Down Under There #WriteNowPrompt

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I hurried to work as snow began to fall and passed another dug up road in my way. Wondering if it was some kind of London law that roadworks always had to be going on, I squeezed passed the plastic barrier.

The vibration of a drill going through tarmac went straight into me. Heavy, grubby men in yellow high visibility vests and hideous matching hard hats crowded the scene. They were calling to each other then one turned to me before I could escape.

‘Can’t ya see the signs there, mate?’ he shouted.

‘I’m late,’ I yelled back.

‘It’s there for a reason!’ he spat.

‘You tell him, Jack!’ one of his colleagues cut in.

Trying to ignore them, I walked quickly but the lights at the cross road change to red and I had to stop. Looking back as cars whizzed by before me, I saw the man pushing the barrier tighter into place but nothing could stop a Londoner in a hurry.

The drill stopped, my ears continued to ring and I turned my back on the diggers. Concentrating for a gap in the cars that I could run through, I felt the ground began to shake. It was just the drill starting up again or that claw plough scooping soil.

The shaking carried on then there were mighty rumblings and rocking motions which almost threw me to the floor. Everything felt tilted and unstable as if an earthquake was happening. I somehow saved myself by spinning and grabbing some nearby railings.

Deafness and dizziness flood me. My legs didn’t want to work and they didn’t seem to belong to me anymore. Panic was controlling me but I couldn’t do anything other then cling onto the railings and shut my eyes.

The earthquake subsided and I heard the distant voices’ of people crying, screaming and shouting as all hell had broken loose. I felt wobbly as if I had just got off an extreme roller coaster. My legs felt numb but I found them again and stood up. I kept my fingers weaved through the railings, just in case.

In the middle of the road, pushing outwards from the hole the workmen had been creating was a huge crater. Torn up tarmac created a jagged line around the edge and dust was spiralling upwards.

A back cab was teetering on the lip of the crater and a dazed cyclist was sitting on the road wondering where his bike had gone. Crowds of people were pushed back on both sides of the pavement and all the morning rush hour traffic had halted.

‘Did anyone fall in?’ a workman questioned.

There was an unsure mumbled from the crowds.

‘Help us!’ a woman cried in a French accent from the back of the taxi.

A human chain was made and the cab was pulled back from the edge. The doors opened and a family tumbled out alongside the Muslin taxi driver, they were all in shock but glad to have escaped.

‘What you got there’s a sinkhole!’ a fat, red faced America man called out.

The word echoed in my head and I just had to get a closer look. Creeping forward, I looked down into the huge hole that was almost taking up all of the road. Through the dust and debris there seemed to something down there. Was it the London Underground? Or some other forgotten Victorian structure?

‘Stand back there,’ said a man and I turned to see the worker, Jack, who had told me off before.

‘There something down there,’ I pointed dumbly out.

‘We’ll take care of it. We are experts. Stand back there,’ Jack add as some other curious people came towards the edge.

I set my briefcase down and despite my expensive suit, I knelt tried to see what had been revealed. I saw a ceiling and wall of a cavern and it didn’t look man made. Things were still settling so it looked fogging. I could hear rubble falling and perhaps running water but there was the echo of other traffic from the surrounding roads.

‘Mate!’ Jack shouted, ‘I won’t tell ya again! get back!’

He grabbed my shoulder and tried to haul me back but I twisted out of his grip.

‘I cave explore for a hobby,’ I said, angrily, ‘and I’m telling you there’s something down there.’

‘All right, let’s take a look,’ Jack said and knelt down beside me.

He took out a torch. I grabbed my phone and put the torch app on. Together we used the light to show what was below us. At first it seemed to be hard, discolour brown walls but then we saw stalactites and stalagmites, growing up and down in what seemed to be a vast cavern.

‘How can this be under London and no one know about it?’ I muttered.

‘There’s lots underground that people don’t know of,’ Jack explained, ‘but I never seen anything like this before!’

I nodded, ‘it looks like a Yorkshire cave or something like that…’

‘Well, nothing can be done about it right now,’ Jack spoke, ‘have to be investigations and all that. I’ve got things to do now, got to make sure no one gets hurt and sues us.’

