Northern Lights

A 144 word piece of flash fiction inspired by (but not including) the quote from Jane Kenyon:

if it’s darkness
we’re having, let it be extravagant.

Photo ©Anders Jildén andersjilden

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If this is darkness, she said, then let it fall. If this is to be the end of all I have ever known, then let it come. Above her head, the lights of the north glowed a curtain of green, red and blue; all about her, icebergs drifted, slow and ponderous as great white bears over the still water black as night.

If this is cold, she said, grasping ice ropes in her hands, then I will warm it, let it encircle me like the Midgard serpent and I will teach it who is mistress here.

In the cold and the dark, her hair aglitter with the northern lights, she stood on the headland at the end of the world and waited for the final spasm of the old earth and the birth pangs of the new to open the door to her realm.

 

Never Never

Exactly 150 words. For Crispina Kemp’s creative challenge, inspired by this photo.

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She had always thought it was a magical place, the slow stream that babbled if you listened hard enough, and the wood that had somehow escaped the developers, where blackbirds sang and jays and woodpeckers chattered. The stream disappeared into a culvert, carrying its leaf-boats into the dark, and she had walked the length of the wood countless times but never discovered where it came out.

The town grew, estates sprawled, but the wood remained untouched. Pastureland formed one boundary, a lane another, and a low wall bounded the rest. Something drew her back to the wood that end of summer day, drew her along the stream that entered the domain from the farmland, to the culvert where birds sang and the leaf-boats disappeared.

Without hesitation, she stepped into the stream and followed it into the dark to find out where it came out. It didn’t, and nor did she.

Latent defect

Inspired by Lynn Love’s tremendous piece of flash fiction, I thought I’d have a go at Crimson’s Creative Challenge too. The springboard is this photograph.

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It seemed perfect. Rehabilitated churches were so cool—pricey, and you had to be prepared to spend a fortune on restructuring the interior, but the result could be stunning. Saint Peter’s had been mucked about with over the centuries. The foundations were thirteenth century, but Henry VIII had hammered it, then Cromwell. It was burnt down during a factory revolt in the nineteenth century and bombed in the Second World War. When the congregation dwindled to nothing, the diocese decided to sell it.

Steve and Lucy decided to go for it, signed up the architect, swooned over the plans. Then the priest came for the de-consecration. It should have been done before the sale, but somehow it had been overlooked, he explained with an unctuous smile.

With a few words of release, he broke the bonds of eight hundred years, and all the nightmares came to stay.

What Cilla did next

A short story inspired by August’s Visual Verse photo prompt.

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When Cilla saw the ad, she recognised the cottage she and Jason had invented. It was exactly what they had talked about owning one day, when his divorce came through. They would lie in bed, in her bed, and talk, dream, pretend. The asking price was far more than she thought they’d be able to afford, but on a whim, she phoned up about it. The estate agent told her it was probably sold, the couple who were interested wanted just one last look before they agreed on the price, but if she liked, he would squeeze her in that afternoon before they arrived. You never know, he’d said, hedging his bets.

It was perfect, old red brick with roses round the door, stone flagged floors, mature cottage garden. The visit was rushed; she was shuffled out of the kitchen door as the couple arrived ahead of time, striding in a proprietorial sort of way up to the front door, happy, smiling, enchanted. He picked a rose and handed it to his wife. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. They didn’t see her, but Cilla saw them, and the fabricated yarn of divorce unravelled into a shoddy tissue of lies.

That was two weeks before the holiday—he had told his wife it was a business trip—a week in the Greek islands. She kept the image of his wife in her head though it made her sob in hopeless fury. She saw his gallant gesture repeating over and over, their smiling faces. It wasn’t going to be enough to confront him with his lies. She wanted to make him feel as much pain as she did.

 

Jason took her hand and showed her the island, as if he owned it. Praised the scenery, the locals, the wine. There was magic in the islands, he said. He said a lot of other things too. She talked about the house they would buy after the divorce, described the brick cottage in detail, the roses round the door, the stone flags in the kitchen and smiled to herself as he shuffled and his gaze drifted uneasily. He had wanted to eat out that first evening. She insisted on cooking at the rented apartment. Just a simple meal, she’d said, stuff from the market and a bottle of wine.

