The Last Train #FridayFictioneers

They were closing the old steam railway down. It was too expensive to run things and the volunteers hadn’t been able to save it.

People crowded on the small platform, waiting either to see the train or take a ride for the last time.

It was a shame, a true end of an era moment.

Steam billowed out around the old engine train and the whistle blew. It was time to leave the station for the last time.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/07/24/26-july-2019/ with thanks).

Advertisements

Ritual #FirstLineFridays

588410

They congregated up in the hills, far away from judging eyes. The ground was soft and wet under their bare feet. A warm breeze blew their simple robes about their ankles and wrists. The sky was blocked by a low hanging fog that hugged the hills in a chilly embrace.

They gathered around the huge standing stone who’s jagged edges pierced the sky. Strange symbols and patterns covered the stones surface, darkened by dried blood and faded blue paint.

Around that hill top, smaller standing stones raising up out of the long grass formed a circle Each had a symbol on that had once been painted green. Perhaps they were a warning? Or protection for those inside?

The people took off their robes, felt the chill of the air and fog on their skin. Tattoos covered their bodies, matching the symbols on the standing stones. Everyone joined hands and began singing in a language that was hardly heard today.

Before their voices died away, a wizened old man, bent almost double and leaning on a gnarled old walking stick came forward. He touched the stone and began chanting. Other voices rose and fell around him.

The ritual had begun.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/first-line-friday-july-19th-2019/ with thanks).

 

Moon Landing #3LineTales

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, photo taken by Neil Armstrong

Neil smiled within the helmet and thought, everything’s going to plan perfectly, it all seems so easy! 

He looked around, still unable to believe he was walking on the surface of the moon, it was too dream like then something caught his eye, a little movement at the edge of one of the craters.

Neil focused on it, he saw three green tentacles with eyes watching him, shocked he walked over but by the time he got there whatever it was had gone, it’s just lack of oxygen or something… shaking his head, Neil walked back to the shuttle.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/07/18/three-line-tales-week-181/ with thanks).

Port #WhatPegmanSaw

beach-733556_1920

They sat on the pebble shore, reflecting on what they had seen in the museum. It had been a shock to see the half section of the Mary Rose which their distant ancestor had sailed upon, looking so well persevered.

The wooden hull of the ship had dripped the protective water being sprayed a upon, making it easier to imagine the Mary Rose riding the sea waves.

They had seen items that their ancestor might have used on board and learned about the life he’d lead. They felt closer to him now then they did before.

 

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2019/07/06/portsmouth-hampshire-uk/ with thanks).

 

 

St. Mary’s Retreat

nun-2662167_1920

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

cemetery-2093999_1920

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.

Choices #WritePhoto

a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.

On the shore he wandered, lost in his own thoughts. With his head down, he watched the surf lapping at his boots. The sea would be cold, he knew but still he took his boots and socks off. There was just something irresistible about walking barefoot on the beach.

Socks in his pocket, boots in hand, he carried on walking. The sand was cool and the sea cold, but he liked the feeling in between his toes. He let his thoughts go off again, like the seagulls that took flight when he got too close.

The beach was empty at this time in the morning which was how he always liked it. He could be alone without people staring and trying to ask him questions about what happened to his body. Children called him a monster and parents would quickly drag them away.

I was fighting for this country, he wanted to say, a bomb fell on a house, I tried to save the innocent family trapped inside but the fire was too bad.

Unfortunately, he knew it wouldn’t matter. His words couldn’t change the effects of his actions across his skin. However, out here away from it all, nothing cared. The sand and sea couldn’t judge him, he could just be himself, alone with his thoughts and scars.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Small #WritePhoto

an old, carved stone whose recesses are stuffed with red and black ladybirds.

It was a too hot summer afternoon, so I had taken toddler Ava into a shady patch of the lower garden. We sat on the grass, in the dappled shadow of an oak tree which rose up over the reminds of the old family chapel.

Whilst Ava played with some of her toys, I looked at the fallen stone walls and large pieces of stone decor. It was hard to imagine what the chapel had once looked like but I had seen some photos and though it had been small it had been a splendid place.

On the other side of the chapel, out of sight down a sloping hill and nested around three willow trees, was the family cemetery. Every Bartlett was buried there and when her time came, Ava would be too.

I on the other hand, just a nanny, would be buried in the village church graveyard where all the other past servants of Bartlett Manor where.

‘Look! What’s it!’ Ava cried.

I turned, frowning and  saw the three year old pointing to one of the decorative stones. Picking her up, we went for a closer look.

Crowding into the nooks of what might have been a corner stone of the outside ceiling with a now moss covered leave like pattern on it, with hundreds of small ladybirds.

Ava squealed and tried to stick her fingers into the crawling mass. I grabbed her hand and pulled it back.

‘They are only baby ladybirds,’ I explained.

‘Lay-d-burs,’ Ava tried to pronounce.

I laughed at her and clapped her hands together as I sang;

‘Ladybird, ladybird,
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire
And your children all gone;
All except one
And that’s little Ann,
And she has crept under
The warming pan.’

We laughed together then carried on watching the ladybirds.

‘What lay-d-burs doing?’ Ava asked.

‘Napping. Like you should be doing,’ I replied.
Ava pulled a face and began to make a fuss. I quickly settled her down on the picnic blanket and started to read some fairy tales to her.
The heat and tiredness got to her and she was soon asleep.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/ with thanks).

