Untimely Death

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We had been gathered around the new grave in silence for sometime when granny spoke out, ‘well it was a stupid thing to do.’

We all looked over at her, a few of us even gasping.

‘Granny!’ Isabella scolded and squeezed the old woman’s hand.

Great grandmother and great granddaughter looked at it each other then joined us in silence once more.

Slowly, people began to drift away as they do when a funeral is over. Their whispering voices commenting on the flowers and service drifting across the cemetery.

I looked down at my older sister’s grave. It was but a hole in the ground with the edges of a pink coffin peeking through the dirt and no headstone to name her yet.

Granny had been right though. My sister should never have trusted that flashy magician or his Amazing Invisible Sword trick.

Spring’s Arrival

Long Wing Butterfly on Frog Head Soak on Water

I woke up this morning and looked out of my window.

The flowers were starting to bloom in between the wet grey stones

And there were frogs croaking in my pond.

Bridge

beneath-the-bridge

The troll had lived under the bridge for a long time, however he had finally decided it was time to move. The river was too polluted and the smell was making him sick. Every morning, the troll would sit at the edge of the river and watch rubbish floating by. Sometimes he would pull things out; a bent bike, a rusting shopping trolley, a dead dog. He would add all these things to his collections and in the afternoon he would make art.

The troll enjoyed bending metal, snapping wood and breaking other things up to constructed his sculptures. Then he would leave his art in random places so that passersby would see them. His favorite pieces were; the owl made out of wire netting and car parts. The horse made out of shopping trolleys, bikes and wood. The armless mannequin who’s dress was made out of plastic bags and coat hangers.

That morning, instead of sitting by the river and collecting things, the troll began packing. He dug out two huge suitcases he had dragged from the water and ponder what he would take with him. He emptied the broken wardrobe of his clothes, – he enjoyed being fashionable- the cupboards of his kitchen equipment, – he liked cooking tasty meals- his shelves of books, – the troll was a great reader- his chest of drawers full of trinkets, – he liked shinny things- and finally he took his paintings from the wall, – the troll enjoyed experimenting with different mediums.

Putting on his huge coat and large hat, the troll picked up the suitcases and left home. Waves of sadness washed over him as he left the bridge and sculptures behind. Of course, he hadn’t been able to take any of them with him for they were all far too big. Trying not to think any more about it, the troll walked and walked.

Hours later, he arrived at the seaside. He took in deep lungfuls of fresh salty air and decided he liked it here.

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/23/thursday-photo-prompt-bridge-writephoto with thanks)

Sky Down

Body of Water in Middle of Mountain Under Cloudy Sky during Daytime

A few days after my twelfth birthday, the first clouds fell from the sky. At first everyone just thought it was snow. The stuff coming down was white and fluffy, so how could it be anything else? Plus, it was late in the night and it was too dark to see the truth.

By later afternoon though, people were beginning to wonder. This morning everyone had just got on, ‘the great British weather,’ ‘chins up everyone!’ ‘It’s only a little snow!’ but it wasn’t and it kept on falling.

I don’t know how the realisation that the clouds were actually falling was reached. I was at in school, trying hard to do maths – a subject I totally disliked- and the teacher had closed the blinds to stop everyone from being distracted. There was a knock on the door and Mr Monty shouted for them to come in.

It was a girl from the class year below us who had been picked to be the office messenger. Everybody got the chances to be messenger once and the day out of class. Though that sounds exciting it totally isn’t and most of the time you are just sat outside the teachers’ lounge room and the receptionist’s office staring at the pale peach walls. Today though, the girl looked out of breath and eager to spill her message.

‘School is being closed! Clouds are falling from the sky!’ she gushed.

Mr Monty looked from the blackboard to her, chalk covering his fingers and a large frown on his face.

‘What?’ he cried over the sudden din of children’s voices.

‘The headmistress said it. Everyone’s parents are coming to get them and we all have to go into the hall!’ she added then walked off in an important hurry.

