Basement

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There was a demon in the basement. I didn’t think anyone else but me knew. At first I just left him alone when I went to do the laundry down there. I would hear him snipper, hissing, moaning and giggling. Sometimes he would shuffle about, moving from one dark patch to another or else edging into a puddle of light to peer at me.

He was a small demon, about 4 foot and he was bright red like a burn. He had a curly, long tail with a spiked end, flat feet but wedded toes, he sometimes walked on two feet other times four. His hands were like his feet only with longer fingers and sharp like dagger nails. He’s body was bone thin, his neck long and his head too big. Huge black eyes stared out, his nose was snake slit and his mouth wide and full of needle teeth.

We never spoke but we both knew each other was aware of the other. I don’t know what he was doing down there and I didn’t wish to know. He could go about his business and I prayed he left me alone to get on with mine.

Christmas Eve

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All the children but one were in bed. I looked at my oldest from across the living room, he was sat on a beanbag next to the Christmas tree, playing on a game console, headphones in and switched off from the rest of the world.

My wife give me a nudge with her elbow and and nodded towards him, her eyes telling me I had to convince our son to go to bed now. It was an hour or so before his normal time and I was finding being the father of a fourteen year old difficult.

‘It’s too early,’ I whispered back to my wife.

‘I know, but we have presents to wrap,’ she replied back.

‘So? Josh can help.’

She shook her head, ‘I want him to have one last magical Christmas.’

‘You said that last year…He’s a teenager now,’ I hissed back.

My wife pulled a face and turned her attention back to the TV. We had been watching some old Christmas movie but it wasn’t that interesting and followed the same old plot that other seasonal films did.

There would be no arguing with her. It really wasn’t the time. Christmas was stressful and more so when you had a big family and an even bigger extended one. We had six children; four girls and two boys, ageing between five and fourteen.

I had four older siblings who had many children of their own and my wife had three remaining siblings with families of their own, plus the children from her two brothers who had passed away. Then there were all the cousins, distant relatives and friends who were like family. Also, the people who only seemed to appear at Christmas then fade into memory for the rest of the year.

I got up, trying not to be grumpy. I was just as tired as she was and not in the mood for dealing with argumentative teenage boys. Perhaps, there was another way though?

Tapping, Josh lightly and motioning the removing of his headphones and I got his attention.

‘Why don’t you go and play that in bed now?’ I said.

‘It’s still early,’ he replied, a moaning tone in his voice.

‘I know, but we have present wrapping to do and you wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises.’

Josh fixed that look, the one that said he didn’t believe me and was getting on the edge to start arguing, ‘No, I won’t. I know what you’ve got me all ready. What I asked for; new headphones, Zombies Revenge Battle Two and The Haunted Earth games, Zomboz and Bomboz books, a download of the newest Death Rattle album, one of their band hoody and matching t-shirt.’

I took a deep breath, ‘and how do you really know we got you all of that?’

Josh shrugged and turned back to his game, ‘mum told me.’

Avoiding looking back at my wife, I spoke, ‘but we might have brought you something else too. Please, Josh, be good and think about your brothers and sisters. We know you don’t believe anymore but it’s important to keep things nice for them.’

I had noticed he had been keeping his distance all day. The other kids had been over-excited and unable to focus on much. Josh hadn’t spoke much and spent a lot of time playing his games. Even later, when we had gone out to lay the glitter and oats trail for the reindeer then put out the mince pie, whiskey and carrots, Josh hadn’t been with us.

Had my son really grown out of Christmas?

‘Come on, Josh. Bedtime or else you’ll have to help wrap presents,’ I pressed harder.

Josh sighed and gathered his things. He went upstairs and I followed after him.

‘I’m staying up to finish this level,’ Josh said, threateningly as he flopped down on his bed.

‘That’s fine. Thank you,’ I answered and went to shut the door.

‘Dad?’

‘Yes, son?’

‘Was Santa real?’ Josh asked.

I frowned and paused in the doorway. Where had that question come from?

‘Like, did he ever existed?’

I came back into the room, pushing the door closed behind me. Josh was sat up now, his game forgotten for the moment. I joined him on the bed and thought how to reply.

‘And don’t give me a fairy story, I know none of that is real,’ Josh added.

‘I guess there might have been an old man once who inspired the stories,’ I said carefully.

‘Like Robin Hood and King Arthur? There’s not much fact they existed, is there?’

‘Yeah, that’s right. It’s that kind of myth, legend thing. There must have been someone who inspired those stories,’ I replied, latching onto his way of thinking.

‘I guess that makes sense,’ Josh answered, ‘I wonder who he was? I bet the internet would know!’

‘The internet knows everything,’ I muttered, ‘but you know that some stories can’t be captured.’

‘What?’

‘Get into bed and let me tell you about an old man in Iceland who was the first Santa.’

‘Dad,’ Josh groaned, ‘I’m not a kid and I don’t need a bedtime story! And I have this level to finish.’

