Nap

The afternoons were getting harder to get through. The time dragged and it felt like waiting for paint to dry. I had tried to fill the time with watching TV, gardening and looking out of the window.

Still though, I caught myself dozing off sometimes and even woke myself from sleep, confused by what I’d missed.

Maybe, it was lack of sleep in the night or the strangely warm autumn. Perhaps, it was a sign as there had been others, of the old age I hated admitting too. I brushed it off, blamed it on other things.

Sleep though didn’t seem to want to let me go. I felt like I was having an never ending battle with keeping my eyes open and my thoughts in one place. I would nodded off and jerk myself awake, I’d get up and shake off the blanket sleep had tried to wrap me in.

Sometimes though it was too easier to give in. I didn’t have the fight like I use too and my energy was lacking after morning activities. So, a little sleep helped me to get through the rest of the day.

The days were getting shorter and darkness always seemed close at hand. My excuse for sleeping was justified; it’s cold and dark, I liked to be warm and feel safe. Plus, the growing aches in my joints were eased when I laid down. – Not so great when I stood up though!

Stretching in my basket, I looked at the clock then the TV and tried to see if it was time for a walk. The old man had fallen asleep in his chair again, his head was on his chest and his hands were in his lap. It seemed unfair to wake him up.

I was comfy and too warm. I yawned and snuggled back down. Maybe, I should just give into these day time naps? They didn’t seem that bad really.

Apple Tree

I looked up at my neighbour’s apple tree and my mouth started to water. The thought of the first bite of sweet crispiness called to me and it was a temptation I answered.

I pressed against the wooden fence and cast through the leaves. There were a lot of apples on the branches that over hung my garden. A few apples were in easy reach too but I wanted one that was ready.

The lowest apples were the ones that had seen less sun and they were not ready. The highest ones were but they were out of my arms reach and it would be too suspicious if I stood on a ladder.

I choice an apple that was at the height of my reach. It’s red and green colours were splashed together and it felt heavy in my palm. A quick twist and it was mine!

The barking started before I could officially claim my prize. I looked across my neighbour’s garden and saw their dog. It was a terrier mix and making one hell of a racket.

I swiftly lowered my arm and put the apple into my pocket. The dog bounced over, knowing he’s territory had been entered and he slammed into the fence.

Shooing the dog away was useless and I know my neighbour would appear to see what the noise was about because their back door was open. Hopefully, they would think it was a bird the dog was chasing after.

I rushed back to the lawn mower I had abandoned and turned it on. The engine drowned out the dog’s barking and I hurried about my task once more.

A few minutes later, I had finished and packed away the lawn mower in the shed. The dog had stopped barking. Sitting on the shed’s step, I took out the stolen apple and had my first bite.

It was just as good as I had imagined.

Snails

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The snails had been eating Burt’s plants again. He signed and plucked away the nibbled leaves that reminded. Hopefully, some of the plants would survive if he give them some extra care.

As for the snails, Burt got some plastic sheeting out of his shed and some metal rods he had made for this job. He constructed a mini greenhouse cover over the plants and put wooden planks on the floor to weigh the sheet down and stop the snails getting underneath.

Burt would never put out poison. He didn’t believe that was the correct way to deal with nature. The snails were just hungry and they didn’t mean to eat his plants, it was just their way. So, he wouldn’t kill them but he would stop them from getting access and encourage the snails to move on.

Being in harmony was the best way to live.

Yellow

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I followed the girl in yellow through the woods. Sometimes, she would look over her shoulder as if she sensed me. I would pause and duck low, hoping the underbrush would hide me.

Through the trees we went, last autumn’s leaves decaying and silent under foot whilst spring flower pushed upwards. The wind stirred the young leaves and I moved away to keep my scent low.

A deer took fright and we both stopped to watch it leap between the trees and away.

The girl tugged her yellow hood up and bent her head to watch her footing.

I padded behind her, licking my lips. She was going to be tasty. Just like the girl in red.

Houdini #FridayFictioneers

Dad’s shouting woke me. Rolling over in bed, I rubbed my face and tried to understand through the fog of sleep what was going on. I heard footsteps along the hallway then the stairs. Mum’s voice in the kitchen and dad replying.

I got up, climbed down the bunk bed’s ladder and went, yawing and groggily, to investigate.

‘Look in the sink!’ mum cried as I entered the kitchen.

Confused, I did so and what I saw shocked me fully awake.

A fluffy, brown, fat hamster was trying to climb up the back of the sink but he kept sliding down because he couldn’t get a grip on the smooth surface.

‘Houdini!’ I yelled and grabbed the wiggling hamster, ‘I thought you were lost forever.’

