Pink Sunset #FirstLineFridays

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The crash of wave and snap of sail sung to Desi as the sun set on another day. She had only a few minutes of watching the ships arriving or leaving the harbour before mother called her back into the inn. She had a good view sat on a little hill above the harbour and now the lamps were being lit too.

Stopping the wind from making noise with her skirts, Desi listened as sails were taken in or let loose. The whipping sounds of ropes and flapping of cloth mixed in with the creaking and slapping sounds of the sea against the ships’ sides made her long to be down there.

Desi shut her eyes and let the rumble voices of the men wash over her. She couldn’t hear what they were saying but she could imagine them repeating instructions, talking about their travels or suggesting which inns to visit this evening.

How she longed to be amongst them, traveling to other lands and escaping her dull life. But it wasn’t to be. Women couldn’t be sailors and many believed it was bad luck for them to even step aboard. Still though, Desi clung to her dream and maybe one day she’d be sailing away from here never to return.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/first-line-friday-may-11th-2018/ with thanks).

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Not There #writephoto

There was someone on the stairs. I pointed at the strange dark shape and said one of the few words I could, ‘ogog!’ Look!

Nanny didn’t pause but carried on taking me upstairs in her arms.

I pointed again, waving my hand more and wiggling against her. I had a bad feeling about the dark figure that was coming out before us. I cried  and tried saying whatever I could but Nanny hushed me and held my waving hand.

We passed the ‘shadow man’ and I felt a cold wave like a winter wind brushing against me. I think I saw a smile on the face, but it was hard to make out. Then the coldness and the man was gone. I twisted and looked over Nanny’s shoulder but there was nothing on the stairs.

And that was how it all began.

It was strange for a child to avoid their nursery but I always tried too. I hated going up the stone staircase to the attic at the top where my toys were because I knew on the tenth step lived the shadow man. It always felt icy cold on that step, day or night, summer or winter.

Nobody believed me about him. Nanny said it was my imagination. My maid, Martha, told me it was just shadows. The housekeeper, Mrs Williams, claimed it was a drift coming from the window. My father declared it was a trick of the light. My mother scoffed then ignored me again as she always did.

So, I stopped talking about him and tried to ignore him too. It was hard because he always seemed to be there. I would have to climb the staircase at some point during each day; after lunch or after my lessons or when my mother had a party and she didn’t want me to be seen.

Pausing at the bottom, I gather the long puffy skirt of my dress and the white underskirt up to reveal the matching colour satin or silk slippers before climbing. Sometimes someone else would be with me; Nanny, Martha or Mrs Williams but as I got older they would send me alone.

On the ninth step, I would stop and look at the tenth. There was nothing making it different from all the other twenty-one steps but in the shadows next to the banister a darker shape lingered there. If I stayed long enough, I’d be able to make out the figure of a man. He was taller then father, dressed in a suit and had long hair tied back with a ribbon. His other features were harder to make out; his face was blurred by black mist but he had eyes, a nose and a mouth that always smiled at me.

I plunged through the coldness, holding my breath then raced up the rest of the stairs. At the top, I would peer down but there was never anything there. I would go into the nursery, close the door and try to play with my dolls, rocking horse, tea-set and jigsaw puzzles. When I grew bored or tried, I would climb into the window box and read one of my many books. Until Nanny or Martha would come up to either lit the lamps or take me to bed.

He would be there, awaiting on the tenth step. Stronger outlined in the night but still blurred and blending with the shadows. He would watch me and smile. I tried not to look but I knew what he was doing all the same. He never did anything else but I think that’s what made me most afraid of him. I hoped he was just stuck there with no power, but who was to really know?

Long after I left my parents house, got married, moved into a new house and had children of my own, the shadow man still haunted me. Who was he? What did he want? When I could not sleep or was bored, I would try to find out but I never got any answers.

Then one day my daughter pointed something out on the stairs leading to the nursery. I looked and saw the shadow man standing on the tenth step, awaiting us.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/05/03/thursday-photo-prompt-ascent-writephoto with thanks).

Xyst #atozchallenge

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Xyst; a garden walk planted with trees. 

Escaping from the tea party, I made my way to the tree walk away. It was a place right at the back of the gardens that had been left naturally wild, once my great-great grandfather had finished having the trees planted. His original plan had been to make a wooded area for hunting in but the horses had struggled with the undergrowth and trees.

There had been so many plans over the years to clear the area and make it something else; another ordered garden, a vegetable patch for the servants, a summer house. The tree walk though was too far out to be much use for any of that, plus there’d always been the matter of the cost of it. I, though was grateful that the tree walk had been left alone and was still wild.