‘I know all that but just this once okay? I thought you wanted to hear about it.’

Pulling a face and muttering, Josh did as I asked and settled into bed.

‘Once there was an old man who lived alone but he loved children. He had longed wished for his own but, and though he’d had a few wives, he never had any of his own. He was black smith and also a carpenter because where he lived in a small town in Iceland it was far from anywhere else.’

‘He could have moved,’ Josh cut in.

‘Not the point,’ I replied and got on with the story, ‘the man made little money mending things, so he made things to sell but soon no one wanted anymore chairs or tables or shelves. The man decided he would have to make something else instead or he would have no money to get food or firewood.’

‘Sounds like he needs a new job,’ Josh muttered.

‘One day, watching the children play in the snow, an idea came to him; he would make them some toys. He spent a long time planning and trying to make things. At first he wasn’t sure what the children would like and because there was so few toys around, there was little for him to go off. The man asked the children and they told him they would like dolls and blocks, hoops and spinning tops, rocking horses and pull along dogs.’

‘Baby toys?’ Josh scoffed, ‘why?’

‘No, these where old fashioned toys. They didn’t have computers and TVs back then! Or even plastic. The toys were all made of wood and spare things that were left over from making other things. Children didn’t have a lot of time to play in the old days. They had to help their parents run farms and they had to go out to work as money was always short,’ I explained.

‘Like the Victorian children? We learned about them in history class.’

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘So, he made these toys and then what? He went and give them out?’

‘Erm, no, because he wouldn’t have made any money then. The man tried to sell the toys but people weren’t interesting. They didn’t have spare money to buy toys, they had to buy meat, bread and firewood instead. The man was disheartened but then another idea came to him and he asked some of the children to come and work for him. He give them easy tasks and paid them with toys.’

Josh laughed and asked, ‘for real?’

‘Sure, why not?’ I questioned, ‘the idea did work and other children came looking for work because they too wanted toys and the man found them jobs, sometimes helping him to make the toys themselves. When he ran out of jobs, the man got the children to help other people and because the children were getting toys instead of money, there was more money to go around.’

‘But, he wasn’t making any money himself was he? So, the man was just as poor as before.’

I give a nod and carried on, spinning the story I was making up on the spot as if it was a well known tale, ‘but because there was more money to go around now, people could offered to buy toys for their children. They could have special presents on their birthdays and Christmas. Then, one of the adults came to the old man and asked him to start making gifts that the adults could give each other because they had seen how happy the children were and the grown ups wanted to celebrate too.’

Josh nodded sleepily but didn’t interrupted. He was curled in bed, looking like a child once again as he started to doze off.

I continued, ‘The man was happy to do this because it meant more work and more money. So, he made gifts the adults could give each other and soon that become a tradition too. On the winter solace that year, the town celebrated the shortest day and the man give away many toys to lots of people, thus another tradition was born.’

Getting up, I tucked Josh in, he was almost asleep so it was time to finish the story, ‘ word began spreading about an old man in Iceland who give children toys in winter and people liked that idea and decided to make it so. Stories were told and added to and changed over the years. Santa was created from all them, but who knows what is true or not now? Like all great myths and legends, we’ll never know for sure but doesn’t that make them more interesting?’

 

 

 

 

 

Angel #WritePhoto

It was a horrible winter afternoon, close to Christmas eve and the rain was just coming down as if a flood gate had opened. The wind was lashing the rain like the snapping of a whip against the windows and the sky above was a dark stormy grey full of bleakness.

I should have been at work in an noisy office of people’s voices, telephones ringing, keyboards typing and Christmas music playing on the radio. Instead, I had phoned in sick but not for myself for my dog.

Pip had eaten something that disagreed with her and she had spent the night with stomach bug symptoms. Whatever it was, she had gotten rid of but she was exhausted and I was on standby to take her to the vets at any second.

She was old now but still a stocky staffy and she would play with soft toys and gnaw on small chews when the mood took her. Pip preferred the sofa over her bed and liked cuddling up me.

I was wrapping presents and watching Christmas movies, just passing the time. I heard a tapping on the door and thought it must be another delivery man. Getting up, scattering wrapping paper and bows, I went to the door and found someone standing in the hallway.

The figure was white, blurred and shinning at the edges. I thought it was a ghost but then I noticed the white feather wings coming out of the back and the golden halo above the head. There was no doubt this was an angel.

‘Hello?’ I said timidly.

No voice replied but the figure became more solid and I saw it was a man in a flowing white robe that fluttered as if a constant breeze was about him. He had long, curls of golden hair, not a strand of which was out of place. His face was soft and colourless, he had blue eyes, no facial hair, a long roman nose and a wide forehead. No wrinkles touched his white glowing skin and his hands that were by his side liked like a marble statue’s.

‘Please, don’t have come for my dog!’ I cried and rushed back into the living room.

