Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 2)

roots-4916519_1920

Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

(Please note there is some adult content in this story)

Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I got up and went outside to the well. There was no one there but signs that people had been gathering water earlier. I pulled the handle around and drew up the rope which the bucket was attached too.

Birds were singing in the trees, animals were being noisy – demanding food-  there was no wind and the sun was all ready warming. I could smell the start of peat fires as water was heated and food cooked in the little huts.

I pulled the bucket full of water out of the well and began washing my hands and face. Then I did my feet, arms and legs, following the washing pattern I had done all my life. Normally, I would have been in the Temple bathhouse, naked with my dorm Sisters. There would have been hot water, steam and fragrant soaps.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a full bath or washed my hair. I wasn’t ashamed of my body but I was aware of the trouble being naked could cause. Sighing, I finished off washing and poured the water into one of the buckets that was used for washing clothes and other things, when anybody could be bothered to do so.

Back in my hut there was a warm pot of tea, a jug of ale and a bowl of thin porridge for me to have. The old woman who had woke me was serving the breakfast out. There was a low mutter of talking and I caught a few words of that but it was mostly complaints about things and a challenge for who could pick the most apples today.

Out in the orchard, it didn’t look like we had made much progress yesterday. There were many trees looking weighed down with apples. Wood ladders were laid against the tree trunks with baskets and carts drawn by old horses were under the trees. I stood with everyone else and listened to the orders given then it was skirts tied up and climbing the ladder for me once more.

My legs and arms were still aching after yesterday but I tried to ignore that and get on with bringing the apples down once more. Twisting them off, I threw the apples down to the catchers below – who were old people and children- and they put the fruit into the baskets. The large men came and put the baskets onto the carts and left an empty basket behind.

The sun grew hotter throughout the day, it made me sleepy and desperate for a cold bath. Like yesterday, we were allow to stop a few times for drink and food but it didn’t help that much. The ale tasted strange in my mouth even though I should have been use to it by now. Nobody drank much water but I would have preferred it. The food was always bread and cheese, sometimes it was fresh other times it wasn’t.

I stole two apples. I had climbed higher into the tree, balancing on the thinner branches to reach the apples at the top. Everyone’s attention was drawn to a woman with child who had fainted. It was easy for me to slip the apples into the pockets of my underskirt and take a rest on a thicker branch. From here, I could see a lot of people gathered around the woman. She was placed on a cart and taken away with some women and perhaps her husband following.

‘Come on, get back to work!’ someone yelled and everyone walked back to their choice tree.

I threw down the last of the apples and came down the ladder. The rest of the day drew itself out as if it didn’t want to end. The smell of the apples and trees clogged my other senses. I felt I could just curl up on a branch and sleep forever. Even the children who seemed to have boundless energy were tried and some had fallen sleep at the bases of trees.

Drinking some ale, I heard my stomach growl in hunger. Soon it would be time to eat. I looked up at the sky and saw that the sun was in it’s setting position but it had no intention of going down for another two or three hours. The ale tasted too malty and slightly gritty, I drank it all, too thirsty to stop.

Petting the old shire horse, who’s cart I had been leaning against, I helped pick up any apples on the ground as the pickers decided to shake the trees out. Some of these apples could be added to the collection and others would go to the animals.

I stumbled over something and decided I’d had enough of these shoes. I took them off and in my bare feet carried on working. The earth and grass were cool, reminding me of times I had run around the Temple and it’s gardens. And I felt the call. The earth whispering to me asking what I wished of it.

I had to ignore it and get back to picking up apples. I put them into the ‘basket’ I had created with my dress. It was an easier way. Then I tipped them into the wicker baskets and went back together more.

Finally, the sun was setting. The bright blue sky turning paler and darker as the sun dipped. We collected the last of the day’s apples and followed the horses and carts back. People began going their own ways. I went to the well and joined the queue for water. It as too long and I decided to go to the stream instead.

Other people were heading there too but I could walk along to find a patch of my own. There wasn’t a lot of shade out here, there was just fields. I passed some cows who were getting ready for evening milking. The sheep hadn’t been brought down from the hills yet but there were some goats milling around.

At the stream, I walked by people who were drinking or collecting or taking clothes off for a wash. I saw some naked children splashing each other. An old woman with her skirts all bunched up as she dipped her feet and legs in. A few men just in their breaches pouring water from jugs over their heads and three young women watching them and giggling.

