Outhouse #FridayFictioneers

In the eighties, my uncle owned a small shop in a row of five others with rooms above them built in the 1920’s which also had a shared toilet outside. As a child, I was so scared to go out to the tiny brick shelter that I wouldn’t ‘go’ unless I super had to. It was freezing and dark, home to many spiders and smelt stale. I never met anyone else using the toilet, thankfully.

When the council knocked the whole row down, long after my uncle had passed away, I went to see the demolition and to see goodbye to the toilet that had haunted me.

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/11/29/1-december-2017 with thanks).

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Backwards Time

stress-2883648_1920She was just so far behind with everything that she might as well be time travelling back into the past. The work was piled meters high on her desk, so that it looked like paper sculptures and her computer calendar chimed every minute with another reminder about something.

She did all she could in the work time then went home to a dysfunctional house. At least her husband had remembered to pick up the kids from their after school clubs today. There was still a meal to be made, clothes washing to do, tidying up and from out of the chatter of her ten year old, a school project that was due in tomorrow and he hadn’t started yet.

There was no escaping the lack of time here either but she couldn’t easily stop like at work. Somehow and with family help, she got everything done and went to bed at midnight. The dream she had though was strange. She was walking somewhere, the colours were all washed together and she could hear a loud clock ticking in the distance.

There was a town but all the people in it had clocks instead of faces. She could hear them speaking to each other and they didn’t find it as bazaar as she did. Still that loud ticking continued. She entered a city and found all the buildings made of clocks and the noise they created was deafening. The people they didn’t seem to care because they were totally clocks themselves.

She watched them hurrying past. They had long thin black legs with shoes at the end and long black hands with black gloves and the clock face was the body and the head together. They seemed to talk in a tick tock language which she couldn’t understand. Then she saw a clock dog being walked by a clock person and it was all just too much to handle.

Hurrying away, she left the city and found herself in the colour washed landscape once more. There was a mirror before her, standing alone and seemingly waiting for her. She went up and looked at her reflection…but a clock face looked back at her instead. Screaming, she awoke from the dream and sat in the darkness wrapped in twisted sheets.

Her husband shifted beside her and awoke, questioning what was wrong.

‘Look at my face!’ she demanded.

‘I can’t, it’s dark,’ he replied.

She got up went into the bathroom and slowly stepped before the mirror. Her own face looked back at her. Breathing deeply, she shook off the dream but decided that tomorrow she was going to ask for some help and perhaps then she could live in the now and not in the past.

Remembering

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

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

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

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

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

Long Nights

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When the house got to cold the best place to be was in bed. There I could wrap up warm in the winter duvet and blankets, turn on my little heater and wait till I could feel my toes again. I read a library book to distract myself and listened to the fan whirling as well as the noises of the old house. Sometimes I’d hear other things; animals, the weather, stray notes of music. Tonight there were fireworks.

I dozed in-between reading chapters and checking the time. It was far too early for bed, yet the darkness blocking the window was suggesting otherwise. I’d never slept well in this house, even as a child when I’d come to stay with my grandparents which had been too often…

The memories were still heavy in the air, single moments playing over and over again, like ghosts I couldn’t escape from. I hate being trapped here, just like back then, but no one wanted to buy the house and without a sale I couldn’t move into other. So, it was either this roof over my head or none. I’d already been ‘none’ a few times and any roof was far better.

Perhaps, it was some unknown unfinished business holding me here or a curse? I didn’t believe in either thing. It was just the bad luck of my life. Reminding myself to contact a few people tomorrow, I closed my book and turned the heater off. The bedroom was warmer. I kept the lamp on though, I never slept in the totally darkness.

Settling down, I listened to the fireworks still going off in the distance. It was a few days after bonfire night but people still seemed to be celebrating. The loud popping, whizzing, bangs and crackles re-breaking every few minutes. I kept second guessing when it was over till it finally was.

Then, in the house I hated with a passion, blissful sleep stole me away.

In The Forest

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She told me to meet her there. The place we had always met at as teenagers. I would have preferred a warm cafe with a choice of posh coffees and cakes, like a real first date should be but for whatever reason she had chosen to resurface our painful youths.

