A Winter Storm #WeeklyWritingChallenge

administration-architecture-attractions-433935

Harper went to draw the curtains at the living room’s floor to ceiling windows of her three bedroom top floor London apartment. She stopped and looked out. Normally she could see much of London’s high end business streets, fancy apartment blocks and Big Ben on the skyline.

Tonight though, a snowstorm had hit the city and it was really coming down now. The large, heavy white flakes were sticking to everything, even things that were normally warm. The wind was gale force, gusting at 30-40 miles, creating a white blindness against the darkness and the noise it was making was louder then the London traffic jams far below.

Clutching the curtain, Harper said aloud, ‘I’ve only seen snow like this on TV in those snowed-in romantic movies. Well, it doesn’t look ‘lovely’ to me.’

She closed the curtain on the scene and as she did so she heard Big Ben strike the hour. Frowning, Harper opened the curtains and tried to look out but she could barely see anything. She listened hard but heard nothing then the howling wind.

I thought they were still repairing things, the bell and clock haven’t worked in months. How can Ben chime then? Maybe, I miss heard it? Harper thought.

Closing the curtains finally, she turned away and back to the tidy open living room. The fake fire was going in the wall, the warmth coming off it making everything cosy. The other walls were decorated with framed photos of family and friends, Harper and her husband, Hugo, at there wedding five years ago, on their honeymoon, other holidays and celebrations. The larger frames were decorate with sprigs or small garlands of real green ivy and red berries.

There was a medium size Christmas tree, shinning in the corner next to the fireplace. The red and gold colours of all the decorations and lights give a magical feeling. Other Christmas decorations hung about or were on display from shelves, adding to theme. On and around the glass coffee table were stack boxes of presents, rolls of colourful wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, labels, sticky table and scissors.

Harper went back to the red bean bag chair next to the coffee table, where she had been curled up in before. There was a fresh cup of herbal tea on the table and the TV which was turned down low showed Christmas music videos.

Sipping her tea, Harper looked at her list and decided what presents to wrap next. Not for the first time she wish Hugo was here. She looked up at the photos and his smiling face. He had gone to Germany a few days ago on a business trip and had been due back tonight but the snowstorm had grounded all the planes coming to London and Hugo had phoned hours ago to say he was spending the night in a hotel.

Harper turned the volume up on the TV as a classic Christmas song came on; I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. She hummed along as she started wrapping again. Soon she had drink her tea, sing along to more songs, found enjoyment in wrapping the presents again and Hugo had slipped from her mind.

It grew super late before Harper realised but she had finished the bow on the last present. Yawning, she put everything away and turned off the TV. Hugo had phoned to say goodnight two hours ago down a static line which was then cut off. Harper had held the phone in sadness for a few moments then decided nothing could be done and carried on with her task.

Big Ben chimed midnight.

Harper stopped, her fingers had been reaching to turn the fireplace off. She listened, counting the tolling bell sound. Reaching twelve, she turned the fire off then the Christmas tree lights and went to the window. Moving the curtain she looked out but the snowstorm was still swirling and she could barely see the lights of the neighbouring buildings.

‘Maybe, they have finished working on the clock tower?’ she said aloud.

Dropping the curtain, Harper went to bed and slept well. All that present wrapping had exhausted her.

The next day, Harper found that the snowstorm had almost brought London to a stop. All the roads were blocked by cars and buses not going anywhere as the roads were covered. Pavements were crowed by people trying to go to work or the shops but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere either. The snow lay thick on roof tops and didn’t seem to be melting.

Harper phoned in work and told her secretary, who always seemed to be in the office no matter what, that she wasn’t going to even try and come in and would work from home. Then she added that if the snow started again, her secretary was to go home, no excuses! Then setting herself up in the study which was the third bedroom, Harper worked the day away.

In the afternoon, the snow started falling again. Light at first but then as the sky darkened heavier. Harper phoned and texted her husband a few times but got no response. She had no idea if he was coming home or not. Harper ate dinner late, setting the table for one and having a glass of red wine to calm herself. She watched the snow falling and the twinkling Christmas at the windows of other apartments.

