Anne G'Fellers-Mason lives in the oldest town in Tennessee. By day, she works for the local historical society in Jonesborough. She has a BA in Theatre/History from Mars Hill University, an MA in History from East Tennessee State University, and an MFA in Playwriting from Hollins University. She gets to put all her studies to use at the Heritage Alliance where she writes local history-based plays. Her first novel, The Summer Between, is a work of contemporary, young adult fiction. Anne lives with the love of her life and their rambunctious cats in a family compound.
Greetings, readers. In many ways, life goes on as normal here at the compound. My work is pretty much back to pre-pandemic normal, too. All the summer events are back at full tilt and then some. I thought for a minute the lessons of resting we learned in 2020 would stick, but no we’re back to the grind, harder now than ever before, like we can make up for lost time. I am to blame, too. My staff and I willingly scheduled a lot of events, knowing we’d need to keep up. I’m so busy sometimes I don’t have time to think about the state of the world, which is both a blessing and a curse. I haven’t had time to wrap my mind around the most recent decisions from the Supreme Court here in the United States. Instead, I retreat into my little writing hole, specifically my fanfic writing hole. One day, I’ll have to crawl out of it and face the world and my own, original writing again. For now, it’s like therapy. I love the community. I love the instant feedback. I like living in someone else’s world for a while. So, I press on, not really changing the world in any way, but adding a bit of art to it, I guess. I don’t know. I’m straight up in a weird head space.
Let’s see, what else has happened since we last checked in? Oh yeah, my spouse and I finally got Covid after successfully avoiding it for two years. It wasn’t fun, but I am thankful for medicine and vaccines. It could have been much worse. We also got a new cat. True story, I was trying to catch a groundhog at work with cantaloupe and caught a cat instead. That is a thing that would happen to me.
Anyhow, if you’re interested in Stranger Things and fanfiction, I have a new entry in my series where Steve Harrington is a medium.
Here’s the link to the series on Archive of Our Own. Maybe I should write a story on the blog again? Maybe that will get me back into my original stuff? Not the worst idea I’ve had.
Content Warning, this blog deals with pet loss and death in general.
My black cat of eleven years and eight months, my mini panther, passed away this week. He is the third cat we’ve lost within three years. We had several older ones, all around the same age. Duncan had cancer; a particularly rare kind brought on by a negative vaccine reaction. We did two surgeries, but it was aggressive, and we couldn’t afford cat chemo. We enjoyed life for as long as we could, but it became too much this week, and we helped him cross over. I have lost two dogs and four cats, and I grieve all of their losses differently, but I am angry about Duncan’s. Angry because I did everything right, and he still got cancer, maybe from a vaccine he didn’t arguably need because he was an indoor only cat. Mad because I am very pro-vaccine, and this makes me equivocate, even though I will continue to get my other pets vaccinated. It is cold comfort, though, that such a reaction is rare. I am mad because even at the end, his heart and lungs were strong, it was everything else that was failing him. Eventually I will stop being mad, because you can’t live like that forever, but for now I am angry.
As you do with the loss of any loved one, I’ve been going over all the memories we had together. I know we are extremely blessed to have been loved by such an amazing creature for almost twelve years. Some memories of Duncan are definite, his wide eyes, his allergy problems that caused him to sneeze a lot. He seemed to go out of his way to come up and sneeze in my face. Once, he sneezed in my open mouth. He hated it when I sang. I guess he thought I was in pain. He’d come up and stand on my chest and get in my face. (I don’t know when I’ll be able to watch the movie adaptation of “The Last Five Years” again because that was my favorite thing to watch and sing, and he was always on my chest.) Duncan had this imp that danced in his soul. He was fascinated with our dog Charley, would literally hang off his legs, but that dog refused to eat his face. I’m sure they have found each other in the next life. He bedeviled his sister Aldonza and tussled with his brother Smudge. He tussled with Hairy, Katy, and Jacob when we brought them into the house. He moved houses with us. He was the first pet that was mine and Kyle’s exclusively. When we got married, I already had my dog Katie and my cat Aldonza.