Jack left and got busy with securing the scene. More barriers were being set out and people were slowly moving on. Car horns were beeping loudly as was typical of road rage London drivers who had been stopped for more then five seconds. Ignoring everything else, I carried on staring down into the cavern.

I wanted desperately to go down there. The urge to explore put fire in my veins but I had no equipment, no map of the layout and who knew what dangerous were hidden in there?

I couldn’t help myself! I got up and searched for Jack. Picking his form out from a group of yellow jacketed men. I went over and waited till they stopped talking and noticed me.

‘Jack? A word?’ I said.

We stepped away from the others, our backs to them and our eyes looked towards the crater.

‘I want to go down there,’ I said in a low voice, ‘I need to see what’s there. Please, help me.’

‘I can’t, mate,’ Jack said and scratched his dark hair under his hard hat, ‘regulations and all that.’

‘I know, I know,’ I hissed back, ‘but please? This would mean so much to me. Like a dream come true! The first person to explore under there, it would be just…just…’

‘No. It’s not happening!’ Jack snapped back.

I licked my lips, thinking hard, ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I can give you money. As much as you want. I’m a rich businessman. I own companies here and in China. I could give you a million pounds right now if you let me go down there.’

Expressions began to cross Jack’s face and a fight seemed to happen as he battled to do the right thing. He balled up his fists, shuffled his feet and was trying to weigh everything up.

‘I shall write you a cheque and a contract write now,’ I said and sort out my briefcase.

I went over, opened it and withdrew papers and a fountain pen. Kneeling on the floor again – my suit was ruined anyway- I began writing things out, using my briefcase as a makeshift desk.

‘I don’t know about this…’ Jack said.

‘Don’t worry about it. I can sort out any problems later. Here’s my details on this card. Here’s the million pound cheque and this is a basic contract, saying you have agreed to let me down there for payment. My life is in my own hands, you have no responsibility for what happenings down there etc, etc.. I shall sign it here and you, sir, sign there.’

I held the fountain pen out to Jack. He took it with a shaking hand and signed his name. Then I folded the contract with my business card and the cheque in the middle and handed the lot to him.

‘Now, do you have any spare clothes and equipment I can have?’

‘Yeah…put what do I tell ’em?’ Jack said and nodded to the other workers.

‘Tell them, you know me and I was your boss on other job,’ I said quickly, thinking on the spot, ‘tell them, I have all the training, clearance and expertise needed to go down and take a look. Say isn’t it lucky, that Doctor Gideon Charles was passing! We’ll have this mess cleared up faster now!’

‘Doctor?’ Jack muttered and looked at the paperwork in his hand.

‘Of science,’ I explained, ‘not the medical kind. Now, can we get down there?’

‘Sure thing, boss,’ Jack said with a huge smile and I guessed he had just seen all the numbers on the cheque.

Soon enough, I was dressed in some spare blue overalls, a high visibility vest, a white hard hat, a powerful torch and was rigged up to go down on a harness and rope.

‘I’ll be coming with ya,’ Jack said.

I nodded, ‘best thing to do.’

Slowly we descended whilst the other workers peered down at us and also shone torches to guide us. They created spotlights along the wall and the cut away edges of the ceiling above. The rock face was rough, natural with stains of hundreds of years of water and built up of features.

Stalactites hung from the ceiling, some looking thick and strong, others appeared thin and fragile. Growing up from the floor were the stalagmites, looking like sharp spikes. Here and there, the two had actually met and formed a pillar.

We landed and I looked around in awe. It was breathtaking, so natural and fresh.

‘We could be the first ever people to see this,’ I whispered, ‘and to think it’s been undisturbed under London all this time…’

 

(Inspired by; https://todaysauthor.com/2020/01/21/write-now-prompt-for-january-21-2020 with thanks).

Hamper #FFftPP

woven basket

I was rushed off my feet in November and early December, it was Christmas present time and I loved it.

Hampers were in my speciality, my business and I didn’t just do food ones, there were all kinds. From baby and child items, to pets to spa days to brides to be, birthdays but there was something magical about my Christmas ones.

Maybe, I wondered packing one of the baskets up, it was the smell of the dry cinnamon sticks, the tang of bottled mulled wine, the scent of the holly and green door wreath and heavenly ginger snap biscuits. Perhaps, it was in the feel of the pair of cosy socks, the fluffy snowman teddy or the wooden angel decoration.

