Burning River #WhatPegmanSaw

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The waters of the Ganges lapped at the edge of Varanasi city’s western bank. Fires rose on the burnt ground, the flames reflected in the river like the rays of the setting sun. The smell of burnt flesh, cloth and wood chocked the air making the mixed spice fragrances of the markets seem lost in the past.

From the distant boat, I watch men bring my relative’s body down to wash in the river. I wasn’t allowed to go because it was believed women make the event more sorrowful but I had want to see this ancient tradition.  

 

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2019/05/25/varanasi-india/ with thanks).

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Lorn (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Lorn; lost, ruined or undone. 

The house was ruined. Caleb stood in the doorway, his hands running over the damp and rotting wood. He tried hard to remember the home his grandpa had once lived in but he had only visited a few times as a baby and toddler. Now, the house was Caleb’s but he didn’t know what to do with it.

‘Is it bad?’ his girlfriend’s voice asked from behind him.

‘Looks it,’ Caleb answered.

Beth poked her head in, her mess of red curly hair tied high in a bun tickling Caleb’s arm as she had ducked underneath him. Her nose wrinkled at the smell, she pulled a disgusted face then smoothed it out into a sad expression.

Caleb moved his arm, bring it over and down to go around her back. He curled his fingers around her side and held Beth for a few moments. He shut his eyes on the scene then felt Beth stroking his flop of black hair and trailing her fingers down to his cheek.

‘We don’t have to go in,’ Beth spoke quietly.

‘I need to. I want to see if anything is left before the builders come,’ Caleb answered, ‘better be careful where we step,’ he added.

Testing the bare floorboards, he stepped carefully inside and keeping close to the wall. He held out his hand and helped Beth across. Together they went into what had been a living room. The damage from the flood and vandals was worse then Caleb could have imagined, even though the lawyer had prepared them for it.

A dirty, water line about four foot up the wall ran around the room, marking the height of the flood. Wallpaper was peeling or had fallen off, plaster clumps lay about and in some parts the red bricks could be seen peering out of holes in the walls. The windows were boarded up, expect for one which was missing glass and allowing light into the miserable room.

Broken pieces of rotting furniture stuck up from the sinking floor like the arms of drowning men asking to be saved. Caleb and Beth’s feet knocked and tripped over wood, fabric bundles, glass and electric wires. Some parts of the floor giving a warning creak, making them change direction to avoid falling through.

‘I wish I could have done something,’ Caleb whispered.

‘There was nothing you could have done,’ Beth said.

Caleb kicked an empty drawer and spotted something underneath. It was a photograph. Badly water damaged but Caleb could see himself as a baby being held by his grandpa. With a flicker of a smile, he turned to show Beth.

‘He looks like you,’ she responded, ‘same crazy hair!’

‘Yeah’ Caleb said with a hint of laughter.

‘Maybe, there’ll be some more baby photos round?’ Beth wonder and she inspected the floor hopefully.

‘I doubt it. Mum didn’t bother taking many and none of the foster people had any contact with Grandpa. My adopted parents did but they would have sent high school photos,’ Caleb explained.

‘Oh,’ Beth uttered.

She stopped looking and wiped her dirty hands on the old pair of jeans she wore. She avoided looking at Caleb, hating to see him upset by the bad memories of his past.

‘Nothing else here,’ Caleb said.

He slipped the photo into his pocket and carried on his walk through.

In the kitchen, everything that wasn’t nailed down was gone. The three remaining cupboards were empty, doors hanging off. A dark flood line ran around the walls and the floor had been dug up, the plastic lino ripped back expose how bad the water had leaked through. The window and back door were boarded up, but someone had kicked it in.

Beth went to the door and swung it back and forth. It let out a squeal as the wooden board scrapped the floor.

‘Probably, squatters,’ Caleb spoke, ‘though why they’d want to stay here is beyond me.’

‘Better then the streets, I guess. Warmer and drier,’ Beth suggested.

‘Maybe, but still.’

Caleb went over and had a look at securing the door whilst Beth stepped into the over grown garden. It was hard to tell how big it was because of the tangle of bushes and plants. Rising above was an apple tree, budding with new leaves in the spring sunshine.