Looking back through this timeline, I was getting frustrated that there weren’t more, large memories of him that stood out. I have so many about Aldonza, Charley, and Smudge because they were such BIG personalities. That’s when I realized, Duncan was always there, this steady presence rolling with the punches. He was there to greet me at the door. He was there on the bed, whenever I peeked into the bedroom, and the last few weeks he was on his nice soft bed in the closet. Now, he is none of those places, at least not physically. I miss that steady presence. Losing him was like losing the last, final connection to the old house I lived in for almost twenty years. I realized I had compartmentalized that part of my life, that house, into a separate part of my brain. Losing him was closing a door.
Logically, I know we do this as people. We make rooms in our brains, but this is the first time I had stumbled upon my separate rooms. I knew my childhood was kept in a different space, but that made sense. This was a part of my adult life, though, that I’d created a separate storage space for, and I was surprised to find it. Maybe this is me coming to terms with being 37? I don’t know what it is.
So much can change in ten years. We have photos hanging on our wall that were taken in the backyard of our old house. All three of those animals are gone now, Charley, Aldonza, and Duncan. Now we have three new cats; Hairy, Katy, and Jacob, who have never known life with us outside this space. I’m tripping over time. Maybe it’s because the last two years have somehow been twenty. I’m tripping over death. Maybe that’s because we’ve lost three pets in three years, or maybe that’s because we’ve been surrounded by death with the pandemic and now war. Maybe it’s because a dear friend of mine lost her spouse to a tragic death at a young age only a month ago.
I try not to look at my pets now and think, “I’ll remember that when you die.” I want to enjoy the moment, and eventually I will get back to that. But I always worry that I don’t spend enough time with them, that I don’t take time for moments. I work a very demanding job. I help my family a lot, and I try to have a social life, too, and support my friends. In all of this, do I leave my pets at home alone, albeit cared for, to live their lives? I’m on a spiral. I know it’s a spiral, and I’ll dig myself out eventually. I am taking time this weekend, though, to breathe and live and grieve.
Ducan was named after my workplace, known as the Duncan House. He was a stray we found. My cat Jacob is also named after a work building. I found him at the office, too. Duncan’s other name was Duncan Idaho, after the character in the Dune series. My parents love that series. Duncan Idaho lives many lives, and I know I will see my Duncan again, someday. A friend of mine posted this conversation from Dune on my Facebook page, and it perfectly captures my emotions right now.
“Paul Atreides: Duncan!
Duncan Idaho: Paul. I was just on my way to say good-bye to you. I have to go on ahead, alone. I won’t be seeing you for a while.
Paul: I wish you were coming with us.”
Goodbye for now, sweet Duncan. Thank you for always being here, for being present. Thank you for loving us and allowing us to love you.
Here’s an ode to the four cats, two dogs, one rabbit, and countless hermit crabs and fish I have loved and lost along the way. This is also for my three cats who are still very much here, reminding me that every day has some joy in it. I call it, “Living with You.”
Living with you is
Like, no sleep
Like, oh my gosh, why won’t you lay down?
Living with you is
Cleaning up vomit,
So much vomit
How can a living thing puke so much?
This house is mostly vomit.
This house is mostly fur.
Tumble weeds of fur
Are you all trying to create a sibling?
Living with you is
You attack feet
You attack the wall
Seriously, stop eating the paint off the wall.
You hiss at the dishwasher
You talk nonstop
You don’t talk at all
You refuse to drink out of the water dish the “normal” way
Living with you is
The bathroom is for everyone.
Living with you is
My phone cords
My CPAP hose
You make me snowflakes.
I consider hanging them on the fridge.