Patch was still dozing on the sofa. I sat down and hugged her, feeling tears sting my eyes. It was the wrong time of year to lose anybody and I didn’t want to let my dog go.

I heard the soft movement of feathers brushing together and though I hadn’t heard anything else, I knew the angel had come into the room. I didn’t look up. I didn’t want too. If I didn’t see then maybe the angel wasn’t there, perhaps he would just go away.

‘I have not come to take anything,’ a soft male voice spoke.

‘Then what?’ I asked, my voice muffled as my face was pressed in the Pip’s short brown fur.

‘Just, I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.’

I raised my head and looked over. The angel was standing just inside the doorway, taking up a lot of space. He must have been close to seven feet tall and though his wings were folded and dropped down, they framed his large body like open car doors. The feathers reminded me of a swan’s, though they were bigger and whiter, unreal looking and yet I had the sense they would be soft and his wings more then capable of lifting him in flight.

He seemed uncomfortable in my small house and he wasn’t looking at me but at the Nativity scene on the windowsill. The figures were all pot and hand painted, they were old and looked a bit bashed but I had never replace them. On either side were metal and a glass lanterns, that I had lit with tealight candles.

I didn’t know how to reply to him. I had thought for sure he was here to carry my dog’s soul away.

He looked at the Christmas tree, admired the lights and decorations upon it. He appeared tempted to touch one of the wooden angels but kept his hands still. His head turned and the angel took in my dog and myself for the first time. I was still holding Pip tightly, not fully believing he hadn’t come for her.

Then the angel turned and walked away silently.

‘Wait!’ I cried, ‘that’s it? That’s all you wanted?’

I got up and followed after him. Pip trailed behind me, tail wagging.

The angel turned in the hallway, ‘yes,’ he said.

‘No, message from God? No, you’re going to give born the next Saviour?’

The angel give a slight frown and shook his head. He began to fade, the edges of his robe, wings and body blurred and shone brightly just like before.

‘Just, Merry Christmas?’

‘That is all,’ he spoke.

I looked down at Pip then back to the angel, he was becoming more faded.

‘Well, then, thanks, I guess and to you too.’

He nodded and was gone.

‘That was weird,’ I said aloud.

Pip walked to the door and starting barking to go out.

Still puzzled and not sure if what I had just experienced was real or not, I got ready to take my dog for a walk.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/12/19/thursday-photo-prompt-angel-writephoto/ with thanks).

Coming In From The Storm (Part 3)

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Cole half sat up, the weight of the many blankets keeping him down, and listened. He could hear the fire crackling and the snowstorm raging.

‘It was just the wind getting into my dream.’

He pushed the blankets away and got up to find his water skin. Taking a few mouthfuls, he felt better. Turning to check on Eve the pony, Cole saw she was restless. She was shifting around, her ears moving up and down and her head swaying.

‘It’s fine, girl,’ Cole said soothingly.

He went over and rubbed her shoulders and back.

‘It’s just the storm. We’ve heard the wind louder then this before.’

She didn’t settle. Cole threw one on the blankets over her back hoping that would help then tended the fire. He watched the sparks flickering up as he put on another log.

Getting back into bed, he listened again then shook off thoughts. Sleep came quickly back to him but once again he was disturbed by a beast like roar.

Cole lay still, sure this time he had not dreamt the sound nor was it the wind. The roar sounded like a large creature, maybe a bear? Or even bigger and it was close by. Though with the snowstorm it was hard to tell how near.

‘Whatever it is might pass. It got lost in the storm too,’ Cole muttered.

Looking into the fire, he watched the flames flickering and hoped whatever was out there wasn’t drawn to the farm house by the smoke and smell of it. Cole debated putting out the fire but then there was a risk he and Eve would freeze.

‘If I keep it low now, we should be okay,’ Cole decided, ‘and there’s no telling if there is actually a beast out there. It could so be the wind blowing through something, like in the Crying Glen. Even if it is a beast, it could be anywhere the moors can echo.’

Cole rolled over and looked across at Eve. The pony was still uneasy. Cole knew she could tell the difference between a strong wind and the noise of a beast. The wild born pony knew what lived out on the moors and in fact it was an encounter with one of the Yetis that had brought her and Cole together.

Praying that there wasn’t a Yeti out there now, Cole clutched the sliver cross around his neck. It wasn’t good to fight a Yeti in the best of conditions with many men but to face one alone in a snowstorm in an unstable house was suicide.

‘I should find something to barracked the doors and windows,’ Cole spoke and sat up, ‘though if it was a Yeti or an ogre or something that size then a barracked is pointless.’

Sinking back down, Cole lay on his back and looked up at the ceiling. Flame light and shadows danced across the old wood beams and wooden boards. The wind was creaking them and the other wood in the house, making an eerie sound.

Trying to fight off sleep, Cole listened waiting to hear the beast again so he could attempt to count in between the cries to guess how far away the beast was. He was exhausted though. He had been walking even before daybreak, the farmer casting him out even before the night was over. They had stopped two or three times but then pressed on, the need to find shelter before nightfall too great.

