Spikes #SundayPhotoFiction

Lakshmi Bhat

Hog built the spiky fence to keep the bears out. It was easy enough to do, he took some tall logs, hammered bits of wood in which he then shaped into spikes. Finally, Hog dug holes and stuck the logs in around his cabin.

He didn’t mind the bears, but they could be dangerous and bothersome. Hog didn’t want to hurt them but he had to defend himself. This idea of training them to stay away with the pain of the spikes, had come to him one afternoon when he had seen a bear stealing honey from a beehive and getting stung but the angry bees.

Days of work later, the fence complete and with a gate so he could get by, was done. Hog admired his hard work then went into the forest to check his rabbit traps.

When Hog came back, he saw a bear sniffing the new logs. He held his breath and watched as the bear brushed up against the spikes, felt the pain and stumbled away.

Hog smiled, his fence had worked! Feeling happier then he had in the last few months, he went inside and had a good meal of rabbits and vegetables.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/sunday-photo-fiction-june-16-2019/ with thanks).

 

The Old Sawmill

Old Sawmill

Fairy lights twinkled in the single window of the cabin, like a beacon through the trees. The sounds of a small river racing over a waterfall and turning the old wooden wheel at the bottom echoed in the pause I had made. The snow lay thick on the ground and trees, giving everything a white coat like icing on a cake. The sky above was dark blue, nearly black with the promise of nightfall and more snow to come.

I carried on walking, my boots crunching on the snow and making a trail of clear footprints. My torch provided a small circle of light with which to guide my eyes with but I knew this forest so well that it didn’t matter. I carried a few logs under my other arm, cut from a dying tree I had knocked down a few days ago. Shifting the heavy bag on my back, I climbed the slope upwards, towards the cabin.

It had once been an old sawmill which had kept a now long lost village in some industry, but now it was my home. Reaching the front door, I kicked the snow of my boots and went in. I didn’t bother locking the place unless I was away for a few days; there was no one out here and not much in there to steal.

Opening the door, my old dog woofed and wobbled over to me. I patted him then closed the door and went to the fire. The wood was low, so I put some more logs on and watched the flames grow back to life. The dog joined me, curling onto the rug. The electrical lamps above flickered but held their dim light. I took my bag off and laid it with my axe next to the single cold bed.

Warmed by the fire, I took my boots off and sat in the single chair. The fairy lights looked merry in the window but were a sad reminder of the past. I hadn’t always called this small wooden cabin home… At least I wasn’t outside in the snow, frozen. Getting up again and keeping myself busy, I emptied my bag and made something to eat.

Catching anything in winter was hard, but rabbits and smaller creatures could be tempted with a bit of food. The water in my canteen had turned solid, so I had to place that close to the fire and wait. The dog snored loudly and woke a few times, I shared my meal with him. Then after adding more wood to the fire, we both got into bed.

Once I’d had a wife and children. We’d lived in a bigger cabin then this but then there had come hard times. One day, my wife took the children into town and sold them. She told me we could have more when things were better again.

I had my axe in my hand and felt a rage I had never known before consume me.

There’d been no other choice but to run away. I had lost everything but my freedom and that was something man of the wildness could never give up. I now lived the life of a hermit, selling whatever I could to whoever I could and hoping to live out the rest of my life in quietness with my happy memories of the past.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2017/12/10/sunday-writing-prompt-232-its-all-in-the-title/ with thanks).

In The Forest

alex-gorham-377008.jpg

She told me to meet her there. The place we had always met at as teenagers. I would have preferred a warm cafe with a choice of posh coffees and cakes, like a real first date should be but for whatever reason she had chosen to resurface our painful youths.

Climbing over the small hill, I tried to peer through the trees but they had grown wild and thick, their numbers perhaps doubling over the ten years since I’d last been here. Unsure, if I was now going the right way in the woods, I looked around for any signs. Anything I might have recognised was long gone.

Walking on, I trusted my gut that this was the right way and pushed through the low branches. Down before me, nestled in-between a clump of small trees and tall grass was the small abandoned wooden cabin. I smiled and hurried forward, expecting to see her there leaning out of the window as she often did, like a princess in a castle awaiting her prince.

There was no one there. I looked around and saw that the place was still in usable condition. Though I had to duck and squeeze through the door. Two windows let in some dim light on either side and it seemed that no one had been in awhile. Some old posters, torn from magazines and comics hung on the wall. I spotted a few at the back that I recognised; Superman, Batman and a few early nineties rock bands. On the low table were some empty bottles and cans, one of the chairs was knocked over and the old sofa that I recalled so fondly was gone.

