Footprints

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Every morning, she would come down to find a trail of footprints across the floor from the back door to the kitchen door. They were small, child’s size and looked wet.

At first, she had blamed local kids for breaking into her house. She had replaced the doors and windows, fitted security locks and confronted every family in the neighbourhood.

Still the footsteps appeared.

Mopping them away, she tried to come up with reasons. Maybe, there was a leak?Perhaps, she was causing them in her sleep? Or and she keep coming back to this, it was children playing tricks on the nasty old woman who hated everyone.

‘I’ll stay up tonight and catch them at it!’ she said aloud.

That night, she made it seem like she had gone to bed but then, she crept back down into the kitchen. Sitting on a stool, torch in hand, she listened into the darkness and waited.

Hours passed, the clock chimed three in the morning and she dozed off.

The sound of a child crying and running wet feet awoke her. Quickly, she turned on the torch and saw before her eyes the footprints forming on the floor.

And there was no one there.

Hungry

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He sat at a table in the food court of the shopping mall, trying to blend in. Around him, people were talking and eating a range of fast foods and he could smell the hot grease, salt and mixed aromas of meals.

He looked down at his hands and waited. He couldn’t bear to watch people eating or breathe in the smells anymore. His stomach was growling loudly and twinging with pains.

Two young Muslin women at the table next to him got up and left, chattering in a different language.

He eyed their left tray, piled with rubbish. Slowly, he got up, picked up the tray and sat back down with it at his own table.

He had been seen, of course, too many eyes around but he didn’t care.

He opened the first box and saw the remains of chicken thighs inside. He took out a piece and eat what he could, nibbling the bone.

There were no fries, just a pot of gravy. He’d never been a fan and the pot felt cold when he picked it up. Placing it back, he got up and left.

He felt eyes on him once more and questions on lips, but no one stopped him.

I don’t care, he thought.

He walked around the food court. Looking at the rubbish left on the tables. Sometimes he reached out and touched something to see if there was anything left inside. He moved on to more tables, aiming for ones recently left where the food might still be warm. He ate whatever scraps were left trying to hide his actions out of habit but it was still impossible in such a busy place.

He found a quarter of a taco in a discarded wrapper and swallowed it. The cup beside had water from melted ice cubes at the bottom which he gulped down.

He found another table with children’s box meals stacked up. He sat down and looked through each box. He found an unopened bag of fruit and slipped it into his pocket for later. Desperate his starvation now, he knew the important of saving something for another day.

At the bottom of another box was a few cold fries. He ate them then found a small bottle of orange juice with some left inside which he drink.

He felt into other box and pulled out a plastic wrapped toy. He sighed but unwrapped the toy car anyway. He ran the car across the table, remembering another time.

He become aware of two people flanking him. He looked up and saw security guards of the mall staring down at him.

‘You need to leave,’ one of them said.

He thought about arguing; I’m was just sitting here, what’s the harm in that?

There was no point.

He got up and security walked him to the exit only stairs. He knew people were watching and whispering, what had he done?  

I just wanted some food.

He went down the steps and out on to the snowy, icy streets. Snowflakes melted on his warm skin and busy shoppers hurried by eager to get back to their homes.

He hunched his shoulders against the wind and walked back to his things tucked into the doorway of a closed down shop. There he huddled against the cold, abandoned by the world.

(Partly based on a real story).

A Day In Blackpool

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I smell the salty sea. I hear seagulls crying and the distant voices of excited children. Opening my eyes, I stay laying in the cloud like bed. At the half open window, the breeze moves the netted curtain back and forth as if it’s breathing. There is a waft of frying bacon.

I have eggs, bacon and toast then set off from the bed and breakfast. All day I walk around Blackpool. The morning is a little dull; heavy clouds fight with the sun, the sea waves over the dark sand of the beach. There is a handful of people about; dog walkers, families, old couples, a mini bus of school children.

I walk on the promenade. Going past all the shops selling tourist things; postcards, sticks of rock, magnets and beach toys. The cafes where breakfast is in full swing and their windows are dripping condensation. The arcades and casinos with their doors shut, locked until lunchtime. Ice cream stands, sweet treat stalls and fast food vans at every few steps trying to tempted me.

I walk on the piers. The damp wooden planks creaking underneath me. The sea crashing below trying to erode the iron supports away. The benches with their green iron frames awaiting weary bodies. The rusting memory plaques of people long gone who once loved this spot.

Just opening fairground game stalls with harsh looking aged men hanging up cheaply made soft toys. A closed beach shop, a closed arcade, a closed cafe and music hall. Near the end of the pier is a small collection of children’s theme park rides still hidden their covers. All these places will open in the afternoon when they make the better business.