Cole dozed, even a little rest would help if he need to fight. Though running and hiding in the snowstorm would give a much better chance of surviving then trying to defend himself against such a beast.

The howling and roaring of the beast carried on through the night. Cole didn’t sleep fully. Sometimes he counted in between the sounds, hoping it would help tell him the distance. Other times he got up to comfort Eve or to try to stare out of the window. He would hold a candle to the frosted and snow struck glass to peer into the darkness and the storm. Of course, he couldn’t see anything other then the large snowflakes hitting the window.

Dawn arrived but there was no break from the snowstorm. Cole ate a little, give Eve a small handful of oats then realised he would have to brave going out to fetch water. Wrapping himself in his jacket and the dire wolf skin, Cole picked up the water skin and Eve’s bowl and went to the kitchen.

He collected an iron kettle and a few other water holding things to fill so he wouldn’t have to go outside again. Then he tried the back door and found it glued shut with frozen snow. Cole used his hunting knife to chip away at the ice and finally he could open the door enough to get out.

He was blinded by whiteness, snow hit him hard and despite the dire wolf skin the wind found ways to get in to chill his skin. Cole struggled on and stumbled the few steps to the water pump. The handle was frozen solid. Cole chipped away at the ice and spent far too long trying to get the water to flow before it finally did.

Cole dragged all the water containers back inside. He wrestled the door back in place and lent against it. His breathing was ragged, his chest hurt and he couldn’t focus. Snow dripped of the dire wolf coat and the added weight of the wetness felt like it was strangling him. Cole took it off and dragged it back into the first room.

He then brought all the water back with him because if left anywhere else it would have frozen over. Eve neighed her thanks and Cole took a few sips of the icy drink as he dried beside the fire.

‘That was harder then fighting a Yeti!’ Cole gasped.

Slowly, he recovered and wrapped in a heap of blankets, he got out his Bible and read a few pages.

The day passed and the snowstorm didn’t give up. The wind howled and rattled the house, driving the snow into whatever gaps it could. Every glance out of the window showed nothing but whiteness and if there was a beast out there, they wouldn’t have been able to tell till it was in the room with them.

By the evening, hungry Cole decided to risk eating something from one of the jars in the kitchen. It was hard to tell what was in them but Cole took a guess at pickled fruits and preserved things. He took a few jars and two of the bottles back into the front room. He opened one of the jars and took a sniff. A horrible smell of decay hit his nose and knocked his stomach sick.

Abandoning that one, he tried another and found a sort of jam which still seemed fine. He ate a few spoon fulls then went through the other jars. Only the other jar like that one seemed okay to eat. As for the bottles, they were wine that had aged perfectly.

Night came and once again the sounds of beast broke through the wind. Cole spent the night half a sleep and half awake. On edge, Cole barely slept but luckily no beast showed itself.

Eve was uneasy, she shifted around, stamped her hoofs and tossed her head. 

‘You know there’s something out there don’t you, girl,’ Cole muttered to her, ‘I’ll keep my axe and knife close tonight.’

Day broke and so did the storm. Cole watched from the window as the snow died down and vision cleared. Everything was covered in white and Cole knew it would be a struggle to get though but they had no choice. He didn’t want to spent another day and night here.

He packed up, taking the things he wanted and making sure that both he and Eve weren’t weighed down too much. He also wrapped the pony and himself up. He put two of the woollen blankets on top of Eve then secured the dire wolf skin around himself.

Everything ready, they stepped outside into the snow blanketed moor.

Coming In From The Storm (Part 2)

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Cole looked out of the grimy window and debated what to do. It was hard to tell when the house had been abandoned and when or if the owners would come back. Maybe, they had just left for the winter? He could imagine an old couple doing that. Being on the moors right now wasn’t good.

The sleet was turning to snow outside and night was arriving. Cole could hear the wind howling around, growing stronger like an angry beast. He could half believe that there might have been some huge creature roaming around and making all that noise. He was too tried and cold though to really care.

‘It would be our deaths to go back out there now,’ Cole spoke.

He moved away and patted the pony. Eve hadn’t moved much but that might have been because of the furniture in the way.

Cole made a large space in a corner for her. moving chairs and tables together against the other wall. There was a fireplace opposite with wood and coal still stacked beside as if the owners had been readying themselves for winter.

It was easy enough to light the fire and also more candles and lamps that were dotted around the room. Cole felt more at ease in the warm and light. He took off his clothes, left them to dry and put on another shirt and trousers from his bag.

He took a few sips of water and nibbled on the food so it was just enough to get rid of his hungry but save enough for later. Cole then give Eve a handful of oats then went into the kitchen to find something to put water in for her.

The kitchen was full of things and he found a deep bowl which he then took outside to pump water into. The back door opened easily and icy wind wrapped around him. Cole spotted the hand pump and spent sometime getting it to work At last water poured out and he was able to fill the bowl.

