Staircase

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The staircase spirals on and you follow each step up even though you are tried. Your hand glides over the wooden banister from which you can feel a strange warmth from. You long ago give up counting the white steps and though you wish to stop you can’t seem to bring yourself to still your feet.

The staircase goes on forever. You can’t see the beginning or the end. A soft white light filters around, but you don’t know where it’s coming from. However, it seems to move with you because when you look below or above the stairs are full of shadows.

The staircase never reaches the surface. You know that within your body and soul. You keep climbing still though. A few times you did turn around and head downwards, thinking that maybe there’d be something different in the opposite direction, but nothing had come of it.

So, you keep walking and hope that somehow this limbo that you are in breaks.

 

A Little Rain

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I hadn’t been paying attention all day. The events of work yesterday were still reeling through my mind like one of those old films on a projector which had ended but kept spinning. That was why when I unlocked and opened my shoe box apartment door, I didn’t see the postcard on the floor.

The next morning it was laying there, having waited like an obedient dog for me to notice it. Frowning, I stepped off the edge of the postcard and bent down to pick it up, careful of my tight pencil skirt and new coal tights.

It looked an old postcard which had been laying there for a long time. The edges were dog eared, the card was turning from cream to yellow and there was scuff marks on both sides. The picture on the front was a strange nighttime cityscape, with lights on in the tall buildings and the sky behind them dusky dark. I turned it over and read the scribbled handwriting;

Today, it rained that matters a lot nowadays.   

I checked the address but the lines hadn’t been filled in and there was no stamp. Puzzled, I put the postcard down on the side table next to the phone and went to work. I was too busy to decipher the message.

Of course, when I came home the postcard was waiting for me but I ignored it. Slipping out of my heels, my feet hurting after another day of running around, I dumped my stuff on the floor next to them and went into my bedroom.

I ran the bath and had a good soak, letting all my thoughts swirl away. I had something to eat after then I picked up the postcard and went to bed. I was too tried to give it much thought but now that I’d held it again, my mind was interested by it.

There was no date that I could see, nor any little description about the imagine on the front which these postcards always have. I didn’t recognises the handwriting nor the meaning of the words.

I looked at the small picture framed window covered by it’s thin peach curtain and wondered if it was raining. It was true that I hadn’t seen rain in months. There was a drought and all water was being saved. So, what the postcard said was even more remarkable.

Maybe it was like spy code for something? Perhaps it had been delivered to my address by mistake? Tiredness washed over me and I set the postcard down again. Turning the lamp off, I settled into sleep and dreamt about rain.

Inside #writephoto

The maid frowned in her cleaning of the grand staircase as her sharp eyes spotted the water on the stone window sill opposite. Shuffling over, she looked and tried to figure out where the water had come from.

The window couldn’t be opened for it was just a single panel of glass fitted into a thick stone wall so the rain from last night couldn’t have got in. Plus, this section of the castle was currently closed and she was the first person to come in for a few weeks now.

Deciding there must be a leak somewhere above, the maid mopped up the water and give the window a quick clean. Then getting back to her main tasks, her mind forgot all about reporting the problem.

A month later, the maid came back to that section again to keep on top of things. Once again she noticed the small puddles of water on the window sill. This time she checked to make sure there was no holes in the glass and that the other window sills were dry.

Satisfied, she made a note in her little notebook and went back to work. It had to be a little leak somewhere. The castle was late thirteen century so it was to be expected that some of the old lead lining was fading.

At the end of the shift, the maid reported the leak and detailed where it was; south tower, third window on staircase.  

However, every time she went into that section the water puddles were still on the window still. She mopped them up and tried to find a source for them which even on rainy days seemed a mystery. Then she would report the problem.

Finally, one afternoon the maid complained to her manager.

‘The leak I keep reporting isn’t getting fixed,’ she said, ‘it was there again this morning.’

‘The third window in the south tower?’ her manager said straight away.

The maid looked at her from over the top of a very cluttered desk. The manager’s office was a big space that had once been a part of the servant’s ground floor rooms. It had been converted ages ago and was filled with office furniture.

