Yoicks #AtoZChallege #Writephoto

Yoicks; a fox hunter cry urging on the hounds.

The peacefulness of the woods was shattered by the sounds of many dogs barking and horses’ hooves stomping. Animals fled, running for hiding places but it was the fox who burst through the bushes that was being chased.

The loud cry of a hunting horn pieced the air followed by the led man’s voice urging the hounds forward. The dogs crashed through the undergrowth, eagerly searching for their prey.

The fox, full of blind panic tripped into a muddy pool. He sank to the bottom before struggling up the surface. He swim across, leaving waves behind and came out on the other side coated in mud.

Slower now he made his way in between two trees and stopped by a large stone trove. It was deep enough to hide in but not to be come trapped in. He looked down and saw a leave covered bed at the bottom. Slipping in, he found a chest high level of stinky, collected rain water under the leaves but since he could stand, he settle, letting the leaves cover him listened and he listened to the noise above.

The hounds had followed the trail to the pool where the spent a few minutes sniffing around. This give the hunting party time to catch up, the men in red coats milled around on the backs of their horses, waiting for the hounds to re-find the trail. Once the dogs did, they give howls of joy and set off again.

The scent of the fox was weak though and now as the hounds came towards the stone trove they found the fox smell had gone again. The dogs sniffed; earth, rotting vegetation, stagnate water, decomposing autumn leaves, the smell of each other, horses and men but no fox.

Desperately the dogs search, wondering a bit further away each time, letting their noses led them. The horses and riders joined them, coming to a stop again but some of the men could see the dogs had lost the trail.

The led hunter rallied the hounds, encouraging them to find the fox. The dogs did as he asked but they became more and more stressed at the vanished prey.

Deciding to press on, in the hopes the scent was found again, the hunting party left the area.

After a few minutes, making sure the sounds of dogs and horses were in the distant, the fox climbed out of the stone trove with a struggle. He was weighted down by mud and slimy water, he smelt bad but it had saved his life.

Walking back through the trees, he went to the muddy pool again. He swim across, shook out his coat then trotted off into the undergrowth, leaving the hunting party far away in the opposite direction.


(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/04/25/thursday-photo-prompt-shade-writephoto/ with thanks).


Snowy Day


The overnight frost had caused the snow to freeze. It crunched under my boots like loose stones. I had been trying hard not to make noise; an impossibility!

The vixen’s call for cubs to come home made my heart sank. I had split-second caught red flashes of foxes across the river half an hour ago and had followed a trail since. Now it seemed I had missed my chance to photograph the cubs playing in the snow.

I sighed and took a few photos of the scenery. Not what I wanted but there was no reason to waste the opportunity.



House-sitting for the farmer next door, hadn’t seemed such a bad idea at the time; what a nice min-break it’ll be! Now though, I’m chasing a fox, who’s chasing the hens around the yard and I’m really not having a good time at all!

(Inspired from; https://first50.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/mini-vacation/ with thanks).

The Arcana Of Dreams (Part 4)

I couldn’t tell how much time had passed and the forest never changed around me. I stopped a few times and looked through the Hagstone, but I saw nothing. At a large triangle boulder, which sat next to the river bank, I stopped and sat down. Sighing, I rested for a few minutes then dug through the satchel. There was nothing but The Arcana, prayer book and white feather inside. I didn’t feel hungry, thirsty or tried, just bored.

I pulled out The Arcana and flipped through it.

‘Who are you?’ a loud, thick voice echoed from underneath me.

I froze and looked around, not seeing anyone, ‘I’m Abigail,’ I replied quietly.

‘Where you are going?’ the voice asked.

‘I’m not sure. The fox just told me to follow the river.’

‘Foxes can be sly. Not really trustworthy,’ the voice spoke, ‘what is your purpose here?’

‘I’ve come to fix the Dream Web. Though I’m not sure what that really is or where it is. Do you know?’ I questioned whilst still looking carefully around.

‘No and no. Why does it need fixing?’

‘Garson said it was broken and they needed me – a human to repair it. Where are you?’

‘Right here. Who else is with you?’ the voice rumbled underneath me.

‘No one.’

I dug out the Hagstone and pressed it to my eye. I looked down and saw nothing. Closing and tucking The Arcana under my arm, I got up and turned. I focused on the ground and walked all the way around the boulder.

‘I don’t see you. What are you?’ I spoke.

‘Where are you looking, girl? I’m right in front of you!’ the voice growled.

