Cross Grid #100WW

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He was close. He stood on the small around about, car horns beeping at him as the drivers zoomed over the stone cobble roads. He held up the phone and watched as on the screen came the image of everything around him. Then a hit; The Arc de Triomphe.

He smiled, of course it would make sense that the Geocache would be there! He waited till, he could cross the road enough then hurried over. A few moments later, he found the plastic box tugged into a corner.

It was another off his list.

(Inspired by; https://bikurgurl.com/2018/11/14/100-word-wednesday-week-97/ with thanks).

Remembrance #100WW

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I lent out of the hotel window, taking a breathe of bread scented air. The Eiffel Tower glowed with lights and I could hear french words. Tomorrow, we would be leaving the capital and beginning a tour of First World War battlefields.

I had been looking forward to this trip for years, but now there was a heaviness in my heart. We would be following in dead soldiers footsteps, experiencing some of what they did and remembering their sacrifices.

I had to do this though, I had to know what happened to my granddad.

 

(Inspired by; https://bikurgurl.com/2018/11/07/100-word-wednesday-week-96/ with thanks).

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Remembering

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Seeing the quiet French field it was strange to think it had once been so different. The black and white photos in my little book were prove of that though. Once there was only disturbed mud and bodies, the green landscape lost forever. And of course, it hadn’t been quiet; the air had shook with deafening gunfire, shouting and the moans of the dying.

Sitting in the wheelchair which had now become my life, I clutched my book and the woollen blanket in my lap. I shut my eyes and was back there straight away, walking through the smoke. The trench was slick with running mud and rain was tumbling from a dark grey sky. I stepped over a body, a twisted mangle shape that had once been a living man. He seemed half sunk into the mud, face down. I carried on, so use to the sight it just seemed normal now.

My feet were leading the way as the rest of me was numb. I entered one of the shelters and sunk down into a damp camp bed. I didn’t know if this was my place but it didn’t matter. I think there was someone else in the bed above me, sleeping. Without taking anything off, I lay down and feel asleep.

My wish was never to wake up again but each time I did.

Opening my wet eyes, those imagines stayed with me. Bad shakes racked through my body. Someone was saying something but in that moment I had forgotten there were other people with me. None of them had been there, so they’d never understand what it was truly like.

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

A Winter’s Dream

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The snow was falling thickly outside, burying the moor further under a white blanket. Lisbeth watched the flakes from the library windows which were the biggest in the small manor house and gave the best views. After a few moments of peering out of each of the three windows, Lisbeth climbed into the window box which was in the second window.

The window box had a soft red cushion covered seat and hand stitched square cushions at both corners. It was cosy and always made Lisbeth feel safe in the large cold library. Bending her knees up and tucking her long dark green dress underneath her, Lisbeth wrapped her arms around her legs and stared out of the window.

She could see the small dirt circled driveway, with the fountain turned off for winter. The red brick wall and black iron gates with their covering of ivy. Beyond, was the moor, which seemed to stretched out forever like the sea. Being covered in snow, the landscape looked bleak and boring, but Lisbeth knew come spring and summer, the moors would be brightly colored with flowers and alive with baby animals.

A loud knocking on the door drew her attention away and Lisbeth turned her head to see her maid walking into the library. The young woman was wearing a black dress and a white pinafore. When she got closer, having come around the big oak table that sat in the middle of the room, Lisbeth saw she had something in her hand.

‘This has arrived for you, Miss. A gift from your father,’ the maid spoke.

Lisbeth reached out a hand and took the brown paper and string wrapped packet. It was a rectangle shape and heavy. Slowly, Lisbeth unwrapped it and and found a book inside. The cover was a light brown and golden letters which she couldn’t read, spelled out a title and an author.

‘I’ll lit the fire in here for you, Miss,’ the maid said.

Lisbeth didn’t say anything as her fingers touched the golden lettering. She knew it was French, but she only knew a handful of words. Opening the book, she flipped through the pages and noticed that some of them had drawings on. In the background, she heard a fire being started then the closing of the door.

