What Cilla did next

A short story inspired by August’s Visual Verse photo prompt.


When Cilla saw the ad, she recognised the cottage she and Jason had invented. It was exactly what they had talked about owning one day, when his divorce came through. They would lie in bed, in her bed, and talk, dream, pretend. The asking price was far more than she thought they’d be able to afford, but on a whim, she phoned up about it. The estate agent told her it was probably sold, the couple who were interested wanted just one last look before they agreed on the price, but if she liked, he would squeeze her in that afternoon before they arrived. You never know, he’d said, hedging his bets.

It was perfect, old red brick with roses round the door, stone flagged floors, mature cottage garden. The visit was rushed; she was shuffled out of the kitchen door as the couple arrived ahead of time, striding in a proprietorial sort of way up to the front door, happy, smiling, enchanted. He picked a rose and handed it to his wife. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. They didn’t see her, but Cilla saw them, and the fabricated yarn of divorce unravelled into a shoddy tissue of lies.

That was two weeks before the holiday—he had told his wife it was a business trip—a week in the Greek islands. She kept the image of his wife in her head though it made her sob in hopeless fury. She saw his gallant gesture repeating over and over, their smiling faces. It wasn’t going to be enough to confront him with his lies. She wanted to make him feel as much pain as she did.


Jason took her hand and showed her the island, as if he owned it. Praised the scenery, the locals, the wine. There was magic in the islands, he said. He said a lot of other things too. She talked about the house they would buy after the divorce, described the brick cottage in detail, the roses round the door, the stone flags in the kitchen and smiled to herself as he shuffled and his gaze drifted uneasily. He had wanted to eat out that first evening. She insisted on cooking at the rented apartment. Just a simple meal, she’d said, stuff from the market and a bottle of wine.

He didn’t guess, she was sure of that. He lacked the imagination, but he was worried. She smiled a lot, more than usual. She was aware of it, the euphoria going to her head more than the wine. She wanted to laugh. Afterwards, she insisted they go down to the sea. It was evening, almost dark. He probably thought it was the uneven path making him stumble, low branches making him bend almost to the ground. By the time he was running on all fours, he had no idea who he was anymore. She picked up a stick and whopped him on the back end, laughing as he squealed and trotted off in terror into the wine dark sea.


It’s Saint Patrick’s Day…


Today, I shall be celebrating my country’s national holiday, but not Saint  Patrick. Just for the record, Saint Patrick was not some gentle, avuncular Saint Nicholas type figure. He was a colonialist, Christian supremacist, who wasn’t even Irish.

He wasn’t sent by Rome to convert the Irish since the job had already  been done by Palladius. Most of them were quite happy with their old beliefs, thank you very much, and Rome was happy to leave it like that. Patrick though, went on a one man crusade to forcibly convert the non-Christian Irish, and was probably responsible for the mysterious mass ‘deaths’ of unarmed worshipers of Crom Cruagh.

It is quite possible the yarn he spun about being captured by Irish raiders and held captive as a slave for six years (before his extremely improbable escape) was complete fiction. He had a shady criminal past which possibly explained the need to disappear for six years.

He was accused by the Irish of extorting the inheritance of noblewomen who he then herded into convents (best place for women), and ‘converting’ noblemen with the inevitable kickback for the church of a portion of their wealth. In fact, we don’t know much about what Patrick really got up to, where he came from and what his agenda was. He made up all the stuff he’s famous for, like converting the chiefs with his shamrock and the holy trinity analogy. It never happened.

And don’t get me onto Leprechauns! With the dispossession of the Irish aristocracy by the seventeenth century, the suppression of the Irish language and the corruption of the mythology by the priests, the old heroes and historical figures were debased to mini figures of fun and ridicule. That Christian and English colonial heritage again.

At the end of a week in which the British government after a mere 47 years of cover-up (or investigation, depending on your view point), has announced that one (yes, just one) soldier is to be tried for his part in the Bloody Sunday massacre, that his name is to be kept secret, the British taxpayers are going to be paying all his legal costs and aid to himself and his family, I don’t feel much inclined to celebrate any more re-writes of history.

