Rubble #FridayFictioneers

The remains of the town lay in rubble between the desert hills. Canada walk around the large bricks of a burnt down church, lost in thought.

Canada knew from the stories told in her village that her family had once lived in this town and when the maunders had come they had killed everyone but somehow not her. A villager’s dog had saved her and returned home with Canada in its mouth.

She had no memories of her family or this town but the desire to rebuild the place and rule over it as was her right burned deep within.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/05/08/10-may-2019/ with thanks).

 

 

Lorn (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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Lorn; lost, ruined or undone. 

The stairs looked forbidding, so Caleb and Beth climbed up slowly and gingerly. Beth had left the books on the doorstep, ready to collect when they left. Some of the stairs railings looked like they had been gnawed by rodents, making the banister unstable.

They found the rooms in better shape up here. The bathroom, four beds and the en-suit hadn’t been touched by the flood but the vandals and squatters had been here. The bath, toilet and sink had been smashed up; cream porcelain chucks covered a chequered lino floor and water stains dotted the wall like a painting.

The first bedroom – possibly Grandpa’s room was mess of clothes, bedding and bits of furniture. The wooden bed was broken, the remains against the wall. Two double mattress were on the floor, blankets draping over. Someone had patched the broken windows with newspaper and old fabric.

‘Let’s spend time looking for things,’ Beth said.

Not giving voice to his disappointment, Caleb nodded and warned her, ‘look out for glass and needles. Who knows what was going on here.’

‘I’ll be careful,’ Beth answered.

The searched the room and found some coins, empty beer cans, food wrappers and a few photographs. The clothes weren’t worth going through. It seemed the house had really been robbed out.

‘Recognise anyone?’ Beth asked, sharing the photos with Caleb.

He shook his head, ‘no. Maybe they were Grandpa’s but I don’t know.’

‘Do you want them or not?’

‘No,’ Caleb answered and turned away.

He went into the next room which was a smaller bedroom. There were three single beds squished in, clothes heaped on the floor, rubbish in the corners and the smashed window letting all the elements in. On a bedside table, was a pile of used cigarettes, ash scattered about.

Caleb went in, just to check but there was nothing of Grandpa here. He meet Beth in the doorway and they moved on to the next two bedrooms. At some time, they had been children’s rooms going off the old wallpaper which was mostly torn away. Like the first two rooms, people had been sleeping in here but Grandpa had been using them as storage and there were a few boxes to look through, though they weren’t the first to do so.

‘More books,’ Beth said about the first box.

‘Any be saved?’ Caleb called.

‘Possible. Let’s take them. What’s in that one?’

‘A tea set…Some of it anyway. Few bits of smashed. Next one…’ Caleb trailed as he looked through another box, ‘videos.’

‘Same in this one too,’ Beth laughed, ‘and some music tapes….Your Grandpa liked sixties rock and country. Irish ballads?’

‘No idea,’ Caleb spoke, ‘there’s some photo albums here. They look okay and a school year book….Let’s take this box.’

‘Finally one,’ Beth pointed out, she moved over and opened it, ‘things wrapped in news paper…..oh, it’s horse!’

Beth held up a porcelain horse and Caleb crossed the room to look. Removing the rest of the yellowed newspaper, Beth passed him the brown and white horse. Then she picked up another wrapped form and peeled back the newspaper.

‘This one’s a shire horse. Look at the leather stuff, he’s ready to pull a cart!’

‘Do you want them?’ Caleb asked, running a finger over the cold, smooth face of the horse.

‘Sure,’ Beth said.

‘Let’s check theses drawers and wardrobe.’

There was only a few items of clothes, shoes and children’s toys. Caleb pulled a teddy dog out and turned it over in his hands. He didn’t recognise it, so put it back.

In the next room, they found more books and children’s toys. They saved the books and got ready to leave.

‘I forgot about about the attic,’ Caleb said soon after they had brought all the boxes they were taken down to the front door.

‘Where is it?’ Beth asked, looking back up the darkening staircase.

Caleb went back up and stood on the landing. He looked along the ceiling for a few moments the pointed out the almost hairline rim of the attic door, ‘there!’ he said.

‘Can you get up?’ Beth asked.

‘I’ll need a ladder….Maybe a neighbours got one,’ Caleb wondered, he came back downstairs, ‘you load the car and I’ll go and ask around.’