Cole took it back to Eve and left her drinking as he got warm again by the fire.

‘What happened to the family here?’ Cole spoke, ‘people don’t just leave everything behind. Something must have happened.’

Eve snorted and shook her mane.

‘Maybe they got sick and had to leave? Maybe the son didn’t want the farm….perhaps they had none? I hope there’s nothing bad here. I should check…’

Taking up his hunting knife again, Cole left the room and returned to the kitchen. He searched around looking for clues. There were some dried herbs which were beyond recognition, some things in jars which seemed inedible and bottles of maybe beer or wine? Cole didn’t want to risk any of that.

He found more firewood, coal, cooking tools, rusting knives, a bread oven full of soot and some other useless stuff. Cole opened other cupboards and found a few small, empty glass bottles. He took them as they might be useful. There were also more candles, a rabbit’s foot on a sliver chain, a few coins and new bar of soap which was wrapped in wax paper.

Cole took these things back and packed them away. He made sure Eve was good then he went into the last room on the ground floor. It was a snugger room and had two chairs before a fireplace and a few tables holding things.

Cole took a large woollen blanket and two cushions to help make a bed in the next room. There were a few books but there was no point in trying to sell them. People didn’t read much around here. There was also a family Bible which Cole knew would have some value. He opened the cover and looked to see if anybody had written inside it. There was nothing.

Once again, he took his finds back to the first room and showed Eve. He checked the fire and added some more wood. The room was warm and the freezing night outside couldn’t get in. It was snowing heavily now, Cole could see it when he held a lamp to the window. He watched for a few minutes that made his way upstairs.

Clutching a lamp and his knife, he was careful where he stepped. There was no point in being quiet as he and Eve would have been heard by now. At the top of the stairs, there were three half open doors.

Cole peered into each one, checking there wasn’t anything dead or alive in the rooms. After confirming this, he did a deeper look into the rooms. The first, held a double wooden bed, made up as if someone was about to sleep in it. There was more woollen blankets, which he took and more candles too. There was another book but it fell apart when Cole touched it.

He also found a few piles of clothes and looked through them, picking out a few items that seemed like they would fit him.

‘I’m not stealing,’ Cole muttered, ‘I’m taking what I need. God led me here, so it’s fine.’

In the next room were two small beds and few children’s items. Cole took a sliver rattle and an bone teething ring. In the last room, were forgotten animal skins that had been once left to dry. They were mostly sheep fleeces, deer and cow skins which as Cole touched them felt dirty and smelt mouldy.

Cole wrinkled his nose and was about to turn away when something caught his eye. It was the grey, black and white fur of a massive dire wolf skin. Cole pulled it out and was shocked to see he was holding a whole dire wolf in his hands.

He set the lamp and knife down then placed the head of the dire wolf on to his own. It was too big and slipped down. Cole pulled the front paws around him, crossing them over and felt the fur wrap around him like a cloak. The back legs and tail hung down passed the back his knees. He felt the heaviness and a sense of protection inside the fur.

‘This will keep me warm,’ Cole spoke and took the dire wolf skin.

Back down beside the fire, Cole showed Eve his find.. The pony moved away, perhaps still scenting the smell of dire wolf. Cole set the skin aside and made himself a bed for the night.

He could hear the wind picking up and the snow hitting the window. A storm was starting up and he was glad they had found shelter. Cole lay down, dozing in the heat from the fire and listening to the noises outside.

He was almost asleep when a distant animal howling jerked him awake.

To Be Continued….

 

 

 

Coming In From The Storm (Part 1)

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The moors were a hard mistress and Cole was regretting travelling at this bleak time of year. The ground was hard with a week’s worth of frost. The small puddles and streams had an ice cover. The sky was a dull grey and sleet was falling. A freezing North wind blew hard, scratching the empty landscape.

Cole paused for a break and wonder what he was going to do. He didn’t have much of a choice. He had everything he owned with him including, a wild pony, named Eve, he had tamed that would take no other master. The clothes he wore, the sliver chain and cross that had been his mother’s which despite Cole’s hardship he couldn’t bear to part with.

In his knapsack was spare clothes. A cloth securing a little hard cheese, bread, dried meat. There was water in a deer skin water bag. A large hunting knife and a smaller cutting knife. Carried over Cole’s other shoulder was a large axe which he used for his trade.

His pony was carrying another bag in which was; a wheatstone, tinderbox, a lamp, candles, a small bible, a bedroll and blankets, wire traps, a leather pouch containing a handful of coins – payment from his last job. A bag of oats for the pony, some rope, a glass bottle which contained a lotion for cuts, bandages and a small wooden carved figure of the Virgin Mary.

There was no shelter on the moors and Cole knew the sleet would turn to snow as a freezing night arrived. He looked at the sky and guessed he had only an hour or two before that happened.

‘I regret leaving that farm,’ Cole muttered as he patted the pony’s rough tan coat.