Climbing over the small hill, I tried to peer through the trees but they had grown wild and thick, their numbers perhaps doubling over the ten years since I’d last been here. Unsure, if I was now going the right way in the woods, I looked around for any signs. Anything I might have recognised was long gone.

Walking on, I trusted my gut that this was the right way and pushed through the low branches. Down before me, nestled in-between a clump of small trees and tall grass was the small abandoned wooden cabin. I smiled and hurried forward, expecting to see her there leaning out of the window as she often did, like a princess in a castle awaiting her prince.

There was no one there. I looked around and saw that the place was still in usable condition. Though I had to duck and squeeze through the door. Two windows let in some dim light on either side and it seemed that no one had been in awhile. Some old posters, torn from magazines and comics hung on the wall. I spotted a few at the back that I recognised; Superman, Batman and a few early nineties rock bands. On the low table were some empty bottles and cans, one of the chairs was knocked over and the old sofa that I recalled so fondly was gone.

There was a rickety staircase to my left and going over, I decided it wouldn’t hold my weight. I hadn’t put a lot on since being a teenager, going to the gym every two – three days helped that but testing the stairs I could easily see they weren’t stable. I stared up at the opening above, my mind remembering that there had camping beds and sleeping bags up there for those nights we boys had been brave enough to sleep out here.

Turning away, I walked out and there she was passing by the same trees I had done. I stopped and took her in. Of course, she had aged and put on a bit of weight too. Her hair was still chestnut brown but a lot shorter. She was wearing tight jeans with the ends tugged into high boots and a blue jumper; not the bright wild style of clothes that had draped her past self.

I felt a mixture of nervous, excitement and embarrassment, just like when she had first contacted me online. What would she think of me now? Would the sparks still be there? Other thoughts circle but I pushed them to the side as she drew near, having spotted me soon after I had her.

She smiled, tucked a loose stranded of hair behind her ear and came to stand before me. Her eyes roamed over me and she seemed satisfied. She held out her hand and took mine, the smile growing on her face.

‘I was worried you wouldn’t come,’ she said gently.

‘Well…I wanted to see you too,’ I explained.

She nodded and appeared shy, her eyes only glancing to my face. She squeezed my hand and focused on the old cabin. I looked over my shoulder at it, wondering what she was thinking.

‘It feels like so long ago…’she uttered then turned to me, ‘You’ve never been back here since?’

I shrugged and answered, ‘maybe once or twice after you left, but then….there didn’t seem any point.’

I felt and heard her take in a shaky breath.

‘It doesn’t matter now,’ I responded quickly.

I tugged her hand and led her to the cabin, feeling like a teenager again.

‘It’s not quite how I remember it,’ I pointed out.

She nodded, ‘I know! When I found it a few months back I couldn’t believe. I thought like my old house it would have been knocked down. I’m so happy it’s still here.’

We stopped close to the doorway and we looked up together. Then I felt the touch of her clothes against mine, her breath on my neck and her lips brushing my cheek. I turned to her, feeling the old stirring of our first love. I wrapped my arms around her, drawing her close and kissing her on the lips.

 

(Inspired from; https://allaboutwritingandmore.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/daily-picture-prompt-258/ with thanks).

Mind Falling

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Everyday I was falling through my mind. Imagines and thoughts tumbling by which I could only half process. Strangely, my current thoughts seemed to be with me and I could think as if I was on the outside again. Mostly, I wondered about when this was all going to stop and what had been the cause of it? How does one man become trapped inside of his own mind and how can he break free?

The answer hadn’t come to me yet, so I was still falling though memories. There were flashes of things I’d totally forgotten but somehow had been stored here and other flashes of things I’d rather not see ever again. There were happy scenes, sad scenes, holiday, birthday scenes and dangerous scenes that triggered all kinds of things deep within me.

After awhile, I stopped paying attention. That was until, I reached my childhood memories. A weird feeling grew and I realised how little happy memories I had at this time. Also, how much I had forgotten. Had my teacher really had green hair? Had my painting really been in that gallery display? What had been my best friend’s girlfriend’s name? Where were all this people now?

