I’m off sick. I’ll get back to writing when I can.
I’ve had a virus and also an eye infection. I’m on the mend now but stilling having trouble with my vision.
I’ll be slowly starting to catch up on the days I’ve missed now.
I’m off sick. I’ll get back to writing when I can.
I’ve had a virus and also an eye infection. I’m on the mend now but stilling having trouble with my vision.
I’ll be slowly starting to catch up on the days I’ve missed now.
The first frost had fallen that morning. Dill had waited until the sun had melted it before taking his two westies for a walk. There was still some sparkling white patches of grass in the shadows of the hills and in the distance some of the higher tops looked as white as the clouds that seemed to be touching them.
Dill relying heavily on his metal walking sticks, followed the small stone covered pathway towards the lake. He knew this country well, having spent his whole life out here looking after the flock of sheep. Now, that responsibility had moved to his sons and Dill was free of a burden he had never realised he had carried.
Sitting on a bench his grandfather had built, Dill rested his arthritic limbs. The familiar ache in his chest made itself known and reminded him that he was no longer young. Still though he was defiant that old age would not bet him.
He watched the two westies sniffing about and drinking from the edge of the lake. Soon the water would start to freeze over and in the heart of winter, the lake would become a hard glass surface dusted with snow.
The memory of one winter when he was eighteen always haunted him and the sight of the lake always brought it sharply back.
Dill had been driving the sheep towards shelter when one of the sheep had broken away and gone onto the frozen lake. Dill’s then sheep dog, Kip, had refused to go after it. The black and white dog stood on the edge of the ice barking, torn between chasing the sheep and sensing the danger underneath his paws.
Dill hadn’t been able to abandoned the ewe and had decided to go after her himself. He knew the lake had been frozen for two months now and there was a heavy covering of snow across the surface. He could see the sheep in the distance, her dirty huge fleece making her stand out and her dashing hood prints plain in the snow.
Kip had shadowed him in a shy way and when encouraged still refused to fetch the sheep. Dill had given up and carried on walking, using his shepherd’s crook to steady his footsteps.
Far from the shore, Dill felt the snow shift under his feet and came to a stop as a loud cracking sound started up. Covered by thick snow, it was hard to make out the lines of the break. He had felt a little spiral of fear but pushed on. More cracking echoed off the hills and he thought he heard the sound of water bubbling.
Dill could see the ewe and he was so close but within seconds the sheep disappeared. Her desperate cries echoed in Dill’s ears as did the sound of splashing. Quickly, Dill had rushed onward and found the sheep drowning in a watery hole, edged by jagged ice that looked like broken shards of glass. The force of the water and the sheep’s heavy fleece were dragging her down to her doom.
Grabbing fist fulls of the wet fleece, Dill had tried to haul the ewe out. He struggled as the sheep fought him and the icy water tried to claim her. He tugged and tugged, his own feet slipping on the mushing snow and ice. Kip barked and danced around, unable to help.
Finally, Dill had pulled the ewe out and they had lay on the water snow, both exhausted with lake water running off them. Then, Dill had half carried, half dragged the yew back home. Snow had began to fall and he had thought they would never make it but Kip kept bit at his heels and the ewe’s until they did.
Safe inside, they had sat by the kitchen coal fire for the rest of the night. The warmth melting the snow and chasing the frozen lake water from their veins. The ewe had seemed none the worse of almost dying and Dill knew they had both had a lucky escaped.
One of the westies’ licked Dill’s cold fingers, bringing him back to the present. He patted the dog, speaking softly to it. It was time to go back, Dill could feel the coming snow in his shepherd’s bones. Standing wobbly up, Dill made his way slowly home again where a warm fire and steaming mug of tea with whiskey would be waiting.
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/11/14/thursday-photo-prompt-glass-writephoto/ with thanks).
What was behind the shuttered door of the abandon building?
It looked once to have been a church or other place of importance. It was wedged in-between apartments. The windows were strangely placed down each side and in the middle was a large circle window under an arch.
It couldn’t be a house, it was too weird but maybe it had been converted at some point?
I wanted inside. I wanted to see what lay behind the bricks and glass. I wanted to know what secrets were hidden there.
(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/11/13/15-november-2019/ with thanks).
I felt frozen and I knew I wasn’t alone. Things were moving in the fog and it had nothing to do with the wind. I stayed still, listening but not hearing anything else. Suddenly, I felt angry and frustrated, I was tried of being the source of a joke.
