Shelter

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It was the only place he could find to get out of the rain. Huddling into a corner, he made himself as warm and comfy as possible. He had already checked out the place and made sure no one else was in residence. The corner he had picked was also the best one. It was a large dry spot and he had clear views of the two doorways into the house.

He looked up and watched the rain falling in. The roof had long ago tumbled in, though the attic and floor above, creating a massive hole in the middle of the house. There were bits of roof tile, bricks, plaster and rubbish scattered around. He hadn’t seen any furniture and guessed the house had been well cleared out over the years.

He rested his head down and listened to the patter of the rain. Oddly he felt like an intruder. This had been someone’s home once. A place of love and safety. It had seemed nice too, a good place to bring up a family. Where had they gone though? What had made them move out?

Trying to dispel those thoughts- what did he care?- He settled for sleep. He began counting sheep jumping over a fence as was habit. He pictured each sheep differently as an individual as his father had taught him. Something about how that helps you fall asleep better.

With the lullaby of the rain, he fell asleep and dreamed of his childhood which he hadn’t thought about in years.

Voices

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I had always know my son, Caleb was different. How often had I stood at the kitchen window watching him talking and playing with someone who wasn’t there? I had blamed it on imagination. He was an adventurous child, forever wanting to do things and chatting away.

He had a normal up bring. Yes, he was an only child but his father and I were happily married. We did lots of family things together and with both of us being teachers, we had Caleb embrace education. He was perfectly fine in school too, always getting high grades and having lots of friends. He was healthy and loved sports.

Under that though, there had always just been something…

When he was twelve he still had imaginary friends. He could be playing in his bedroom, the garden or at the park and you could hear him talking aloud. It would seem at first he was talking to someone, an adult or another child, but then you just knew he was talking to himself.

‘Who is it you are talking too?’ I asked him one summer’s day.

Caleb was sitting on the lawn, a few toys scattered around him and I was hanging out the washing. It was the summer holidays and though we normally send him to a summer school or camp to be with other children, he had refused to go this year.

He turned to me, a toy tank in his hand and looked up through his choppy fringe which needed cutting.

‘No one,’ he replied.

‘You’re too old for imaginary friends now,’ I pointed out.

‘They’re not imaginary,’ he muttered and went back to playing.

‘Oh, then who are they? Are you on the phone?’ I asked.

‘No. I’m thirsty. Can I have a drink please, mum?’

‘Okay,’ I said slowly.

Pegging the last sock on the line, I walked back into the house. From behind me, I heard Caleb whisper, ‘she’s going now. Tell me more about the War.’

I almost turned around but I didn’t. I made him a glass of orange squash and took it outside. He was playing like a normal child, rolling his tank over the grass and making gun like noises as he reacted a battle with his toy soldiers.

Of course, I then spoke to his father, his teachers, the parents of his friends and they had for years noticed the same thing that I had; Caleb was seemingly talking to someone all the time. The idea that he should’ve grown out of that by now stuck with me and I became determined to figure out what was wrong with him.

Finally two years later, I got him in to see someone from the mental health, but Caleb wouldn’t talk. We had maybe four sessions then that was it. For awhile after, I thought it had worked, he was quiet and sullen, a typical fourteen year old most would say. It wasn’t the truth though.

Instead of finding hidden adult materiel in his room, I began finding notebooks filled with what seemed to be stories and conversations. There was no title or dates, just a run on of writing. The stories covered lots of different time periods. There was one about a WW2 fighter pilot, who was blown out of his plane over Germany spent the rest of the War as a POW. Another, told of a little boy who was tricked into going down into a well and died there when he became trapped.

I put the notebooks back every time and I tried to bring them up in conventions without reveling I knew about them. Caleb shrugged it off, ignoring my suggests that he was interested in writing and journalism.  I had to let it go in the end.

Caleb made it through high school and college. He got top of the class grades and he went on to a good university to study to be a teacher. We were both proud of him. When he moved out though, the house became empty, almost sad like. We got by though. Work kept us both busy and we were looking into fostering and maybe adoption.

The news hit out of no where, almost three years after that, just as Caleb was doing his finals. I was sat in my headmistress’ office, reading emails when the phone rang. I picked it up like normal, thinking it a call from a parent or teacher etc, but it was Caleb’s university tutor telling me that Caleb had been found dead in his student room. He had hung himself three days ago.

A strange feeling went though me, it was like sand slipping through my fingers in slow motion. The tutor’s voice sounded dim and everything around me had begun to fade. I couldn’t think clearly. I dropped the phone and just sat there.

