Fire of Faith
by Cynthia Morrison

When she was fitted with the wedding gown that matched her expectations, Morgan beamed with radiance into the full length mirror. Her family was excited to see her join in matrimony with Edward A. Buxton III, an aspiring victorian physician in his last term of medical training at Cambridge. She was anxious to share the news about her exquisite ceremonial attire, so she quickly made her way to see Edward. Morgan found Edward in his parlor delving into his studies. When he pulled his head from the pages of a medical journal, his face had a five o’ clock shadow.

“Darling, how are you?” he asked.

“Look at you. When is the last time you shaved?”

“Ah, yes. Shaving. The necessary evil as I refer to it. Must I shave now, my love?”

“Oh don’t be silly. I love you with or without your whiskers. But you must attend to yourself in better fashion if you expect to be accepted into the proper social circles.”

Morgan pulled the hatpin from her feathery Paris floppy hat.
“Right you are Mrs. Morgan Elizabeth Buxton III,” Edward teased.

“Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse, darling?”

She walked over to Edward and pushed her right cheek in his direction begging a kiss.
Edward placed a soft peck on her rosy porcelain complexion. 

“It’s called positive thinking. A theoretical method of psychology.”

“Now tell me. What’s so interesting that you can’t even stop long enough to freshen yourself?” she asked.

Edward took an extended gaze at the beauty that would soon share his name. He took his time and asked himself if he should trust and believe in his daring experiment. Finally, he managed to speak his mind. “Morgan?” he asked.
“Yes Darling, is something the matter? Oh dear please don’t tell me—”
“No, no. Morgan there’s nothing wrong. But I want to share something important. Can I trust you to listen? Without fret. I mean, even if you don’t agree with this concept at least hear me out. Will you promise?”
Morgan sat back into the button tuck satin finish love seat with tattered armrests. “Yes. You have my full attention. If this is so important to you then I want you to share it. That is what a marriage is all about, isn’t it? Sharing and being as one. Please. Proceed,” she answered.
“Alright. But please let me finish before you condemn me on my idea. First, do you know what a tendon is?”
“A what?”
“A tendon is the stretchable tissue that bends your knees and elbows. Points your toes and all this sort of movement.

Now do you understand?” Edward asks.

Morgan nods her head in acknowledgement.

“Good. Well I have been studying tendons and the process that signals them to function. Now for the rest of it. You know the writings of the Bible state a promise from God that he shall never flood the earth again since the days of Noah and his Ark. I’m sure that you are aware of these writings yes?” Morgan nods.

“The entire planet earth shall never flood again. This is a very comforting thought indeed.”
Morgan readjusts her position and leans her arm on the back in readiness for the true meaning of his presentation.

“If our creator’s promises do not include water, what other natural element has such powers of mass destruction that lay at his fingertips? But of course the element of fire.”

“Fire? Yes I suppose that is a possibility. But what has this to do with—”

“You promised to let me present the entire concept my dear. Is that alright?” Edward interrupts.

“Yes Darling. Do continue. I shall not interrupt. My apologies.”

Edward takes a swig from his flask and clears his throat. He knows that what he is about to ask Morgan will be one of the most bizarre requests in human history. Well, in his lifetime anyway.

“It is my theory that the possibility of the earth’s demise may be just that. fire. I mean, if it were done in past times by use of water then what is to say that we won’t be destroyed by burning? Your first attempt for rescue would be to make way into the waters and lakes of the planet. Water was turned into wine in the biblical teachings, so why couldn’t water burn? If an almighty power intends destruction, then all sorts of miracles could be generated including this one. Morgan, you must trust me in what I am about to tell you. Please, if you love me as you say you do, then at least hear me out. If you don’t agree with what I tell you then you are free to leave and never return. But at least listen.”

Morgan nods in agreement. Edward takes his handkerchief and wipes his brow. He pulls the footstool in front of Morgan and sits on it. He needs her to know that he is serious in his request.

