Zoanthropy #atozchallenge

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Zoanthropy; a form of madness involving the delusion of being an animal. 

Dr Amy Percy stirred in bed and slowly came awake. There was a familiar ringing in her ears. Rolling over, she looked at the alarm clock and saw it was a two thirty eight AM. Wondering who was phoning her at this time, she reached a hand out and picked up her mobile.

Peering at the screen in the darkness, she saw it wasn’t on. Tutting, she placed it back and grabbed her work’s mobile. The screen was lit up with an incoming call from a patient; Tim Banks.

Her finger hoovered between the green answer button and the red end call. She hit answer and pressed the phone to her ear.

‘Doctor?’ a low desperate voice asked.

‘Yes?’ she answered.

Amy rolled onto her back and fixed the sheets, so she was more comfy.

‘It’s Mr. Banks. It happened again! I’ve just woken up and there’s a dead bird on my bed. My window is wide open too….’

‘What kind of bird?’ Amy asked sleepily.

‘It’s like…erm….a blackbird? Yeah. It’s neck is broken. There’s feathers everywhere! What should I do, Doctor?’ Tim demanded.

‘Throw it out in the garden. Vac up the feathers then go back to bed, Mr. Banks,’ Amy instructed.

‘I need to see you!’

‘It’s the middle of the night….phone my office and make an appointment.’

Amy ended the call and placed the phone back on her bedside table. Settling down again, she prayed that she was fully booked tomorrow so she wouldn’t have to see Tim Banks.

God didn’t answer her prayer. Walking into her office and across the small waiting room, she saw Tim wanting for her. He was wringing his hands together and was sat far away from her actual first patient of the day; Camilla Brown.

Amy went up to the receptionist and waited till the older woman, Mrs June Meakings, who was sat behind a long desk looked up from the computer screen.

‘I’ve squeezed Mr Banks in first,’ June whispered, ‘I hope you don’t mind? He seems in a such a state. He said he’d been phoning here since six.’

Amy sighed. She could feel a headache coming on all ready.

‘I have his file,’ June added.

She selected a pale yellow folder from the top of the pile and handed it to Amy.

‘I’ll take Mrs. Brown’s too. Does she mind waiting?’ Amy asked with a quick glance over her shoulder.

‘No,’ June replied.

The phone started ringing, cutting through they conversation. They nodded at each other and Amy walked into her room.

She took a few minutes to set things up and flip through Mr Bank’s file. Then she picked up her phone and asked June to send him in.

Without knocking, Tim entered and went straight to the red long, low backed sofa. He sank down then began pouring his heart out to the doctor.

‘I can’t take it any more! I’m not myself! I worry every day and night. What if I change in front of people? What if someone sees me and recognises me? What if this doesn’t go away? I can’t live like this, but I don’t want to go to the insane asylum!’

‘Who said anything about an asylum, Mr Banks?’ Amy asked, looking over at him.

She had been taking some brief notes and her pen was paused in the middle of a line.

‘Well…that’s what happens to mad people, isn’t? You lock them all away!’ Tim explained, flapping his arms about.

‘Maybe in the past. Today it’s different…’

‘Drugs? I’ve tried everything! Nothing works. Maybe it’s supernatural. Like werewolves. I’m a werecat!’ Tim declared.

‘Now, Mr Banks!’ Amy snapped, ‘there’s nothing supernatural about your condition. Were-creatures don’t exist. Just like vampires and ghosts, it’s all fiction. People like to attribute their mental conditions to the supernatural because they find it easier to understand and blame. We’ve been through this before.’

‘I know Doctor! But do you really know that? What if the supernatural is real and we are in denial? What if you have powers?’ Tim asked.

Amy stared down her nose at him, ‘Mr Banks, I can assure you I don’t have any powers. Now. Let’s go over what’s happened since last time I saw you, five days ago. How many times do you think you’ve….changed?’

Tim thought, his eyes studying the ceiling before he answered with, ‘about three times, maybe more.’

Amy wrote that down in her notes then asked another question, ‘What have been the rough times of these changes happening?’

Once again, Tim give it some thought before answering, ‘Well, it’s been the same as normal. Mostly at night. I always go to bed at ten on on the dot, as you know. So, around midnight maybe? Or in the early hours? Though I think there’s been two in the afternoon for sure now.’

‘Oh, really?’

‘Yes. Doctor. I had a nap you see. I’ve had a bad cold and with not really sleeping at night, I decided to have a doze in my back garden. The first time I awoke and was soaked wet through! It was like…pond water and I smelt of fish. It didn’t rained at all and it was blazing sunlight.’

Amy pressed her lips together, but didn’t say anything. Tim went on.

‘When I got changed, I peered over the fences of the nearest houses and the one right on the end has a large pond with fish in it! Well, I broken in and looked around the garden. I found a dead fish beside the pond and the stones were all wet.’

‘Another animal could have done that,’ Amy mused.

‘The next day I had my second nap,’ Tim continued, he’d not heard her, ‘and when I woke, I was soaked again and there was like slime all over my hands. The fish smell was worse too. I went back to the pond and it was empty of fish! I think I’ve eaten them all!’