Mr Monty sighed and left a maths’ question abandoned on the board. Everyone grabbed their things and legged it to the hall. Voices were everywhere, shouting and calling out demanding to know what was going on for real as how could clouds be falling?

Going into the hall, I went to the windows and joined lots of children there. The playground was covered in white fluffy stuff that looked like snow but really wasn’t. Above in the pale blue sky a handful of clouds did hang but as we stood there, one of the clouds began to fall.

It came straight out of the sky and landed silently on top of the other clouds. The jagged shape of it stuck out for a few moments then settled down with the others.

‘It’s not possible!’ a teacher was muttering, ‘how can this even happen?’

‘Children! Attention!’ the headmistress called.

Unhappily, we turned away from the windows to look at her.

‘The school is closing. Your parents are on their ways to collect you and until then we will all stay here. I’m sure this is nothing to worry about but for safety reasons we have to send you all home.’

Some of the kids broke into cheers and others looked upset. I just turned back to the window and looked outside, wondering if my birthday wish had actually come true.

 

(Inspired by a writing prompt at; https://thewriteedgewritingworkshop.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/writing-prompts-for-monday-february-20-2017/ with thanks.)

Bus Jam

Aerial Photography of Cars on Road Intersection

I slide the sleeve of my black jacket up and checked my watch for the countless time then looked down the road. The huddle of people who were at the bus stop with me turned to look too. I caught a glimmer of exception on some faces but that quickly faded when they saw that there was still no bus.

Trying not to grind my teeth, I stepped back into the crowd which was a mixture of school children, parents, older adults and workers but I was the only man dressed in a business suit.

‘There should have been two buses by now!’ an angry tubby woman shouted.

‘Three,’ an older man corrected, ‘the eighty-five hasn’t turned up yet.’

‘Mummy, I’m going to be late for school!’ a small girl in a grey skirt and blue uniform jumper cried out.

I looked over. The mother, an African woman with a towering head scarf on, lengthy brown coat and a long, very brightly coloured pattern skirt looked tried. She was half leaning on the double buggy which had months old twin boys almost stacked on top of each other. Behind her, six more children-four girls and two boys, wearing the same school uniform, played on the grass.

The little girl tugged her mother’s coat. The woman muttered and sent her to play with the other children.

Someone tutted at my elbow and I turned back to see a supermarket worker scrolling through his phone.

I checked my watch again. Time hadn’t moved. I grounded my teeth together, caught myself and stopped.

Looking up I saw cars lining the road. Their drivers tapping the wheel or dropping their hands out of sight. One woman was even putting on lipstick. Then the traffic began moving again, the lights further ahead had changed colour.

‘Look a bus!’ a high school girl cried.

Everyone twisted their heads to look and there just peeking around the corner was the front of the bus.

People flew into a flurry. Pushing each other, getting out their purses, money, bus passes. The children raced back from the grass, pressing against their mother and the pram. Someone dropped their phone, but the sound of it hitting the pavement was lost in the babble of voices and mixture of movement.

The traffic crawled to a stop. The crowd sighed like a deflating balloon and became still again.

‘Which one is it?’ the old man asked.

‘I think it’s a seventeen,’ the same girl answered.

‘Pah! Not the one I want!’ he grumbled.

It wasn’t the one I wanted either but it would get me into the city centre of Manchester. I checked my watch again and the hands had crept around. With a sinking feeling, I realised no matter what I was going to be late to my new job again. I needed a car! Or maybe a motorbike? Perhaps, a bicycle would be better? At least my mother wouldn’t have to worry about me as much with one of those.

The traffic moved on and finally the bus pulled up. Everyone charged up as the doors opened. People getting off and on mixed together then broke free of each other. I squeezed on, waving my pass then I saw the bus was totally full.

There was nowhere for me to go as there was a blockade of people before me. I tried to look over them to see if there was any seats, but there appeared not to be. The way to the stairs was also blocked, a mother had her three children pressed into the stairwell.

