#Three Line Tales: Just an ordinary day

This is for Sonya’s weekly photo prompt. I hope it doesn’t bring back bad memories for anyone. I lived in Paris in the 1980s and 90s. You don’t ever forget completely.

photo by Andre Benz via Unsplash


All these people rushing back and forth, getting on trains, getting off, pushing, walking without looking at the person next to them, you wonder what they’re thinking about, what life means to them.

I used to be like that too, rushing around like a headless chicken, not knowing why I was here, what use I was to anyone, hustling a bit just to keep body and soul together.

Now I have an aim in life, a destiny, and the headless chickens are part of it, though they’ll never know, because where I’m going, when I get on that train and detonate the device I am cradling like a mother her child, is only for heroes and martyrs, like me.


#writephoto: Equine retribution

This photo prompt is a little out of the ordinary, not the usual atmospheric rock formations and moody moorlands what I have come to expect from Sue. Tough one.



They rode their horses hard, got the last miles out of them before they fell. There was no way they were going to share their water, and horses just drink too much. They left the carcasses where they dropped and plodded on on foot, swearing at the relentless sun, and the dune that stretched forever, and their own stupidity in leaving the trail with no clear idea of where the coast lay, just Joe’s say so.

“We should’ve brought supplies with us,” Will murmured and licked his cracked lips.

“Yeah, an’ a few pack mules an’ tents an’ a bunch of sixteen-year-old virgins to keep us company at night.” Chas would have spit if he’d had any to spare.

“If your Tilda hadn’t woke screamin’ we could ’a done,” Will snarled.

“Well, she did, an’ we had to get out while we could.” The third man, Joe, gnarled and scoured as a piece of driftwood, glared at the sun and plodded onwards.

Chas turned and looked back the way they had come. Birds hung lazily in the air, rising and falling. Squabbling. Vultures. He wondered vaguely if they were after the horses or the caravan, if Tilda… He shrugged and ploughed up the dune behind Will and Joe.

It was Joe had spotted the horsemen following the caravan. It would have been suicide to wait around. They were too few men, with too many women and children to defend. Joe didn’t care. None of them were his. Will didn’t care either. He’d been banned from eating with any of the families after he raped that girl a few days back. They could all go to hell for all he cared. But Chas had been sort of fond of Tilda. He told himself, he was being sentimental. They’d only been married a couple of weeks. The novelty hadn’t worn off. She’d woken just as they were slipping away. Screamed, probably when she saw Will. Will had shut her up, but they’d had to take the first horses they could grab, and Joe was the only one who had thought to bring any water.

They’d run the horses to death and Joe was the only one who believed the coast lay just over the next rise. Chas scowled at the wiry silhouette on the brow of the dune. He froze. Joe was waving his arms and shouting. He turned, racing back down the dune, back the way they had come. Chas tried to grab his arm. Joe wrenched it away, his face beneath the tan, the colour of bleached wood. He garbled something incomprehensible and stumbled on. Will was next, immobile on the ridge for a moment, his reactions dull and sluggish with the heat and weariness. Then he too turned and fled.

A shadow fell across the sun, across the baked glare of the dune, a huge, black shadow that ran, or rolled across the sky, over the sand, like a giant spider. He heard the click as it turned, a familiar sound. The thing reared over the dune, gaunt and metallic, and he recognized the shape at last.

Flash fiction #writephoto: Old gods

This tale is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt.


For long years it had been a round tower, a holy place pointing to the heavens, where the ritual of prayer followed the mounting stairs, where chieftains of the lake conferred with their god. For years the chief wound his way in the path of his holy men, hoping to bind the strength of their god with his own. And for years, the god was with him. He held his place, his sons grew strong and healthy, his flocks and herds increased, and he followed the relics and the chanted spells round the tower to gaze down in satisfaction on his tribal lands.

Then, one black day, the invaders came in their narrow ships. The cowardly warriors clad from top to toe in iron, who used the long bow, the coward’s weapon rather than risk their skins in true combat. They brought their own god with them, a god that echoed vaguely the chief’s god, the god who rode into battle between his father and his mother, and held the chief in his embrace like a brother. But the god of the iron men was a dead god who rode in no chariot, and ruled alone. He hung from a tree in his blood, and he had no more need of a father, a mother, or a brother than any other dead man. Perhaps the monks feared this bloodless god. Perhaps that was why they fled when the iron men encircled the tower where the chief prepared to meet them with his spear and his sons at his side.

The chief cried out his war cry and his sons drew their swords, but the iron men never came near. Instead they sent flaming arrows to burn down the door of the tower, and the fire caught at the ladders and the goods stored in the tower and sent up a great cloud of smoke that suffocated the chief and his sons.

The iron men settled on the old chief’s lands and married his daughters and took his cattle, and they built their own, graceless square tower on the site of the beautiful round tower that they had destroyed. They had their priests bless the new tower and baptised their sons in the new chapel. But one black night, the old chief’s daughters and their daughters slit the throats of the iron men invaders and their soft-skinned priests. Blood flowed in the square keep, down the stone stairs and out onto the green field.

In the moonlight, the monks returned and called back the old god and his mother and his father who rode together in the same chariot, and the old round tower reappeared in the heart of the new square keep. The moonlight became silver stone, and in the morning, the tower shone in the new sun, and the keep remained, cold and dead as iron and any man hanging in a tree.