Tim dropped his head and pressed his hands to his face. His shoulders were shaking. He took in a few deep breaths and seemed to compose himself again.

Amy pulled a face and scribbled some more notes down. This was a complicated case and she had been out of options for awhile now. She had contacted other doctors in and out of the field, but they had been stumped too. A man who fully believed he turned into a cat wasn’t something that could be easily fixed.

When You Are Alone At Home

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I hated being all by myself at home. It was too quiet and there never seemed to be anything to do. Most people would like that, I guess. They’d see it as a chance to do those odd jobs or hobbies or watch TV which they couldn’t do when parents and kids were around. Yes, I could do all that, but I didn’t feel in the mood for any of it.

Maybe it was the lack of motivation? The pressure that I must do something! I had the space, the time, the chances, so yes, I must do some kind of activity which I couldn’t do other wise.

Nothing was coming to my mind though. I listened to the ticking of the kitchen clock, the dripping of the rain outside and the cat purring around my legs. I put the TV on, but only for background noise and just to hear voices so I wouldn’t be lonely.

I wondered if this was how it was when you got old and housebound. Would I just watch TV all day and doze? Would I reflect on my past and wonder what the rest of my future would be like?

I hope I’d lived a good past.

The cat jumped up and snuggled into my lap. We’re not friends, but with my parents gone for a few days, she was attention seeking. I petted her and listened to her purring more loudly.

I’ve have to get a cat when I was old and stuck inside. It would have to be a nice cat though. One who’d sit in my lap all the time and not be so wild. An indoor cat. Maybe, one of those with a really long coat and bright blue eyes. I hope I’ll be able to brush it though….

I channel flicked, but didn’t find anything worth watching. A nagging voice in my head told me to do something. ANYTHING!

Picking the cat up, I placed her on the floor. Disgruntled, she looked at me then trotted off. I went into the kitchen, though I was hungry and began looking around. Finally, I decided to do some baking.

I wasn’t that good to be honest, but at least it would kill time until the evening. Then there’d be soaps on and quiz shows and murder mystery dramas. I could get snacks and chill out, maybe the cat would come to me again?

I pulled one of my favourite cooking books off the shelf and flipped through it. What could I make? Something simple, easy and tasty. Cake? Cupcakes? Yes, that would do…chocolate cupcakes!

I set to work and found my mind better now it had something to focus on.

Cat Life

Black and White Cat in a Tree

In the mornings, he would sit in the tree and watch the village. At lunchtime he would come down, visit three houses for lunch then curl up somewhere warm and quiet for the afternoon. In the evenings, he strolled around till late then mewed at doors till someone let him in.

 

(Story inspired from: https://first50.wordpress.com)

 

 

The Visitors

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The High Priestess had heard the crying at the temple door for some time now. She had been hoping that one of The Sisters Of Syreth,  her followers, servants or anybody else taking shelter in the temple tonight would have opened the door by now. Wondering why that was, the High Priestess swished down a connecting hallway in her large and heavy blue dress.

Going through a small door, she entered and passed through the huge nave down a side corridor. The air was heavily scented with hot wax, incense and winter flowers from the mountain sides. Flickering candle light glowed from clustered candle groups, but it was not enough to keep the shadows away. A handful of people were sitting in the large, cold wooden pews. Most were silent in prayer or sleep, but every now and then sobbing, moans and whispered voices could be heard.

The High Priestess stuck to the shadows and hurried past. It was late in the night and she had all ready given a long service this evening then spent time with a number of different people. She was tried and had been trying to fall asleep, but the crying had disturbed her.

Going through the large doors into the small welcoming area, she saw the door opposite which led to the porch was all ready open. Voices and light were drifting from the area. Not bothering to be quiet she walked on and came to a stop behind a small group of people. There were five of them; two Sisters of Syreth in there pale blue robes, a male servant and a tall man dressed in a travelling cloak.

‘I am telling you, do not let them in!’ the man was saying.

‘Everybody is welcome in this temple of Syreth. She is the Goddess of protection and guardians. It is our duty to offer whatever we can to anybody who comes to our door,’ the High Priestess broke in.

The two Sisters turned and did little bows. The male servant, who was holding a lantern bowed too, but his was a lot lower. The traveler did not move and the High Priestess saw the tiredness and worry on his face. But he was also trying to mask his fear. Behind them all and coming from the other side of the temple’s double front doors the loud crying continued.

‘What is it? Who is crying out there?’ the High Priestess demanded to know.

There was a pause then the traveler spoke out, ‘creatures. I saw them on my way here and I think they followed me. You must not let them in for surely they are demons.’

‘What do they look like?’ The High Priestess asked.

‘There is two of them,’ the traveler replied, ‘one small, the other tall. They look like ghosts to me. I heard them whispering and calling out to me. But I did not stop. I rushed here and closed the door upon them and since then they have been crying,’ the traveler explained.

The High Priestess fell into thought.

‘We want to open the door to see for ourselves,’ one of the Sisters spoke.

‘Perhaps in the darkness the gentleman was mistaken,’ the second Sister finished.