‘I’ve had enough,’ I uttered and strolled forward.
The dog trailed after me, tail behind her legs and head down.
‘Rufina,’ came from the whisper from behind me.
‘No, I won’t turn around,’ I spoke, ‘I won’t let you scare me.’
I stomped my boots for a few steps and then tried to calm down. Perhaps, they were trying to make me more angry then scared? That had always been a part of my brothers’ fun. The twins had been the worse, taking my toys and books, trying to get me into play fights, pulling out my red hair and also blaming me for many of their naughty doings.
The dog growled and tried to twist around me. I walked into her and stumbled over, unable to stop myself, I landed spread across the road. I tasted blood and felt bruises blooming.
I turned my head and pressed my cheek to the icy road. Blinking, I looked across and saw a figure leaning against the tree. It looked like a man smoking a pipe.
Turning my head the other way, my eyes picked out another figure. The man with the riding hat. He was standing on the edge of the road, the fog curled like white smoke around him, distorting his features.
I got to my knees and wiped my face then noticed my hands were dirty. Pushing up, I got to my feet and reached back down for the dog. She pushed her nose into my hand then growled a warning.
Looking over my shoulder, I saw the tall man behind me coming out of the fog. I couldn’t make out much of him but I saw his mouth open and heard my name whispered.
Fear rushed through me, I turned and ran. The dog was at my heels, chasing after me and my chest hurt with the cold air. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I knew it wasn’t real men out here nor was it my imagination, it was something else. Something no one living could explain.
A few times, I tripped and fell over a stick or my skirts or the dog but I didn’t care. Each time I got up and ran on because that voice started whispering my name in my ear again. I hated the way the letters sounded, long and curling like a never ending song note.
I tasted blood, felt wetness on my legs and arms. My feet, hips and chest ached. The house felt so far away and the idea that I wouldn’t reach it before the men grabbed me pushed me further on.
I broke through the trees, the road widen and I knew home wasn’t far away now. Stopping, I felt tugging on my cloak and thought it only the dog. I looked down and saw she wasn’t at my heels but ahead of me.
The tugging grew harder, I felt the collar and ribbon against my throat. I twisted, thinking maybe a branch had snagged me. There was nothing there. The cloak was pulled tight out as if someone was holding it.
My next breath chocked. I strained against the force but only felt the pressure more on my throat. I undid the ribbon and clasp, letting the cloak fall behind me. I walked quickly away, trying to run again but my energy was gone.
‘Rufina,’ the voice whispered, ‘Rufina.’
‘Go away!’ I screamed back at the forest.
I saw my cloak fluttering in mid-air, the fog filling it like a living form.
I couldn’t scream, my voice was gone. I turned again and broke into a run, my only thought to make it to the safety of my home.
Yellow glowing lights broke the fog and it seemed less dense along the driveway. The dog barked and another dog answered back. Gasping, I pressed on, trying to get the imagine of my floating cloak out of my mind.
A man’s screamed shocked through me. I twisted around, expecting to see someone behind me but my boots hit something hard and I tumbled down. I landed heavily on something solid, the scream still in my ears.
Dazed, it took me a few moments to figure out I had fallen into the fountain. The water was turned off for winter and damp leaves had gathered into the bottom. I reached for the stone edge and pulled myself up.
Ahead of me the house rose, lights blazing out of the windows.
Standing, I climbed out and wobbled up the front steps. I reached the double wooden doors and struggled to turn one of the heavy iron door knobs. I pushed the door open but couldn’t stop myself from falling into the hallway.
‘Rufina! What happened?’
I looked up at my eldest brother, Thomas, and groaned. He and someone else picked me up, their questions washing over me. I was sat in a chair where I looked around and realised my family, guests and some of the servants had prepared themselves into a search party.
‘Cook told us you had come out to find us,’ Thomas picked up.
‘When Melody came back without you, I knew something must have happened,’ my father said.
‘Did you fall off and hit a tree?’ one of the twins asked with a hint of laughter in his voice.
‘Then stumble into a fox hole?’ the other one added.
I shook my head and dragged in breath enough to speak, ‘there are three men out there and they chased me. They stole my cloak and they tried to…take me too!’
‘Men? But we are all here. There should be no one out there, ‘ my father explained.
‘Been here all the time?’ I questioned.
‘We’ve all stayed together. When the fog fell we came back. We were waiting for you but when you didn’t arrive we were about to go and find you.’