There was a rickety staircase to my left and going over, I decided it wouldn’t hold my weight. I hadn’t put a lot on since being a teenager, going to the gym every two – three days helped that but testing the stairs I could easily see they weren’t stable. I stared up at the opening above, my mind remembering that there had camping beds and sleeping bags up there for those nights we boys had been brave enough to sleep out here.

Turning away, I walked out and there she was passing by the same trees I had done. I stopped and took her in. Of course, she had aged and put on a bit of weight too. Her hair was still chestnut brown but a lot shorter. She was wearing tight jeans with the ends tugged into high boots and a blue jumper; not the bright wild style of clothes that had draped her past self.

I felt a mixture of nervous, excitement and embarrassment, just like when she had first contacted me online. What would she think of me now? Would the sparks still be there? Other thoughts circle but I pushed them to the side as she drew near, having spotted me soon after I had her.

She smiled, tucked a loose stranded of hair behind her ear and came to stand before me. Her eyes roamed over me and she seemed satisfied. She held out her hand and took mine, the smile growing on her face.

‘I was worried you wouldn’t come,’ she said gently.

‘Well…I wanted to see you too,’ I explained.

She nodded and appeared shy, her eyes only glancing to my face. She squeezed my hand and focused on the old cabin. I looked over my shoulder at it, wondering what she was thinking.

‘It feels like so long ago…’she uttered then turned to me, ‘You’ve never been back here since?’

I shrugged and answered, ‘maybe once or twice after you left, but then….there didn’t seem any point.’

I felt and heard her take in a shaky breath.

‘It doesn’t matter now,’ I responded quickly.

I tugged her hand and led her to the cabin, feeling like a teenager again.

‘It’s not quite how I remember it,’ I pointed out.

She nodded, ‘I know! When I found it a few months back I couldn’t believe. I thought like my old house it would have been knocked down. I’m so happy it’s still here.’

We stopped close to the doorway and we looked up together. Then I felt the touch of her clothes against mine, her breath on my neck and her lips brushing my cheek. I turned to her, feeling the old stirring of our first love. I wrapped my arms around her, drawing her close and kissing her on the lips.

 

(Inspired from; https://allaboutwritingandmore.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/daily-picture-prompt-258/ with thanks).

Postcard #27

Time Lapse Photography of Falls Surrounded by Trees

Babe,

Today, I found the most wonderful, magic place in the whole of this forest. It made me feel better about not getting any bear photos! I think I’m going to give up there and just carry on taking whatever else I find. I know what my editor really wants, but who actually wants to see someone getting mauled by a bear?

This place is just, wow. The river has been drawing me for ages now and today I followed it and found some awesome waterfalls and large pools. The fall is just making it feel more magical. The colorful leaves that everywhere just add this brightness and like clothes to the forest. That sounds kinda silly, but you get it right?

I wish you could be here with me. You’d love seeing all the little critters getting ready to sleep and having birds wake you every morning. I know the nights seem scary, but they’re not really. Once, I shut the door of the cabin, I sit by the window and just look outside for ages. Last night, it felt like I was the only man left on earth and I so wanted you there so we could experience that together.

I’ve only a week left now. And yeah I know my editor’s not going to get his photos, but he’s going to get something at lest! And we’ll be back together and I can tell you more about my adventures.

Love, Tate. x

Camp Fire Story (Part 3)

People, Children, Child, Kids, Girls, Women, Woman, Man

Cody stopped and stared at the shimmering shadow which stood out against the surrounding darkness. He thought about running back inside or bolting for the tent, but he was fixed to the spot. He tried to tell himself it was nothing, just an animal maybe? Or moonlight on the water?

He looked up and began searching the pitch black sky for the moon and stars. The crying drew his attention back and he felt the urge to go and actually prove that there wasn’t anything there. Once again, picking the shimmering shape out, Cody stepped slowly down the steps and went up to his tent. Stopping again, he tried to utter an hello, but nothing came out of his month.

Swallowing and licking his lips, he tried again. His voice was less then a whisper. He put his hands together, then decided he couldn’t let this go. What would he tell Luke? He disliked his cousin calling him a baby as it was. Slowly, he shuffled off again, feeling the dry loose soil and small patches of grass under his bare feet.

Wishing he had a torch, he made it close to the edge of the lake. There he stood still, listening to the water lapping on the small outline of sand. He couldn’t see the dark shimmer shape now, nor much else. Shrugging, Cody turned and made to leave.

The girl’s crying came loud in his ears, startling him so that he almost tumbled over.

‘Who are you?’ he shouted.

‘Who are you?’ a girl echoed his words.

‘I’m Cody. What do you want?’

‘Abigail,’ came the whispered voice.

