Shimmer #WritePhoto

The church bells were ringing the start of a clear winter morning. Roger had taken to wandering outside as soon as he got up, sometimes he found his way home again and other times he had to stop and work the way back.

Today, he was by the lake and the sun was shinning from behind fluffy clouds. The light was reflecting across the water making it shimmer like glitter. Roger watched the small waves lapping the grassy shore. There wasn’t much out here, it wasn’t a place people often came.

There was an island in the middle of the lake, crowed with trees and Roger had been over there and built dens in the summer as a child. He wonder if there was anything left of those makeshift shelters that had become Knights’ castles, caves full of bears and Native American forts.

Above the island rose peaks, cast black by the sun. Had he been over there? Roger couldn’t remember, his head was getting mixed up with old age. He listened to the church bells last echoing ring and walked on. Some birds were singing but everything else was at ease.

He could have walked for days before but now just these hours in the morning tried him out. When the weather was worse, short walks were in order and afterwards, he slipped a little whisky in his tea.

Winter was’t the best season for walking in, so he lit the fire when he arrived home. He sipped his tea and sit in his chair looking out of a front window. The sun was blocked by the roof tops of houses and more clouds were moving in. It would rain soon or snow, it felt cold enough too. Maybe, that was just him?

Roger dozed after finishing his tea and the fire spreading its warm also helped. It was raining when he woke. It had gotten darker too though it was only 2 O’clock. Roger got up on stiff and creaking bones. He stocked up the fire then made half a tin of tomato soup for lunch.

He read afterwards, picking up one of the tattered books on the shelf. He lit a candle to help see by and wrapped woollen blankets around himself. For years, the heating and electricity hadn’t work. The water still ran coming from a underground spring he didn’t have to pay for. He survived by a camping lifestyle in his own home.

It wasn’t the life he had grown up in nor the one he had lived as a younger man. No, it was another sin of being old. The money stopped, yet living had to carry on somehow. This was the best he could do for now.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/12/05/thursday-photo-prompt-shimmer-writephoto/ with thanks).

Glass #WritePhoto

The first frost had fallen that morning. Dill had waited until the sun had melted it before taking his two westies for a walk. There was still some sparkling white patches of grass in the shadows of the hills and in the distance some of the higher tops looked as white as the clouds that seemed to be touching them.

Dill relying heavily on his metal walking sticks, followed the small stone covered pathway towards the lake. He knew this country well, having spent his whole life out here looking after the flock of sheep. Now, that responsibility had moved to his sons and Dill was free of a burden he had never realised he had carried.

Sitting on a bench his grandfather had built, Dill rested his arthritic limbs. The familiar ache in his chest made itself known and reminded him that he was no longer young. Still though he was defiant that old age would not bet him.

He watched the two westies sniffing about and drinking from the edge of the lake. Soon the water would start to freeze over and in the heart of winter, the lake would become a hard glass surface dusted with snow.

The memory of one winter when he was eighteen always haunted him and the sight of the lake always brought it sharply back.

Dill had been driving the sheep towards shelter when one of the sheep had broken away and gone onto the frozen lake. Dill’s then sheep dog, Kip, had refused to go after it. The black and white dog stood on the edge of the ice barking, torn between chasing the sheep and sensing the danger underneath his paws.

Dill hadn’t been able to abandoned the ewe and had decided to go after her himself. He knew the lake had been frozen for two months now and there was a heavy covering of snow across the surface. He could see the sheep in the distance, her dirty huge fleece making her stand out and her dashing hood prints plain in the snow.

Kip had shadowed him in a shy way and when encouraged still refused to fetch the sheep. Dill had given up and carried on walking, using his shepherd’s crook to steady his footsteps.

Far from the shore, Dill felt the snow shift under his feet and came to a stop as a loud cracking sound started up. Covered by thick snow, it was hard to make out the lines of the break. He had felt a little spiral of fear but pushed on. More cracking echoed off the hills and he thought he heard the sound of water bubbling.

