The Light

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I hadn’t walked in Crow Woods since we had moved away thirty years ago. Trailing my fingers across the rough trunk bark of the first tree, I took a deep breath. The heavy scent of damp soil and green nature with a hint of pine was all too familiar. Underneath me on the single track, mud coated my boots and there was touch of frost and ice in places no one had yet been.

The sight of all the trees like old friends, made me recall my childhood. Everyday, I’d come here to play, my imagination fuelled by the nature and freedom. I hadn’t needed anyone else or any toys, I had searched and used what the woods had. Sticks had became swords to fight off monsters, the stream became a mighty river that I sailed on and tree hallows had turned into deep caves.

I smiled at the memories. I had been so lucky. Pausing, I looked around and admired the bare trees as they reached skyward. Birds were singing in the distance and there was a breeze now knocking things together. I shut my eyes and thought if I listened hard enough I could hear the ghost of my mother’s voice calling me home.

Mum didn’t like me staying out once it got dark. I had to agree with her as once the light had gone from the sky something seemed to happen to Crow Woods. It was a hard feeling to describe but it was like the atmosphere changed to a dark, grim feeling. You could no longer trust the trees or the ground, they harboured shadows with ill intent. But the light was the worse part.

Reaching the last stretch of trees, I ducked under their shade as if I was a shy child again. Stretching in front of me was a low raise, framed by a rusty wire fence then wild fields surrounding a hill with a flat top. I couldn’t see it now because of all the growth but this was Crow Farm and up there had been the house.

A lingering fear grew in my stomach as I remembered everything. Only once, I had been up to that hill and stood in the ashes of the house. I had told my parents and they had forbidden me to return. It was dangerous and trespassing, if anyone catches you they could shoot you! Despite my fear, curiosity stayed with me but I didn’t leave Crow Woods again. Though I came close countless times.

I heard a woman singing sweetly, often on cloudy afternoons when I had followed the stream too far down. I would go looking for her but I would never find her and instead end up on the boarder of Crow Farm. On Sundays, I would hear children playing and laughing when there was no one else there. When it rained and I tried to go home, some strange wanting to be in the woods would overcome me and I’d have to fight it off.

Then I started seeing the light. It was a single beam from a high window, but it was so strong that it shone out over the trees. It came on cloudy and rainy days, in the evening whenever the daylight was low so that It would be seen more clearly. I followed the light sometimes, when I was feeling brave and I would end up at Crow Farm. There on the hill, I would see the shadow outline of the the house with one of the upstairs rooms lit up.

I didn’t tell anyone. I thought at first it was just my imagination but it was just too real to be. Later on, fear kept me away as I started seeing figures and hearing piano music coming from the house. I stopped following the light and thought that would solve everything. I tried to go back to normal but I could never play in Crow Woods like I could be before.

One winter night, I woke up and found the light in my bedroom! It was shinning through my window and the beam was leading straight out to the farm house. I screamed and screamed but It didn’t stop. Only when my parents came in would the light leave and they thought I was having nightmares. There was no pattern to when the light would come but I knew it was not going to go away.

My parents tried everything; doctors, specialist, moving my bedroom, moving schools then finally we had moved house. Mum had always wanted to live on the coast and it was there that I found peace after six years. The light had become a faded memory, nothing more then a childhood accident that I grew out of.

Standing here now, all that was hard to believe but I knew it was true. The Light was still calling me, it always had been.         

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Magic #writephoto

Winter arrived over night whilst everyone slept. The forecast had said it might sleet but they didn’t predict the thick blanket of snow that lay on the ground and trees. Looking out of my bedroom window, I felt torn by the view. It was amazing, the snow made the woodland and fields magical, like a fantasy land. However, leaving my front door and going to work was going to be hard.

Telling myself it might not be so bad and maybe it was only a little dusting over icy ground, I got ready. Before I left though, I put the TV on and the news that in the area I lived in was totally snow covered didn’t make me feel any better. Still though, no snow going to stop me!