‘I’m sorry but you won’t get that pram on here,’ the bus driver shouted.

I turned, my hands slipping over the cold blue metal handrail. The African family were trying to get on. The mother was rocking the buggy back, causing the front wheels to lift and her sea of children were all ready on and huddling against the other passengers.

‘Hey, excuse me! No room! Stop!’ the bus driver shouted loudly.

The woman looked up, balancing the front wheels of the pram on the floor of the bus.

‘You’ll have to get the next bus. I’m sorry.’

The woman said something under her breath that sounded like it was in a different language. She slowly reversed the pram and yelled at her children in English, ‘get off! Come over here! Tilly, come!’

The children, like tumbling puppies got off the bus and clustered around her. The little girl who really wanted to go to school burst into tears. Two of the boys started fighting and the other girls walked back to the grass again.

The doors of the bus closed and we left the family and a few other people behind us.

I clung to the handrail, though there was no need really, the press of bodies against mine was enough to keep me stable. I shut my eyes tried hard not to think about who’s fingers had just brushed my hip and who’s elbow had bumped into my bag.

Taking deep breaths, I thought about over things, like what I was going to say to my supervisor, what I might grab for lunch today, if I’d get the guts to talk to that pretty blonde a few desks away from me.

First though, I had to get through this.

Street Ducks

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The streets were cold and wet. Not a place anybody would want to spend the night on. The homeless though had no other place to go.

T settled down in the doorway of what once had been a large Woolworths shop. Somehow, he had remembered that, despite the place being closed and boarded up years ago. Making sure to tuck his sleeping bag in to try and slow the cold from sipping underneath him, T lent back.

The pattering of the rain started to lull him to sleep, but a soft quacking awoke him. T opened his eyes and looked down at the large cardboard box by his feet. One of the two pet ducks inside the box was staring over the top at him with black beedy eyes.

‘There’s no more bread, Petal,’ T said gently.

The duck quacked and retreated back into the box.

T settled down again. He was just falling asleep when the sounds of police sirens cut through the quiet night. T awoke with a start. He looked around and saw a police car and van pulling up on the edge of the street. Uniform officers were getting out and coming towards him.

Sighing, T slowly began gathering his stuff.

‘Just give me a few minutes and I’ll be gone,’ T said as the first police person reached him.

‘It’s not about that,’ the man answered.

T paused and looked up. Rain was dripping off the policeman’s hat and shoulders of his jacket.

‘Do you have any ducks in there?’ the officer asked nodding to the box.

‘Yeah…’ T trailed as five more police people joined the first one.

‘I’m sorry, but we are going to have to remove them from you,’ the policeman said.

‘But why? I’ve done nothing wrong!’ T cried, ‘they were dumped and I’ve been looking after ’em. They is fancy birds, not wild ones. They’re my pets now.’

T reached defensively for the box and placed his head inside. He began stroking the ducks, who eagerly pushed against his hand.

‘There’s be concerns about their health. We have to take them,’ a female officer said.

‘I can look after ’em! I’ve been doing so for the last month,’ T declared, ‘you can’t take ’em there’re my friends.’

‘We have to. They don’t belong to you,’ a second policeman cut in, ‘just hand them over and won’t move you tonight.’

T shook his head, words failing him.

The female officer reached over and patted his arm. She guided T’s hand away from the ducks and before he could reach out again the first policeman had swooped in and picked up the box.

‘What will ya do with ’em?’ T shouted.

‘They will be fine. The RSPCA will look after them. Don’t worry. Why don’t I get you a cup of tea?’

‘Alright,’ T huffed as he watched the policeman hurrying away with his ducks.

The other officers began to disperses.

A sad hole sank into T’s chest that even the warmth of the tea couldn’t fix.

Flower Baskets

White Step Through Bicycle Leaning Beside Tree Plant

The hanging flower baskets had appeared all over the town. No one knew who was responsible or why, but the towns people were all in agreement that the flowers brightened up everyone’s day.

