#writephoto: In ancient times

I haven’t even looked at Sue’s photo prompt for ages because I’ve been very strict with myself about keeping my head down and meeting word counts. Although I’ve started a new story, I’m not pushing myself so hard. I’m still feeling my way with this one anyway. So, I’m taking a break, and writing a short story that is really inspired by what I’m writing. Not such a break after all.

summer

 

There is such peace here, she thinks, sitting on the stone and gazing across the landscape of rolling meadow scattered with the white flowers of hundreds of thousands of daisies. Day’s eye, they used to call them, and she imagines them all, gazing up at the sky. Peace, she tells herself when the hawk screams and stoops after something unseen, peace when the wind blows cold, and clouds throw shadows across the vast plain.

She shivers and still thinks, peace, though the setting sun fills the sky with blood, and only crows flap homeward. The wind mutters as it rattles through the trees that line the road behind her, and flattens the white flowers beneath its heavy hand. She begins to think, perhaps it is time to go. She rises, dusts off the seat of her jeans and her eye is caught by the lichen, the yellow, grey and dull green that covers the stone where she was sitting. Looking closer, she sees marks in the stone.

A pattern? Design?

She traces the scratches with her finger, peeling off the lichen, revealing a rough carved image. Horseman, raised sword, heads rolling. She listens, and finds she can hear voices in the wind that races across the daisy heads, voices screaming, crying, moaning, keening. Faces turn to the sky in despair as a rain of steel falls.

Not all the massacres of ancient times are documented. No names remain, no dates or reasons. Just the voices of the dead.

Microfiction Three Line Tales: Ghost

This story is for Sonya’s writing prompt. The scene in the photo is as much outside my experience as a bazaar in Marrakesh, hence the rather fuzzy story.

photo by Clem Onojehungo via Unsplash

tltweek56

She had been going into town since she was a child, so long ago now the memories sifted through a veil of dust and rocky roads, so long ago she could no longer remember why she was there, or be certain of the way back.

She parked the truck, where her father had always parked before leaving her and her brother to amuse themselves while he bought whatever was on his long list from the one store, and stared about her in bewilderment at the strangeness, the bustle and the noise.

She shrank back from the crowds, pale, two-dimensional people who pushed past her, walked through her with a shiver as if they’d seen a ghost and her eyes wandered longingly back towards the road out of town, the dust veil, and the safety of the past.

Microfiction #writephoto: Tryst

This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. Inspiration didn’t come immediately for this one. When I started the story, hesitantly, just setting the scene, I didn’t know what tale the character was going to tell. I let her tell it in her own way, and she did.

summerhouse

 

We used to meet here every evening, just as the sun was going down. If my father had known he would have disowned me. If your father had known…I don’t suppose he would have cared. Your honour wasn’t at stake after all. The park was well kept in those days, and families would crowd around the bandstand on fine Saturday afternoons. Often we would see you, your mother’s arm tucked in yours, and you would tip your hat with a polite smile, but the twinkle in your eye was just for me.

The evenings were ours. Bats flitted back and forth between the shadows and the light in the sky. The moon lit our way through the crowding rhododendrons, and you would take me in your arms, so firm and strong, and we would kiss and make promises, hot and fervent.

That was before the war, before we could be wed, before we had time to know one another. It was a time of dreams, plans and unknown futures. I never recovered from your death. They told me I should be ashamed, that the menfolk were dying in their thousands to protect us, and I had no business crying. But I cried. I cried so much Father wanted to have me locked up. In the end, nobody had the time to concern themselves with me. When Fred was killed, Mother retired to her room and never came out. That I floated around the house like a wraith was neither here nor there. The death of a brother, a son, an heir was a tragic loss. That I was still alive was almost too hard for Mother to bear.

I still come to the bandstand though it has been silent for so long now. I still wait for you to find your way here from that field in Flanders where your life ended. Perhaps you never will. Perhaps your spirit was dispersed like your body and you wander among the stars now, looking for me and waiting. I watch the stars on summer nights and try to make out your face, but the glitter gets in my eyes, and the tears blur the sky. They say I was mad. Perhaps I was. Perhaps this is what happens to mad people; they can never let go. The wheel goes round and round beyond death, beyond longing.

I part the rhododendrons and climb the wormy steps to the bandstand. The bats flit back and forth, and the stars glitter like the light in your eyes. Perhaps this will be the evening you come to me.

Microfiction #writephoto: Restoration

Another odd photo from Sue Vincent for her Thursday #writephoto prompt. They always seem to capture something that perhaps the naked eye missed.

waiting

Clearing out the Victorian clutter from the old house was easy. There was plenty of room in the cellars that stretched deep and wide, and there would be time to open them up to the public once the upper floors of the fortress had been restored to their original state. The plaster and mouldings of the bedrooms and drawing rooms, and in particular the mock Gothic of the main rooms and the entrance hall were being stripped out, with the mounted boars’ and stags’ heads, the dark-stained wooden staircases, and the fake spits in the fake hearths. Anything of any value would be sorted and donated to museums dealing with the nineteenth, eighteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The curator supervised the transfer below ground and closed the heavy oak door on the trophies of the Victorian lunatic who had turned a fourteenth century fortified manor house into something out of a Walter Scott novel. The key wasn’t in the lock. He remembered it well, a curious key, particularly finely worked for such an old lock. It must have been hanging up with the others in the office. He was on the point of going to get it when the site foreman shouted out that if he was ready, guv, they’d turn the power back off and call it a day. He shrugged. If anyone wanted to steal any of the horrors he’d seen shipped downstairs, they were more than welcome. He called out to go head, that he was leaving, and the lights were turned off.