‘I have to go,’ Cody gushed and made to leave.

A small, icy cold hand grabbed his.

‘Don’t. I only want someone to play with me. Do you want to play?’

Cody shook his head, ‘no.’

‘Why not?’ the girl’s voice pressed.

‘It’s late….I should be in bed.’

‘But I’m so lonely…Will you be my friend?’

Cody screwed his face up, not sure what to answer the invisible girl. He thought about trying to move his hand, but it was numb all ready and he couldn’t feel his fingers. He wiggled them and tried to remember what his mum had said about telling people nicely about not wanting them to be friends.

‘You don’t want to be? Okay…’ Abigail said sadly and let his hand go.

‘I don’t…’ Cody scrambled for the right words, ‘I’m sorry, it’s just…’

He stopped and waited, but the ghost seemed to have gone. Shivering, he went into the tent and woke Luke up again.

‘What’s it now?’ Luke mumbled.

‘I just saw her and spoke to her. She wanted to be my friend!’ Cody rushed.

‘Who? What?’

‘The drowned girl!’

‘You were dreaming. It’s a story. It’s not real.’ Luke moaned.

‘No!’ Cody snapped and started shaking his cousin.

‘Okay!’ Luke shouted and scrambled out his sleeping bag, ‘Show me. Where is she?’

Cody pointed outside then, headed out again. The tent flaps rustled against him and he heard Luke making the same sounds. Then the torch beam flickered on and lit a line down to the lake shore.

‘Turn it off. She might not like it,’ Cody said.

Luke shot him a look and walked down to the edge of the lake. He shone the small torch about, the light picked up some small rocks and the gentle waves. Nothing shimmered under the beam and they could hear only the lake and an owl hooting somewhere.

‘You lied,’ Luke shouted, ‘there’s nothing here!’

‘She was here. She touched my hand!’ Cody countered back.

He held up his hand and Luke shone the chair on it, but his hand looked normal.

Luke pushed him hard and Cody hit the ground with a thud. He cried out and felt sharp pebbles grating under his palm. He looked up, but Luke was all ready heading back to the tent, the torch beam bobbing before him.

Cody wiped his face, catching the start of tears that had watered his eyes. He got up and decided there was no way he was getting back into the tent again. He stumbled up the porch steps and opened the back door again. Going into the welcoming glow of the lights, made him feel better and he went quietly up the stairs.

At the top, he went into the bathroom and turned the light on. There before the mirror, he saw his red flushed cheeks which looked damp. He held up his hands and saw the imprint of pebbles and flakes of dirt. He washed his hands then went into his bedroom. Putting the light on, he crossed the small floor and got into the far single bed.

He turned on the lamp and turned off the main lights. He got into the bed, feeling safer and warmer. He settled down and tried to tell himself it had all been in his head. Rolling over, he shut his eyes and tried to get back to sleep.

‘Hello?’

He stirred at the voice and slowly opened his eyes. He wasn’t sure how long it had been or who had spoken.

‘Your friend isn’t  very nice, is he?’

‘What? Who’s there?’ Cody uttered.

‘It’s me, Abigail. Remember?’ the girl’s voice whispered.

‘What are you doing in here?’ Cody gasped.

He sat up and clutched the duvet right up to his chin. He peered out trying to see her. Was that a really dark shimmer near the wardrobe? He couldn’t be sure.

‘I came to see you…Is that okay?’

‘I guess.’

‘I could go and haunt him, if you want? I do a really good moaning sound,’ Abigail spoke.

‘No. It’s okay…What do you want? I don’t think we can be friends…you being a ghost and all…’ Cody trailed off.

‘Maybe, you could set me free though?’

‘How?’ Cody asked.

He released his tight grip on the duvet and let it slide down. He could see her now; an eight year old girl in a torn up dress and long loose hair, though she still seemed to be a black outline. She was at the foot of his bed, looking over the railing at him, though Cody couldn’t see her eyes or any features of her face.

She sighed and seemed to wave her hands around, ‘I don’t know,’ she finally admitted.

Cody lay back down and looked up at the ceiling. He thought deeply, trying to recall what he knew about ghosts.

‘Maybe, you have to do something, like settle something…’ Cody said aloud, ‘or we need someone who can talk to ghosts. I don’t know what to do.’

‘It’s okay…actually, I kind of like it,’ Abigail replied.

‘You like being a ghost?’ Cody asked.

‘It’s not so bad, but it is lonely.’

‘I guess.’

Cody yawed and rubbed his eyes.

‘I should go…’ Abigail stated.

Cody mumbled a reply and shut his eyes.