‘So it’s him, then?’ dad asked.

‘Houdini has been missing a whole year,’ mum pointed out, ‘are you sure?’

Peering into my cupped hands at the ball of fluff and I nodded.

‘Where has he been?’ mum wondered.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/07/08/10-july-2020/ with thanks.)

This is a true event from my childhood. Houdini was so named because he would escape and we’d never find out how he did it. He would be missing for awhile but this time it really was a whole year that he was gone for.

A few years after Houdini passed away, we got a new washing machine and a hamster nest was discovered in the vent. We believed it to have been Houdini’s nest and he had lived in the kitchen were there was always access to food and water.

There is A House

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The house sit in the middle of the woods looking out of place and yet there something about it that made it seem like it had always been there.

Vines and climbing flowers covered the white stone walls whilst weeds grew out of the cracks in the brown roof tiles. Flowers grew at the doors and windows, masking holes and dirt. The trees surrounding made the house look like it was playing hide and seek. The sun just got through to the house and made dapples of light and shadow on the walls and windows.

They called her a witch, a crazy animal lady, a mad woman, someone to void because she wasn’t ‘one of us.’ The children teased each other to go visit her house, maybe knock on the door. The teenagers threw things at her, broke into her house, spread dirty rumours about her. The adults ignored her, muttered about her to their neighbours, shunned her from their society.

I knew different though. She wasn’t some crazy old hippy, hermit lady or a witch making potions and casting curses. She wasn’t mean or in league with daemons nor was she an outcast of society or someone to be feared and hated.

She was a nun, Sister Benedicta.

I visited her about once or twice or a month after we had first met and she had saved my life when I had been ten years old. It had been a stupid dare by my older step-sister and I had eaten poisonous berries. My step-sister had left me there in the woods, being sick and crippled by stomach cramps.

Sister Benedicta or Benny as she liked to be called, heard me crying and thought me a sick animal. I was too ill to escape her and far too sick to worry about her killing me and cooking me in a pot.

She nursed me back to health and told me her stories.

‘But why does everyone make stuff up about you? They fear and hate you but they are nothing like what they said,’ I had asked.

‘Because when I first came here to spread the word of God and help the sick, a man fell in love with me. I rejected him because I was all ready married to God. He spread rumours about me. Called me a witch and made everyone question my nature,’ Benny replied.

‘Was there nothing you could do?’ I asked.

‘No. He was a Lord and everyone knew his power and they trusted him. He was handsome and could have any woman he wanted. Not being able to have me, made him bitter. The villagers cast me out and I found this abandoned woodman’s cottage and made it my own.’

‘And the Lord?’ I questioned.

‘I don’t know. Who rules this land now, Child?’

I told her and with a nod, Sister Benedicta said, ‘that must be his son then.’

‘If he’s gone, why don’t you come out and tell everyone that you are a nun?’ I suggested.

Benny shook her head, ‘I’m too old for that and I am happy enough to end my days like this soon.’

‘The perhaps, I can do something….’

‘Bring me food when you can and books, paper and ink, perhaps wool to knit with and cloth to sew.’

Ten years later, I was still bring things to Sister Benedicta. I was married with two children and had a little farm to run. I brought Benny whatever was in season, wood for her fire in the cold months and crafts to fill her days with.

I tried to get her to move in with me and my family but she refused.

‘I like to be with nature. I like to pray in quietness. Your farm sounds so pleasant but also so busy. I would only be in the way. I’m better here, living out my days until God calls me home.’

‘As long as you are happy.’

‘I forever am.’

Guinea pigs

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My husband was so unobserved and busy all the time that it took him two years to realise I had gone behind his back and brought our daughters some guinea pigs.

Food! #FridayFictioneers

Pausing for a moment, I rested on top of blade of grass and scented the air. I could smell flowers and something else….something that sent a tingle through me and called for attention.

Setting off, I followed the scent as it grew then I found myself on something different. The land rose and fell then I came across my prize.

I half rose in the air and sent the signal out to the other workers; food here! Food here!

They came in a drove, eager to see what I had found. Then together, we carried everything back to our hill and our Queen.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/06/03/5-june-2020/ with thanks).

 

 

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 5)

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I didn’t explore the rest of the manor. Hungry and tiredness stalled me. I opened the tin labelled tomato soup. It seemed okay inside, so I put into a pan and close to the fire to warm.

Taking the workman’s boots off and placing them close by, I turned to check on King. He had decided to lay down and rest for a few minutes. He seemed content and warm enough.

