This is for Sue Vincent’s photo prompt. Another picture inspiring thoughts of a dark, fairly distant past.
The stream ran over the ancient stones as it had done for almost a thousand years, but the carp pool was empty. No fish had grown fat in its crystal bright waters for so long that few remembered what the stone basins had once been used for. The child dipped her fingers in the water and withdrew them quickly, shaking her hand as if she’d been stung.
“It’s cold,” her mother said and rubbed the hand to get the warmth back.
The child nodded, but it wasn’t the cold that had made her draw back. “Can we go now?” she asked, but her mother had already turned away to photograph a fragment of cloister.
The voices muttered angrily and the child frowned, not understanding all of the words. She wandered to the area where broken stones with pointy writing on them lay among creeping plants. The voices fell silent, and she could almost hear breath being held. Monks’graves, her mother had said. She scuffed one with her shoe. The stone was cracked across and there were chips out of it where tiny flowers grew. Her mother had said it was a shame the graves weren’t tended, but the child knew why.
She wandered back to the car and rummaged in the pick-nick hamper. The stories the voices told her had made her feel hungry. She took a sandwich and an apple and set off again, outside the abbey walls, down the meadow to a ring of oak trees on a small hillock. The voices grew louder again, and she took a bite out of the sandwich, chewing thoughtfully. Beneath the trees the air was cool and the child sat down. In the centre of the tree circle, the earth dipped, and although there were no stones with pointy writing, the child knew what lay beneath.
She listened to the rustling leaves and the whispering voices. The monks hadn’t wanted to give the poor people anything to eat when they were hungry, the voices said, so the people had to take. They took the fish from the pond.
The earth was dry and dusty. The child picked up a stick and drew a fish, smiled as she saw its tail flick from side to side and dive down into the earth. The hungry people took the fish and the monks tried to drive them away. The voices grew more sombre and the child bit her lip. The people killed the monks and the king sent his soldiers and killed the people. He had stones laid on the graves of the monks, but the poor people were slung into a pit and oak trees set themselves round about to protect the place from the wind and rain. Later, more soldiers came and tore down the stones of the abbey and no one came there any more.
She drew more fish and a pig. All sunk into the dust. The leaves sighed and the sunlight shifted through the branches.
“Hey! Emmie! Time to eat!”
Her mother would drive to a proper pick-nick place. She liked to do what was proper. Already she was fussing around the car. The child left her sandwich and the apple where she had drawn the fish and the pig, and went for a last look at the carp pool. The voices were quiet now, but in the ripples and moving shadows of the pool bottom, she saw the quick flick of a fat tail, and she smiled.