Big Ben chimed seven o’clock.

Harper lowered her wine glass from her lips and picked up her phone. She did an internet search and found that her thought before had been right; the bell had been stopped from chiming expect for special events, whilst repairs were done to the tower. So, she shouldn’t be hearing it. What was that bell chime then? A local church bell?

Whatever, it doesn’t matter, Harper thought and she had some more wine.

Afterwards, she took the rest of the bottle and sat before the TV to watch some movies. No word came from Hugo and every hour, Harper heard a bell ring. It turned midnight again and sleepily, Harper went to bed.

Laying there, she couldn’t get the idea of Big Ben sounding out of her head though. There was no other sound like it and Harper had lived in and around London all her life, so she knew all the noises well enough. Perhaps, she thought, before sleep claimed her, someone put it on in the spirit of Christmas? 

Next morning, Harper found Hugo asleep on the sofa, still dressed from travelling and suitcase next to him.

‘Hugo?’ Harper called and touched his shoulder.

He stirred and woke up.

‘What time did you get in?’ she asked.

‘Couple of hours ago. Didn’t want to wake you, you looked so peaceful,’ Hugo replied, his voice rough with tiredness.

‘I’m up now, so why don’t you go to bed for bit?’

Hugo nodded and taking his suitcase went into their bedroom. Harper straightened the sofa then had breakfast. Afterwards, despite the food delivery three days ago, Harper decided to go to the shops. It wasn’t snowing, but there was frozen piles on the streets and it was freezing.

Setting out, Harper thought about walking to see Big Ben but it would be too long a walk.

What do you hope to prove anyway? That you’re not hearing things? 

Harper shook her head and walked to a local shops. She got everything to make Hugo his favourite – lamb chops and sticky toffee pudding for after. Then she brought the maps up on her phone and looked to see if there where any churches or chapels close by. They didn’t seem to be any.

Walking home, Harper told herself it was only a ringing church bell after all. Back home, she busied herself with tidying up, checking work emails and her phone. When Hugo got up, they had a late lunch and talked.

Harper decided to bring up the bell, ‘Last night I heard Big Ben ringing. Do you think they put it back on?’

‘I thought it was taking them years to do the work?’ Hugo said, ‘it’s Christmas though, so maybe they have?’

‘I want to go and see it,’ Harper said.

‘The bell? I didn’t think you could…The clock and tower are covered in scaffolding, so there’s nothing to see.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Harper muttered.

She collected the plates and went into the kitchen.

That night in bed, listening every hour, Harper heard the bell sound. She couldn’t sleep. Hugo felt too warm next to her and his breathing, plus snoring, too loud. Harper got up, thinking she would get a cup of herbal tea.

Standing by the window, sipping tea, Harper watched fine snow drifting down and the dim lights of the city.

Big Ben chimed three AM.

Maybe, it’s all in my head, Harper thought, I’m so use to hearing Ben that my mind is just filling in the sound? Unless…bells have ghosts. Is that even possible? Have I been hearing the ghost of Big Ben?  

Harper laughed, finished her tea and went back to bed.

The idea of Big Ben’s ghost didn’t want to leave her though. So, the next day, her and Hugo walked to the Houses of Parliament. Hugo had been right; scaffolding ran from floor to almost the top of the tower, hiding the clock who’s hands were stopped. There were a few notices around explaining to visitors what was happening.

‘It says here the work will be complete in twenty-twenty-one and Big Ben will only strike on special occasions, like New Year,’ Hugo read aloud.

‘So, it’s not Ben I’m hearing?’ Harper spoke.

‘Looks that way.’

Harper sighed and looked up – a long way up – at the clock face. Above a dark grey sky was threatening more snow and Harper thought she could feel water drops on her face.

‘Feel better now?’ Hugo asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Harper responded.

She touched her forehead but didn’t feel hot or unwell.

I feel….unsettled, Harper decided.

‘Pub lunch?’ Hugo asked.