‘I am not blind! I know what I saw!’ the traveler snapped.

‘Of course,’ the High Priestess murmured, ‘please see to his needs,’ she said to the servant.

The servant give a nod and led the man away. The traveler began to mutter under his breath, but he followed the servant and the steady lantern light.

The High Priestess went to the door and opened it. She peered out then stepped aside.

A strong winter wind blew harsh snowflakes into the temple and set the candles flicking violently. Coldness seeped in and snatched what little warmth there was within the stone walls away. The sound of the river gargling and the rattling of bare tree branches echoed through the temple.

The crying stopped. A large white and light brown cat padded inside followed by a pure white young female deer. Snow dusted their coats, but they seemed unharmed.

‘Do you seek shelter here?’ asked the High Priestess.

‘Yes,’ the cat spoke in a clear voice that was not male or female.

The two Sisters gasped and backed away. They reached for each other, holding hands tightly. Fear passed across their faces, but they did not run away.

The High Priestess shut the door. Snowflakes were melting in her long loose blonde hair and the wind was tugging at the edges of her dress like a naughty child.

‘You are both welcome here,’ the High Priestess continued.

‘Thank you,’ the cat replied.

‘What are your names and how can we help you?’

‘I am known as Horven, the druid,’ the cat spoke, ‘and she is the Princess Graceuvial.’

The white deer nodded and seemed to give a little bow with her long neck.

‘A Princess?’ The High Priestess breathed.

‘We have become lost in the snowstorm,’ Horven added.

‘Yes. It is quite a bad one,’ the High Priestess responded, ‘please let me take you to some warm rooms. There you can rest and I shall see to it you have everything you need.

‘Thank you,’ the cat said.

The High Priestess held out her hand then led the way into the Temple.

 

(https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/microfiction-challenge-27-rescue/)

Witchy

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When the witch left her house she only had one thing on her mind. Taking her broom up as high as she could, she flew by the full moon and the dark stormy clouds. Below her, everything looked tiny and unreal as if the trees and village were only models. However, she knew the people asleep in those houses and she hurried to land in the middle of the village square.

There beside the well, she cast the village under a curse for all time. Hating them for their cruelness against her and their unwelcome nature. She wove the spell into the water of the well, so that it would spread farther. Then taking to her broom once more, she dragged the spell through the midnight sky so that everything would be covered.

Autumn Blues

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Summer had only just gone and Autumn had arrived via stormy weather in the night. Sammy got up and out of bed to see this. Seeking out a warm jumper and a cotton skirt with thick tights from her wardrobe, she dressed. Then with longing looked back at her still warm bed.

Fighting the urge to crawl back in, she went into the her flat’s tiny kitchen. The rain tapped against the window as she ate breakfast with the dull voice of the news reporter filling the living room. A loud meowing made her turn her head and there was Boris at the window.

‘You can’t go out. You don’t like the rain,’ she reminded the black cat as if he was a child.

Still Boris sat by the window yowling, till she got up and let him out. He walked into the empty flower window box then came back in, shaking water from his coat and leaving little brown paw prints on the windowsill.

Sammy sighed as Boris looked at her is if it was all her fault he was now cold, wet and muddy. Muttering under her breath, Sammy gathered her things and left. It was windier then it had seemed and she was almost swept back into the door of her apartment block. Hurrying to the bus stop, she prayed that the bus wasn’t late.

Here We Stand (Part 8)

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We finished eating and drinking. I settled back in the chair, feeling fuller then I had in ages. Jasmine started to tidy up. She poured the rest of the water from the black kettle into the sink and placed the dishes and cups in. As she washed, dried and put away, an idea came to me.

‘Thanks that was great,’ I said.

She nodded her head at me then carried on.

‘I just remembered some traps I left in the woods. I should go and get them before we leave. Why don’t you pack you things and meet me back at the church?’

‘So you are going to let me come with you?’ she cried, turning from the cupboard and pressing her hands to the top of a chair.

‘Sure…’

I dropped my eyes to her breasts, which were now sadly covered by that t-shirt, but I made sure she noticed the look though. She looked down too, her brain taking a few moments to wonder what I was staring at. She glanced up at me, a small frown on her face. Nothing else needed to be said though.

I got up, picked my hiking bag up from the floor and left the kitchen.

‘My cat is coming too!’ she shouted.

‘Whatever,’ I called back, rolling my eyes.

At the front door, I risked a look back but I couldn’t see her, though there was a lot of rattling and movement happening in the kitchen. Opening the door, I stepped out and closed it again. I heard voices and sounds of laughter coming from the trees, perhaps the rumble of an engine. Then I was gone.

I hadn’t lied to her about the traps. Though I hadn’t caught anything. All six were empty. I secured all the wire nooses and put them back in hiking bag. My jeans were wet from the dew and the damp soil. Wiping my hands, I got my bearings and realized the fastest direction out of here would take me passed the church.

Sighing, I headed that way but kept to the trees. Hopefully, she was still packing or chasing her cat, but even if she was there I could easily move further into the trees. An image of Jasmine’s breasts straining against the frill of that blue dress popped into my head. My feet stopped and my hand reached across the middle of my jeans.

