“Early Stages” Chap. 10 in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                                    Written by Tom Austin

                                               Revised by Tom Austin

Things were far from harmonious at the Shine house. Milly had her own ideas of how she wanted things at her wedding. And Tilly had her own. It soon became obvious that nothing was going to get done. Tyler looked at Brad and said “At this stage a wise man says nothing. Say anything and you risk getting your head handed to you.”

Tyler listened to decibel level rise. What he was hearing was almost a screaming match. When the volume reached an intolerable level he stood up, held a book with his right hand, and raised the index finger of his of his left hand. Tilly and Milly were hunched over the breakfast table looking at a very rough sketch and barking at each other. When Tilly noticed her husband standing she put her hand on top of her daughters shoulders, and told her to be quiet. Suddenly, there was silence where only moments before there had been barely controlled chaos.

“I’ve only two pieces of advice. One for Tilly and one for Milly. Milly, your mothers have been planning your wedding day since the day you were born. In fact, you weren’t a day old before she started talking about the day I’d be taking you down the aisle. Listen to her, consider her suggestions. And if you find them sound but in need of alteration don’t be afraid to do just that.”

“My next piece of sage advice is for my wife. Tilly, I know you want to do everything. And you want only the very best for our daughter. That’s only natural. But Milly is the one getting married. She has the final say. If anybody needs me, which I doubt, I’ll be in the den.”

Tyler walked across the living room, entered the room he called his ‘den’ and closed the door. Milly’s jaw fell open, watched her father walk across the room, and disappear behind a door.

“What was all that about,” she said?

Tilly motioned for her daughter to be silent and to come into the kitchen. “Since you’re about to be part of this family, you better come as well Brad.”

Tilly spoke quietly, almost whispering.”Ever since the accident, when we saw Messenger for the very first time, your father has had heart problems. He has heart arrhythmias. But for heaven’s sake, don’t let him know you know, or I told you.” Tilly went on to inform them that he retired from being a doctor because of the heart problems, but that he still teaches and lectures at The Town hospital.

Milly was puzzled. “Hold it just one second. Did daddy have these heart problems before or after meeting Messenger?”

“He started getting them when we came here,” said Tilly

Milly suddenly went silent. “That’s two. Now I want to talk to Sirena Telford”.

“What are you on about?. What does that horrible woman have to do with my Tyli-poo,” said Tilly

Milly and Brad couldn’t believe their ears. They both looked at Tilly with a mixture of horror and astonishment.

“Yuck. Mother, that name is terrible.”

“He dislikes it too. I’ve tried different variations over the years, but nothing seems to fit”.

Brad agreed. “Makes me want to hurl”.

“Let’s get back to the matter at hand. You still want to know about Sirena Telford?”

“This very instant!”

“She might be the key to something that’s been bothering Brad and me ever since we first met somebody that looked very much like Messenger.”

Brad went outside to chop wood for his soon to be in-laws. The mere mention of Messenger made his blood boil. He had to do something physical to get rid of this sudden surge of hostility. He took off his shirt, set a piece of wood on the chopping block, and brought the ax down with his strength. It wasn’t long before he had worked up a significant sweat.

Milly and Tilly returned to making preliminary wedding arrangements only this time there was less confrontation to worry about. They were still talking when Tilly went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Tilly was not aware Brad was outside, shirtless, sweaty, or chopping wood. When she looked out the kitchen window, she saw Brad and the sweat glistening on his body. Suddenly the words “That muscle, those abs. He’s an Adonis” slipped out.

Milly was shocked at what she just heard.


“Sorry about that. I was once a young woman too you know. I simply meant to say that you picked well.”

“Well…just stop it. Hearing you talk like that is just plain creepy”

“You know his body would be perfect if it didn’t have those scratches on it,” added Tilly.

Milly went beet red and grabbed the nearest magazine and pretended to read it. She didn’t even notice the magazine was upside down.

Together Milly and her mother fleshed out a plan that was essentially Milly’s. But this time it had a little more meat on the bone. Milly would get a few friends from her realm,  to act as bride’s maids. The gown would be paid for from her trust fund. Brad wouldn’t know there were going to be two gowns though. Brad thought about asking Mechanic Mike, the man who took care of his red Mustang, and the person he’s known since the seventh grade to act as best man.