Dill could see the ewe and he was so close but within seconds the sheep disappeared. Her desperate cries echoed in Dill’s ears as did the sound of splashing. Quickly, Dill had rushed onward and found the sheep drowning in a watery hole, edged by jagged ice that looked like broken shards of glass. The force of the water and the sheep’s heavy fleece were dragging her down to her doom.

Grabbing fist fulls of the wet fleece, Dill had tried to haul the ewe out. He struggled as the sheep fought him and the icy water tried to claim her. He tugged and tugged, his own feet slipping on the mushing snow and ice. Kip barked and danced around, unable to help.

Finally, Dill had pulled the ewe out and they had lay on the water snow, both exhausted with lake water running off them. Then, Dill had half carried, half dragged the yew back home. Snow had began to fall and he had thought they would never make it but Kip kept bit at his heels and the ewe’s until they did.

Safe inside, they had sat by the kitchen coal fire for the rest of the night. The warmth melting the snow and chasing the frozen lake water from their veins. The ewe had seemed none the worse of almost dying and Dill knew they had both had a lucky escaped.

One of the westies’ licked Dill’s cold fingers, bringing him back to the present. He patted the dog, speaking softly to it. It was time to go back, Dill could feel the coming snow in his shepherd’s bones. Standing wobbly up, Dill made his way slowly home again where a warm fire and steaming mug of tea with whiskey would be waiting.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/11/14/thursday-photo-prompt-glass-writephoto/ with thanks).

St. Mary’s Retreat

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St. Mary’s Retreat was miles away from the tiny town of Brogan, hidden in the mountains and the forest that surrounded them. No one went up there anymore, there was no need, expect for the brave teenagers who wanted a scare.

I was walking around the old stomping ground, having been away from Brogan for almost ten years. I had grown up here, an orphan kid angry at everything and the memories were painful.

Somehow, my feet took me to St. Mary’s whilst my thoughts went back into the past. A crow startled from a tree, brought me back and I stopped and looked around. Through the thick foliage, I could see a complex of abandoned buildings and a small church.

Smiling, I walked towards them. The buildings looked intact but rotting away. Windows and doors were smashed in. There was graffiti on the walls and remains of furniture about. I toed bits and pieces, turning things over, it was mostly building material. Everything could have been salvaged had been removed and the rest broken by teens.

I found a wooden cross still attached to a paint peeling wall. A sharp memory came back to me. When I was seven, St. Mary’s had recently been vacated by the nuns who had lived here for forty-odd years. They had been using the place as a retreat for old and ill nuns who couldn’t do they duties anymore.

Before then and originally, the area had been a holiday retreat. Which explained why there there was a bar, tennis court and a swimming pool. The nuns had the church built which is why it looked more newer then the other buildings.

I walked outside and found myself at the pool side. It was drained of water, expect for the rain which had gathered at the deep end. There was so much scum on the surface it was hard to tell how deep it was.

A story came into my mind, one of those scary ghost tales that children love to tell. I had forgotten about it but seeing the pool reminded me;

One day, a new nun came to St. Mary’s Retreat. She was young and sad. She was kept in isolation from the others. The head nun claimed ‘the child, had an infectiousness disease.’ but this was far from the truth.

Somehow and unbeknown to the young nun she had become pregnant. A lot of people had tried to find out what had happened but the nun stuck by her words and started claiming like Mary in the bible, an angel had come and told her she was to carry the next Christ. No one believed her and she was cast out to the retreat to have the baby in secret.

The nun give birth to a boy all alone in the middle of the night. She looked at him and realised he was the Antichrist. Wrapping him in a Holy sheet, she took him outside and walked into the swimming pool which then was still full.

In the morning, the nuns found her and the baby dead, floating in the water.

From then on every night at the pool side, the crying of a baby could be heard and the ghost of the nun was seen.