‘Okay…but don’t take too long, it’s getting late.’

They kissed, Caleb give her the car keys then headed out. Beth began moving the boxes and loading them into the back of the car. Soon after she had finished, Caleb appeared with a ladder and a middle aged man in tow. He had a grey, balding head, a rough covering of beard and worry lines on his face. His hands and body showed the lifestyle of a construction worker. He was wearing dirty jeans and an old blue t-shirt.

‘This is, Reggie,’ Caleb said.

‘Hi,’ Beth greeted the man.

‘We’ll go up. Why don’t you wait out here?’

‘No, it’s okay. I might be able to help.’

They went back inside. Reggie helped with the ladder then Caleb lifted the attic door and shone the torch from his phone inside.

‘Oh wow, it’s packed up here!’ Caleb called down, ‘looks untouched too. I guess no one was able to get up here. Okay, I’m going in.’

‘Be careful!’ Beth called.

‘I shall be. Here, let me pass stuff down.’

Together, the three of them emptied the attic. There were cardboard and plastic boxes filled with books, photos, film, bric-a-bric antiques, papers, two landscape oil paintings, old toys, including a collection of metal cars, a small stuff rocking horse that had seen better days, a sixties recorder player and some other things.

‘There were treasures in this house after all,’ Beth cried.

‘Some of this stuff could be worth a bit,’ Reggie stated as he inspected one of the paintings which showed a river going though a forest with a herd of deer coming for a drink.

‘Beth! Look at this!’ Caleb yelled.

‘What is it?’

‘My grandparents wedding stuff! Their clothes and photos. Wow! This is amazing. Here, I’m going to pass it all down.’

Excitedly, Caleb passed Beth and Reggie a huge white box and another that was black. Then a battered cardboard box, over flowing with dusty fake flowers, photo albums and other things.

Beth took the lid off the white box and couldn’t believe her eyes. Folded inside was a lacy white wedding dress from the fifties with a huge veil laying on top.

‘I can’t believe this survived,’ Beth uttered.

‘The old man probably wanted to forgot all about it,’ Reggie cut in, ‘from what I remember, she died young.’

Reggie handed her a loose photo which showed a  veiled bride sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce.

‘What happened?’ Beth asked.

‘Some disease. She was only like in her thirties.’

‘That’s sad.’

Reggie nodded then Caleb yelled there were some more boxes and they got back to work.

The attic was soon empty and Caleb climbed back down, ‘thanks for your help, Reggie.’

‘No probs. Be nice to see this place fixed up and lived in again. Those yobs made a right mess,’ Reggie said.

‘Yeah. The builders are coming tomorrow and hopefully, things will be better,’ Caleb explained.

‘I can’t believe all of this was still up there!’ Beth gasped, she had been looking through some of the boxes, ‘how are we going to fit it all in the car?’

‘I’ll give you a hand,’ Reggie said.

They loaded the car up, just about fitting everything in. They said goodbye to Reggie and watched him taking his ladder back across the road to his house.

Caleb then turned and looked at his Grandpa’s house.

‘You okay?’ Beth asked.

Caleb nodded, ‘just feeling bit tried.’

‘Same. Let’s get back to the apartment, unload all of this and get take out for dinner.’

‘Then tomorrow, we’ll be back to see the start of things.’

‘I’m sure it’s what your Grandpa wanted,’ Beth said and put her hand on Caleb’s shoulder, ‘he wouldn’t have left everything to you otherwise. I’m sure he was proud of you, despite everything. But none of that was your fault.’

‘I know,’ Caleb said quietly, ‘it was my drug addict teenage mum.’

Beth squeezed his shoulder but didn’t say anything else.

Caleb started the car and they drove away into the evening light.

The Basement (Part 1)

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(Please be aware this story contains adult sexual content.) 

The new house was perfect. I know nothing can actually be a hundred percent perfect, but God this place was for us! As we pulled up outside the black Gothic cemetery style gates, the two moving vans slowed behind us and I finally let my wife, Raven, take off the blindfold.

‘You can look now,’ I whispered in the husky voice I use to seduce her in the bedroom.

She giggled a little and pulled the blindfold down so it wouldn’t mess up her long pink and purple streaked curled black hair. I watched her closely as she looked first out of the screen window of the converted hearse then the passenger window. She gasped, her face lit up and she sprang from the car.