Turning the pages slower, Lisbeth come across an image that made her stop. There was a man with black curly hair and blue trousers carrying a girl in one hand and leading a white horse in the other. The horse was carrying four or six other girls through what seemed to be countryside. Lisbeth tried to read the pages on either side of the picture, looking for any words she might know. However, the few she did know give her no clue as to what the drawing was about.

Looking harder at the picture, Lisbeth tried to figure out what was going on. Clearly, this man was taking the girls somewhere. Maybe, he was rescuing them? Was he a Prince? A Lord? A poor farmer? And who were the girls and why were there so many of them? Lisbeth counted again and decided there was six of them riding the horse and the girl in his arm made seven. Were they sisters then?

Feeling frustrated, Lisbeth closed the book and set it at her feet. Resting her head on her knees, she looked out the window again. The glass was misting up and the snow was falling faster making the view of the moor even more distant. From behind her came the first curls of warmth from the fire. She heard the flames cracking around the logs, the noise was too loud in the silence of the library.

Lisbeth shut her eyes and though she didn’t want to think about the drawing anymore, she couldn’t help it. Desperately, she wanted to know who the man and the girls were.

Father will know, she thought, when he gets back from his business trip, he can read it to me.

Sighing and feeling the chill leaving her, Lisbeth went to open her eyes again, but found they were too heavy. With the fire lulling her to sleep, she let herself slip away.

When Lisbeth finally opened her eyes again, she found herself not at home in the library watching the snow falling on the moor, but outside in the countryside. The sun was blazing in a too blue sky, tall green trees were dotted around and the grass under her was long. Birds were singing, insects buzzing and the smell of flowers filled the air.

As she was wondering what had happened, Lisbeth heard the sound of horses hoofs. Getting up, she looked around and saw a road close by. Walking over, she soon saw a large white horse being led by a young man with black curly hair. He was wearing medieval clothes like she had seen in paintings. In his other hand, he was carrying a child wrapped in white strips of cloth who had very long blonde hair. Upon the horse, six other girls rode and they were also wrapped in cloth with tangled long blonde hair.

Lisbeth stepped onto the road before them all.

‘Excuse me,’ Lisbeth called, ‘Hello. Could you please tell me where I am?’

The man brought his horse to a stop and looked at her. The seven girls also fixed their eyes to her and Lisbeth could now see that the girls all looked the same, but they were different ages. They all looked weary as if they had been walking for awhile.

‘You are far from anywhere,’ the man replied.

Lisbeth frowned.

‘This is the middle of the French countryside,’ the man explained, ‘there is nothing but farmers and wine makers out here. We are days from the nearest village and a month from the nearest town.’

‘And who are you all?’ Lisbeth asked.

‘You are clearly a stranger here,’ the man spoke.

Lisbeth nodded.

‘I’m Prince Louis and these are my sisters. Our kingdom was burnt down and we could not stay there. We are traveling to the next kingdom where my oldest sister is betrothed to the Prince there.’

‘I see,’ Lisbeth answered.

‘And you?’ the Prince asked.

‘I do not know. I woke up over there.’

Lisbeth looked at the spot and fell into wondering how she got here.

‘What’s your name?’ the oldest and first Princess on the horse asked.

‘Lisbeth. That I am sure of!’

‘Do you want to come with us?’

‘I do not think I can. I am waiting for my father. He should be home soon,’ Lisbeth replied thoughtfully.

‘Then we must leave you now,’ the Prince spoke out, ‘the road is still long ahead of us.’

‘It was nice meeting you all,’ Lisbeth said.

With nods of goodbye, Lisbeth stepped off the road and watched the Prince leading the white horse away. When she could not seen them anymore, Lisbeth walked back to the spot she had woken up in and sat down.

‘How do I get out of here?’ she spoke aloud.

Resting back, she looked up at the cloudless sky and felt the heat on her skin. She felt tried and hot. Shutting her eyes, she told herself that after a little doze she would figure this all out further.