Here, yet more food stalls; a white trailer selling burgers and hot dogs, a drinks bar, a sweet stand. There pink and blue candy floss swing in bags and giant ‘dummy’ suckers on red ribbon necklaces dangle next to them. In trays lay pick ‘a’ mix sweets, boxes of chocolate and fudge, mint hum bugs in jars with labels saying ‘A gift for you from Blackpool.’ Sticks of rock in all sizes stand out with their brightly coloured strips.

I buy a few sticks of rock and go to the end of the pier. I unwrap one and stand looking out to sea, sucking on the minty sweet. The waves are far out, blending with the grey sky. There are no boats or people in the water. Birds hover looking for fish. I think about being out there, surrounded by the waves.

Finishing the stick of rock, I walk back and go down a sand covered boat slipway. It sinks into the beach. I walk across the drying sand, noticing old bits of things the sea has left behind; seaweed, sticks, food wraps, drink cans, plastic bags, dead crabs, broken shells.

Close by, sad looking donkeys huddle together, their little bells chiming, their hoof prints deep in the sand. A middle aged woman in a high visible jacket gives the donkeys buckets of water and hay.

I walk pass them. The woman looks over her shoulder, sees I’m not a customer and ignores me. She pats one of the donkeys’ shoulders, muttering something to it.

I get off the beach via a long staircase which takes me back to the far side of promenade. I turn and look back. Over everything the Blackpool tower rises; a monster of iron.

It starts to drizzle. I feel the specks of rain on my face and hands. There’s only open space here, so I walk for the nearest buildings but the arcade isn’t open yet and the fish and chip shop has no seating inside.

Further on is a cafe but it’s closed, a few shops then a restaurant but going in would mean having to buy something. I cross the road and go into the shelter of rows and rows of buildings that are either eating places, shops, arcades and casinos. The rain gets heavier, the sky gets darker, I weave in and out of these places.

I realise I’m going in the direction of my B&B. I pause by a food van and get a greasy burger and a can of coke. I put them in my pockets and hurry back to my room. The front door is open, nobody at the small welcome desk. There is noise from deeper inside; a vacuum cleaner, distant voices.

In my room, I drag a chair to the window, open it and sit there. I eat the cool burger. Not enjoying it but it solves my hunger. I drink some of coke then leave the rest. I get changed out of the wet clothes and into something drier and warmer. I go back to sitting by the window. The rain is really coming down now. It sweeps across in sheets, pounding over everything.

I take another stick of rock and suck on it to get the bad tasting burger out of my mouth. I carry on watching the rain and I think about the people out there, the donkeys on the beach, the distant and constant sea.       

St. Mary’s Retreat

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St. Mary’s Retreat was miles away from the tiny town of Brogan, hidden in the mountains and the forest that surrounded them. No one went up there anymore, there was no need, expect for the brave teenagers who wanted a scare.

I was walking around the old stomping ground, having been away from Brogan for almost ten years. I had grown up here, an orphan kid angry at everything and the memories were painful.

Somehow, my feet took me to St. Mary’s whilst my thoughts went back into the past. A crow startled from a tree, brought me back and I stopped and looked around. Through the thick foliage, I could see a complex of abandoned buildings and a small church.

Smiling, I walked towards them. The buildings looked intact but rotting away. Windows and doors were smashed in. There was graffiti on the walls and remains of furniture about. I toed bits and pieces, turning things over, it was mostly building material. Everything could have been salvaged had been removed and the rest broken by teens.

I found a wooden cross still attached to a paint peeling wall. A sharp memory came back to me. When I was seven, St. Mary’s had recently been vacated by the nuns who had lived here for forty-odd years. They had been using the place as a retreat for old and ill nuns who couldn’t do they duties anymore.

Before then and originally, the area had been a holiday retreat. Which explained why there there was a bar, tennis court and a swimming pool. The nuns had the church built which is why it looked more newer then the other buildings.

I walked outside and found myself at the pool side. It was drained of water, expect for the rain which had gathered at the deep end. There was so much scum on the surface it was hard to tell how deep it was.

A story came into my mind, one of those scary ghost tales that children love to tell. I had forgotten about it but seeing the pool reminded me;

One day, a new nun came to St. Mary’s Retreat. She was young and sad. She was kept in isolation from the others. The head nun claimed ‘the child, had an infectiousness disease.’ but this was far from the truth.

Somehow and unbeknown to the young nun she had become pregnant. A lot of people had tried to find out what had happened but the nun stuck by her words and started claiming like Mary in the bible, an angel had come and told her she was to carry the next Christ. No one believed her and she was cast out to the retreat to have the baby in secret.

The nun give birth to a boy all alone in the middle of the night. She looked at him and realised he was the Antichrist. Wrapping him in a Holy sheet, she took him outside and walked into the swimming pool which then was still full.

In the morning, the nuns found her and the baby dead, floating in the water.

From then on every night at the pool side, the crying of a baby could be heard and the ghost of the nun was seen.

And that’s why the nuns had to leave because the ghosts were haunting them and no blessing or anything else they tried would get the spirits to move on.