Ladybird nursery rhyme quote from; https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46960/ladybird-ladybird

Reunion #TaleWeaver

landing-craft-537000_1920

He stood on the beach alone, leaning on his walking sticks and staring out to sea. For the last few days the remembrance and celebration events had been going on and he had been reunited with some old friends. Still, he couldn’t believe it had been seventy-five years since he had first walked across this beach.

He could picture everything still; first light, the cold rough waves of the sea, first against the boats then against his legs as he struggled forward with his company. The heavy weight of his gun and pack. The bundle of nerves in his stomach and the twisting thoughts of what might lay in wait for him.

The sounds of machine guns and other weapons boomed out from the cliff tops creating a noise so deafening, it had never left his ears. He had only just been able to hear the orders to run forward, to take the beach. The sound of friendly fire was even louder then then enemies’ and so close it made him feel terrified.

The first soldiers got shot. The sea foam turned red and bodies bobbed in the water face down. More fell on the beach and were left behind as their pals ran onwards. Victory must be had! There would be time later to help the dead.

More and more men fell, the sea and sand seeming to be their final resting place. Everything turned red with blood, the cries of the dying and wounded came into competition with the gun noises. Bullets zipped this way and that, zinging through the air till the hit something.

He was no longer thinking, just acting on instinct and that’s why he didn’t really remember things. Everything seemed to blur into one. There was a body, there was a fallen gun, there was the sea behind him and the boats now awaiting them. He had seen so much but no words could ever describe it.

He had been nineteen. Just a boy. A boy who had wanted to do his bit to save his country. Make his parents proud and his sweetheart love him more. His teacher had said he should sign up, become a hero. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

He had never felt like a hero. Not even now.

‘The dead are the heroes!’ he had told one news reporter and he had meant it too.

 

war-1202637_1920.jpg

In memory of all those lost on D-Day.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/tale-weaver-226-reunion-june-6th/ with thanks).

Transition #WritePhoto

transition

It wasn’t the priest hole in the wall or under the floor the Catholic priest had been expecting. Looking out of the small arched doorway, he could see a neat flagstone path leading to a small hut covered with ivy.

‘The well house,’ one of the maids explained.

‘Oh,’ was all he could reply.

The maid led the way with a quick step and the priest still clutching his bible followed her.

They left the family and other servants in the chapel behind, hurriedly tidying things away. Then everyone scattered as on the other side of the house, the guards and pursuivant entered through the main door and began their search for Catholics.

The maid open the hut’s door and rushed inside. The priest followed, closing the door behind him. He looked around in the gloom and saw the moss clinging to the walls and before him the huge construction of the well. Above ran thick wooden beams and there was a system of pulleys and weights to the left side.

The maid was turning the handle which was causing a long pole to also turn and a thick rope began to twist around the pole as the bucket was drawn up.

‘Where am I to hide? The guards will search in here!’ the priest cried for he could see no where safe.

‘In the well,’ the maid gasped.

‘In there….’ the priest trailed and looked over the edge of the solid wall of the well.

He couldn’t see anything but darkness.

‘They won’t look for you down here,’ the maid added.

The priest looked towards the door, ‘is there no where else in the house?’

‘Not that I know. I was told to bring you here. The bucket is coming up now,’ the maid pointed out.

The priest stood back as the rope came to an end and the bucket full of water appeared.

With some effort, the maid pulled the bucket over and unattached it. Water sloshed on the floor and splashed up her skirts. From the corner, she brought out an empty bucket and attached to to the rope. Then turning to the small window sill, she did something the priest could not see.

‘Here’s a candle,’ the maid said, lighting a thin white candle and handing it to the priest, ‘there’s a ledge down there for you to stand on. When the bucket gets there shout stop and I shall try to do so. Blow the candle out when you can. We shall come and get you when the guards have gone.’

Nodding the priest, helped put the bucket into the well then climbed in. Juggling Bible and candle in one hand, he held the rope with his other then watched the maid lowering him in.

The wet walls of the well rose up above him and the priest watched for any ledges sticking out. The candle flame fluttered and wax droplets burnt his hand. The priest held tightly on, feeling his stomach aching. Then meters down the well, he saw the ledge.

‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ he screamed upwards.

The bucket jerked and he heard the echoing strains of the maid trying to hold on. The priest scrambled out and found to his shock that the ledge was just enough for him to stand upon. Almost tripping on his robes, he nearly tumbled backwards and the candle fell from his hand.

Hugging the wall, he pressed his face into the cold, wet stone and took a few deep breaths. He shut his eyes and started praying hard as the bucket went down passed him. Further below, he heard it hit the water and then the bucket began to raise up.

The priest stood in the pitch darkness for so long he lost track of the time and his repeated prayers. At one point, he thought he heard voices above and the maid had returned for him but no bucket came down.

God delivery me for this, he thought, bring me peace.

What felt like a long, long time later, the priest heard movement and the creaking of wood. Gently, moving his face from off the wall, the priest looked up but could not see anything for awhile. Then a light, like the Spirit of God, shone down and the priest saw the bucket and a candle inside.

He grabbed the bucket, pulling on the rope to signal he had it. Taking the candle out, the priest climbed inside and tugged on the rope again. The bucket swung then he as lifted up and up till at last he could see the lips of the well.

He reached the top and all put fell out of the bucket as two male servants tried to help him.

The priest rested against wall, sipping wine that someone had pressed into his hand and shaking his head whilst repeatedly saying, ‘never again, never again.’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/05/23/thursday-photo-prompt-transition-writephoto/ with thanks).