‘Oh my God! Really? You got it? It’s our’s? she gushed, the words tripping over each other as they passed her black painted lips.

I got out of the car. Even though I could happily have stared at her large nicely rounded bum in her favourite tight black leather skirt for longer. I wanted to see her face. I came to her side, rested against the hearse and put my arm around her.

‘Yes,’ I answered.

‘Oh, Crow!’ she cried and threw her arms around my neck.

I was suffocated in a tight hug with her breathing hard in my ear. I squeezed her back, loving the feel of her weight in my arms and the softness of her black velvet Victorian frock coat under my fingers.

She moved her head and kissed me hard on the lips. Our noses mushing together. I didn’t let her withdraw but pressed more against her, desperate to be inside her mouth. My hands dropped to her bum, my fingers grasping her leather skirt and pinning her body to mine.

I felt a slice of coldness against my back as Raven tugged the edges of my black heavy metal German band t-shirt up and slipped her hands into the waist band of my black jeans. I had thrown my leather jacket in the car before we had set off. It was a typical warm but wet English summer.

I parted her lips with the tip of my tongue and pressed harder against her lips. Our tongues meet and years of practise let us rub and twist tongues without getting tangled in each other’s piecing. I heard Raven let out a little moan and the urge to remove the barriers of our clothes grew.

A loud coughing came from to the right of us and I had to ease off. I shot a disgruntled glance at the moving men. How dare they interrupt my surprise! Raven wiggled against me and I released my tight hold. Whilst I sighed and shot the men a few more unhappy looks, my wife caught her breath then rushed to the tall gates and wrapped her fingers around the iron bars. She pressed her face close and looked up like a child in pure wonder.

Fighting the urge to run to her and grab her from behind, I walked down the side of the hearse and opened the back passenger door. It was crammed with small cardboard and plastic boxes which contained precious things we couldn’t trust with the removal men. The long back space of the hearse was just as full and there were also suitcases.

‘Can I have the keys?’ Raven called.

‘Of course,’ I answered.

Closing the door I walked back to her and pulled the ring keys from my tight black jeans pocket. Raven squealed softly; a cute excited child sound. I pressed the heavy, dark keys into her hands and watched her study them all.

‘This one has to be the gate key!’ she said proudly, holding up a long big black key.

She slotted it into the large lock and turned it easily. Then together we parted both of the gates. The old metal squeaked a little then settled. Before us lay a wide stone crushed driveway flanked by dead seas of grass on either side. Around the edges a low red stone brick wall ran but it was mostly covered by tall evergreen trees and bushes which hide the Gothic manor house from the road.

I took Raven’s hand and we walked up the driveway. Our new home towering over us was like a Halloween haunted house. It was  actually an classic 1800’s English building but over the years people had added to it, including an American family. The dark brown bricks had been painted black, the fancy Gothic window frames were made of iron and lead. Two small towers stuck out at the sides, their pointed roof tops piercing the sky. There was a wide porch area with a black fence around it guarding the wooden double front doors.

Raven slipped her hand from mine and ran up the rest of the driveway. She went up the long low four stone steps and began searching for the right key to the front door.

I looked over my shoulder and saw two of the moving men, opening the gates and the others drove the vans in. The white, boxy vans looked totally out of place in a driveway made for horses and carriages.

Turning back, I went and joined Raven at the front door, trying not to let my irritation show. I should have asked them to arrive at 3pm instead of coming with us a  hour before hand. They were ruining this moment!

Raven, who didn’t seem to mind, found the key and slotted it into the keyhole. She turned it and with a glance at me, opened the door. The hinges squeaked loudly as all good haunted Gothic mansions should. Sadly, though no bats flew out at us.

Giggling, Raven reached for a rope that was tucked up beside the door. She pulled it and a loud bell give off a doom like ring that echoed through the house. Raven laughed and opened the door wider. I wished that a creepy male servant would appear and welcome us in.

Raven stepped into the hallway then began rushing from room to room. Randomly speaking out about this or that lamp or window or piece of furniture.

‘Look at this chair! The wood panelling is so good! Can you smell that? Cinnamon….Oh wow, that painting! What’s through here…’ her voice faded.