I found a quiet spot, far down from everyone else and also beside a small tree. I took all my clothes off. Wishing I had clean ones to put on. Beside from a few undergarments, I had nothing else to wear. In the Temple, I had worn white dress with sliver thread edges to show I was a novice. I could wear a clean one everyday if I had wanted.

I took the cloth strip from my head and pulled my hair down. Leaving my clothes by the tree, I stepped carefully into the stream. It was blissfully cold. Stones felt rough under the feet, so I moved a few of them then crouched down in the little exposed area of stream bed I had made. I cupped the water and splashed it all over me. The cold of it prickled my skin but it was too nice to stop.

I tried to imagine myself in a Temple bath, cooling down after a long day. The chatter of my Sister around me. Everything was cool and clean. There would be robes to wrap in, clean clothes and lots of food to eat this evening. Autumn time had also been my favourite season of year because of that.

‘What we got ‘ere then?’

The man’s voice broke through my thoughts, I stilled and looked up at him. He was grinning, showing missing teeth, rough black stub covered the lower half of his face. His brown eyes were shinning as if he was delighted by the sight before him. He was grubby, thin and a youngish look about him, maybe in his twenties?

‘You’re the mute girl, ain’t you?’

I shook my head and wonder if I did speak would he leave me alone? Panic swelled in my stomach. I knew I should go, put my clothes on and run but wouldn’t that expose me more and invite him to give chase? Not moving might be better but I really wasn’t sure….Maybe, if I had kept some clothes on it would have a made a difference.

‘Yes, you are,’ the man said in a low voice, ‘no one has hair like your’s….’

I looked at my hair, the cherry red colour had darkened with the water and felt heavier, the long wet strands were giving me some cover. I brought more of it around to hide my chest. The man noticed the movement and one of his eyebrows raised.

‘I think you need some company,’ he said and began taking his clothes off.

I shook my head and panic made me flee. I stood, water dripping off me and rushed to my clothes pile. Without throwing anything on, I ran naked into the opposite field. He chased after me, not shouting – I guess so he didn’t draw attention. I didn’t look back, I concentrated on finding some cover but of course there was none to be had.

I dropped a shoe and tried to pick it up. A heavy weight flew into the back of me and sent me tumbling to the ground.

‘Oh, yes! That’s how I like my women!’ the man spoke, his voice full of lust.

I twisted around and saw him dropping his breaches down and his manhood on display.

I couldn’t let this happen! The Sisters prepared us well for sex and bearing children but they taught us it was an act of our faith. Our bodies were vessels for the next Sisters and we shouldn’t just lay with any man. There were rites to be done…

I scrambled upwards but the man threw himself down on top of me and grappled me to the ground. I tasted dirt and blood on my lips. His breath was harsh in my ears and I could feel the hardness of him pushing against my rear end. He tried to part my legs with his own but I strained against him.

My hands clenched around the dry soil and before I could think, instinct took over. I told the earth to blind him as I threw the soil into his face. He cried out and moved his hands off me to try and get his eyes clean. I wiggled out from under him and sat facing him, my chest heaving with deep breaths.

The man swore at me, calling me nasty names as he rubbed his eyes and blinked. His eyes had turned white.

‘I can’t see!’ he screamed.

I plunged my hands deep in the soil and felt the power growing within. The ground shook, the grass shaking wildly then the earth began splitting, a hole appearing under the man and because he was distracted by being blind, he fell into the hole. He screamed but it was cut off by the ground coming back together and the soil closing around him.

‘I didn’t mean it,’ I whispered looking at the spot the the man had disappeared from.

Grass brushed against my naked skin, the soil was cold underneath me. Licking my lips and tasted blood and dirt on them still. I turned away, saw my clothes and quickly got dressed. I ran back to the stream, washing the soil away then rushed to my hidey hole.

There I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders and curled up. The Sisters taught us to control our powers. To not use them without thinking nor in anger. I had broken that lesson. What was I going to do?

Tears washed down my face, thoughts flooded my mind and I couldn’t calm down. All I could see was the earth swallowing that man!

Darkness pressed against my makeshift shelter. I looked out from a hole and steadied myself. No one knew what had happened and if anybody asked me, I was a mute who couldn’t utter a word. The man was gone so he couldn’t say anything against me. I could carry on as normal. That would be the best thing and no one would ever know.