Leading his friend on, Cole reflected that he should have tried harder to stay with the farmer’s family. The barn hadn’t been that warm but at least it had been dry and out of the snow. He hadn’t minded sharing with the cows, sheep and plough horses, he was use to such living.

On the farm, there had been little work to do but Cole had been useful at chopping down trees for firewood. Cleaning out the animals, setting traps for wild creatures, gathering berries, mushrooms and whatever else he could find in the little woods which the farm edged.

Things had been going well then out of the blue the farmer had accused Cole of trying it lead his eldest daughter astray. She was promised to another and though Cole had liked the way the weak sunlight shone in her red hair and pleasantness of her soft face, Cole knew better and kept his distance.

The farmer though would hear no excuses, he couldn’t have strange young men lusting after any of his five daughters. He give Cole a handful of coins and sent him away.

With nowhere else to go but try and find another farm or village to stay in, Cole was trekking across a narrow road. He didn’t know where he was or where he was heading. He just had to hope that God guided him to a safe place.

The sleet came down heavier and Cole tried to wrap his jacket tighter around himself. He was already wet and cold. His pony was fairing better, she had been born and raised on this moor and was use to the weather.

Cole felt his numb feet begin to dip and noticed that the path was going down a hill and at the bottom were some kind of buildings grouped close by.

‘Another farm! Look Eve!’ Cole cried.

Feeling excited he urged himself and the pony on wards. The tiredness and coldness and that had been aching Cole’s bones was forgotten. They picked up the pace and soon passed a tumbled down stone wall on the other side of which was a rotting sheep shelter.

‘There’s no smoke coming with the chimney,’ Cole pointed out.

They passed another of the buildings, a small barn it seemed to be. The roof had fallen in and frost was crawling along the sticking out beams. Some twisting metal was sticking out of a hole, rust claiming it.

Cole felt his excitement and heart falling. Still though he tried to hold on to some hope. Ignoring the rest of the barns and shelters, Cole went to the farm house and knocked on the door. No answer came.

Peering into a dirty window, Cole’s instinct was confirmed. There was no one living in this house.

‘We have no choice,’ Cole spoke.

He withdrew his hunting knife and used it to force the door open. Lighting a candle and placing it into his lamp, Cole led his pony into the hallway of the house.

Going into the first room, Cole left Eve and came back to shut the front door. Then he went from room to room to make sure they were alone. The house was full of dust but with furniture and belongings still in place as if the owners suddenly fled.

To Be Continued…

(Inspired by; https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/2019/11/27/suddenly-fled/ with thanks).

Behind #FridayFictioneers

What was behind the shuttered door of the abandon building?

It looked once to have been a church or other place of importance. It was wedged in-between apartments. The windows were strangely placed down each side and in the middle was a large circle window under an arch.

It couldn’t be a house, it was too weird but maybe it had been converted at some point?

I wanted inside. I wanted to see what lay behind the bricks and glass. I wanted to know what secrets were hidden there.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/11/13/15-november-2019/ with thanks).

 

 

The Figures In The Fog (Part 4)

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I felt frozen and I knew I wasn’t alone. Things were moving in the fog and it had nothing to do with the wind. I stayed still, listening but not hearing anything else. Suddenly, I felt angry and frustrated, I was tried of being the source of a joke.

‘I’ve had enough,’ I uttered and strolled forward.

The dog trailed after me, tail behind her legs and head down.

‘Rufina,’ came from the whisper from behind me.

‘No, I won’t turn around,’ I spoke, ‘I won’t let you scare me.’

I stomped my boots for a few steps and then tried to calm down. Perhaps, they were trying to make me more angry then scared? That had always been a part of my brothers’ fun. The twins had been the worse, taking my toys and books, trying to get me into play fights, pulling out my red hair and also blaming me for many of their naughty doings.

The dog growled and tried to twist around me. I walked into her and stumbled over, unable to stop myself, I landed spread across the road. I tasted blood and felt bruises blooming.

I turned my head and pressed my cheek to the icy road. Blinking, I looked across and saw a figure leaning against the tree. It looked like a man smoking a pipe.

Turning my head the other way, my eyes picked out another figure. The man with the riding hat. He was standing on the edge of the road, the fog curled like white smoke around him, distorting his features.

I got to my knees and wiped my face then noticed my hands were dirty. Pushing up, I got to my feet and reached back down for the dog. She pushed her nose into my hand then growled a warning.

Looking over my shoulder, I saw the tall man behind me coming out of the fog. I couldn’t make out much of him but I saw his mouth open and heard my name whispered.

Fear rushed through me, I turned and ran. The dog was at my heels, chasing after me and my chest hurt with the cold air. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I knew it wasn’t real men out here nor was it my imagination, it was something else. Something no one living could explain.

A few times, I tripped and fell over a stick or my skirts or the dog but I didn’t care. Each time I got up and ran on because that voice started whispering my name in my ear again. I hated the way the letters sounded, long and curling like a never ending song note.