You unwrap the Christmas presents
You steal the Baby Jesus from the Nativity
Living with you is
Escape plots to get rotten potatoes on the other side of the fence
Rolling on dead ducks
Snuggling up to your sibling when they had once been your mortal enemy
Living with you is
Medicine at certain intervals
Sleepless nights for another reason
Altering my life to fit your needs
Praying you pass peacefully at night
Praying you’re still here in the morning because I want more time
Watching you slip away as you age
Watching you remain irrevocably you
Saying goodbye in a room with white walls
Being there for “hello” and “see you again”
Living with you is
Sharing your memories for years to come
Keeping your ashes safe
Planning to scatter your ashes with mine when my time comes
Living with you is
A reason to get up on hard mornings
(You won’t shup up until I feed you, I have to get up.)
Living with you is
Permission to take a moment to watch you
Watch you enjoy life
Watch you live life
Watch you bathe in the sun
Watch you chase a bug across the floor
Please kill that bug.
Living with you is
Poem by Anne Mason; In memory of Buttercup, Bunnicula, KatyDid “Katie,” Hermit, Booger, Gully, Charley, Aldonza, Smudge, and Duncan. I also think there was a crab named General Custer, and maybe one named Fishsticks.
I need to get back to writing. I miss it. I have one fanfic to finish, two others kicking around my brain. I have a dragon novel to edit. Short stories, mostly about murder, to tackle. (All short stories are about murder, right?) The point is, I need to get back to it. It makes me happy, and I clearly need some of that right now. Time is short and life is fleeting. But if we’re lucky, we get to love someone, be loved in return, and do something that makes us happy along the way.
Thanks for reading. I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled programming soon.
But in other, happier news, my sister’s health is much better. She will soon be showing off her art at a maker’s fair at the local art center. You can see some of her work on her website at https://www.jgfellerscreative.com/shop.
I have some great news to share, that I should have shared much sooner via my blog. My ten minute play “Stealing Lincoln” is currently a part of Script Fest 2021 through the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre. The play premiered several years ago via the Red Eye festival, but it’s been a while since it’s been onstage. It’s a virtual performance, but it’s so well done. I am thoroughly pleased. It’s an honor to partner with SART. They were my first artistic home on the campus of my alma mater Mars Hill University. I used to stage manage for them professionally, and I love going to see plays there. They have worked hard to keep the theatre going during the pandemic. I highly suggest you get a virtual ticket for Script Fest, and not just for “Stealing Lincoln.”
Tickets are available HERE. (The graphic said it’s available through November 30th, but the ticket button still works, so hopefully you can still get in if you haven’t seen it.)
If you want to read the true and strange case of the attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body, I suggest this article. I didn’t make the story up, I promise you. This is why I love history so much.
While you’re there, check out the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre’s upcoming 2022 season.
Happy New Year! I haven’t updated in a while, naturally. Last time I wrote a blog, my family was still in the throws of Covid-19. I am happy to report that everyone made a full recovery. We are all still here, and we got to celebrate the holidays together. Grateful and thankful doesn’t being to cover it. We are still careful, of course, especially with the Omicron variant. Thank goodness for vaccinations, and for at home tests, although they are hard to come by sometimes and can be expensive. They do provide a level of comfort, though.
Sadly, I didn’t do very much writing in 2021. Work and family matters took precedence. I am proud of writing more blogs, especially during the Halloween writing challenge, even though that turned into the weirdest story I’ve ever written in my life. I am also proud of my play Nancy, the story of Elihu Embree’s enslaved woman and her family. I look forward to sharing Nancy’s story more in 2022, and I hope I can finally find out what happened to her after Embree’s death. I hope she was freed. I also wrote a very compelling 7th edition of the cemetery play A Spot On the Hill. It was probably our most successful one.
As far as 2022 goes, I’m not sure what my writing goals are. I feel a little scarred by the last two years. Don’t we all? I’m going to start small. There’s a Stranger Things fan fiction I really need to finish on Archive of Our Own. I also need to seriously start editing my dragon book with hopes of it being published in 2023. We haven’t had a Mountain Gap Books meeting in a while. Again, family matters, especially family health matters, took precedence. So, I’m not sure what our future publishing schedule looks like, but we’ll figure something out. My cousin got me a self care planner. (Self care, it’s a good goal.) I’ve put small writing goals in there, at least for January. I’m trying to take it a month at a time.