‘It’s been looked at every time you have reported it and no leaks have been found,’ the manager replied with a serious look on her face.

‘But there must be something….’ the maid uttered.

‘It’s the ghost,’ the manager responded with a shrug.

‘Ghost?’

‘The story goes that a young boy fell from the tower. It was raining and he slipped. The servants believed that the boy’s ghost keeps trying to get back inside because he’s trapped on the outside. The third window use to be the only one you could open…’

The maid pulled a face and answered, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts…’

‘Nor do I or anyone else who works here, but for the groundskeeper and the two old gardeners. They use to work here when this place was a stately home, before it got handed over to the Trust. They’d tell you the story better then I can,’ the manager added.

‘No, thanks,’ the maid replied and saying goodbye left to get on with her other tasks.

The water puddles remind still and once a month when the maid was there cleaning, she would wipe them away. She really didn’t believe in ghosts and thought that it must still be a leak somewhere.

 

(https://scvincent.com/2017/05/18/thursday-photo-prompt-inside-out-writephoto/)

Be A Better Person

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It had been a rough year. Everything that could have gone wrong had. Normally people have bad days and weeks, but for me things had kept spiraling. Now, I was forcing things to be up again. So far it was working.

I guess there weren’t many people who didn’t know about my struggles which is why I had no idea who left the handmade postcard in my diary. It had to be someone at work because I’d not left my diary unattended anywhere else.

There were no clues on the card though. It simple said two things. ‘Better’ on the front in bold bright letters and ‘Be a better person’ on the other side in bright blue. It had been printed off a computer, so there was no handwriting to go off.

I sat at my desk, holding the postcard in both my hands and staring at it. The office chatter had died down as it was lunchtime. A few people were still working away but they are all too far in the background.

‘Be a better person,’ I said aloud, just to make sure I had read the words.

What a strange thing to say.

It didn’t feel motivational or inspiring.

I stuck the postcard next to my computer screen and looked at it. My mind was reflecting on what someone was trying to tell me.

My moods and behavior hadn’t been good lately, but that was understandable. My husband’s affair, the divorce, finding out his new wife had given him the baby I never could have, my dog dying, the car crash and month in hospital, almost losing my job and house. Did that make it reasonable that I’d become an emotional and mental wreak?

The word “better” was sticking with me. Why not strong? or powerful or something else. Of course they could mean it in the get well sense, but even then….

I picked up the postcard and tugged it back into my diary. It was just too distracting.

Oh well….At least whoever left it meant well…..

 

(Please note this is a work of fiction. None of it reflects my real life.)

Shelter

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It was the only place he could find to get out of the rain. Huddling into a corner, he made himself as warm and comfy as possible. He had already checked out the place and made sure no one else was in residence. The corner he had picked was also the best one. It was a large dry spot and he had clear views of the two doorways into the house.

He looked up and watched the rain falling in. The roof had long ago tumbled in, though the attic and floor above, creating a massive hole in the middle of the house. There were bits of roof tile, bricks, plaster and rubbish scattered around. He hadn’t seen any furniture and guessed the house had been well cleared out over the years.

He rested his head down and listened to the patter of the rain. Oddly he felt like an intruder. This had been someone’s home once. A place of love and safety. It had seemed nice too, a good place to bring up a family. Where had they gone though? What had made them move out?

Trying to dispel those thoughts- what did he care?- He settled for sleep. He began counting sheep jumping over a fence as was habit. He pictured each sheep differently as an individual as his father had taught him. Something about how that helps you fall asleep better.

With the lullaby of the rain, he fell asleep and dreamed of his childhood which he hadn’t thought about in years.

Apple

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I knew a girl called Apple once. We went to first school together and I use to admire her from a far. It was more then a crush, I was in love, but I was only seven and didn’t understand all of that. I’d watch her in the playground has she skipped rope or kicked a football.