Stepping out, my boots sink ankle deep into the snow, breaking the perfect surface. The air give me a cold hug and my breath misted before me. Birds were singing in snow draped branches and only the middle of the stream was flowing by. A part of me knew it was bad, but I walked to the driveway.

I got in my dad’s old Jeep which had been a joke thirty-fifth birthday present but I actually really appreciated it. Turned out a Jeep was a urban-countryside vet’s best friend. It took a few minutes to prepare for travel then the engine turned on the second try and I set off.

The tyres crunched under snow, at first finding it hard to grip but then getting there. I took it easy, not fast and trying to see the outline of the road. I got about a few miles away and then I saw a bank of snow up ahead and I just knew the wonderful Jeep wasn’t going to make that.

Leaving the engine running, I got out and walked over. There was a dip in the road here before a small bridge. The snow had filled the dip, finding support to make a raise. I looked to other side but there wasn’t enough gap between the trees to get by. Other thoughts ran though my head; getting a shovel and digging, calling neighbouring farmer to plough me out or walking.

A flake of snow spiralled passed me. I watched it join the others at my feet. Then looking up, I saw the dark morning sky start to rain down snow. It fell slow and gentle, melting on my warm coat or drifting through the trees to add to the ground. I had a flash back to childhood and playing in the snow.

It wasn’t enough to distract me though and I stepped back to the Jeep. Once in, the snow began to fall faster and thicker. I slowly turned around and drove back home. Defeat isn’t a word I use but there was no other way to put what had happened.

Once home, I phoned in work and found that so many other people were stuck too that the lead vet had closed the practise. Hanging the phone up, I felt a little better. Sitting at the kitchen table, I watched the snow dancing and tried to capture that ‘magic’ feeling from childhood again.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/11/30/thursday-photo-prompt-magic-writephoto/ with thanks).

Outhouse #FridayFictioneers

In the eighties, my uncle owned a small shop in a row of five others with rooms above them built in the 1920’s which also had a shared toilet outside. As a child, I was so scared to go out to the tiny brick shelter that I wouldn’t ‘go’ unless I super had to. It was freezing and dark, home to many spiders and smelt stale. I never met anyone else using the toilet, thankfully.

When the council knocked the whole row down, long after my uncle had passed away, I went to see the demolition and to see goodbye to the toilet that had haunted me.

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/11/29/1-december-2017 with thanks).

In The Forest

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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).

Wisp #writephoto

Some days, it was nice just to sit back and watched the clouds go by. Laying on the beach, I looked up and watched the thin clouds drifting across the ice blue sky. When I was a child my parents had played a game with me were we had taken it in turns to call out the shapes we saw within the clouds.

I smiled and began to play, trying to come up with all kinds of animals and objects that the wispy clouds could be. I got things like; horses, birds, people and a three legged crocodile. Then though all the clouds seemed to move away leaving just the bright sun above.

I sighed and shut my eyes, glad that the shade of the sun umbrella was keeping the glare off me. My mind wondered off and I thought about how much easier life had been as a child.

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/08/17/thursday-photo-prompt-wisp-writephoto with thanks).

Beached Boat

It was surreal seeing the wreaked boat on the beach still. I had thought they’d have removed it by now. A rush of childhood memories came back to me. I remembered that we had made a den there and spent many hours playing. Later on, it had been where my first girlfriend and I had spent alone time. Reaching up, I patted the boat’s side and had a fantasy of fixing her up and taking her out to sea. She was far too gone for that but I still liked the idea and maybe one day I could make it come true.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/fffaw-challenge-week-of-july-25-2017/ with thanks. Word count:102)

Apple

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I knew a girl called Apple once. We went to first school together and I use to admire her from a far. It was more then a crush, I was in love, but I was only seven and didn’t understand all of that. I’d watch her in the playground has she skipped rope or kicked a football.

