Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt this week is open to many interpretations, and I’m sure not all of them are going to be nice.
He peered through the greenfly-sticky leaves of the lime tree and caught his breath—so many windows, so many turrets and balconies. How many pairs of eyes could be scanning the parkland at that very moment? They had known how to build fortified palaces in the olden days. How olden he hadn’t a clue. That was one of the things that impressed and terrified him about the place. It was old. Fucking ancient. Riddled with rooms that led into other rooms with no windows, no way back out again, and staircases leading nowhere, attics full of weird noises…And it had a mind of its own, this place. It knew things. Like it followed you about when you were inside, watched you creep down corridors, slip inside rooms you’d no business in. It saw you pick the lock on the window, saw you drop over the balcony, sniggered maybe when you landed badly. It saw you get out.
His breathing came faster. A twig snapped behind him. He let go of the branch and the leaves swished limply. A step, heavy, the panting of hot breath. He looked back one more time at the windows, the turrets and the balconies, and he ran.
This is a microfiction piece in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.
The stair went on forever, winding round and round, higher and higher, but the small window, the winking square of daylight came no closer. He stopped, to ease the fire in the muscles of his legs, and to scratch a mark on the stone with the edge of a coin. He climbed again, searching the walls, anxiety heavy and dull in the pit of his stomach. Round and round again. And the mark appeared. The bright, new scratched cross. He wanted to weep. The light laughed and he threw the coin, aiming for the window. The coin twisted and glinted once, twice, then disappeared. He couldn’t even tell if he had aimed true.
There was only one choice—up or down. He turned and peered back down the winding stairwell. Darkness rose to meet him, thick, impenetrable and suffocating. One by one, the stairs were swallowed by the rising shadows, and from the shifting depths came the sound of the pit, the moaning and the mad chuckling, following him. With a cry he turned back again, cursing the winking, laughing window and the light of a day he would never see, to climb the never-ending stair.
Sue Vincent’s photo prompt this week is this rather spectacular tree. It inspired this 100 word (approx) story. Yeah, I know I said ‘this’ three times in a line and a half.
They caught him on the edge of the forest. Tied him to an ash tree. She had begged for his life, offered her own in exchange, but love had no place in her father’s world. She looked into her lover’s eyes, full of suffering and sadness, one last time and cast the spell. Her father’s knife stopped in its cruel arc and he let out a cry of rage. Her lover, one with the ash tree, raised free branches to the sky. With a smile, she took him in her arms and turned herself into a vine, inextricably entwined forever embracing her beloved.
I threatened to write a sequel to the piece inspired by Sue’s photo prompt, so here it is.
Vixen stopped and looked back. Dog fox sat and wrapped his brush neatly over his toes. The sky beyond the stones was darkening though not with night; it was dark because the sky was empty. The pale sun had set and no moon would rise. The stars had all fallen and the universe turned its back on the earth. A flock of birds filled the gap between the stones with their swift, soft flight. An owl followed, another. They were the last. The stones leant together, fell and shattered. The doorway had gone. Fox shook himself, vixen yawned and they trotted into the starlit night.
I wasn’t aware until a few minutes ago when I read Geoff Le Pard’s contribution that Sue Vincent ran a photo prompt. It’s a magical photo and inspired this piece of microfiction.
“No one climbs those stairs,” he said. “And no one goes down except on a sled. It’s the gateway to nowhere.”
“Nowhere I’d want to be, anyway,” she agreed and took his hand. “Let’s try further along. They said this was the road.”
They walked away through the winter twilight, looking for El Dorado, Avalon, Paradise maybe. Light and laughter. Glitz and glitter.
In the dark archway, the shadows thickened and the light beyond grew brighter. A red fox sniffed the cold air. With a flourish of his magnificent brush, he trotted across the ice into the golden land beyond the arch.