All this and more tucked in the white paper shreds within the wicker box then sealed with red bowed ribbon with two large brass bells tinkling on the ends.

I just could never lay a finger on why but that’s how my Christmas hampers were.

The sight was elegant and exciting, bring forth the urge to untie the ribbon and see what was inside! It was the perfect gift for anybody. Straight from my heart to your’s as my slogan went.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforthepracticalpractitioner.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/flash-fiction-for-the-purposeful-practitioner-week-45/ with thanks).

Wool #CCC

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For generations, the men of my family had sheared the sheep and the women turned the fleece into wool skeins. The money gained allowed my great-great-grandmother to open a small factory and shop.

Despite many difficulties, the businesses survived but after the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, everything was lost. My siblings, cousins and I decided not to give up. We brought groups of sheep famous for their wool, rare sheep breeds, angora goats, angora rabbits and alpacas.

We made and sold specialist pure wool and mixes, thus building the family business back.

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/crimsons-creative-challenge-11/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Vintage #3LineTales

three line tales, week 147: a woman playing guitar in a shop

Harmony’s dream was to own a shop, so when the moment came and Harmony stood looking around at all the shelves decorated with vintage items for sell, she still couldn’t believe it was real.

It was a rocky start for her little business and she relied on internet sales, still she loved it and she tried hard to prompt; going to fairs and shows, spreading the word as much as possible.

Things grew and steadied out, Harmony held on to her joy and shared her love for all things vintage, the trend grow so big that she was able to expend out and life quite happily.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/11/22/three-line-tales-week-147/ with thanks).

 

 

Tea Service #FridayFictioneers

It had been a passing comment from a half-heard conversation that pinged the light bulb in Angel’s mind.

‘I wish there was a vintage tea shop like this near me,’ the bride from the wedding party spoke.

Angel stopped with her patterned tray stacked with fancy tea cups, matching saucers and a cake plates. She looked around. The hotel’s private party room had been transformed into a Victorian tea room; white clothed round tables, tier stands stacked with delicate looking foods and huge vases overflowing with flowers.

‘Yes,’ Angel whispered, ‘that could be my own business.’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/09/26/28-september-2018/ with thanks).

Booties

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I only started knitting for something to do whilst I was waiting. I got into it and made far too much! I give a few things away to other mothers but I didn’t want to stop making things now. So, I opened an online shop and created a homemade business.

Getting Ready

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It was getting to the end of the year again and the orders were mounting up. Kate owed a small online pampering productions business. It was her most busiest time for making things and it also meant she had no time for herself. The small house smelt like an any famous bath and beauty shop, the air heavy with essential oils, soaps and baking powers.

Even though it was cold, she sometimes had to leave the kitchen and dinning room windows open to get rid of the overpowering smell. Kate had grown use to it over the years she had been making things, but it did get too much. She also had to keep the cat shut up in the living room or her bedroom. The cat was old and had spend most of her life inside, so she didn’t mind.

Every day it felt the same; get up check the new incoming orders, note them down on her list. Then carry on with making orders. The ones she finished, got packed up and ready for posting. Once a week, on Monday, she checked stock and ordered more as well as her bank account to make sure payments were correct. Sometimes, she would work late into the night or get up early to make sure a product was made in good time or an order ready to post the next day.

It was hard and sometimes she wondered why she was doing this but then she would think back. All the jobs she had done after uni had been dull and not tested her enough. Plus, she had hated working under other people and the struggle to the top always felt out of reach. So, one day she had packed it all in and decided to be self-employed and her own boss.

The going had been tough and a few times she had given up but then things had slowly turned around and every year she had gone from strength to strength. Now, she couldn’t be happier.

Bus Jam

Aerial Photography of Cars on Road Intersection

I slide the sleeve of my black jacket up and checked my watch for the countless time then looked down the road. The huddle of people who were at the bus stop with me turned to look too. I caught a glimmer of exception on some faces but that quickly faded when they saw that there was still no bus.

Trying not to grind my teeth, I stepped back into the crowd which was a mixture of school children, parents, older adults and workers but I was the only man dressed in a business suit.