I’d sneak looks at her in class too, though we sat at opposite ends of the room. She was on the red circle table with the rest of the clever kids. I was on the green square table with the dumb kids. In-between us, I think were yellow triangles, blue rectangles and purple hexagons. Apple liked art, maths and science. The opposite of me as I liked; writing, reading and lunchtime.

Apple was pretty and her clothes were always clean and new. She had fair skin, bright blue eyes and blonde hair which was in two pigtail plaits. She never had any cuts of bruises on her legs and arms. Her socks were shocking white and her black buck shoes shinny. Everyone loved her and wanted to be her friend.

I was the ugly duckling of the class. I was short and fat with choppy black hair and dark brown eyes. All my clothes and shoes were old second hand ones. I seemed to have a new bruise or cut every week thanks to my fighting with my older brothers or the many animals we had. I was always mistaken for a boy too and for many years I believed it was so, even though I was a girl.

I don’t think Apple and I ever talked or played together. We lived in two different worlds and even at that age, I could see that. I was jealous of her, especially when she got invited to parties or when she was giving out invites for her parties. I never got invited to anything, at least I don’t remember if I did.

I spent a lot of school being alone. I had a few friends, but they were too much like me and nothing like Apple, who I wished I could be. I couldn’t find the courage to talk to her though. The fear of being further rejected hung too heavy over me. I hoped maybe we’d be grouped together to do project work or else when the tables were remixed in the new school year, we’d be sat together.

It seemed fate kept us apart and then we moved on to big school, we went to different ones and I never saw Apple again. I hoped and daydreamed I’d see her again. Maybe, she’d transfer to my school or I to her’s? Perhaps, we’d meet again in college or uni? but no, Apple vanished from my world.

She lingers still in my mind though. On nights I can’t sleep when I’m alone in bed because my wife is working away, I think of Apple. I think of what could have been if only we had meet again or when we both had been older. Would Apple have loved me as much as I had loved her?

The Reaper Cometh

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Going out in a hail of bullets and under the wheels of the ten ton lorry was the only way to go. Well, I didn’t have any other choices really because there was no way I was going to jail. The murders they had pinned to me would have meant total life imprisonment and that wasn’t an option.

Committing suicide had also not been an option up until that point, to be honest. I don’t know, maybe, I was thinking I’d dodge the bullets or they’d hit non-important places and that I’d just avoid the lorry’s wheels like they do in the movies. But nope, my number was up.

Once the heavy crushing pain had faded and blackness had come I knew it was the end. When I next opened my eyes, I was standing at the side of the motorway, looking across at the scene. There were flashing red and blue lights everywhere and the sirens were so loud that they blocked the rushing traffic. Though of course, most of the cars were stopping now and people were taking in what had happened.

Police swarmed the scene; searching my fancy BMW, whilst others blocked the view of my body wedged under the lorry. The driver of which was hushed off to one side into a police car like a sleeping baby. The police officers’ whispered voices came to me; is he really dead? The serial killer? The one the papers nicknamed The Red Shadow? He killed ten people we know of, but there maybe hundreds more. Yes, he’s dead. You can see that, can’t you?

I turned away, wondering what to do. Surely a pit to Hell would open up underneath me? I’d be sucked down and spend all eternity being tortured by demons. But I didn’t believe in that.

To the left of me, I saw a black shape peeling itself away from the trees. Ah, the grim reaper coming to claim my soul!

‘Wait….What are you?’ I spoke, the words tumbling from my mouth before I could stop them.

‘I am your reaper, deary,’ replied a sweet old granny’s voice.

Stunned, I just stared. There before me was a small old woman- eighty or ninety odd-she had a hunched back and skin was as wrinkly and folded as one of those weird dogs. She was dressed in a long flowery pink dress, pink handmade cardie and was holding a large blue handbag. Her hair was dyed a strange blue color and she had large glasses perched on the end of her nose.

‘When you are ready, if you’d like to follow me, sweetie,’ she spoke out, ‘you just take as long as you need, okay? No rush.’