I shall be eating a festive meal, draining the local supermarket of its very meagre stock of Guinness and thinking about family and ancestors. Not leprechauns, and not Saint Patrick.



#writephoto: Omphalos

This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.


The omphalos of the world slowly fills with water. Rainwater collects in the sacred stone, and though animals and birds drink from it, the sun evaporates it, green growing things siphon it, the level rises inexorably.

If the omphalos overflows, the stories say, it will be as if an ocean of tears pours over the world. We will all drown in a welter of sadness. But who remembers the stories these days? Who, beneath the rainbow-coloured sky knows how to stop the rising of the waters of oblivion? Who recalls the lighting of the fires to celebrate the return of the sun, the leaping flames that dry the sadness of the waters and fill their smooth, unruffled surface with the dance of life and the song of firebirds?

Perhaps, somewhere, the memory lives on. Perhaps it will awake and we will remember.

Meanwhile, the waters rise, the omphalos fills with tears, and the earth sleeps.

#writephoto: Snow giants

This short piece is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. It’s a really beautiful photo, but somehow it didn’t inspire a specific story, just this rather general disaster scenario.


Once it was a land of rich meadows, but the mountains are cruel. Each winter the snow giants hurl tempests of ice and snow into the valleys and the meltwater floods the plain in spring. The meadows are full of water now. The cattle’s hooves rot in the damp mud and the wind sings, unbroken across the plain where nothing grows except marsh grass.

Every winter, the mountains stride closer, and in the spring their heads are wreathed in freezing mist that the sun never warms. The lands of men shrink inexorably and their children die of damp fever. Soon, perhaps, the winter will come that will never end, spring will never thaw the ice that covers the plain, and the snow giants will inherit the earth.

Flash fiction: Parting

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt #writephoto


Her sons were waiting. Their chariots were harnessed, and the lios was a sea of men, horses and hounds.

“Don’t go,” she whispered to Diarmuid. “There’s no need. Let the old man rant. He can do us no harm.”

Diarmuid took her in his arms. “I must. If Conor brings his men across the river I shall have no choice but to fight him.”

Her fingers clutched the rough wool of his cloak, wishing she had the strength to hook her fingers into his flesh and hold him there.

“He promised,” she said.

“And he broke his word.”

Diarmuid held her away from him and smiled. She looked into his face and counted the wrinkles round his eyes, the silver hairs in the black. She would like to kiss every one before he left, but there was no time. Too many years they had been together for there to be any farewell that would ease the pain. She turned away so he would not see her sorrow. The sorrow of an old woman who could not bear that he might not come back.

The noise of the parting warriors masked the sound of beating wings. Her tears blurred the sight of the raven that settled on the ridgepole of the house. When Diarmuid returned it was upon his shield.

Once there was a castle

A cascade poem for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. I know it isn’t flash fiction, but this is the way the story came out.


Once there was a castle by the sea,

With steps where lapped the glassy ocean waves,

Now only ghosts walk these forgotten stones.


When forests covered hills and rivers ran,

Lush grew the pasture in the meadowlands,

Once there was a castle by the sea.


The ringfort stood upon a grassy hill,

Carved gables, marble pavement graced the hall,

With steps where lapped the glassy ocean waves.


We chased the heroes from their marble halls,

With cross and fear of everlasting death,

Now only ghosts walk these forgotten stones.

Microfiction #Three Line Tales: Méduse

A bit of fantasy for Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Pan Da Chuan via Unsplash


The Sea King was angry, very angry, and he had already chased the mortal fisherman from his undersea realm, leaving him to drown in the unforgiving ocean.

She would have joined her lover had her father not kept her in his house and placed guards before the door.

The mortal would not drown—she had given him her protection after all—and veiling herself in an illusion for the benefit of the guards, she slid into the current, a magnificent Méduse, and let the tide carry her to the strand where her lover waited.