I have a dream

The Daily Inkling prompt is to imagine a future with a tech device that we think of as impossible. I can’t get my head around technology, so here’s a future without it.

 

I have a dream (don’t we all?),

they call an impossible dream,

of a future cleansed of obscurantism,

when we will believe in ourselves,

and ourselves alone,

when we shoulder our responsibilities

to the here and now,

and scrape away the putrid sacred vestments

that have befouled our humanity.

Ni dieu, ni maître,

ourselves alone.

The stars wheeling above my head,

the sands of a long white strand beneath my feet,

I take my place in the universe.

I have a dream,

only a dream.

On the edge

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday.

Photo ©Wouter Hagens

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Only at this moment

and this and this

can I write of past and future, each moment ticking by, another grain of sand in the glass, adding to the past and taking from the future. I sit or stand or take a step

this way or that, back again

in that infinitely narrow strait, where all futures, all pasts, slide and pass, reach out a hand, catch a grain

and another and another

and by the light of a star already dead, imprint its shape. Memory stored, I keep it polished and bright, as long as I can see its trajectory downward, behind, stroke the memory of its fiery tail as it falls. This sun, with rays so much younger than the fiery mass, flickers in the facets before they are lost, poured through the straits into the pile of the past. So many grains, falling in a brilliant cascade. How many more are left to come?

 

Each moment glitters,

dark or light, by sun or moon,

a glimpse of heaven.

I taste my childhood, the scent,

floral, pungent of privet.

The skies are changing

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The skies are changing, wild cloud streaking

In and out of sunbeams, veils of grey.

Roses heavy bowed with bee-loud scent

Strain against the wind, stain pink the day.

I hear your words again against the howl

Of crow-black branches, twisted by the gale,

They lie as dull as water in the ditch,

Their echoes faded like a distant wail.

Roses fall, wind bears all trace away,

The sky has changed, in stormlight shadows play.

Microfiction: The Custom of the country

This is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Adi Ulici via Unsplash

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Since they were small they’d know not to fool around with the portals, that parallel universes weren’t always fun and sometimes the curious never came back, so they only had themselves to blame when the new people they visited turned out to be less than friendly and marched them in chains to their sacred place.

“It’s only an electricity pylon,” he said to his friend, nodding scornfully at the gaunt metallic structure that held out its arms against the evening sky. “Are these people really so backward they worship our antiquated junk?”

But in parallel worlds with no electricity, pylons have another use, and when the next dawn broke, the morning sky had soaked up the flames and the screams from the indestructible wicker man, leaving just a pile of smoking bones at its foot.

 

Birthday: One

Photo©Jean-Luc Ourlin

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This day, a symbol, a turning of the path,

is more, an aging, a dimming of the light.

So easy at the dark time of the year,

when nature sleeps and the stars weigh down

with such heavy, insupportable glitter,

to feel the end in the endlessness,

the slipping from warm closeness

into the cold nothingness beyond.

She gives me a card, the child, on this day,

a message of special words

that bring the sun a little closer,

the spring a little nearer.

‘We could be heroes’

and this is the day.

Pebbles in the stream

 

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The pebble dropped into the stream

may roll down to the ocean vast and blue,

or, like your love, sink forgotten

into weed-choked mud.

 

Rain on stone,

pattering cold from stony sky,

washes the dust and the clinging grime,

washes clean

for memories to build anew.

 

No light in this air,

this day of damp and dinge,

cold clings like a second skin,

fish-tight,

and relentless as the mud-gorged river.

 

Once so clear, the future,

decked with diamonds bright as stars,

dense and dull now as the river,

swollen with sorrowing rain

and the debris of broken things.

Microfiction: Of rats and men

Okay, this bit is less than 200 words, 199 to be precise, and it qualifies for Sacha Black’s writing challenge. The whole of Abomination is about struggle, and this scene shows some of Carla’s emotional struggle.

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Footsteps rang out on the walkway, echoing in the caverns of the empty boutiques. Carla stiffened and grabbed Kat’s arm.

“Ratmen?” she whispered.

Kat listened. The footsteps continued, lots of feet, stealthy almost, nervous.

“Maybe.”

They moved away from the yawning gap of the hall below, where pieces of safety rail swung free, into the squealing scuffling shadows… Carla shuddered at the memory, the long twitching nose, sloping forehead, the big ears and bristle-covered face. She shuddered at the terror in those mad eyes. Kat had killed it and it had screamed like a child.

The footsteps stopped. Ahead in the shadows, deeper shadows waited. Carla held her breath. A single shadow moved forward.

“Carla?”

Tully.

She forced herself not to run to him.

“Carla?”

She could see him now, his face, his eyes.

No! You don’t care!

She clenched her fists, clenched her eyes tight closed. But she still saw him, the gentle eyes full of…sorrow.

“Carla,” he whispered and she could feel his breath on her skin. “I’m so sorry.”

Tears squeezed from behind her lids. She sobbed as her clenched fists beat his chest then opened, pulling him towards her, his face, as damp as hers.

Flash fiction: Bits and pieces

This one is for Sacha Black’s writing prompt, The Rusty Thing.

Photo ©Piotrus

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They had lived in the same house for twenty years and now they were leaving it, moving to a smaller place. They’d last moved when child number four was born and they had run out of corners that could be turned into somebody’s private space. Child number four was now leaving home, taking her belongings and the few inherited bits and pieces that spoke to her. The others already had their own places and had ransacked the house years before for anything useful.

