Scattered #writephoto

The top floor corridor was foreboding and forever in darkness since my father had died. With my bare toes pressed against the bottom of the first wooden step of the staircase, I looked upwards into the blackness. Of course, I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear them.

They moved with shuffling, dragging footsteps and whispered so you could only catch one or two words. Sometimes one of them would wail or moan in a low undertone. My mother and the servants would blame it on the wind or an animal.

I knew differently.

A chill crept around my bare ankles and began to make it’s up, under my white nightdress. I whacked the dress down, stepping backwards then I collected the edges in my hands, wrapping them around me for protection.

‘Stay away!’ I hissed.

A low chuckle came from the darkness in the middle of the stairs and a man’s voice whispered, ‘stay.’

Scrunching up my face, I tried to make his shadowy form out. I wasn’t scared of them and as long as I kept my distance they couldn’t do no harm. I made out the shape of two long legs on the step and a hand just above the banister.

‘Who are you?’ I asked.

He just laughed and began making his way downstairs. A panic and fleeing notion came over me. He didn’t feel like the others, he was stronger… I backed away and I did think about running, but I was determined to stand my ground.

Father had had control over them and I did too, even though I wasn’t very good at it. I shut my eyes and calmed myself. Rising my left arm, I put my fingers to my neck and clutched the silver cross there. I emptied my mind then imagined light washing over me.

I heard heavy boots hitting the stairs and a soft growling. I didn’t open my eyes nor move. Icy cold fingers brushed past me, but I ignored it. I pictured a bright ball of white light coming out and hovering above me.

‘Not scared?’ the shadow man asked.

I opened my eyes, feeling the power of the light swelling within me. I could see him more clearly now. He was a tall man, dressed all in black, his face was narrow with bright red eyes and a slashed mouth which was grinning.

‘Daemon,’ I uttered.

He let out a rippling laugh which echoed through the still house. He came to the bottom of the stairs and reached out for me. His arms stretched longer then they should have and once again I felt his touch. His icy grip bit into my other arm and he breathed harshly into my ear.

‘Mine. Little girl,’ he uttered.

‘No! Daemon!’ I yelled and pushed against him.

Blinding brightness shot out from me, throwing us both back. I hit the wall hard then scrambled upwards. A wild howl filled my ears and I saw the top floor corridor bursting with scattered light. Many shadows were fleeing before it and wails echoed in the distance.

I watched the light dancing on the ceiling and walls, dazed by the patterns. It was like sunlight through a prism. The light began to fade and so did their cries. Looking down at my hands, I wondered if I had really done that. The sound of running footsteps broke me out of my thoughts. The rest of my light faded but they didn’t gather back, instead the corridor took on a peaceful darkness.

‘What happened?’ my mother gushed.

I turned and saw her in the dim lamp light. She had her maid and mine behind her.

‘I don’t know,’ I answered sulkily.

‘Where you sleep walking again?’ My mother pressed.

I faked a pause as if thinking then nodding went over and pressed myself into her nightdress. I made sobbing sounds.

My mother patted my head, whispering calming things and led me off to my bedroom. I glanced back as we moved off. I couldn’t sense them up there but I knew they would gather again soon.

 I looked down at my hands, in wonder.  Did I really now have the power to defeat them…?        

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/09/14/thursday-photo-prompt-scattered-writephoto/ with thanks).

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Outside #writephoto

He was lost and scared as he walked through the darkness in the rain. There were lights ahead, but he couldn’t be sure what they were. He thought he felt rough stone under his fingers. He carried on walking till there was enough light to see by.

Now, he knew were he was; the back area of his home. He could see the south tower, though it was wrapped heavily in shadows. Running over, he tried not to think about how much trouble he’d be in. Maybe, he hoped, no one had missed him yet.

How many times had he been told not to play on the roof? Yet, still tonight he had gone out there and he wasn’t even sure why. Trying only to think of getting back inside and to bed, he began trying to reach the third window of the tower. It was the only way back in from this side.