Shaking the thought away and telling myself later, I carried on walking. There were too many cons for her coming with, including my uncontrollable urges to get between her legs. Where witches good in bed? I growled and set everything aside as I navigated the woods. The sounds of motorbikes filled my ears. I was coming close to the back of the church and the graveyard now.

A startled cry came from that direction, making me stop and turn my head. I heard the sound of laughter and voices. Frowning and unable to stop myself, I went to the tree line. I couldn’t see anything other then the side of the church and the beginning of the graveyard. I’d have to get closer…

Sticking to the church wall, I crept over and peered around the corner. My heart sank and all thoughts of leaving Jasmine behind slipped away. She was standing in the middle of the biker gang. The four heavy set guys and two thin girls were grouped around her. They motorbikes formed an out wall, making it seem that they too were ganging up on her.

They all worn black leather jackets with a fading biker gang name on that I couldn’t make out. The girls were both wearing denim bare thread short shorts and tank tops. The men had either leather pants or torn jeans with scruffy t-shirts or vest tops.

As I watched, one the girls, who had long wild brown hair, ripped something out of Jasmine’s hands. It was a plastic animal carrier cage, out of which came a loud meow. The girl looked inside and passed it to one of the guys.

‘Can your cat fly, witch?’ the girl taunted.

‘No,’ Jasmine cried, ‘leave him alone!’

The group laughed then the man holding the cat carrier swept his arm around and flung it away like a Frisbee. The cat let out a long howl whilst at the same time Jasmine screamed and tried to dash after the carrier. Another guy, who seemed to be the leader, wrapped an arm around her throat. She chocked and clawed at him, but he didn’t let go as the group roared with laughter.

The cage landed with a loud thunk, just avoiding a headstone. I looked over and saw that it was close by. Listening and watching, I waited for a sign of life and when the cat mewed softly, an idea came into my head. I licked my dry lips and slipped my fingers down to my right boot. I eased out my sheathed hunting knife and began thinking of a plan of attack.

‘You know for a witch you’ve got a fine body,’ the man holding Jasmine spoke out.

My eyes shot back up and watched as the leader brought his other hand up and began massaging Jasmine’s right breast. She turned her head up and away to look at the tree tops. Her face twisted into an unpleasant, pained look. The leader dropped his head to her exposed neck and licked it with a long, wet tongue.

The other men chuckled, but the two girls didn’t look happy. Jasmine had her head turned too far away now, but my guess was that she wasn’t enjoying the attention at all.

The leader whispered something in her ear then turned back to the rest of his gang, ‘the witch is up for a little fun, I think!’

Laughter rose and they made to move off.

Unsheathing my knife, I held the handle in my right arm and rested the blade against my bare lower arm. Slipping the leather holder back in my boot, I darted out and snatched up the cat carrier. A small yowl rose out of it. Hiding the knife as best I could, I walked towards the group.

‘Hey! I think you forgot something!’ I yelled and jiggled the cat carrier lightly.

Another yowl came from the box as they all looked at me. Frowns and puzzlement appeared on their faces. I approached the circle and went to stand in the middle of it. A large hiking bag with lots of things tied to it lay on the grass close to Jasmine’s and the leader’s feet. I lowered the cat carrier to my side and kept the knife tugged away in my other hand.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ the leader snarled.

I shrugged, ‘just a traveler.’

‘This is non of your business, leave.’

‘It’s cool. I only wanted a piece of the action,’ I drawled and grinned in Jasmine’s direction.

She mumbled something that sounded like my name but I couldn’t have been sure.

‘You know this loser?’ the leader asked, he moved his arm so Jasmine’s head would move towards me.

‘No,’ she sighed.

The leader looked me up and down then said, ‘whatever, but you’ll have to wait your turn.’

‘I did see her first though,’ I challenged and slowly moved close to him and her.

‘Fuck off,’ the leader growled, ‘this is my turf and the witch belongs to me.’

‘I don’t belong to anyone!’ Jasmine shouted.

She brought her elbow up and hit him in the chin. The leader cried out and Jasmine turned enough away from him to give me a clear shot.

I jumped forward and stuck the hunting knife deep into his stomach. I yanked it out and pressed the cat carrier into Jasmine’s hands as he buckled over. I sprinted for the first motorbike I saw, tucking the knife away into the back of my jeans and scrambling on, hoping that Jasmine was behind me. I heard the cries and shouts from the rest of the biker gang and knew any moment one for them would be grabbing me off.

I started the engine and felt a lot of power flowing through me. Then Jasmine was hitting me on the shoulder with the car carrier and I was tearing away. One of the men got in the way, but I pulled the bike to the right. We almost skidded out of control, but then I directed it forward again.

‘They’re coming!’ Jasmine yelled into my ear.

We bounced over a headstone and the massive monster machine threaten to throw us off. I wrestled to get it back under control whilst the sound of other motorbikes filled the air. I drove into the tree line, feeling branches whipping me. I thought I heard Jasmine cry out then shout something.  I ducked my head then deciding keeping it down was the best idea.