I just stood and took it all in. The air smelt a little musty but otherwise clean, a few old cobwebs still hung in the hardest to reach places. I pictured more of them soon enough and whole colonies of spiders. Raven loved them and was forever rescuing them all.

I looked up at the grand staircase which led to the first floor which was currently in darkness. I searched around and finding the light switch box turned them all on. The soft gloom that we had walked into faded and the glow of old light bulbs enriched everything.

A noise at the front door got my attention. I turned and sighed. The moving men had appeared again.

‘Right, where you be wanting all of this then?’ the leader of the group asked.

‘Wherever you want,’ I replied grumpily, ‘we’ll only have to sort it all out again.’

Leaving them, I went and found Raven. She was in one of the living rooms, looking at a bookcase crammed with old books. Her fingers were running over the leather covers, the few rings she wore making her tapping louder.

I sank down into a leather arm chair that was covered by a dust sheet. Placing my arms on the rests, feet stretched before me and head thrown back. I shut my eyes and smelled this room. The air was heavy with books of course, but also the faint scent of pipe smoke and wood polish.

‘How did you do it, Crow?’ Raven uttered, her voice soft and sexy.

I felt her fingers brushing my hair and face.

‘It was hard,’ I sighed, ‘but I wanted to do it for you. For us.’

Raven eased herself into my lap. I smiled, loving the weight of her plump, curvy frame. I wrapped my arms around her and she started playing with my long black hair. Twice she caught the dangling skull and cross bone in my ear and had to untangle a strand of hair.

‘Must have been a lot of money,’ she spoke into my neck.

‘It was….lots of loans and favours. Don’t worry about it. I promised you I’d give you whatever you wanted,’ I replied.

‘But this house! This actual house! The one we dream of for so long but knew we never could have! How did you persuade the owners?’

I grinned, lend in close and kissed her cheek. I breathed into her ear then whispered, ‘I sold my soul to the Devil.’ At the same time, I slipped my hands down her back  and grabbed her bum.

Raven jumped and cried out. Then laughing, she playfully hit my cheek and said, ‘Crow! you didn’t!’

I laughed tossing my head back, the sight of the dark cream ceiling swim before me. Then I dropped my hand and nuzzled into her neck whilst my hands worked their way around her. I kissed her neck, pressing my lips hard against her skin. Raven moaned in my ear. My fingers trailed across her legs and underneath her skirt. A wave of warmth wrapped around my hand drawing me further in.

A loud crashing caused us both to pause. Raven’s breath caught in her throat then she let it go in a swoosh as we both looked towards the half open door.

Swearing and the raised voices of the moving men could be heard in the hallway.

Raven let the tension go and sank back against me.

‘I hope that was nothing breakable,’ I growled.

‘Maybe, we should go see?’ Raven answered.

She kissed me and slipped from my lap.

To Be Continued…

Something In The Night (Part 5)

abandoned, architecture, building

Abe reached the top of the stairs then feeling too tried, he sat down. The coldness of the stone sink into his all ready cold and wet skin, he needed to get out of here and into the warmth again. The torch shook in his hand which felt gnarled as a wizard tree trunk. The light beam shone wobbly over the stairs and walls.

Shutting his eyes and taking deep breaths, Abe took a few minutes out. The abandoned asylum creaked and groaned in the background as the wind whistled and howled though any gaps it could get in. Rain pattered against the window, a relaxing note bringing the other sounds together. Then though new noises started; footsteps on a stone staircase, a whispering voice calling, the rolling wheels of a trolley.

The candle on the window sill came to life again. The flame flicking yellow and orange before coming a steady glow. Slowly, other candles above and on the walls came to life. Lighting  up as if by a magic hand that could cast flames. Shadows faded, fleeing into the deep corners were the candles couldn’t reach.

The voices grew louder, becoming a constant sound like the rain.  Footsteps running or pacing echoed off the hallways and rooms. The stink of candle wax, cleaning fluids and long unwashed human bodies swept away what had become the normal scents of mould, damp and rot. A woman’s scream rose and fell.

Abe snapped open his eyes and looked around. The sudden many candle flames burnt his eyes and he blinked away quickly. He dropped his head then rose it again and trying to convince himself he was only seeing things. The candles were still there and now he could here the voices more clearly. Abe caught snatches of words;

‘It’s not true. It’s not true!’ a male voice was mumbling.