He didn’t guess, she was sure of that. He lacked the imagination, but he was worried. She smiled a lot, more than usual. She was aware of it, the euphoria going to her head more than the wine. She wanted to laugh. Afterwards, she insisted they go down to the sea. It was evening, almost dark. He probably thought it was the uneven path making him stumble, low branches making him bend almost to the ground. By the time he was running on all fours, he had no idea who he was anymore. She picked up a stick and whopped him on the back end, laughing as he squealed and trotted off in terror into the wine dark sea.

Simple pleasures

I wasn’t going to take up this dverse challenge because I really couldn’t imagine any situation where anyone would say: you will love again the stranger who was yourself. I’m not even 100% sure I understand what it means.

Anyway, I did it, a 144 word flash fiction from the Eric Morecambe school of literature—all of Derek Walcott’s words are there, just not necessarily in the same order.

 

I never wanted to see you again. Love given and tossed away will have that effect. I used to think I knew you inside out, but you became a stranger, to me as well as to yourself. I never knew who was pulling the strings—you or some deity having fun with us.

It’s been weeks. I’ve stopped counting the days. Your face still shines out of every man’s I meet, his features morphing into yours. Even though I’ve changed jobs, changed address, I still dread bumping into you. But a message from Brenda in my inbox made me smile.

She said you’d been into work with a big bouquet.  When she told you I’d left, your face crumpled, your whole body sagged—like cancelling a kid’s Christmas. You turned in silence, head bowed, abandoning the flowers at reception.

I hope they were expensive.

 

 

 

#writephoto: Last journey

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

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They said just follow the road, it goes straight there. Take no notice of the mist, don’t follow the shadows, don’t listen to the voices. They didn’t say how long it would take, nor what would happen if I left the path, but I had little choice. I walked.

How long I have been walking, I can’t say, the trees all look the same, their shadows never move, as if the unseen sun is fixed in the sky. Time never changes there, they said. The light is always twilight between dark and dawn, between dusk and dark.

I keep walking. Perhaps this is all there is, an eternity of walking, following the road bordered by trees into the misty distance. I should be tired, but my feet keep up a steady rhythm, one two one two one two and the mist still obscures the end of the road.

I walk and pay no heed to the voices that drift through the leaves. There is no anger in the voices, no aggression, just curiosity. I imagine they are the voices of birds, and once that would have been a fancy. Now, it is a possibility.

Just keep walking, they said. Who were they? I try to look back, but my feet won’t slow, my head turn. I forget a little more with each step. Keep walking.

Where? Who? The voices ask, but I cannot answer. Can I not? The mist is thinning. I see blue ahead. The sea perhaps or the sky, and the sun shines gold. Who? Wings brush my face. I hear their fluttering.

I am a woman who has left her name behind, on her way to the other side of life, or is it death?

The bird laughs. The mist has cleared. Between the trees deer flit and jays rattle.

You can speak, the bird voice says. That means you have arrived.

Above my head green boughs bend, and beyond, white clouds drift. From the blue ahead springs a cool breeze and I hear the sound of water. The voices mingle with song, fluting and whistling, and among the bird voices, I hear others. I run, and my feet have wings.

Welcome home.

 

 

 

Solace

I love the prompt, but it’s late and I’m tired so I shall probably come back and have another go at this tomorrow. Here’s a first attempt anyway, for the dverse prosery prompt.

 

It started at school, the taunts, the pokes in the back, the sly foot stuck out when I walked to my desk, the books tipped on the floor. All I ever wanted was to be like everyone else, to have a shiny new bike, the same way of speaking, a house with neat curtains and begonias in gaudy ranks in the garden. Instead I had a clatter of brothers and sisters, an old house with no curtains on the windows, apple trees and rabbit hutches in the garden.

I used to dream of being Prime Minister, or a super hero, or fighting poachers on a nature reserve in Kenya. I dreamt that people finally stopped laughing, prodding and poking and looked at me in awe. But the world is dark and unkind, and dreams never come true.

Then I dreamt I was the moon.