________Lost Souls_______
Penelope's Elf

Jason Windham

Nelly followed the main interstate out of Portland. She walked on the side, stopping briefly to topple over a "Pedestrian's Prohibited" sign.

"Where are you going now?" Silverdawn called to her from the brooch.

She looked up at the stretch of blacktop before her, watched as the long white lines stretched out towards the horizon. They became white dots in the distant heat. She shook her hair from her face and pulled the brooch up to her cheek.

"You're talking to me again?" she said, "What are you trying to do, drive me crazy?"

"I'm not trying to do any such thing!" the voice came back from the silver brooch. "I'm merely asking what you are doing."

"I'm watching the backs of cars disappear in the dust." she said disgustedly. "Are you a demon?"

"Cars you say?" the voice came back quizzically. "I suppose that must be very interesting."

Smoke poured out the back of a low riding Buick. Nelly coughed painfully.

"Faggots." she sneered, lowering her thumb. "So are you a demon? My mother used to talk about opening spirit doors and shit like that, is that what you are about?"

"I said no, I'm not a demon. I'm an elf. And what are you, little voice?"

A ragged-out Mustang braked and rolled slowly past. She ran up to the passenger door when it suddenly took off, kicking up dust and radio blaring.

Nelly screamed from the side of the road, "You fucks! You fucking fucks!"

"What are you?"

"I'm fucked, that's what I am."

The rain began to fall. It was nearly dark before she got a lift. Sitting in the car with a strange man was unnerving. It was the single most thing she hated about traveling. She listened as the windshield wipers knocked back the rain and made short squeaks across the glass.

"There's a truck stop up ahead." the man holding the steering wheel said. "Won't you have a cup of coffee with me?"

"I'm not going to fuck you, let's just get that straight right now." she said.

The man pulled the car into the parking lot. "Fuck you, you stupid bitch! Assuming the worst in people is a bad way to think. I could have taken you as far as Seattle, but now you can go fuck yourself."

"Fine!" she said, stepping from his car, "You can go fuck yourself! And I hope you die in a gruesome crash and your dick catches on fire! Fucking pervert!"

The man with the car could see true madness in her eyes, put the car in gear and decided to skip the coffee.

She wandered into the place, passing under a large battered sign that read "Ninas".

"You there, Silverdawn?" she whispered into the brooch.

"Er, yes." came a horse quiet voice.

"What are you doing?"

"I was just given the once over by the town guards. I'm lucky they didn't find anything illegal. Such strange laws they have on the Eastern Continent concerning herbs and such."

"Well, I was just practically molested by some old guy!"

"Is that so? What to do?"

She stepped into the truck stop and was relieved to see it was almost completely empty. "I'm getting coffee? Do you like coffee?"

"Is it a strong brew? I do have love of most brews."

"It is, and it isn't." she said, letting the brooch fall the length of her necklace.

"What will it be, hon?" the fat waitress asked.

"Just a cup of coffee." she said. She slid into a booth with a wobbly table top. "Just a cup of coffee."

"Silverdawn." she fingered the brooch. "What color is your hair?"

There was a pause and then the black gem quivered between her fingers. "Silver."

She caught a ride with an eighteen wheeler going into Seattle, managed to sleep with one eye open through the ride. Morning light found her outside a clothes shop.

She walked into the shop with her hair in her face and her duffle bag slung from her shoulder.

"Do you have any money?" the girl at the counter asked laughing, "You don't look like you have any money."

"Fuck you." she sneered, "I have millions."

She flashed the black onyx brooch.

"Why did you put it on a chain?" the girl asked.

"So it wouldn't get away. Now sell me things." Nelly demanded. "I want a leather jacket, some candy cane hose."

It was Nelly's last two hundred dollars. Better than a motel, she reasoned, she would wear her shelter on her back. On the street corner she sat hunched over in her new clothes. She whispered into the brooch. "Good morning."

"Ah, is it morning?" the voice came back.

"I'm looking pretty good." Nelly laughed. "Got new leather."

"Leather you say?" said the voice, "I had some troll leather once, made for poor protection. I have dragon scale now."

"Do you have a black brooch that you talk into?" Nelly asked.

"Indeed I do."

"How did you get it?"

"I got it from the same monstrosity from which I got the scales. Penelope, I've slain a dragon."

"Ah...I see." Nelly wrinkled her nose. "So did I."

A girl with blonde ponytails stepped over to where Nelly sat. "I like your jacket. You just bought it, huh? You must have a lot of money, huh?"