If you like this story, remember, there are two collections of my stories available: Tales from the Northlands and  The Spring Dance.




Three Line Tales: And it came to pass…

A prophetic Three Line Tale for Sonya’s prompt this week.

photo by Austin Chan via Unsplash


Out of the darkness came light, and the people saw in the night, the sign they had all been waiting for.

Some searched the cracks in the brickwork for the outline of a sacred face or the words of an archaic holy script, others pointed to the guns in their hands and shouted, this was divine endorsement for their wars, while still others looked to the cracked earth or flood-strewn, windswept devastation of the sick planet, and declared, this is the last warning sign before the end.

The sign winked all through the long night of global chaos before it short-circuited in a freak energy surge and darkness enveloped the world one last time.


#writespiration: Defeat

It’s a while since I’ve even seen Sacha’s #writespiration post. Love the photo. Here’s the story of what happened next in 52 words.


The drummer boy picked himself up and stumbled for the shore. A storm was brewing, but he still hoped the ships would be back for the remnants of the army. As he watched, the silence was broken by a sharp cry. He turned. The flash of the report exploded the bright moonlight.

Microfiction Three line tales: The truth

I wasn’t sure I was going to be inspired by this picture, but it came in the end. Thanks Sonya 🙂


The old house had been a boarding school for girls for a time in the nineteenth century until it was closed down, a fire, or an epidemic, the curator had not been very clear.

She picked up the pen compulsively after a quick glance to make sure the curator was occupied with the wandering school party, dipped it in the inkwell, and words, in careful copperplate, ran across the pale paper of the notebook.

Her eyes opened wide in terror and she tried to let go of the pen, but something held her hand tight, her mind too, and as the full horror of the boarding school’s closure was revealed, the small room was suddenly crowded with the thin, pale, hate-filled faces of the victims.

Flash fiction #writephoto: Forest

This story is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. As usual, she has prompted something unsettling.

If you like this story, why not dip into a whole collection of them? There’s The Spring Dance, folk tales and fairy tales, and Tales from the Northlands, dark and Nordic and utterly free today and tomorrow.



There was a bit of woodland between the dual carriageway and the leisure centre, right after the Tesco roundabout, where the dairy farm had been before the industrial estate was built, and the dual carriageway, and before Tesco. It was just a scrubby bit of leftover, a reminder that there had been a whole wood in the shallow valley between Alcot’s big cabbage field and where the meadow of the dairy farm began. Those were the days when cows went outside into fields now and again. When they ate grass and the farmer kept a bull in another field and a lad with a terrier to bring the herd in for evening milking.

The wood had been there since forever. Elms and ash were grown spindly and broken-boughed with neglect, and the oaks, too many and too close together, were small and scrubby. There was a plan to level the woodland site and build an entertainment complex. Land was too valuable to leave it unused. The developers came up from the city and take their measurements, sound out the subsoil, work out their costings. There was no one left from the time of the farms and the woods to explain to them why it was a bad idea. No one had ever really known what went on in the wood anyway. But they all knew to leave well alone.

Alcot had sold up and left years before and the dairyman too. But the lad with the terrier was still alive, and he watched the men with their hi vis jackets and their hard hats as he leant on his walking stick at the edge of the Tesco car park. He watched as they stretched their tape and lined up their theodolites, and he wondered which of them would be the one who stayed behind and went into the wood alone. Because there would be. There always was. His eyes drifted out of focus, and he was ten years old again and Rex, was racing back and forth, keener to get after a rabbit than stay with the cows.

There had been a fence along the edge of the wood then, but no gate. The cows stayed away, and usually, so did the local kids. But every now and then, someone would be drawn over the fence, just to have a look. There was nothing to see, they’d say, white-faced and shaken, nothing…nasty. It was just that the wood, on the inside, was different. That day, the one he would never forget, he had been the one who climbed the fence and dropped into the bracken on the other side. Immediately, he had felt the change in the air, the silence that was heavy and expectant. No sound of the nearby road reached him nor the tractor in Alcot’s field. No birds whistled, and Rex had not followed. The terrier had cocked his ears in puzzlement but he remained firmly on the far side of the fence. The daft lad he had been then shrugged and plunged into the bracken that seemed denser, lusher than it had done from the other side. The trees were thicker, broader, and the light thin and pale.

Perhaps he hadn’t been as daft as all that. Perhaps he had an idea of what the wood meant, the perspectives that bent and curved, the trees that towered, and the leaves that were like no leaves he had ever seen before. Whatever, wisdom or fear, he stopped before the top rung of the fence was completely out of sight. The silence stroked his cheek and he flinched. Turning round sharply, to peer into the strangely dark depths, he caught a movement in the piles of shadow, swift and furtive, and in a stray beam of sunlight, the glint of something metallic.

He turned back to the fence and ran, refusing to heed the wild bird cries, the alarm call of a large mammal, the whistle of something past his ear. He ran as if he feared the fence would have gone, that the wood would have become a forest that went on and on forever, as if suddenly he believed the stories. But the fence was still there, and Rex, and he almost sobbed with relief when he flung himself back over and into the field full of lowing cattle and the familiar chugging of a tractor.

He understood the wood that day, and he had not forgotten. As he watched the surveyors pack up their things to leave, all except one, he wondered if the young man in the hard hat would understand before he ventured too far. And the way back closed behind him.