I took off the sleeping bag, feeling warm enough from the fire just to be in my underwear. I stirred the soup with a spoon and tasted it. There was a slight metallic ting and it was still cold. Putting it closer into the fire, I picked up the empty tin and looked for used by date.

It was hard as the label had worn but then I picked out some numbers and it seemed the date was over six years ago. Pushing the tin away, I frowned at the red soup and decided if it was boiled then it would be fine. I needed to eat.

Sipping some of the water, I listened to the manor creaking in the storm. The sea could really be heard now, added by the gale force winds into the sides of the island. I couldn’t hear the rain it was too lost.

Listening to the manor move made me think about ghosts. I didn’t believe despite the stories I had heard. There was a woman in grey who was seen from one of the upstairs window. Was she Lady Elizabeth? There was also a baby heard crying – the infant son she had lost or another child? The sounds of someone walking around and wailing had also been heard.

I looked up at the ceiling as if a expecting a ghost to appear. Laughing in my head, I check on the soup then picked up one of the books. It was from the 1800’s, on science of a sort. It was hard to read and I didn’t understand it. I placed it down and picked up another one;

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Laughing out loud at the how weird this was, I opened the yellow pages and wondered how old was this book? I found the date; 1831. So, it was early but it didn’t mean anything else to me. I had never read it, just seen the movies. I had the time now. I flipped the pages and saw it was illustrated. The ink pictures were very detailed and dark.

It was hard reading but I got through three or four pages and then my soup was ready. I poured it into a bowl because the pan was too hot to eat out of. The soup was warming and there was still that taste of metal in the background but it was good enough to get the rest of the chill out me and settle my stomach.

When I had finished, I checked on King. I had nothing to give him and he had enough water. He was too quiet. Even in his stable he wasn’t like this but he’d been in shock and made cold by the sea water. Still though…

‘Are you feeling all right, King?’ I whispered to him.

He nuzzled into me, searching for an apple or carrot. I give him more snacks then he should have.

‘Sorry, I have nothing.’

He snorted and moved away, flickering his tail about. He searched around the floor, sniffing here and there. He took a drink of water then seemed to settle again.

I felt guilty I couldn’t take care of him any better. perhaps, I should have gotten some of the rotten hay from that stable at least then he would have had something. How much harm could that have done him though? Yes, it was wise not to.

Leaving him, I made a sort of nest on one of the chairs then stacked up the fire and got settled for sleep. I was surprisingly tried. The room was now hot, my stomach full and I was drained after the fall and roaming the manor.

Sleep came to me and I dreamt of strange things; of falling into the sea and finding the manor at the bottom. I was walking in the graveyard and there were baby and child coffins everywhere. Then I was trying to get out of the manor but it was like a maze and I couldn’t escape.

King woke me by pressing his nose into my face. I stirred and reached for him but he had stepped away. I sat up and saw the fire had gone out.

‘What time is it? I had weird dreams,’ I told King.

I drank some water and put the workmen’s boots on. Crossing the hall, I went outside and saw it was daytime. The sky still dark but the storm had passed. I hurried back in, dressed and put King’s tack on.

I took him outside and he was more then happy to start eating whatever greenery he could. Leaving him to it, I went down the driveway and got to the edge of the causeway. The sea was still covering the way. The waves chopping and churning over the rocks. I couldn’t tell if the tide was going out or not but I really hoped it was.

Remembering my phone, I hurried back inside and snatched it up. I tried turning it on but the screen stayed black. Sinking onto the armchair, I wondered what to do. Tears came to my eyes and wiped them away. Thoughts tumbled in my head and it wasn’t until my eyes forced on Frankenstein  that I came back to my sense.

I gathered the book and the other five up. I placed them in the basket and took that outside then I went back in and got some fresh water for King and some for myself. I had found some empty glass jars in the kitchen and I used this to make bottles of water. Once again I search for food but found nothing.

I grab a sleeping bag and did think about open another tin but decided against it. We need to get off the island as soon as we could. Going outside again, I saw that King was happy with his breakfast, also the fresh air was perking him up. Setting the water jars into the basket, I looked at him in the daylight and saw that there was some tenderness to his legs which meant he had some cuts and bruises.

‘Well, you could have gotten off worse,’ I said to him, I’m going to keep an eye on the tide. Don’t wander off.’

Taking the basket, I went to the end of the driveway and looked for a good place to sit. I wasn’t worried about losing King as I was at the only way off the island. I zipped up the sleeping bag and placed that on the wet grass. I sat down on and watched the sea rocking back and forth. Then I pulled out Frankenstein and read some more.