Of course, we had all believed it then but now, I wasn’t sure it could have happened. Walking down into the pool itself, I want to edge of the collected water and looked into it. There was a rotten vegetation smell from the dead leaves and other decay. There was a stillness too, that I didn’t like.

I found a large fallen branch and began to poke about in the water. I was bored.

What was I doing here? What was I looking for?

Clearly, a part of me was still looking for answers. I had been abandoned here as a day old baby, left on the doorstep in a box. The nuns had taken me in but a year later, I went into foster care then was adopted by a childless couple in Brogan. They had been good parents whilst I had been a difficult child.

I had come to the the retreat many times as a teenager, I had always known this was where my life had began. Perhaps, then the story of a pregnant nun had been true? Maybe, she hadn’t tried to drown me but had dead some other way and the nuns had always planned to get me adopted anyway?

Was I the Antichrist? How would I know? Frowning, I tried to wonder if I felt any different and if anything in my past could give me an answer to that. But I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t religious, didn’t believe in such things nor did I believe in the supernatural. Surely, if I was evil, I would know about it.

I signed, threw the branch into the water and got out of the swimming pool. Walking back through the buildings and towards the road that brought me here, I knew I’d never find out who had given birth to me and what had happened to them. I turned back, seeing the edge of the swimming pool from a broken window.

But what if that childhood ghost story had been true? All stories had to come from somewhere and what if mine had really began here?

The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Too Many Books

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I went into my old bedroom which had become a storage room after I had moved into my brothers’ bigger room last year. It was hard to imagine how I had filled this room, floor to ceiling with things and that about seventy percent of the items were books.

I had always wanted my own library and without realising it over the years that had seemed to have happened! Looking around, I knew to a stranger that my book organisation would seem random but there was an actual order.

I knew where most of the titles could be found but it was times like now when I wanted a certain book and wasn’t sure where it was that problems started. First off, I had to decided if I actually owned this book and if it was in here. Had I lent the book to someone? Had I given it to a charity shop? Or was it one I had lent from somewhere?

Being sure, I had the book, I began my search. The two top shelves of my room had books that were my favourites and wanted to read. The ones on my bookcase were either series I had only half read and other books I wanted to read in the future. Under my bunk bed, were books I had read and discarded.

I knew the title of the book and had looked it up online to remind me of the author and cover. I had recognised it and knew it was in my old bedroom somewhere. The problem was, amongst the stacks of other books it could be anywhere!

Mystery Mail #CCC

The postman knew the house was empty because he had never delivered any letters there. So, it was a shock on Monday morning when he saw a letter with that address.

Frowning, he went up to the house and saw a metal box with mail written on the lid. He posted the letter through then looked around. There was no signs of anybody.

Weeks and months passed, the postman kept delivering letters but he never saw anybody. Perhaps, no one had moved in and someone was just using the address? Criminals? Lovers?

Whoever it was, was none of his business and he was just doing a job.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/crimsons-creative-challenge-32/ thanks).

Waiting #FridayFictioners

A female voice came over the speaks, ‘we regret to inform you that due to extreme weather conditions all flights have grounded.’

A loud groan rose from the thousands of people packed into the airport. Eyes went to the windows where outside hurricane force winds were lashing heavy rain against everything. Thunder rumbled and forked lightening light up the black sky.

‘I’d rather be here then up there,’ an old woman uttered.

A babies started crying, children began complaining, teenagers rolled their eyes and buried themselves back in their phones and the adults prepared for a nightmare of waiting.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/06/19/21-june-2019/ with thanks).

Over The Wall #TwitteringTales

He heard music and laughter coming from the other side of the wall. Curiously, he stuck is head through the balustrades and saw his newly divorced wife having a party with her friends. She looked happier then she had been in years.

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/06/18/twittering-tales-141-18-june-2019/ with thanks).

 

 

Spikes #SundayPhotoFiction

Lakshmi Bhat

Hog built the spiky fence to keep the bears out. It was easy enough to do, he took some tall logs, hammered bits of wood in which he then shaped into spikes. Finally, Hog dug holes and stuck the logs in around his cabin.

He didn’t mind the bears, but they could be dangerous and bothersome. Hog didn’t want to hurt them but he had to defend himself. This idea of training them to stay away with the pain of the spikes, had come to him one afternoon when he had seen a bear stealing honey from a beehive and getting stung but the angry bees.

Days of work later, the fence complete and with a gate so he could get by, was done. Hog admired his hard work then went into the forest to check his rabbit traps.

When Hog came back, he saw a bear sniffing the new logs. He held his breath and watched as the bear brushed up against the spikes, felt the pain and stumbled away.

Hog smiled, his fence had worked! Feeling happier then he had in the last few months, he went inside and had a good meal of rabbits and vegetables.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/sunday-photo-fiction-june-16-2019/ with thanks).