I haven’t done one of these in an age. For the dverse prosery night.
The general finally wound up his speech. ‘So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.” His horse shook its head and the general raised his, to stare into the middle distance, a heroic poise. He pulled on the reins, and to whoops and cheers, turned his horse around to ride off majestically to the rear. “They need not fear the firing squad for insurrection, he means.” Alfred spat on the ground and nudged Bill in the ribs. “He wasn’t talking about that lot out there.” The two men stared over the sandbags at the line of men, advancing through the dust raised by armoured cars and tanks. Bill wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Because they’re going to do more’n harm us. They’re going to fuckin’ wipe us off the face of the fuckin’ earth.”
The waiting room is empty, she picks up a magazine opens it anywhere, as you do, just to give her hands something to do, to focus her eyes on something because there’s nothing else, nothing on the walls except a poster with line drawings of toddlers with blue faces, their heads inside plastic bags, or toddlers with red faces being held down in baths full of water hot enough to boil eggs. She wonders what kind of parent sits in a doctor’s waiting room staring at this kind of poster and thinks, hmm, maybe I should stop giving Jayden/Emma/Butternut/Jigsaw plastic bags to play with. She picks up the only magazine and opens it in the middle. It might be a story, she doesn’t know, she just lets the colours run. Her own pastel colours drift across the ceiling making a dream landscape you might find over the bed of a luckier toddler than the red and blue ones in the poster. Drifts of clouds, moons and stars, all sunlit and rippling with tame water fill the pale room. The colours gather in banks and billows so thick the doctor can barely open the door. “Amy Narwhal?” The girl uncrosses her legs and closes the magazine, blows a kiss to the rocking moon, and follows the doctor into the surgery.
Another girl enters the now full waiting room, pushing her way past a bouncing lilac cloud and sits down. She glances at the poster and wonders, are there really parents who don’t know that babies are like lobsters, that if you boil them they change colour and die? She picks up the magazine, opens it in the middle and the colours shrink and change like jumpers or lobsters, and the room darkens. The girl flicks on the light and begins to read. Once upon a time, in the deep dark ocean depths there lived a lobster. As everyone knows, the universe is peppered with constellations of lobsters, each bigger and more brilliant than the next, and this was the biggest, brightest of them all. One night, the biggest, brightest lobster climbed out of his pot— The door opens. The girl looks up. “Is this Dr Beluga’s surgery?” “It is. Sit down and I’ll read you a story.” The lobster clicks his way across the waiting room and takes the seat next to her. He peers at the magazine and taps the page with a blue pincer. “I know this one. Great writer.” The girl smiles and begins again. Her voice mingles with the dark green clouds, and soon the water has risen over her ankles. Somewhere, a toddler gurgles with laughter.
I am thrilled to announce, not another baby, but a story. I am so proud to have a short story published in Prairie Fire magazine. It’s a magazine that deals with the big issues, those that really count. The story is one I care about a lot, and Prairie Fire is the ideal home for it.
They have been lovely people to work with and it’s an additional thrill to find that something I have written resonates with people so far away!
For the dverse prompt, including the lines from The Song of Wandering Aengus by WB Yeats:
‘I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head.‘
I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head, but the fire, I took with me, and the rushing stream couldn’t quench the flames. I listened to the blackbird, but his song was out of kilter, and the sun streamed slantwise through the pale green leaves.
They say the world is spinning to its end, the heaving oceans empty of their fish are filling with our discarded plastic. I listen to the blackbird but his song is not for me.
They’re shooting in the chase, I can hear the horns and the coarse voices shouting, coarser than any dog giving tongue. As if we needed more blood. The world is drowning in it.
Listen, blackbird, to the pale-winged moths, their song is more in keeping with these end times. Hush. I hear the ocean rushing over the world’s edge.
A short story for Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. You’ll have to go to Sue’s blog to see the prompt as WP refuses to upload it here.
The river flows as it always did, in turbulent pools where the bank is broken by the deep stone walls. Impregnable, they always said, with the cliff behind and the river before, and my father laughed at the notion of siege. “We have stores enough for two years within and the wells never run dry.” When he said I was to marry the neighbouring seigneur to make our joint lands the wealthiest in the county, the fort became a prison. You vowed you would come for me, as I vowed I would be here when you did. No walls would keep me in if your arms waited on the other side. So I was here where the river rolls, with its whirlpool of autumn leaves carried round and round in the current, trapped between buttress and bank, when you guided your boat with muffled oars silently beneath walls. I was here when you raised your sweet face and opened your arms. You were there, below, when I climbed the parapet, a cord about my waist and tested the strength of the knot about the merlon. And I saw your face, smiling, one last brief moment before my father’s archers leapt from the tower and your smile turned to a grimace of pain and despair. Only I am here now, watching the river. My father believes women have no courage and doesn’t even think to put a watch on me. The FitzHugh is coming tomorrow to finger the goods, the prelude to my sentence, but by then, I will be where you fell, among the autumn leaves carried round and round in the cold, clear river water beneath this wall.
The turbulence gathered, the spiralling winds whipping forests to a blaze, oceans to rolling mountain chains of water, and the earth opened to receive it.
All the dark matter of pain and suffering concentrated in one huge desert sucked dry of concrete and living things, drawing all roads towards it inexorably.
When all our works had hurtled to their meeting place, with wild laughter or howls of despair, and the sky poured all of its anger into the last great electric storm, the vengeful mouth yawned, drank deep and snapped shut.
There’s a lonely hill above a lonely valley, and no one treads the high paths anymore. Once there were forests they say, latterly herds of brown cattle and flocks of sheep, but the soil thinned until the grass grew brown as the cattle. No one treads the high paths anymore, and in the valley the sheep have gone, the cattle long since bones beneath the bracken. Only I go there at times, when the air is not too sharp and the glare in the sky not too fierce. I stand on the hill and try to remember what green looked like, the smell of gorse flowers, and the song of the skylark above the heath. I strain through my mask to hear that music of a dead time, but the only sound is the rattle of the wind in the heather’s dry bells.