I tasted blood, felt wetness on my legs and arms. My feet, hips and chest ached. The house felt so far away and the idea that I wouldn’t reach it before the men grabbed me pushed me further on.

I broke through the trees, the road widen and I knew home wasn’t far away now. Stopping, I felt tugging on my cloak and thought it only the dog. I looked down and saw she wasn’t at my heels but ahead of me.

The tugging grew harder, I felt the collar and ribbon against my throat. I twisted, thinking maybe a branch had snagged me. There was nothing there. The cloak was pulled tight out as if someone was holding it.

My next breath chocked. I strained against the force but only felt the pressure more on my throat. I undid the ribbon and clasp, letting the cloak fall behind me. I walked quickly away, trying to run again but my energy was gone.

‘Rufina,’ the voice whispered, ‘Rufina.’

‘Go away!’ I screamed back at the forest.

I saw my cloak fluttering in mid-air, the fog filling it like a living form.

I couldn’t scream, my voice was gone. I turned again and broke into a run, my only thought to make it to the safety of my home.

Yellow glowing lights broke the fog and it seemed less dense along the driveway. The dog barked and another dog answered back. Gasping, I pressed on, trying to get the imagine of my floating cloak out of my mind.

A man’s screamed shocked through me. I twisted around, expecting to see someone behind me but my boots hit something hard and I tumbled down. I landed heavily on something solid, the scream still in my ears.

Dazed, it took me a few moments to figure out I had fallen into the fountain. The water was turned off for winter and damp leaves had gathered into the bottom. I reached for the stone edge and pulled myself up.

Ahead of me the house rose, lights blazing out of the windows.

Standing, I climbed out and wobbled up the front steps. I reached the double wooden doors and struggled to turn one of the heavy iron door knobs. I pushed the door open but couldn’t stop myself from falling into the hallway.

‘Rufina! What happened?’

I looked up at my eldest brother, Thomas, and groaned. He and someone else picked me up, their questions washing over me. I was sat in a chair where I looked around and realised my family, guests and some of the servants had prepared themselves into a search party.

‘Cook told us you had come out to find us,’ Thomas picked up.

‘When Melody came back without you, I knew something must have happened,’ my father said.

‘Did you fall off and hit a tree?’ one of the twins asked with a hint of laughter in his voice.

‘Then stumble into a fox hole?’ the other one added.

I shook my head and dragged in breath enough to speak, ‘there are three men out there and they chased me. They stole my cloak and they tried to…take me too!’

‘Men? But we are all here. There should be no one out there, ‘ my father explained.

‘Been here all the time?’ I questioned.

‘We’ve all stayed together. When the fog fell we came back. We were waiting for you but when you didn’t arrive we were about to go and find you.’

I looked at the floor, fighting myself. Could I have imagined the figures and what happened?

‘Do you want us to go and look for these men?’ Thomas inquired.

I bunched up my damp and mud covered skirts in my fists before responding, ‘no. It’s too dangerous out there.’

‘But if there are trespassers!’

I stood up and grab Thomas’ arm, ‘please, stay here.’

Arguments broke out and it took a lot of convincing to make them all stay inside. I don’t know how I knew but I couldn’t let any of them go out. Whatever those men were it wasn’t good and I knew entering the fog meant no return.

We sat down for lunch begrudgingly but there was no more talk of it again.

As for my black cloak, it was never found.

The End

The Figures In The Fog (Part 3)

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A wet pink tongue slobbered my face and heavy paws tangled in my skirts. I pushed the warm, soft, furry body away from me then brushed away the tears that clouded my eyes.

In my lap was one of this spring’s pups. A small bitch with white and tan coat, long ears and lean body. She licked my hands and whined.

I sighed and lay down on the road. The pup jumped about me, sticking her black wet nose into me and tongue licking bare skin. She pawed at me and nipped me when I didn’t move.

‘Did you get lost too?’ I finally asked.

I pulled myself up and climbed to my feet. I petted the dog, feeling relieved.

‘As everyone else still out here? Do you think you can find them for me?’

The pup licked my fingers and bounced around me.

‘You are better then nothing,’ I uttered.

I set off again, muddy paw prints on my skirts and my boots scuffed up. The dog followed me, tail held high and nose sniffing the air. I thought once or twice she was tracking the rest of the pack but actually she was chasing rabbit in the undergrowth.

Giving up on her, I followed my feet and soon felt the dip in the track. At least I knew where I was but I was far from home now.

On a normal day, walking here was a joy but in this thick fog, strong wind and cold air it was unpleasant. I wished for a horse or for my father’s car.

Somewhere to my left was a fallen tree that made a good seat to rest on. Without thinking much about it, I headed over there and felt the rough bark under my fingers. I sat for a few minutes and the dog joined me. She lay down, panting heavily at my feet.

The wind shifted the trees and stirred up the leaves. I looked up at the path and saw the fog seeming to part. A figure emerged dressed in dark clothes and a black riding hat.