“My dear, the only escape from such a tragedy would be flight, a dilemma with regard to flight methods and safety. Any airship containing fuel or gas would not survive the extreme conditions from the massive fire. Nor could it carry enough quantity to stay airborne long enough even if the fuel did not explode. Attempting to reach another planet is too far out of financial range. So I have devised another plan. Through my studies Morgan, I can create flight for humans. I can relocate tendons and attach makeshift wings to the latisimus dorsi muscles of a human being.”

Morgan didn’t answer or nod.

“I have finished my research involving attachment of tendon and nerve tissue, but I need an experiment subject. The subject must be trustworthy and very discreet. I can think of only one person that fits this description. You, my darling. Would you be willing to assist your husband in creating the marvel of human flight? Take your time in answering this please.”

Morgan sits back against the couch, scanning the room and blinking her eyelashes now and again as if in deep thought absorbing the unbelievable request. 

“Are you serious? Or do you wish to test my intentions?”

Edward takes a moment to answer.

 “Yes dear one. I am as serious about this as the blazes that shall scorch the very ground that you walk upon.”

Morgan rose from her seat and walked over to the large window that overlooked the cobblestone street. She watched people visit the various markets lined in a row. She is horrified at the thought of these living portraits swept away into the crackling heat of Edward’s nightmarish expressions. Are these true scientific ideals, or has he gone mad? If she does not agree to his request then does she chance losing the most important position of her life as wife of a respected physician?If she does agree to the experiment and it succeeds, then not only would her husband be accepted into higher social circles, but they will have an influx of wealth. If she does not become his scientific guinea pig, then would she lose him to another woman? With teary eyes, she turns towards Edward. 

“Yes my darling. I shall become your experimental subject.”

Edward rushed to embrace her. 

“Oh Morgan, I knew you would understand and trust me. I just knew it.”

Morgan pulled gently away from his grasp. “Would I have to spend the rest of my life with wings?”

“Of course not. They will be removed with a short surgical procedure. It’s only for scientific trial.” Edward laughed. “Now how silly would that be? The mother of my children going around with wings.”

“Can it wait until after the wedding?” Morgan asked.

“That would be perfect. The place for our honeymoon is located in the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden. We can stay with my colleague, Dr. Gressner. His father has a holiday home there with a laboratory. It shall only be us three. I presented the idea to him and he said he will be willing to assist as long as all responsibility stays with me.”

“Responsibility? For what? My God.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll be just fine. We both have experience handling the knife in surgeries and Michael graduated last year with honors. I would never let anything happen to you, so please don’t worry that dreamy little head of yours.”

“Wouldn’t a human being tire of flapping wings at a certain point and drop into the inferno below? How could you expect anyone to fly for hours at a time?” she asked.

Edward was becoming concerned that Morgan would soon change her mind. He had forgotten to explain the lift process. 

“Well, you see hot air rises, yes. There are invisible towers of air called thermals. This is scientific fact. The rising hot air strengthens the thermals to assist winged subjects in flight. The thermals carry them just as waves mobilize the body at the ocean’s surf. The human will spread wings and soar like a bird.”

Morgan thought for a moment.

 “Alright Edward. You know I trust you with every part of my being. I am yours. Forever and completely.”

Edward, relieved, began packing surgical instruments to take with him. The magnificent scenery of the Bavarian Alps provided an unforgettable newlywed experience. The snowy mountaintops, although picturesque, made the simple task of breathing not so simple anymore. Morgan had complained of headaches but they decided that this should not present any difficulties during the surgical procedure. Morgan, now sedated into unconsciousness, was stable. So far. Edward gazed up at Michael who nodded to commence. The situation became an unmistakable reality when he witnessed her blood trailing at the tip of the sharp instrument.
Why did this even present itself as an issue? He had sliced open numerous bodies both living and non-living. Perhaps because this one happened to share the same bed and candlelit dinners. Edward pushed on to bring life to his brilliant brainchild.
The procedure was almost finished when Morgan began to moan. Edward looked frantically at Michael from behind his surgical mask. He could see the terror in Michael’s eyes. The thought that she would awaken during the procedure horrified him.

