The Cry #FFFC

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Magic was something that everyone had. We were all born with it but had different quantity of it. Of course, I had been doubly blessed and sent off to be with grandma as soon as I could walk. Here at her cottage and gardens, I and the other apprentices learnt the crafts and what our lives really meant.

Though I had often wondered, late at night or whilst sweeping out the pig pens, what the other side of magic looked like. There were many different kinds but the Dark was the most fascinating. And despite what everyone thought, it wasn’t all evil. I doubt any of the rumours surrounding those people were true but unless you were on their side, you didn’t know.

Leaning on the broom I was daydreaming about the dark witches when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, thinking I was about to be told off for not working but it was Elan.

She was dressed like me, in a plain blue working dress but she had on a leather apron which meant she had been working in the lab. On her head was a small, bronze tiara which marked her as head apprentice.

Elan began speaking slowly and moving her hands in a directional way.

I watched and waited. Trying to figure out what she wanted. Sometimes, I picked up what people were saying easily and other times I didn’t.

I had been born deaf. I could speak a little but preferred not to. I could lip read and hand signing was always useful. I had been trying to learn how to mind read but it was tricky.

Elan paused, signed and took out a notepad. We could all read and write. She wrote something then turned it to me and I read;

Go fetch a mandrake 

I shook my head, the colour draining from my face.

Elan snatched the broom from me and hit me over the head with it. Straw and muck rained into my hair and headache like pain thumped into my skull.

I turned to get away from her and she began beating me with the broom. I ran off and I guess she must have been shouting after me because I saw the looks on the other girls faces.

All the way to the back of the garden, were the dreaded greenhouse was. Ivy covered the glass thickly, blocking out most of the light. The door too was covered but with a sharp tug the ivy would give way. Dead plants and broken pots were scattered around. A rubbish dump lay around here and wild roses grow amongst other things that had survived and planted themselves.

I crept up to the door which I know was stupid. I felt for the handle and slide the door back. Stale air crept out, hot with the heat of summer. I went in and didn’t look around. The layouts were all the same in each greenhouse, even the order of plants by ages. New seeds to the back, the oldest at the front and then a procession of growth in between.

The pots were black hard clay and sticking out of them were dark, thick leaves. Elan hadn’t told me which one to pick. I debated going back to ask her but decided to take a chance and picked not from the first group- the oldest- but from the middle and still fully grown.

Picking up one of the mandrakes, I walked carefully to the cottage and to the back door. I guess the girls who had been around before had told the others what I had been sent to to and they had all left the area. No one wanted to be around, even outside incase something happened the mandrake got loose.

The kitchen door was open but the room empty. A well stocked fire and going in the massive fireplace and pot was bubbling. Vegetables half cut lay on the table and a plate with the remains of a meal had also been abandoned like even the servants had known my task.

The door to the basement was the lab and I went slowly down the stairs which were lit with candles that dripped globs of red wax. I smelt burning of something harsh which I couldn’t put my finger on. I felt the steps more then seeing them and arrived at the last one before I knew it.

Lowering the mandrake which had been blocking my view. I saw the lab which was full of tables, bookcases and equipment then ahead of me was an open doorway. I saw a shadow go past and guessed everyone was in there.

I walked over and stood in the doorway. There was grandma, Elan and three other woman. The room was circler and empty but for the markings on the floor, the black candles and a bowl which was were the burning was coming from.

Elan waved me over and I walked around the markings on the floor, the bricks of the wall scraping my back. I held out the plant to her, but Elan shook her head and pointed me over to grandma. I went with dread filling me. I didn’t need a note telling me what I had to do as I could sense it.

Grandma handed me a dagger then floated across the floor. As one the witches put earmuffs on and pressed themselves near to the door. They watched me whilst their months carried on moving, I guessed saying the words to the spell they were casting.

I set the pot on the floor and grab all of the leaves of the mandrake in one hand. I didn’t want to do it. Why couldn’t they have picked someone else? I put one foot onto the lip of the pot and gritted my teeth. Of course, I knew why they always picked me; because I was deaf and less affected by the mandrakes’ evil crying.

I yanked as hard as I could, felt the soil give way and the leaves move up in my hand. I shut my eyes and kept pulling. The dagger shook in my other hand and I felt my fingers start to go numb.