And that’s why the nuns had to leave because the ghosts were haunting them and no blessing or anything else they tried would get the spirits to move on.

Of course, we had all believed it then but now, I wasn’t sure it could have happened. Walking down into the pool itself, I want to edge of the collected water and looked into it. There was a rotten vegetation smell from the dead leaves and other decay. There was a stillness too, that I didn’t like.

I found a large fallen branch and began to poke about in the water. I was bored.

What was I doing here? What was I looking for?

Clearly, a part of me was still looking for answers. I had been abandoned here as a day old baby, left on the doorstep in a box. The nuns had taken me in but a year later, I went into foster care then was adopted by a childless couple in Brogan. They had been good parents whilst I had been a difficult child.

I had come to the the retreat many times as a teenager, I had always known this was where my life had began. Perhaps, then the story of a pregnant nun had been true? Maybe, she hadn’t tried to drown me but had dead some other way and the nuns had always planned to get me adopted anyway?

Was I the Antichrist? How would I know? Frowning, I tried to wonder if I felt any different and if anything in my past could give me an answer to that. But I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t religious, didn’t believe in such things nor did I believe in the supernatural. Surely, if I was evil, I would know about it.

I signed, threw the branch into the water and got out of the swimming pool. Walking back through the buildings and towards the road that brought me here, I knew I’d never find out who had given birth to me and what had happened to them. I turned back, seeing the edge of the swimming pool from a broken window.

But what if that childhood ghost story had been true? All stories had to come from somewhere and what if mine had really began here?

Reunion #TaleWeaver

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He stood on the beach alone, leaning on his walking sticks and staring out to sea. For the last few days the remembrance and celebration events had been going on and he had been reunited with some old friends. Still, he couldn’t believe it had been seventy-five years since he had first walked across this beach.

He could picture everything still; first light, the cold rough waves of the sea, first against the boats then against his legs as he struggled forward with his company. The heavy weight of his gun and pack. The bundle of nerves in his stomach and the twisting thoughts of what might lay in wait for him.

The sounds of machine guns and other weapons boomed out from the cliff tops creating a noise so deafening, it had never left his ears. He had only just been able to hear the orders to run forward, to take the beach. The sound of friendly fire was even louder then then enemies’ and so close it made him feel terrified.

The first soldiers got shot. The sea foam turned red and bodies bobbed in the water face down. More fell on the beach and were left behind as their pals ran onwards. Victory must be had! There would be time later to help the dead.

More and more men fell, the sea and sand seeming to be their final resting place. Everything turned red with blood, the cries of the dying and wounded came into competition with the gun noises. Bullets zipped this way and that, zinging through the air till the hit something.

He was no longer thinking, just acting on instinct and that’s why he didn’t really remember things. Everything seemed to blur into one. There was a body, there was a fallen gun, there was the sea behind him and the boats now awaiting them. He had seen so much but no words could ever describe it.

He had been nineteen. Just a boy. A boy who had wanted to do his bit to save his country. Make his parents proud and his sweetheart love him more. His teacher had said he should sign up, become a hero. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

He had never felt like a hero. Not even now.

‘The dead are the heroes!’ he had told one news reporter and he had meant it too.

 

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In memory of all those lost on D-Day.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/tale-weaver-226-reunion-june-6th/ with thanks).

Post It Note Short

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Beach summers; sand between toes, sea in ears, ice cream on tongues, making memories that last a life time.

Left #FirstLineFriday

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Spider silk clung at the doors, over the windows, across everything she had left behind. Sasha stepped up to the door, hand trembling as she put the key into the padlock that barred the way. It took a few tries to unlock then she slipped the padlock off.

Sasha set it aside and shaking even more, she reached out, her fingers clutched the handle. She opened the door, the hinges creaked in warning and all the nightmares came flooding back.

