#writephoto: Unexpected difficulties

A short story for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto writing prompt.

arch

 

Ellie blanked out the voice of the guide as he droned on, and gazed down the empty nave. Rows of columns strode up and down, and disappeared into the shadows of the transept. Where the altar and the choir stalls had been was a yawning space. The rose window that should have shed its coloured magic over the stone flags was dark. Perhaps the day was too dull, too cloudy. Ellie frowned, doubting her eyes.

The party was shuffling into movement again behind the briskly striding guide who was obviously thrilled to bits to be getting outside again.

“Excuse me,” Ellie said, surprising herself. The small crowd stopped. The guide turned, vague annoyance creasing his eyes. “Why is it so empty?”

The guide turned on his drone. “At the Reformation, Henry VIII’s army drove out the clergy and destroyed the effigies—”

“I know, you said,” Ellie interrupted. There was a slight gasp of disapproval. “But why didn’t they do something with it, you know, after, when the new lot took over?”

“Many churches were destroyed, but this building survived.”

Ellie sighed. “But if they didn’t destroy it, why leave it empty so long after? I mean, the C of E got all these old churches, didn’t they? Why not this one?”

The question hung in the air as the guide hesitated a fraction of a second too long. Ellie fixed her eyes on his, sensing he was either going to tell her something extraordinary, or a lie.

“The new church authorities intended to reconstruct the interior, but the work was… never done.”

“Why not?”

Again, the hesitation that even the other members of the group seemed to notice.

“There were…unexpected difficulties.”

Ellie opened her mouth with the next, obvious question, but the guide turned on his heel, rounding up the group, hurrying them outside like an officious sheepdog.

The echoe of footsteps died as the group made its way along the transept and out through the side door. The guide’s voice was cut off as the door swung closed with a sigh, and Ellie turned and peered one last time down the nave. She waited and listened as the shadows quivered and spilled onto the pale stone. A papery whispering filled the hollow silence, rising from the stones, pressing against the vaulting of the roof. She listened and nodded, then made her way to the outside world.

A wind blew through the nave and the big double doors of the main entrance slammed closed. Ellie had guessed the answer to her question.

Microfiction: Remains

This macabre photo is the prompt for the Friday Fictioneers this week. Thanks Rochelle! Word count 100.

There’s a second part here.

PHOTO PROMPT © Karuna

charred-toys

The house had been empty for years. We bought it through the lawyer who was disposing of the previous owners’ assets. They had gone, disappeared, leaving everything behind. There was a sadness about the house that I found attractive at first, and waited eagerly for spring when we could start attacking the overgrown garden.

Spring was late and cold. Frost clung to the north side of the house and the ground stayed hard and unyielding. It was there, much later in the year, after rain had softened the earth enough to turn it over, that we dug up the grave.

Microfiction: Gone

For Sonya’s three line tales photo prompt.

The photo is ©Wolf Schram

tltweek34

She’d find the place easily enough, he’d said, on account of the big yellow car parked in front of it.

Apart from that, the directions were perfunctory and she didn’t much like the late hour—only time he was available, he’d said—but, as she told her best friend Shana, she did want those boots and that kind of a bargain doesn’t come up every day.

The last person to see her was the bus driver who set her down at the stop nobody ever gets off at, and funnily enough, the yellow car that used to park in the dark street had disappeared too.

Caparison: decor of the past.

I thnk it was some time in November last year that Ali Isaac first suggested we each write a retelling of an Irish legend to give away in a booklet which we would then fill up with promotion for the books we have already published. The idea took root, and before we knew it, it had metamorphosed into a collection of love stories that we would publish for Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day, as everybody knows is half way through February. And before that there’s Christmas to get through and the assorted afflictions that health throws at us at this time of year. That didn’t give us much time.
I’m proud to announce that we have done it! Our collection of love stories from Irish myth is uploaded to Amazon and waiting in the wings for the big release day. For almost two months we have been living and breathing Irish myth, heroines and heroes from a very different time. People were different then, incomprehensible in many ways, even though the rawest of the emotions probably haven’t changed much at all over the centuries.
The picture below is one I downloaded because I liked the colour and the movement. But looking more closely, I see, or I think I see, some of those differences of sensibility that separate us from our distant past. The picture is entitled Caparison, and so is the poem.

Caparisson

Was life really so simple then?
Wars fought and won
With just a handful of rockinghorse men?
What were they defending,
Land, lord, families?
And did they ride out with these thoughts,
Vivid as the sun,
Carved on their hearts?
The turned, worried faces say it all.
Death approaches a spear’s length away,
Chain mailed and caparisoned.
Men’s tiny faces furrowed in anguish,
So clearly drawn,
And the faceless helmets,
Sinister in their repeated facelessness.
This we understand,
The fear, the grief, the shame.
But there is more,
Equally important to the artist’s eye,
Pretty ochres and shades of Sienna,
Terracotta,
The swirl of waves, fins or blue leaves,
But not a drop of blood,
Not yet,
Not until the end.
All is movement across a muddy field
And all the horses are smiling.

Promote Yourself: Author Stevie Turner

Guest author, Stevie Turner has very kindly written a good introduction to herself and her writing so I’ll hand straight over.

Stevie Turner is a British author who has been writing for about two years now, in between working as a medical secretary. In this time she has written 5 books which mainly focus on the darker side of relationships, but are usually sprinkled with quite a bit of humour too.

She has a website http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk/ with details of all her books and sample chapters for reading. The website also has details of her book club, and also has interesting interviews with other authors. Her Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stevie-Turner/e/B00AV7YOTU/ and AuthorsDen page http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?AuthorID=183378 along with her Smashwords author page https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/StevieTurner have links to all her works for sale.

