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by T. K. Sheils
Description: The Man who does not believe in Fate is the Man the Gods will test; the Man who does not believe in Spirits, it is He whom they will visit. In the beginning, Mason Forsythe didn't know how much the buying of his dream home would change his life. How it would challenge his deepest beliefs in what was, or, rather, what wasn't. He knew already that love could become hatred. What he didn't know, yet, was that it could also lead to fear. Had he known all that, he might never have bought the place. But, of course, he hadn't.
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books, 1999
eBookwise Release Date: July 2002
17 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [270 KB]
Reading time: 170-239 min.
Elissa stared at the decaying cottage and grudgingly admitted she needed a man. She prized her independence but now she needed a man to buy the place, fix it up, move in, fall for her, briefly - while she remained aloof - and, finally, help her die.
In the beginning, Mason Forsythe didn't know how much the buying of his dream home would change his life. How it would challenge his deepest beliefs in what was, or, rather, what wasn't. He knew already that love could become hatred. What he didn't know, yet, was that it could also lead to fear. Had he known all that, he might never have bought the place. But, of course, he hadn't.
In fact, right now, Mason was sitting at his desk in the tiny University Office and feeling used... as usual.
He had been used all his life, at first by his three older sisters as a fetcher, carrier and general scapegoat. Then he had been taken advantage of by his minor league hockey coach, who had used his natural ability to play whatever position the team needed, both wings, centre, defense, even a season in goal. It had won the coach several championships, but the result for Mason was that, when it was time for him to try to turn pro, they told him that by now he should be proficient at playing some one position...no time for teaching basics in the Pros.
So he had gone to University instead, where he had met Lorna. Lovely long-legged Lorna. Lovely Goddam Lorna, who had manipulated him to fulfil her desire for a daughter to train in her own image, and who was still using him, after the fact, to pay her alimony for the marriage she had cancelled, alimony that meant he'd never afford to own a home again.
Every time he'd been used, it had seemed the reasonable thing to do at the time. Often, he'd even enjoyed the experience while it lasted. When it ended, however, he was often bitter and had become increasingly distrustful of others' motives. But now, though he was both, he was consciously allowing himself to be used because he damn well needed to be.
He had stared at the blank computer screen for over a minute before his gaze wandered to the forty pages of hard copy he had just completed for Professor Bernstein in Biophysics. That was pretty much the story of his life, he thought grimly. Everything for others, nothing for him.
Oh, he'd be paid for the learned article on something or other he'd just written in Bernstein's name. But it wasn't his Ph.D. thesis. If he didn't get that at least started this semester, he'd have to write all his exams again.
He stared again at the blank screen with its mocking, blinking cursor. "Give me a topic, stupid," it said. And Mason couldn't.
In six years, he'd been kept so busy writing the learned material upon which others got promoted that he hadn't even had the chance to decide on a thesis topic. He knew that his tutor, Professor Weber, wanted him to write on the "Influence of Thomas Heywood on the Industrial Revolution," but Forsythe's opinion was that Heywood had had no influence. Hardly the stuff of a hundred thousand words - fifty thousand, maybe; more would be just padding.
Right now, his favourite idea was a theory that Wordsworth and Coleridge were really a haberdasher named Marsden Foresight who wrote Coleridge's stuff when he was tight and Wordsworth's when he was hung over.
I mean, why not? Doctoral theories had been built on flimsier evidence than none at all. It wouldn't really matter, therefore, what his topic was. It could be a study of the effects of the ecological movement on nursery rhymes - "Mary had a little polyester;" "Ladybug, ladybug, put out your home. Your house fire is damaging to the ozone." Come to think of it, there might be something in that.
Mason's eyes returned to the blank computer screen and his fingers hovered for a moment over the keys.
But a picture was appearing on the screen that made him pause. It was only in his mind, of course, but it was clear enough that it might have been composed of tiny, coloured pixels.
It was that old log cottage he had seen last Summer on his first visit to Birches Lake. He had bumped into his old high school English teacher who had invited him to his place for the weekend and, on a leisurely boat tour of the lake, he had seen the log cottage.
"Deserted for as long as I can remember," his teacher had said. "Since the late forties anyway. Got itself a reputation, naturally, as any deserted place is bound to...ghostly happenings. Doesn't bother the local teenagers, of course. They use the beach for parties and the cottage for...other purposes. Pity to see it deserted. Other than the roof, it's probably still solid. But, they say, the present owner will neither sell the place nor fix it. Probably go for back taxes."
"Who is the present owner?" Forsythe had asked.
"Haven't the faintest. Moira Carleigh, the Town Clerk could tell you, though."
And Mason Forsythe had dreamed for two weeks about that cottage. What a beautiful, secluded spot to live and to write...what he really wanted to write.
For, deep in his soul, Mason Forsythe wrote western mystery stories, a genre brainchild of his own devising, the offspring of his imagined, if improbable, marriage of Zane Grey and Agatha Christie. And now his imagination could see him creating those masterpieces of unpopular pulp only in that old log cabin on the beach of Birches Lake...the cabin he couldn't afford.
"Well, Mason, you finish that piece for Bernstein?" Professor Weber's voice interrupted his thoughts.
Forsythe nodded at the manuscript on the desk.
"Good, good. I've been having the devil's own time making up reasons for him why I hadn't finished it. I'll have one for you from Howerchuk this afternoon. Something on his theory that white rats are cancer prone, I think."
"I'll do it after class today."
"Good. Good. Started on your thesis yet?"
Mason wanted to explode. He wanted to shout,
"How can I start my thesis when you keep me busy doing ghost writing that you end up taking the credit for? How can the ghost of a ghost write anything?"
But what he said was,
"I'll have a prospectus for my thesis on your desk in the morning. The Effect of Thomas Heywood on Mother Goose."
"Good. Good." Weber never listened to what anyone else said. That was the way to a higher education. "Sounds interesting. Oh, and there's a message for you in your mailbox...your grandfather, I think."
"My grandfather?" Forsythe hadn't thought of the old man in months. He'd lived somewhere in the States for several years now and sent a card at Christmas as his only means of communication with Mason, his last living relative. "What's my grandfather want?"
"Nothing, apparently. Seems he's dead." Weber shut the office door behind him.
Copyright © 1999 by Terry Sheils