Tyler read a book in the den. When he entered the room he decided he wanted no part in the planning stage. Milly was her own woman, as was Tilly. Nothing would get done until those two learned to talk to each other instead of trying to compete. But after a while, the volume calmed down. He hoped that the two had learned to talk to each other, instead of talking at one another. As was his habit he frequently stood while reading. For most of his professional life, he had stood, and saw no reason to change that particular habit. The den was where he kept all the awards he had amassed over his time in the second realm. A lot of the time when he knew he was going to get an award he would saw ask Tilly a rhetorical question. “Why should I should I get an award? For heaven’s sake, I’m simply doing the job I was trained for”. One thing he resented was an award ceremony in the middle of the workday. On those occasions, he openly complained “Why can’t they just mail me the damn thing. I could be saving somebody’s life right now, or setting a broken limb. But no. I’ve got to eat some of this god awful rubber chicken, and look like I’m enjoying it.”

Of all the awards, and there many, the one he liked the most, and the one that had presented the least inconvenience to him was the Century award. The Town hospital turned one hundred years old and Tyler was the acting as chief of staff. The actual administrator was practicing his putting skills when he flipped on a golf ball. He broke his foot on his desk. Tyler  accepted the century award, made a few golf-related jokes, and brought the award home. The award was obviously a rush job. The hospital never noticed the incorrect spelling on the plaque. Instead of reading the century award it read the “Sentry” award. There would soon be another reason to like it.

Musings of Meg Sorick can be found Here!

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Fire and Ice–Chapter 8A in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                           Originally written by Tom Austin

   Revised, and greatly improved by Award Winning Author Meg Sorick

“WHAT?” Milly asked.

“Its like I said. You have one helluva horny cat,” said Brad.

“That’s impossible. I had him fixed just after I got him,” she said picking the cat up and cuddling him.

“Well, if that’s true he didn’t get the memo. But he sure gave it the old college try.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Whatever. You’ve been gone for nearly two hours!” Then pointing to the can of paint stripper, she added, “Aren’t you supposed to be stripping walls?”

Brad scowled. “You’re the one who kicked us out of here in the first place!” He looked at Quincy and sighed. “Can’t seem to catch a break around here, buddy.” Then, as he walked to the sitting room, he said over his shoulder, “As you wish, your majesty.”

Milly heard him adjust the step stool, and begin scraping the walls once again. She put Quincy down and he immediately ran towards the sitting room, and his vantage point on the couch. Milly slowly followed, trying to figure out how to explain the unbelievable events of the afternoon.

“We had a visitor while you two were out,” she said, leaning against the doorframe.

“Huh. Well, I hope we just won the lottery, and this person was holding a great big check,” said Brad. The scraping continued.

“It was the old man from 14 Rillington Place.”

Brad froze in mid scrape. Still sitting on the step stool, he turned to face Milly.

“What are you talking about?”

Milly slid all the way down the door frame to the floor. “I’m telling you the old man came to see me. He had a message for me…”

“A message? What kind of message? From whom?”

“My … my parents.”

Brad shook his head to clear it. “Your parents? Your parents are dead, Milly. What the hell are you talking about? What kind of Jedi mind trick did he pull on you?”

“Don’t yell at me, Brad! I’m telling you the truth!”

“Do you know how crazy that sounds? A message from beyond the grave? What is he, some kind of angel or something?”

“He said he was a messenger. That’s what he told me to call him. Messenger.”

Brad hung his head. “Milly, I care for you. I really do.” He gave a sharp laugh. “Ha. In fact, I spend so much time thinking about you, I can barely concentrate on a damn thing at the hospital. And here I am, trying to help around the house, when clearly I don’t know what I’m doing. All I want is to do make life easier for you, Milly. But that’s besides the point.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Milly, I don’t know what you think just happened, but you must have been dreaming.”

“How can you say that? You saw him just as clearly as I did that day at Rillington Place!”

“I know… I know, but… there must be some logical explanation. Milly, ever since you left the hospital, you’ve been … different. I understand that you felt you needed a change. And I totally support you, but it’s as if you’re disconnected from reality, you know? Like, one minute your head’s in the clouds and the next, you’re ordering me around like your personal slave. What’s going on with you?”

