The tree didn’t blow in the wind. It just stood frozen at the end of the field.
The tree didn’t blow in the wind. It just stood frozen at the end of the field.
‘It’s sabotage, you know,’ said my wife.
I pulled a face as we carried on looking out the window. In the street below our apartment two fire engines were putting out the fire engulfing the only house on the block.
‘They’ve been trying to knock down that house for years so they can build another complex there,’ she explained.
‘It was probably an accident,’ I responded.
‘Hopefully, they had good insure and can built another house then,’ my wife added.
A few months later, my wife was proven right.
(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/11/15/10-november-2017/ with thanks).
The sun rose over the little seaside village. The bright yellow, orange, pink and purple colours giving the clouds a rainbow haze against the dusky blue sky. I drove home from my night shift watching as the darkness faded to light and another late autumn day was born.
Glancing over at the sea, it looked calm today. The dark blue, cream topped waves lapping against the crunchy sand shore. The rising sun creating beams of light as the clouds moved. There were no boats or people to be seen just yet. It was too easy to see why this place had been called Haven.
Entering the little road that led into the village which was made up of a handful of fisherman’s cottages, one shop, post office and four holiday homes, I drove past them all and to the larger house that stood by itself on a hill. Originally built for a Navy Admiral who had only lived in it a few years before being lost at sea, the house had then become a hotel and local pub. When that failed, my great grandparents brought it and made it a family home.
Parking up, I just had the energy to get out and make my way into the house. The smell of the sea was heavy and there was sand in the hallway again. Going upstairs, I took everything with me then abandoned it on the chair in my bedroom. I got into bed naked, loving the freedom and feel of the cold sheets.
By the time the sun was fully up and most people were too, I had made a nest out of all the bedding, I settled back and was almost asleep. A car horn sounded and voices shouted. I looked across at the window but of course I couldn’t see anything due to the black out curtains.
I had to wait until the neighbours had driven off or gone back inside before trying again. Being exhausted after a twelve hour shift on the hospital ward helped and I was asleep before I even knew it, safe in my own little haven.
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/11/16/thursday-photo-prompt-haven-writephoto with thanks).
I went home, got my college stuff and caught the bus. Resting my head against the wet window, my thoughts drifted and before I knew it, the bus was stopping outside the college’s gates. Getting off, I headed straight for the library which was either going to be packed or….empty.
There was no one in the lobby, not even a librarian at the desk. I turned back, checked the open sign in the window then with a shrug walked though. The tables and sofas running down the left side were strangely empty. Tall bookcases set up like dominoes were on the other side. There was a staircase straight to my right which I went up.
Pushing through the double doors, I heard whispers of voices and saw two woman at a table with books scattered around them. Feeling better that I wasn’t alone, I went to the section of books I needed and starting gathering more research for my essay. It did take a little while but soon, I was totally focused on my studies.
By the time I left the library, due to the fact it was closing early, the sky was so dark it seemed to be the middle of the night. I huddled in the bus shelter with three other people- a girl and two guys- who held a mixture of conversions. My bag was heavy with books as I’d taken out so I had some more to get through the weekend with. I kept switching shoulders with it then finally give up and set it down my feet.
It was raining lightly now but the wind had really picked up and I could feel the cold through my winter coat. I looked at the bus time table again and noticed the bus was late. I hope they hadn’t cancelled. If the weather and the darkness had been better I would have walked again. The paper mill came back into my head and I hoped the girl was okay.
The bus emerged from the black road and came to a stop before us. I hurried on and took a seat close to the front. There were a few other people on the bus and they all looked as wet and cold as us students did. During the drive, I thought about getting off at the stop close to the mill, but I decided I was too tried and hungry to do that. Plus, I’d have to walk back too.
Arriving at home, I showered and got changed, so I was warmer, then I heated up a can of soup. Eating before the glow of the TV, I blocked out the loneliness of the house. My grandparents had gone for a month and wouldn’t be back for another week. Perhaps, that was why I was so desperate about the homeless girl? I was too tried to think any more.
Leaving the hall light on, I went up to bed. I read for bit before laying in the dimly lit room. The wind was still howling outside and the rain was hitting the window. I thought it would take me awhile to sleep but it came on my quickly. I didn’t have any dreams and I felt refreshed.