The morning felt too normally. Cody woke and for a few minutes whilst he was in the bathroom and dressing, he couldn’t remember anything. Only at breakfast, when asked by his mum why he had come in, did he recall Abigail. Deciding not to tell, he lied about coming in to get some water then going upstairs instead of back outside.

Luke shot him a look, but carried on eating cereal. The girls seemed too sleepy to care or maybe they hadn’t heard. Cody didn’t add any more, but let the sounds of breakfast fill the air again. He looked over at the back door and wondered if he’d see the ghost girl again.

Camp Fire Story (Part 2)

People, Children, Child, Kids, Girls, Women, Woman, Man

Just as Cody was settling into his sleeping bag again, he heard the crying. He stopped and tried to look through the side of the tent, but he could see nothing but darkness. He clutched the edge of the sleeping bag and shivered. There seemed to be a sudden chill in the air. Listening harder, Cody decided that it was a girl crying, but it didn’t sound like Connie or Luna.

His thoughts tumbled and Luke’s ghost story came back to him. Was it the girl who drowned in the lake? Cody gasped and scrambled into his sleeping bag. He pulled it up over his head and lay there listening to his rushed breathing. What was that sound? Something scratching the side of the tent…trying to get in…trying to get to him?

‘Luke? Wake up,’ Cody said quietly.

Wiggling out of the sleeping bag, he poked his cousin and said his name again.

‘What?’ Luke muttered.

‘There something outside…’ Cody trailed off.

‘It’s nothing. The wind, a raccoon. Go back to sleep.’

But I think it’s her! The shadow girl,’ Cody hissed.

He heard Luke scrambling around then the torch came on. The light beam shone along the side of the tent, before moving upwards as Luke rolled over. Cody shut his eyes as the light hit him.

‘I don’t see anything. Maybe it was Connie or Luna?’ Luke suggested.

Cody shook his head, ‘I went out before and checked. It’s not them, it doesn’t sound like them either.’

‘Then it’s the wind.’

Cody sighed, ‘I really don’t think it is.’

‘Whatever,’ Luke said and turned off the torch.

Cody blinked fast, trying to get use to the darkness once more. He heard Luke turn over and the torch clattering against something. Luke mumbled something and his sleeping bag shifted nosily. Cody rolled over too and focused on the shadows settling back along the side of the tent.

Finally, silence crept back in, but Cody couldn’t hear anything. The crying had stopped. Shutting his eyes, he tried to get back to sleep, but he just couldn’t. He felt wide awake and his mind was too busy thinking about the ghost story. Really hoping Luke was right, Cody rolled over again. His sleeping bag rustled loudly and Cody pulled it up, wrapping it around him.

He listened to Luke’s steady breathing, but quickly grew bored. Realizing he was thirsty, Cody slipped out his sleeping bag and crawled to the first of the tent. His head felt for the zip and once the metal was against his fingers he stopped. Swallowing and telling himself that nothing was out there, Cody unzipped the tent and scrambled out.

The cold night air, hit him fully and Cody’s skin pricked with goosebumps. Fighting away the shivering, Cody hurried up to the porch and pushed the back door. The creaking wood give easily and he walked into the cabin. Thankfully, his parents had left a lamp on in the living room and in the kitchen beyond the spotlights.

Heading over, he got some water and drink it in the kitchen. Feeling better, he washed the glass and left it on the side. Going back into the living room, he stopped and looked up the stairs. It would be so nice to go up and into the bedroom Luke and he were sharing. He pictured getting into the soft bed and snuggling down. He’d feel safe, but come morning what would he say?

I had a nightmare?  he thought.

He pulled a face, but then Luke was going to get in trouble again and the whole idea of this camping vacation was for Luke and his sister to escape their splitting up parents. Cody shook his head and went back outside. As he went down the steps of the porch, he saw an odd shadow shimmering close to the end of the lake just behind the tents.

To be Continued…

Camp Fire Story (Part 1)

People, Children, Child, Kids, Girls, Women, Woman, Man

Cody stared out across the water of the lake, lost in thought. The setting sun had turned the blue water pale pink and the seemingly invisible crickets were too loud. Distant voices called to each other, their words fading amongst the trees.

Cody looked down at the stones under his feet and felt his cousin, Luke’s words coming back to him, ‘they say Rose drowned hundreds of years ago. Her mother did it and she claimed the Devil told her to do it. Rose haunts the lake now.’

Cody shivered and muttered, ‘it’s just a story.’

He kicked the pebbles and walked back to the cabin’s porch. Two small tents were set close by and he could see the beam of a torch waving against the roof of one of them. As he got closer, he heard whispering voices.

‘Rose appears as a shadow next to the lake and makes strange demands to the people she stops,’ Luke’s voice drifted out of the unzipped tent flaps.