One of her books ‘A House Without Windows’ has achieved a Readers’ Favorite 5 star award https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/31349 and at one point was in the top 100 bestsellers in the Amazon Fiction/Crime/Kidnapping section.

Cover

Excerpt
CHAPTER 1 of A House Without Windows, by Stevie Turner

Copyright Stevie Turner 2014

Mummy wonders if it will be Christmas soon, but I don’t know what she means. She says that when she was a little girl she would get lots of presents on Christmas Day, and there would be a big tree in her house with lots of twinkling fairy lights on the branches and shiny baubles that she could see her reflection in. I’ve never seen a tree, so Mummy drew one for me in my colouring book and showed me. I don’t understand why there was a tree in her house.

My name is Amy, and Mummy thinks I could be seven, eight or nine years old because my big front teeth are growing in. I have long blonde hair like Mummy that I can sit on. Mummy puts it in a plait and she showed me how to plait hers, and she taught me how to read. She says I can read and write really well, and I like writing stories. I write everything down in a secret diary and keep it under the mattress. Mummy writes things down too. The Man brings us paper, pencils, exercise books, and colouring books for me, but he doesn’t speak much. Mummy tells me to keep out of his way, so I run to the toilet when he comes. Sometimes he finds me and smiles, and says that I’m getting a big girl. I don’t like him. He’s nearly as tall as the ceiling and he has hair all over his face. Mummy told me his name is Edwin, but I don’t like him so I call him The Man.

Our house is small and dark. There’s a light bulb hanging from the ceiling that stays on all the time, even when we go to sleep. It’s too dark without the light on, and I get frightened. I get in bed with Mummy because there’s nowhere else to sleep. When I lay in bed I can see all the rest of the house except the toilet and sink, which is around a little corner and out of the way. All the walls are greenish-grey, and Mummy says they’re made out of concrete. When I touch them they’re cold.

Mummy sticks my pictures on the walls with something called Blu-tack, and she says they brighten things up a bit. My best picture is the one of Prince, a ginger cat that sometimes follows behind The Man when he brings our food. I’m allowed to stroke Prince until he goes back out, but then Mummy says I have to wash my hands before I eat anything.

Last week The Man brought me a reading book. I’d never had a reading book before. He said I had to look after it because he’d kept it safe for years since he was a little boy. It’s got thick pages, large letters, and a sort of yellowy cardboard cover. I’ve started to read it. A lady called Enid Blyton wrote it, and it’s called The Island of Adventure. It begins where a boy called Philip who loves animals is at some sort of summer school and is bored as he sits under a tree doing something called algebra (I asked Mummy what algebra is, and she said it’s a different kind of maths). He hears a strange voice telling him to blow his nose and wipe his feet. It turns out the voice comes from a parrot sitting in a tree nearby, and he follows it as it flies off down the hillside back towards his school. That’s the only bit I’ve read so far.

I asked Mummy what a parrot is, and why I can’t sit under a tree. She told me a parrot is a colourful bird that flies around in hot countries, but that some people in this country keep them in cages as pets. I think that’s cruel. If I had a parrot I’d let it fly about.

I had to ask her again why I can’t sit under a tree. Mummy sighed and told me that trees grew outside, and we weren’t allowed to go outside. When I asked her why, she said that The Man doesn’t want us to.

It’s boring in our house. I do maths with Mummy like Philip had to do at school. I know how to add up lots of numbers in my head and come up with the right answer, and Mummy says not many eight year olds can do that. She always asks me to spell words and read even longer words. She helps me with the ones I can’t do, because she’s a doctor and she’s cleverer than me. When my felt tips run out I have to wait for The Man to bring more. There’s no parrots flying around to look at, and I want to sit under a tree. One day I will get outside, but I’m not sure yet how I’ll go about doing it.

Stevie is also active on the following social media sites:

WordPress: http://steviet3.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @StevieTurner6

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stevie-Turner/432183066899400?ref_type=bookmark

Stevie is working on another suspense story, which will be published at the end of the year.

Thank you Stevie for that rather disturbing excerpt. If you were aiming to intrigue and unsettle you succeeded with me anyway.

Bedlam by B.A. Morton

Bedlam is a book I had to have two goes at reading. The first time, I put it down after the first chapter. I had just finished an extremely harrowing story and couldn’t face more blood, death and spooks.

The second time, feeling stronger, I let it grip me in its nasty talons and read it through to the end. This is a strange story, a nightmare of a story where reality and illusion are blurred. Everything about it is blurred, the landscapes hidden under snow, the half-drunk perceptions of McNeill the main character, night and day, life and death. It’s how I imagine Limbo.

Bedlam gave me the horrors, made my flesh creep, invaded my dreams. The writing is tremendous, the tension is sustained, the characters are real and complex. The only (very minor) niggle I had was with McNeill’s fuzzy brain. I know he had to have only one foot in reality, but I felt on occasion that it would have been interesting to have his reactions as a fully compos mentis policeman, but circumstances always seemed to conspire to have him fuddled by alcohol, drugs, or blows to the head.

I don’t pretend to understand everything that was going on—I’m particularly useless at following the plots of thrillers—and the ending left me a little perplexed. But it didn’t matter. In this book atmosphere is all. I didn’t really care who was alive or dead, what was true, what was a lie, and what was complete make-believe. If you enjoy the paranormal, police thrillers, mysteries, or horror; if you like your reading to put up its fists and refuse to give up its meaning without a fight; if you don’t want the predictable, Bedlam is a novel made for you.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bedlam-B-A-Morton-ebook/dp/B00EPRF3VU#reader_B00EPRF3VU