Microfiction #writephoto: Carp

This is for Sue Vincent’s photo prompt. Another picture inspiring thoughts of a dark, fairly distant past.

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The stream ran over the ancient stones as it had done for almost a thousand years, but the carp pool was empty. No fish had grown fat in its crystal bright waters for so long that few remembered what the stone basins had once been used for. The child dipped her fingers in the water and withdrew them quickly, shaking her hand as if she’d been stung.

“It’s cold,” her mother said and rubbed the hand to get the warmth back.

The child nodded, but it wasn’t the cold that had made her draw back. “Can we go now?” she asked, but her mother had already turned away to photograph a fragment of cloister.

The voices muttered angrily and the child frowned, not understanding all of the words. She wandered to the area where broken stones with pointy writing on them lay among creeping plants. The voices fell silent, and she could almost hear breath being held. Monks’graves, her mother had said. She scuffed one with her shoe. The stone was cracked across and there were chips out of it where tiny flowers grew. Her mother had said it was a shame the graves weren’t tended, but the child knew why.

She wandered back to the car and rummaged in the pick-nick hamper. The stories the voices told her had made her feel hungry. She took a sandwich and an apple and set off again, outside the abbey walls, down the meadow to a ring of oak trees on a small hillock. The voices grew louder again, and she took a bite out of the sandwich, chewing thoughtfully. Beneath the trees the air was cool and the child sat down. In the centre of the tree circle, the earth dipped, and although there were no stones with pointy writing, the child knew what lay beneath.

She listened to the rustling leaves and the whispering voices. The monks hadn’t wanted to give the poor people anything to eat when they were hungry, the voices said, so the people had to take. They took the fish from the pond.

The earth was dry and dusty. The child picked up a stick and drew a fish, smiled as she saw its tail flick from side to side and dive down into the earth. The hungry people took the fish and the monks tried to drive them away. The voices grew more sombre and the child bit her lip. The people killed the monks and the king sent his soldiers and killed the people. He had stones laid on the graves of the monks, but the poor people were slung into a pit and oak trees set themselves round about to protect the place from the wind and rain. Later, more soldiers came and tore down the stones of the abbey and no one came there any more.

She drew more fish and a pig. All sunk into the dust. The leaves sighed and the sunlight shifted through the branches.

“Hey! Emmie! Time to eat!”

Her mother would drive to a proper pick-nick place. She liked to do what was proper. Already she was fussing around the car. The child left her sandwich and the apple where she had drawn the fish and the pig, and went for a last look at the carp pool. The voices were quiet now, but in the ripples and moving shadows of the pool bottom, she saw the quick flick of a fat tail, and she smiled.

 

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Microfiction: Lost temple VIII

Final episode.

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Tears of rage and of sorrow blinded the acolyte. He knelt at the edge of the pit and wept until the images faded and he became aware of the whispering of hundreds of voices.

I hear.

He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and got to his feet. The pavement rippled, and the monk’s body slid into the pit. The acolyte watched, and, full of shame for all it represented, he undid the beads about his own waist and tossed the rosary after Brother Constantine. The shadows returned, soft as doves’ wings, to fill the space. The ravens wheeled, sending the darkness swirling, like giant wings, and departed, their silhouettes black against the moon. He took the amulet and hung it around his neck. The amulet spoke.

Go now and keep the secret. This is a holy place. Let not the barbarians return to profane it.

The acolyte nodded, his face set, a cold glitter in his eye. The dove wings, children’s hands, touched his hands, his robes. Older hands stroked his face, gentle as a summer breeze. Moonlight filled the ruins, softening the rough edges, washing the pavement with silver.

The acolyte made his way back to the waiting horses and turned their heads towards a new life.

Microfiction: Lost temple VII

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Shadows rolled back from the high windows, and moonlight flooded the ruins, pale and silvery. There was no altar. Only a pit where it had stood. Fragments of white marble littered the pavement, and among the shards lay the crumpled body of Brother Constantine. His outflung right hand still clutched part of a broken crucifix, and even in the moonlight, the acolyte could see that it was a seething mass of burns. The air was still. The light pure and unwavering, but the young man knew they were there and waited for them to speak.

The amulet grew hotter and agitated in his fingers. He had no need to press it to his brow to see the images, the awful bloody images of the brown-robed priests cutting down the worshipers with their steel swords, snatching children and babies from their mothers, smashing skulls, splitting and slicing and gouging until the marble pavement was awash in blood. He saw the old images of the earth tree and the generous curves of the earth mother dashed to the ground and the terrible stark crucifix dressed above the bloody sea.

Microfiction: Lost temple V

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The shadows moved, rippled, crawled. They scurried down the broken columns, across the pristine pavement and piled in a seething, heaving mass where the acolyte had guessed the altar to be. The pale smudge moved, jerky and rapid like a giant bird pecking. A white raven? The black birds on the ruined arch cried their hoarse cry unloosing the acolyte’s tongue.

“Get back, Brother Constantine!” His voice came out hoarse and rasping as the ravens’. He willed his feet forward but the amulet screamed in his head and he could not. The sky was dark—dried blood dark, and the moon was crimson. Shadows continued to pour down the walls, through the narrow windows, the great rose window, piling on dead sills higher and higher.

The acolyte shouted again, shrill and fearful. Soon the shadows would fill the window spaces, blotting out the light, and darkness would fill the vast hollow emptiness with its shifting forms.

“Brother Constantine!”

The pale smudge shuddered, and two smaller smudges fluttered. Hands or wings?

“Back!” The older man’s voice was sharp and thin with the beginnings of terror.