‘This could be nice….Needs a lot of work…’ Beth trailed.

‘Everything needs work,’ Caleb huffed.

‘Leave it. The builders will sort it tomorrow.’

Taking a deep breath, Caleb abandoned the door and walked through an open archway into the dinning room which then led into a second living room. All the wall paper had been torn off and someone had been knocking into the walls. Caleb looked at the exposed pipes as he walked over plaster and window glass.

In the second living room, Caleb went over to a bookcase in the corner. The shelves had been taken out and most of the books because someone had used them to start a small fire with in the middle of the room. There were three books left on the bookcase; Medieval History Uncovered, Knights Of The Middle-Ages and Myths and Legends of Britain. Caleb picked them up and saw they still looked readable, despite a covering of dust.

‘Grandpa liked history,’ Caleb shouted.

‘But you said you didn’t know him,’ Beth said from the connecting archway.

She walked though and joined him, edging around the remains of the black ash from the fire.

Caleb showed her the books, ‘Look okay to keep,’ he added.

‘I don’t mind. It’s good to save books,’ Beth said and she took them from him.

‘They could have burnt the whole place down,’ Caleb pointed out as he moved to inspect the damage in the centre of the room.

He toed a half burnt book and the pages crumpled.

‘This house has survived so much; water and fire, the elements, people,’ Beth voiced, ‘and now you want to save it instead of knocking it down.’

‘The money is there to save it,’ Caleb reminded her, ‘and once it’s done we can live here. Our five years of trying to save for, find and buy a house is over.’

‘And your past?’ Beth asked timidly, looking down at the books.

‘I’ll deal with it,’ Caleb replied.

He moved over and hugged her, resting his chin on top of her head. He could feel Beth shaking slightly and worried she was going to cry, he tightened the hug and kissed her forehead.

‘Don’t worry about me. Think about what you can do with the house.’

Beth nodded, sniffing a little and crushing the books to her breasts.

‘Let’s go upstairs. The flood didn’t get up there, so maybe some stuffed survived.’

 

To Be Continued…

Midnight Flames #FridayFictioneers

When the police and firemen arrived, I lied; ‘I didn’t know how the fire started. I can’t do anything with this broken arm!’

The young constable flipped through his notebook and replied, ‘you called four days ago and report your husband for domestic abuse. You give a statement and he was arrested.’

I nodded, distracted by the firemen damping down the blaze. One of them pulled out bits of charred shirt and inspected it. Another picked up a blacken wedding photograph in a smashed frame.

‘I just wanted some peace,’ I muttered, ‘there’s all I ever wanted.’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/02/06/8-february-2019/ with thanks).

The Witches’ Pots #TwitteringTales

Three ancient hags sat around a fire, stirring their black pots which they added things too and whispered over.

‘Tail of rat dropped in this potion for a diplomat.’

‘Eyes of gnome dissolved in this lotion for Jerome.’

‘Tongue of duckling tender in this poison for the king.’

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/01/15/twittering-tales-119-15-january-2019/ with thanks).

My Merry Little Christmas #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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I’d had it with him! Blocking his number, I officially deleted my ex-boyfriend from my life. Sitting crossed legged and arms on the sofa, grumpily gazing at the TV but not taking the ten o’clock news in, I shoved my heartbreak away.

I wasn’t going to cry and feel sorry for myself. I hadn’t been the one sleeping around, getting drunk and kissing girls in nightclubs. We’d only been together six months, hardly anytime at all. And anyway, I’d hated his taste in music, movies, his dislike of books and his big ego. We’d had little in common from the beginning and it was only thanks to his interest in American sports we had started dating.

Still though, Christmas was around the corner and now I’d be spending it alone. Well, there was family to visit but I’d feel like the odd one out.

I looked at the Christmas decorations and the little fire burning in the fireplace. It needed stoking and more wood adding. I was in no mood to sleep now, so I got up and kneeling down, grabbed the poker. Jabbing it in, the flames woke from their doze. I put another two logs in and which the fire growing once more.