He climbed up, finding it easy to hold on to the worn stones. He pressed against the window. Thankfully, it hadn’t be latched back fully. Climbing through and wiggling over the ledge he entered the staircase, leaving behind him small puddles of water on the window sill.

(https://scvincent.com/2017/05/18/thursday-photo-prompt-inside-out-writephoto/)

Inside #writephoto

The maid frowned in her cleaning of the grand staircase as her sharp eyes spotted the water on the stone window sill opposite. Shuffling over, she looked and tried to figure out where the water had come from.

The window couldn’t be opened for it was just a single panel of glass fitted into a thick stone wall so the rain from last night couldn’t have got in. Plus, this section of the castle was currently closed and she was the first person to come in for a few weeks now.

Deciding there must be a leak somewhere above, the maid mopped up the water and give the window a quick clean. Then getting back to her main tasks, her mind forgot all about reporting the problem.

A month later, the maid came back to that section again to keep on top of things. Once again she noticed the small puddles of water on the window sill. This time she checked to make sure there was no holes in the glass and that the other window sills were dry.

Satisfied, she made a note in her little notebook and went back to work. It had to be a little leak somewhere. The castle was late thirteen century so it was to be expected that some of the old lead lining was fading.

At the end of the shift, the maid reported the leak and detailed where it was; south tower, third window on staircase.  

However, every time she went into that section the water puddles were still on the window still. She mopped them up and tried to find a source for them which even on rainy days seemed a mystery. Then she would report the problem.

Finally, one afternoon the maid complained to her manager.

‘The leak I keep reporting isn’t getting fixed,’ she said, ‘it was there again this morning.’

‘The third window in the south tower?’ her manager said straight away.

The maid looked at her from over the top of a very cluttered desk. The manager’s office was a big space that had once been a part of the servant’s ground floor rooms. It had been converted ages ago and was filled with office furniture.

‘It’s been looked at every time you have reported it and no leaks have been found,’ the manager replied with a serious look on her face.

‘But there must be something….’ the maid uttered.

‘It’s the ghost,’ the manager responded with a shrug.

‘Ghost?’

‘The story goes that a young boy fell from the tower. It was raining and he slipped. The servants believed that the boy’s ghost keeps trying to get back inside because he’s trapped on the outside. The third window use to be the only one you could open…’

The maid pulled a face and answered, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts…’

‘Nor do I or anyone else who works here, but for the groundskeeper and the two old gardeners. They use to work here when this place was a stately home, before it got handed over to the Trust. They’d tell you the story better then I can,’ the manager added.

‘No, thanks,’ the maid replied and saying goodbye left to get on with her other tasks.

The water puddles remind still and once a month when the maid was there cleaning, she would wipe them away. She really didn’t believe in ghosts and thought that it must still be a leak somewhere.

 

(https://scvincent.com/2017/05/18/thursday-photo-prompt-inside-out-writephoto/)

Child

It was time. Elisabeth knew she had to do it, but she just didn’t know if she’d find the strength. Standing just inside the nursery room, she looked around and took in all the bright and pretty toys. There were so many things!

In pride of place was the dappled rocking horse with all his red leather tack. The doll’s house took up the left far corner, under the curtained window. The red bricked front tightly shut away, but inside was wonderful collection of fully fitted rooms for the china dolls to roam through.

There were soft toys and wooden toys gathered about. Books on a small bookshelf and other child size furniture; a desk, a chair, a sofa. A tea set all laid out on a circle table and dolls seated at the chairs as if they were really about to take tea. Everything was ready to be played with and you could almost hear the voices and laughter of children on the air.

Elisabeth sigh and thought about what should have been. She dropped her head and turned from the room. Her dark blue dress rustling about her. Her eyes caught those of the elderly housekeeper, who was waiting with dust sheets and the ring of house keys.

‘My Lady,’ the housekeeper spoke, ‘it will be open again before you know it.’

Elisabeth held her head high, trying not to show any of her grief. She swept passed the woman and went along the corridor and up the next flight of stairs to her room. Once there and with the door locked behind her, Elisabeth sank onto the bed and crumpled a child’s nightdress into her lap.