Leaving the neatly racked path, I stepped onto a single dirt track and disappeared into the shadows of the trees. Breathing deeply, I left the constraints of the tea party behind me. I was never very good at remembering my manners, sipping my tea and only nibbling at a sliver of cake. It was especially bad today as we had male guests and I didn’t do well when there were handsome men around!

It was best to stay away and let my mother and sisters deal with such things. Mother was determined to marry us all off before the eldest- Elizabeth now twenty three- turned twenty five. At which point, mother believed the possibility of marriage was low. I did not share that view. Perhaps it was my romantic fifteen year old nature but I wanted to believe there was going to be more to my life then marriage and children.

I let my fingers brush against the rough tree trunks and over grown grass. There was no need to be lady-like in this garden. Overhead, the birds sing of spring in a deep blue sky and the warm breeze promised summer. The scent of flowers and earth hugged the air, making me happy. Following the path, I reached the little wooden bridge over the shallow river that created a boarder to our land.

I lent over, watching the water flowing below. I liked the gentle rushing and bubbling noises. Also, it reminded me that when we had been children, we would throw sticks off the bridge and see who’s came through the other side first. This had been our secret garden; six girls just being children and escaping the pressure of adulthood.

How I wanted things to go back to those days! Being carefree and happy with only the distance shadows of a future out of our control. I sighed and wondered how much longer I could stay away. I should have pretended to have a headache or feel faint but then I would have had to go indoors. I wish I could just hide in here for the rest of my life but one can not escape one’s destiny.

I gathered the pale blue skirts of my afternoon dress and checked them for mud. Mother would not be happy if I returned unclean. Thankfully, it had been dry for a good few days now. Brushing the soft fabric off, I walked back to whatever was awaiting me.

Hopeful Rest (Part 2)

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I came back around to the start of the graveyard and looked out once again. I could see the tracks I’d made in the long grass. My brain puzzled over that same last line and I tried to shrug it off as nothing but there was something here! There had to be a reason why it said ‘we hope they have gone to rest’ on all the headstones.

A rumble of thunder sounded over head, blocking out the music from my headphones for a few seconds. I looked up at the sky and saw it darkening with thick clouds. Time to go home. Going back the way I’d come, I put the route into my mind map. Rain began to fall and I pulled up my hood and hurried on.

Luckily, the storm held off until I had reached a place to shelter. I’m not a fan of rain or storms. I entered the little cafe and sat down at an empty table. It was busy as it seemed other walkers had been caught out by the rain too and huddled inside. I looked over to the small pocket like window and saw a flash of lightening.

I got a cup of tea and a slice of cake. My mind worrying that they might ask me to leave if I didn’t order something. I moved tables to this little one in in a back corner which had a huge bookcase towering over it. I watched other people looking out of the windows and heard them commenting on the sudden storm. The thunder was super loud and I’d kept my music on but I could hear the rumbles over the techno beats.

Forty minutes later and the storm still hadn’t stopped. The rain was now lashing at the windows and the wind threatening to blow the place down. I sighed and hating myself, I call my mum to pick me up and drive me home. At least, I got home safe and dry and had a chance to ask her about the graveyard.

‘I think once there’d been a village there,’ she replied, ‘but I don’t really remember. Gran would know.’

The storm raged most of the night. Highly unusual for England. I slept on and off, my thoughts drifting back to the gravestone and that inscription. Finally at around midnight, I got up and turned on my computer. With just the noise of the storm and the PC fans in the background, I researched the place.

There was little to be found. There had been a village, built for the servants and their families who worked in a manor house close by in the mid 1800’s but it had been bombed in World War 2 by a lost German plane.

Disappointed, I went back to bed and next morning got up and went to see my gran. She lived a few doors down from us. She had been born in this town and never left. If anyone knew about the graveyard and lost village it would be her.

I used my key to her house and let myself in, calling out to her as I opened the door. The smell that hit me was a strong reminder of childhood; mints, faded tobacco smoke, dying flowers, coal fire and old things. I walked into the living room and found her there, in her favorite arm chair, watching TV.

‘Hello, gran,’ I said and hugged her.

She patted my arm, ‘hello, Neil. It’s so nice to see you. Cup of tea?’

‘Sure.’

I helped her up and give her my arm as we walked into the kitchen. Once the tea was made and the biscuits gotten out, we went back into the living room and I started with my questions.