I couldn’t really answer any questions, that knowledge wasn’t stored here. What did that matter anyway? The past wasn’t going to happened again, even though right now I did feel like I was re-living it. When all those memories ended there was nothing but blackness. It seemed I was drifting through space, but I didn’t think that was true.

What was going to happened now? Was this for eternity? Or would I cycle back around. I tried shouting, but like last time nothing came of it. I tried to stop moving, but couldn’t. Then all my thoughts stopped.

 

(Inspired from; https://whatthehellisreal.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/photo-fiction-99/ with thanks).

Play A Little Tune

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Bert’s blueberries were not doing so well this year. The too wet summer was the cause. He had been trying everything to make the blueberries happy as they were his biggest sellers and God knew he needed the money.  Finally, he decided to take his violin and play for them though it broke his vow to never play again. As the first notes rang out, tears marked Bert’s cheeks. He played and played till he couldn’t anymore but the magic of the music seemed to work because the blueberries grew and became the best crop he had ever had.

(Inspired by; https://carrotranch.com/2017/08/11/august-10-flash-fiction-challenge-2/ with thanks)

Spare Change

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Normally, I wouldn’t have stopped but today I was feeling too happy, so when I spotted the homeless man sitting against the car park wall, my hand was already going to my pocket.

‘Got any change?’ he asked in crackling, horse voice.

‘Maybe. Sure,’ I added.

I removed my hand and opened my palm. The coins were digging against my fingers, so I moved them and looked closely what I had. Counting out a one pound in the sliver coins, I give them to his out stretched hand. His hand was filthy, his fingernails black with dirt and his skin dark with too sun and not enough washing.

‘Thank you,’ he replied.

I nodded and made to move off as he dropped the coins to the ground in front of him.

‘How old do you think you are?’ he asked suddenly.

I paused. His voice was calm and curious, not mocking or angry.

‘Well…I know how old I am….twenty-nine,’ I answered.

‘No, no, no! A woman should never tell a man her age!’ the homeless man gasped.

‘I don’t mind….’

He shook his head, ‘let me tell you how old you look….twenty-four!’

‘Well, thanks. I’m use to people telling me I’m younger,’ I explained and smiled.

‘Do you remember the sixties?’ he asked.

‘Erm…no….Sorry, but I…’

I started to shuffle away, regretting I’d stopped in the first place.

‘Let me tell you want happened!’ he shouted.

‘I have to be somewhere,’ I spoke.

‘My wife got pregnant,’ he cut in, ignoring me, ‘only I was shooting blanks, so I knew it couldn’t be mine.’

‘Oh…’

‘Shooting blanks, I was!’ he shouted and burst into laughter.

I felt the urge to get away growing. Something wasn’t right about this man and I was feeling uncomfy. My good karma was fading and I reminded myself this was why I didn’t give money to the homeless.

‘I knew it wasn’t mine,’ he ranted, ‘so, I looked and looked and found she was having an affair with her best friend’s husband! The baby was his. So, I left.’

He waved his hands around then leered at me. For the first time I fully took him in. He had black hair, streaked mostly grey that was long and shaggy. He had a short beard that was also grey and his face was wrinkled like a dried fruit, making him twenty years older then he seemed. His dark blue eyes looked worn and heavy, he’d seen too much bad stuff. He was wearing an ancient track suit that might have once been blue but was now holey and dark with age and dirt.

‘Okay. I’m sorry about that, but I really have to go now,’ I said gently.

He moved as if to reach my hand and I stepped back but he was merely shifting around.

‘You know what they named him?’ the homeless man asked.

I shook my head.

‘Hal. Do you know what it means? First seed,’ he snapped.

I pressed my lips together and eyed the exit door, it was only a few steps away and I could make that in a few seconds, especially, if I ran.

‘Hal! They did it to spite me! Are you religious? You don’t look it. But it’s in the Bible that.’

‘I am actually,’ I uttered.

The homeless man didn’t seem to care any more. From under his jacket, he pulled out a white rosary and danged it between his fingers.

I nodded to him.

He began to play with the beads, muttering to himself. Perhaps it was a prayer.

