#Three line tales: No hope

Inspired by Sonya’s photo prompt.

photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen via Unsplash

tltweek173.jpg

 

Two small faces press up against the glass, laughing.

Cubs, she thinks. Mine gone. Nothing left. Empty water.

The attendants hustle the children away when the bear beats her skull against the glass until the bones break.

Advertisements

Light in the darkness

For the Daily Inkling prompt.

art ©Mauricio García Vega

064Pesadilla.jpg

The day is dark or is it night (?), cloudy, moonless, sunless and no birds sing. Grass clings like ropes or sucking mud and running is walking, though it is coming closer, and the darkness is thickening.

Silence roars, and a black light blinds like the darkness of space, swallowing.

Ahead is a gate, a door, a way out or in, and there is a light behind or above or inside. The pounding is the blood in my head and the feet behind, closing.

Feet pull sluggishly from the tangle, and the door is there, close, and not locked. I reach out, fall through, trembling, push the door closed. But there is no lock. The latch rattles like a mountain of darkness. There is nothing to do but wake.

I feel the (day)light on my back, turn with relief, released from the quagmire of nightmare and look upon its burning, merciless face.

#writephoto: Rushes

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. A bit of historical background.

Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 15.11.39

When the Romans came, they expected to find bloodthirsty savages, baby-eating cannibals who grinned at torture and revelled in inflicting pain. What they didn’t see they invented, and their Christian monks did the same. They said we made effigies out of wicker and burned our enemies and whole herds of cattle inside them. What sense would there be in that? If we went to the trouble of taking captives, it was because we needed slaves. Why would we burn them? And who in his right mind burns healthy fat cattle to ashes?

We did weave rushes, long before the Caesar came, and still do, into a sun cross, a good luck charm that we hang over the doors of houses to protect them from fire. The crosses are dedicated to Brigid, fire goddess and protector. The monks had a story about their god who died on a wooden cross and said Brigid’s cross was a reminder of their god. They even span a yarn that Brigid was one of their own milk and water deities with no powers.

Sometimes, on Brigid’s night, when the fires are lit and the the crosses are woven, they come back, the three sisters, Brigid the poet, Brigid the healer and Brigid the smith, to dance together by a source or by the light of an Imbolc fire. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and the church has not poured out its own guttering light, its incense and its mournful litanies to defile the night and drive away the old ones you might see them dancing. And if you are even luckier, they might hold out their rushy hands, and take you with them.

800px-Brigid's-cross-on-a-headstone-in-Tipperary.jpg

photo ©Philipp M. Moore

#Three Line Tales: Second thoughts

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales writing prompt.

photo by Philippe Mignot via Unsplash

tltweek171

Dawn on the quay; he’d seen it so many times before as he trudged, head bent to the cobbles, on his way to work, but this morning he seemed to see it for the first time.

They were already there, waiting up ahead for him, but he slowed his steps, watching the play of the first rays of light on the rippling water, making the damp stone glitter.

They were leaving, it was decided, so there was no going back, but suddenly he felt a catch in his throat, his vision blurred, and he wondered, if the others had been late, would he not have turned around and walked back home through the early morning splendour?

#flash fiction: The face in the photo

A piece of flash fiction for the Daily Inkling prompt Broken Memories.

 

I kept that picture after I destroyed all the rest as a reminder that there was a time when we were truly happy. You are looking at the camera and there is a light in your eyes that I remember from when we first met, that died long before the end. You are sitting at a café table, the sun is shining, the place is crowded with happy, smiling faces. It was the time we went to Provence, not the Côte, a village close to Arles. There was a fête of some kind, I forget now what exactly. Looking at your face, the sun on your bare arms, the open neck of your shirt, I can smell pine and pastis, hear cicadas and the clink of glasses.

That was the last time we went away together, the last time I remember sunshine. You and I were all that mattered in the world. We needed no one else. I keep the photo to remind me that you were different once. Whatever happened, perhaps just the spark dying, as simple as that, you were not necessarily to blame. I hated you at first because you were the one who left, but looking back on it, it was probably as much my fault as yours. I had my memories of the good times, and when you married, I was over it enough to wish you all the best.

She wasn’t the kind I would have expected you to choose, too expressive, extrovert, too southern. There was a photo of the wedding in the local paper. It had been a lavish affair. Not your thing, I’d have thought, but the bride insisted, I guess. Even in the photo she isn’t still, tossing back her head with laughter, the image slightly blurred. I cut it out, kept it with the other. I take it out now and compare your face in the two pictures though it hurts to see that your smile can be so wide for someone else.

I look at the two images of you, one with a background of the slightly blurred faces of unknowns in a Provençal village, the other grainy newsprint. I compare again, look closer, and a woman looks at me from a table on the café terrace, and suddenly the face is not so blurry that I don’t recognise the laughing woman on your arm in the wedding photo.

#writephoto: Epilogue

This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. Another part of the story, a sort of epilogue. I really must get on with writing it and stop paddling around the edges!