Somehow I guided us through the trees and we came out on a road. I gunned it. The motorbike roared beneath me and as everything started to flash by I had a hard time seeing. Tears fuzzed my vision and I was aware of two things jabbing into me on either side. I wanted to risk I glance over my shoulder to see if they were catching up, but it was too dangerous to take my eyes off the worn out road.

A cross way appeared before us and with a quick thought, I steered the bike to the right. The road here was worse and we bumped along for a few moments. I risked a look across then and saw three motorbikes zooming after us. I yanked the bike to the right, angling my body with it and off roading into a clump of trees.

I popped back on the road again and shot down it. I nudged Jasmine who was hanging on to my hiking bag for dear life.

‘What are they doing?’ I yelled.

‘Turning around!’ she screamed, ‘why are we going back?’

Ignoring her, I spotted a turn off coming up and took it. The motorbike, still acting like a wild bull under me tried to launch us off again, but I kept a tight grip and drove it on. My mind raced with all kinds of thoughts and I couldn’t stop it enough to think clearly. The road ahead split to the left and the right. Guessing the right led to the village, I took the left and we passed a burnt out car I recalled seeing on my way in.

I knew how to try and lose this guys.

A few more minutes down the road, which flashed by on the motorbike, I spotted the remains of a bridge. I aimed towards it, remembering that though it was full of holes it still had seemed strong enough. I ploughed on, then at the last moment veered off to the side and down to the river. Above me, I heard the roar of engines and the rattling of the bridge.

I glanced up and saw that they had been unable to turn off in time. I wrestled the motorbike around and we almost ended up sideways. Fighting for control, I got the beast directed backwards up the sloping river embankment and drove back onto the road. I half wanted to stop and see what had happened, but it would have wasted time, especially if they or one of them hadn’t fallen for it.

I drove us on for awhile then spotted another church bell tower poking out of the trees. I looked behind us and saw the road was empty. Maybe it had worked after all? I looked back and saw the line of a road coming up on the right. I turned on to it and drove towards the church.

Avoiding the twisted iron that had once formed a gate and fence, I brought the motorbike to the back of the church and cut the engine. We were sheltered by a lot of tall trees and nature.

‘You still alive back there?’ I spoke softly.

‘Just,’ came a small reply.

I felt Jasmine getting off the motorbike and falling to the ground. I hopped off and knelt beside her. Her face was wet and she was shaking, but she didn’t look hurt. She shrugged off the hiking bag, she had somehow manged to grip. Jasmine turned to the carrier, opened it and took the black cat out. Surprisingly, he had survived. She hugged him to her chest and buried her face into his fur. He mewed and looked at me.

‘Did you see what happened?’ I asked her breathlessly.

‘One of them fell off the bridge, the other two stopped in time. They went to help him,’ Jasmine’s muffled voice came.

‘We need to keep moving. They’re going to come after us.’

I pulled out my knife, which had been badly digging in my back and sheathed it again. Tucking it into my boot, I went back to the motorbike and climbed on. Jasmine said something to the cat and gently placed him back in the carrier. He went in without any fuss then she picked up her bag and the box up before scrambling up behind me.

I started the engine once more and guided the machine around, I was getting use to it now. We followed our tracks back and jumped onto the road again. I looked left and right but couldn’t see anything. The sound of the motorbike made it hard for me to hear, but I took Jasmine’s word of it and drove us off down the road.

*****

Side Note.

Hi there, thanks for reading this story. If you have any feedback of any kind please feel free to send it to me, I like reading and replying to comments. Plus, it helps improve my writing.

At this moment, I’ve no further plans for ‘Here We Stand’ though I’m kind of tempted to turn it into a novel for NaNoWriMo this year, because I think there’s a lot more to tell! I’m not sure yet though, but it would be interesting to here your thoughts.

As with all my stories, I just let them unfold, so it’s hard to predicted how long they’ll end up sometimes. I do feel sad to finish this one though. Elk seemed to be developing into an interesting character and yeah, I know the science fiction-dystopia setting didn’t really come across how I wanted it to, but sometimes I just find it hard to cram everything in to these short stories.

Anyway, thanks for all your support and I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading this story. Here’s to a new month of writing!

Hayley.

Here We Stand (Part 7)

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I stared at her, puzzlement filling my face as her words echoed inside my head. The urges between my legs faded and I forgot about everything else for a moment. Then reality hit.

‘You don’t know me…Why do you want to?’ I asked.

She shrugged and said, ‘there’s nothing here for me now. My gran…’ she touched the cross at her throat and began rubbing it between her fingers, ‘she died a few months back. She was all I had.’

‘Well, I’m sorry about that…but-‘

‘There’s nothing left here! Everyone will move out soon and I…I don’t think they’ll let me go with them…’

I looked at her again, trying to figure out why she believed that. I looked at how pale her skin was and went for a guess, ‘because you’re sick?’

She turned her head way and rested her chin on her shoulder, ‘yes,’ she breathed, ‘but that’s not the only thing.’

I pulled a face, wondering if she had lied to me, ‘so you’re supernatural then?’ it was the only other explanation.