Tears began falling, thick and fast. Elisabeth buried her face into the nightdress and cried until exhausted, she lay down in bed and fell asleep.

 

(Inspired by: https://scvincent.com/2017/04/27/thursday-photo-prompt-child-writephoto/ with thanks)

Obelisk

After endless days of drifting in the sea, Mongrel spotted something. The sun was just rising, casting a sick yellow glow over everything and the sky was opal blue. Gentle waves were lapping the small wooden boat as if it was a rocking cradle.

‘Look!’ Mongrel cried.

The four sleeping bodies in the bottom of the boat stirred.

‘Something coming!’ Mongrel added.

A head rose up, a hand rubbing at the face and a man’s voice said, ‘what?’

‘See,’ Mongrel replied and pointed at the strange shape arising out of the sea.

Elk, the leader of the remaining Spear tribe family, looked. Frowning, he rubbed more sleep from his eyes then focused on the shape again. It had been so long seen he last seen anything other then water and sky.

‘Is it food?’ a young girl’s voice asked.

‘No. It’s building,’ Mongrel gushed, ‘Row! Quick!’

‘Aye!’ Elk shouted.

There was a scramble in the little boat as two adults, a man and a woman sit on beaches facing each other and took up the battered wooden oars. Whilst a six year old child scrambled over them all to come to Mongrel’s side to see what the fussy was about.

‘Go ahead, Jagger and Thistle!’ Mongrel directed.

After a few moments of floundering, the boat began moving swiftly towards the structure. The oars slapped the calm water, breaking through the stillness that had settled in the night.

‘What is it?’ the girl asked.

‘A totem? A watch tower? Don’t know, Ember,’ Mongrel answered quietly.

Ember huddled against him. Feeling safer snuggling into the bear skin coat Mongrel was wearing in. Keeping her eyes fixed on the building, she watched it growing before her.

Soon, the little boat was close enough for them all to see that the structure was a white stone tower on top of a cliff face.

‘Land,’ Elk whispered.

He licked salt from his lips and moved around the boat to take the oar from Thistle.

She passed it on and moved to the back of the boat to rest.

Sea water began spraying over the boat as Elk rowed fast. The tower grew then they passed it and saw before them a golden beach edged by trees.

‘Land,’ Mongrel cried.

Spurred on, Elk and Jagger rowed harder. The boat bounced over the waves then started to ground in the sand.

Mongrel scrambled out, Elk and Jagger joined him. They pulled the boat ashore.

Falling into the sand, they cried out wildly.

‘This!’ Elk declared, ‘will be our new home!’

 

(Inspired from: https://scvincent.com/2017/05/04/thursday-photo-prompt-obelisk-writephoto/ with thanks)

Today’s Child

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I would never have noticed the unaccompanied child getting on the bus if I’d not already been distracted from reading my book.

The girl, no older then eight, was alone and judging by her school uniform and the time, she’d just come from her last lesson of the day. She was talking to the bus driver. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but to me the driver looked like a giant towering over her.

I took my headphones off and leaned in closer.

She was saying something about going to her granny’s, but she didn’t have any money. Someone had stolen it and she didn’t know what else to do. Her little face was trying hard not to crumple into tears.

The bus driver waved her on without further ado.

The girl went to the first empty seat and sat down. She took off a pink plastic backpack and placed it on her lap, her fingers wrapped around the straps. She looked out of the window and I watched her swinging legs.

Why was she traveling alone? How could her parents, her granny let her? Maybe she was older then she looks. I’ve seen twelve year olds who look like eight year olds, but she seemed so small.

Should I do something or not?

Glancing around, I saw no one else was interested in the child. The handful of people were staring at their phones or newspapers or at something else. I wanted to think that at lest someone else was concerned about the little girl. Like me though, they were debating still.

The bus had passed two more stops in this time and I noticed my street would be coming up soon. I still didn’t know what to do.