Later, much later when the wires and pipes had sighed their last sighs as the site settled, when the dust lay in a fine film over the newly-exposed parts of wall and pavement, the shadows moved in the cellars. For the first time in two centuries, the door had not been locked.

 

Ghost

For the Daily Post prompt: ghost

Just to prove practice is worth it, another ghazal. Better, I don’t know, but certainly easier.

Antipova-Evgenia-Girl-in-the-garden-ant38bw

Among the roses, in the place we loved the most,

I thought I saw behind heat shimmer’s veil, a ghost.

 

Running through the blooms I caught but a fleeting glimpse,

The sunlight through the leaves, a face so pale, a ghost.

 

The memories of you and I, sweet summer scents,

I lift my face to seek you there, inhale a ghost.

 

Beneath the falling petals side by side we sat,

Those lost times fading into image frail, a ghost.

 

Illusions haunt me still though you will not return,

Through quiet tears the roses’ scent is stale, a ghost.

Microfiction: Graves

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt. I’ll add the link though it like as not won’t work.

west-kennet

 

I have walked this path so many times, as many as the white spring flowers in the grass of the hill, as many as the stars I see framed by the entrance stones. The stone is smooth beneath my feet and and I trace with blind fingers in the dark, the whorls of life carved into the walls, like waves upon the sea. I have no need of eyes to see, nor of fingers to touch. The air sings with the magic of the old ones and guides me to the heart of the hill where I am one with the earth. Until the time comes when my bones will lie with the bones of the seers who paced this path before me, I will walk and watch and tell my stories to who will listen.

The darkness draws me inwards, and the voices grow stronger, louder, painting their pictures of the world beyond the veil. The veil. It falls before my eyes and I falter. The path is smooth but the echoes are disturbing and I hug the wall, reaching for the comfort of the stories etched into the stone. Echoes. Voice, high and strident, float through the air, dispelling the magic. I hold my breath, and the pale translucent forms of the speakers stride towards me. Ghosts of another time, caught like me in the paths of the darkness. They laugh and point at the flat stones of the altar. They carry lights with them, swinging them high to chase the shadows, and like a nightbird, I am caught in the light, and they see me.

There is nowhere to hide, and why should I hide when this is my place, my path to walk? I stand in the path, my palms raised in friendship, but the ghosts back away in a disorderly huddle, tripping and stumbling in their haste to get back to the sunlight. Sunlight. They are of the sunlight, and of a sudden, I realise that I am of the twilight, soon to be of the darkness. I look longingly to the rectangle of sky beyond the door and know that my time has come. The world belongs to the high-voiced ghosts, and I am for the dark.

#writephoto Flash fiction: The crypt

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

scotland-trip-jan-15-1731

Late night. Moonlight streams through the tall, slender lancet windows and silvers the cold stone of the nave floor. No light falls in the crypt below, but the air moves nonetheless, restless and cold. Tombs fill the vaults, row upon row of silent clerics and seigneurs, their palms together in prayer, stone eyes fixed on eternal light. For centuries the church has stood on the hill, upon ground once pagan and impure. Centuries ago the first monks led soldiers against the heathens and cleansed the impurity from the earth in a torrent of blood. The earth soaked up the blood, fire cleaned the heathen bones, and prayers chased the old pagan magic from the air.
Centuries ago, monks and warlords watched over the building of the church on the hill that they had taken from the pagans. They dug deep foundations, disturbing the blackened bones. Their masons laid dressed stone upon stone, craftsmen carved and sculpted demons, angels and monsters. One carved the master mason, another his wife, and some carved the faces of the old gods in corners not visible from the ground.
For centuries the illustrious dead were buried in the crypt; the seigneurs and the princes of the church laid side by side in death on the ground stained with violent death. The air was dark. Candlelight shed only a pale glow. The stones shrugged it off, and the rare offices held in the crypt were rapid and fearful. The officiants heard the muttering of voices, the clash of arms and, now and then, the screams of the dying. Ghosts, they said. The evil magic lingers.
From the Otherworld, the ancient people return when the wintering sun invites them and opens its doors to let them through. The people of the hill return to visit homes long since razed to the ground. They come sadly, but they come all the same and touch the spring where the water bubbles clear and bright, the oak and the yew, and the stones that had been there before their birth and would be there still when the last man of all died.
The people of the hill will not enter the invaders’ sacred place. It reeks of blood, their blood, and all they had know died with them. No grass grows, only smooth stone slabs. And they leave the dead ghosts to their angry mutterings, their raging against the injustice of death. For the Otherworld will not have them with their bloodstained hands and their bloodstained hearts. They would not pay a blood price or admit their wrongs. They left widows and orphans, mothers without children, men without wives and they said that it was good.
When the sun rises again, the ancient people will return to the fields and the islands, the waves and the scented air of the Otherworld. They will leave behind the dark crypt full of black hatred and unrepentance, and let the singing of the larks chase the invaders’ black mutterings from their ears.

Three line tales: The kid

This is for Sonya’s three line tales prompt.

The photo is ©Rosan Harmens

tltweek22

I passed the kid every day on the way to work, already looking like a derelict, already a hopeless wreck of a human being.

This morning he caught my eye, his gaze abnormally bright and piercing, as I hurried past, almost reached out a hand, then turned the gesture into a shrug, leaving me with a feeling of guilt, though what could I do?

I gathered my things together and made for the door as evening shadows filled the car park, and as I reached to turn off the light, a movement made me turn and the sound of heels drumming against the filing cabinet—he was there, waiting for me, as I had half-feared he would be.