Nelly looked up at the girl, she was definitely a juvenile. She had dirty knees. "Fuck off." she said to the sweet-faced dirty girl, "I'm broke."

"Um... ok. Im just going to go over there now." the girl said, and walked to the other side of the street sheepishly. Her face was one of pure dejection.

"Are you still there?" Silverdawn asked.

"Yeah. I'm still here. Some poor baby tried to hassle me for cash."

"For gold?"

Nelly rubbed her thumb across the face of the gem, she rubbed it hard. "Yeah, for gold, whatever! You dip-shit!"

The gem felt suddenly frigid in her hand. Silverdawn's voice came to her icily, "If you ever speak to me again in such a tone, I will go away from you forever."

"No, don't." Nelly said, she ran her hand through her hair, "Don't threaten me ok. I'm sorry ok, I just don't feel too good these days, you know how it is."

"Dear Girl," the voice came back, "I for one know precisely how you feel. I am looking for someone, someone that I must find desperately to complete my life. And I just haven't found that person yet. That's all it is. I feel that before I find that right person, I must do a lot of killing."

"Killing?" Nelly repeated, her voice more than a bit shocked.

"Yes." the elf affirmed joylessly. "I have seen a butterfly in my world, I followed it to where it lighted on a leaf of grass. Look at you, I said, Look at you! There was a moment of peace, but my world is one drenched in bloodshed. Nelly, I am a sidewinder. I can feel your world and I can feel you. Look at you, Nelly. Just look at you."

"I see." Nelly said.

She got up from the sidewalk and walked over to the yellow-haired girl. "Hey, girl, where do you live."

The yellow-haired girl shook her head from side to side, slapping herself in the cheeks with her ponytails. "I don't live anywhere!" she said, "but I know where some squats are."

"Squats, eh?" Nelly mused, "Well that would be just fine. Let's go squat."

The house that the yellow-haired girl took Nelly to was all wood floors and rotting staircases. Nelly opened the door at the top of the front stairwell, light entered the room for the first time in months, dust swirled. "This will do fine." Nelly said.

"I'm glad you like it." the yellow-haired girl said, "My name is Cherry."

"Cherry?" Nelly said, "God, that's fucking awful."

"Penelope? Are you there, child?" Silverdawn's voice came up through the brooch.

"Er, yeah. I'm here."

"What are you doing?"

"I'm sleeping on a cold, dusty floor."

"Have you a companion?"

Nelly looked over and saw Cherry's face was slack-jawed and sleeping.

"Yeah, her name is Cherry for Christsakes. Shes sleeping. What are you doing?"

"I've just talked with one of the merchants that I do business with here. I told him that I would be coming back with a lot of shit, as you would say. I'm going to kill a lot of people."

Nelly rolled over on her other side, her body ached. "Why?" she said.

"Because I'm a warrior, dear child. I live by my sword, but in my case its an axe."

"I see..." Nelly said, "that must be gratifying."

"At times." said the elf, "But I am searching for something I can't find. Always searching."

Nelly sat up. "Yeah. I'm searching too. You know, I can't believe that I found this magic brooch and now I have a tiny secret friend."

"Found it, did you? In the grass, in the park, beside your sleeping head?"

"Yeah. I woke up and there it was."

"I would laugh." said the elf.

"I wish that I could take a shower." Nelly said, "The grime of the road is ok on the street, sort of a good physical barrier from the world. But when it's nighty-night time, I wish I had a shower. I can practically see myself turning the hot water knob, feel the hot water running through my fingers."

"Some people dream of flying." said the elf.

"I wish I could get clean" Nelly said. "That's a more reasonable dream, don't you think."

"Clean? You could fly much more easily."

"Is that some kind of line?" Nelly asked.

"No." said the elf, "It was simply the truth."

"I'm going to go get my armor repaired. If you need to talk just whisper. I'm not ever so far away, child."

"If that is supposed to comfort me..." she said and then stopped. "Yes, that is comforting."

Cherry stared absent mindedly. "Who do you talk to? I used to talk to my teddy bear, but that was a long time ago. You talk to your brooch?"

"Yeah, kid." Nelly said, "I thought you were sleeping."

"I sleep very light, you know, not used to lying next to anyone. If you want to talk to your brooch, that's fine with me, I wont think you are crazy."

"I have a special friend."

"Do you, that sounds like so much fun! Can I talk to your friend? What's her name?"

"His name is Silverdawn. But now Ive told you too much. Just forget about it."

"Um, ok.... HI SILVERDAWN!"

Penelope grabbed Cherry's hand. "Don't ever do that. This is my brooch, and my friend."