I’d sneak looks at her in class too, though we sat at opposite ends of the room. She was on the red circle table with the rest of the clever kids. I was on the green square table with the dumb kids. In-between us, I think were yellow triangles, blue rectangles and purple hexagons. Apple liked art, maths and science. The opposite of me as I liked; writing, reading and lunchtime.

Apple was pretty and her clothes were always clean and new. She had fair skin, bright blue eyes and blonde hair which was in two pigtail plaits. She never had any cuts of bruises on her legs and arms. Her socks were shocking white and her black buck shoes shinny. Everyone loved her and wanted to be her friend.

I was the ugly duckling of the class. I was short and fat with choppy black hair and dark brown eyes. All my clothes and shoes were old second hand ones. I seemed to have a new bruise or cut every week thanks to my fighting with my older brothers or the many animals we had. I was always mistaken for a boy too and for many years I believed it was so, even though I was a girl.

I don’t think Apple and I ever talked or played together. We lived in two different worlds and even at that age, I could see that. I was jealous of her, especially when she got invited to parties or when she was giving out invites for her parties. I never got invited to anything, at least I don’t remember if I did.

I spent a lot of school being alone. I had a few friends, but they were too much like me and nothing like Apple, who I wished I could be. I couldn’t find the courage to talk to her though. The fear of being further rejected hung too heavy over me. I hoped maybe we’d be grouped together to do project work or else when the tables were remixed in the new school year, we’d be sat together.

It seemed fate kept us apart and then we moved on to big school, we went to different ones and I never saw Apple again. I hoped and daydreamed I’d see her again. Maybe, she’d transfer to my school or I to her’s? Perhaps, we’d meet again in college or uni? but no, Apple vanished from my world.

She lingers still in my mind though. On nights I can’t sleep when I’m alone in bed because my wife is working away, I think of Apple. I think of what could have been if only we had meet again or when we both had been older. Would Apple have loved me as much as I had loved her?

Smoke Flare

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It was his only hope, his final chance to be saved. He lit the last flare and held it high above his head, praying that someone would spot him on this uninhabited island.

 

(Inspired from; https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/57964385/posts/1452260479 with thanks)

Voices

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I had always know my son, Caleb was different. How often had I stood at the kitchen window watching him talking and playing with someone who wasn’t there? I had blamed it on imagination. He was an adventurous child, forever wanting to do things and chatting away.

He had a normal up bring. Yes, he was an only child but his father and I were happily married. We did lots of family things together and with both of us being teachers, we had Caleb embrace education. He was perfectly fine in school too, always getting high grades and having lots of friends. He was healthy and loved sports.

Under that though, there had always just been something…

When he was twelve he still had imaginary friends. He could be playing in his bedroom, the garden or at the park and you could hear him talking aloud. It would seem at first he was talking to someone, an adult or another child, but then you just knew he was talking to himself.

‘Who is it you are talking too?’ I asked him one summer’s day.

Caleb was sitting on the lawn, a few toys scattered around him and I was hanging out the washing. It was the summer holidays and though we normally send him to a summer school or camp to be with other children, he had refused to go this year.

He turned to me, a toy tank in his hand and looked up through his choppy fringe which needed cutting.

‘No one,’ he replied.

‘You’re too old for imaginary friends now,’ I pointed out.

‘They’re not imaginary,’ he muttered and went back to playing.

‘Oh, then who are they? Are you on the phone?’ I asked.

‘No. I’m thirsty. Can I have a drink please, mum?’

‘Okay,’ I said slowly.

Pegging the last sock on the line, I walked back into the house. From behind me, I heard Caleb whisper, ‘she’s going now. Tell me more about the War.’

I almost turned around but I didn’t. I made him a glass of orange squash and took it outside. He was playing like a normal child, rolling his tank over the grass and making gun like noises as he reacted a battle with his toy soldiers.

Of course, I then spoke to his father, his teachers, the parents of his friends and they had for years noticed the same thing that I had; Caleb was seemingly talking to someone all the time. The idea that he should’ve grown out of that by now stuck with me and I became determined to figure out what was wrong with him.