Harper nodded and let him led her away.

She didn’t hear the bell chime again after that.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/03/weekly-writing-challenge-170/ with thanks).

Advertisements

Untrodden #WritePhoto

The snow lay thick across everything. Hilda stepped outside her house, admiring the view and taking a photo with her phone. This early in the morning, nothing but birds had touched the snow and it looked as pure as it been in the clouds.

Hilda felt like laughing, she wasn’t sure why, maybe due to the overwhelming joy in her chest? She loved winter, there was just something so magical and special about the season compared to all the others. Maybe, it was also because her family came from Russia, the home of winter.

It was too cold to laugh, her breath was misting badly in front of her because she had been stood too long. Instead, she smiled and carried on walking down the country lane. There was no wind but some loose snow was drifting from tree branches. Hilda wished it would snow again, there was nothing like the feeling of snowflakes on warm skin.

Following the path around, she came to a breathtaking sight. Snow covered hills rose in the distance, the tops of which were covered by fog. Naked trees spiked the fields, frost bitten and snow draped. A wobbly wood and wire fence ran to the left of her, frozen snow domed the posts.

She scooped a handful of snow up in her gloved hands, patted it down and threw it at a near by tree. It fell short with a soft plop. Hilda laughed, feeling such like a child again that she could no longer contain herself. As her voice faded, she heard something, a faint cry?

Holding her breath, she listened and heard what sounded like a baby crying. The spell of magical winter gone, Hilda grew concerned and tried to follow the sound. It seemed to be coming from the tree she had thrown the snowball at.

How was it possible that a baby was out here alone? she wondered.

Hilda searched around the tree trunk, the crying had grown louder. She moved some snow away and found a little hollow. What was that inside? She reached in, thinking it just more snow but instead her hands withdrew something else. Holding it up to her face, Hilda saw the tiniest kitten she had every seen. It was snow white, with blue eyes and a touch of a pink mouth.

‘Oh! You poor thing!’ Hilda cried, ‘What are you doing out here?’

The kitten give a small whimper.

Quickly unzipping her coat, Hilda tugged the kitten inside to keep it warm. Zipping up again, she inspected the trunk and roots of the tree carefully but she found nothing else. Still worried that there might be more kittens or a mother cat out here, Hilda wandered from tree to tree, bush to bush, anywhere an animal could hide from freezing.

Sometime later and far down the lane, Hilda had to give up which really wasn’t what she wanted to do. There had been no other signs of cats though and Hilda’s worry had moved on to the kitten in her coat. She could feel it’s warm and gentle breathing against her chest.

Heading back home, Hilda decided she would have to find out how to take care of the kitten. She had never had a pet before. Maybe, someone had just lost the little thing and she could find the owner in the village or at one of the farms?

As soon as I know the kitten is okay, I’ll do that, Hilda decided.

Days later and after a lot of asking around, no one had come to claim the kitten. Hilda had decided to name her Snowy and she was doing great. Her time outside had’t seemed to have effected her that much. Snowy was growing stronger all the time and Hilda had fallen in love with her.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/11/29/thursday-photo-prompt-untrodden-writephoto/ with thanks).

Fading #TwitteringTales

mashup

It was a photo everyone always laughed over. Those old cameras creating ‘ghost’ images when the button was pressed too fast. There was more to it though because the girls in the background, my cousins, had been long dead before the printed date on the back said.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/11/27/twittering-tales-112-27-november-2018/ with thanks).

Hidden #WritePhoto

It seemed too peaceful in the woods for anything dreadful to lay underneath but that  was what my instincts kept warning me of. For nights, I had been dreaming about this little girl in a pink ballerina dress dancing through these trees and calling my name. I had tried to ask her who she was and why she was here but she didn’t answer me.

I followed the river downwards, watching the chopping water tumbling over large rocks and small waterfalls. The sound of the water smoothing the edge off my worries. Birds were twittering away in trees which had almost lost all of their colourful autumn leaves. The chill of winter was settling in between the slate grey sky and muddy ground. My breath was misting in the late morning.