I turned and stood at the back of the rock. I removed the Hagstone and looked, but saw nothing. I put the stone to my left eye and a large face formed across the boulder. The eyes were triangle, large and dark grey in colour, the nose was an upside down triangle with long sides and the mouth was two triangles put together. The face gave a toothless grin and the eyes flickered.

‘Oh! You…are alive?’ I questioned.

‘If you can call it that, I don’t really. I can’t go anywhere. Now, what is the matter?’ the boulder asked.

‘Well, I’m not really sure what to do. This forest seems to go on forever…’

‘Why don’t you ask for directions?’

I frowned, ‘I did and the fox said…it wouldn’t have lied to me would it?’

The boulder frowned and looked thoughtful for a few seconds, ‘who was it?’

‘It never said its name, but it had two tails!’

‘Two tails? That’s a good fox then and where did it say to go afterwards?’

‘Just to follow the river,’ I stated, ‘what’s with all these questions? Can you help me or not?’

‘Probably not, for you see I’m stuck here. Now, what else can I do for you?’

‘Nothing,’ I sighed, ‘thanks.’

I dropped the Hagstone and started to walk away.

‘Why don’t you try taking a left at the waterfall? I heard from a rolling pebble there’s a short cut to the beach that way,’ the boulder suggested from behind me.

Bearing that in mind, I walked on and minutes later heard the sound of a large waterfall. I picked up the pace and jogged over to it. The river disappeared ahead of me and as I got close, I saw the water falling over the edge of two massive rocks. The riverbank slopped down and I followed it whilst trying to stay away from the waterfalls crumbling side. At the bottom as the water hit rocks and roared loudly the path did split into two.

I glanced back, but couldn’t see the boulder, deciding to take it’s advice, I choice the path that forked off into the forest. Raising the Hagstone to my left eye I had a quick glance through then set off. Just like I had noticed before, the triangle pine trees were neatly arranged and it was easy to walk through them. I saw and heard nothing, though I did stop often to check through the Hagstone.

The trees started to thin out and hurriedly, I went on and passed the last few. I stepped off the grass and on to sand. My boots sank a little and I almost stepped back again. Only, there was nothing to step back into. I turned and looked at the sand stretching out behind me. The forest had gone. Turning back, I looked out over a desert landscape.

The Arcana,’ I muttered and was about to pull it out when I saw something coming towards me. Grabbing the Hagstone, I looked and saw a black and red five headed horse coming my way. I looked over the stone and saw the same thing. The horse was huge and fear stabbed into my chest. I stood still and it came right up to me. All of its’ heads went down and it neighed softly, then knelt before me.

‘You want me to get on…?’ I asked slowly.

Five mouths neighed again and nervously, I climbed on to its bare back. The horse stood and walked off across the sand. I grasped at the black and red mane, noticing how the colours came together in a fire flame like pattern.

‘Where are we going?’

The horse snorted and broke into a canter. Dry, hot wind hit my face. I held my breath and went to shut my eyes when I saw a blue hazy cloud coming up before us. I tried to see inside of it, but it wasn’t till we had gotten closer that I saw a disc of blackness in the centre. The horse broke into run, a small scream tore through me and I grasped the long mane tighter. The blue haze grew larger. The five headed horse jumped and we were sucked inside.

My screams echoed in my ears as I fell to the hard ground. I curled up, unable to see anything through the darkness. Something hard was digging into my side and tears were pricking my eyes. A yellow candle light bobbed out of the blackness and I put my hands over my mouth to stop the screams. I listened, hearing my own breathing and heartbeat then dripping water and footsteps. Voices and the sounds of hammering reached me a few seconds later.

I sat up, my hands scraping against stones and dust. I moaned softly and felt for the satchel. I had landed on it and the corner of The Arcana had gone into my lower ribs. I coughed and breathed in stale, dusty air.

‘There you are!’

I turned to the accented male voice then wished I hadn’t as candle light pierced my eyes. I brought a hand up and felt fingers brush against my own. I almost pulled back but it was too late as the hand closed around mine and pulled me up.

‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere.’

I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus on him. He lowered the lantern, but it still gave enough light for me to see. He was tall and muscular, with a flushed red face that was smeared with black, just like his hands. He was wearing a bright yellow, though black dust covered, miner’s helmet and an undone loose dark grey shirt which was also covered in black dust. He smiled at me, his brilliant electric blue eyes lighting up as his large lips curled up.

‘You’ve been looking for me? Who are you?’ I asked.

He laughed, ‘did you hit your head again? It’s me, Dean.’

‘I don’t know any Deans and you sound American, I don’t know any of them either.’