I got up and went to the well, I sorted myself out, tied my wet hair back up and under the cloth, brushed grass from my clothes and put on my shoes. I went back to my hut and found a little stew and tea left for me to have.

Some people were smoking in chairs beside the fire and others had gone to bed all ready. No one looked or spoke to me. I tried to act as normal, tipping the stew into my mouth and swallowing down the cooling tea. I got into bed and pulled the woollen blanket over my head.

I lay breathing deeply, my eyes squeezed shut and trying to blank my mind. I had made a terrible, terrible mistake but I would learn from it and never again would I act like that.

I was alone now. I had to control my gift. I had to stay hidden.

 

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 1)

roots-4916519_1920

Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

All stories start with something and this story starts with an apple. It was a normal apple, bright red and ripe for picking. I twisted it off the tree and with a quick look around, I slipped it into a pocket in my underskirt. It was the first apple I had ever picked and the first thing I had ever stolen.

I was wearing clothes that were not my own; an old, patched up blue dress with layers of grey skirts and stays for my growing woman’s shape. On my feet were falling apart brown leather shoes, worn down from all the walking and work. My hair, dirty and unwashed for days like the rest of me was a cherry red colour which shone gold in the full sun or moonlight. It was tied in a bun under a strip of cloth that covered my head.

I carried on picking apples all day. Stopping only a few times to sip ale and nibble mouldy bread. The other workers didn’t speak to me, energy was wasted by talking and there was too much to do. Also, they all thought I was a mute. The apples in their wicker baskets were loaded onto a cart and taken into a stable to be sorted. Some apples were to be sold at the markets and others made into cider.

The sun set and some of us retreated to little huts the farmer had given us for the harvest season. The rest of the workers went to houses or other places they had in the surrounding villages. We ate a weak stew then in a haze of peat smoke, pipe tobacco and sleepiness, I slipped outside.

A few feet away was my hidey hole. It was a little nook in a tumbled down animal shelter. I had made a seat out of some of the wood and placed straw on the floor. There was a holder for a small candle and a worn blanket. I wrapped myself up and lit a candle. I listened but there was only the sound of the wind and animals.

I took the stolen apple out from my pocket. I had eaten apples of course but not for a while now. Not since I had left my Sisters. I rubbed the waxy surface of the apple then bought it to my nose and breathed in deeply of the fresh, sweet and fruity scent. I bit into the apple, the flesh and juice were too sugary and crisp. It all returned me to my past.

The memory of my Sisters made tears prick my eyes. I had been born into them and grew up not knowing anything else. I had learnt many languages, to read and write them. I had learnt potion making of all kinds, casting, calling, spells both defensive and inflicting, herbs by all their names and their many usages, prayers and songs, baking and mending, romance and the weakness of men and monsters, plus so much more.

We lived in large groups in many cities, towns and villages. We had Temples which some of us also lived in though most preferred houses with their families and or other Sisters. My home was a white Temple in a fine old city. We had a patch of land that was a small farm where we grew fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants. There were also animals; chickens, cows, rabbits, bees, dogs, cats, ravens and owls.

We had been in harmony with all peoples and nature. We had been looked upon for help in a whole range of problems; sickness, death, childbirth, crop and animal failures, wars and feuds, blessings, future readings, advice, teachings and lots more. Then something had happened four years ago, some turning of the tide that caused the Sisters downfall.

War had knocked upon us. The people rose against us declaring us bad and forgetting all we had done of them. The Sisters fought back but the enemies were numerous, over powering and driven by unquenchable rage. We were torn apart. Our homes and Temples burnt with some of us still inside, the rest put to the blade or their deaths on show. We were hunted down like scared deer, not understanding why we had been turned upon.

I had been lucky, being only a girl of twelve I had escaped with some others into the crypts below. There our Fallen Sisters lay at their never ending rests. Their bodies wrapped in white sheets and tied with red ribbons. They were placed on stone shelves on top of each other with carved wooden symbols of our faith; bell, book, candle, crested moon, bunches of herbs, cats, ravens and owls.

In the middle of the crypts were the highly decorated marble sarcophagi some of which had effigies on them and there were also statues of the High and Supreme Priestess or Sorceresses. Candles, incense, fresh flowers and prayers were constantly supplied into the crypts and long Fallen In Memoria ceremonies took place day and night down there.