Sasha wanted to close the door and run away from it all again. Instead, she steadied herself, taking in deep breaths before walking inside. There was thick layer of dust covering everything, showing that no one had been here in years.

She walked into a spiderweb, the almost invisible strands hard to brush off. Sasha wiped it from her face, her anxiety almost flooding over. Shutting her eyes, she went to her calm place and told herself she wasn’t going to live in the past anymore. She had come here to end that.

Opening her eyes again, Sasha ignored the ground floor rooms, though the faded sounds came to her. The noise of a loud TV, glass smashing, thudding on wood, shouting. Sasha was a child again, hiding behind the sofa with her younger brother, Sonny. Fear was causing them both to shake and cry. Sonny had wet himself as their mother had screamed in pain and their father’s shouting had echoed through the house.

Sasha stopped on the stairs, the memory freezing her. She glanced to the closed living room door. She could see the room clearly; the sofa and the arm chair, facing a small cracked TV on a plastic stand, a broken coffee table and the old gas fireplace.

She reached a hand out of the staircase railing. Goosebumps raising on her arms. Sasha went upwards, children’s crying in her ears. There was a half opened door at the top then around a bend two more door frames and across the carpet were shards of wooden doors.

Forcing down everything, Sasha went into the first bedroom. Wood crunched under her feet, she peered into the gloom and felt a low gust of air rush past her legs. She glanced down, there was nothing but she was reminded of all the times she and her brother had run to their room. They had hidden wherever they could; under the bed, in the wardrobe. It had made no difference where they hid when father was in a blind rage.

Sasha flicked the light switch, her fingers finding it out of habit. No light came on above. She took her phone out and used it as a torch, the bright beam showed her that nothing had changed since they had left.

The small beds on either side of the room were unmade, things scattered on top of them. The doors to the wardrobe were open, children’s clothes tumbling out. On the floor a few broken toys lay twisted. Sasha slowly searched the room, not sure what she was looking for nor if she would take anything.

She found her brother’s teddy bear, hidden under his pillow as Sonny had liked to hide it. She took that, the worn fur feeling stiff against her hands. Sasha picked through the clothes, seeing some that she remembered her or Sonny wearing; a school uniform, a nightdress, a stained jumper…

She looked through the stuff on the bed; some books, school things, a baby doll and  metal cars. She looked underneath and for a moment was convinced she would see Sonny’s bruised and tear stained face staring back at her. There was nothing but a dead mouse and more spiderwebs.

Standing up, Sasha left, the teddy loose in her hand. She went to her parents’ bedroom which looked like someone had smashed everything up. She guessed her father had done that, perhaps after her and mum had run away. That memory stung sharply it was like a snow storm and she couldn’t see it clearly.

Sasha looked through what she could but there was nothing worth taking here. She poke her head into the bathroom, decided against going in and went downstairs again. She walked through the living room, dinning room and kitchen. She had half been hoping to find photographs but there seemed to be none.

Arriving at the front door again, she didn’t look back as she left again. Sasha closed the door behind her, re-locking the padlock. She put the key and her phone into her pocket then looked down at the teddy bear. It was smaller and dirtier then she reminded. Why had she picked it up?

She turned back to the front door, thinking she would return the teddy to the bedroom. Sonny would cry if it was lost and he would never sleep with it.

‘Sasha? Are you okay?’ a voice called out.

She jumped and turned, feeling like a child once more and someone was going to notice her injuries.

It was only her husband though, standing in between the open car door and the empty gate posts.

Sasha calmed herself and walked over to him. She hugged him without saying anything.

‘You are covered in dust and…webs?’ he questioned as he tried brushing her down.

Sasha stepped back, looking at herself and seeing it was true.

‘What’s that?’ her husband asked, pointing at the bear.

‘It’s Sonny’s. I should take it back, he’ll miss it,’ Sasha said quickly.

‘All right, but let me come with you,’ her husband said.