Finally two years later, I got him in to see someone from the mental health, but Caleb wouldn’t talk. We had maybe four sessions then that was it. For awhile after, I thought it had worked, he was quiet and sullen, a typical fourteen year old most would say. It wasn’t the truth though.

Instead of finding hidden adult materiel in his room, I began finding notebooks filled with what seemed to be stories and conversations. There was no title or dates, just a run on of writing. The stories covered lots of different time periods. There was one about a WW2 fighter pilot, who was blown out of his plane over Germany spent the rest of the War as a POW. Another, told of a little boy who was tricked into going down into a well and died there when he became trapped.

I put the notebooks back every time and I tried to bring them up in conventions without reveling I knew about them. Caleb shrugged it off, ignoring my suggests that he was interested in writing and journalism.  I had to let it go in the end.

Caleb made it through high school and college. He got top of the class grades and he went on to a good university to study to be a teacher. We were both proud of him. When he moved out though, the house became empty, almost sad like. We got by though. Work kept us both busy and we were looking into fostering and maybe adoption.

The news hit out of no where, almost three years after that, just as Caleb was doing his finals. I was sat in my headmistress’ office, reading emails when the phone rang. I picked it up like normal, thinking it a call from a parent or teacher etc, but it was Caleb’s university tutor telling me that Caleb had been found dead in his student room. He had hung himself three days ago.

A strange feeling went though me, it was like sand slipping through my fingers in slow motion. The tutor’s voice sounded dim and everything around me had begun to fade. I couldn’t think clearly. I dropped the phone and just sat there.

We had to go and pack up his student room. I was running on automatic and so we just moved his stuff back into his bedroom. I just kept thinking that Caleb had moved back in and he was out with his friends. It was months, maybe close to a year before we actually went through all of his things.

Sitting on Caleb’s bedroom floor, sorting things out into piles, my husband and I worked in silence. It was raining heavily outside and the wind was rattling the windows. A storm was on its’ way. I dug through a cardboard box and began pulling things out.

In a handful of notebooks and even in between his uni notes, he had written strange stories and conversations which so reminded me of the notebooks I had found when he was younger. These were not like any stories he had written before though. They were horrible, filled with violence and death.

I found a diary. It was a fake black leather covered A5 size with lined pages for each date. I had never known him to keep one before and as I flipped through the pages, I saw he had written about hearing voices in his head. Some days were blank or he’d simple put;

I didn’t hear any voices today. 

On other days he had written things like;

A voice told me a new story today. I wrote it down, like I do with all of them. These voices are more then just those of fiction characters. They are so real. Maybe they are ghosts? I’ve never believed in that though. But how else can they be explained? 

Then about four months before his death, I found this;

The voices were bad today. I have one at the moment that keeps telling me to kill myself. I’m fighting it like I do with all the others but it’s so strong. It doesn’t seem to have a story or talk to me like the others. It questions if I’m good enough and what’s the point and that every will be better if I just pick up the knife and bleed.

I shall try to contain it. I know what the voice is saying is wrong.

Two months later, Caleb had wrote;

The “suicidal voice” has gotten worse. I can’t sleep and I’m not eating much. The voice has taken over and it’s constantly whispering to me. It tells me over and over to kill myself. It says pain is good and so is blood. My life is pointless, I’m useless, nobody loves me or wants me. I can’t think of anything else but that voice.

All the other voices have gone now. They have vanished and even if I try to think about them and speak to them, I can’t. The “suicidal voice” blocks them all. I don’t know what to do. I need to tell someone. I need help. But what can I say? I’ve been hearing voices all my life, Doctor and now I’ve got this voice repeatedly telling me to kill myself. No one will believe me!

I felt tears running down my face. My husband was saying my name but I ignored him and turned to the last page my son had written on. He had put;

I can’t cope any more! Everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked! Listening to the voice is the only choice I’ve got now. I’m going to do it tonight. 

I pressed the pages to my face and burst into tears. My son had been a schizophrenic and no one had ever known about it.