Getting up and ready, I saw it had stopped raining. I made breakfast and decided I had to go back to the abandoned mill. I packed up some more food- things that were going out of date from the fridge, some fruit and more tins. This time I also went into the attic and found an old but still good sleeping bag and a pillow.
Walking over, the sky threatened more rain and I past a few cars driving about. At the rows of houses there was more activity as children played outside and parents unloaded shopping. I got a look off an older man and it took me a few moments to realise he was wondering where I was going with a sleeping bag in one hand and a pillow poking out of a carry bag in the other. He’d did’t say anything though.
The paper mill looked the same though in the morning light I could see more of the decay and nature taking over. I crept in, across the courtyard and inside the main building. There was water dripping somewhere and the creaking of wood. I didn’t need my torch this time and I was able to got the right way too!
The girl was still in the room and as I entered the doorway, I saw her piling damp wood closer to the fire pit. She was wearing the coat, bobble hat and a pair of trousers that I had given her. My heart leaped and I felt better.
‘Hello,’ I called.
She stopped, give me a nod and set the wooden planks down.
‘Do the clothes fit?’ I asked walking in.
She give a shrug and said something that I missed.
‘I thought maybe you’d like this too,’ I said and held out the sleeping bag and pillow.
She came and took them from me and whilst she was looking at them, I took the rucksack off and began emptying it. I set all the food down then zipped up the rucksack and slipped it on again. I smiled at her.
‘Why…do you keep doing this?’ she said slowly.
‘I guess because….’ I frowned and really thought about why.
‘Are you sorry for me? Is that why?’ she demanded.
‘No!’ Well, maybe a little…’
‘I don’t need your pity,’ she snapped.
She crossed her arms over her chest and turned her head away.
I pressed my lips together and replied, ‘I’d have been throwing all this away anyway…’
She didn’t responded. I shifted around on my feet and decided it was time I admitted the truth to her and myself.
‘I’m lonely. I guess that’s why…’ I said.
Our eyes meet then she looked me up and down.
‘I don’t believe you,’ she answered.
Sighing, I spoke, ‘guess that is bit odd but it’s the truth.’
‘I don’t need friends. They only stab you in the back,’ she explained, ‘I’m happy alone.’
Nodding, there was nothing else to say. I began to leave.
‘Don’t come back again,’ she said quietly, ‘I won’t be here.’
I glanced over my shoulder at her. The dirt on her child-like face and her unkempt dark hair stuck in my mind. Going home, I reflected on our conversion and decided I need to make more effort in class to make some friends.
I managed to stay away from the old paper mill for a week but then I had to go back again. I went empty handed this time because I just needed to know if she had left or not.
When I arrived, there was a new metal fence around the mill and signs warning people not to trespass and beware dangerous building. I pressed myself to the gate, looking at the mill and I saw that the doors and lower windows had been boarded up.
‘I hope you found somewhere else to go,’ I whispered.
Turning away, I went to catch the bus to meet my new friends for lunch.
Laying in bed, the bedside lamp on to keep the dark at bay, my thoughts kept going back to that girl. She had either run away from home or just didn’t have a home to go back to. I tried to imagine living like her; no family or college, no money or food, no bed or clean clothes. It would be hard. Tossing about, I finally settled down but my mind still wouldn’t turn off.
Tomorrow, I told myself, I’ll get somethings together and take them to her. Maybe she’ll talk to me then and perhaps I can help. Or maybe, the other side of my mind thought, I should just let it go. It’s none of my business. But by seeing and talking to her I had made it my business.
In the morning after a shower and breakfast, I should have sat down to work on one of my essays. I didn’t have classes today and tomorrow was Saturday, so I should have been thinking about going back to the library. Instead, that homeless girl was still in my mind, so I set about finding things she could have.
My parents had died when I was ten, so my grandparents had took me in. They were currently away on holiday, visiting their other daughter and grandchildren in America. There was still a lot of my parents’ things in the attic but I didn’t have time to look through all that. What if the girl had left the mill because I’d scared her? I needed to get there as soon as possible. Luckily, close to the front door was a bag of clothes my gran was putting out for charity collection.