Huddling in my red Parker coat, I tried to recall the place the little girl seemed to be leading me too. I had never walked in these woods before and it was only because of her I was here. In my dreams, she had made letters of out sticks. I had looked it up on the internet and been directed to here. It had taken an hour and half driving, I had set my Saturday aside for this but even if nothing came of it, I had explored a new place and enjoyed a pleasant walk.

The river bent away and the path I was on spilt in two; carry on or go further up into the woods. Digging my hands into my pockets, I shut my eyes and finally opened spirit sense. I let the natural sounds move away and listened underneath them at anything that could be supernatural. It was always harder to do this outside as there was so much going on but the little girl was strong and she came to me in my mind.

She was dancing in her pink dress with frilly underskirt, ballet slippers ribboned up her legs, her dark hair up in a tight bun and her skin was milk white. A giggle and twirls along the second path and into the trees she vanished.

Opening my eyes, that’s the way I headed. The path wove around the trees, going up at a gentle pace for some time. The sounds of the river faded, more paths joint my one leading to other unknowns but I stuck with the one before me which soon became less trod on as it ran further and further above the woods.

‘Is this right?’ I whispered, pausing at a fallen oak tree covered in moss.

The feeling I was getting somewhere grew and I sent my sense out. The little girl appeared, not dancing now just pointing me on. I followed her fading form around a corner and came to bridge crossing a small stream. Leaves and twigs had blocked the flow of water but there was something else too….A flash of pink.

The breathe caught in my throat and I crept over. I didn’t look fully, didn’t need to, I knew she was there.

‘It’s okay, Sweetheart, you’ve been found now,’ I spoke.

I took my phone from my pocket and dialled the police.

The little girl smiled at me then faded into a mist which the winter wind carried through the trees.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/11/22/thursday-photo-prompt-hidden-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

 

Time #1LinerWeds

clock-1031503_1280

The doctor warned the new pills might effect Noah’s sense of time but he hadn’t expected to wake up in the middle of the nineteen century.

(Inspired by; https://lindaghill.com/2018/11/21/one-liner-wednesday-its-time/ with thanks).

Bridge #FridayFictioneers

Under the bridge was surprising clean. Above cars rocketed by and under the wide river yawed it’s way to the sea. Snowflakes were coming down heavily. He was exhausted from the miles walked and freezing with winter’s touch.

He set up camp. Wrapped up in all the clothes he owned, his sleeping bag and a duvet he had saved from a skip. He was hungry and thirsty, he had no money and carried only a few fragments of his past life.

He slept, letting the traffic and weather lull his thoughts.

He never woke up again.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/11/14/16-november-2018/ with thanks).

Road #1LinerWeds

autumn-1758194_1920

All roads led to somewhere, but what if they don’t? What if there is just nothing and everyone is lost?

(Inspired by; https://lindaghill.com/2018/11/14/one-liner-wednesday-share-the-road/ with thanks).

Counting #TwitteringTales

sheep-3727049_1280

The new pills were causing sleepless nights. Kim tried the traditional counting method; a wooden gate and sheep jumping over. Then a wolf, huge and grey, mouth red. Kim’s eyes snapped open, she heard a loud growling within her bedroom. She turned on the light and knew she wasn’t alone.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/11/13/twittering-tales-110-13-november-2018/ with thanks).

Remembrance #100WW

100WW_W96

I lent out of the hotel window, taking a breathe of bread scented air. The Eiffel Tower glowed with lights and I could hear french words. Tomorrow, we would be leaving the capital and beginning a tour of First World War battlefields.

I had been looking forward to this trip for years, but now there was a heaviness in my heart. We would be following in dead soldiers footsteps, experiencing some of what they did and remembering their sacrifices.

I had to do this though, I had to know what happened to my granddad.