She nodded, ‘I’m a witch.’

Maybe I should have been more surprised, but I was too busy thinking about how much of a risk her coming along would be.

‘I can’t let you,’ I spoke after a few moments of pause.

She put her hands on her hips. Her breasts sticking out even more and gaining my full attention.

‘Why not?’ she snapped, ‘I know how to fight and I got things to trade for food. My gran and I use to travel all the time. And I know how to forge and I can make healing potions to sell and I can tell real fortunes.’

She folded her arms over her chest. Blocking my view and making me look up at her. Her face was set in determination. There was no way she was going to be talked out of this.

‘That’s all well and good. But why me? Why do you need someone to travel with? Don’t you know it’s easier to be alone?’ I asked.

‘Of course it’s easier, but there’s safety in numbers too. Plus, I have more chance of being left alone if I’m with you,’ she added.

A thought slowly formed in my mind, ‘you want a bodyguard?’

She shook her head, ‘a companion.’

‘I don’t know….’

‘The cards said you’d be difficult,’ she sighed.

‘What?’

‘Look, we need to leave. Come back to granny’s – mine and I’ll make us some hot food. We can talk about it more there.’

I frowned and turned my head to look at the line of trees behind me. My feet wanted to go towards them, I needed to carry on walking. She was right when she said there was nothing here for anyone and yet I couldn’t do it. I turned back and saw that she was already walking away, clutching the edges of her dress in both hands. She was wearing knee length leather boots, so I couldn’t actually see anything of her legs. Still though…

I followed her, casting all my thoughts aside. We walked into the clump of trees that the biker gang had come from and I saw a small house just to the left of us. It was sheltered by the trees and other nature, so if you didn’t know it was there you might miss it. We followed a path of flattened grass and arrived at a gate and fence. It was white, picketed and intact. A  plastic red sign on the gate read Healer’s House. Potions and fortune telling.

She opened the gate and walked in. There was a little path running through the front garden and to the front door. On either side plants had taken over and there were little labels sticking up from the ground. I looked around, fascinated at everything that was growing. I heard her unlock the door and go in.

A soft meowing and her muttering voice drew me away. Looking over I saw her holding a small black cat. She was hugging it and rubbing her chin on it’s head. I went over and saw that many things were hanging off the front of the house. There were wind chimes, sun catches dream catches, fluttering bits of paper, ribbon and feathers.

‘Why would you want to leave here?’ I asked.

She shrugged, ‘because it’s time to move on.’

‘The cards tell you that?’ I sneered.

She shot me a warning look then walked into the house. I looked out across the garden then further along the treeline and towards the church tower. My thoughts whirled. Being mean to her wasn’t going to help. My stomach rumbled and I realized how hungry I was. I had become so use to it now though that I just forgot most of the time.

I walked into the house, closing the door which caused a tinkling charm to sound. A hallway ran ahead of me, three doors leading off to rooms. There was a fourth and a staircase to my left. There was so much dark brown wood everywhere it was unbelievable. This place had been untouched by everyone but those living here.

I went into the first room and found a nice, tidy living room. There were handmade cushions and blankets on non-broken armchairs and sofas. An old TV stood in one corner as if just waiting for the kids to come home and switch it on for cartoons. Just like I had seen pictures of and heard stories about. In the far corner was a bookcase, stuffed full of things.

Going over, I felt rugs under my feet and the gentle squeak of floorboard. It had been awhile seen I had seen books. Slowly, I reached out and touched the spine of one.

‘You read?’ she asked.

I half turned, my hand falling away, ‘Barely.’

‘I’ll teach you if you want.’

I glanced back then turned fully to her, ‘this must have taken ages,’ I said indicating the room with my hands, ‘anyone would kill for a place like this. How can you want to leave?’

She looked at the floor and I noticed she had taken the dress off and was now wearing jeans and a loose t-shirt.

‘I must,’ she finally whispered, ‘come into the kitchen.’

She walked away, her footsteps muffled by the hallway carpet. I followed, my fingers unable to stop touching things. The kitchen was warm and bright. She had a fire going in the old stove. I guessed she had light it before going to the church. The cat was curled up on the floor next to it. There was a small table and chairs in the middle of the kitchen and I took a seat.

The curtains were drawn over the windows, but some light still seeped in. Herbs and plants hung above us, drying. There was a collection of small bottles and jars to one side, with recipe book beside them. The air smelled sweet, sugar like, but I had no idea what the cause was.

She made tea and brought it over with a plate of biscuits. Then she went back to the stove and returned with two steaming bowls of stew. She give me a bowl then picked up the teapot.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked as she poured the tea.

‘Elk. What’s your’s?’ I answered then realized I had never asked her.

‘Jasmine. Do you take milk and sugar?’

‘You have them?’

She nodded and held up a small bowl and a jug.

‘How? And yes.’

‘We use to have a goat,’ she said as she handed me a tea cup.

‘Oh?’

‘I sold it and the sugar gran got ages ago.’

I hummed and picked up a spoon. The stew looked good. I had a small sip and it tasted so rich and meaty.