The Repeating Dark

Man's Hand in Shallow Focus and Grayscale Photography

Most people don’t really know they are dreaming. They just wake up realise they’ve had a dream and then get on with their day. Me though, I always know when I’m dreaming. I guess it’s because for years I’ve had the same dream. I’ve never really told anyone about it fully. When I was younger, I told my parents a few times about it but they just said it was a nightmare and it would go away.

The dream never has though.

So why now do I want to share it with you? I guess it’s because we know that by the time you read this I’ll be dead. So, it really won’t matter anymore. I’m worried though that this dream won’t die with me and it might get passed on to you. So, I thought I better write everything down and if the dream ever does come for you then you’d be more prepared and maybe do what I could never figure out; break the cycle.

The dream is the same all the time. Nothing, not even the tiniest detail changes nor does the events. I’ve tried many times to change something, but it has never worked. Also, I’ve never found a pattern for the occurrences. Nothing seems to bring them on or makes them stay away for long. The dream seems like a ghost; appearing and disappearing when it wants to.

The dream begins when you wake up in a dark room. For a few moments, you think you really have awoken and it’s the middle of the night. Then though you began to see things and the realisation that this is not your room dawns. You see a table, an empty bookcase, a tall leather armchair and a window.

As you began moving around, you’ll notice other things; the smell of flowers even though there’s none in the room, the breeze of fresh air though the window isn’t open and there seems to be no door. Soft sounds that you are not sure what they are; voices whispering maybe? Faint footsteps, the patter of animal paws. You feel the furniture, it’s solid and cold.

You study the bookcase and see that it’s not actually empty. There is a book in the bottom corner. Pulling it out, the book is thin and black, you open the pages and see a language that is beyond you. The letters seem to move across the page, twisting and transforming, but still you can’t read them. You put the book back.

Unsure what to do, you go to the window and look out. There is no curtain or netting and the window is sealed. No matter what angle and how far you look, you can never see out of the window. A blackness masks the glass, leaving you no hint of where you are.

You can continue to inspect the room, but you’ll find nothing else. Time might then began to pass but sometimes he appears quickly. Once again, I have found no pattern to his appearance. Sometimes you feel you’ve been waiting mere moments, other times it’s hours or days trapped within that room.

The man always appears though. He seems to come from the window, shifting out of the darkness. Taking the form of a shadow at first, but then becoming more solid. He is a dark man; black from toe tips to the fine strands of hair. Backed by the window as he always is, you can never make out any of his features and often he seems to be one with the darkness.

You can try talking to him, but he’ll never answer back. For years, I have questioned him, but not once has he uttered a word. Perhaps, things might be different for you and maybe he will break his vow of silence. I have also tried different things; standing or hiding in different places, giving him the book etc. But nothing works.

Then he holds his hand out and waits for you to take it. I’ve tried not to. I have fought hard to ignore him and often I have stood facing a corner with my back to him. No matter what, somehow my hand always ends up in his! Then his hand closes on mine, holding it tightly and I feel a strange coolness.

He begins to fade back through the glass slowly. You can’t take your hand out of his. I’ve tried but found no solution. He vanishes totally and you see your hand has gone to and the darkness is creeping up your arm. Even if you panic and scream, nothing can be done. The fear is so over-welling that you get dragged down with it.

Then you are surrounded by total blackness and nothing else can be done.

When you awake because despite everything you always do, the dream will seem gone but it never really does. It lingers at the back of your mind and you’ll catch yourself questioning the dream though you might have been thinking of something else. Nothing will resolve though and the memory of the dream will stay with you like a scar.

I really hope that you don’t have it. I hope it dies with me. But since I can’t be sure, I hope you can find some comfort in this letter and know that you weren’t alone.

The Wizard’s House

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I rang the door bell of the mansion and stood on the step waiting. Struggling to control my excitement, I looked at the letter in my hand. The script was large and loopy, almost rushed so that the words blurred together, but I could still make out what it said; the world’s most powerful wizard had hired me to be his cleaner!