‘What’s she say?’ squeaked Cody’s little sister.

‘No!’ Cody yelled and threw open the flaps.

Luke and Connie stared up at him, shock and puzzlement on both their faces. Luke dropped the torch, the beam flashing around a mess of sleeping bags and pillows. Connie buried her face in her toy rabbit’s ears and sniffed.

‘Why? You scared, baby?’ Luke cooed.

Cody shook his head and grabbed his little sister. He yanked her out of the tent and shoved her into the one next to it. They both tripped over the curled up form of small girl, hiding in a pink sleeping bag.

‘Is the story over?’ Luna, Luke’s younger sister, asked, peeping out at them.

‘Cody didn’t let him finish!’ Connie explained, pointing a finger at her brother.

‘It’s not real,’ Cody uttered to himself.

He sit in the far corner of the tent, seeming to have forgotten about the two girls.

‘It’s a scary story,’ Luna said, ‘I don’t like it.’

‘How does it end?’ Connie wailed.

Luna shook her head and pulled the edge sleeping bag into her face.

The tent flaps moved slowly and they all heard a low moaning sound. Cody raised his head and opened his mouth to declare that it was only the wind, but nothing came out.

‘It’s me, Rose,’ a low, but still child male voice hissed, ‘you must do as I say or you’ll end up like me…woo.’

Luna screamed and Connie joined in. Cody put his hands over his ears and shouted at them to stop.

‘What is going on? Girls? Stop screaming. Luke, did you scare them?’

Cody dropped his hands and crawled out of the tent. The girls screams fading into soft crying. He got out and stopped up to see his mother before Luke, who was staring at his feet. On the porch his father stood, holding open the door and looking slightly worried.

‘We were just telling camp fire stories,’ Luke responded, ‘it’s not my fault they got scared.’

‘No more stories. Bed now.’

Nodding, Luke turned and walked back to his tent. Cody hugged his mum then trailed after his cousin. Behind him, Cody heard his mum comforting the girls and settling them down again. Feeling a little better, Cody got into his sleeping bag and turned away from Luke, who all ready his back to Cody. Rubbing the edge of the pillow between his fingers, he listened to his parents talking then the door shutting.

Crickets and the lapping water of the lake filled the air once more. Cody felt Luke shift slightly and heard him mumble something. Deciding not to ask, Cody shut his eyes and thought about the promised boat trip tomorrow.

Darkness pressed against the tents. The crickets had long been silent and now the gentle waves of the lake against the pebble shore and wooden jetties were all that could be heard. Cody’s eyes fluttered and opened. He could see nothing but blackness. He wiggled in his sleeping bag, wondering what had woken him up.

He eyed the side of the tent and saw what seemed to be a fleeting shadow moving around outside.

‘Connie? Luna?’ he whispered.

No voice replied, but he thought he heard a small crying.

Wondering if his sister or Luke’s sister had gotten up, Cody got out of his warm sleeping bag and unzipped the tent. He called their names again and stepped out. A cool breeze wrapped around his bare arms. Cody shuffled over to the girl’s tent, blinded by the darkness and after feeling around, found their tent still zipped.

Shrugging and deciding it was nothing, he went back into his tent again.

To Be Continued…

The Winter Butterfly

The traditional log cabin was in total darkness as Rachel parked in front of it. Trying to look through the thickly falling snow at the front door, she made out the numbers twenty-two and decided it was the correct one. The car headlights beamed through the dancing snowflakes and showed Rachel that the snow was fast crawling up the cabin.

With a deep sigh and flick of her mane of chestnut hair, she turned the engine off and the night gladly crept back in. Rachel reached upwards and clicked on the inside light. Outside she could hear the wind howling and whistling. The small car rocked gently. A shiver shot through her and she slipped gloved hands from the warm steering wheel.

Twisting slightly, she pulled her large blue handbag over from the passenger seat and tossed the useless map of the holiday cabins aside. She dug out her phone, woke the screen up and saw it was almost ten PM. Rachel went to her last two sets of text messages. Her reply back to Adrian glowed before her; see you then x. She scrolled up and glanced through their conventions dated today and yesterday. Most of the words had become imprinted in her mind she’d read it that many times now.

She tapped the screen, but it didn’t respond with her gloves on and she had to take the right one off with her teeth. Tapping again, she wrote; I’m here, where are you? then pressed send. The mobile beeped and your messaged can’t be sent, flashed up.  

‘Oh, what now?’ she muttered and peered closer at the screen. ‘No signal. Well that’s just great!’