I glanced back at the scene behind me. Cars were parked up now and an ambulance had just pulled off the hard shoulder and was trying to get in close so they could collect my body without the public seeing. Police were all ready trying to stop people from coming over.

‘Oh, I think I got some peppermints here. Somewhere,’ the granny said and began searching in her handbag.

‘No, it’s fine,’ I said, ‘who are you really?’

She looked up at me, hand still in her bag, ‘I’m your reaper, deary, come to take you to the other side.’

‘But…I was expecting demons! Devils! A black cloaked skeleton! Black, fire wings!’ I cried.

The old woman chuckled, ‘everyone believes that, but no. We take a different form every time. Everyone is different you know and often they need to be handled differently too.’

‘Do you know who I am?’ I spit.

‘Were. Sweetheart. Who were you?’ she asked then, ‘oh, here are the mints. Care for one? Go on take a handful.’

‘No,’ I stated as I waved my hands and stepped back, when she held out a pink and white stripped paper bag towards me.

‘Not a fan of mints, huh?’ she added with a wink, ‘I got something else in here for you then…’

‘I don’t want anything! Just, let’s go!’ I yelled.

‘Now, now, don’t get upset. I’ll fix it. There now,’ she said and held up a tube of my favorite childhood sweets; lemon sherbet.

She pressed it into my hand, a large smile on her face.

I looked at it in shock then opening the lid, I tossed the white power into my mouth. It tasted just as I remembered; sour and sweet, fizzy and lemony.

‘All better? I knew that would help, petal,’ she said.

I nodded, feeling for the first time in years the sensation of tears in the corner of my eyes.

‘Are you ready to go?’ granny asked.

‘Yes,’ I mumbled out.

She held out a hand which was more like the gnarled, dry root of a dead oak tree.

I took it, feeling no heat or coldness against my own hand.

With her other hand, she patted the top of mine, ‘there, there, deary. It’s all okay now.’

‘So…no demons? No Hell?’

‘Stories!’ she laughed, ‘to scare people. There is no Hell or Heaven. Just the sky.’

I looked up and saw above me the darkening sky.

We started raising towards it. Leaving everything behind. The air rushed around me and as we met the sky, I savored the last taste of sherbet on my tongue.

 

Postcard #30

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Dear Nettie,

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Your husband was always kind to me and I have lovely memories of us all playing on the beach. It’s been such a long time since we last saw everyone but our move to France was the best decision. We couldn’t be more happy here. The small B&B is working well and though money is short, we make do. If ever you fancy coming out here to escape everything here’s my number. Just let us know.

All the best, Betty

Little Brother

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We always knew when my brother was coming. Everyone knew. My mother would hurry around the house, removing everything that wasn’t nailed down and locking it in her bedroom. She would put the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and make sure the back door and windows were all locked.

I hide in my bedroom, playing Xbox 360 games and listening to music till it was over. Then she would call me downstairs and we would stand in the living room, waiting. Looking out of the window at the neighboring houses, I noticed their drawn curtains and how quiet the street had become. So usual for a Saturday afternoon, but it was like this every other weekend.

The sound of a mini bus engine broke the stillness and I saw flashes of white from the other side of the hedge. My mother walked out of the room and to the front door, long skirts swishing around her. I stayed put tightening and un-tightening my fists, wondering what was going to happen during this visit.

The door opened and voices came from the hallway. I turned, sighing deeply as footsteps approached then my brother appeared in the doorway. He looked the same as always, a tall, thin mid-twenties man, with too short blond hair and bright blue eyes. He looked too pale, like he was ill, but really he just needed more sunlight. He was wearing black jog pants and a plain blue t-shirt and black jacket.  He smile at me, made a gurgling noise then inspected the living room.

My mother and a male carer from the disability home appeared. They sat on the sofa and fell into the normal conversation about how my brother had been. I watched them for a few moments then decided I should go and put the kettle on. I went into the kitchen, aware that my brother was trailing behind me.