Sasha bite her lip, wanting to tell him, like she had done when they had arrived that she wanted to go in by herself. This time though, she didn’t think she’d have the strength. Nodding, she took his hand and they went to the front door.

Once upstairs again, Sasha placed the teddy back underneath the pillow.

‘There Sonny,’ she whispered, ‘go back to sleep now.’

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/first-line-friday-september-14th-2018/ with thanks).

Crossing #WritePhoto

Something from my childhood came back into my mind as I walked across the stone foot bridge; ‘don’t trip or the witch will get you!’ I paused, hearing a memory of girls laughing. What was that about?

I shook it off and looked over the side of the bridge. A low, slow river was running under the three stone archways, making nice tinkling and bubbling music. The water was clear, thanks to the bright day and I could see a few weeds and plants caught in the current. There was no rubbish which strangely reminded me I was so far from London.

I breathed in the fragrant countryside air and tried hard to recall that memory. Something about going to school and me hating having my hair tied up in two pigtail plaits. Two girls in bright red dresses throwing stones into the water and shouting at the witch to appear.

It was all too faded to remember correctly. Resting against the cool stone, I let the flow of the water help me drift further into my memories. I had been seven when I had been evacuated from home. There was a war on and it was safe in the countryside then London because of the bombs. I didn’t really understand anything else at the time.

I was extremely lucky as my mother was heavily pregnant and also my brother was only one and half years old, so we got to stay together. The other children, I remember didn’t and they had to say goodbye to their mothers at the train station. Our other stroke of luck was that my father’s sister lived out here and she had agreed to take us in.

It was like going on holiday, mother had said and so it sort of was. Only, I had to go to a new school and make new friends which wasn’t that bad because I was so young. I missed my bedroom and our house though, sadly it got blown up in the Blitz but I didn’t know that until years later.

My cousin! That was the other girl in the red dress and she’d told me that about tripping on the bridge and a witch grabbing you.

I felt sadden I’d forgotten that but it had been so very long ago and Sarah had died a young teenager of scarlet fever. At the time, we had all ready been moved some years, to a large house on the edge of the village and daddy was back from the war and it was all over.

Hadn’t I cried for days when my parents had told me? I had gone to her funeral in red – her favorite color- instead of black like everyone else. I was thirteen or fourteen then. And just like when I was seven and I didn’t full understand the war or why we had to move away, I didn’t understand why Sarah was gone.

We moved back to London after that I think. Dad had secured a job there and we needed to be closer. Auntie came to live with us for awhile but I think the sadness of having no daughter and no husband – killed in France- got to her and she moved away.

Other thoughts tumbled into my mind, unlocked by all of this. It was strange to come back here and remember things I shouldn’t have forgotten. Maybe, it was best that they became forgotten once again though? I felt, that these memories had come back to me and I should do something with them.

‘Grandma!’ a voice called, breaking my thoughts.

I turned and saw my granddaughter, Hattie, running towards me. My daughter and husband following behind.

‘Don’t trip or the witch will get you!’ I said.

That made her stop and glance around, ‘witch? where?’ she questioned.

‘The one that lives under the bridge,’ I explained.

Hattie joined me and tried to look over the wall but she was too small.

‘She likes little girls the best,’ I carried on, not sure if I was making it up or if more was coming back to me, ‘she cooks them in her big pot and eats them with bread!’

Hattie pulled a face and shook her head, ‘I don’t believe you, grandma!’

I swooped down on her, making crackling witch like sounds. Hattie screamed then burst into laughter as I started tickling her and I remembered, a long, long time ago, two girls laughing and tickling each other on this bridge, joking about an old saying.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/07/05/thursday-photo-prompt-crossing-writephoto/ with thanks).

Gift #FFfAW

Eva reached into the display case and pulled out another item. In the light, she saw it was small crystal wine glass. She twisted and held the glass up towards the old woman balanced on the edge of a fading armchair.

‘Granny, what’s this?’ Eva asked.