Someone was calling her name. She could hear them in the distance. Fighting away sleep, Lisbeth opened her eyes. She blinked a few times then sat up. She was back in the library. Rubbing her face, she looked out of the window, but darkness had now settled outside. Turning away, she saw her maid standing before her and the fire still burning brightly further back.

‘I fell asleep…’ Lisbeth said, ‘and it was all a dream.’

‘A pleasant one I hope, Miss?’ the maid asked.

Lisbeth nodded.

‘Would you like some supper now, Miss?’

‘No, thanks. I think I shall go to my room,’ Lisbeth said.

She slipped out of the window box and picked up the book. Even though she was tempted to open the pages and see the drawing again, she kept the book closed and walked out of the library.

Outside the snow continued to fall.

 

(From a prompt by https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/microfiction-challenge-26-a-journey/ with thanks)

The Carousel

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Sophia stared across the desolate French hamlet square. A light rain was falling softly, making the evening bleak and cold. She hugged herself and felt the old soft fur coat letting off a trickle of warmth. Sighing, she looked at the grimy windows of the small café behind her then upwards to the remains of a candy cane stripped cloth veranda.

A cat howled and she jumped. Her breath stuck in her throat and her eyes shot around the square. Sophia saw nothing but the boarded up empty shops and the abandoned carousel. Calming herself, she concentrated on the shadows of the horses lurking under their shelter. She counted to ten then checking the coast was clear, walked quickly over. The sound of her high heels tapping on the cobbles broke the returning silence.

Stopping just before the flat circle steps, she looked up at one of the wooden horses. The paint was badly chipped and peeling, yet some of the once bright whites, reds and gold still clung on. The horse’s face was frozen in terror and Sophia shied away from it.

Slowly walking around, she tried to ignore the other horses that all looked pained and scared. Coming to the back, she spotted what she was looking for. The bottom half of a fairy tale white and yellow carriage which sat in-between four horses. Picking up her coat and long skirt, she stepped up and felt the carousel creak underneath her. She paused to listen then reached out for a golden twisted pole and pulled herself up. She slipped into the carriage and sat down on the worn bench.

She couldn’t see much of the square from this angle, but she did feel safer and hidden. Arranging her dark red curly hair and fur hat, she tried not to think about what time it was. Of course, that question led her to wondering where he was, but she quickly dismissed it. Flatting her hat back on, she listened to the patting of the rain and the cracking of the carousel. Sophia lent back and shut her eyes. The sleepless nights were starting to catch up with her and all this trouble with the riots wasn’t helping.

She heard soft boot steps coming from across the square. Opening her eyes, Sophia froze. She watched a shadow separated itself from the others and dart under the café shop’s veranda where she had stood only minutes before. Was it the policeman doing his nightly rounds or a thief looking for food and things to sell? Maybe it was Sorel? God, please let it be him, Sophia prayed.

The figure began moving towards the carousel and Sophia watched the tall man wearing a trench coat come to a pause before the horses. Without realizing it, she had sunk down and was peering nervously over the edge of the carriage. The footsteps picked up again, making their way around. Sophia pulled down her hat, thoughts zipping through her mind.

A soft voice called out her name and she looked up. Sorel was looking down at her with his fingers touching the lip of his top hat. Sophia sat up, her face blossoming into life.

‘My love!’ Sorel cried and jumped onto the steps.

The carousel rocked and they both grabbed what they could. Then Sorel was stumbling into the carriage and landing heavily on his knees.

A startle of French words tumbled from Sophia’s lips and she hurried to help him up. Her fingers slipped over his leather coat before finding his warm wrist.

‘I’m fine, Angel, fine,’ Sorel’s voice whispered.

He pulled himself up and sat beside her, grabbing Sophia into a damp hug.

‘I was so worried,’ she breathed into his neck.

‘Don’t be. Everything is fine,’ Sorel replied and stroked her hair.