‘I found an old graveyard yesterday, out in the moors and all the headstones had the same last line on them; We hope they have gone to rest. Mum said there was once a village up there. Do you remember it?’

Gran thought for a good few minutes before replying, ‘yes. I never want there. Only heard about it.’

‘It got blown up in the war,’ I added.

‘Yes. That’s what all the stories said but we always thought differently.’

I paused and waited for her to go on.

‘There was some kind of disease, more like a plague, that everyone in the village had. No one knows where it came from. Some say the manor family had it and passed it on to the servants, who then passed it on to their families. Or perhaps, one of the servant’s families had it. It was called The Restless Plague.’

‘The internet said nothing about that,’ I said aloud.

‘No one said anything about it,’ Gran cut in, ‘we were not allowed too, but everyone knew not to go to the village or the manor house.’

‘So everyone died of this plague?’ I asked thoughtfully.

‘That was always the story. You see, it wasn’t a normal plague. Once a person had it they carried on living but they were different. They weren’t all together there,’ she said with a tap to her head, ‘when they weren’t working or sleeping, they would wander around a lot.’

I frowned, not fully understanding. I had another biscuit and a few more sips of hot tea.

‘I saw some of ’em a few times. They’d just be standing, staring at nothing or shuffling along not going anywhere. Everyone was told to keep away, lest you caught the plague too. I saw this one man, once, dressed up like a farmer and he was just moaning at a tree. Another time, there was this child screaming and screaming, until she was carted away,’ Gran said with a shake of her head.

I couldn’t think of any straight questions to ask, my brain was trying to process all of this.

‘Thank goodness they’ve all gone now,’ Gran spoke out, ‘more tea, pet?’

‘No, thanks. What about the headstones, gran?’

‘They all had to be buried in another place. No one wanted them at our church.’

‘And those words? We hope they have gone to rest?’ I pressed.

‘They had no rest in life so maybe they’d find it in death? Who knows…..I’ve some angel cake left,’ gran said getting up,’ You want some? You love angel cake, just like your mum.’

She hobbled to the door then paused and said, ‘there’s a good boy. No more talk about this now.’

I nodded and sipped more tea. My brain felt better that the puzzle had now been solved. I part of me was eager to find out more but what else was there to say?

Hopeful Rest (Part 1)

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Some days, I just mindless walk whilst listening to music. It’s a habit that comes from when I was a teenager and just had to get away from my family. I was so anger and upset all the time back then and I couldn’t talk properly to anyone about it because I didn’t know how to. Being autistic didn’t help either.

It still doesn’t, but at least things have become a little easier. I like my job as an IT assistant at a large office. People come to me with their PC problems and I fix it. Though the world still has a habit of getting on top of me.

I was wandering to cool off after a bad day at work, listening to classic Linkin Park albums on my phone when I came across the old stone gate and fence. I stopped and checked for any signs telling me not to trespass etc, it’s important to pay attention to those things. There didn’t seem to be any and now I had stopped, I realised I wasn’t sure where I was.

Around me, thick trees and bushes blocked out most of the light. The path I was on was overgrown and it seemed nothing had been here recently. I was far from any road or house, in the middle of the moors. There had been something man-made here once and nature had claimed it back.

Getting lost had never scared me, my autistic brain didn’t really understand emotions or feelings. I get them sure, but not on the same level as everyone else. Also, if you wanted to be away from people you had to get lost sometimes.

I went through the gap were a wooden gate once had been and found myself on a fading path heading upwards. There were piles of stones dotted around, all of which had fallen off the wall. Past the trees lay an open, tangled snarl of a clearing and popping up from the super long grass and trails of ivy were headstones.

Counting them slowly, I came to about thirty in total, though there was probably more hidden in the grass. So, a graveyard then. I couldn’t see a church poking above the treeline, maybe if there’d been one it was long since gone. I didn’t give much other thought to the hows and the whys. I liked burial places, they were often quiet and didn’t have that many living people about.

I walked to the first row of headstones and tried to read them. Weather, age and moss made it difficult. I traced some letters and numbers with my fingers and got a few of them. I tried to clear the stone, interested to see the date on it. 1879 seemed to be it. The last line on the stone was clear to read, as if someone had gone to great lengths to make it stand out; We hope they have gone to rest.

I moved on to the next which like the first was a plain arched shape. The inscription once again was faded but at the end were those same words again. I went down the row, looking at each headstone carefully, but they were all too hard to read expect for that repeating last line.

There was an odd sound to those words my brain realised. I had seen many epitaphs but that was just different. Who was ‘we’ ? The family? and why ‘hope’ for something that was true? I don’t really get why people do things sometimes.