I hope you all have a wonderful new year. I’ll be checking back in with updates. For now, I can check my first of the year blog off my list. Ah, yes, new year’s, the time of year Anne actually follows through with her “to do” list before she abandons it. But who knows, maybe 2022 will be different.
We’ve reached the end of my October writing challenge and of this story. As I type this, my black cat Duncan is on my lap, my Jack-O-Lantern is flickering beside me, and Rocky Horror is playing on the TV. I’m also eating way too much candy. So, it’s definitely still Halloween in this house.
Thanks for hanging in there through this challenge and this story. I had no idea when I started the places it would go. I don’t know if this is a comment about higher academia or what, but here it is. Also, I am very much a product of higher academia and have benefited from it. Still, I have seen the toxicity of it nearly eat my friends alive. Like everything, it has two sides to it.
Prompt, All Hallow’s Eve.
“One Year Later
Gregor finished his lecture. The students seemed utterly confused and a little frightened. It was his best lecture yet. They all filed out at the end of the hour, happy to be leaving, but especially happy to be leaving for their own Halloween festivities.
As soon as they were gone, Gregor reflected on that night a year ago. Dr. Hozier had been found guilty on all four counts of murder. It’d helped that he’d left a detailed account in his journal in his house. (Always the braggart.)
Now Gregor was a full professor, what he’d always wanted. That night 365 days ago seemed like a distant memory, except for one thing. Gregor looked around and removed a key from his jacket pocket. He used it to open a secret drawer in his desk. Inside that drawer was this pickled head of Richard, his former colleague and mentor. He’d kept it from the cops, lied about it. Why had he kept it? Maybe to remind himself of where he’d been, maybe to remind himself of what he was capable of.
Gregor smiled and closed the drawer. Outside his class, three students remained. “Man, Professor Jenkins is the worst,” one of them commented.
“I think he takes pleasure out of ruining our GPA,” the other bemoaned.
“I’m afraid I’m not going to graduate because of him,” the third added.
“Someone should really do something about him,” the first remarked. “But what?”
“I don’t know, but someone that awful, karma has it out for them,” the second ensured.
“He did survive the death of all his friends,” the third reminded them.
“That doesn’t excuse his asshattery,” the first replied. “Trust me, he’s going to get his.”
Gregor came out of the room at that time and the students scattered. Gregor smiled. He ruled with an iron fist. Out of the corner of his eyes, he thought he saw a flash of something. It looked like . . . No, it couldn’t be. It was his mind and the anniversary playing tricks on him. He could have sworn he’d seen Death. Gregor shouldered his bag, hunched his shoulders, and headed out into the night.”
Happy Halloween! I’m a little behind, what with the ongoing Covid situation in my family compound. I’ll finish up the writing challenge tomorrow, on what is really Nov 1st, but I think it still counts.
Just a reminder that I have spooky stories on demand via Haints and Hollers ebook. You can get it here. Also, you can enjoy some scary short stories in my eBook Comes In Threes. It’s available here.
Prompts, A Cemetery and Devil’s Night.
“Gregor did what needed doing, and then he walked into the Red Masque Ball with the most confidence he’d ever felt in his life. Gavin’s party was kind enough to let him borrow a mask, a Devil’s mask. It was eerily perfect for the task at hand. He soon spotted Dr. Hozier in his plague doctor’s mask. Hozier was a little surprised to see him, but he played it off.
“I suppose I should have stepped out into the solitude of the cemetery and called from there,” he quipped as he pulled Gregor aside. “Is the deed done?”
“Yes, and the proof is outside in Matt’s car, since you slashed the tires on mine.”
Dr. Hozier smiled. “Oh yes, I did do that. I also singlehandedly murdered all your competition. You should be thanking me.”