‘I have seen the Devil! He’s coming for us all!’ a woman was shouting.

‘I don’t want it! Nurse! Nurse! Get ‘im away from me!’ a man’s voice rose above everything else.

Abe turned his head around and tried to see if anyone was there.

‘What an earth is going on?’ he muttered.

Abe looked down at his hands but instead of the torch and ring of keys that he had been clutching, there was nothing. He gasped and felt around for them, thinking he had put them down next to him. All he felt was cold stone.

‘Mr Fletcher? Did you fall?’ a female voice spoke from close behind him.

Abe turned and saw a young woman wearing a full black dress with puffy sleeves and a long white apron. She was carrying an empty grey tray. Her face was pretty with a small nose and eyes, her cheeks flushed with running about and her hair was hidden under a white cap.

‘I…’ Abe began.

‘Here,’ the nurse said.

She put the tray down and went to help him up.

‘What happened? Where am I?’ Abe questioned as she got him to his feet.

‘You are at the hospital,’ the nurse said.

‘The asylum?’ Abe gasped.

He looked around taking it all in and seeing everything so different to what he had known these last few years.

‘Let me help you to your room. The Doctor should be along to see you shortly,’ the nurse said softly.

‘Doctor Denty?’ Abe asked.

‘Yes. He’s such a good Doctor. He’s helped so many poor people.’

‘No!’ Abe shouted and snatched his arm back, ‘he removed their brains! He killed them!’

The nurse looked at him in shock. She stepped away from him, the tray she had left balanced against the banister clattered to the floor as he heels caught it. She turned to it but didn’t bend down to get it.

‘Stay away from me!’ Abe screamed, ‘Got to get out…got to…’

Abe turned and hobbled down the stairs. Behind him, he heard the nurse shouting for a porter and a doctor. He reached the top of the main staircase and cursed the coldness that had stiffed his bones. Going as fast as he could, Abe went down the stairs. Around him, he could hear people crying, screaming and saying words he could not make out.

He reached out for the banister but it was too far away. Forgetting that, he hurried on. His mind whirling as he tried to figure out what was going on. This was more then someone playing tricks and breaking into the asylum. This was real. But how could it be?

Abe felt hands touching his back. He let out a cry, lost his balance an fell down the last few steps. Tumbling to the floor, he lay there winded and hurting all over. Slowly, he rose his head and got up. The candle light was still flicking against the wall. Voices pressed through the darkness and running feet echoed off the stone.

He got up, ignoring the flaring pain in his leg and arm. He went to the front door and pushed against the wood. It was locked. He turned, shuffled away and towards a handful of doors lining the far wall. He made it to the side door and slipped though. Slamming it shut behind him, he weaved down the short hallway like a drunk old homeless man.

Reaching the side door, he opened it with easy and stepped out into a tall figure. Screaming, Abe stumbled back, throwing his arms up to his face. A voice was saying something, but he could hardly here above the wind and his scream. Hands grabbed him and stopped him from falling backwards. Then the spoken words began to make sense.

‘Police. You’re all right now.’

Abe blinked away the rain and looked up. Cutting though the night were flashing lights and torch beams.

‘I’m the night guard,’ Abe mumbled, ‘there’s something not natural going on in there…’

‘Come with us, sir,’ the policeman said and led him away, a female officer tailed them.

Looking back as they walked to the security cabin, Abe saw police officers enter the asylum. Torches lit up the darkened windows. Above the asylum, thunder rumbled and lightening forked across the sky.

The police took Abe inside and he sat down into his chair. He looked down and saw his torch and ring of keys in his hands. Puzzled he held them up and placed them on the desk.

”Did you see the intrudes?’ the officer asked.

‘Yes…but they weren’t…it was like back then…a nurse…’ Abe mumbled.

‘Your head and arm are bleeding. Did you fall?’ the female officer asked.

Abe touched his head, ‘the stairs. They were chasing me…they were going to take my brain! he shouted suddenly.

‘It’s all right, sir, you are safe now,’ the policewoman said, ‘you need to go to the hospital. That cut looks big.’

Abe looked at her and took her fully in. Her face was pretty, her nose and eyes small, her cheeks flushed with the cold and her hair was tied back under her police cap.