I opened my eyes and saw that the top of the mandrake was coming up. Soil was raining down and the pot was cracking under the pressure. I grabbed tighter, knowing as soon as the mandrake felt air that it would try and borrow back down. Breaking the pot would help but would also send the mandrake into shock and that kind of scream could kill everyone.

I shut my eyes again, concentrated and pulled as if my life depended on it. I felt the pot and more soil giving way. Something brushed my skin and I opened my eyes to see a small branches trying to curl around me.

With the dagger I tapped the branch away and pulled the mandrake up the rest of the way. The horrible thing popped out. It was a dark brown colour, all wrinkled and covered in soil. Many branches that made up the limbs were thrashing around, dirt going everywhere and roots were desperately clinging to whatever they could, including myself.

It was hard to pick facial features out of the folds of flesh but I could just make out the screwed up eyes either side of the bulbous nose. The mouth was torn up in a terrifying scream showing off rows and rows of fangs.

I could hear the screaming. It rang in my head and made me feel dizzy. I was deaf, so the mandrake’s crying and screaming should have no effect on me but for some reason it did. Before I could feel anything else, I stepped into the circle and placed the mandrake into the bowl of burning herbs and green liquid.

I swung the dagger up and brought it down into the mandrake. I didn’t want to see if I had killed it or not. I fled the room, tripping over someone’s foot as I did so.

Laying sprawled across the cold lab floor, I felt the door shoving me further along as someone shut it behind me. I felt sick, dizzy and there was a ringing my head that I knew shouldn’t have been there.

I let time passed for awhile then got up on my hands and knees. I crawled to the stairs. Feeling like I was a ship on a stormy sea and at any moment I was going to be tossed into those monstrous waves. Reaching the stairs didn’t stop it. I climbed them like a baby for the first time and at the top I pushed opened the door and lay down on the warm kitchen floor.

I threw up, everything coming out of me and covering the floor. I was spinning like a child’s top and flying off into nothingness. After everything in my stomach was gone, I dry heaved until blood appeared.

I hugged myself, gulped in air and curled up on the floor. Tears washed my faces and the screaming in my head wouldn’t stop. I felt like I was dying.

Slowly, everything began to fade. My body felt better, though exhausted. I stretched out, feeling waves of sleep taking me.

Next time, Elan could get her own mandrake.

 

(Inspired by; https://fivedotoh.com/2020/05/11/fandangos-flash-fiction-challenge-65/ with thanks).

Home #WWP

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I kept dreaming of a house I could never go back to. Each time, the house was the setting for a different story; a fire in which my friends died, a place of safety from a invisible monster or a brothel where I had to work to survive.

It was my great-grandfather’s home. The place I had lived in for ten years after my mother give me up. She was only fifteen, I forgive her. Nothing bad happened to me there so why was it in my dreams?

Perhaps, it was because the house had long been knocked down and was now haunting me? Can that happen? Can you have a ghost house?

 

(Inspired by; https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2020/05/09/weekend-writing-prompt-156-home/ with thanks).

 

Highland #CCC

I didn’t want normal cows for my petting zoo. Though most children wouldn’t be bothered. I wanted something different, something more exciting.

I’m not sure why I picked Highland cattle. I guess I thought they looked kinda cute. They sure are bigger than I thought they were going to be but they do get the wow I wanted.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/05/06/crimsons-creative-challenge-78/ with thanks).

 

 

Frog Hunting

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I didn’t want my children stuck inside whilst we home schooled. I wanted them out exploring and learning for themselves. So, we went down to the ponds and streams of the wood.

There was lots to see and because it had rained yesterday, everything was full and bright. The children took off their shoes and socks and ran barefooted like pixies as they hunted animals.

‘Look mummy! A bug!’ my youngest cried.

‘It’a beetle,’ I replied.

‘Little fishes!’ cried another.

I laughed and told them, ‘they are tadpoles. Baby frogs.’

‘They don’t look anything alike!’

Simply, I told the children how frogs grew. Fascinated, we watched the black tadpoles swimming around. Then, we heard the croak croak call of a frog.

‘Can you find him?’ I asked.

Giggling, the children dashed off and I sat back and watched their delight. Soon, my oldest came back with his hands cupped together, a proud smile lighting up his face.

‘What do you have there?’  I questioned.

He opened his hands and a large frog jumped out and landed in my lap. With an echoing croak the frog jumped again into a tall patch of grass.

‘Oh no!’ my son cried and darted after the frog.