Cherry jerked her hand free and stared at Penelope with a hurt look. "Gawd, you're mean."

Penelope shrugged, "Besides, it's dangerous. Silverdawn is some kind of killer maniac. You shouldn't be talking to him, you are too tender inside."

"I am?"

"Yeah. Silverdawn inhales and exhales the bloody mist of his executed enemies."


Nelly was pleased, she was always looking to turn a crafty phrase, and Cherry seemed adequately put off. "Why do you want a friend like that anyways." she said, screwing up her eyes.

"You're young, and you don't understand about adult things. One day you'll be bitter and bitchy like me. Just you wait, Cherry-Baby."

"I don't think you're so hard." Cherry said, "I think your nice on the inside."

"You don't know me, kid."

Nelly got up and went down the front stairs, she walked out across the lawn and down the street.

She passed the clothes shop where she had met Cherry, and then went down past a Pick-A-Pack corner store. She stopped by a skinny tree which had falling rust colored leaves. The sun was just coming up and its bright morning rays made the leaves glow exotically. She went past the tree and stuck her thumb out. It was going to be another day, there was no stopping it she thought. She waved her thumb at every passing asshole, growing more impatient with each effort.

"It doesn't have to be like this." Silverdawn said from his corner of reality.

"You're talking about the brooch, aren't you?" Nelly said. "I've sort of figured it out, I haven't been wearing it right, have I?"

She let the chain fall away from the brooch, pricked her thumb on the sharp straight pin which protruded from the back.

"You're a smart girl." said Silverdawn.

"I think I get this whole brooch thing. Believe me, I didn't at first. The brooch doesn't have a clip, its just one long straight pin. To wear it, I'd have to stab myself. But that's what you want, isn't it?"

"It's not all about what I want." said Silverdawn. Its about what we want."

"What do you mean?" asked Nelly.

"Well, what's happening is sort of an anomaly in the universe, as far as I can figure. But it happens sometimes, some people complain to the point that the universe does something about it. If you want to come over to this side, you may. It's a different world than yours but it's not free from worries."

"You choose me?" Penelope asked.

"Yes, Penelope. As I said before, I'm a sidewinder, I feel the vibrations of the dimensions adjacent my own. You've been sending out quite a vibration, but you're not alone. There are many who feel as unhappy as you do. Still, I've been thinking if only I could do something good for someone else, show them something new, then I too would find happiness."

"What do I have to do?"

"In the heart." Silverdawn said.

"I think I'm going to pass, chief." Penelope said. She threw the brooch into the grassy median.

"The heart he said. Fuck that."

At noon Cherry got up. She wondered where Penelope was, and why she left her brooch behind.

She picked it up and held it to her ear.

"Hello. Is anyone there?"

"Hello little girl, how would you like to go to The Magik Kingdom?"

Cherry held the brooch to her cheek excitedly. "This is awesome! Magic Voice, what do I have to do?"

"It just takes a little act of courage."

"Yippie!" Cherry exclaimed.

The pin had hurt going into her heart but as her light began to fade, she found her self in a bright place. Silverdawn scooped her up from where she lay. His eyes were pools of mercury, his hair were liquid strands of silver.

"I'm so glad I found you." he said. "How would you like to learn how to shoot a bow?"


FACT: If you stick a straight pin into your heart you will die.

MYTH: If the pin is attached to a magical brooch you will not die but be transported to a kingdom of elves and dragons.

FACT: If you leap from the top of a giant suspension bridge, you will most certainly die.

MYTH: If you made a friend named Cherry and she crossed over to the magic place, then she will save you from your death.

FACT: I cannot be alive. I jumped... I jumped!

MYTH: ????



Penelope had always wondered what awaited her after death. She opened her eyes and saw Cherry standing over her. Cherry smiled, but it was a slight expression. Penelope sat up, she was sitting atop a black covered mattress, it was her bed back home. Since she was eight she had slept on a mattress directly on the floor. This had put an end to her damned monsters-under-the-bed-fears. "What am I doing here?" Penelope asked, "I saw the water rushing up, I heard my neck break."

Cherry screwed her eyes up cheekily, "Yeah, you went and did it." she said, "You should have taken SilverDawn up on his offer, I mean, if all you were going to do was throw your life away."

"SilverDawn!" Penelope gasped, "Is he here? Where is SilverDawn?"

"He's here." Cherry assured her friend, "But you can't see him right now."

"This is bullshit!" Penelope shouted, "This is my old room. Were at my parents house! What are we doing here?"

"That's how you see it, huh?" Cherry said smartly, "Well, if this is your room at your parent's house, then what the heck is that?"