‘Well, bye,’ I said and walked away, what else could I have done?

Beached Boat

It was surreal seeing the wreaked boat on the beach still. I had thought they’d have removed it by now. A rush of childhood memories came back to me. I remembered that we had made a den there and spent many hours playing. Later on, it had been where my first girlfriend and I had spent alone time. Reaching up, I patted the boat’s side and had a fantasy of fixing her up and taking her out to sea. She was far too gone for that but I still liked the idea and maybe one day I could make it come true.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/fffaw-challenge-week-of-july-25-2017/ with thanks. Word count:102)

Flames

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The flames grew, becoming brighter and warmer. Shepard shivered and huddled closer to the fire. Outside, the rain was really coming down now and the wind was hitting the countryside with force. The old, abandoned farmhouse rattled and creaked around him. Strangely though, he found comfort in all the noise.

Finally, shedding out of his soaking clothes, Shepard hung his things on the drying rack. Despite everything, most of the furniture had survived and the house appeared close enough to his memories. He hated that though as it made everything come into sharper focus.

Sitting in his underpants, he feed the fire some more wood and watched the flames. Even though he tried hard not to think about it, the memories swelled like an incoming sea. How many times had he sit by this fireplace as a boy? Too many.

Shepard shivered again, but not because he was cold. The flood gates had opened and for a few moments he was transported into the past.

Shadows danced across the wall in the farmhouse’s living room. The flames of the fire, the only light source in the room was unable to fight the shadows off. However, nothing seemed to be bothering the little boy and smaller girl who were playing with a hand carved Noah’s Arc set. They laughed as they lined the animals up two by two and made them all enter the big wooden boat.

Then though from the kitchen came sounds of raised voices. The children stopped, falling silent to listen. The voices grew, though they couldn’t make the muffled words out. A thumping as skin connected with skin rang out and the voices stopped.

The girl began to cry. Her older brother held her close but not to comfort her. It was to quieten her sobs, so they would avoid getting beaten too.

Shepard shook his head and brought himself out of his past. Grumbling, the urge to leave again grew, but he fought it away.

‘It’s only an old house,’ he uttered, ‘nothing here now.’

He felt his drying clothes. They were too wet still to put back on. He tossed more wood onto the fire, not caring that the stack was getting low. If needed there were other things he could burn.

He glanced around and spotted a knitted patchwork blanket draped on the sofa. Getting up, he shuffled across the floor and tugged it off. Wrapping the blanket over his shoulders, he took a deep breath and smelt dust. Pushing the edge of the blanket into his nose, he sniffed the wool, but couldn’t smell anything else.

Shepard saw a flash of his mother. She was sit on the sofa, knitting a blanket which humped over her big belly containing his then unborn sister. Her hair was dark and she was wearing a brown dress and slippers. Her face and arms were covered in old and new bruises. She was humming something as her needles clacked together then she was gone, back into the shadows of the past.

‘Don’t think about,’ Shepard whispered.

He stared hard into the flames, hoping they would burn the memories away.

It was too late though and just like the opening of Pandora’s box everything escaped.

Shepard sucked in a deep breath as imagines, thoughts and feelings tumbled by. Thankfully, he soon arrived at the last memory he had of the farmhouse. He saw himself, a young teenager sat in his mother’s bedroom. She was gone, fled in the night just as she had often threatened under her breath.

He looked out of the window and saw the little cross that marked his sister’s grave in the back garden. She had only been seven. He had dug that small hole himself only a few days ago whilst his sobbing mother had clung to the dirty sheet wrapped body. He had wanted to kill his father then but his mother held him back. Now though, there was nothing stopping him…

Shepard let it all go with a shaky exhale. Just the thought of all that blood again made him feel sick. He reached for his clothes and even though they were damp, he put them on. Gathering his things, he got up and after a few moments of debate tossed the knitted blanket away.

Holding onto the warm of the fire, he walked out of the farmhouse and back into the storm. It was better, he decided, to be out here then inside with all those ghosts.

 

(Inspired by a prompt at; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/09/thursday-photo-prompt-flame-writephoto/)