I laughed uncontrollably.

Shortage

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Everyone had gathered on the wave breaker wall, squabbling over space whilst the sea rushed across sand and shells in the background.

‘Quiet! Quiet!’ Storm screeched.

With some gibbering, the gulls hushed.

‘Right, we all know the problem; lack of food!’

‘Aye! Aye! Cor! Cor!’ the gulls cried.

‘So,’ Storm hollered, ‘we need to move inland!’

‘Aye! Cor! Cor! Aye!’

There was a squall as the gulls all spoke at once, ‘Chips, ice cream, fish! Bread, meat! Sweet fluff cloud, sticky things, chocolate!’

Storm flapped his large grey and black tipped wings and let out a massive scream to silence the chatting.

‘Right troops,’ he spoke once they were quiet enough, ‘let’s go find the humans!’

The Dump #FridayFictioneers

When D had first moved into the dump he had lived in a tent. The owner had taken pity and given D a home and a job. Now, D lived in a little shack with running water and gas. His job was to  find things to sell.

Metal and wood brought in good money. Sometimes D would find antiques and jewellery which accidentally had been thrown out or it’s value not realised. A few times D had discovered money which he kept for himself.

He was content as an old homeless man could be.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/05/06/8-may-2020/ with thanks)

Flapjack

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She had made far too much flapjack. She decided to box it up and leave it on her neighbours’ doorsteps as a surprise.

Light

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The garden was alive. Birds were singing merrily, bees were buzzing around the blooming flowers but I wasn’t interesting. I could see the beauty of it from my back door and the way the sunlight caused a cast of shadows against the walls and flagstones.

The air was heavy with flowers, grass, damp earth and somewhere a faint hint of burnt toast. No doubt from one of my neighbours who was rushing through breakfast. I hadn’t eaten, couldn’t face the idea of food yet. I had a few sips of water and that was enough for the moment. Later, I would have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

There was nothing  wanted to do today. TV was a boring old friend, going on about the same problems. The radio was a drone of sounds that washed each other out. The birds would start to annoy me soon, they seemed too happy, too caught up in spring joy.

Why couldn’t I be as happy as them? What did they do that made then feel so good?

I stepped outside, feeling the sun like hot bath water around me. The sky was a crystal blue, too pure to be real. The flowers were too brightly coloured. They swayed in the breeze as if nodding to each other. Bees visited the blooms and carried pollen away, they large fuzzy bodies cute like children’s TV characters.

I breathed deeply and sat down in a somewhat abandoned plastic garden chair.

I didn’t want to live in the shadows anymore, the light was so much better.

Postcard Short Story

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Dear Mabel,

Do you remember our honeymoon in Greece? I found some photos of us whilst clear out the attic. It made me want to get back in touch with you. This postcard I found at the bottom of that box and I thought it would be a good reminder for you.

I’m sorry for all the mistakes I made and for all the times I wasn’t there for you. I wish I could go back and change everything. Give you the married life you deserved. I know you had no choice when you left, I know you can never forgive me but I will never stop loving you.

Bennett.

Freedom

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There was nothing out here but nature. I got up on the wooden fence of the pier and let the wind blow though my hair. Sea salt tingled my lips and waves lapped in my ears. It was a calm, cool night. The sky was dotted with stars and the moon was full.

My torch lay abandoned on a near by bench. Normally the pier was lit up to tempted people here to go on the rides, play the fun fair themed games and spend money. The lights hadn’t come on this year, there was no point because people had been told to stay at home.

I could no longer bare it and had escaped into the night. I was tried of the arguments with two teenagers, tried of trying to do maths with my other children and tried of trying to keep my toddler entertained for long enough for me to do some housework. I didn’t regret having seven children, I just had never imagined we’d been all trapped at home for weeks on end.

I shut my eyes, breathed in deeply and listened not just my ears but my heart. The sea whispered, singing the song it had done since the beginning of time. The waves rasped across the sand and shells on the beach behind me. A seagull called close by disturbed by my presence.

For a few seconds I thought about letting go. I could fall down with the whistling wind and part the wave below. The sea would consume me gladly and wrap me in a watery embrace for all eternity.

I felt the forward lurch in my body and placed my hands on the top rail to catch myself. I looked into the dark water below and decided not today. I got down, grabbed my torch and walked back the way I had come.

I had responsibilities and so much love still to give but the sea would always be waiting for me.