath was becoming laboured now. Faint. She was beyond help. Her time was running out... and soon, it would be up. 

This was torture. Unbearable punishment. As Montague broke down into a flood of tears, the Reaper cackled once again. 

Hatred and anger replaced the fear in Montague's heart. Growling, he snapped his head up, like a snake catching his prey, and stared down the Reaper, face to face.

"She did nothing wrong, you bastard," he roared. "Why are you punishing her? I'm the one who should suffer!"

"And you will, mortal... once you have to face life without her. With great mercy, she forgave you when you told her of your dealings with me. Her love has kept you strong. What shall become of you without it?"

He relented for a moment.

"Still, I agree with you. She was a good woman. It's such a shame that will have to face this frightening journey alone."

Montague shuddered at his words. Then, a terrible, yet understandable, idea formed in his mind.

"I wish to make a deal with you," he said to the Reaper. "This time, on my terms."

"Oh? And what terms are those, mortal?"

"After today, you will leave my family alone. No more curses, no more punishments. I caused all of this to happen, so after today, it all ends."

"And what do you offer me in exchange for this guarantee?"

Montague swallowed nervously.

"Me," he answered, firmly. "I will die as well. Right here, right now. Two for one... a bargain, right? I will not let Rebekah leave this world on her own... but for that, I will not live to see my next grandchild born. I made a deal with you to win Myron that right, so for my family's sake, it's one I will now freely surrender - if you agree to let them live in peace."

The Reaper was stunned.

"You... would die of your own volition, mortal?"


"You know that you have years left in you, do you not? Oh, you would suffer now, yes - but you would see many moments of joy in your remaining time, even more than the birth of your next darling grandchild. Yet, you freely offer me all of those days, in order to save your family?"

"That is my offer," Montague reiterated. "Take it or leave it."

The Reaper sighed.

"You are an honourable man, Montague Miskin," he said. "Foolish, but honourable."

He reached out his skeletal hand. Montague grasped it, shook it amiably... and felt his entire body go limp.

A second thud echoed through the house. Mordecai, who was already struggling to comprehend what was happening to his mother, rushed into his father's study, and almost lost all sanity when he saw his father lying on the floor.

"Dad... not you, too... oh, please, God, no..."

With great effort, Montague rolled onto his side. He looked up at his son, and managed to choke out a few words between gasps.

"Son... let this be... it's time..."

"Dad, no... please, don't leave me..."

"Tell me this... you... Lily... the children... are you all happy?"

"How can you ask that of me now?"

"Will... you... be... happy?"

Mordecai looked into his father's eyes. Montague's expression was one of desperation... a deep need for validation. 

Choking back tears, Mordecai nodded. A small smile spread across Montague's face.

"Then... it was worth it. Everything I did... it was worth it..."

With those words, Montague breathed his last.


Rebekah and Montague were buried side by side, next to Myron and Katrina. In a gesture of love and respect, Mordecai planted red blossoms all over the graves. Once again, gardening gave him comfort in grief.



Losing both his mother and father was devastating to Mordecai. Indeed, the whole family was wrecked with sadness. Although in mourning herself, Lily knew that she had first entered the Miskin household to be a source of support, and so, she did her utmost to keep everyone strong... especially for the sake of the baby she was carrying.




And indeed, the arrival of Rosie Miskin provided a much needed ray of sunshine amongst the family's gloom of grief.

On the night Rosie was born, as the family slept in their beds, a hidden figure entered their home. Unseen and unheard by the residents, he made his way through the kitchen, and headed towards the staircase... moving softly and silently as a gentle breeze.

Montague Miskin was going to meet his grandaughter.


In recognition of his noble sacrifice, the Grim Reaper had given Montague a special gift... as well as a pledge to honour his side of the bargain. For one night, and one night only, Montague was able to return to the land of the living, and meet the newest member of his family. He had been given the chance to say hello... and goodbye.

Rosie's cradle was in her parents' room. As Montague entered, passing through the brick wall as though it wasn't there, he caught sight of his son and daughter-in-law sleeping peacefully side by side. Knowing that they would now lead safe and happy lives had allowed Montague to fully rest in peace... although seeing them again, even for one moment, brought him joy that was indescribable.


He hovered over to Rosie's cradle, cooing happily at the little lady who was in residence there. She was truly beautiful. Filled with pride, Montague blew kisses over her head, and attempted to brush his hand against her cheek... only for it to pass through. Montague knew that it didn't really matter - merely seeing her was enough of a blessing. Leaning towards her ear, he whispered a goodbye,  and floated off into the night.

At her gravestone, Rebekah hovered around eagerly, anxiously awaiting the return of her husband. When she saw his familiar ghostly figure heading towards her, she smiled joyfully.

"How is she?" she asked.

"Gorgeous," Montague told her. "Utterly gorgeous. Another jewel in the Miskin crown."

"And everyone else? Are they well?"

"They will mourn us for some time. That is to be expected. But they will be happy again soon, my darling. They will all have wonderful lives. That has been promised."

Rebekah took hold of her husband's hands. Both being spirits, they were thankfully able to embrace one another still.

"I will never understand why you chose to give up your life for me," she said.

"Because you were my life, Rebekah. Without you, I am nothing."

Rebekah smiled.

"Come on," she said gently. "We have to go. Myron and Katrina are waiting for us."

The two shared a quick kiss, and then, hand in hand, descended together into the Netherworld.

No cheats here, folks... Montague and Rebekah really did die in the game at the exact same time. I thought it was quite touching, so I figured this section of the story should be quite emotional to reflect that. I hope you feel that I did an OK job. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

The Miskin Legacy - Generation Three, Part Four: Entwined Vines

Saturday morning.