Back on the sofa, I wanted something to take my mind off things. The TV wasn’t helping, I didn’t have enough concentration to read a book and my house was all ready tidy. There were presents still to wrap, cards to write but I wasn’t feeling up to that. I needed an action plan, something to total focus on and forget about him for awhile.

I got my laptop out and went surfing the internet. There were lots of distractions out there. I clicked on link after link; reading blog posts, news, comic strips, finally I came to some Christmas craft website and scrolled through. There were lots of things I could make but my heart wasn’t in it.

Turning the TV off, I went on to a video website and listened to some live relaxing music. I made some hot chocolate and toast, curled up again and drifted into the sounds of the fire and the sad piano notes.

For some reason, that song about having having yourself a merry little Christmas popped into my head. I hummed it whilst hugging my warm mug and thought, yes, I’m going to have one of those this year and I’ll be happier and better for it.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/10/weekly-writing-challenge-171/ with thanks).

Dear Diary #50

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Dear Diary,

It’s officially winter today, though it feels like it’s been here for awhile, expect for the snow which I hope keeps away for longer! The weather has settled into a pattern of being wild, wet, windy, cold and getting dark so early that all but the morning daytime feels lost.

Today, I’ve been busy getting the Christmas decorations out and some of them up. The kids, now claiming they are ‘too old’ for such things took awhile to get into the mood of things but those decorations that reminded them of silly times – a school play, craft pieces, a photo on Santa’s knee, helped to get them into it.

Of course, only two sets of lights worked! So I left Danny testing them in the shed and I took Emma out to buy some more and a few other things. The shops were busy as was to be expected but we got through okay. Christmas music was playing in all the shops and it felt like everyone had suddenly got this idea that now was the time to start celebrating officially. Though TV and shops have been creeping it in since the start of last month!

Back home and more decorations to put up and it turns out I was right to replace the lights as poor Danny couldn’t fix them. I cheered him up with hot chocolate and crumpets which were so lovely in front of our still new fireplace! A fire really does add that cosy, cheery feel to Christmas. I don’t know how we coped without it before!

I made a nice stew and dumplings for tea and we watched a Christmas movie, though the kids were still tutting and spent more time on their phones/games then watching it but at least we were all together and that’s good enough for me.

Then before we came to bed, I walked around and just smiled, Christmas is truly here and it feels so good and welcome, the perfect beacon of hope in the long winter nights.

Glimmer #WritePhoto

The last of the sunset was a glimmer in the sky, the final hint of color disappearing into the night. Darkness rolled in fast then, bring with it heavy rain which the blustery wind used to hit everything it could with. A rumble of thunder echoed in the distance, sounding like cannon fire.

Looking out on to my empty street, I saw windows of light from nearby houses, flashing  car headlights down the road and leaves tumbling past. I looked for the lightening, craning my head up to search the sky, but none came.

I closed the curtains on this scene and went to stir the flames which were gaining strength in the fireplace. Waves of heat were beginning to roll off and the logs were blazing.

Settling on the sofa with a heavy woolen blanket over me, the weather and fire became  background noises. I sipped hot chocolate from a polar bear face shaped mug which steam was still curling off of. Placing that down, I picked up the heavy book and opened the anthology of ghost stories into my lap.

Tonight was the perfect night for little a scare.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/10/18/thursday-photo-prompt-glimmer-writephoto/ with thanks).

Burnt #3LineTales

three line tales week 127: a desert

The wildfire had spread so much that the fireman couldn’t save anything and had abandoned their attempted to put the flames out.

Days later, I walked along a strip of the burnt out wildness, noticing how the once green area was now as dry and bare as a desert,  it saddened my heart to see the loss of the plants and animals.

However, my team of biologists and myself were going to try and change that, somehow we would built back what the fire had destroyed and make this a natural haven once more.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/07/05/three-line-tales-week-127/ with thanks).

Conflagration #WritePhoto

The sky was the colour of fire; red and orange flames with grey smoke which blocked out what should have been a pretty blue afternoon. Below was the dark green mix of nature that made up the countryside raising around me.

