Microfiction #writephoto: Watching for the raiders

This story is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. It’s inspired by the photo, but not set in the same period.


They said they would be back. I didn’t believe them at the time. They had taken my father and older brother, and all the able-bodied men. The rest were dead. Why would they bother with the women? What use were we to anyone?

So we settled into a routine of back-breaking work—the ploughing and the building that the men used to do before, as well as the sowing, reaping, milling, cooking, weaving…Well, you know what a woman’s work is like. There isn’t much time left for anything else, but we had to find time, or die.

Of the kine, we kept only the sheep—the cattle ate too much of our meagre harvest during the winter months. The sheep foraged for themselves most of the time and we made do with their milk. The pigs were easy enough, since they looked out for themselves and ate our leavings.

But they had said they would be back, and when I saw them on the ridge, their silhouettes black against the brilliance of the night sky, I knew this was the end. We ran, but there was nowhere to hide in the winter landscape of bare branches. They took what they wanted, killing what they couldn’t carry away, and leaving only what they missed in the darkness.

I can see thin ribbons of smoke rising from the smouldering ruins of some of the houses. Only the headman’s house is still intact. Silent and sad, a tragic figure in an old play, it stands, head bowed in sorrow. Silent too are the owls that swoop from the stars to perch on the roof ridge. They have come back too, for the rest of the dead souls. The next time they come, it will be for me.


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.

69 thoughts on “Microfiction #writephoto: Watching for the raiders”

  1. This is so chilling! I love the emotions you’ve captured and the descriptions of their lives after the first attack.

  2. A strong evocation. It made me think of the 30 years war, and of some of the illustrations of the time. Beautiful, and sad.

  3. Gorgeously terrible. I especially liked the image of the silhouettes on the ridge marking the end of the waiting for the end. She survived, but to what, for what? Strong emotion, well played. I’m even more drawn to it because it could just as easily have taken place in Eneana — sounds like a scene right out of the War of the Tandonni.

    1. It could be a scene from so many historical epochs. It’s that terror of there being no place of safety, no protection of any kind, that gets to me. We’re so used to counting on ‘the state’ to protect us from terrors.

  4. I should have known, my absence has warbled my head. The fact is, Lady Jane often ends up dead! Or killing, maligning or simply eating some poor character.
    But you as usual have carried it out beautifully. 😀😁😂😄

      1. I’m not even going to bother self-publishing. The marketing is too hard, as you say, and it has to be constant. But I can’t find any publisher or agent who’s remotely interested. It’s so depressing.

      2. I was completely put off by the difficulty of finding an agent, and the time it would take. However, if you read Chris, the Story Reading Ape, he frequently mentions publishers who will look at a manuscript without an agent involved.

      3. To be honest, I’m wary of many small publishers. I want one who will actually promote my work not just slap an ugly cover on it and watch it do nothing. I’ll keep trying for a good one.

  5. Gorgeous and chilling. This is so well-written, Jane. It’s like Shirley Jackson, or someone like that, who writes something that seems sort of matter-the-fact–and then you’re hit with the terror of this every day life.

  6. inevitable demise…sounds gloomy…none of us seemed to get a happy bit from these birds..this is very well crafted for the suspense factor..and then you leave it at that….

    1. Thank you, Pamela. You think I should have continued the story? It’s the kind of scenario that could open a fantasy story, with an incredible heroine wreaking vengeance with her newly discovered warrior skills or super powers, but in the real world, the end would probably have been, as you said, inevitable.

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