I looked at the floor, fighting myself. Could I have imagined the figures and what happened?
‘Do you want us to go and look for these men?’ Thomas inquired.
I bunched up my damp and mud covered skirts in my fists before responding, ‘no. It’s too dangerous out there.’
‘But if there are trespassers!’
I stood up and grab Thomas’ arm, ‘please, stay here.’
Arguments broke out and it took a lot of convincing to make them all stay inside. I don’t know how I knew but I couldn’t let any of them go out. Whatever those men were it wasn’t good and I knew entering the fog meant no return.
We sat down for lunch begrudgingly but there was no more talk of it again.
As for my black cloak, it was never found.
A wet pink tongue slobbered my face and heavy paws tangled in my skirts. I pushed the warm, soft, furry body away from me then brushed away the tears that clouded my eyes.
In my lap was one of this spring’s pups. A small bitch with white and tan coat, long ears and lean body. She licked my hands and whined.
I sighed and lay down on the road. The pup jumped about me, sticking her black wet nose into me and tongue licking bare skin. She pawed at me and nipped me when I didn’t move.
‘Did you get lost too?’ I finally asked.
I pulled myself up and climbed to my feet. I petted the dog, feeling relieved.
‘As everyone else still out here? Do you think you can find them for me?’
The pup licked my fingers and bounced around me.
‘You are better then nothing,’ I uttered.
I set off again, muddy paw prints on my skirts and my boots scuffed up. The dog followed me, tail held high and nose sniffing the air. I thought once or twice she was tracking the rest of the pack but actually she was chasing rabbit in the undergrowth.
Giving up on her, I followed my feet and soon felt the dip in the track. At least I knew where I was but I was far from home now.
On a normal day, walking here was a joy but in this thick fog, strong wind and cold air it was unpleasant. I wished for a horse or for my father’s car.
Somewhere to my left was a fallen tree that made a good seat to rest on. Without thinking much about it, I headed over there and felt the rough bark under my fingers. I sat for a few minutes and the dog joined me. She lay down, panting heavily at my feet.
The wind shifted the trees and stirred up the leaves. I looked up at the path and saw the fog seeming to part. A figure emerged dressed in dark clothes and a black riding hat.
‘Hello?’ I called out.
The dog growled and stood up defensively in front of me.
The figure shifted, moving between the trees slowly, staying just out of clear sight and using the fog as a mask.
‘Stop playing games!’ I snapped, ‘it’s not funny.’
My brothers had always teased me and played tricks on me. Was this them doing so again? It would have been easy enough for them to scare me in this fog.
‘Go and get him,’ I said to the dog and give her little shove forward.
The dog didn’t move. She stood her ground and carried on growling at the figure.
If it had been one of my brothers she wouldn’t be reacting that way. She knew all the family and servants well, like any of the hunting pack dogs. One of the guests then? but why would they want to scare me? They were all old men from my father’s army days, they had fought together in The Great War.
The figure vanished behind a thick tree, the fog rolling back around to claim the space.
‘I didn’t imagine that,’ I muttered, ‘you saw it too, girl.’
I called the dog back to me and she sat on my feet, staring around as if waiting for the figure to come back.
We had no choice but to continue. Hoping there were no more figures and we arrived home quickly, I sort out the road again and carried on. The dog padded at my side and I felt better for my companion.
We hadn’t gone far when the wind picked up and forcefully swept around us. Leaves flew up and scratched against me. The dog jumped and chased them as they went by. The trees rubbed together, creaking and cracking threateningly. A voice spoke something, a single word which I didn’t catch.
‘Hello!’ I screamed.
The wind snatched my voice away and wrapped my skirts and cloak around my legs. I struggled for breath, feeling like I had ice in my lungs. The dog started barking sharply then switched to growling.
The voice came again, it sounded like a whisper of my name.
The dog backed away and pressed against my boots. She curled around me, cowering and starting to shake.
‘I’m not afraid,’ I called out.
‘Rufina,’ a voice breathed in my ear.
To Be Continued…
I stumbled around on the track, calling and calling Melody back to me. The mare was long gone, lost somewhere in the bank of fog. I gathered myself and checked for injures, just a few cuts and bruises. My skirts, red velvet jacket and black cloak were damp and covered with mud, leaves and grass.
Breathing the frozen air, I got my bearings and decided it would be faster to continue walking forward then try to go back. My father had planned the road out so that it circled to the house no matter which way you went.