There were a few of my tops that were too small now, but might fit her. I also selected an old green jumper and two pairs of my grandpa’s trousers. There was my old winter coat in the closet, a bobble hat and matching gloves. Taking everything back upstairs, I put the clothes in a rucksack then brought that down. In the kitchen, I took some tins of beans and soup that had ring pulls. Some cans of fizzy drink, bottles of water, a packet of biscuits that no one of liked and a bag of dried fruit.
With those in the bag, I wondered what else would a homeless girl need. Perhaps; sanitary towels, painkillers, matches, candles and a few other bits of pieces. the rucksack was heavy but it would be worth it. I got ready to go, saw it was raining and decided on my wellington boots and an umbrella. Was there a spare one to take her? My grandpa liked to collect useful things, so at the back of the closet were a few spare umbrellas. I chose a small pink one then set off.
The day was dull and it must have been raining to awhile because there were large puddles and everything was dripping wet. I walked slowly, weighted down with the rucksack. Some of the streetlamps were still on but they didn’t seem to be doing a good job. I hoped it wouldn’t get any darker. Following the country lanes around and to the bridge I didn’t see anybody or cars.
Going over the river, I picked up my pace and hurried through the rows of houses to the mill. I squeezed the gap in the fence and made my way over. In the gloom and rain, the paper mill looked darker and more dirtier. I could hear the rain falling into holes in the roof and dripping off metal.
In through the door and I had to get my phone’s torch out to see. There was no keeping quiet with my wellingtons and heavy rucksack on the debris covered floor. I thought I went to the room she had been in, but I must have taken a wrong turn because I ended up at a metal staircase. At the top of which was a void of darkness. Shivering, I turned away and weaved my way back again. All the rooms looked the same but at last I found the right one.
‘Hello?’ I called, ‘It’s me Darcy.’
The fire wasn’t lit but there was enough dim light from the tall windows to see that she was still there. She was sat on the floor, huddled in dirty blankets with a sleeping bag wrapped around her. She turned and realised it was me.
‘I thought maybe….I could bring you somethings,’ I spoke, not sure what really to say.
She turned away from me without saying anything.
I walked over and placed the bag down.
‘It’s not much just some food and clothes,’ I added.
There was a large piece of cardboard next to my feet, so I sat down. I opened the bag and took anything out. She kept her head turned away from me as if I wasn’t there. Whatever I had been thinking might happen, it hadn’t been like this. But why would a teenage girl suddenly gush out her life story to a stranger she’d never meet over some old clothes and food? Had I really thought we’re going to become best friends?
I waited a few minutes, listening to the rain falling and feeling the cold stiffen my limbs. She was quiet, ignoring me and because she was keeping away from me, I couldn’t make out her face. I wanted to catch her eye so at least I could try and say something else, but she didn’t move.
‘Fine,’ I sighed, ‘I’ll go.’
I picked up the rucksack and slowly walked away. Every now and then I glanced over my shoulder, but the girl hadn’t moved. At the doorway, I stopped and thought about saying something else to her, reminding her of her manners maybe? Get angry and yelling out my disgust at her? Perhaps hoping her the best?
The words, whatever they were, wouldn’t come out so I turned away and walked back through. Even though my mind was still on her, I couldn’t help but think about what the paper mill would have been like in the past. It would have been loud with machines cutting up the trees and making the paper. The air would have been heavy with wood dust and chemicals. People would have been everywhere too.
I made it out in one go, only to find the rain had got heavier and the wind had picked up. I opened my umbrella and hurried home, my heart and thoughts weighed down.
To Be Continued…
The worse thing about autumn was it got dark far too soon and I’d always been scared of the dark. I hadn’t meant for it to be so late when I left the college library but I’d been doing research for my last two essays of the year. I hadn’t notice the time until I’d left and gone to the bus stop. I’d missed the last bus home.
So either, I walked the half an hour into town and got another bus or I walked the forty minutes home. If it had been raining which made it darker, I might have gotten the bus but I decided that I could make walking home. Most of the way would be well lit by street lamps and I had gone this way lots of times in the last year.
Drawing up all my bravery, I set off at a hurried pace. My heavy rucksack almost dragging me back whilst making my shoulders ache, distracted me as I went. My college was on a limbo boarder of just being outside a village and on the edge of countryside. The fastest way home was to half walk through the village then go up some country lanes.