‘There should have been two buses by now!’ an angry tubby woman shouted.

‘Three,’ an older man corrected, ‘the eighty-five hasn’t turned up yet.’

‘Mummy, I’m going to be late for school!’ a small girl in a grey skirt and blue uniform jumper cried out.

I looked over. The mother, an African woman with a towering head scarf on, lengthy brown coat and a long, very brightly coloured pattern skirt looked tried. She was half leaning on the double buggy which had months old twin boys almost stacked on top of each other. Behind her, six more children-four girls and two boys, wearing the same school uniform, played on the grass.

The little girl tugged her mother’s coat. The woman muttered and sent her to play with the other children.

Someone tutted at my elbow and I turned back to see a supermarket worker scrolling through his phone.

I checked my watch again. Time hadn’t moved. I grounded my teeth together, caught myself and stopped.

Looking up I saw cars lining the road. Their drivers tapping the wheel or dropping their hands out of sight. One woman was even putting on lipstick. Then the traffic began moving again, the lights further ahead had changed colour.

‘Look a bus!’ a high school girl cried.

Everyone twisted their heads to look and there just peeking around the corner was the front of the bus.

People flew into a flurry. Pushing each other, getting out their purses, money, bus passes. The children raced back from the grass, pressing against their mother and the pram. Someone dropped their phone, but the sound of it hitting the pavement was lost in the babble of voices and mixture of movement.

The traffic crawled to a stop. The crowd sighed like a deflating balloon and became still again.

‘Which one is it?’ the old man asked.

‘I think it’s a seventeen,’ the same girl answered.

‘Pah! Not the one I want!’ he grumbled.

It wasn’t the one I wanted either but it would get me into the city centre of Manchester. I checked my watch again and the hands had crept around. With a sinking feeling, I realised no matter what I was going to be late to my new job again. I needed a car! Or maybe a motorbike? Perhaps, a bicycle would be better? At least my mother wouldn’t have to worry about me as much with one of those.

The traffic moved on and finally the bus pulled up. Everyone charged up as the doors opened. People getting off and on mixed together then broke free of each other. I squeezed on, waving my pass then I saw the bus was totally full.

There was nowhere for me to go as there was a blockade of people before me. I tried to look over them to see if there was any seats, but there appeared not to be. The way to the stairs was also blocked, a mother had her three children pressed into the stairwell.

‘I’m sorry but you won’t get that pram on here,’ the bus driver shouted.

I turned, my hands slipping over the cold blue metal handrail. The African family were trying to get on. The mother was rocking the buggy back, causing the front wheels to lift and her sea of children were all ready on and huddling against the other passengers.

‘Hey, excuse me! No room! Stop!’ the bus driver shouted loudly.

The woman looked up, balancing the front wheels of the pram on the floor of the bus.

‘You’ll have to get the next bus. I’m sorry.’

The woman said something under her breath that sounded like it was in a different language. She slowly reversed the pram and yelled at her children in English, ‘get off! Come over here! Tilly, come!’

The children, like tumbling puppies got off the bus and clustered around her. The little girl who really wanted to go to school burst into tears. Two of the boys started fighting and the other girls walked back to the grass again.

The doors of the bus closed and we left the family and a few other people behind us.

I clung to the handrail, though there was no need really, the press of bodies against mine was enough to keep me stable. I shut my eyes tried hard not to think about who’s fingers had just brushed my hip and who’s elbow had bumped into my bag.

Taking deep breaths, I thought about over things, like what I was going to say to my supervisor, what I might grab for lunch today, if I’d get the guts to talk to that pretty blonde a few desks away from me.

First though, I had to get through this.

Coffee Overload

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Wiping the inside front windows of the coffee shop clean, Morgan wondered were she had gone wrong in life. She paused and glanced over her shoulder, whilst her hand still held the cloth to the window. She could see the long white counter stretching across the wall next to her and the army of chairs, tables and sofas that were arranged on the dark oak floorboards opposite.