Wrapping my cloak tightly around me and putting the hood up, I set off. The fog parted as I went into it then rolled back behind me. The toes of my boots tapped against fallen branches and I crunched over brittle leaves.
I shouldn’t have bothered to come out here to find my father, brothers and guests. I should have stayed in the warm kitchen overseeing lunch being made and listening to the gossip of the servants. I should have brought my dog with me. Jess could have sniffed out my father faster then my eyes could have spotted him.
It had been, I don’t know, instinct? A whispering voice at the back of my head? That had brought me out here telling me something bad was going to happen. I trusted that voice and my mother had always encouraged me to do so.
I heard footsteps ahead. I stopped and called out, ‘Hello?’
No voice replied but the footsteps continued. Had someone else been thrown off their horse and were lost like myself in the forest?
‘Hello! It’s Rufina. I came to find you,’ I spoke.
The footsteps stopped.
My breathing was harsh in my ears and I thought I heard a rustle in the distance but it could have been anything as the fog muffled all sounds. Then, had it really been footsteps I had heard?
Unsure, I walked on, feeling my way more then anything. When the path didn’t feel solid under my feet, I stepped about till I found it again. It felt like being in a dim light, like it was evening time instead of late morning. Branches and leaves brushed me, heightening my senses.
I spotted movement ahead and thought a figure was coming out of the fog. Was it my father? One of my brothers? Or one of the guests? It was hard to tell but it looked like a tall man.
‘Hello? Who’s there?’ I shouted., ‘It’s me, Rufina!’
No reply came.
I picked up my pace and approached the figure but as the fog parted, there was no one there.
I turned around, peering as if I could see the figure somewhere else but there was only the fog and the shape of the close by trees.
‘Is there anybody there?’ I shouted, ‘please come to me! No playing games, it’s too dangerous out here for that!’
The wind shook the trees, there was a rattle of dry leaves and I felt a few brush against my legs as my skirts was whipped up. I pushed things down and straightened my cloak out. I tied the ribbon of my hood tighter and ordinate myself.
I did have a big imagination thanks to all the books I read but I couldn’t have really conjured someone just being there on the road?
Shaking the thoughts out of my head, I carried on and tried to work out how far away I was from home. I knew the road looped down to the edge of the forest before going back up. I must be close to that dip now.
A howling echoed through the forest. My all ready cold skin chilled further and I tripped a step. I held my breath and tried to listen. Where had the howl come from and what creature had made it?
No wolves roamed here. Was it a wild dog? Perhaps, it was the gardener’s pet dog? Or one of the hunting pack hounds?
‘I’m over here!’ I cried then realised how silly that was surrounded by this fog.
The howl sounded again. It was just a single one and it wasn’t answered by another. Not a good sign as the hounds would have been making a lot of noise. There must have been fifteen to twenty dogs all together, so there was no way they could be quiet.
I fretted, unsure what to do. Should I call the dog to me and risk it being a stray or wild dog that could bite me? Or it could be a friendly dog who would guide me back home?
Before I could decided there was a ruckus close by and something jumped out. I screamed and tried to run but something hit into me and I fell.
To Be Continued….
I shivered in my black woollen cloak and urged my white mare, Melody, on wards into the forest. It had been a bad idea for my father, my brothers and our guests to go a hunting this morning. I had told them at dinner last night and again this morning but men won’t listen to women like they should.
‘If it had been mother telling them they might have done,’ I muttered aloud.
No one had ever argued with mother. She had had a fiery temper and battles with her were like fighting with a demon. Father had blamed her nature on her thick, bright red hair which I had inherited. That was the only thing I took after her, my manner was soft, bookish and shy.
My mare let out a snort and her breathe misted in front of her. Her hoof beats rang out on the stone covered road which was newly laid for father’s latest pride and joy – an automobile. I couldn’t hear anything else but I knew father, brothers, the four other men, their horses and pack of hounds where close by.
The land we owed wasn’t very big and it was mainly this forest and two small fields. Most of the other clear land had been sold off when money was needed after the 1885 fire which had burnt all but the main part of the house down.
I was born in 1902 and didn’t know how much my family had lost. It wouldn’t come to me anyway, my older brother and twin brothers would be left the estate and I would have money to insure a comfortable life.
My plan was to buy a cottage by the sea and spend my days in peace, far from the stress my father and brothers made for me.