 

(Inspired by; https://bikurgurl.com/2018/11/07/100-word-wednesday-week-96/ with thanks).

poppy-991326_1920.jpg

Tiki

african-ancient-anonymous-267858

It was almost Halloween and typical autumn night, the rain pelting down and the wind at gale force. The clock ticked to 3 AM. In the haze of sleep, a voice was calling me and something was touching my arm. I woke, confused and fuzzy.

‘Mummy? The ghosts have been talking to me again,’ a voice whispered.

I clicked on the lamp and looked down at my five year old son, Bailey. He was clutching an action figure of Iron Man and looking as tired as I was feeling.

‘You said I had to tell,’ Bailey spoke louder.

I yawed and mumbled something that was meant to be I know. I rubbed my face and got up.

‘What did they say?’ I asked.

‘The ghosts say we have to get rid of the tiki head.’

‘Again?’ I moaned, ‘are you sure that’s not just you, Bailey?’

He shook his head, soft blonde hair floating about.

‘What’s matter?’ my husband, Tom asked from the other side of the bed.

‘It’s nothing,’ I replied.

Getting out of the bed, I took Bailey’s hand and lead him back to his bedroom. The night light was on, casting an calming orange glow and also creating more shadows. I thought I saw shapes moving by the wardrobe but it was just my tired eyes and lack of light.

‘Where did you see the ghosts, Bailey?’ I questioned.

He let go of my hand and said, ‘all round.’

‘And they look like…?’

‘Like they normally do!’ he snapped, ‘see-through, floating and like people.’

‘Okay,’ I muttered.

I put him back to bed, not impressed. Ever since Bailey had started talking, he had spoke of the ghosts most nights. Which was weird because my husband and I had never told him anything about ghosts or the supernatural. I tried to keep him away from that stuff, believing that it could effect him somehow.

I tucked him back in and sat on the edge of the bed, ‘tell me what they said, again,’ I asked.

‘The tiki head is evil. We have to get rid of it,’ Bailey replied.

I knew of course what he was talking about, he had been going on about it for weeks. Tom and I had a wooden tiki head which we had gotten from Easter Island where we had gone on our honeymoon. I wasn’t that keen on the ugly face and had half hidden it on the corner bookcase in the living room. I don’t remember telling Bailey about it but maybe Tom had done?

‘Why is it evil?’ I questioned.

‘A bad spirit,’ he said.

I rubbed my face again, not sure what to do.

‘Okay. Go back to sleep.’

I kissed him, patted the duvet down and went back to my own bed. Tom was snoring again and everything looked normal. I wondered as I got back into bed and turned out the light what was going on with Bailey.

Waiting to fall asleep again, I listen to the heavy rain and decided in the morning, without saying anything, I would take the tiki head and hide it somewhere. Then Bailey would stop talking about it and the ghosts.

In the morning, before Tom and Bailey were awake, I went downstairs and took the tiki head from the shelf. It felt rough and cold in my hand, the features of the bold face leering at me in a shocking grimace. I remembered Tom picking it, making a joke that it remind him of my mother, whom he didn’t get on with.

In the hallway, I opened the under stairs cupboard which we used to store unwanted things. I tucked the tiki head in between a horrible brown glazed vase and a stack of old books. Closing the door, I dusted my hands in a there that’s dealt with motion and went to have a shower.

I shouldn’t have believed that a simple act like that would solve the problems. That night I put Bailey to bed and told him, ‘I got rid of the tiki head. You should sleep better now.’

‘Thanks, Mummy,’ he said sleepy.

I tugged him in, kissed him goodnight and left his room.

In the morning though when I woke him up and took him into the bathroom, Bailey announced, ‘the ghosts say you didn’t get rid of the tiki head.’

‘What? Here, brush your teeth,’ I said.

‘Mummy, you said you was getting rid of it but you didn’t.’

‘I did,’ I countered back.

Bailey shook his head, ‘you hid it.’

I put my hands on my hips and told him firmly to brush his teeth. I got him dressed and wished, as I imagined other parents often did, that I was taking him to school. It was half term though and so today, I would have to entertain my son.

We went downstairs and at the cupboard underneath, Bailey stopped and went to the door.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked.