I walked around the other gravestones. Some of them were clearer then others and I got the sense this resting place was for members of a small village that might now be lost to history. The earliest date I found was mid 1800’s and the most recent 1930’s close to the start of the Second World War. On all of them though were the same last words; We hope they have gone to rest.

To Be Continued…

The Mummies #SundayPhotoFiction

225 03 March 18th 2018

I shouldn’t have been so shocked to find Egyptian mummies in my great-grandparents’ house but it was disturbing as they were the bodies of two toddlers and a possible still born baby. The two cats and bird I had found earlier, I didn’t mind so much, especially as I remembered them from childhood. Human reminds were just different.

All three mummies were wrapped safely in a wooden packing box that had faded foreign travel information on. I knew my great-grandparents had lived in Egypt for a few years, that was were they had met and began sharing their love of ancient history together. Over the years, they had amassed a huge collection of historical items.

Despite my gut instinct, I had to open the sarcophagi to know what was inside of them. All three had still wrapped bodies in them. The badges had yellowed, cracked with age and a musty dry smell like that of an old book wafted out. I closed the lids quickly and put them all back into the wooden crate. Then labeled what they were and that they should be donated to a museum.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/sunday-photo-fiction-march-18th-2018/ with thanks).

Arch #WritePhoto

Walking around, I imagined the ruinings whole and humming with life. Men shuffling around in brown robes, saying prayers and gardening. A bell tolling, the smell of smoke and tingle of food.

I entered the main part of the Abbey. I touched a cold, grey brick in the huge stone wall. How many other fingers had also pressed here? I looked at the archways on either side, stretching down the nave which ended in a massive empty window. I thought once, coloured glass depicting scenes from the Bible glowed in the sunlight there. Now, a single tree was framed perfectly.

I went over, the illusion of the framed tree breaking. I felt the draft more and wondered what had happened the window. The ledge was too high for me to lean out of. I turned and looked back. What had people thought as they stood on this alter stand?

Had God ever been here? Had He abandoned the Abbey when the monks had? Did He still come now and wonder through these empty arches? No one could answer those questions but Himself.

As for me, I enjoyed the peace that still remind in places liked this.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/08/thursday-photo-prompt-arch-writephoto/ with thanks).

Woodland #writephoto

I watched the rain and the sun through the oak tree’s branches and leaves. There was going to be a rainbow somewhere but I didn’t care to look for it. Wiping the tears from my face, I wonder how this had all happened to me. How could I have misread the signs of his affections? All along he had wanted my younger sister!

The oak’s trunk was damp and rough at my back, I had been ignoring the discomfort but now I eased off the tree. I looked at my muddy shoes and skirts. it would be hard to hide them when I returned. I gazed around the woods but no solutions came to my foggy mind.

I should go back to the house but they were all there celebrating the engagement. How was I ever going to face him again? I couldn’t call him out on it, he would deign it. So, I had to live with this the rest of my life; the man I loved, married to my sister and lost to me forever.

 

(inspired by https://scvincent.com/2018/01/25/thursday-photo-prompt-woodland-writephoto/ with thanks).

The Tree #TwitteringTales

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The Druid tree stood bare in a forest full of green. Only when a person of nature magic touched the empty soil at the base would the tree awaken. The branches would fill with green leaves and pink blooms then the trunk would open, revealing the secret grove of the Druids.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/01/16/twittering-tale-67-the-tree-16-january-2018/ with thanks).

Christmas Eve

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The moon shone of the freshly fallen snow, making it sparkly like diamonds. The little girl sighed and felt the chilly night air deep in her lungs. She should be home, safely tugged in bed, waiting for Father Christmas to arrive, but she wasn’t.

The train station platform the girl stood on was empty expect for her and her mother. They were waiting for the midnight train which was bringing father back to them. Huddled in her new white cloak, the girl looked up at the clear sky and full moon. A shadow in shape she recognised passed by and she pointed excitedly upwards; it was Father Christmas in his sled!

The sound of a train broke the silence as it pulled into the station, black smoke pluming through the air. There was a hiss of steam and squeal of wheels as the train stopped before them. The girl clutched her mother’s skirts and half hide behind her.

The handful of carriage doors opened and only a few people got out. The girl saw her father coming towards her and broke into a run, tugging her mother to do the same. They embraced, all hugging each other and talking at once.

Safe in the arms of her parents, the little girl looked to the sky once more and thanked Father Christmas for the best present she could have asked for.