Penelope followed Cherry's finger to the top of the bedroom door. There was a head staked to the wall.

"What the fuck?" Penelope gasped, "What the fuck is that?"

"It's your room, smartie, so you tell me." Cherry said wagging her tongue.

"It's my fathers head! Goddamn!" Penelope screamed.

"Oh, is that who it is? I thought it was God, with the beard and all."

"My father looks like God." Penelope explained, "What's his head doing up over the door?"

"I don't know." Cherry shrugged, "Maybe when you kill yourself, you kill your ancestors too."

Penelope got up from the bed and crossed the room. She stood beneath the gory head, gazing up at it. "There's something in its mouth." she said proudly, feeling smart.

"What is it?" Cherry asked.

Penelope pulled the metal object from between her father's clenched teeth. "It's a key!" she said, holding it up for Cherry to see.

"Oh!" Cherry exclaimed, "Well, that must be the key to the door. I guess we can go see Silverdawn now."

"Where is he?" Penelope asked.

"I was with him in your parent's living room. He gave me a bow and arrow, and he showed me how to shoot it. SilverDawn shot your mom with an arrow. Then I put the bow up in your parents garage. I put it in a box with all your dads tools. I laid it down next to your sword."

"My mom.... what? My sword?"

"Yeah, it's your sword. It doesn't have your name on it or anything, but as soon as I saw it, I knew that it was yours. It's a pretty sword; SilverDawn etched the image of a butterfly on the blade."

"Him and his butterflies!" Penelope groaned. She stuck the key in the keyhole and turned the key, the door swung open slowly making a low moaning sound.

Penelope looked into the room which lay beyond. It was a confusing vortex of juxtaposed furniture pieces and mad swirls of abstract designs. "Come here." Penelope called to Cherry, "I want to hold your hand. I don't want to go through all of th is alone anymore." A small tear dropped from her eye and fell directly to the floor. Both girls watched as the tear fell. From the tear sprung forth a patch of tacky orange carpet. The carpet grew until it covered the floor in its orange ugliness.

"This carpet..." Penelope mumbled, "it was the carpet that was in the trailer. She hadn't seen it since she was a baby. It was the carpet that she crawled on, took her first steps upon. From the giant antique book hutch which had belonged to Penelope's grandmother, she grabbed a torch.

"I'm going to burn the carpet up." she told Cherry.

"Ok," Cherry said, "if that will make you feel better."

Penelope touched the torch to the orange monster and it went up in a magical poof of flame.

To the end of the giant book hutch the girls went. There they found a book surrounded by small white candles.

"I know what that is." Cherry beamed, "Its called The Book of You."

"Really?" Penelope said with real interest.

"NO, you can't read it yourself." Cherry stopped her. If you do it's like looking at yourself in a mirror in a mirror in a mirror. I'll read it to you."

Cherry looked down at the book and hesitated.

"What is it?" Penelope shoved anxiously. "What the fuck does it say?"

"Ok" Cherry said, pushing back. It says Good Girl Gone Bad, Good Girl Gone Bad, Good Girl Gone Bad, Good Girl Gone Bad. It says it about a billion times, ok. Then it just says look at you, just look at you."

"That sounds like bullshit. I think SilverDawn wrote that."

"No," Cherry shook her head adamantly. "SilverDawn said that and it was put into your book. It must be real important."

"What does the book say about you?"

"I don't know." Cherry said, "I was going to read it but Silverdawn stopped me. He wouldn't read it to me either."

"Let me see." Penelope said, pushing Cherry away and hovering over the book. "It says The Luck of The Irish, that's all it says. No, it says something else in tiny print, it says pincushion"

"My real name is Erin." Cherry smiled with real pluck.

"So where is my sword?" Penelope demanded.

"Follow me." Cherry said, and lead Penelope by the hand. There were swirls of brick walls, of concrete walls, of stone walls, of wooden walls. Then the girls went past all the walls and down into a small dim cavern.

"I thought you said my sword was in my dad's garage." Penelope said.

"Yeah, well, it changed. Reality is pliable." Cherry said, "Your sword is on the shelf."

Penelope went to the crudely built wooden shelves and lifted the sword from where it lay atop the bow and arrows.

"Take your bow." Penelope said and handed it over to Cherry.

The light in the cavern grew more faint and a hot breeze blew through the area.

"This place is changing." Penelope said, "It's getting hotter and darker. I've been wanting to ask this since I first woke up, but I've been afraid of the answer. Is this hell?"