She had been gradually filling bin bags with things she didn’t want, emptying drawers, wardrobes, dressers, going through the dozens of boxes full of amorphous ‘stuff’ that should have been thrown out long ago but was supposed to come in useful one day. She had now reached her own personal things, the single drawer in the entire house that held the bits of rubbish that meant something to her. She never opened the drawer, never looked inside the leather case that held the letters, the odd bits of inherited jewellery, the child’s toys, broken watches, and scratched glass paperweights.

She opened it now and caught her breath. So many memories fluttered out. She closed her eyes. Scenes of the past flickered behind her closed lids so fast she had barely time to grasp them before they subsided again. Their first cat’s collar, the bell tarnished and silent, a plastic turtle she had loved when she was a kid, her mother’s only pair of earrings, the children’s maternity bracelets, the ink on the name tags illegible now. Two were chopped to pieces. Joe’s. The duty nurse forgot to take them off at the maternity hospital, and she remembered how they had panicked when the baby’s hands had swollen up and had rushed him to the paediatrician to have them removed. That was the first emergency with Joe, the first of many. He was gone now, that son who had caused them so much heartache as a child. Gone to live in Australia. She dropped the bracelets into a bin bag with the plastic turtle and the cat collar.

A hand on her shoulder made her turn.

“Why are you throwing those things away? Remember how Rambo used to hate that collar? And how he almost choked when it caught in a branch of the apple tree?”

He picked up the collar and fingered it lovingly. She saw a piece of faded leather and a tin bell that didn’t ring. She pushed back the memory of the old cat lying still, a dribble of dead drool on his lip.

“And the kids’ bracelets! Don’t you want to keep those?”

“Why?”

He looked at her with wide, questioning eyes.

“Well… as souvenirs.”

“We have the children. In a way. Why keep bits of plastic?”

He wasn’t listening, riffling through the paper, the letters, restaurant menus, hotel bills, theatre tickets, part of their shared youth. She could sense his annoyance.

“These things, the letters I sent you, your parents’ letters, the souvenirs of that holiday in Greece. You can’t throw those away!”

Suddenly it was too much. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed.

“Hey.” He was tender now, crouching on the floor beside her. “Hey.” He pulled a strand of hair from her tear-sticky cheek and kissed it. “I just don’t understand…”

She swallowed and cleared her throat, steadying the tremble in her voice.

“All these memories, souvenirs you call them, they’re all bits of what’s gone, finished. We don’t have babies any more, or parents, or a cat. All of this,” she gestured at the papers and objects scattered round her on the floor, “it’s just a reminder of what we’ve lost.”

She looked into the bewilderment of his eyes and saw that he hadn’t understood.

“But they’re souvenirs of good times, not sad times. Don’t you want to remember happiness?”

She shook her head. “But we don’t remember happiness, not really, just the idea of happiness. Haven’t you noticed that the sharpest memories are always the sad ones? They jump out at you when you’re unprepared, and each one unleashes a whole crowd of other sad memories, unrelated except in their sadness. When I look at Rambo’s collar, I don’t see a happy young cat, I see me taking the collar off for the last time when he died. I don’t remember why I loved that plastic turtle so much, it’s too long ago, but I do remember how heartbroken I was when my hamster died when I was eight. Don’t you see?”

She searched his face for a glimmer of understanding. She took his hands. “Seeing Joe’s baby bracelet just reminds me that he’s gone. I know Australia isn’t death,” she managed a smile that he echoed, “but that little boy we loved so much has gone. I don’t want to be one of those old ladies who lives in the past, sifting over the deaths and the partings. I don’t want to be ruled by memories.”

He sighed. “We’ve built up quite a past, haven’t we? When I look back—”

“Don’t! There’s too much past, and not enough left ahead. The river never stops flowing, you know. When I die, I want it to be trying to finish one last thing, not drifting backwards into some rose-tinted, bittersweet place that didn’t exist, trying to catch up with the people who have already flowed back along the river.”

He smiled and nodded. Understanding.

“So, we’ll give your mum’s earrings to Isa, and we’ll get another cat for Rambo’s collar.” He dropped the plastic turtle into a bin bag.

“And we’ll take cuttings of the roses to plant in the garden of the new house.”

“And nothing else.”

“Nothing. Just you and me.” She held his hands tight. “Building something new.”

 

 

Flash Fiction challenge: Trapped

A piece of flash fiction for Sacha Black’s challenge on the theme of Trapped. I called it Free, just to be awkward.

photo ©Roman Eisele

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Free

There used to be comfort in watching the river flow, the sun on the water, listening to the sounds, of birds singing and the wind in the leaves. I used to come here often when things weren’t going right, when words hung in the air between us and I needed to let them settle before I could face you again. Now you are gone, your words, harsh and gentle packed away or simply swept up with the dust of your passing. There was no more need to run to my hideaway for comfort, you said. No more tears to dry in the soft wind from the sea. I was free to be what I wanted to be, you said. No more constraints, complaints. I was free.

Sitting by the river, listening to the blackbird, nothing reaches me. I see and hear but it touches no nerve, sends no chord singing. I was free, you said as you set your sights on some far horizon where I would not be. But you closed the door on tomorrow, left me with the debris of a discarded past. The door is closed; the past a jagged, tangled, barbed mess. Free, you said. The word still rings in my head as I listen to the blackbird and hear only a reedy noise falling into the well at the world’s end.