Milly felt numb. She didn’t think she had disconnected from reality. But something had caused her to leave the hospital. And something had made her rethink a career in medicine.

“I’m sorry if I’ve acted like an ogre. I know there’s something not right with me. But I am telling you the truth. The old man had a message for me. And he wants me to teach you something.”

“Milly, this is ridiculous,” he said, tossing the paint scraper on the floor. “Teach me something? Is it time for Sesame Street? Today’s episode is brought to you by the letter D, as in door.”

“Apparently, there’s a doorway in the closet that leads to some place called The Second Realm.”

Brad snorted. “And I suppose Thor is on the other side just waiting to take us across the Bifrost Bridge to Asgard. Come on Milly, come down to earth. There is no doorway, and there is no “Second Realm.” You’ve read Lord Of The Rings one too many times.”

Now Milly was angry. She got up off the floor, walked over to Brad till they were nose to nose. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being called a liar. Why can’t you just accept the fact there are things we don’t understand yet? Just because we don’t know something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. People thought the world was flat, but that turned out to be a great big goose egg. Wasn’t it Einstein who said, ‘the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.’?”

“Alright, alright,” Brad said, throwing up his hands. “What did Mr. Mind Trick say about this very ordinary looking closet?”

“He showed me how to open the doorway to the Second Realm.”

Brad gestured for her to continue. “And how, pray tell, do you do that?”

“He said that if you touch the upper left hand corner of the molding, then the upper right hand corner, and push on the very center of the wall, a doorway will open up.”

Brad clapped his hands together. “Ok, what the hell? Lets give it a try. I already feel like an idiot, so what do I have to lose?” He reached for the molding. “I’m now touching the upper left corner. Hmmmm. Nothing’s happening. Now for the right corner. Still nothing. Oh, I remember, push on the very center of the wall.” Just then, the molding began to glow and Brad gaped at what was happening. “What the hell…?”

He extended an arm which promptly disappeared into the wall. His forearm felt tingly, and cool air moved gently over the hand he could no longer see. From the other side, he felt a meaty hand envelope his.

“Oh, Ceerist!  Something is pulling me!” he yelled. Then suddenly, he was gone, and the closet was empty.

Brad found himself lying on a hillside, with a silhouetted figure standing above him, laughing.

“This must be your first time. You fought well,” said the dark figure.

As Brad gathered his wits, taking in the green grass and the blue sky, a large hand grabbed onto the back of his pants, lifted him up, and looked at him.

“Hey, put me down, you big galoot!” yelled Brad.

“If that’s what you really want.” The shadowy figure placed Brad on his knees.

Slowly Brad stood up. “Where am I, and who the hell are you?” he demanded.

“You’re in The Second Realm, and my name is Merlin.”

Milly was beside herself. The man she cared so much for, loved, had just been pulled into another into another, possibly dangerous, world. And judging from the speed he was pulled, whoever or whatever was on the other side of the doorway was of considerable strength. It was no time to be helpless. She wasn’t going to let anything happen to her man. She loved him more than life itself.

With a deep, calming breath, she walked into the now empty closet and pressed the appropriate corners of the molding, in the proper sequence. As the molding glowed, she stepped through onto green grass beneath blue skies. Somewhere in the distance, she also heard Brad cursing his head off. Over the last few weeks while his buttocks healed, she had learned that Brad had a very colorful vocabulary. Now, at least, his stream of profanity provided a good trail for her to follow. When she found him, Brad was swearing a blue streak at the rather large fellow holding him off the ground by the seat of his pants.

“Put him down this instant, and do it gently, or by all that’s holy, you’ll regret the day you were born!” Milly yelled, surprising herself for the ferocity of the threat.

“You mean this guy?” asked the huge man, pointing at Brad.

“Put him on the ground gently. Very gently. This very instant,” she ordered.

“Ok, lady.” He set Brad, lightly on the grass. “You know you sound like my mom.”

Milly pointed her finger. “Don’t you ever do that to him again. He’s mine.”

Brad ran to Milly and hugged her tightly.

The big man was nodding. “Yup. You sure sound like my mom all right. Maybe you know her?”

“I might. What is your name?”