Turning fully, she took in her in business. The counter held a large choice of cakes, biscuits and fruit in glass domed plates. Next to them sit two modern tills then there were the coffee and tea machines. Behind the counter was another work top to make cold drinks and food on. Above all that were three blackboard menu boards, divided by mosaic mirrors. The lighting wasn’t dim or too bright and the large windows at the front actually let a lot of sunlight in. The opposite wall was pale blue and held a few large photographs of the city at different times of the day and night.

Messing with the cloth in her hand, Morgan thought about how the place use to look. It had come so far since her grandparents nineteen-fifties restaurant. Instead of being divided into two spaces – kitchen and dining room, it was all one now. Everything was bright, clean and modern, a whole world away from her grandparents time. Yet, Morgan wished she could give it back to them.

Stepping back around, she finished cleaning the windows. Collecting her things, she put them into the back room then got out the books. Her thoughts were far away when a knocking on the door brought her back. Frowning, she checked the time and saw it was nearly half past six. Closing and sliding away the books, she went to the door and saw it was Colette, the supervisor.

‘Morning,’ Morgan said, letting her in.

‘Did you sleep here?’ Colette asked.

Morgan shook her head and let go of the door. She walked behind the counter and began switching things on and setting up.

‘You look like you need to,’ Colette picked up.

Morgan shot her sister-in-law a look, but did not voice her words.

Colette was tall, skinny, blonde and perfect looking. Everything Morgan was the opposite of and yet they had become friends, even though Colette belonged on some front cover of a glossy mag or big screen movie.

Morgan looked down at her scruffy pumps then across at Colette’s shinny black designer work shoes. Then she flicked her eyes up and looked at the pencil grey skirt and frilly cream blouse that Colette had on. Morgan was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

‘Maybe I need a break,’ Morgan announced.

Colette give a single nod as she opened and peered into a small fridge.

‘I’m been thinking about for awhile actually…..I want to see the world.’

‘From your sofa?’ Colette asked, closing the fridge.

‘No! for real!’ Morgan snapped.

The bell above the door chimed and they both turned. A regular customer walked in, eyes glued to his phone, wearing a business suit and carrying a messenger bag.

Colette intercepted him and took his order whilst Morgan turned back to the sink and washed her hands. The cold water somewhat calmed her and Morgan let everything go with some deep breaths. She shut her eyes and listened to Colette making coffee and chatting to the young man.

After he had gone, Morgan turned to her sister-in-law again. Collect was tutting over the plastic sticks and spoons. Morgan folded her arms then dropped them again. She smelt the fresh coffee and decided she needed some.

‘I’m going to make a drink. Want anything?’

Colette shook her head, too fixated on putting things back into place.

Morgan walked past her and into the staff area. In the tiny kitchen at the back, she made herself some coffee, which didn’t smell as good as the one before. Going into the small office, Morgan sat down and fell into wondering again.

As the coffee worked into her brain, she decided she would make the first steps tonight and get out of this place for awhile.

Lost It

Dictionary, Focus, Book, Word, Text, Education

And the words just wouldn’t come. It was like gobbledygook in his head and he didn’t understand it. Quickly closing his mouth, he tried to pull it together, but it was just gone. Sweat beaded on his brow and hands as it began drenching him. Trying to ignore the twenty pairs of staring eyes, he calmly placed down his note cards and grabbed the glass of water. Taking a few sips, he then coughed and attempted to carry on with the business speech.

‘As them, THE, sorry, data shows….’ he stuttered to a stop again.

He had to get out of the room.

Glancing at the stern and stretching face of his boss, he swallowed, but it didn’t go down. It felt like there were feathers in his throat and mouth. He drank some more water and tried to pep talk himself back into things. Fixing his tie and coughing again, he shuffled the cards, but the words upon them were now blurred.

He looked at the projected image behind him, which showed a graph of the data.

‘We are predicating all of this,’ he said and waved a hand at the rectangle blocks, ‘and that’ll help bring more business to this area and more employment and improvement and money and overall it’s just a good investment. Thank you for your time,’ he rambled.

Grabbing his water, he went back to his seat and moved it so he had his back to everyone in the room. He sipped his water and tried not to meet anyone’s eyes.

His boss’s voice rumbled with ‘as anyone got any questions?’

There was a slight mumble then a few people spoke out.

He carried on sipping his water and when the meeting was over, he fled the room and locked himself in the bathroom until the words had come back.