I pulled Melody to a stop and looked around. I couldn’t hear the sound of voices or the popping of gun shots. No birds sung from the half bare tree branches, no deer darted from behind the trunks, no running horses’ hoofs sounded and barking dogs broke out.
‘Where are they?’ I spoke.
From up ahead, a silent fog rolled in, covering the single track way in a thick white coat. The wind whispered through the trees like soft voices as the disturbed autumn leaves floated down. The morning frost covered the grass like a cake’s icing powered and made a crunching sound like a horse eating an apple when stepped upon.
A deer would hear you coming from miles.
The fog wrapped around and the wind chilled me. I couldn’t see and nor could my mare. I felt panic in my stomach and my mouth went dry. The idea of finding the men fled from me and the urge to race home spurred me to slap the reins down and kicked my mare.
She walked on, unsure blinded by the fog just as I was.
‘It’s all right girl. You know the way home,’ I said and patted her neck.
Melody whined as if saying she wasn’t so sure. I encouraged her on but her pace was slowed, the fog clearly spooking her.
There was a snapping of branches to the right. I tried to look but could only see the dense white fog and shadows of trees. I went to pull Melody to a stop in case it was the hunting party instead Melody reared, front legs pounding the air and her neigh loud with fear.
I cried out and clung tight to her neck but my fingers slipped on her damp coat. My skirts offered my legs no extra grip on the sides of the saddle and I struggled to stay on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able too, so I loosed my boots from the stirrups.
Melody threw me, I tumbled down to the wet grass and bumped into a tree trunk. Dizzy and gasping for breath, I tried to hurry up to my feet but my skirts tangled and I tripped back down. I tugged at the grass, feeling the icy cold touch of the frost. I got back up and onto the road again but it was too late, my horse had ran off.
To Be Continued…..
The sun was dipping low and reflecting on the lake’s still surface as if there was a second sun setting on another world under the water.
I didn’t look back as I walked on the planks towards the small blue painted wooden boat that lay in the tall rush reeds. I was calm in mind; empty headed my grandmother would describe it as.
Untying the boat, I pushed it out so the bottom wouldn’t get stuck then got in. I rowed out, noticing the thin mist parting around me and the ripples the oars created. It was all ready freezing out here and a thin frost was settling were it could. I could imagine the morning sun making the frost glitter like candlelight on crystal.
Stopping, I lay down in the boat’s belly and listened to the lapping of the small waves. I shut my eyes and let the cold come to me. Tomorrow, they would find me with frost on my eyelashes and lips. My yellow and gold lace trim ball gown frozen to my body and his last letter against my heart.
The squirrels were out in full force. They roamed the fallen colourful leaves and chased each other up trees. Sometimes one would stop to eat a nut or seed, sitting on hind legs and holding food in tiny front paws. Others choice to bury their prize in the hope it would help to see them through the winter.
My favourite apples were those picked straight from the tree covered with water drops from a light autumn shower or droplets from a misty morning.
It seemed like I spent all my autumn days outside harvesting, sorting out the animals and making sure everything was ready for winter. I had lots of help, I was the only girl out of eight children. The joke was my mother had kept trying till she had a girl but I had turned out more boyish then some of my brothers!
I was fourth generation of farmer and it ran strong within me. I had favourite jobs and ones I hated but I still did them all. My best was apple picking. I loved getting the reds and greens off the trees, stacking them in baskets before putting them in the trucks to go to the shops.
There was some comforting about the weight in hand, the smell of the crisp apples under my nose and when I tasted the sweet tang of the fruit nothing could bet it.
One of my brothers joked that it was apple juice that ran in my veins instead of blood. I believed that could be true. Another brother said I had been born from an apple seed mother had swallowed on the advice of grandma. A third claimed they had found me under an apple tree on harvest moon night!
However, I had come into the world my name; Autumn Apple Atkins was fitting and perfect to my ears. Some sniggered at it, others had used it to bully me but to me it was who I was and where I had come from.
My father had promised me the orchard and I could think of no greater thing to inherit then the trees that bear the fruit I love.
(Inspired by; https://sarahelizabethmoore.org/2019/11/03/writing-prompt-44/ with thanks).
And to the North there dwelled strange creatures indeed...
Fostering a community of creative writers through articles, comments, writing prompts and a healthy, supportive environment.
Life is make believe, fantasy given form
Dark vampire fantasy. Because dangerous fiction is sexy.