(Story inspired by local research into hearing voices at Manchester University  https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/projectdetails/?ID=3083)

Child

It was time. Elisabeth knew she had to do it, but she just didn’t know if she’d find the strength. Standing just inside the nursery room, she looked around and took in all the bright and pretty toys. There were so many things!

In pride of place was the dappled rocking horse with all his red leather tack. The doll’s house took up the left far corner, under the curtained window. The red bricked front tightly shut away, but inside was wonderful collection of fully fitted rooms for the china dolls to roam through.

There were soft toys and wooden toys gathered about. Books on a small bookshelf and other child size furniture; a desk, a chair, a sofa. A tea set all laid out on a circle table and dolls seated at the chairs as if they were really about to take tea. Everything was ready to be played with and you could almost hear the voices and laughter of children on the air.

Elisabeth sigh and thought about what should have been. She dropped her head and turned from the room. Her dark blue dress rustling about her. Her eyes caught those of the elderly housekeeper, who was waiting with dust sheets and the ring of house keys.

‘My Lady,’ the housekeeper spoke, ‘it will be open again before you know it.’

Elisabeth held her head high, trying not to show any of her grief. She swept passed the woman and went along the corridor and up the next flight of stairs to her room. Once there and with the door locked behind her, Elisabeth sank onto the bed and crumpled a child’s nightdress into her lap.

Tears began falling, thick and fast. Elisabeth buried her face into the nightdress and cried until exhausted, she lay down in bed and fell asleep.

 

(Inspired by: https://scvincent.com/2017/04/27/thursday-photo-prompt-child-writephoto/ with thanks)

Obelisk

After endless days of drifting in the sea, Mongrel spotted something. The sun was just rising, casting a sick yellow glow over everything and the sky was opal blue. Gentle waves were lapping the small wooden boat as if it was a rocking cradle.

‘Look!’ Mongrel cried.

The four sleeping bodies in the bottom of the boat stirred.

‘Something coming!’ Mongrel added.

A head rose up, a hand rubbing at the face and a man’s voice said, ‘what?’

‘See,’ Mongrel replied and pointed at the strange shape arising out of the sea.

Elk, the leader of the remaining Spear tribe family, looked. Frowning, he rubbed more sleep from his eyes then focused on the shape again. It had been so long seen he last seen anything other then water and sky.

‘Is it food?’ a young girl’s voice asked.

‘No. It’s building,’ Mongrel gushed, ‘Row! Quick!’

‘Aye!’ Elk shouted.

There was a scramble in the little boat as two adults, a man and a woman sit on beaches facing each other and took up the battered wooden oars. Whilst a six year old child scrambled over them all to come to Mongrel’s side to see what the fussy was about.

‘Go ahead, Jagger and Thistle!’ Mongrel directed.

After a few moments of floundering, the boat began moving swiftly towards the structure. The oars slapped the calm water, breaking through the stillness that had settled in the night.

‘What is it?’ the girl asked.

‘A totem? A watch tower? Don’t know, Ember,’ Mongrel answered quietly.

Ember huddled against him. Feeling safer snuggling into the bear skin coat Mongrel was wearing in. Keeping her eyes fixed on the building, she watched it growing before her.

Soon, the little boat was close enough for them all to see that the structure was a white stone tower on top of a cliff face.

‘Land,’ Elk whispered.

He licked salt from his lips and moved around the boat to take the oar from Thistle.

She passed it on and moved to the back of the boat to rest.

Sea water began spraying over the boat as Elk rowed fast. The tower grew then they passed it and saw before them a golden beach edged by trees.

‘Land,’ Mongrel cried.

Spurred on, Elk and Jagger rowed harder. The boat bounced over the waves then started to ground in the sand.

Mongrel scrambled out, Elk and Jagger joined him. They pulled the boat ashore.

Falling into the sand, they cried out wildly.

‘This!’ Elk declared, ‘will be our new home!’

 

(Inspired from: https://scvincent.com/2017/05/04/thursday-photo-prompt-obelisk-writephoto/ with thanks)