We had to go and pack up his student room. I was running on automatic and so we just moved his stuff back into his bedroom. I just kept thinking that Caleb had moved back in and he was out with his friends. It was months, maybe close to a year before we actually went through all of his things.

Sitting on Caleb’s bedroom floor, sorting things out into piles, my husband and I worked in silence. It was raining heavily outside and the wind was rattling the windows. A storm was on its’ way. I dug through a cardboard box and began pulling things out.

In a handful of notebooks and even in between his uni notes, he had written strange stories and conversations which so reminded me of the notebooks I had found when he was younger. These were not like any stories he had written before though. They were horrible, filled with violence and death.

I found a diary. It was a fake black leather covered A5 size with lined pages for each date. I had never known him to keep one before and as I flipped through the pages, I saw he had written about hearing voices in his head. Some days were blank or he’d simple put;

I didn’t hear any voices today. 

On other days he had written things like;

A voice told me a new story today. I wrote it down, like I do with all of them. These voices are more then just those of fiction characters. They are so real. Maybe they are ghosts? I’ve never believed in that though. But how else can they be explained? 

Then about four months before his death, I found this;

The voices were bad today. I have one at the moment that keeps telling me to kill myself. I’m fighting it like I do with all the others but it’s so strong. It doesn’t seem to have a story or talk to me like the others. It questions if I’m good enough and what’s the point and that every will be better if I just pick up the knife and bleed.

I shall try to contain it. I know what the voice is saying is wrong.

Two months later, Caleb had wrote;

The “suicidal voice” has gotten worse. I can’t sleep and I’m not eating much. The voice has taken over and it’s constantly whispering to me. It tells me over and over to kill myself. It says pain is good and so is blood. My life is pointless, I’m useless, nobody loves me or wants me. I can’t think of anything else but that voice.

All the other voices have gone now. They have vanished and even if I try to think about them and speak to them, I can’t. The “suicidal voice” blocks them all. I don’t know what to do. I need to tell someone. I need help. But what can I say? I’ve been hearing voices all my life, Doctor and now I’ve got this voice repeatedly telling me to kill myself. No one will believe me!

I felt tears running down my face. My husband was saying my name but I ignored him and turned to the last page my son had written on. He had put;

I can’t cope any more! Everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked! Listening to the voice is the only choice I’ve got now. I’m going to do it tonight. 

I pressed the pages to my face and burst into tears. My son had been a schizophrenic and no one had ever known about it.

(Story inspired by local research into hearing voices at Manchester University  https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/projectdetails/?ID=3083)

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)

Money Tree

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Standing under the first apple tree in the row of twenty at the end of my field, I thought about what my granddad had told me when we had been planting these trees thirty years ago.

‘Money grows on trees, you know. And these trees are very special. They are going to make you lots of money, Abbey.’

He hadn’t been wrong. The trees produced a large amount of sweet apples which were good for eating and cider making. The extra money had always been useful and the harvest had never failed.

Staring up through the branches at slices of sky, I wondered what was going to happen now.

‘I wish you did grow money,’ I said.

The wind gently shook the trees, rustling the green leaves and I breathed in the heavy fragrant scent of spring.

 I shut my eyes and though it was childish, pretended that the trees were answering me.

‘Perhaps, we can’t grow real money. But haven’t we provided you with more?’ the trees whispered to me.

‘And I’m grateful, but now…I’m at a loss. I don’t want to give you up but what else can I do?’ I asked.

The trees seemed to sigh.

Money isn’t a thing that bothers trees; they didn’t value it. Life however is something they need.

‘You could be cut down….’ I mutter and picture this bright meadow gone and replaced by houses.

‘Whatever will be will be,’ the trees tell me, ‘if you have the power to change it then try. Life’s cycle will continue no matter what.’

‘Then, I’ll try and change it…Everything in my power I’ll do and I’ll save you trees!’ I yell.

Birds startle into the sky flapping loudly and the wind shakes the trees as if they are cheering me on. The field becomes quiet again and I know what I must do.

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.

Tsundoku #atozchallenge

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Tsundoku; buying books and not reading them then allowing unread books to pile up together.

I entered my granddad’s house and my heart filled with panic. I was surrounded by piles and piles of books. They reached from floor to ceiling and were stacked everywhere. Narrow passageways lead to each room and you had to sideways step through. I held my breath as I squeezed down the hallway into the living room.

Four walls of books met my eyes. They must have been stacked three or four deep! In the centre was an old, comfy armchair and a reading lamp, but that was all the furniture there. I looked around, titles and book spines flashing before me.

Maybe further inside the house wouldn’t be as bad?