‘Whoo, you did get hurt. Are you bleeding?’ he asked.

I patted myself down, ‘nope.’

‘Good, come on then,’ he stated and turned, ‘don’t forget your stuff!’

‘Stuff?’ I muttered and looked back.

In the dimming candle light, I saw a yellow helmet, a lantern, a small pickaxe and a hessian sack. I picked everything up, putting the helmet on my hand, the lantern in my right hand whilst the pickaxe and sack went in my left. I hurried after Dean, half stumbling over stones.

‘Can I light my candle?’ I called to him.

He turned and I almost slammed into his back.

‘It’s a good job I found you before the foreman did. Here,’ he said and opening the glass door of his lantern took out his candle. I quickly opened the door to mine and let him light the candle inside.


He growled a little before turning around and walking on. I followed, keeping my lantern low to see what I was walking on. Though I was desperate for him to confirm it, we seemed to be inside a coal mine. The floor was black with dust and small pieces of coal. The walls were the same, though there came a shimmer of silver in some areas of the narrow tunnel we were in.

We can to a cross roads and Dean carried straight on. I peered to the left then right, hearing people hamming away and disembodied voices drifting.

‘Where are we?’ I blurted, unable to stop the words.

The look Dean gave me over his shoulder made me stop. It was a mixture of concern, seriousness and anger. My bottom lip trembled and the lantern wobbled slightly in my hand.

‘You really did do it this time,’ Dean muttered with a shake of his head.

‘Please, just tell me!’ I demanded.

‘We need to get back up top. Don’t you know what to night is?’ Dean shot over his shoulder. When he saw my shaking head he continued, ‘our escape?’ he whispered.

‘Escape?’ I uttered.

‘Yeah. We’re getting out of here tonight, Abs. We’ve been planning this for ages. I’ll take you to AID first then you can have nap. You’ll feel better,’ Dean said softly.

I bit my lip, wanting to talk more but deciding against it as we turned a corner and found ourselves walking along a cart track. My boots scuffed across worn wooden planks and old iron nails. From up ahead, came the rumbling of a cart and Dean hurried into a nook in the wall. I followed and just squeezed in as lights bobbed up and a pony walked past hauling an empty wooden cart.

‘Hey!’ Dean called out and stepped out as the two people behind the cart went passed.

‘Hello,’ they replied together.

‘Ain’t you from day shift?’ one of them asked.

‘Yeah, just coming back. We’ve been down pretty deep,’ Dean responded casually.

I stepped out and eyed up the men. They were both tall, clean shaven and looked like brothers. They were wearing yellow helmets and loose shirts like Dean. They had stopped to talk, but the pony was trundling on.

‘Have you seen the day foreman?’ Dean continued.

‘They’ve all ready switched over,’ the first man replied, ‘you should get out of here man, we’ve blowing through some walls tonight.’

‘All right, thanks,’ Dean said and signalled for me to follow as he walked off.

We went through more tunnels which grew wider and had more branches leading off. Some had cart tracks or wooden walk ways. We passed people going in the opposite directions, but they and we didn’t exchange any words. Candle light shone off everything, yet was quickly swallowed by the black walls.

Dean led me through some large, hollowed out spaces were we saw small groups of people talking. Though I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. We passed a few pony stations, which was made up of simple rickety wooden shelters and pens. There were some ponies resting and others eating. I resisted going over and stroking them.

Stepping out a large tunnel, I found myself in a massive cavern. In the rock wall opposite us, three cage lifts were fitted to the wall. A few people were queuing to get in and Dean walked over to the end of the line. I joined him and looked around. There were a number of small huts with signs declaring them as hot food, water, supplies and AID stands dotted around.

‘Didn’t you say something about that?’ I asked, looking over at the red cross painted sign.

‘We’ll go to the one up top,’ Dean said.

The queue moved as two lifts arrived at the same time. We got in the second one, the grill gate slamming shut behind us and rode up to the top.

To Be Continued…

The Arcana Of Dreams (Part 3)


Beginning my climb up the steps reminded me of walking up a castle’s tower. Each step was a single dark grey stone which was very narrow. I kept my right hand on the wall as I climbed as there were no railings and tried not to look down. The light blue shimmering haze sparkled above me and I contracted on that and where I was putting my feet.

I thought about the first time Jane and Adam had taken me on a day trip to visit a castle in Wales. There had been a staircase like this in one of the towers and I, briefly separated from them, had decided to climb up it. The dark, narrow spiralling staircase hadn’t frightened me as it might have done other six year olds. I was a child of God and had nothing to fear or so I spent all my childhood believing.