“Please come out and see the proof. I want this horrible night to end,” Gregor did his best to sound desperate.
Fortunately, Dr. Hozier complied. He followed Gregor out, gloating all the way. “My car’s on the other side of the cemetery,” Gregor explained as the noise of the party grew dim behind them. Say what you will about the Red Masque Ball, they were respectful of the cemetery.
As they walked, there was a noise, it was an odd noise, almost like fingernails scratching against marble. “What was that?” Hozier asked.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Gregor commented.
“How far to the car?”
Gregor smiled. “Just a little further. Wouldn’t be smart to park too close.”
Suddenly, Matt’s undead body lurched out from behind a tombstone. Hozier screamed and stumbled back. Dwight came from behind and Neil appeared at his side, boxing him in. “No, this isn’t possible! I killed you all!”
“You did, but I have brought them back,” Gregor proclaimed.
“No! This can’t be real!” Hozier tried to run, but zombie Matt held him fast.
“On any other night, no, but you forgot to take into account the power of this night, the Devil’s night!” Gregor grabbed Richard’s head and threw it at Hozier. The other man caught it.
Dr. Hozier looked down. At that moment, Richard opened his eyes and said, “Boo!”
Hozier screamed again. He dropped the head, clutched at his heart, and then fell down dead. Gregor looked up to see Death standing there. He waved at Gregor, smiled, and was gone, taking Hozier’s soul with it.”
Another short entry for today. There’s still a lot going on in my family. Halloween is usually my favorite holiday, but this year is less fun and truly terrifying for many reasons. I’ll try to have longer entries for the end of the story.
Prompts, An Old Church and Fancy Dress Party.
“The steeple of the Church of the Dearly Departed came into view. It was an old church, but a grand church. It wasn’t really used for religious services anymore, it was more of a party venue. And once a year, it hosted the Red Masque Ball.
Gregor pulled off into the woods, leaving plenty of space between him and the old church. He was near the cemetery, filled with crumbling stones. Through the trees, he could see everyone in their fancy dresses and masks. He needed to act quickly.”
How are you all? Are you hanging in there, still along for the ride? I’ll be honest, I just figured out where this ride is going. Also, there are many things going on in my personal life right now. After a year and a half of trying to keep Covid at bay, it has found us at my family’s compound. Right now, I am negative and my spouse is negative, but my mom has it, my nephew has it, and my sister has it. Mind you, we’re all vaccinated, but also extremely immuno compromised, that’s why we’ve worked so hard to avoid it. My sister is currently in the hospital with Covid pneumonia, but she’s ready to fight. Tonight’s entry will be short. I am exhausted, for a lot of reasons.
Prompts, Dearly Departed and Captured Soul.
“Gregor wasn’t sure what his life was anymore. But here he was, driving through the night, with a decapitated but still animated head in the front seat and three moaning zombies in the back seat. He’d taken Matt’s car and loaded his colleagues in the back. Fortunately, the bike Gavin had leant him had contact info written on it. He was able to call Gavin and drive to meet him and his group. They had performed the same spell on the bodies of Matt, Neil, and Dwight, but some of their ingredients were running low, so the results weren’t the same.
“What’s wrong with them?” Gregor asked as his former colleagues lurched around.
“For starters, they’re dead,” Sheila remarked.
“They’re low on juice,” Gavin explained. “It’s like running on a low battery. We’ve captured their souls for a bit longer, but there’s not much there in terms of brain activity.”
“It’ll work,” Gavin decided.
Now here they were, all in the car on their way to the Church of the Dearly Departed.”
The seventh season of my cemetery play A Spot On the Hill has come to an end. It was an amazing experience and the weather was perfect. I could not have asked for a better cast, and the audiences were so appreciative. Here are a few shots from the second weekend.
I also have another play, a ten minute play, set in a cemetery that is part of A Mourning Hollow. You can purchase the theatrical anthology through Amazon.
Prompts, The Clocks Change & A Beautiful Scarf.