‘I hate meeting here,’ she added.

‘It’s the best place, until the war is over.’

‘I know, but still…’

‘Hush now,’ Sorel breathed and kissed her gently on the lips.

Sophia let out a shaky gasp then pressed her face into his.

‘Let’s forget about everything and just be in this moment, Angel,’ Sorel uttered against her lips.

‘Yes, my love,’ Sophia replied and kissed him again.

The night rolled silently in, cocooning the lovers as they held each other tightly in the carousel carriage.

Least We Forget

Bill travelled back to France not knowing what he’d find or what memories would return. Sitting in his granddaughter Bethany’s bright purple car he looked out over the almost familiar countryside, trying to remember. The land had healed and changed since the First World War and Bill’s last visit in the mid-sixties with his wife and five children. He turned to his granddaughter and tried to tell her this, but his mouth was dry and wordless.

There were bottles of water in the carry bag by his feet. He lent forward and dug around for one with great difficult.

‘Are you okay, Granddad? Do you want me to stop?’ Bethany shouted, slowly and clear.

He turned his head, aware she was speaking but not quite catching her words.

She repeated what she had said, but Bill shook his head as his useless fingers finally found a plastic bottle. He pulled it out, showed it to her as explanation then tried to open the lid. He could barely feel the blue top under his fingertips and couldn’t get any grip at all. He shook the bottle in vain and embarrassed turned to Bethany.

She gave a single nod, indicated and pulled smoothly over. She took the bottle from him, easily opened it and handed it back, keeping the lid in her hand.

Bill gratefully drank from the bottle.

‘We’ve not got much further to go to the cemetery now,’ Beth spoke into his ear, ‘does any of this look familiar to you?’

Bill swallowed and looked around. His lips formed a few words, but his throat didn’t give sound to them. He tried again then shook his head and drank some more water.

‘What did we do with the cards?’ Beth asked and began digging around in the footwell at Bill’s feet.

She pulled out a plastic wallet full of large picture cards, ‘here there are. Okay, Granddad. Put your glasses on.’

Bill frowned and lend down, waiting for her repeat the instructions.

Beth picked up his glasses that were resting on the dashboard and helped Bill put them on. She took the bottle of water from him, screwing the cap back on and putting it down. She pulled out the cards and looked through them with Bill watching over her shoulder. She found the new ones she was looking for and passed him one that showed a picture of France. Bill looked at it closely and nodded, not sure what Beth meant as he knew where they were.

She put another one into his hands; a war cemetery. He nodded again as he looked at her. That was their destination. Beth shuffled the cards and found one that had two clock faces on it. She changed the first set of hands to show the time now and the second clock to show their time of arrival. She gave it to her granddad and received a nod from him after a few moments.

‘Do you really understand?’ she shouted.

‘Yes,’ he forced out in a stuttered whispery voice.

Beth held her hand out and he gave her the cards back. She put them away again then drove off. Bill stared at the French countryside, barely recalling marching through it with his unit. He tried to remember the faces and names, but it was too difficult now with the photographs and writings. Strangely, he could see the horses though and thought about trying to tell Beth about them, but it was too much effort.

The sign of the cemetery appeared and Beth pointed it out to him. She then turned in and parked up amongst lots of other cars. She got out and went to the boot. Bill watched her getting his wheelchair and bringing it over to him. Beth opened the door, undid his seatbelt and helped him into the chair.

She then wheeled him forward, so she could grab the cards and hand them to Bill. Closing and locking the car door, she wheeled him away as Bill quickly looked through the cards.

‘What is it, Granddad?’ she asked loudly.

He held up one of the new cards which showed a photo of a poppy wreath lying beside a white headstone. Bill felt Beth’s breath in his bald head and heard her cry a few faint, ‘oh!’ sound before she hurried back to the car. He turned and could just make out, his granddaughter opening the passenger door and leaning over to the back seats. She pulled out the wreath and brought it back to him.

‘There, Granddad,’ she said.