“No worries. I’ll give her a bit more juice,” Michael said, referring to chloroform.

Morgan slid back into unconsciousness. Michael reached out to dab the sweat from Edward’s forehead. Edward carried on.

“Not so close to the spinal cord Doctor. One slip and she’s a vegetable. Cut more lengthways instead of towards the central nerve,” Michael said.

“Yes. Right you are,” Edward replied.

“Edward?” Morgan mumbled. The room was a blur until her pupils adjusted to the lighting.
Edward sat in the chair next to her bedside. 

“There now darling, steady yourself. You must take it easy for a day or two.”

“Did everything go alright in the surgery?”

“Of course it did. Now stop worrying. It’s not good for the recovery process. Stress delays the healing. You must listen to your doctor now,” Edward teased. 

“You stay here and I’ll bring you some nice hot goulash. Frau Hilda brought some by and it’s oh so scrumptious. I’ll heat some up. I won’t be a tick.”

Morgan shook her head.
“No thank you. I’m not hungry but I do need to visit the… Oh! Oh my God I can’t move my right leg. Edward, what’s happened? My leg. Oh God the pain!” 

Morgan vomited onto the blanket covering her.

Edward gathered the corners of the blanket and dropped it in the corner of the room. He returned to her side and spoke softly to calm her. “Now listen Morgan. You mustn’t try to walk straight away. I’ll bring you the bed pan.”

“I don’t want goulash or a bed pan. I want to know why I can’t move my leg and why it hurts so much!”

“Please calm yourself and stop trying to move. Listen to me. Remember I told you about tendons? Well, instead of chancing your body rejecting anyone else’s tissue I used your own. I took some tendons from your right knee. Your leg will be out of the cast in a couple of weeks and we will fit you for a leg brace so you can walk again. Although you will never regain the strength or speed you once had in that leg. I had to make a choice to take the tissue from your leg or arm. I wanted your arms as they are. Not only to hold me but our children. But, I’m afraid you will have to wear the brace the rest of your life my dearest.”

“Edward! What are you saying? Younever told me this part of the experiment. You never told me that I would have loss of a leg! How could you? And how can I explain this to my family?” 

Morgan began to cry.

“You can tell them you had a skiing accident in the Alps. Very simple you see,”
Edward said.

Morgan began crying even harder. Edward went to find Michael as his own efforts were not sufficient. Michael entered the room and administered a sedative. She fell fast asleep.

The next day Morgan decided to play along with her husband’s nonchalant attitude towards her unfortunate ambulatory condition. That is, until she recovered enough to do something about it. Three weeks passed and Doctor Gressner had returned to England.
Edward would wheel Morgan outside daily to take in the Bavarian scenery of the Alpine region.

 “How is the back feeling today? Ready to at least see if you can expand those beautiful set of wings you have?”

Morgan smiled at Edward. “I think you are right. I am feeling better, and now is as good a time as ever.”

Edward became as anxious as a child on Christmas morning. He helped Morgan stand, his eyes wide open.

 “Now take it slowly my dear. Concentrate on the newly placed tissue and the nerve signals will train themselves.”

Morgan pressed her delicate fingers into Edward’s arms as she clung to him.

“There!” Edward said.
 “The right wing had a slight flutter. How magnificent to witness the first signs of my creation.”

Morgan smiled. “Really? Did it move?”

“Yes yes! Please focus and try again,” he begged.

Both wings flapped and they laughed. Then Morgan’s leg began to give way.
Edward helped her back down into the wheelchair. He fell to his knees and cried.