He opened the door and went in before I could stop him. He picked up the tiki head and handed it to me. There was a such a serious adult look on his face, that for a few seconds I didn’t recognise my little boy.

‘You lied,’ he said.

‘How did you know?’ I whispered.

‘The ghosts told me.’

‘Fine,’ I snapped.

I took the tiki head into the kitchen and placed it into the bin.

‘It’s gone now,’ I declared and Bailey seemed satisfied again.

The tiki head wasn’t though.

Two days later was the eve of Halloween and we were watching a movie on the sofa. There was a knocking at the door. Confused, I stepped into the hallway to answer it and heard that the knocking was coming from the back door and not the front. Kids playing jokes? A neighbor wanting to point something out?

I turned on the kitchen light, the knocking stopped and so did I.

Sitting on the sink draining board was the tiki head.

‘Tom?’ I called.

‘Yeah?’

I backed out of the kitchen and hurried into the living room.

‘The tiki head. Did you take it out of the bin?’ I asked.

‘What? I didn’t move anything,’ he replied.

‘Bailey?’

He shook his head and turned back to the movie again.

‘Right.’

I walked back into the kitchen and turned on the light again. The tiki head was gone.

I walked in, over to the sink and ran my hand across the slight wet surface. Nothing. I went to the bin and looked inside, I could just make out the tiki head from underneath other rubbish. I grabbed the bag and took it outside.

The air smelt like burning wood and leaves, damp earth and fireworks. The sky was a dull black and the half moon stark. Rain began to fall and I heard the wind playing. I dropped the bag into the waster bin and went back in.

Back in the living room, on the sofa, the soft glow of the TV and Bailey laughing, I didn’t say anything to them. I told myself I had imagined things.

That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. I could hear this plastic rattling and something tapping. The wind and rain had died down now and I couldn’t tell what was making the noise or where it was coming from. I must have fallen asleep at some point because I had a weird dream that the tiki head kept appearing all around the house and I was chasing after it.

In the morning, I got up and searched the whole house but there wasn’t anything. I went to the outside bin and looked in, the bag with the tiki head was on top and the knot I had tied was still there.

I felt uneasy all day. Bailey was happily doing some Halloween craft activities and later we decorated the house. He didn’t say anything about ghosts or the tiki head. When Tom came home, we carved pumpkins together and get ready for the trick or treaters to call.

The first knock came at the door and I hurried to answer it.

There was no one there, just the grinning pumpkins flickering with light and the fake cobwebs pulling in the breeze. I looked further out, there was no way I could have missed anybody. In the distance, came the faint voices, knocking and doorbells. Something on the path moved. A leaf?

I walked out and towards it. My feet hit something and I looked down. The leering face of the tiki head stared up at me. I picked it up, the wood was icy cold and wet.

‘This has to be a joke!’ I snapped.

I looked round and saw no movement. I went back inside with the tiki head and placed it on the hallway table. I grabbed my coat and car keys.

‘Tom?’ I called.

‘Yes, Katie?’ he shouted back.

‘I’ve to go out. I forgot something.’

‘Now?’

‘I won’t be long!’

Snatching the Tiki head up, I went to my car. Not sure where to go, I drove around until I reached the park. There was a pond there and if I dropped the tiki head in it would be gone forever.

I got out of the car and smelt the deep autumn air. There were some people dressed up and wondering about. The park was light with some street lamps and the glow of the houses around. I hurried along the pathways to the pond.

The black water rippled against the stone wall, looking dangerous. A firework crackled into the sky, startling me. I saw the bobbing of a cyclist’s headlight and heard laughter.

Looking down at the tiki head, I tossed it in the water. The splash was loud and small waves rushed towards me.

‘So long,’ I said.

I went back home and enjoyed Halloween with my family. I felt like a weight had been lifted. However, as I went to bed that night I heard a dripping sound. Thinking someone had left a tap on I went first to the bathroom then the kitchen.

Turning on the light, I saw the back door open and the tiki head laying in a pool of water.

I screamed.