Rachel shoved her phone back in her bag and whacked the steering wheel. Tingles of pain ran through both her palms. She curled her fingers around the cold plastic and threw her head back. She would’ve pressed her forehead to the wheel but her large boobs were in the way. Dragging in deep breaths of fast cooling air, she shut her eyes and took a minute.

Opening her eyes again, she gathered her handbag and the overnight bag she had stuffed in the passenger footwell. She grabbed the cabin’s key and her own keys in the other hand then went to open the door.

I could just leave, she thought, he’s clearly not here. But it’s probably too dangerous on the roads now….and a waste of money.

Rachel watched the snow falling and realised her front window was quickly being covered up. Realising, she had no choice, she got out of the car and hurried up the slippery steps to the cabin door. Juggling the keys, she fitted the right one in the door and pushed it open. The wind decided to help and the door banged loudly against the wall. Rachel walked in, snow rushing to join her.

Dumping her bags to one side, she called out, ‘hello?’

There was only the reply of the wind.

Rachel walked out again, turned the light out in her car and locked it. She went back inside the cabin, turned on the lights and looked around. A cosy open plan living room, dining space and kitchen came to life around before her. She took off her long coat, revealing a short black dress and coal tights. Also, taking off her shoes, she went towards the open fire place. Looking inside, she saw that someone had prepared the logs, kindling and newspaper balls.

She lit the fire, feeling like she deserved it. Once the flames had gotten going and a thin wave of heat had wrapped around her, Rachel settled into the deep set sofa and hugged one of the velvet cushions. She took a deep breath of burning wood, smoke and pine, whilst her thoughts turned to Adrian. She wondered about checking her phone then seeing if he was upstairs.

I’m alone and there’s no point, she thought, typical of him not to show. I’m such a fool.

Rachel pressed the side of the head into the top of the cushion and listened to the wind howling outside and the fire crackling away. She shut her eyes, feeling tried from the difficult drive and still cold.

‘Perhaps he all ready came and left?’ she spoke allowed, ‘I’m three hours late.’

She looked around hopeful to see some sign of him, but the place was as a clean as the cleaner had left it.

‘Surely the snow storm would’ve trapped him here too,’ she concluded and settled back down.

Rachel felt the last of her excitement fade away and bitter hollowness take over. Tears welled in her eyes and she felt a burning in her throat. She fought the tears back, knowing it was useless to keep crying over him. Wiping her eyes, she got up and feed some more logs into the fire. Gratefully the flames latched on to the new wood and burned brighter.

She went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. Heading back to the sofa with her hands wrapped around the mug, she tried to convince herself to stop thinking and just enjoy it. Placing the mug on the coffee table, she went to her bags and dug out a scruffy paperback of Wuthering Heights. She found a fluffy blanket on the back of the matching arm chair and took that back to the sofa with her. Settling again, she tried to read, but her thoughts came darting back to Adrian.

Her mind played the daydream she often allowed it to and she fell into that for a few minutes. She pictured him walking through the door, not the mid-thirties man he now was, but the just turned nineteen boy he had been when they had meet at university. His hair was light brown, long and unkempt around his soft thin face. Dark brown, haunted eyes that had lit up when they had spotted her. His normal clothes of too tight black jeans, an old band t-shirt and lumber jack style jacket.

Rachel let her mind play on and imaged Adrian kissing her lightly on the lips. She begged for more gently then pushed harder when he refused.

‘We shouldn’t,’ daydream Adrian said.

‘Why not? One more isn’t going to hurt,’ Rachel replied in her head.

‘It might do and I don’t want that. Let’s just talk about uni instead. Who are you still in contact with?’

‘I thought we came here to…you know and now you just want to talk?’

Daydream Adrian nodded, ‘like old times.’

Rachel heard herself sigh and stopped thinking about it. She got up and went to the window, but looking out she couldn’t see anything. She went to the door, turned the handle and found it wouldn’t open. Shoving against it did nothing. Trying again, she wondered if the snow had piled up behind it or if it was just stuck.

Glancing around, she spotted a phone next to the TV and went to dial reception. A dull dial tone echoed in her ear followed by a buzzing as she was cut off. Trying again, she realised the snow storm must have knocked out the phone lines. She checked her mobile and saw there was still no signal.

‘I’m stuck here!’ she cried, ‘this is all your fault Adrian!’

Rachel flung herself back on the sofa, tears pricking her eyes again.

‘No,’ she mumbled, ‘it’s all my fault. Why did I think I could trust him again after everything? His stood me up and cancelled so many times, why did I think this would be different?’

She rubbed her head, feeling a headache coming on. Rachel picked up her mug of tea and took a few sips then a longer drink. Cradling the cup, she let herself get everything out. She ran through all the good and bad memories, not stopping to dwell on them.