I recalled the feel of the walls, much like the one I was now touching, as being damp and cold. The sound of my small footsteps scraping against the stone and shuffling upwards, echoed and filled my ears. I passed an arrow slit from which came pale light and carried on. I was excited, what was at the top? But before I could get there, Jane’s shouting voice broke the quietness and made me pause. She was shouting my name and demanding to know where I had gotten too.

What I had replied? Something like, ‘I’m up here, mummy.’ Then there had been a running of footsteps and Jane had yanked me off the step. She was shouting at me, telling me I was bad for wandering off, it was dangerous. Hadn’t I seen the sign and the chain? I wasn’t allowed here! She had somehow picked me up and bundled me back downstairs. Adam was waiting for us with one of the castle guards. I think they had been talking and thus that had been my reasoning for adventuring.

I paused on the actual step I was on and took a few deep breaths. That childhood memory faded and I looked up. It seemed there was still a long way to go. Carrying on, I tried to recall what had happened after that, but that seemed to be the whole memory. Of course, there’d been more trips to other castles, cathedrals, churches and most of them had also had tower staircases. We had visited the ruins of Bolton abbey one hot summer day and I was wearing a brand new white dress. I was about ten years old and thought I looked like an angel. There had been some event on and the place was full of children, adults and dogs. Maybe, it had been May Day or Easter?

We were all paddling in the river. I really remember that part best because of the way the water shinned under the sunlight as if it was diamonds. The sky was crystal blue with this huge glowing orange ball hanging over us as if it was God Himself. The water was cool and refreshing then I had fallen in and though it had been shallow, my dress had soaked the water up like a sponge. Jane had scolded me terribly and Adam, who left all the discipline to her, sat silently and watched. We had gone home early, I wrapped in the picnic blanket in the back of the silent car then sent straight to bed. Of course, they hadn’t argued. They never did, but there had been negative words spoken in low voices that evening.

I stopped again, my eyes almost sliding sideways to look downwards. Instead, I shot them upwards and looked at the blue haze. I was almost there. Trying not to hurry the last set of steps, least I fell, I reached the top and stepped on to a small platform. I faced the blue haze and looked around. There was nothing else to be seen.

‘What now?’ I asked, turning about.

Before me, the haze started to change colour, catching my attention. Green began seeping into the blue, like ink on a page and shapes began to take form. What look like a forest drawn by a child grew around me then I was sucked inside. A scream ripped through my throat and a train of colour rushed by me. I tumbled and landed heavily on damp soil. Pain shot through my bum and lower back before fading. I fell back and looked up at a dark blue sky framed by the tops of pine trees.

After a few moments, I sat up and looked around. The forest felt familiar, yet alien. The trees were large triangles of green pine needles balanced on brown triangle trunks. The grass blades under me were also triangle shaped. I stood up on shaky legs and listened. A river was flowing somewhere to my right, making a babble of sounds. There were no birds singing or wind.

Dusting off, I started walking towards the river. The odd trees were evenly spaced out as if someone had planted them like that and there were no bushes or flowers. I reached the river and gasped. Though the water was clear blue, the shape of the river was a triangle as were all the rocks and stones in and around the water.

I stepped off the grass and to the edge of the river, looking at the structure. Stones crunched underneath me and I looked down. Most of the stones had holes in the middle of them and were a range of bright colours, some of which shimmered. I picked up a dark red one, which glittered sliver and looked through the hole with one eye. The scene across the river before me changed, becoming black and white and I saw peering around a tree trunk a fox. Looking over, I tried to see the fox again, but couldn’t pick it out.

I put my eye back to the stone, but the fox turned and disappeared out of sight. I sat down on the river bank and remembering what Garson had said, pulled The Arcana out of my satchel. I looked up the keywords and pieced the meanings together;

To be in a forest is a transitional phase, follow your instincts. Alternatively, you maybe wanting to escape to a simpler life due to being weighed down by demands. To be lost in a forest means you’re searching your subconscious for a better understanding of yourself.

Triangles symbolize your aspirations, truth and potential and represent your spirituality (body, mind, spirit). Alternatively, triangles are a warning of some kind, especially if they are yellow, red or orange.

A river if it is clear and calm means you are going with the flow, but it is time to become more decisive and perhaps enter a new stage of life. Fertility, prosperity, pleasure and peace are also symbolized by the water. Crossing a river represents an obstacle or issue that needs dealing with in order to move closer to your goal(s). Bathing in a river equals purification and cleansing.