I had stopped on the little road in the seemingly middle of nowhere, at first believing the sun was setting. Then I had double checked the time and saw it was a little after four PM. The wind carried the scent of smoke to me and my brain connected the dots.

I got back in my unmarked car, knowing it was too late all ready but continuing to drive all the same. Soft classical music whispered from the radio but it did little to calm down the spikes of tension I was now feeling. I thought about trying to trick my mind into thinking it wasn’t a fire, maybe the summer sun that normally set around eight or nine had decided to have a very early night today? I couldn’t live with that denial.

The road weaved like all country tracks did, following the flow of the land like a river would do. A few miles later, I passed a sign; Lachandra Manor, private house, no entry. Tall trees blocked my view for awhile then a towering black gates with stone pillars emerged. The same sign hung below one of the pillar tops on which sat a stone lion with a single paw resting on a ball, facing it’s companion on the other pillar.

The gates were open and I drove through. Had they been open on my previous visits? I couldn’t remember expect for the first two times when they had been closed. I had had to get out of my car and open them myself. Thinking about that give me something to do as I drove along the long straight driveway.

Towering trees lined up either side of me like giant guards silently judging me. I knew that behind them were farming fields and woodland. They also blocked the view to the house but I knew it was actually the road that caused the manor to appear and disappear. The road dipped unknowingly and at first you didn’t feel it but then you saw the road rising ahead of you and you realised the slope.

My car handled it well enough and after the climb of the hill, another set of gates and the stone monster archway came into view. Behind that, the fake castle gatehouse stood looming and beyond it Lachandra Manor was heavily a blaze with fire.

A chill went up my back and there was no point in trying to focus on anything else. I carried on driving and saw the second gates where closed. I flung open my car door, yanked the hand brake on and got out. The gate wasn’t locked and I easily swung them open. The smell of smoke was thicker here and I thought I head the distant screams of sirens.

Getting back in my car, I drove through and up to the fake gatehouse. I stopped and parked a meter or so away from the looming stone archway. Opening the door this time, I could smell the smoke right under my nose and also hear distance voices and the roaring of the fire.

I hurried through the gatehouse and found chaos on the other side. A huge black horse was rearing up and a small boy on the ground was trying to control the beast by loose reins. Two teenage maids were off to the other side, standing and screaming, their clothes soot stained and faces flushed. Male servants were dashing about with water and sand buckets, shouting at each other. Thick smoke billowed all around, the sounds of crackling and snapping echoing loudly. And the heat….it was as hot as I imagined the surface of the sun to be.

I grabbed the maids, they resisted at first but when they saw who I was, they let me shove them under the gatehouse. Next, I grabbed the boy who refused to let go of the horse but his hands were sweaty, so I was able to tug the reins out easily enough and take them. I half carried the boy and led the horse to the gatehouse. Once there, the black beast shot off down the driveway and the boy give chase after it.

‘The Lady is still inside!’ one of the maids shouted and pointed upwards, behind me.

I turned and saw through one of the broken windows, a woman dressed in blue. Some of the men were trying to save her. I knew it was too late and their efforts in vein, just as it was to put out the raging fire. The woman disappeared and flames licked at the window. Wood popped and hissed, blackening under the heat and crumbling away.

‘Do something, Detective!’ the same maid cried.

But what could I do? It was all my fault anyway. I had solved the case and been on my way to arrest her for the murder of her husband and son. She would have been found guilty and hanged. Lady Ellis had known it last time we had met. She didn’t want to die like that so had chosen this instead.

I looked up at Lachandra Manor engulfed in fire and knew that nothing would be saved.   

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/05/31/thursday-photo-prompt-conflagration-writephoto with thanks).

Fanning The Flames #fridayfictioneers

‘It’s sabotage, you know,’ said my wife.

I pulled a face as we carried on looking out the window. In the street below our apartment two fire engines were putting out the fire engulfing the only house on the block.

‘They’ve been trying to knock down that house for years so they can build another complex there,’ she explained.

‘It was probably an accident,’ I responded.

‘Hopefully, they had good insure and can built another house then,’ my wife added.

A few months later, my wife was proven right.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/11/15/10-november-2017/ with thanks).