I was about halfway home and just about to walk over a small bridge. Behind me an abandoned 1800’s paper mill ruled over the little houses that had once been home to it’s workers. The village had sprung up around the mill but once they had cleared all the trees, it started to get expensive importing more, sales had dropped too and the mill had closed it’s doors.
I stopped and faced off with the darkness before me. A single street lamp on the bridge was the only barrier between us. Beyond that the quiet countryside seemed to stretch endlessly away. I could hear the faint flow of the low river going under the bridge and something else in the distance behind me.
I listened harder, half turning to the sound which was like a muffled crying. I looked back at a row of houses, most had dim lights in the windows and others were draped in black. The paper mill looked eerie, like a silent empty watchman. I tried to tell myself the noise was just a cat or a baby but this feeling of strangeness grew in my stomach.
What if someone was hurt and only I could help them?
Glancing at the bridge, my mind made a choice that I didn’t get a chance to think about. I turned away and walked back towards the houses. I followed the sound along those small well lit pavements, thinking at any moment I’d find the source. Arriving at the gates of the mill and peering though the towering bars, I spotted the flicker of a fire in a ground floor window.
A voice in my head told me to go and my feet began to move away but the rest of me stayed at the gate. The crying was coming from the mill. Thoughts ran though my head; it’s a trick of the darkness, it’s an echo from something else, it’s a ghost, a homeless person, an animal. Why am I here? Go home!
I couldn’t though…
Looking further along the metal fence, I found a hole large enough to fit through and I stepped into the cobbled courtyard of the mill. Trying to walk in a hurried but quiet way didn’t work, so instead I give up trying to hide my presence and just went over to the steps. Looking up, I could make out how run down the mill was now but there was too much darkness to see further.
I went to the window the fire was coming from. I couldn’t see in though as the wall was too tall. My hands touched the cold damp stone and quickly withdrew as if something had bitten me. Coming away, I crept around for a bit, trying not to let the deep darkness creep me out more. Every shadow was a good hiding place for someone and I was just waiting for something to happen. My throat got dry, my heartbeat was loud and fear was making me sweat despite the cold evening.
Taking out my phone and putting the torch app on, give me some more light and helped to keep the shadows at bay. I found a half open metal door and slipped into the building. There was a maze of rooms and a musty smell. Carefully walking, I spent a good few minutes figuring out where the fire was burning. Trying to convince myself it was just kids messing around and perhaps one had got left behind, helped make me feel better.
Standing in the doorway of the right room, I saw a small fire on the floor and next to it was a small humped over person shape.
‘Hello?’ I called out.
The shape moved, twisting around to look at me whilst gasping. I couldn’t make anything out as my phone light didn’t reach so far and there wasn’t enough light coming from the fire. I heard scrambling and the person getting up and moving.
‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ I spoke in a shaky voice, ‘I think I heard you crying. Do you need help?’
‘No,’ the voice of a girl sounded back.
I sighed, glad the person wasn’t a man nor hurt. I waved in the door, wanting to move closer but then not moving as there might be danger.
‘What do you want?’ the girl demanded.
‘Nothing,’ I replied, ‘what are you doing here?’
‘This is my home!’
‘Your…?’ I trailed and looked at what I could see.
Then I stepped inside the room. It was bare but for the fire and small pile of stuff on the floor. I got closer to the fire, drawn by the heat and I saw a girl in her late teens, just like me. She was wearing layers of ripped clothes, her hair and face were dirty but she was standing defensively, ready to fight.
‘I’m Darcy,’ I spoke to break up the tension.
She shook her head at me.
‘How did you end up here? Where are your parents?’
‘None of your business. Go away,’ she snapped.
I frowned and thought about saying more. I had the urge to help her but what could I do? Turning away, I walked back to the doorway. Then with a glance at her went through and tried to remember the way out.
To Be Continued…
She was just so far behind with everything that she might as well be time travelling back into the past. The work was piled meters high on her desk, so that it looked like paper sculptures and her computer calendar chimed every minute with another reminder about something.
She did all she could in the work time then went home to a dysfunctional house. At least her husband had remembered to pick up the kids from their after school clubs today. There was still a meal to be made, clothes washing to do, tidying up and from out of the chatter of her ten year old, a school project that was due in tomorrow and he hadn’t started yet.
There was no escaping the lack of time here either but she couldn’t easily stop like at work. Somehow and with family help, she got everything done and went to bed at midnight. The dream she had though was strange. She was walking somewhere, the colours were all washed together and she could hear a loud clock ticking in the distance.