Seeing a fox represents insight, cunning, cleverness and resourcefulness. Also, a period of isolation, you need time to ponder on some issues.

A Hagstone signifies your need to be protected.

‘A Hagstone?’ I muttered and looked at the dark red triangle stone with the hole in the middle. I was still clutching it in my hand and it had gotten warm. I had looked up stones last and it had been the first meaning. Something at the back of my mind tried to recall what was special about these stones, but I had no idea.

I re-read all the parts again then slipping The Arcana back into my bag, fixed my eyes on the flowing river to think.  In a dream forest, I have to follow my instincts and become like a fox to find myself, but beware triangles. I glanced around and saw that everything was triangle shaped, but nothing was the three warning colours. I need to be more decisive, go across the river and also cleanse. I need to keep the Hagstone as protection.

Smiling and feeling a lot better, I pulled out my chain and undid the clasp. I threaded the Hagstone through and let it rest beside my cross. Looking through it once more, I saw black and white trees, the river and the sky, but nothing else. Slipping everything back under the white jumper, I got up and went to the river.

Kneeling down, I washed my hands and face in the cool water and thought about becoming clean. Cupping some of the water, I also took a few sips and felt a pleasant coldness in my throat. I dried myself on the end of the jumper then dug the prayer book from my bag and looked up the contents page. I didn’t find anything that matched what I needed, so I went straight to the Psalms and skimmed through them, until; Psalms 51.

‘Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin,’ I spoke allowed then read the rest of it in my head.

I closed the prayer book and slipped it back into my bag. I washed my hands and face again then stood up. The triangle forest was unnatural quiet. Glancing around, I decided to follow the river downwards and see if there was a bridge or stepping stones to cross over on. The water flowed calmly beside me, bubbling around large triangle shaped rocks and stones. Faster than I thought, I came across a pathway of large stepping stones. The river was lapping just over them and the stones looked a little slippery.

Carefully, I stepped onto the first one, clutching the satchel strap and keeping my other arm against the leather bag for stability. Water touched my boots and I heard a soft squelching  sound. I stepped easily to the next, the gap between the stones was only small. Trying to fight down the expectation that something was going to happen, I went to the fourth.

Stopping, I counted another four stones ahead of me, which meant I was standing in about the middle. The river carried on, the clear water flowing somewhere known. I looked down at the riverbed and saw a clean sandy floor. Wondering, if there were any fish, I stepped to the next stone and looked down the other side. Not seeing anything, I carried on and walked across the rest of the stones.

Reaching the other side, I turned and looked back, feeling pleased. Ahead of me another section of forest spread out and I debated what to do. The trees to my left looked like they got denser and seemed to rise up further along. The trees to my right, heading down river, looked less dense and stood further back.

‘I’d keep following the river if I were you,’ a soft voice purred.

I jumped and looked quickly around. From a nearby tree came the long pointy face of a fox. It moved out slowly and padded towards me. The fox was red-orange, with a white triangle chest and two tails that ended in white triangle points.

‘Excuse me?’ I stuttered.

‘Didn’t you want to know which way to go?’ the fox asked.

I stared as its mouth form the words and I saw flashes of a pink tongue and white fangs.

‘I guess…’

‘And I’m telling you to follow the river,’ the fox replied as its’ tails waved around behind.

I glanced in that direction then back, ‘thanks.’

‘Your welcome. Oh and remember to use the Hagstone.’

I looked down and though I couldn’t see it, I could feel the red stone against my skin.

‘What does it do?’ I asked.

The fox’s amber eyes made a rolling gesture and it sat down, ‘it protects you from evil charms and nightmares. You can use it to see fairies, other fae and magic creatures, witches and traps.’

‘Oh. Thanks. That’s going to be really useful,’ I gushed.

The fox turned its head and muttered to itself. I frowned and caught what sounded like, ‘she forgets every time.’ Standing, the fox turned and giving a wave of its’ tails walked off.

‘Bye!’ I called after it.

‘Good luck!’ the fox shouted back.

I watched it disappear then started walking alongside the river again.

To Be Continued…

Colored Fox

Opening the colouring book to the first page, she studied the drawing. It was a fox appearing through a garden of flowers. Selecting her pens, she enjoyed listening to the scratch scratch sound across the paper. Her stress started melting way as colour brought the scene to life.

(Image from; http://batsford.com/blog/tag/millie-marotta/)

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I’m currently looking for short stories for October. They need to be horror, supernatural or Halloween themed/related stories. Please email them to me at hrhardman66@gmail. If you’re story is already published on a blog, you can include the link in the comments for me to check out. Thanks.