The tide eventually went out. The Grey Causeway appearing from under the waves. The sky was clearing and the sun was out warming things up. I drank some water then put that and the book in the basket. I abandoned the sleeping bag and went to find King. He hadn’t wondered far.

I decided not to mount him but led him across the Causeway. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to risk him falling again but even if he did it was safer, I was worried about his legs. He seemed to be walking if a little slower and he’s quietness worried me. It was like all the wildness had been knocked out him and he had become meek and over tame.

The Grey Causeway was wet and slipping with large pools in every gap between in the rocks. I saw crabs and other creatures about and seaweed masking the rocks. I watched my step and made sure that the rein’s were loose and that King wasn’t walking too close behind me. My riding boots didn’t have a great grip on them and they weren’t made for rough walking.

I watched the sea lapping at the Causeway. The waves were topped with white and were dark blue, green underneath. I couldn’t see the bottom but at least it was still going out. I had to keep my eyes down and it seemed we were walking the Causeway forever. The basket was heavy in my hand and I put it up into the crook of my elbow or I switched hand with King’s reins.

For a few moments, I thought we were never going to leave the island but as I stopped to get my breath, I saw we had made a lot of distance from the manor and the beach was close now. This helped to push me on and I did pick up my pace as the tide had been out for longer the closer we got to the end.

At last, my feet and King’s hoofs hit the sand.

‘We made it back,’ I cried and rubbed King’s muzzle and head.

We stopped for a longer break. I drink some water and shared some with King. I sat in the damp sand and King stood beside me. I watched the sea and the distant island. Clouds were forming again and the sun was playing peek-a-boo. It was going to rain again.

‘Let’s go home,’ I said and got up.

Picking up the basket and leading King on again, we walked along the beach.

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 4)

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We stood inside the entrance hall of Brierwell Manor, water dripping off us and pooling at our feet. We were both shivering with cold and shock.

It was hard to make much out in the gloom but the hall seemed vast. I could heard the wind driving the rain against the windows and plants moving wildly outside. In the close distance the sea was mounting an attack on the island. Large, powerful waves were hitting against the rocky sides and splashing up into the gardens.

I slide off King’s back and took him to the first open door along the right wall. He followed me slowly, perhaps limping a little. It was too dark for me to see if he was hurt or if he was just tried.

‘We need to get warm and dry,’ I said quietly but still my voice echoed in the abandoned manor, ‘let’s try in here and hope we can find some blankets. Or something…’

I went through the large door and King squeezed himself in behind me. I let go of the reins and felt across the walls either side of the door frame. I guess this was more of an automatic response on entering a dark room.

My fingers came across the switch and I flicked it up. Surprisingly, light flicked on above. It was a dim glow as if the bulb was going but at least we were no longer in darkness. The room was  large parlour, suitable for greeting a big family of guests. The windows were mucky glass and boarded from the outside so I couldn’t see through them. The walls were bare dirty plaster and there was a scattering of dust covered rugs on the floor.

A number of armchairs and tables were placed before a fireplace in the wall to my left opposite the windows. Rubbish was piled about; some of it from the builders, others from people who had been staying here. There were food and drink containers and other items that people had abandoned here.

Squatters were unlikely to have been camping here because it was too far out so it must have been local teenagers or adults. Maybe, they had become homeless or they had just used this place as a break from normal life?

‘We can make a fire,’ I pointed out to King.

I dropped his reins and hurried to the fireplace. Taking off the riding helmet and protective vest, I got busy stacking wood on top of the ash pile all ready there. The wood looked like it was broken from furniture and there was paper torn out of books to help start the flames.

‘We need matches or….’

An orange lighter was on the rug before me as if someone had tossed it to me from the shadowy corner. I scooped it up, pulled open the lid then flicked my thumb over the little metal wheels. Praying a spark and flame would appear, I kept at it.

‘No, it wouldn’t work,’ I cried and threw the lighter away.

I heard King stamp his foot and moved around the room as the sound of the lighter bouncing off the wall spooked him a little.

Scrambling around, I searched for anything else that would help me. There was a lot of rubbish, butts of cigarettes and half burnt things. I found another lighter but it was metal and mostly rusted.

My breath misted before me, I was shaking like crazy and I could feel the cold in my bones. I took off my wet clothes, stripping to just my vest and underwear. I hung my clothes, boots and socks across two armchairs, in the hopes they would dry out a bit. It would help I released on many levels not to having anything on.

I recalled my mobile phone out of the blue and swearing, scrambled for the inside pocket of my fleece. Pulling out the small phone, I saw it was off and and tried to turn it on.

‘I guess it got too wet. I need to dry it out,’ I uttered, trying to hold back tears.