Jasmine sat down and picked up a biscuit. She dunked it into the tea then began nipping on it. I watched her feeling full of mixed emotions and thoughts. How could I leave this girl behind?

But I knew I just had too.

To Be Continued…

Dear Diary #23

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow is my birthday and for the first time ever I’m spending it alone! Okay well, not so alone because I have the three dogs, two cats, the rabbits, the hens, chicks and the two baby lambs. It didn’t dawn until this morning when I saw the date, realized it was my birthday tomorrow and thought I’ve made no plans!

I guess though the more older you get the more birthday’s lose their excitement. When I was little birthdays and Christmas were always big and the only times of the year when you could really ask for a lot of stuff and get most of it. The parties seemed so much fun, even if they were simple and easily forgettable.

Getting older having my own money meant  could just buy whatever I wanted when I felt like it. No more waiting for my birthday and Christmas to role around! I could have it now with a click of the PC mouse and scan of a card. But I miss those special presents. The ones you hadn’t even thought to ask about but your parents and friends knew you’d love. I do kinda wish to re-live those times again.

I guess I should figure out what to do, see if anyone is around. I can’t be alone for my birthday! I don’t think anybody should be.

 

***

(Side note; with it actually being my birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d have a theme of ‘birthday’ this month. Just thought I’d announce that. Also, planning to get the first short story collection out by the end of this month! Thanks for reading and please like and share. Hayley)

Garden Party

Summer, Still-Life, Pitcher, Garden

Today seemed like a day when everything should have been perfect. The sun was blazing in one of those too blue romantic skies and there was a playfully teasing warm breeze. The urge to just get outside and soak it all in consumed me.

And that was when everything went wrong. I feel out of the bed, bashing my knees on the harsh carpet and after shaking that off, I slipped in the shower. My legs now red and slightly bruised, I ended up putting on crop jeans instead of my new sexy mini skirt. Taming my wild curling brown hair into an up do that some how made it looked like I didn’t care, followed.

Breakfast was another episode; the crumbly remains of cereal at the bottom of the box, gone off milk and a dirty spoon. Abandoning that, I got a breakfast snack bar and a glass of water and went outside in the garden. Hot yellow light poured over me, making me feel better. I sat on a very abandoned and lonely looking wooden deck chair in the middle of the lawn. Which thankfully, didn’t collapse on me, but groaned so much like my old great grandma, that I give up on it as soon as I had finished and went back inside.

Having no plans for this Sunday and caught by the unexpected weather, I decided to see who’d be up for a garden party. That was like my fourth fail of the morning. I selected a few people on my phone and sent them texts then whilst waiting excitedly, went through my friend lists online. I typed a few messages to people, a couple of friends I’d not seen in ages, an old ex, who I was still sort of in connect with, my hairdresser….Okay, that was an accident, but still, it didn’t matter.

Phone still in hand, I called up the note page and began listing things I’d need to do and buy. My mind hummed with this picture of a classy Sunday evening party. The men all around the small bbq, drinking beer and eyeing up the cooking food. The women clinking flute wine glasses, helping to bring out the salad and bread. The table! A huge wooden bench with a nice patterned cloth and center piece of flowers in a vase.

My phone beeped a texted and I picked it up. My ex had replied. Sorry, got a date tonight.  My heart fluttered then sank. A date?

With who? I texted back without even thinking.

You don’t know her. Meet online.

The words burned before me. I placed my phone down and wondered if it was too early to have a little drink. Shaking that idea away, I got another glass of water instead and thought about seeing if any of my neighbors were interested in coming over. Of course, I’d need to go and see them about borrowing some chairs anyway.

Getting  up, I noticed my black cat pad into the room back from his night time escapades. He meowed then jumped on the sunny window sill and watched the birds darting about the tree. Ignoring him too, I went into the hallway and slipped on my shoes. Going out, I tripped on the door frame and windmilled outside. Somehow steadying myself, I looked back trying to figure out what had happened.

Toeing the door frame, I pulled the door to and called on my first neighbor on the right. Rattling the gate, I saw her car was missing and wondered if she had taken her kids somewhere. Knocking on the door, my mind cast back and I wondered if a newly singled mother of three kids would want to come to my garden party. I hadn’t really tallied kids in….

No one answered the door. Turning, a tried the door next down, feeling more gigged as the whole street knew that a party loving girl lived there. I rang the door bell and waited. And waited. Finally, a bleary eyed, heavily beard and very naked man opened the door.

‘Yeah?’

‘Is Connie in?’ I asked, trying to look around him or anywhere else for that matter.

‘In the shower.’

‘Well…er…I’m having a small party later and I was wondering if I could borrow some garden chairs? I’ll call back later.’

I backed up, waved a little and scampered off.

With my cheeks still red, I made my way down the other side of the street with little luck. Going back home, I checked my phone and found a few people had replied with yes and two more had said they couldn’t make it. More notice next time, please. One had even added.

Pulling a face, I decided to go out and get some food. That would surely clear my head of Mr. Naked Beard Face. Grabbing my things, I head out and jump in my little car. It takes a few moments for the engine to start up, but then I’m off and stuck in traffic.