There was a town but all the people in it had clocks instead of faces. She could hear them speaking to each other and they didn’t find it as bazaar as she did. Still that loud ticking continued. She entered a city and found all the buildings made of clocks and the noise they created was deafening. The people they didn’t seem to care because they were totally clocks themselves.
She watched them hurrying past. They had long thin black legs with shoes at the end and long black hands with black gloves and the clock face was the body and the head together. They seemed to talk in a tick tock language which she couldn’t understand. Then she saw a clock dog being walked by a clock person and it was all just too much to handle.
Hurrying away, she left the city and found herself in the colour washed landscape once more. There was a mirror before her, standing alone and seemingly waiting for her. She went up and looked at her reflection…but a clock face looked back at her instead. Screaming, she awoke from the dream and sat in the darkness wrapped in twisted sheets.
Her husband shifted beside her and awoke, questioning what was wrong.
‘Look at my face!’ she demanded.
‘I can’t, it’s dark,’ he replied.
She got up went into the bathroom and slowly stepped before the mirror. Her own face looked back at her. Breathing deeply, she shook off the dream but decided that tomorrow she was going to ask for some help and perhaps then she could live in the now and not in the past.
He wouldn’t have liked his strangers going through his things and putting them on display. He was a private, independent and adventurous young man with a quiet talent. Those strangers probably thought they were doing a good thing; does anyone recognise this bag and contents? Handed to police (in random country). It only made me more heartbroken though because it meant he had truly gone. He wouldn’t leave his things like that. I suppose I should be happy to get them back but I’d rather it had been him instead.
(Inspired from; https://bikurgurl.com/2017/11/08/100-word-wednesday-week-44 with thanks.)
When she picked up the email her heart leaped. This was her chance to prove she could do it and move on from being a plain old receptionist. This job interview was her ticket through a new door and only goodness lay at the other side.
She spent the rest of the day preparing; getting her clothes sorted, reminding herself of what she wrote in her job application, writing down questions and answers and even internet researching things. She felt so ready and like the job was her’s no matter what.
Laying in bed that night though, she couldn’t sleep. Her stomach churned like fish heads in a mincing machine, her back ached as if she was laying on a wooden board and her head swim like a whirlpool. She plucked thoughts out of the air as they whizzed passed; what if they asked a really weird question? what if she messed up a big answer? What if someone else was stronger then her?
She saw the job slipping away from her, like ice melting and trickling out of her hands. Sitting up in bed, she turned on the light and reached for one of the self-help books by her bed. She had recently shuffled them so the one about succeeding in interviews and a new job was at the top. Finding her place, she read for awhile. That give her some comfort.
Sleeping well afterwards, she arose in the morning and went about everything as normal. There were large, scratching butterflies in her stomach and her back was still twinging, but she got by. Then it was finally time to get ready and leave. Reminding herself that the job was as good as her’s already, She give it her all and walked out afterwards on a new path.
Seeing the quiet French field it was strange to think it had once been so different. The black and white photos in my little book were prove of that though. Once there was only disturbed mud and bodies, the green landscape lost forever. And of course, it hadn’t been quiet; the air had shook with deafening gunfire, shouting and the moans of the dying.
Sitting in the wheelchair which had now become my life, I clutched my book and the woollen blanket in my lap. I shut my eyes and was back there straight away, walking through the smoke. The trench was slick with running mud and rain was tumbling from a dark grey sky. I stepped over a body, a twisted mangle shape that had once been a living man. He seemed half sunk into the mud, face down. I carried on, so use to the sight it just seemed normal now.
My feet were leading the way as the rest of me was numb. I entered one of the shelters and sunk down into a damp camp bed. I didn’t know if this was my place but it didn’t matter. I think there was someone else in the bed above me, sleeping. Without taking anything off, I lay down and feel asleep.
My wish was never to wake up again but each time I did.
Opening my wet eyes, those imagines stayed with me. Bad shakes racked through my body. Someone was saying something but in that moment I had forgotten there were other people with me. None of them had been there, so they’d never understand what it was truly like.
From the Realm of Royal Family
-musings of a wild book dragon-
Wrangling Literary Arts for Writers: Words for People!
...moments of unexpected clarity