‘Hello?’ I called out.

The dog growled and stood up defensively in front of me.

The figure shifted, moving between the trees slowly, staying just out of clear sight and using the fog as a mask.

‘Stop playing games!’ I snapped, ‘it’s not funny.’

My brothers had always teased me and played tricks on me. Was this them doing so again? It would have been easy enough for them to scare me in this fog.

‘Go and get him,’ I said to the dog and give her little shove forward.

The dog didn’t move. She stood her ground and carried on growling at the figure.

If it had been one of my brothers she wouldn’t be reacting that way. She knew all the family and servants well, like any of the hunting pack dogs. One of the guests then? but why would they want to scare me? They were all old men from my father’s army days, they had fought together in The Great War.

The figure vanished behind a thick tree, the fog rolling back around to claim the space.

‘I didn’t imagine that,’ I muttered, ‘you saw it too, girl.’

I called the dog back to me and she sat on my feet, staring around as if waiting for the figure to come back.

We had no choice but to continue. Hoping there were no more figures and we arrived home quickly, I sort out the road again and carried on. The dog padded at my side and I felt better for my companion.

We hadn’t gone far when the wind picked up and forcefully swept around us. Leaves flew up and scratched against me. The dog jumped and chased them as they went by. The trees rubbed together, creaking and cracking threateningly. A voice spoke something, a single word which I didn’t catch.

‘Hello!’ I screamed.

The wind snatched my voice away and wrapped my skirts and cloak around my legs. I struggled for breath, feeling like I had ice in my lungs. The dog started barking sharply then switched to growling.

The voice came again, it sounded like a whisper of my name.

The dog backed away and pressed against my boots. She curled around me, cowering and starting to shake.

‘I’m not afraid,’ I called out.

‘Rufina,’ a voice breathed in my ear.

 To Be Continued…

The Figures in The Fog (Part 1)

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I shivered in my black woollen cloak and urged my white mare, Melody, on wards into the forest. It had been a bad idea for my father, my brothers and our guests to go a hunting this morning. I had told them at dinner last night and again this morning but men won’t listen to women like they should.

‘If it had been mother telling them they might have done,’ I muttered aloud.

No one had ever argued with mother. She had had a fiery temper and battles with her were like fighting with a demon. Father had blamed her nature on her thick, bright red hair which I had inherited. That was the only thing I took after her, my manner was soft, bookish and shy.

My mare let out a snort and her breathe misted in front of her. Her hoof beats rang out on the stone covered road which was newly laid for father’s latest pride and joy – an automobile. I couldn’t hear anything else but I knew father, brothers, the four other men, their horses and pack of hounds where close by.

The land we owed wasn’t very big and it was mainly this forest and two small fields. Most of the other clear land had been sold off when money was needed after the 1885 fire which had burnt all but the main part of the house down.

I was born in 1902 and didn’t know how much my family had lost. It wouldn’t come to me anyway, my older brother and twin brothers would be left the estate and I would have money to insure a comfortable life.

My plan was to buy a cottage by the sea and spend my days in peace, far from the stress my father and brothers made for me.

I pulled Melody to a stop and looked around. I couldn’t hear the sound of voices or the popping of gun shots. No birds sung from the half bare tree branches, no deer darted from behind the trunks, no running horses’ hoofs sounded and barking dogs broke out.

‘Where are they?’ I spoke.

From up ahead, a silent fog rolled in, covering the single track way in a thick white coat. The wind whispered through the trees like soft voices as the disturbed autumn leaves floated down. The morning frost covered the grass like a cake’s icing powered and made a crunching sound like a horse eating an apple when stepped upon.

A deer would hear you coming from miles.

The fog wrapped around and the wind chilled me. I couldn’t see and nor could my mare. I felt panic in my stomach and my mouth went dry. The idea of finding the men fled from me and the urge to race home spurred me to slap the reins down and kicked my mare.

She walked on, unsure blinded by the fog just as I was.

‘It’s all right girl. You know the way home,’ I said and patted her neck.

Melody whined as if saying she wasn’t so sure. I encouraged her on but her pace was slowed, the fog clearly spooking her.

There was a snapping of branches to the right. I tried to look but could only see the dense white fog and shadows of trees. I went to pull Melody to a stop in case it was the hunting party instead Melody reared, front legs pounding the air and her neigh loud with fear.

I cried out and clung tight to her neck but my fingers slipped on her damp coat. My skirts offered my legs no extra grip on the sides of the saddle and I struggled to stay on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able too, so I loosed my boots from the stirrups.

Melody threw me, I tumbled down to the wet grass and bumped into a tree trunk. Dizzy and gasping for breath, I tried to hurry up to my feet but my skirts tangled and I tripped back down. I tugged at the grass, feeling the icy cold touch of the frost. I got back up and onto the road again but it was too late, my horse had ran off.

 

To Be Continued…..