Staring out of the windscreen, I look at the long line of cars facing both ways. What’s happened? Some kind of emergency? Knowing, I’ll probably never know, I join the queue and make it twenty minutes to a normally five minute drive. The supermarket car park is packed too. Nabbing a space, which turns out to be a mother and baby, I jump out and hurry in before anyone notices my lack of child.

Cooling fans greet me with their whirling breeze and after collecting a trolley, I’m off in a mad cyclone of people and food. Did everyone decided to suddenly come here?  I grit my teeth at a screaming child and snatch up some chicken wings from under an old man’s nose. I throw in some burgers, sausages, chicken kebabs – which there’s never enough to go around of. Then I get some chicken drumsticks before remembering a vegan is coming. Sighing, I wonder into the fruit and veg and select a few things. How come a picky eater decided to come? What can I offer her?

I get some rice and a few other things, then hit the party section. They don’t have any pretty cloth table covers, but there’s plates and cups and cutlery. Loading those in, I avoid some chatting mothers, who are letting their kids play with balls in the toy section and make my way to the drinks. There’s too much choice. But I get some white wine and red, some mixers and some beer. Did I asked people to bring stuff?

I pull out my phone and check. Nope. Listing everyone up again, I send messages to that request and go to the tills.

‘Having a party?’ the depressed teenage girl behind the desk asks me.

‘Just a small one,’ I reply.

‘Looks like everyone else is too….’

‘The weather’s nice,’ I blurt and began packing.

‘I guess so…’

She fixes me with dark, having-seen-too-much eyes and scans my items. I hurry away, still feeling her gaze on me. I load the car and get in, having clocked someone waiting for my parking space crawling up. It’s too hot inside, so I opened the windows then sit off. Arriving home again, my cat is still on the window sill and if it wasn’t for his gently breathing, he’d be mistaken for being dead.

Getting sorted and ferrying everything from car to kitchen. I go into the living room and pick him up. He’s still alive and he gives me that look of oh my god did you just awake me? What are you thinking? What do you want? He tries to claw at me, but I carry him into the kitchen and place him outside. He sits looking rejected before trotting off.

I spend the rest of the day preparing and answering any messages that come through. Finally, everything is ready to go and someone knocks on the door. I hurry to answer it and find my neighbor Connie and Mr Naked Beard Face waiting for me.

‘Hi. Ken said you needed some chairs?’ Connie opens with.

I nodded, ‘I’m having a garden party.’

‘I could only spare four,’ she said pointing them out.

Ken is stood next to the stack of them, avoiding my eyes. Clearly he remembers what happened this morning.

‘That’s fine. Do you want to come in?’ I ask.

‘Sure, but we can’t stay long….’

I welcome them in and Connie directs Ken into the back garden.

A few moments later, some else arrives and the flow of people keeps coming. In my head, I begin to count and something tells me I didn’t invite this many…Wait, do I even know that guy with the Bon Jovi t-shirt?

I stare, trying to figure him out then someone taps me on the elbow and asks about food. As normal, some of the men have taken it upon themselves to show off their inner caveman and have got the bbq under way. It doesn’t take long to direct people to things then I’m back trying to find out more about my Bon Jovi fan interloper.

Checking all the rooms, I bump into Mr. Naked Beard Face coming out of the bathroom.

‘Sorry,’ I mumble.

‘About this morning…’ he starts.

‘No, it’s fine,’ I wave him away and check the bedrooms. No sign of interloper.

Out in the garden again the smell of smoking and cooking food hits me. I nibble at a muffin, eyeing my guests. Laughed rings in my ears and I turn to spot my hairdresser with Mr. B J Fan. Hurrying over, I butt into their conversation and get introduced to him as her boyfriend. Mystery solved.

Letting it go, I enjoy myself. The evening glows on and even though I didn’t get the picture perfect garden party I wanted, it seems to be going okay. Then of course the real partying breaks out and everyone seems to get drunk too fast. Loud music pours out my CD player, like a big finger pointing out the source of all noises. People sing and yell, someone starts throwing drinks about, there’s a queue for the bathroom. Midnight rocks up on the clock face and somehow I’m not drunk enough to come back to my senses and kick everyone out.

On the doorstep, Mr. Naked Beard Face, AKA Ken, turns to face me as Connie wobbles down the street clutching half a bottle of wine.

‘I’m sorry about this morning. I just got up and I didn’t think…’ he says.

‘It’s fine. It happens. You should go and help her,’ I nod over at Connie, who seems to have dropped her keys and is swearing loudly.

He stares at me, unsure about it then he turns and goes over to help her. I shoo the rest of the people out as taxis pull up and others do car shares with what I hope are sober drivers. I close the door and lean on it. My house smell of smoke, beer and sweaty bodies on a hot summer’s night.

I go into the living room, avoiding the mess and sink down onto the sofa. Someone has left their jacket on the arm chair and there’s a split cup of something pooling on the window sill. I shut my eyes. I drifted then the cat wakes me with a paw to my face. Hugging him, I take him upstairs and collapse on the bed, my dreams strangely full of necked beard men.