Microfiction: A pleasant seat

A late entry for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.



There had always been a house there. It was a good site, close to the river but high enough to be out of reach of flooding. There was a big tree for shade and the land about was rich. The highway ran close by, and there was a small town an hour’s ride away.

There had always been a house on the hill above the river, built on the same spot from the same stones. Always, since long before anyone could remember, a house had stood there, a ruin except for one gable wall, waiting to be rebuilt again. The stones were old, some of them carved with strange patterns. The lintels were unworked, the door low, almost like a mouth opening into the earth. The stones would lie scattered on the hillside for so long that no one remembered what the previous house had looked like, who had lived there, nor why it lay in ruins. They called it the Prince’s House, though there was nothing to suggest that it had been owned by someone of wealth and importance.

The house was rebuilt one last time, in the days of photography and enlightenment, by an amateur scientist, intrigued by the strange carvings on certain stones, and by a shallow pit at one corner of the foundations beneath the gable end. The scientific gentleman excavated the pit and found human bones, small bones, a child, curled in a foetal position. He had the bones exhumed, moved and disturbed by some deep instinct. The bones should be buried with respect, he said, in the local churchyard.

The mason was sent, unwillingly, with the bones to the priest who, as he expected, refused their interment in consecrated ground. The two men replaced the bones where they had been found, and the mason, by the light of a lamp held by the priest, covered them with a stone slab and filled in the pit with earth and stone.

The scientific gentleman was none the wiser, and the house was built, snug and tight with a solid roof of red tiles.

On the first night of winter, the Prince, as was his custom, rose up in anger to expulse the intruder from his home in a black wind of pure fury, and the scientific gentleman learned the taste of inexplicable fear. It was the last thing he ever learned.

His thoughts on the bones found in the foundations of the house, the photographs he took and the paper he wrote on the subject for the university escaped the Prince’s grip, flew through his immaterial fingers, caught up in the new wave of scientific fervour that he could not stop. The story of the sacrificial offering became known, and the house was left in ruins. Charred and broken roof beams litter the hillside to this day. Strangely carved stones lie scattered in the long grass. But the gable remains, sturdy and unblemished, as it has stood since the days of darkness, when the Prince arose and made the pleasant seat his home.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

17 thoughts on “Microfiction: A pleasant seat”

  1. I had the same thought as Sue — that sometimes I’ll see strange old buildings or ruins and wonder about them When I was a child, I used to make up stories about them (which often involved witches, ghosts, and/or daring princesses, but never sacrificed princes, to my recollection). Come to think of it, I guess I still do that. Lovely job you did of it: a nice blend of sad, mysterious, and spooky.

    1. Thank you, Joy. I like your interpretation of the mystery, which is an interpretation as valid as any. I hadn’t thought of the child as being the Prince, had more the Prince of Darkness in mind and the child just an unfortunate random child. I like the idea of sparking a different story in each reader’s mind 🙂

  2. I read it as being a Prince as well, a specific dark royal, rather than the Prince of Darkness, and that he had sacrificed the child to take power. Sometimes ruins are better left as that, aren’t they? And I enjoyed the tale, as always 🙂

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