“Merlin, ok. My boyfriend and I are new here. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“You mean you two aren’t married? I thought you said he was yours?”

Brad interrupted. “She meant to say we aren’t married, yet.

“You mean she’s special?”

“That she is, very special indeed.”

Milly started to blush. “Ok, ok. Let me ask the questions,” she said. “You’re not human are you Merlin?”

“Shucks no, I’m a Troll.”

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The Second Realm Chap. 7b in the saga of Panooksa

Idea by Tom Austin                             Originally written by Tom Austin

Revised and vastly improved by award winning author Meg Sorick

“You’re wondering why I’m here, aren’t you, Mildred?” asked the old man.

“Actually, I was beginning to wonder when you’d show up,” said Milly.

“Oh, dear me, I did say something like that didn’t I?”

Milly nodded. “You seemed to know a lot about us when we know nothing about you. You mentioned my parents… Did you know them? Were they friends of yours? Is that why you look familiar?”

“Oh, dear me, questions, questions! My dear Mildred, I hope I haven’t upset you,” he said, wringing his hands. “I didn’t mean to.”

“I’m not upset. But I want answers. Why all the mystery? Why did you speak in such a cryptic manner? Brad almost died trying to figure you out.”

“Oh, dear me, I most certainly did not intend that!”

“And please stop saying ‘oh, dear me!’ It’s driving me crazy.”

“Tsk. Very well. I shall attempt not to utter those words again during our conversation. But if I do, please forgive an old man. We only have two hours.”

“Two hours to do what?”

“Two hours to relay a message, and to teach you.”

“A message? From who?”

“Your parents.”

To this point, Milly had been leaning against the door frame, but upon learning that there was a message from her deceased parents, she suddenly felt the need to sit down. She murmured, “This is too much.”

The old man saw her face go very pale as she began to sway, so he quickly rose and went to her side. “Come my dear,” he said, as he helped ease her into the armchair.

Milly tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come.

The old man patted her hand. “That’s quite alright. I suspect if the situation was reversed, I would react in much the same manner. Besides, you made this old man feel useful again. And believe me, it’s been a while. Now take your time, dear.”

Milly took a deep breath and shook her head to clear it. “Sorry about that. You caught me by surprise. I’m alright now.” She paused and studied his face. “What is your name? You haven’t told me what to call you.”

“I’ve been instructed not to tell you my real name, but some call me ‘Messenger’ because of the messages I carry.”

“Ok, Messenger… You said you had one for me. Let’s have it!” said Milly with all the exuberance of a child on Christmas morning.

“Indeed I did. Now where did I put it?” Messenger checked all his pockets. Milly was so anxious she was bouncing in her chair.

“Aha!” he said, holding a folded paper up for her to see. “Here it is.”

“Can I see it? Can I hold it?” Milly asked eagerly.

“Not yet! Not until you have visited The Second Realm. Only then can you hold the message.”

“I’m not allowed to hold a message from my own parents? Come on! That’s ridiculous.” Milly grabbed at the paper, but her fingers passed through the paper like it was air. She gasped. “What… what… what is going on, Messenger?”

“This message was written in The Second Realm. It is a place that is slightly out phase with this dimension. Only someone from The Second Realm can touch something that originated in The Second Realm.”

Milly gaped at him. “Out of phase… this dimension…” She blinked. “So…. How do I get to The Second Realm?”

“The closet over there?” He pointed. “Inside is a doorway. That doorway allows people or things from The Second Realm to pass through to this reality. And of course, the reverse is true.”

Milly’s jaw dropped. “Are you telling me that people from The Second Realm have been traipsing through my apartment without my knowing it?”

Messenger smiled reassuringly. “No. I’m the only one to come through. And today was the first and only time this particular doorway was used.”

“Phew, that’s a relief.” Milly slumped back in her chair. She lifted a hand and let it drop. “I don’t want anyone seeing the place when it’s a mess.” She rubbed her temple. “What a silly thing to think….” She sat up again. “Since I can’t hold the message myself, can you hold it for me?”

“Oh, goodness, yes! Here you go.” Messenger held the paper close so Milly could read it.

Tears welled up in her eyes and soon spilled over. “They know about me and Brad. And they want to meet him. T-T-They’re happy for me, and can hardly wait till we come to The Second Realm,” she said.