‘It’s you….’ Abe gasped, ‘I’m not going to any hospital! I need to go home!’

‘Yes, of course you can. I shall take you,’ the policewoman spoke out.

‘No. I can take myself!’ Abe rose then fell back into his chair, dizziness hitting him hard.

‘You could be seriously injured,’ she snapped back.

‘I’m fine. Keep away from me,’ Abe spoke loudly and waved his hands at her.

‘Please leave us,’ the policeman said.

She nodded and left, closing the door firmly behind her.

‘Now, sir. Let me take a look at you,’ the policeman commanded.

Abe looked at him. There was something familiar about that face but he could not place it.

‘The cut does look very bad. It might be affecting you…How does your head feel?’

‘It’s okay. I’ll be fine,’ Abe said, ‘do I know you?’

‘I don’t think so…Can you tell me what happened?’ the policeman asked.

Abe turned, looked out of his window and up at the asylum. Torch beams were still flashing past the windows. He tried to piece everything together in his mind but nothing seemed to make sense.

‘There was someone in the main building. They started a fire. I chased them but they came after me and I fell downstairs,’ Abe spoke softly.

‘Anything else?’

‘No. I’m sorry for all the trouble,’ Abe said, ‘I still would like to go home now.’

‘Of course, sir. I shall get someone to take you.’

Something In The Night (Part 3)

abandoned, architecture, building

Abe made his way up the staircase to the second floor feeling apprehensive. He had no idea who he might find up there, but he hoped it was only an urban explorer or two teenagers having private time. Reaching the top, he shone his torch down the hallway which looked the same as the one below it.

‘Hello?’ he called out, deciding to break his silence, ‘security! You’re trespassing!’

Abe listened to his voice fading. From somewhere close by a floorboard cracked and bare running footsteps sounded.

‘I know you are here!’ he shouted.

Hurrying towards the sound of the footsteps, he stopped before a closed door. Abe liked all the inside doors to be unlocked and opened throughout all the buildings, so that if anyone got in he would be able to find them more easily. Without waiting, Abe flung the door open and shone his torch in.

The light flashed around the empty room. Showing the bare floorboards and cream paint peeling walls. There was no one there.

‘Don’t play games with me!’ Abe yelled.

He was getting tried of this now.

A soft giggle, like a child’s, broke out from the dark corner at the end of the hall. Abe turned and fixed the torch light towards the sound. The beam cut through the blackness and showed him there was nothing there. Grumbling, Abe move to the corner and looked around it. Another hallway stretched before him, twice as long as the one he’d just been standing in.

‘Show yourself! I’ll call the police!’ Abe called out.

His voice faded. He listened hard, but could hear nothing other then the rain and the wind outside. He walked down the corridor, feeling duty bound more then anything else. He began checking random rooms, hoping to flush someone out. However, when he reached the end of the hallway he had found nothing and no other sounds had come to him.

Turning the corner, he walked down the west wing. This side on the old blueprints had been the rooms of the male patients. He sniffed and smelt something more acidic then mould and rot. Urine? That would make sense, but he’d never smelt it up here before. Maybe an animal had gotten in or else….

‘You’re defacing private property!’ Abe yelled, ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ he added quietly.

From his pocket he dug out his mobile phone and turned it on. The screen lit up and and a little message said he had no signal.

Swearing under his breath, Abe made his way out of the asylum. Going through the small door and into the side corridor, he heard the wind and rain louder then before. He unlocked the door, braced himself and opened it. Gale force wind drove the rain into his face and caused Abe to wonder why he’d bothered carrying on with this job. He stepped out, locked the door and walked to the security cabin.

He was drenched through and freezing when he finally walked in. Peeling off his gloves, hat and coat, he went to the landline phone that was on the desk. He called the police, explained the situation then hung up to wait for them.

Slumping into his chair, he felt his knees aching and the cold clinging to him. He moved closer to the large electric heater. Warming his hands and legs. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of light. He turned his head and looked out of the rain splattered window. Lightening?

No. It’s torch light again, he thought. Then he saw the yellow, orange glow growing stronger and realised it was in fact a fire.

 

To Be Continued…

 

Streets

The box was poor shelter against the heavy rainfall. I huddled under it and the pile of rag blankets in the doorway, trying to stay warm and dry. My thoughts dropped with the rain, how had I come to start the new year like this?