“Gregor worked quickly in the dark. Did Dr. Hozier have to leave the power off? Of course he did, the jerk. It was kind of fun, though, it was like going back to his roots, working by the light of the Bunsen burner. It reminded him of when he first started, before Richard was his adversary, before any of this. It almost made him feel bad to hack Richard’s body apart, but it had to be done, and his zombiefied state actually made it less messy.
He was dissolving a limb when the phone rang again. Gregor startled, but managed not to drop acid on himself. With a huff, he returned to the kitchen and answered the phone.
“Tick tock. Tick tock,” the familiar voice reminded him.
“I get it,” Gregor replied and hung up.
He returned to the task at hand and worked until his fingers were numb, but the minutes continued to pass by. “I don’t think you’re going to make it,” Richard’s head observed. Gregor had set it on a nearby counter.
Gregor had to stop. His hand was cramping. He, too, was fearful of the time. He stood to stretch his back, and his eyes caught site of the calendar illuminated in the candlelight. His eyes grew wide with realization. “No, we’re going to make it. And do you know why?”
“Blind optimism?” the head remarked.
“No, because time changes tonight!” Gregor pointed at the calendar. “We get an extra hour.” He looked down at the head, and for a moment he felt pity for Richard. He felt pity for all of them. No, it couldn’t end this way.
“Dr. Hozier doesn’t get to win,” Gregor decided. He recalled the last phone call they’d shared. He’d heard background noise. Lots of voices and a church bell? His eyes grew wide again. “I know where he is, Dr. Hozier. He left, after he killed the others, and he went to the Red Masque Ball. I doubt he even saw you. He doesn’t know you’re, well, this.”
Richard’s eyes grew wide, too. “He came here on a whim, thinking you’d realize my house was closer.”
“I say, we go to him and give him the shock of his life. Show him exactly the hell he’s wrought,” Gregor proclaimed.
The dismembered pieces of Richard’s body were left in the tub. Gregor found a beautiful scarf in a drawer and made it into a sling. He’d wanted to put Richard’s head in a backpack, but Richard had protested. He was claustrophobic.
“My mother’s scarf,” the head lamented as Gregor tucked it inside the makeshift sling. “She’d be glad it brought me comfort one last time.”
“Don’t say things like that,” Gregor remarked, very uneasy. “It reminds me you were human once.”
“If it makes you feel any better, my mother was a saint, so I doubt I’ll be seeing her again when I get to my final resting place.”
“Well, my mom was hell on wheels, so we’ll probably have eternity together,” Gregor sighed.”
Life got real busy last weekend, folks. So, I am a bit behind. Forgive me. I did get to learn about Victorian mourning customs on Thursday at our History Happy Hour. I knew some, but now I know so much more. It was fascinating, and disturbing.
Prompts, Raven and An Unexpected Phone Call.
“Gregor stumbled back from the bodies of his dead colleagues. The night seemed so eerily still around him, and then suddenly a raven burst forth from the trees behind him. It swooped over his head and he screamed. Gregor probably screamed all the way back around to the front and into the house. He slammed the door behind him, turning every lock. It was so dark inside the house, too. Where had the moon gone? It had been swallowed up by the clouds.
“What is it?” Richard’s corpse asked.
Gregor could just make him and the bike out in the dim light. “It’s Neil, Matt, and Dwight. They’re - they’re dead!”
“Did you kill them?”
“You haven’t succeeded at killing anyone tonight,” Richard remarked.
Gregor couldn’t believe they were having this discussion. “That’s not the point!”
At that moment, a phone rang. “My emergency line in the kitchen,” Richard commented. “No one has that number.” He finally sounded scared.
Gregor slowly made his way to the kitchen in the dark. He found the phone and answered. “Hello?”
“Those others were taking up your time, keeping you from the task at hand,” the cold voice of Dr. Hozier replied. “Remember, the clock is ticking. Tick tock. Tick tock.” Then he hung up, but Gregor held onto the phone until the busy signal beeped through.”