#writephoto: Home

Finished the rewrite. It’s in the lap of the gods now. Sue’s photo prompt is as apposite as ever.

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All has changed since Richard ordered the castle built on the promontory, but is that not always the way? Nothing except the salmon stays still in the current of a rushing river. Men build and other men pull down. Men make sons so they too may die in the same way as their fathers. She did not expect to see the tower as she remembers it, that it is now only a tumble of stones is not too hard to bear. But what digs deep into her heart like a flung javelin is the loneliness.

She remembers feeling the same loneliness at Dún Ailinne when the king and his company left with their banners and their feasting, to return to more comfortable houses where wives and children awaited them, a roaring fire in the hearth and hounds to greet them. The ancient seat of kings was a sorrowful place, ignored and abandoned unless a coronation required the dust to be chased outside, wall hangings shaken out, the mouse and bat droppings swept from the great table. When the ceremony was over, the dust returned and the solemn loneliness.

This is different. This was home, the castle built by the first of the Northmen for his wife and queen. There used to be love within these stone walls and the laughter of children, and if there were also tears, is that just not part of every story? She places a hand on the ruined sill where the wind from the sea blows and the rain blows. All gone. Even their names.

Another hand covers hers. She turns her head, away from the sadness of the lonely ruin, and his eyes are smiling, gentle and grey as ever. They know more than names, have lived more than love. She links her arm with his and they go back to join the wind blowing, the gulls crying, beyond laughter and sorrow.

Sabotage

A 144 word story for the dverse prompt.

 

A cow is screaming across the arroyo.

I read the paper again, wondering, before I toss it into the fire, what in the name of all that’s holy that’s supposed to mean. These code messages are getting weirder and weirder. Last week when the Villefranche road had needed disrupting it had been some garbage about wounded guinea fowl in the rhubarb patch.

I sling the duffel bag over my shoulder and leave the house. The lads will be waiting by the bridge, Jackie, Manu and the others. I’m the explosives boy, stick it where the bastards won’t notice it then scarper, doing my bit.

The bridge looms ahead through the darkness. Nothing moves. They should be at the rendez-vous. I listen, first to the silence, then a mournful bellow puts the heart across me. A cowshed door creaks open, someone swears. Fecking cow!

#Three line tales: Shoot

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Egor Vikhrev via Unsplash

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She had always dreamed of fame, being featured in magazines, seeing her face on the front covers, and wherever she went she behaved as though she was surrounded by press photographers.

She never just bought a sandwich or waited for a train, she posed, hoping that someone would notice, which is what she was dreaming of—a photo shoot for Rankin—while she stretched out her long legs over the platform edge.

She did make the front page in the end, but not in the way she intended, when the High Barnet train shot out of the tunnel and swept her away.

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.