#writephoto: Wandering

For Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. Moving onto another WIP.

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The cold hit him as soon as he broke through the saplings at the edge of the copse. If he hadn’t been running so hard, he would have noticed it earlier. If he hadn’t been so afraid of being caught, he’d have noticed the change in the light too. He hurtled into the open; what should have been a field on an autumn afternoon, now seemed full of shadows. He stopped, his breath heaving, the only sound the blood pounding in his ears and the crackle of frozen grass beneath his feet.

He listened, despite the strangeness, the fear of his pursuers stronger than the evidence of his senses. Nothing. Not even a dog barking. Not even the faint rumble of traffic on the main road that passed through the small town as the bottom of the valley. He flung himself around, wild-eyed now, his feet cracking the ice that had formed along a sinuous path that led…he had no idea. He stumbled forward, aimlessly, teeth chattering with the cold, heading for the shadows he imagined to be the hedge at the field’s edge.

His breath made clouds in front of his face, misting his vision, his feet slipped over the same misty hoarfrost, until the shadowy line at the edge of sight towered over his head. By the faint light of the stars he saw he was standing beneath the eaves of a forest. It was cold as feck, and he had no idea where he was.

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#writephoto: Last journey

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

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They said just follow the road, it goes straight there. Take no notice of the mist, don’t follow the shadows, don’t listen to the voices. They didn’t say how long it would take, nor what would happen if I left the path, but I had little choice. I walked.

How long I have been walking, I can’t say, the trees all look the same, their shadows never move, as if the unseen sun is fixed in the sky. Time never changes there, they said. The light is always twilight between dark and dawn, between dusk and dark.

I keep walking. Perhaps this is all there is, an eternity of walking, following the road bordered by trees into the misty distance. I should be tired, but my feet keep up a steady rhythm, one two one two one two and the mist still obscures the end of the road.

I walk and pay no heed to the voices that drift through the leaves. There is no anger in the voices, no aggression, just curiosity. I imagine they are the voices of birds, and once that would have been a fancy. Now, it is a possibility.

Just keep walking, they said. Who were they? I try to look back, but my feet won’t slow, my head turn. I forget a little more with each step. Keep walking.

Where? Who? The voices ask, but I cannot answer. Can I not? The mist is thinning. I see blue ahead. The sea perhaps or the sky, and the sun shines gold. Who? Wings brush my face. I hear their fluttering.

I am a woman who has left her name behind, on her way to the other side of life, or is it death?

The bird laughs. The mist has cleared. Between the trees deer flit and jays rattle.

You can speak, the bird voice says. That means you have arrived.

Above my head green boughs bend, and beyond, white clouds drift. From the blue ahead springs a cool breeze and I hear the sound of water. The voices mingle with song, fluting and whistling, and among the bird voices, I hear others. I run, and my feet have wings.

Welcome home.

 

 

 

Flash fiction: Duality

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. A scene inspired by my WIP.

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He can’t remember why he has come down to the shore. There was fighting up in the town. Surely he should be there, fighting…who? He wades into the shallows, forgetful of his new boots. For a moment he even forgets his name. He should be fighting the grey foreigners. Has he come to look to see if there are more of them on the sea? Waves lap his calves. He ignores the cold, realises he doesn’t even feel it. He gazes into the distance, but the sea is empty. No sails ripple on the horizon. Then he hears it again, the call that drew him to the water.

He remembers now why he is here, and his name fades along with the fighting on the hill, the who and the why. Eyes narrow and he sees the world through amber light. His tongue tastes the salt wind and he feels an irresistible urge to join it.

The voice murmurs, Fly. Soar. Embrace who you are.

His arms jerk away from his body, his feet…he looks down and finds only the green coils of a serpent.

Fly!

The amber light of his eyes turns inwards and his man-thoughts cower and hide. With a scream, his spread arms, a mass of taut, translucent skin and the webbing of bone, beat, thrust…The man struggles; a crucifix dances behind his eyes and becomes his own spread arms, wings. The scream echoes in his ears, his own voice, and the amber eyes turn back upon the crucifix that folds its arms and whimpers, comforted by his other self.

Fly!

The wyvern-worm-péist thrusts the translucent webbing of limbs into the air. Green coils thresh the water and stream behind, a green banner, and Art Ó Conor reaches out to the guivre across the water, his tongue tasting her salt name on his tongue—Muirgheal.

Remember, you have your honour to avenge. Remember who stole your wife.

The thing that shares Art’s body twists and rises into the clouds. He shrieks the response with forked tongue—I have not forgotten.