My mind rolled with all the things I might see in his house. There’d be a library for sure! Books and books lining the walls. There’d be a lab for making potions, comfy rooms to rest in, kitchens to feast in and spaces to amaze guests in. Oh, it’s going to be so wonderful!

Slowly the door creaked open, light and darkness met in the middle.

‘Hello? I’m Henrietta. The wizard’s new cleaner,’ I declared.

The door got thrown backwards, banging against the side and a loud, booming voice said, ‘Of course you are!’

I felt my heart and stomach jump. The wizard was standing before me! He was very tall and dressed in a bright blue robe with a large pointy hat on his head. There were yellow crest moons and stars on the hat, as was tradition for someone as high up as the wizard. Most of his face was covered in a white curly beard, which was actually shorted then I’d thought it be. Nice blue eyes stared back and the face look youthful.

Suddenly there was a flapping of wings and a large brown bird that had been siting on his shoulder took off and flew past me. I gasped as feather brushed my cheek.

‘Blast! Adrastos! Come back!’ the wizard shouted.

I glanced over my shoulder but the bird was gone into the early afternoon.

‘Was that an owl?’ I asked politely.

‘Damn right it was! And the last I’ll see of him! Took me years to capture and train him! I knew giving him that name was a jinx!’ the wizard yelled.

‘Oh….I’m sorry….’

‘Do you know what Adrastos means?’

I shook my head.

‘Not inclined to run away,’ the wizard answered, ‘and look what’s happened!’

‘Maybe you could tempt him back?’ I asked gently.

The wizard fell to muttering and ignoring me. Peering about and around him, I saw there was a large toad at the wizard’s feet. The toad was croaking but didn’t seem interested in escaping.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘at least your toad stays. Does he have a name?’

The wizard snapped back and looked down to where I was pointing. He scooped the toad up and held it close to his chest.

‘Don’t be silly! Toads are not worthy of names. Now, come in before anything else gets out!’ the wizard snipped.

Nodding, I followed him inside. The hallway was cluttered with coats, shoes, umbrellas and contraptions. A number of kites were on the floor tangled together as if they had just fallen from the sky. Wires dangled down with things attached to them and there was a whole stack of cardboard boxes to my left before the towering staircase.

We went into through a door to the right and I had to stop as the room was jam packed. There were so many things, it was hard to describe them all. Furniture poked out from piles of books, papers, paintings, shinny objects and bric-a-bric. I saw the wizard placing the toad in a cloudy bowl of water then shuffling through a mountain of paper on his desk.

‘Oh my,’ I uttered.

‘I don’t have time to show you around the house,’ the wizard spoke, ‘I’m too busy.’

He waved me away and sat down with a little puff on a stool.

‘Well….where should I start?’ I asked.

‘Where ever you like! But remember when you move something always put it back where you found it! There are some things in this house that are very dangerous,’ the wizard explained.

Without further words, I left and began picking my way through the house. Ever room and hallway was full of stuff, dust and dirt. The place hadn’t been cleaned in decades! How could the world’s most powerful wizard live like this?

Finally, I found the library, the place I had dreamed about and it was nothing like I wanted. Most of the bookcases were empty and the books were scattered on the floor or on the desks and chairs that were dotted around. Dust and spider’s webs covered everything and it seemed no one had been in here in years!

Deciding it would be the place to start. I got down to cleaning. Somehow though, I had a feeling this job wasn’t going to last.

The Reaper Cometh

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Going out in a hail of bullets and under the wheels of the ten ton lorry was the only way to go. Well, I didn’t have any other choices really because there was no way I was going to jail. The murders they had pinned to me would have meant total life imprisonment and that wasn’t an option.

Committing suicide had also not been an option up until that point, to be honest. I don’t know, maybe, I was thinking I’d dodge the bullets or they’d hit non-important places and that I’d just avoid the lorry’s wheels like they do in the movies. But nope, my number was up.