I ignored him and went about making everyone a cup of tea. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my brother opening cupboards and searching through them.

‘No. Peter. Stop,’ I said firmly.

I closed the cupboard he was in and took his hand. He made some moaning sounds as I dragged him back to the living room. Pushing him through the door, I went back into the kitchen again. He shouted something and followed me again. I crossed my arms and watched him opening and closing another cupboard door.

Putting the drinks on a tray, I took them into the living room and placed them on a table. With thanks, my mother and the carer took mugs and carried on talking. I sat down in the armchair next to the window and faked interested outside. I just wanted this to be over already, but there was still two hours to go.

‘He took part in art yesterday and he’ progressing well,’ the carer’s voice drifted over.

‘And has he been eating okay?’ my mother asked.

‘Not really, but he’s been better then other week. He’s been fussing less, but we are still finding it challenging.’

From the kitchen my brother let out a scream and the sound of water rushing out of the tap could be heard. My mother shot me a look, which I pretend not to see. She got up and brought my brother back into the room.

‘Drink your tea, Peter. Adam, made it just for you. It’s nice,’ my mother said.

She sat my brother down in the other chair and give him his tea. Even though it was far too hot to drink, he sipped it anyway. He made some happy giggling sound then in three or so gulps drink the whole thing.

‘Fastest ever tea drinker,’ the carer said.

My brother got up, handed the mug to him and wondered out of the room again.

‘Adam. Go and keep an eye on him,’ my mother demanded.

Groaning, I got up and started trailing my brother throughout the house. He went into the kitchen again and messed around in there before going to the dinning room. He scared the cat and chased her around, till she scratched him and I had to stop him from kicking her. Picking the cat up, I took her to my mother, then followed my brother upstairs.

He went into the bathroom and was using the toilet before I could give him some privacy. I pulled the door too and stood there rubbing my forehead. A headache was building already. I heard the toilet flush and the sink tap running. My brother made his happy noises then squealed.

I rushed in and turned the taps off. He’d burnt his hands again. I give him a towel which he just dropped on the floor. Ignoring me, he walked out and down the hallway. He went into his old bedroom and I followed him. I turned the light on and watched him looking at a few childhood things on the shelves.

My mind pinged with an idea and I opened the wardrobe. I pulled out a box and opened it. Inside was a train set. Sitting on the floor, I begin to take it out and set it up. My brother watched me for a few moments, then joined me. In silence, we made a track and played with the trains. Then my brother broke into loud laughter.

He smashed two of the trains together and laughed even more.

‘No. Don’t do that! Stop!’ I shouted.

A train whizzed past me. The sound echoing in my ear. I turned my head and saw the toy land in the doorway. I started turning back and the second train hit me in the face.

‘Peter! Bad!’ I yelled.

My brother just laughed.

Growling, I snatched up the train set and packed it away. Collecting the two train engines, I shoved them in last and put the box away. Then I walked out and into my own bedroom. I locked the door behind me and sat on my bed. I rubbed my face, which was stinging, but not cut.

Hands banged on my door and my brother began wailing. Trying to ignore him, I grabbed a pillow and wrapped it around my head. He started kicking my door and screaming.

My mother’s voice rang out then I heard her and the carer wrestling my brother away. They took him downstairs where I heard him throw a tantrum. It took them a long time to calm him, then I heard the front door open and the mini bus engine.

Soon my mother was knocking on my door. I just wanted her to go away, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I let her in and we sat on my bed. I told her what had happened and she put an arm around me. Offering me a little comfort.

‘You must try harder,’ she said.

I fought down my words. It was pointless arguing. She left and I stayed on my bed thinking about how easily I could have been born my brother and he could have been born me. Both of us are unlucky, but he has come off worse. I know I should be grateful for the life I’ve got, but I’d rather we’d not been born because for us living with autism is just too hard.