#writephoto: Vibes

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

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Usually, when you visit an old house with the prospect of buying it, you like to know its history. Betty stood on the landing beneath a grimy fanlight that transformed sunlight into thundercloud, looked at the doors grinning on either side of the long, dusty corridor, with their promise of secrets to be uncovered, and she shivered.

Usually, she would have been poking about in the empty rooms, throwing open windows and imagining, planning, projecting. She knew, without even looking, that these windows were not meant to open, the hush in these rooms was the silence of locked drawers.

Usually, she would have been full of questions about who, how long, and why. The silence dared her to stir the dust. She backed away. This time, she decided, she didn’t want to know.

Three Line Tales: Shark

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales prompt.

photo by Kong Jun via Unsplash

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In the café the local radio talked about nothing else, the tiger shark, possibly, and the preparations to ‘deal with it’.

“No going in the sea for you two today,” they said, the parents, settling down under the beach umbrella where mother took out her book and father promptly went to sleep.

None of which stopped the twins going down to the water, just to look, and paddling into the shallows where nothing big could possibly be lurking.

#writephoto: Judgement

Sue’s #writephoto prompt fits exactly what I’m writing at the moment. It might not make perfect sense, but it’s uncanny how well the image fits the story.

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The garth is quiet even though the walls are crumbling and cannot keep the normal hubbub of the city out. The old church will never receive the repairs it needs; Riseárd has decided to pull it down and placate Archbishop Ó Tuathail by building a new one. The noises of the city are attenuated here because the mood is sombre. Samhain is close and although the Archbishop will have the cathedral glittering with candles, everyone knows what the candles signify, and it has nothing to do with commemorating dead saints. This year there will be three souls wandering the streets either seeking their way home, or seeking revenge.

She treads the old stones slowly, pensively. What she did, she believes was the right thing. Executions were rare. What was the point of killing a man when you could use his life to make amends for what he had done? Was it not better to give a woman a bond slave to do her husband’s work in his place, rather than the ephemeral satisfaction of seeing his head separated from his body?

She kicks a stone moodily. All of this, she knows. And also that she has ordered the execution of three countrymen because they attempted to reverse a defeat. Was that not what happened in wars? Was it reasonable to treat it as treachery? She kicks the same stone again into a pile of leaves. The faces of the men pass behind her eyes. Dónal’s men. She has to remind herself into whose hands they would have handed the city. Her brother’s. She knows her brother and his black heart better than any of them.

A slight noise from the open doorway makes her turn. A boy, slender and dark is standing there. He almost turns and runs away but she calls to him.

“Is is me you are looking for, Muiris? I promised you some entertainment and I grew distracted. Forgive me.”

The boy’s eyes widen. “Forgive you? Are you not going to have me killed like…”

“Did I not tell you no harm would be done you?” She hardens her voice. “You are a hostage, not a criminal?”

“And I am Muiris Mac Domhnall Cavanagh.”

“You are his son and I am his sister. Neither of us can help the blood we are born with. You are a child and no one will harm you while I am mistress here.”

He steps out into the autumn light. His fingers twist around his belt, nervously. He looks about as if expecting a trap. “You killed your countrymen and you married a gall. You have taken the part of the grey foreigners against your own people.”

Her patience snaps. Muiris might be only a lad of twelve, but his education in manners and in his family history is long overdue. “Your grandfather gave me to the gall. It was none of my choice, just as it was not of your choice to follow your father into a stupid skirmish that left too many men dead. Our countrymen, little nephew, wanted neither your father nor your grandfather as king. They have not stopped fighting over it these twenty years. Your kin, Muiris Mac Domhnall, killed his own father and blinded his brother. He tried to give his sister in exchange for the kingship and he killed his uncle when the clan chose him instead. Did he never tell you about how he betrayed his High King and his uncle Murchad to the galls? Did he never tell you his part in ending the siege of Dublin?”

The boy shakes his head miserably. “I didn’t believe that part when you told the judges, and I still don’t believe you,” he says, but his eyes say otherwise. She says no more and he lowers the eyes, dark as his father’s and brimming with tears. She puts a hand on his shoulder. He flinches and she feels him tremble.

“Come back with me and I will find you a book or two. You have the look of a scholar.”

He raises his head in surprise and she smiles. “I doubt your father ever indulged that quality, but you are not in your father’s house any more. And I will give you a master to teach you how to fight. A man must be able to defend himself, to defeat his enemies and show clemency when it is the better part. Will that please you?”

He nods, unsure. Looking around for the trap again.

“I will do something for you, nephew, that your father never will. I will teach you to be a man.”