At the stop before mine, the girl climbed down off the seat and rang the bell. When the bus slowed into the bus stop, I saw an old woman standing on the pavement with a little dog. The girl got off the bus and ran to her.

Feeling thankful for that, I gathered my things and rang the bell for the next stop.

Petrichor #atozchallenge

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Petrichor; the pleasant smell of the earth after rain. 

Everything smells better after it’s rained. There’s a cleanness in air which my ma said was God washing and cleansing everyone. I use to believe that without a doubt. Now though, I’m not sure. There’s so much I believed in as a child which has faded now I’m adult.

It’s strange how different things are after the rain. You notice the pools and reflections of things more. The sounds of splashing wheels and feet. The dripping of drops off things. I randomly remember a boy once telling me that the rain was actually a leak from Heaven’s showers.

I wondered for ages how that was possible and pictured angels having showers all together. Or God having a bath and all the water overflowing. Maybe that was the real reason behind a flood?

When you’re a child it’s easier to believe in these things. As an adult you are more logic and less imaginative. You know how rain is made and why it falls. The novelty of it has worn off too, like snow. I use to love snow! Now, it’s just a pain.

Even though, I know the truth behind things now, it doesn’t take the pleasure away from them. During the rainfall and afterwards, I open my window to let all the smells and sounds in. I sit on the ledge and take deep breaths till I feel calmer. I try to think of nothing at all, but sometimes like today, my mind wonders.

I look up at the sky, where the dark clouds roam and a few rain drops still linger. Are God and the angels up there right now having a bath and cleansing the poor below?

Creepy Doll Face

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I looked up and there she was staring down at me again. My breath caught and I chocked on a bit of water I hadn’t swallowed. A coughing fit hit my chest and I had to turn away whilst it felt like I was coughing up a lung. I couldn’t breath and panic shot through me.

I sat down, luckily landing on Harriet’s bean bag or else I would have been on the floor. I rubbed my chest and calmed myself. Most of the coughing subsided and I was able to think again. I took a few depth breaths and tried not to think about anything other then my breathing.

Reaching up to the small desk, I took down the bottle of water I’d brought upstairs with me. Unscrewing the cap, I took a sip, testing my throat. It seemed okay. I took a few more and shut my eyes. Music was still rocking through my headphones. I slipped them off, wanting a few moments without Meat Loaf singing his love to me.

The coughing stopped and I took a mouthful of water. Feeling better, I put the cap back on and tried not to look up again. I scanned my ten year old daughter’s bedroom. Taking in the bright pink princess wallpaper, Harriet’s collection of unicorn teddies, all her books, the doll’s house and all her fake looking dollies.

The vacuum and cleaning bucket stood in the middle of the room like intruders. I should get back to cleaning. Harriet hated anyone cleaning her room, luckily she was a very organised and her bedroom was always tidy. Still though, there were things a child couldn’t clean.

I went to stand up and my eyes began drifting up to the top shelf again. I stopped myself, not wanting to look at her again. Those piecing blue-grey eyes were a death trap and all that blonde curly hair wasn’t as innocent as it looked. I focused on the floor and the vacuum, planning what I was going to do next.

I couldn’t escape her though and I lifted my eyes upwards. She was sat on the corner of the highest shelf above Harriet’s bed, where all the precious things Harriet was too young yet to play with sat. There were things like pot ponies, glass teddy bears, a paper weight with a real flower inside and the doll.

My breath caught again and I was taken in by her as if she held power over me. Her china face was snow white and perfectly heart shaped. Her red painted lips were a tight bow as she faked a smile. Her glass eyes had little black eyelashes brushed on which give a frame to her glaring gaze. Her face was framed by all that blonde hair which there appeared to be far too much of. She was wearing a pale blue dress, trimmed with white lace at all the edges. Her limbs had been arranged so that her arms and hands rested on the shelf and her feet hung down. She had on tiny white lacy socks and blue leather shoes.

‘It’s just a doll,’ I said aloud, breaking the spell.