Afterwards, Rachel abandoned the rest of her cold tea and checked the time. Seeing it was a few minutes to midnight, she got up and dug a small bottle of champagne from her overnight bag. She got a glass from the kitchen and placed both on the coffee table. She put some more logs on the fire before curling back on the sofa.

The numbers flash double zeros and Rachel popped open the champagne and poured a glass. Toasting she whispered, ‘happy new year,’ and drank the whole lot in one go.

She poured another and drank that one too. Then abandoning the glass, she grabbed the bottle and hugged it in between her boobs. The fire crackled merrily to itself, casting off a cheerful glow as Rachel finally give into her tears.

 

The loud continuous knocking just about woke Rachel from a drunken sleep. She rubbed her eyes and face whilst one part of her urged her back to sleep and the other pulled her awake to figure out the source of the noise. She swung her legs off the sofa and her feet hit the empty champagne bottle. Kicking it away, she got up, pulled her dress down and went to the door.

With a sharp pull, she opened the stuck door and looked blurrily out.

‘Rachel! Are you okay?’

‘Adrian?’

‘I can’t believe you risked it, you crazy thing. Sorry, but my car was too snowed in.’

Rachel yawed and peered out at him. He was still a head shorter than her and dressed in a woollen coat, hat and gloves. His famous boyish smile lit up his face and she almost melted into his arms.

‘Can I come in?’ he asked with a slight bounce.

She nodded and held the door for him.

‘I was worried about you. I really didn’t think you were going to come.’

‘Are you grateful that I did?’ she asked, closing the door.

Adrian turned at the tone of her voice, hat and gloves in his hands, ‘of course.’

‘I’m surprised you came.’

‘Why?’ he asked, putting down his things.

‘Because of all the other times you’ve not bothered,’ Rachel snapped back.

‘Aww, come on, Rach don’t be like that…’

She shook her head and stormed passed him to the sofa. She began gathering her things and tidying up.

‘What are doing? We’ve still got time,’ Adrian pointed out.

‘I don’t care,’ she called over her shoulder, ‘I’m sick and tired of this.’

‘Well, you’re the one who keeps pretending we’re together.’

She spun at his raised voice, clutching her mobile phone and book, ‘only because you make me believe it!’

‘That’s so not true!’ Adrian half shouted, ‘you’ve kept this up since uni and I’m sorry about what happened. It was my fault and I took the blame for that. I shouldn’t have let you believe I loved you. And I’ve tried, Rach, I really have, but you won’t let it drop.’

‘I’ve tried too!’ she yelled, ‘but you keep dragging me back! Well guess what? This time I’m officially over it. Goodbye, Adrian.’

Rachel shoved her things in her handbag and put on her shoes. She grabbed her coat, keeping her back to him and put it on.

‘Wait,’ Adrian spoke.

She paused. No! Don’t do it, don’t turn around and look into his sad eyes, she told herself, you’ve lived long enough chasing his shadow.

‘I’m sorry. Rachel. Please, let’s talking about this…I still want to be your friend.’

She dropped her head, bit her lip then picked up her bags.

‘I mean it this time,’ Adrian concluded.

Rachel shook her head a little and went to the door, ‘no more excuses,’ she muttered then called over her shoulder, ‘I mean it this time too.’

She opened the cabin door and stepped out. The sun was shining brightly off the iced over snow, casting the first day of the new year in a golden glow.

The Story Of The One Horned Reindeer

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Once upon a time, in deep dark forest, lived a reindeer with only one horn. He was very lonely for his family had abandoned him and none of the other reindeer herds would accept him.

Every day he wandered through the evergreen forest, eating grass and leaves. He would go down to the river and drink the cold water before walking onwards. He experienced the changing of the seasons and all kinds of weather. In the winter, he would freeze in snow blizzards and slip on ice. In the spring, he would eat baby shoots and enjoy the sun warming his back. In summer, he basked in the heat and bathed in the river. In autumn, he watched the leaves falling and tried to find shelter from the rainfall. However, no matter the day or night or weather, he wished he had a friend.

Then one day, when the reindeer went for his drink, he saw a man standing behind a tree. Men were rare in the forest and this one was the first the reindeer had seen. He raised his head and watched the man cut down a small tree. Then the man stripped down some of the twigs and began cutting the bigger branches off. When the tree was bare, the man began chopping the trunk up.

The reindeer decided to cross the river and speak to him. Entering then getting out of the cold water on the other side, he went up to the man.

‘What are you doing?’ the reindeer asked.

The man turned to him and because the man was born and brought up in the forest and knew the ways of nature, he was not afraid of the reindeer.

‘I’m chopping wood to burn,’ the man replied.