Once the heavy crushing pain had faded and blackness had come I knew it was the end. When I next opened my eyes, I was standing at the side of the motorway, looking across at the scene. There were flashing red and blue lights everywhere and the sirens were so loud that they blocked the rushing traffic. Though of course, most of the cars were stopping now and people were taking in what had happened.

Police swarmed the scene; searching my fancy BMW, whilst others blocked the view of my body wedged under the lorry. The driver of which was hushed off to one side into a police car like a sleeping baby. The police officers’ whispered voices came to me; is he really dead? The serial killer? The one the papers nicknamed The Red Shadow? He killed ten people we know of, but there maybe hundreds more. Yes, he’s dead. You can see that, can’t you?

I turned away, wondering what to do. Surely a pit to Hell would open up underneath me? I’d be sucked down and spend all eternity being tortured by demons. But I didn’t believe in that.

To the left of me, I saw a black shape peeling itself away from the trees. Ah, the grim reaper coming to claim my soul!

‘Wait….What are you?’ I spoke, the words tumbling from my mouth before I could stop them.

‘I am your reaper, deary,’ replied a sweet old granny’s voice.

Stunned, I just stared. There before me was a small old woman- eighty or ninety odd-she had a hunched back and skin was as wrinkly and folded as one of those weird dogs. She was dressed in a long flowery pink dress, pink handmade cardie and was holding a large blue handbag. Her hair was dyed a strange blue color and she had large glasses perched on the end of her nose.

‘When you are ready, if you’d like to follow me, sweetie,’ she spoke out, ‘you just take as long as you need, okay? No rush.’

I glanced back at the scene behind me. Cars were parked up now and an ambulance had just pulled off the hard shoulder and was trying to get in close so they could collect my body without the public seeing. Police were all ready trying to stop people from coming over.

‘Oh, I think I got some peppermints here. Somewhere,’ the granny said and began searching in her handbag.

‘No, it’s fine,’ I said, ‘who are you really?’

She looked up at me, hand still in her bag, ‘I’m your reaper, deary, come to take you to the other side.’

‘But…I was expecting demons! Devils! A black cloaked skeleton! Black, fire wings!’ I cried.

The old woman chuckled, ‘everyone believes that, but no. We take a different form every time. Everyone is different you know and often they need to be handled differently too.’

‘Do you know who I am?’ I spit.

‘Were. Sweetheart. Who were you?’ she asked then, ‘oh, here are the mints. Care for one? Go on take a handful.’

‘No,’ I stated as I waved my hands and stepped back, when she held out a pink and white stripped paper bag towards me.

‘Not a fan of mints, huh?’ she added with a wink, ‘I got something else in here for you then…’

‘I don’t want anything! Just, let’s go!’ I yelled.

‘Now, now, don’t get upset. I’ll fix it. There now,’ she said and held up a tube of my favorite childhood sweets; lemon¬†sherbet.

She pressed it into my hand, a large smile on her face.

I looked at it in shock then opening the lid, I tossed the white power into my mouth. It tasted just as I remembered; sour and sweet, fizzy and lemony.

‘All better? I knew that would help, petal,’ she said.

I nodded, feeling for the first time in years the sensation of tears in the corner of my eyes.

‘Are you ready to go?’ granny asked.

‘Yes,’ I mumbled out.

She held out a hand which was more like the gnarled, dry root of a dead oak tree.

I took it, feeling no heat or coldness against my own hand.

With her other hand, she patted the top of mine, ‘there, there, deary. It’s all okay now.’

‘So…no demons? No Hell?’

‘Stories!’ she laughed, ‘to scare people. There is no Hell or Heaven. Just the sky.’

I looked up and saw above me the darkening sky.

We started raising towards it. Leaving everything behind. The air rushed around me and as we met the sky, I savored the last taste of sherbet on my tongue.