“Oh Morgan. I can’t begin to tell you how very wonderful you are. You are the bravest woman I have ever known. I love you so much. Thank you for trusting me. Your efforts may someday save thousands of people from a burning planet.”

Morgan kept her opinions of Edwards lost sanity to herself. The opportune moment would arrive soon enough.
The next day Edward took her to the edge of a clearing behind the house, a large field of wild flowers. Again he helped her stand and she exercised her wings. They proceeded with this therapy for the next week until she reached the point of “lift” from her wings.
The day of flight had arrived. Morgan expanded and fluttered her wings as naturally as the soaring eagle that circled the Alps in search of its next meal.

“Steady now! Don’t go too high. I don’t want you to crash.”

Morgan ignored his pleas and circled the clearing until exhausted. 

“Coming in for a landing! Clear the way Doctor Buxton.” 

Morgan landed safely.

The next day Morgan used crutches and sat on the outside deck waiting for Edward. He arrived with an unexpected message.

“We have enough proof my scientific method is a success. We should return to England. Michael and I can perform the elementary procedure to remove the wings at that time. We need you to arrive in the country with them on to make an appearance. Once the media learns of my miraculous invention, we shall receive our fame and fortune! I hope you are prepared for it. They say sudden wealth can be overwhelming sometimes.”

Morgan slowly answered,
 “I’m afraid we don’t see eye to eye.”

“But whatever do you mean darling?” Edward asked.

Morgan gave him a hateful stare along with her answer.

 “I have had time to recover from this God awful predicament.”

“What on earth brought you to such a conclusion?” Edward asked.

“You and your maniacal antics. How stupid of me. Why didn’t I follow my woman’s intuition? Stupid! Well I’m not stupid anymore. I loved, married and trusted a man worthy of fathering my child. Thank goodness I found the monster inside you. You lied to me. You deceived me. You took away part of my life. My ability to run or to walk straight. You’re nothing but a monster and I hate you!”

Edward made his way to embrace her. She scratched his face like a feral cat.

“Don’t you touch me! It is I who hold the cards. It is I that sports the wings. It is I that can fly, and fly I shall. I will fly to wherever I want. Fly around the world and away from you. It is I who will have fame and fortune. Men will fall over themselves to meet my winged beauty. I will benefit from your unethical actions. You’re a liar and I will do all that I can to ensure that you never see the likes of a doctor’s certificate as long as I live.”

Edward held his bleeding cheek in shock. He took his handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it against the wound. 

“But I didn’t lie to you. You will make it through life in your leg brace. Isn’t it enough to know you made a small sacrifice for mankind? No, I suppose not by your words. Well, I guess I was wrong. I thought I had married the most beautiful, daring and brave woman to grace the planet. Obviously I was wrong. I’m sorry, Morgan.”

Edward grabbed for Morgan’s arm.

 “I can’t let you go. You are my only proof. No one else shall claim my method. No one! Come here.”

Her sleeve tore as she pulled her arm. Her wings fluttered and she flew. Morgan circled Edward as he jumped to reach her.
 “Next time think twice about deceiving those close to you. Start choosing another livelihood Edward A. Buxton the third because you’re finished as a doctor!”

Morgan made right on her promise and exposed Edward. Edward used his medical knowledge to pursue a career as a mortician. Fearful to attempt any other twisted medical miracle, he crawled into the company of death where he stayed until he faced his own.

THE END

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW BY THE FEATHERED QUILL

Today we're talking with Cynthia Morrison, one of the authors of Scary Story: An Anthology

FQ: First why the horror genre? What drew you to it, what keeps you coming back?

MORRISON: I was drawn to the Horror genre at an early age through Hollywood productions of Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne type stories. I love the suspense involved and the anticipation of what may be just around the corner.

FQ: Along the same lines, why short stories? People don’t appreciate just how hard it is to pull off a good short story. Do you find it more of a challenge, than say, writing a novel?