Milo Miskin, a child prodigy with a flair for maths and science, was in his bedroom experimenting with his chemistry set. Using clippings he had taken from his father's plants, he had hopes of brewing up some kind of botanical health potion.


He was interrupted in this ambitious task by a sharp, sweet melody flowing in from the room next door. Annoyed, Milo put down his test tube, and hammered on the wall with his fist.

"Keep it down in there! I'm trying to work!"

Next door, in her own room, Milo's twin sister Miranda was working on her latest violin piece. A creative young lady with a love of music, her grandfather Montague had bought her the instrument as a birthday present, and she was determined to master it. Occasionally, words would come to her out of nowhere, and she would sing along to the tune she was composing. 

Hearing her brother's knocks, she lowered her bow, sighed, and headed over to his room, poking her head around the door.

"What is your problem?" she asked. "I need to practice. You're not the only one around here with a hobby, you know."

"Can't you wait until I've finished my experiment? I'm hoping to win the science fair."

"And I'm hoping to win a place in the school orchestra. Besides, how will I know when you're done? When I hear it blowing up in your face again?"

"That happened once. Once!"

"And Dad nearly took your chemistry set away."

"Look, can't you just go and play somewhere else?"

"OK, fine. It's a nice day. I'll go and play to Dad's plants outside. He says it helps them grow."

"A statement for which there is no scientific basis," Milo thought to himself, but he said nothing.

However, before either of the children could continue with their creative endeavours, they were interrupted again by a shout from downstairs.

"Milo? Miranda?" Mordecai called. "Can you come down here please? Lily and I need to speak to you."


The previous evening. 

With Montague and Rebekah watching the children, Lily and Mordecai had gone for a walk together in the park, in the golden light of the sunset. A favourite haunt of theirs, they both adored strolling past the many flower beds and bushes that adorned the area. It gave Mordecai inspiration, and Lily's heart was always lightened by the natural beauty around her.

They had been together for five years.

After walking for a while, Mordecai wandered away from the established gravel path to look at a new set of flowers that had clearly just been planted. Lily, now very used to her partner doing things like this, remained where she was and left him to it. However, when Mordecai gestured for her to join him, she wandered over, intrigued.

As she stood beside him, she watched him as he intently stared at the brightly-coloured blooms. He seemed to be examining them... almost like how Milo, the logician that he was, investigated almost anything he could get his hands on. 

"Penny for your thoughts?" she asked him after a few moments.

"Oh, I was just looking at these new flowers," he replied. "They're called calla lilies. They have a rather special meaning."

"Oh? And what's that?"

"Magnificent and overwhelming beauty."

Smirking, he looked up at his beloved.

"Still, from a Lily, I'd expect nothing less."

Lily laughed.

"Flatterer!" she scoffed. "Still, I must agree with you - they are very pretty."

"Mmm. They're a common choice for weddings. Maybe you could have some in your bouquet."

Lily nodded, absentmindedly... but then ran over Mordecai's words in her head once more.

"Wait, what?"

Mordecai slowly got down on one knee before her. As he produced a shining golden ring from his pocket, Lily gasped as happy tears begin to fill her eyes.


"I love you so much, Lily," Mordecai told her. "Will you marry me?"

Too emotional to speak, the only response Lily could give was to nod wildly. Delighted, Mordecai slipped the ring onto her finger, then lifted her up into an embrace. 


As Mordecai gently lowered her to her feet, a sudden and concerning thought came to Lily. Mordecai, noticing the change in her expression, looked at her quizzically.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"I do want to marry you, Mordecai," Lily explained. "I do. Really. But there's something we need to do first." _______________________________________________________

"So, that's why we wanted to talk to you," Mordecai said to Milo and Miranda, who were now sat with him and Lily in the living room. "Lily and I love each other very much, and we want to get married."

"Your grandma and grandpa are very happy for us," Lily added. "But, the thing that matters most to us both is your happiness. We need to know that you're OK with this - with me marrying your father, and becoming your stepmother. For that reason... we would like your blessing before we make any plans."


Milo and Miranda were usually either cheery little chatterboxes or at each other's throats. However, following this revelation, both of them had been stunned into silence. Lily and Mordecai looked at them, scared that their quietness was a sign of discontent. Imagine their delight, then, when the twins leapt forward into their arms, hugging them tightly.

Milo was the first to speak.

"You're the only mum I've ever known, Lily," he told her. "I'd love it if you married Dad."

"Me too," Miranda chirped. "Then we'd be just like a real family."

Lily smiled.

"Now, I know you have a real mummy out there somewhere," she said to them, "so it's OK for you two to keep calling me "Lily". I don't want anything to change between us."

Mordecai smiled, but inside, he was nervous. Lily still didn't know the truth about Milo and Miranda's origins - she still believed their mother was some ne'er-do-well who had run away after their birth. She had no clue that the body that had bore them had, in fact, been his. 

Then again, it wasn't like she needed to know. Milo and Miranda were fully aware that they weren't human, but they carefully hid it around everyone else - Lily included. They'd never called anyone "Mother", and never felt like they'd gone without - Lily had always been more than enough for them. If they were happy with the way things were, and she was too, then why risk ruining everything now?

Content, he decided to stay silent. _______________________________________________________   

Lily and Mordecai married a few weeks later.



Once again, the entire Miskin family gathered for the celebration. Rebekah baked a cake for the happy couple, and a thrilled Montague entertained the party with a few of his old routines. With his eldest son now wed, it seemed like the curse was finally lifted. Surely nothing bad was going to happen now?

And the good news kept on coming...