‘It was a gift…’ Granny uttered.

‘From grandpa?’

‘No, it was…’ Granny trailed, her face crumpled as she tried to remember.

‘That’s okay,’ Eva replied sadly.

Eva cleaned the glass and set it aside with the other items. Granny hadn’t been able to recall any of them, her memory was too gone.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/fffaw-challenge-170th/ with thanks).

One With Peace #WritePhoto

George didn’t know why it had taken him this long to find what he was looking for. He guessed it was because he had been looking too hard and thus not noticed it before. Sitting down on the bench he looked passed the two beech trees that created a nice frame and watched the sun began to set.

Everything felt so peaceful in this lonely corner of the park. The birds were singing evening song at their loudest and best, the hum of people and cars was hardly a distant sound and George felt the happiest he had done in months.

He took a few deep breaths, relaxed and saw the blue sky and white clouds being washed by colours of pink, yellow, orange and a dash of purple. George couldn’t remember the last time he had seen the sunset but that and everything else seemed not to matter right now. He was in this moment and that was all that was important.

The old peoples’ home where he lived was far from his mind and so was the bed he had just spend weeks being ill in. All the smells he had grown to know were go and replaced with fresh air, the blooming of flowers, cut grass and earth.

He knew if he just shut his eyes, he could pretend to be young again; a boy out playing after school, a teenager enjoying a break from exams, a young man wooing a lady with a evening stroll. It was all there in his head, that past life of his, that seemed so far away and almost like it belonged to someone else.

George didn’t shut his eyes though, he kept them fixed to the sky, wanting no other thoughts or feelings right now expect for peace. He had been in pain – emotionally and physically – for so long and he just wanted to be free of all that. He needed to move on now and live the final chapter of his life.

The warmth that had been surrounding him dipped away, leaving George feeling cooler. Above the sun was fast setting, the colours becoming darker and the sky turning grey. The tree tops turned black and a near by lamp flickered on.

It was time to go back, even though he didn’t feel like it. If he could stay, he’d sat through watching the night but he was too old now to cope with the creeping chill of the air. The idea of a hot cup of tea and a cosy bed was calling to his achy body.

Unsteadily, George got up and walked slowly away, leaving the sunset behind him.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/06/14/thursday-photo-prompt-beginnings-writephoto/ with thanks).

Hiraeth #atozchallenge

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Hiraeth; a homesickness for a home you can’t return to or that never was. 

I went back the other day. I don’t know why but I was just passing. I had been to a job interview at that new office block. It was nothing special, just a call center that was expanding but easy work I could do.

On the way back, I went a different route, I guess out of old habit. I went down the road we always walked to school on. Passed the ‘big’ houses and row of trees. It’s gone now that school but the houses and tress are still there. After that though everything had changed.

Those long narrow roads we use to play on are now normal roads going around the new housing estate. The blocks of flats that we all use to have live in have been wiped away as if they were never there.

The park is still there though and I pulled up there to have a wander about. It was quiet, but I guess for the middle of a week day that it normally was. Leaving my car, I had a look around and noticed they’ve upgraded the park. There’s a whole new play set, a skateboard area and a football pitch. The old duck pond had been giving a make over too.

I probably looked liked a salesman walking around, just without a briefcase and or clipboard. It was hard to know where my flat had once been. There hand’t really been streets as it had been all one place. The new names streets give me no hint. Nor was the old dead tree stump there or the little corner shops.

The houses look nice though, better then the grey stacks we called home. I realised I missed them. I hadn’t thought about my childhood home in years but standing here now I felt the longing for my old room. We’d play games and stay up late, annoying the neighbors with our music. There had been bad times and good, like everyone else.

I saw a curtain move and a small dog began barking at a window of the house I’d stopped at. I turned and walked back to my car. There was nothing else to see and do here. That feeling of wanting to go back stayed with me but I knew I only could in my memories now.

I got the job by the way.