MORRISON: Not a challenge at all. I stumbled upon a call for submissions of short stories when I was searching theatre submissions. I am also an award winning Playwright. My short stories have received great interest and I do plan a novel in the future.

FQ: Before we talk about your story, would you tell our readers a little about how Scary Story: An Anthology came about? How did you get involved?

MORRISON: The publisher of Scary Story: An Anthology contacted me after she had read a work of mine on a literary website. I then submitted “Fire of Faith“ to her and the work was accepted to be part of her project.

FQ: Now on to your story, "Fire of Faith." May I first say that the story had a definite creep factor and I wanted to bat Morgan, the wife, over the head (this is a compliment to your writing!). It is truly a unique tale. Without giving too much away, where did the idea come from?

MORRISON: I hold a Baccalaureate degree in Theology. Therefore, having knowledge of the Biblical reference of the earth being destroyed by fire, I used this to create a phobia for the Doctor in my story. Also, my being a history buff I chose the Victorian era as my setting. I combined the fire phobia and the bizarre types of experiments for the possibility of human flight to escape the burning tragedy. Hence, Fire of Faith.

FQ: I found Morgan, the all-too-trusting wife, a very interesting character. As the title says, the story really depends on her faith. Faith in her new husband, faith in what he could do, that he would protect her and that she would be helping humanity. Why was she so trusting?

MORRISON: Morgan’s decision to be her husband’s “Guinea pig” was not entirely based on trust alone. She decided to hand him her trust based more on the decision of not wanting to lose her position as a Physician’s wife and all the social grandeur that is part of that status. She also considered her Family’s approval of the marriage and didn’t want to disappoint them. We must remember that Victorian era thinking for women was based on certain principles of an antiquated cultural society. At least Morgan’s “character” had thoughts along those lines. Basically, Morgan’s faith was spawned by her own fear of losing social status. Phobias are ever present within “Fire of Faith.” Phobias are found to be a strong factor within mad scientist tales as is desperation to find a means of ending the madness.

FQ: How much of Morgan’s decision was based on trust and how much was based on her belief that success meant an increase in social status and an “influx of wealth” ?

MORRISON: Answered above.

FQ: Edward, the husband and aspiring physician, was a rather selfish character, particularly since he was willing to put his wife’s life at risk for his experiment. Did you want your readers to dislike him?

MORRISON: Edward, in “his” mind, was not selfish. Edward is controlled by an over bearing phobia that stems from his childhood when he learned of the earth burning someday. I personally hold sympathy for Edward. His attempts, although deceptive through the eyes of normality, are actually driven by a psychological force that has altered his judgement. Then ultimately losing a loving wife and career due to his untreated state of mind.

FQ: You write about tendons, muscles, and use some medical jargon. Did you have to do research before coming up with Edward’s experiment?

MORRISON: Remnants of High school Biology class I suppose.

FQ: I see that you are a three-time International Jousting champion! Tell me how that has played a role in some of your writing? (I have 12 horses and would love to try jousting so I had to include this question!)

MORRISON: Twelve Horses?! Where do you find time for Interviews? So far I have only brought Jousting into a Poem and a Monologue. I have no plans on bringing it into a tale but one never knows what the future may hold.

FQ: I found your bio quite interesting, particularly since you are a woman of many varied talents. Writing, acting, film production, and composing musical scores to name a few. Wow! Do you have a favorite or do you like to jump around from one to another?

MORRISON: I simply attribute this to being an Artist. This has long been a part of my being in different areas. I am also a performance artist which involves being “the human firecracker” (igniting thousands of firecrackers upon myself while protected by leather), fire eating and knife throwing with human target.

FQ: Are you working on a new project? Another short story? Would you give our readers a sneak peek?

MORRISON: Yes. I recently finished a murder mystery! A short story based on my own experience of an attempt to wake a man who I thought was asleep on the beach but the Police announced his status differently. That was a chilling experience to say the least. Readers may stay tuned for “Lady Luck”!

 
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