I was wrong! There were books filling the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. It was as if a large library had been packed into a two down to up terrace house, only someone hadn’t realised there wasn’t enough space.

What was I going to do with it all?

I sank on to the armchair and looked around. My head began to come up with ideas; from the simple – getting a skip- to the more extreme – opening my own bookshop or library.

I knew my granddad had been a hoarder of books, but I could never have imagined this.

Querulous #atozchallenge

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Querulous; complaining in a whining manner. 

Mum said I was just too much and this would be better all around. I didn’t believe her though but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I’d never travelled by myself before and it was a long way to go to Aunt Maggie’s. I’d be excited about going on the train, but now two hours later, I was bored.

The train was rattling loudly and clicking over the rails. Rain was hitting the window and the countryside was racing past in blurs of green and yellows. I couldn’t focus on counting sheep or other animals now. For awhile, I had watched the old woman, who I was sharing this carriage compartment with, but then she had fallen sleep.

She reminded me of my great grandmother because of all the wrinkles and old dress. The woman had been reading, then knitting a scarf, then eating lunch before she had gone to sleep. I was tried too, but feeling awake. Leaning against the window ledge, I watched the rain and began thinking.

I wasn’t being sent away because I was bad, mum had made sure to tell me that, it was because she wasn’t well. She needed someone to look after her and there was no one, so she had to go to hospital which meant there was no one to look after me. I couldn’t be by myself, not just because I’m only thirteen, but because I have autism.

Autism is a hard thing to explain to people, so I don’t talk about it often. Mum says, I’m not different, I’m normal, but I just have a special way of thinking and doing things. There are lots of other people like me and they have their own ways too, just like everyone else does. I wish I didn’t have it though. If I was normal, I could look after myself and mum better.

Instead, I’ve to go to Aunt Maggie’s though I’ve not seen her for years and she’s not really my aunt but a very old friend of mum’s. I don’t know how much she knows about me, but mum says she’s really nice and with it being half term, I won’t have to move schools. Hopefully, she’ll be nice and let me play games and read my comic books all the time.

I had been fighting going to Aunt Maggie’s for the last two weeks. Mum had slowly started suggesting it along side explain things to me. I told her I could stay in the hospital with her or someone else could look after me. What about my normal babysitter, Nancy? I really like her and she always makes me laugh. I’d have anyone, I plead; even Mrs. Cramps, the crazy lady who smells bad and lives at the end of the street.

No, mum had said, no one else can do it. Please don’t make this harder. Be a good boy.

I was a good boy, but I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay with her. I wanted to stay in my bed, in my room, in my house. I didn’t want to go to some place new. I don’t like new things, especially if it’s noisy. Mum knew that and still she had tried to make me excited about going. It hadn’t really worked even though the train had been a nice distraction.

That’s how she’d really got me on the way to Aunt Maggie’s and the bag fill of snacks, toys and comics. Now, I was getting close to arriving and meeting Aunt Maggie, my mind had changed again. No longer did the way mum had put things make a difference. I just knew it was going to be too hard. I couldn’t be good if I didn’t like it. That was just the way it worked.

I shut my eyes, listening to the rain falling and the old woman snoring. I’d try my best I decided then if I was really good, maybe I’d be able to go home faster.

Gigil (Part 2) #atozchallenge

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Getting into bed that night, I was tried and felt like I could sleep forever. Eva hadn’t stopped going on about the bunnies all day and Tyler had decided to support her with that. At bedtime, they had both gone into a melt down and it had taken forever for them to sleep.

My husband was in bed all ready, reading a book, but I could see he was dozing off. I turned out my light and settled down.

‘Are you going to get them a rabbit?’ my husband, Dave, asked out of the blue.

‘No,’ I replied, ‘what’s the point? They’ll be bored with it by the end of the week. Then I’ll have to look after it.’

‘Or maybe not…Ava’s old enough now. It might be good for her. I had a dog at her age. I’ve always wanted another one,’ Dave said dreamily.

‘No dog either,’ I said gruffly, ‘now, I’m going to sleep.’

I pulled the duvet over and stopped listening to him.

‘I’ll be a nice Easter surprise. Say you’ll think about it,’ Dave suggested.

‘I’ll think about it,’ I answered.

Snuggling down, I fell asleep quickly.

 

Over the next week, Ave and Tyler didn’t let the wanting of a bunny go. My hopes that they would do started to fade and it seemed my children became more determined to force my hand everyday. I didn’t give in and pretended I couldn’t hear them.

A few days before Easter Sunday, I picked up chocolate Easter eggs and other treats for us all to share. I also brought Ava and Tyler soft toy rabbits, not to make up for the lack of a real one, but in the hope of distracting them. I hide everything on the top shelf of my wardrobe.