Cherry pulled Nelly close. Her tiny pert lips brushed against Penelope's. "This isn't hell." Cherry said, "If it were hell we wouldn't be allowed to get so close."

The girls walked out of the cavern and into a long dark earthen tunnel. They walked until the tunnel opened into a larger cavern. Within the cavern they found a pool of crystal clear water. Penelope went to the edge of the pool and cupped her hands.

"Wait!" Cherry yelled and grabbed Penelope.

"What is it?" Penelope shrugged off the smaller girl. Penelope followed Cherry's gaze out over the water. In the dark, she could barely make out the face-down form of a body. "Who the hell is that?" she exhaled jaggedly. She waded out into the pool and rolled the skeletal figure onto its back. She recognized the black leather jacket and the candy-cane tights. It was her own body.

"It's my corpse." Penelope said. She pulled the jacket from her former self and put it on her back.

"That's right." Cherry said, "I remember now, it was during the seventh-hundred second of my being here. SilverDawn said all water is binding, all water connects. What dies in the water, stays in the water."

"Never mind." Penelope said, "I've got my jacket back and I've got my sword. Let's follow the water."

They went along the side of the pool and from it formed a fast moving stream. They followed the stream until it gave way to a high waterfall. Down below there was the crashing of the water into a deep cavernous place.

"There's an old saying, The only way to get there is to go straight down."

"What? Were going down there?" Cherry gasped. "I don't know if we should."

"You want to kill the dragon, don't you? That's what these weapons are for."

"Um, ok." Cherry reluctantly agreed.

They waded out to where the fast current took them. They went over the falls hand in hand.

"What's it going to do?" Penelope laughed as she fell, "Kill us?"

They plunged down into the waters, going deep under the surface. When they emerged, they spit out water and swam for the shore.

"This place is terribly bad!" Cherry gasped for breath, "It's a dead pool."

It was true. All around them bobbed and floated wormy bodies.

"What dies in the water, stays in the water." Penelope repeated. They both made the shore and continued to spit the corrupt water from their mouths.

Along the shores of the embankment were a line of coffins. From these emerged a thick mustard colored ooze.

"Don't touch the coffins." Penelope said, tugging at Cherry's hand.

They walked past the line of coffins and into a room of beautiful mirrors. SilverDawn The Elf sat cross legged in the middle of the chamber. "Look at you!" he said gleefully, "Mind your step though, for this room has its share of traps."

Carefully the girls made it safely to SilverDawn's side.

"Why was my father's head mounted above the door to my room? Why did you shoot my mom?"

SilverDawn looked up at Penelope and fluttered his long elvish lashes, "What do you care? If you had cared, y ou wouldn't have took the big dive."

"Your logic is broken, fucker." Penelope scowled, "Just because I offed myself doesn't mean that I don't care about people. I do care!"

"Who are you trying to convince?" SilverDawn said, rising to his feet. "So you are here to kill that old savage of a dragon, are you?" I think that's fine. The door to the dragon's chamber lays yonder."

"Penelope, I'm scared to fight a dragon." Cherry pulled at Penelope's leather sleeve. "Can't we make friends with the dragon?"

"I'm afraid not," SilverDawn tutted, "he exists to destroy everything pure. You can stay here with me though, Cherry, this isn't your fight."

"I know," Penelope said, "Its only my fight, isn't it? And once the dragon is dead, we can go to a happier place."

"Astute..." SilverDawn clucked. "Something you should know though, killing a dragon requires killing a bit of yourself."

"I know all about killing myself." Penelope shot back.

"Go then, stubborn one. Your dragon awaits."

She opened the door and stepped through.

Cherry looked up at SilverDawn worriedly, "She can't do it, can she?"

"Never have I been good at judging human abilities." SilverDawn said.

There came a terrible roaring from within the dragon's chamber. A blast of heat swept down the long halls.

"I... I must go to her side." Cherry said, and suddenly lunged to the door.

In the dragons black coils, Penelope struggled with her foe. She drove her sword deep into its serpentine body, yet still it crushed her from all sides.

Cherry loaded her bow and let her arrows fly. The dragon slumped into a spasm of death.

"I... I couldn't have survived without you." Penelope said while freeing herself from the beasts coils.

"Very good, girls." SilverDawn said, clapping his hands together. "You should know that in regards to my killing your kin. I have only slain the reflections that you brought with you. It's time now for you to tread a new world. I welcome you both."

Cherry put her arm around Penelope's shoulder. "We did it, we can do anything."

Copyright Jason Windham 2003

Jason Windham has had stories appear at Demonminds, Dark Moon Rising, House of Pain and various other places.

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