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 12.14.04

The house is a fine one, fitting for the rich demesne it represents. William le Maréchal built the original manor house, a single storey affair, as was the style in those days. Despite having gained the hand of Richard de Clare’s daughter Isabel in marriage, he was not granted the title of Earl of Pembroke. The title went to Richard’s grandsons; the old King Henry had seen to that. Out of the friendship he bore Richard de Clare, he had protected his lands and his daughter from the vultures. And le Maréchal’s sons would be the last of his line; Evienne would see to that.

William refused to live in the castle of Pembroke as long as he was deprived of the title that went with it. He built the manor house on the banks of the river Wye where he could look upon the imposing walls of the castle and admire his possession. On his death, one after the other, his five sons held the title Earl of Pembroke. All died violent or unexplained deaths. All died childless. His five daughters though had a wealth of children, all daughters. Evienne’s laughter could be heard ringing through the woods of the river bank at each new birth.

Two hundred years after William’s death, the house has been improved and enlarged. It belongs to the descendants of Isabel’s eldest daughter now, as do all the Pembroke lands. In a room overlooking the kitchen garden, a child plays with a puppy. The puppy is a gazehound, pure black except for her neat white feet. Her name is Whitefoot. The child’s name is Aline and her hair is the colour of red gold. She has finished her Latin and Greek lessons and in a little while her mathematics tutor will arrive.

In this house, the daughters are taught the same arts and sciences as the sons. The daughters marry men who respect and value them, and for the most part they are accomplished and fulfilled. It is part of the bargain, her mother told her once. Many, many years ago, one of their ancestors was eaten by a serpent because he wanted to marry his daughter to a man who was as ignorant as a pig in a sty. The serpent vowed to come back and eat up any lord of the manor who treated his daughters with less respect than his sons. Or some such tale, she’d said with a smile.

“And if you are shown respect, you must be worthy of it,” she had added.

It had always seemed a fair request to Aline, which is what she tells her eldest brother Amaury when he says it is unwomanly to want to know as much as a man.

“Stick to embroidery and strumming your lute. No man will make an offer for a woman who gets above herself.”

“And what does it mean to be manly then, brother?” she asks him. “To know Latin and Greek, to study Euclid, trigonometry and astronomy?”

Amaury is a brute, there’s no getting away from it; to inherit his father’s title is all that matters to him. He is a dullard and both Milo and Geoffrey are quicker and more advanced than he is. He frowns and his voice is low and menacing.

“Knowledge is a man’s prerogative. But a man who cannot rely on his own strength and skill at arms is no man at all.”

“So a man must be fearless, is that it? And wield a sword well?” He nods, his eyes narrowed, looking for a trap. “And you would dare to wade into the river and summon up the Guivre?”

“I’m not a fool!” he scoffs.

“So, you wouldn’t dare. I would though. Does that make me as fearless as a man?”

“It makes you a fool.”

“And you a coward.”

Amaury’s face pales with the insult. Milo looks up from his book and glances at Geoffrey. “We’ll come and watch.”

 

There is a bend in the river where a pool has formed, overhung with willows and thick with sedge. Aline knows the place well, how the water in the pool is always still as a mirror even on a windy day, where the clouds float and other things that she does not see in the sky. She hitches her kirtle up to her knees and fastens it with her belt. She leaves her shoes on the bank and wades into the cold water in her stockings.

“Take care,” Geoffrey says.

“We’ll come if you need help,” Milo says.

Amaury plunges into the water and grabs Aline by the arm. “Get out of here,” he snarls. “I’ll not have a girl make a mockery of me.”

Aline turns back to the bank, and a grin, quickly stifled, flashes across Milo’s face. They watch as Amaury, twelve years of manhood, wades into the pool, his drawn sword held clear of the water. He shouts, some senseless words of summoning that serve only to give voice to his fear. He stops, ceases his splashing and shouting, listens. He lowers his eyes, searching beneath the still surface of the water and screams. A child’s scream of terror.

Milo and Geoffrey start, their toes dipped in the water of the shallows, unsure. Aline watches the water, not her brother and his flailing limbs as he scrambles to the bank. She sees a graceful pale shadow slide like a wraith or a swan beneath the mirror. She listens and hears the bright tinkle of a woman’s laughter.

There is no Guivre except in the minds of the ignorant and fearful. The Guivre has gone, released into the past by a good man who kept his word. Grow strong and wise and deserving of trust. And Remember.

She turns to Geoffrey who has reached for her hand, her eyes full of white samite and her ears of long dead laughter.

“What was it?” he whispers.

“A mother,” she replies as tears bud in the corner of her eyes.

#Three line tales: Remembrance

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt. What a picture!

photo via Unsplash

tltweek170

Grandma Burke and Aunty Peg stare into their muddy memories, stirring up reproach and blame, while Cathy turns away and sobs, unable to cope with their notion of remembrance.

The old ones refuse to look at her or offer any words of comfort, and it’s Mam who cuts the cake, her face hard and judgmental too—as if she wouldn’t have prevented it had it been possible!

Mam digs in the knife, Grandma Burke turns her face away, and Cathy trembles uncontrollably—this would have been his ninth birthday.