On the eve of Easter Sunday, when the kids had gone to bed after we’d spent the day at the parking doing an Easter egg hunt, I was curled up on the sofa next to Dave. We were watching a murder mystery TV drama and I was enjoying a glass of red wine.

‘Did you think about the rabbits?’ Dave announced during the advert break.

I looked up at him, a frown on my face, ‘No. They’re not having rabbits. I all ready told you that.’

‘Ava isn’t going to let it go, you know.’

‘She will soon enough,’ I declared.

‘There’s enough space outside for a hutch and for them to run outside. There were two left in the pet shop,’ Dave added, ‘I thought we’d agreed…’

‘Wait? Agreed? Dave…Did you…?’

I looked fully at him, words fading as his express changed to become blank. He was faking it badly though.

I whacked his leg, nearly splashing the rest of my wine. I got up, anger filling me.

‘Where are they?’ I asked.

‘In the garage. I made sure they were warm. I got a get deal on the hutch, food and stuff. Pretty cheap, lot less then I thought it was going to be,’ Dave rushed, ‘Beth, they are really cute. I don’t get why you don’t want them.’

I sank back against the sofa, my thoughts whirling.

‘You can take them back on Tuesday. The pet shop should be open then. I’ll keep Ava and Tyler out of the garage,’ I voiced.

‘Come and see them,’ Dave said.

He got up and helped me stand, even though I didn’t really want to. I placed my wine down and followed him grumpily out of the room. Through into the garage we headed and tucked away behind the old jeep my husband had been working on forever was a large double level hutch.

I put my hands on my hips and watched him open a small side door. Two light brown baby bunnies where snuggled together, sleeping. Dave gently picked up and give it to me. I refused, but then he pressed the rabbit to me and I had no choice.

The bunny was warm and fluffy. A damp nose nuzzled into my hand and whiskers tickled me. I felt something melting inside of me.

‘See? They are really nice. The woman in the pet shop said she breed them and her children have been handling them. She said they’d be suitable for Ava and Tyler,’ Dave explained.

I stroked the bunny in my arms. A part of me still against this whole idea. I’d end up looking after them for sure!  Maybe, that wouldn’t be a bad thing?

Gigil (Part 1) #atozchallenge

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Gigil; The urge to squeeze something that is unbearably cute. 

My two children pressed their faces against the front window of the pet shop. I was too tried and weighed down with shopping bags to shoo them on. The Land Rover was just a few more cars up in the parking bays. I walked over and around to lower the bags to the floor next to the boot.

I dug in my handbag for my keys, my eyes straying to keep an eye on the girl and boy still standing at the window. I opened the boot and put everything in, making sure things wouldn’t be squished on the ride home. Closing the boot, I walked back around.

‘Come on, Ava, Tyler,’ I called.

‘But mummy! Look at the bunnies!’ Ava shouted back.

‘No. Come on now,’ I said sterner.

‘Sophie’s getting one for Easter. Can we have one? We never get anything,’ Ava whined.

‘No and you get lots of things. Now come on!’

Ava give shake of her long blonde hair and turned back to the window.  Tyler had his hands pressed to the glass and seemed fixated.

I stomped over and scooped him up. He’d only just turned five, but he was small and thin. A fussy eater and an insomniac with little interest in things other then watching the TV. Tyler wiggled to get comfy then settled into my arms. He’d thrown a tantrum in the supermarket and was now tried.

‘Look, Mummy,’ Ava picked up, ‘they are just so fluffy and cute!’

I looked, just to indulge her. There were three glass boxes in the window at child eye level. Inside the middle box were four baby rabbits. They were small and light brown, a few had darker patches, they all had black eyes and twitching pink noses. Their small ears were straight up and they were hopping around, doing rabbit things.

A label above them read; New In! Baby rabbits for sale. £20

Looking more into the shop, I saw the glass box on the right was empty; the sawdust clean for another animal. The box on the left contained another rabbit; he was alone, grey and blueish in colour and bigger then the babies. I looked over at the poster above him. Rehoming, Male adult dwarf rabbit. Two years old, suitable with neutered rabbits, older children only. £10.

‘Can we go in?’ Ava asked.

‘No. We have to go home. Tyler needs a nap now and there’s too many things I need to do,’ I said.

‘But I want to touch one!’

‘No, I said!’

She was only going to get more attached if we went in. I reached for her hand and when she didn’t take mine, I picked up her hand. I tugged her away and reluctantly Ava sulked after me.

To Be Continued…