‘Why?’ asked the reindeer.

‘Because the winter nights are cold and unlike you, my family and I don’t have fur coats.’

‘You have a family?’

‘Yes, a wife and daughter.’

‘I have no one,’ spoke the reindeer, sadly.

‘Why?’ the man cried.

‘Because of my one horn,’ the reindeer explained.

‘Well, that’s just terrible, you must be so lonely.’

The reindeer nodded, ‘I am very much.’

The man thought then said, ‘how would you like to come home with me? I could sure use your help.’

‘Oh, yes please! I’d love that,’ the reindeer cried.

‘Firstly, I must finish chopping the wood, then you can help me take it home,’ the man stated.

The reindeer stood back and watched the man chop up the rest of the tree trunk. The man then tied up some logs and branches and made a loop at the other end, so he could put it around the reindeer. Then he tried up some more and put the rope over his shoulder, then he led the reindeer through the forest.

Soon, they arrived at a little wooden cabin. The man took the rope off the reindeer and began stacking the log with some others at the side of the cabin. The reindeer shook his coat and looked around with great interest.

The door to the cabin opened and out rushed the daughter and wife. They stopped when they saw the one horned reindeer. The man came between them and patting the nervous reindeer, introduced him to his family.

‘Hello, Mr. Reindeer,’ the daughter said.

‘Hello,’ the reindeer replied.

‘Can I stroke your coat? It looks so soft.’

‘Of course,’ the reindeer said.

The man picked his daughter up and she stroked the reindeer.

‘It is soft!’ she cried.

‘I have told this reindeer he can stay with us. He has no family and is very lonely,’ the man explained.

‘Of course, you must stay,’ the wife spoke and she petted the reindeer’s muzzle.

‘Thank you. I know I’m going to be very happy from now onwards,’ the reindeer stated.

And he was.

 

-This story was created with the help of the young people at my local youth center.-

Threatening Nature

<3 The forest grew unsettled in the gathering night, causing me to pause on the dirt road. Ahead seemed wrapped in darkness and I could hardly make out the towering trees on either side. Here was not a place I wanted to stop. I slipped my hiking rucksack off and dug inside one of the outer pockets. My fingers closed around a cold plastic cylinder. I heaved the pack up again and switched the wind-up torch on. The beam hardly made a dint in the approaching blackness. Aiming the light down, I went on with cautious steps. Around me, the forest burst with nocturnal life. Owls, bats and other night flyers took to the sky hunting down their meals, whilst calling out. Ground and tree creatures scuttled, making their way through dying leaves and evergreens. The breeze, that had been tailgating me, turned into a growing wind, which lashed tree branches about. The air threated rain. I pressed on, remembering from the map that was a semi-abandoned trail coming up on my right, which would lead me to a cabin. As the light fell upon this, a sigh of relief left me. Hurrying along, tiredness aching in all my limbs, the cabin loomed from the night like a hunched up monster. The door opened on first push, realising a damp unpleasant smell into my face. I stepped in as the rain began to fall and the wind let out a long howl. I felt the door closed and the latch click down. A large room reflected under the torch with the different sections marked out by a scattering of furniture. I tried out the coffin bed in the far left corner, then put my sleeping bag and travel pillow there. An exploration of the place revealed that the wood burning stove still worked and someone had left dry wood and candles. Lighting them both caused the cabin to come to life. ‘Try your best nature,’ I said, ‘you’ve been threating my trip for days, but now I’ve almost made it and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ A roll of thunder and a crack of lighting replied to my words. I jumped back at the sudden noise and moved to the door were the now violent gale force wind was causing the cabin to quiver. The latch was firmly in place and there was nothing else to seal the door against the outside forces. I glanced around and decided that the small hovel was probably use to such weather and would offer me sanctuary. The second wave of thunder rumbled above me as I strode to my pack with the intention of making some food. It was a long night. I slept fitfully; waking, half-waking, dozing off, falling into sleep and then waking again, repeatedly. The wind and rain whipped around in frenzy as if trying to get in. The thunder roamed back and forth like wild ocean waves. The lighting seemed just as loud, though none of its flashing came through the thick wood of the cabin and the place had no windows. Luckily, I kept the fire going so the cabin was filled with some heat and light. With my eyes fixed on the dancing flames, I finally fell into a deep sleep. Coming wake from a strange dream, I could still hear the wind and rain outside, though it seemed like the storm had officially passed. The fire had grown dim, but I was able to get it going enough to warm some water and porridge. After, I peeked outside. A wet, cold wind swiped at my face and morning light darted around the trees. I put on my rain coat, packed my bag, thanked the cabin and stepped out.