Putting the phone of the seat of the chair with my clothes on, I stared at it as I tried to think what to do. Maybe, there’d be no signal here anyway? Perhaps, a rescue team was all ready on the way? My parents must have seen the time and the arriving storm. When they released I hadn’t come back they must have gone and do something to help me.

A blast of wind sent a chill through me and I needed to move again.

I went over to King and took his saddle off. The rug underneath was dripping wet and like me, I knew he’d be more comfortable not to have any of the tack on. I placed the saddle and rug on the back of another chair and then took his reins off. The leather was all wet and dark.

Once free, King seemed lighter. He stood for a few moments then moved around the room, brushing against everything as if he was looking for something.

‘We need some towels or blankets or curtains….anything dry we can cover up in.’

I didn’t want to tug my boot back on, so I went barefooted out of the room. The sense that it was dangerous to do so filled me. What if I stepped on something sharp or cut my foot open on broken glass?

With shuffling steps, I searched the entrance walls for a light switch and found a panel full. I flipped up all the switches and some of the lights came on. The space was has large as I had first thought with a grand staircase before me. It was all made of wood with tall pillars topped with pine cone statues or something very close to it.

I could see many doors leading away and as I moved over to them, I almost stumbled over a pair of worn and plaster covered workmen’s boots.

‘That’s lucky!’ I cried and easy put them on.

I was a size seven and these must have been tens or elevens. They were like clown shoes on my feet and I had to be careful not to trip but at least my feet were safe now.

I explored the rooms and found that like the parlour, some of them had been lived in. Others though were totally blank and waiting like an artist’s canvas to be decorated upon. It was hard to know what each room’s intention had been but I had little time to think about such things.

I found some sleeping bags and took the ones that looked clearer and less damp. I dumped them back in the parlour, unzipped two of them and used the first to dry down King.

He was too quiet for my liking but I could see no blood, cuts or bruises. It was properly cold and shock. I talked softly to him, words tripping out of my mouth till I didn’t know what I saying. King calmed under my hands and voice and the gentle padded sleeping bag towel. I made sure he was as dry as possible before putting the second sleeping bag on top of him as I would his own quilted horse coat.

Unzipping a third sleeping bag, I wrapped it around me and sat on the edge of an armchair until I felt warm again and no longer numb.

‘At lest we have shelter and are getting warmer,’ I said aloud, ‘I’m hungry though….’

I hugged my stomach and listened to it growling. I doubted there was anything edible here but I wanted to look anyway.

Keeping wrapped in the open sleeping bag, I searched the room. I cleared all the rubbish into a corner, giving King a safe place to be in. The last thing we need was him to step on anything sharp.

Next, I carried on explore the manor. In the kitchen which had been turned into something like a 1940’s farmhouse style set up, I found a wicker basket which would be good for carrying things in. There were some rust tins that I didn’t like the look of but maybe the food would still be okay? I put them, a bakelite tin opener and a metal fork and spoon into the basket.

I searched around the fireplace which had been used to burn what looked like a table. There was a box of matches with three left inside on the floor next to a poker. I picked both of this up and went back to the room I had claimed.

Striking one of the matches, I carefully held it against a crumbled book page and once it took, placed that against some smaller bits of wood. It took the longest few minutes ever but then a steady fire appeared. I warmed myself close to the flames, feeling the tingle of coldness leaving my fingers.

I added some more wood in the fireplace then calculated I’d need to find more. I went back to the kitchen took the remains of the table out of that fireplace and brought it to my one. Then taking the wicker basket once more, I searched for more wood and paper or anything else to burn.

I found some books but didn’t have the heart to burn them. Perhaps, they’d help to pass the time? I found a pan to either cook food in or collect water. As that thought came to me I realised how thirsty I was.

Turning on the kitchen tap I listened to the gargling and pumping of pipes. There was a splutter and brown water dropped out. I turned the tap fuller, hoping it would clear. The water came from a natural spring and hopefully it was still safe to drink.

Leaving the tap and trying not to think about how thirsty I now was, I searched the rest of the kitchen and found a few rusty knifes and a broken chair which I could add to my firewood pile. Then I turned back to the water and saw it was clear. Crying out in happiness, I rushed over and put my face under the small waterfall.

I scooped handfuls into my mouth and felt so much better. The ting of sea salt lingered against the insides of my cheeks and my throat. A small cut on my bottom lip stung. The cold, fresh water cleaned the salt and dryness way. I washed my face and hands then used the edge of the sleeping bag to dry off on.

In any large containers I could find, I collected water for King and myself then went back to the parlour.

  To Be Continued…