“And that, my dear, segues neatly into the second reason I’m here. To teach you about the doorway. You see, it doesn’t just take you to The Second Realm. It can take you to any point in both time and space.” He held up a cautioning finger. “But there are strict rules regarding time travel. You can only use time travel to observe. You are forbidden to interact in any way. If you make any attempt to alter the event you are observing, the mere act of trying to change history will result in your being returned here, your memory of the events you’ve witnessed being erased, along with all knowledge of the doorway and The Second Realm. You will remember nothing. And the same applies to anyone who has gone with you, even if they had nothing to do with the attempt to interfere.”

“Wow. You guys don’t mess around.”

Messenger now pulled out two photographs from his pocket. The all too familiar scene showed the crowd of people watching the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Messenger pointed towards the grassy knoll. “You see these two figures?”

“Yes,” said Milly.

“They went back to this point in your history.” He shuffled the second photo to the front. “You’ll notice that neither figure is in this photo.”

“What happen to them?” asked Milly.

“They were removed from that point in your history, and returned to the point where their journey began.”


He tapped the first photograph with his finger. “This person tried to change history, albeit in a very small way. Nevertheless, the attempt was cleaned up and both of their memories were erased, including those of the doorway and The Second Realm. This is all that remains of their transgression.”

She gulped. “You said I have one of those doorway thingies in this room?”

He nodded. “Indeed you do. And it’s very easy to use. In fact you might say it’s idiot proof.”

She smirked. “That’s probably a good thing. Just in case Brad has to operate it. Anything too technical seems to be beyond him. Organ transplants? No problem. Ask him to program a universal remote? You’ll die of old age waiting.”

“Oh, he’s one of those,” Messenger said, chuckling.

“He calls himself a techno-klutz.”

“I like that! I must remember it. Let’s get back to the doorway. If you’ll be so kind to join me in the closet,” he said, rising to his feet.

He crossed the room and disappeared inside the closet. Milly followed but could only poke her head in. With Messenger inside the closet, there just wasn’t enough room for two grown people.

“All you have to do to activate the doorway is to touch the corners of the molding. Upper left corner first, then the upper right corner. After that you must push your hand on the very center of the wall. I’ve all ready came through it so I know what to expect. Why don’t you try it?” He pressed himself against the wall to make room for her.

Milly squeezed in front of Messenger and he repeated the directions. “Okay, top left, then top right, then push on the center of the wall.”

Milly did as she was told and the molding started to glow. She let out a shriek. “Is that supposed to happen? Oh my gosh! Did I break it?”

“No, no, my dear! It’s not broken! You’ve just done the hardest part.”

“The hardest part?” she repeated.

“Many electronic things of your time must be “initialized” before their first use. That’s all you did. The doorway has never been used from this end. Now it’s ready.”

“It is?”

“Yes. Just stretch out your arm that’s closest to the wall.”

As she did, she watched her hand disappear and the lower half of her forearm fade into mist. She drew in a breath. “My fingers feel all tingly. Is that normal?” she asked.

“It’s just your molecules becoming accustomed to a different reality. When you go all the way through it for the very first time, your entire body will feel tingly for about a minute,” replied Messenger. “Your job, my dear, will be to teach Bradley. Tell him everything I told you. Most importantly, you must warn him about misusing the doorway.”

“Why can’t you teach him too?”

“Bradley cares for you and wants to keep you safe. He surely doesn’t feel that way about me. In fact, after our first encounter, I suspect I’m the last person he’d listen to. But you, Mildred, he cares for and trusts. He will be much more receptive to this information if he hears it from you.”

Just then, they heard the sound of the key turning in the front door lock. Messenger said, “My two hours must be up. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer, but I really must dash. I have a few more messages to deliver.”

Messenger touched the activation spots on the molding, then touched the center of the wall. He gave Milly a slight peck on the cheek, stepped through the doorway, and was gone. Milly heard the front door open.

“We’re back,” Brad called out. “… and you have the horniest damn cat in the world!” 

Further musings of Meg can be found Here !

Check out her Bucks County Novel Series by clicking Here!

Buy her award winning book Three Empty Frames from Amazon Here!