I took a deep breath and looked away. I got up and went over to the vacuum. I plugged it in and turned it on. I cleaned the carpet and I tried to let the noise of the vacuum drown out my thoughts, but it didn’t work.

The doll had only been here two weeks. A late birthday present from Harriet’s grandmother. The woman was almost a hundred and in a care home down south, near the coast. The doll was probably around the same age as her. Harriet had only meet her twice,  as a baby, so Harriet wouldn’t remember. Mrs. Perkins did though! And every birthday and Christmas Harriet would get something in the post from her. Normally, they were suitable gifts, but that china doll totally wasn’t.

Even though, Harriet had cried and moaned, I had put the doll on the shelf and told her could have it when she was older. It hadn’t worked though. I had been hearing Harriet talking to the doll as if it was her best friend. Also, I kept finding the doll about the place. Yesterday, it had been in the bathroom, on Saturday it had been on the sofa and this morning, I swear the doll was in the kitchen, but then I hadn’t been able to find it.

Now, the doll was staring me down.

Ignoring it, I finished my cleaning. Then as I was leaving the room, I reached up and pulled the doll off the shelf. She slide easily enough down. Stuffing her in my cleaning bucket, I took that and the vacuum downstairs again. I put anything away then debated what to do with the doll.

Finally, I got a plastic bag from the cupboard and wrapped her in that. Her creepy face didn’t seem to happy about that. I didn’t care! Then I went up into the attic and left the doll on an old wooden chair that had belong to my great-granddad.

The rest of the day was normal and I had this strange peace of mind. However, when Harriet came home the world collapsed.

‘Where is she? Where is Esme?’ Harriet wailed.

‘Who?’ I asked.

I was in the kitchen, sorting out dinner and my husband was in the living room. I’d picked Harriet up from school two hours or so ago and she’d only now just noticed her doll was missing.

‘Grandma’s doll,’ Harriet clarified.

‘I’ve not seen her. Did you leave her laying around some place again? I’ve told you not to play with her, remember? She’s a special doll,’ I replied.

Harriet puffed out her cheeks, trying to hold back tears as she thought.

‘Why don’t you ask you dad to help you look?’ I suggested.

With a huff, Harriet stormed off.

For the next few minutes, I heard my husband and daughter searching the whole house. I busied myself with making the meal. When I called them both to eat, Harriet declared the doll was still missing.

‘I’m sure she’ll turn up,’ I said.

Luck

PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma

Kobi looked up at the post then pointed out the bright green and black insect that was hanging there.

‘Granny! A cricket!’ Kobi called.

‘Huh?’ Granny asked.

She bent down and looked through her huge, thick glasses.

‘No, it’s not. It’s a grasshopper,’ Granny muttered.

Kobi’s shoulders sank and disappointment etched across his face.

Granny moved her glasses up and down, ‘maybe a locust,’ she added thoughtfully, ‘but not a cricket. Too big.’

‘Awww, I really wanted a lucky cricket,’ Kobi sighed.

Granny smiled, ‘We’d have to go out of town to find one of them. Crickets don’t like all this noise.’

Kobi pulled a face.

‘Why do you need luck?’ Granny asked.

‘For the maths test,’ he replied.

Granny took his hand, ‘I can think of better lucky things for that,’ she answered and led him away.

 

(Inspired from: https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/03/08/5881/ PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma, with thanks.)

Low Tide

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When the tide finally went out the tiny pink shoe was left half buried in the wet sand. A baby crab scuttled across it and paused wondering if he had found a new shell to call home. He sit in the shoe for a few minutes then decided it was just too big for him and scuttled away.

The men gathered on a sand dune. Flatting down the spiky marram grass with their damp clothes. They breathed the sea salt air heavily and shared around the last flasks of water, tea and whisky. In depressed silence, they looked out at the low tide and long strip of yellow beach over which the setting sun was casting a colourful display.

As the darkness gathered, the men said their goodbyes and left, fading back into the village with a heaviness in their hearts.

(From; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/02/thursday-photo-prompt-low-tide-writephoto/)