He nodded and they set off again. The cemetery was crowded with people waiting for the ceremony and it took them a good few minutes to get to where they needed to be. Beth placed Bill right at the front with the other wheelchair uses. He looked down the line and saw a handful of men in similar clothing to himself. The man who he was sat next to, Bill didn’t recognise, but Bill gave him a nod anyway.

He felt Beth’s hand on his shoulder and reached up to hold her fingers. Bill looked up at the massive wall of names before them and felt tears come into his eyes.

Bird

Writing Prompt: What lies beyond the fog?

Walking out of the thick grey fog, Ivo saw the tower’s blurred point ahead. A sense of relief washed over him and he sighed deeply into the full face gas mask. Heavily trudging over soft ground, which had once been green with grass, he heard the sharp calling of a large bird. He slowed his steps and slipped his gloved hand inside the right side pocket of his floor sweeping leather coat.

Glancing carefully about and wishing the fog wasn’t so thick, he looked out for the bird. He withdrew the small camera and brought it to chest height. Trying not to look down, Ivo let his fingers fumble over the rough surface and take place over the shutter button. Growing more determined and tense he pressed forward.

A flicker of black caused his rubber booted feet to pause. Ivo tried to slow his breathing, which had become loud in his ears and licked his dry cracked lips. He inched forward, the knowledge that this could mean so much for his Faction pressed down on his shoulders. He felt a twinge in his lower back and wondered about slipping his rucksack off. Thoughts that the bird could get scared or someone could dart out of the fog and take it, made him change his mind.

He took another few steps forward and saw what he had always longed to see; an alive and normal looking black bird. Ivo’s fingers clicked the camera’s button and without looking down, he brought the device up to him and looked at the cracked screen. The image of the bird was there. Quickly, he took another few photos and watched as each time the black bird, which was perched on a rusting wheeled trolley, appeared on the screen.

‘It’s unbelievable,’ he uttered as he marvelled over it.

The bird stretched its wings as if to take off and Ivo’s breathe caught in his throat. For a moment the idea of trying to capture the bird screamed in his mind, but he didn’t move. He bite his tongue and tasted the tang of blood. Swallowing, he watched the bird settle back down and began preening the jet black wing feathers. Excited at such natural behaviour, Ivo took two more photos. Looking at the screen, he decided that the bird was probably a raven as it looked very similar to the Encyclopaedia images he had long pondered over.

With its wings clean, the raven ruffled them and did a little jump up. Flapping loudly, it took off and vanished into the fog. Ivo stumbled after it, desperately clicking the camera’s button, but only catching the closing in fog and the tower point in the distant. Stilling his finger, he looked around whilst turning in a circle, but could see anything else. At least he had finally got some prove to show to the others.

If the raven could survive out here, Ivo thought as he looked back through the photos, then there must be clean oxygen back in the air. Feeling happier, he pocketed the camera and walked on towards the tower. The twisting metal frame rose up before him and Ivo that he could make out the reddish, orange colour of the structure. The ground reminded the same beneath his feet, despite the whispered warnings the old surveyor had given Ivo before he had set off on this mission.

Slowly, his steps has he got closer to the tower, he pulled out his camera and took a few photos. There was a barricade between himself and the tower, made by a tall fence and large square shaped rocks. Taking a few deep breaths and feeling the heaviness of the gas mask on his face, Ivo stepped forward and touched the closest rock. He couldn’t feel anything because of the gloves, but as he removed his fingers he stopped tiny white flecks coming away from the rock.

He sat down and starred right up to the top of the tower. It’s hideous, he thought, probably one of the most hideous things I’ve seen from The Before. He recalled his walk though Notre-Dame yesterday and how he had been amazed by the still intact structure. The Before Peoples had tried hard to protect their monuments and scared places, he mused. He took a photo, liking the way the tower loomed out of the fog. A beeping drew his attention and he pulled out a timing device. His mission was over. Standing and putting everything into his pocket, he headed back for home before his air ran out.