When we escaped, we were meant to stay together but in the darkness and vastness of the jungle we lost each other. I had wanted to go back, I had tried hard to but somehow I had never been able to find my home again. Perhaps it had been a spell cast by the Sorceresses to keep all the novice witches safe? I would never known.

Needing shelter, food and places to hide, I found work on farms. Hard work but at least no one saw me as anything other then an orphan girl on the run. I was too traumatised to speak for a long time and the label of ‘mute’ stuck to me but I found it easy to wear this mask. I didn’t have to answer any questions and say anything which might reveal or create suspicion to what I was.

Novice Sisters didn’t get the tattoos, clothes and jewellery of the faith until they became of age at sixteen then they were called Practitioners. Once everyone could see what you were it was too late to hide. That’s why only the girls had escaped and hardly hunting though I bet innocent girls had been put to fire or to water or just slain by swords.

I had the last bite of the apple and sat with the core in my hand. I thought about practising some magic on it, I still tried often to do things I had been taught. The risk of being caught stopped me. It was all a part of me though, I couldn’t forget or ever stop it no matter what I did. Magic and faith flowed through me like blood.

I transferred the light of the candle to another I had brought. I could have cast my own light but that was asking for trouble. Blowing out the first candle, I made the long way to the pig pens. There was no moon or stars in the sky, clouds were banking up there but I knew it wasn’t going to rain tomorrow. It was going to be another hot and dry autumn day.

A fat, pink pig happily took the apple core from me then snuffled back to sleep. I was half tempted to crawl inside his wooden house within him but instead I made my way back to my own bed.

I slipped through the door and into my cot. Pulling the harsh wool blanket over me, I tried to sleep. Around me, in other cots or chairs were ten or so people all fast sleep. There was snoring and mumbling, sounds of breathing and tossing, it all reminded me of the dorm room I had slept in at the Temple.

The fire was low, only a whisper of heat left within it. I could have brought it back to life and made it everlasting with no need for fuel. I could bend the flames to my will, ask them to burn this hut down, the farm and the apple trees, the people too if I wanted.

I could command the wind to fan the fire more, to blow a gale, destroy everything in its path. I could call water from the well, from the stream and the sky to cover everything and wash it all away. The earth would answer me if I whispered my wants to it, the ground could shake or spilt up and swallow everything.

Plants would be my allies, I could encourage them to grow fast, to wrap around and suffocate everything. I could speak to animals, bargaining with them to do tasks; to bring me food, to help me kill someone, to be my eyes and ears in another place.

There had been other Novice Sisters in my classes who could do things with energy from furniture and other things, pull out memories from minds, whisper thoughts into your head, make objects move and more. We each had our own gifts and talents, our favourite things to work with. Some found the powers easier to work with, others hard and some not at all.

I fell asleep and dreamed about one of those girls I knew, her name had been Aenwyn. For years, she didn’t show any magic abilities no matter what she did. Some of the other girls laughed at Aenwyn but we were friends and one day we were talking as we picked herbs. The smell of those things was heady, mixed in with strong wild garlic. Bees were buzzing in the air gathering honey for their hives. It was a hot, dry summer day.

‘Elenora, what will become of me?’ Aenwyn asked me.

‘Why Aenwyn,’ I answered, ‘you’ll get the best job of all! You’ll become a Matron. You’ll get to look after the Sisters, their daughters, you’ll work in the gardens, with the animals and in the kitchens too. You like baking bread and tending the rabbits, don’t you?’

Aenwyn nodded, ‘but I’d rather be like you, Elenora! You’ll become a druidess.’

‘Maybe, but I’d rather be an elementalist,’ I said, ‘imagine what you can do if you can bend elements to your wants?’

Aenwyn shook her head, ‘it is too great a power.’

I laughed and picked a blood red beetle off one of the baby leaves of sage. I shut my eyes in concentration and called upon the air to fly the beetle away. My request was granted and the beetled was lifted away and over the walls.

Aenwyn opened her mouth but her words were drowned out by the Temple bells, it was time for afternoon prayers. Then we would read the books of our faith before washing and changing to go for evening meal. Afterwards, we would finish our daily tasks, put the animals to bed then change and wash again for the nighttime chants and prayers then it would bedtime as the sunset.

We had lived by the callings of the bells, the tasks set to us by Matron Sisters, Tutor Sisters and Dorm Sisters. Our lives were structured, we knew what to do within each hour by heart. We knew our duty, our destinies, the powers within us until everything was uprooted by the war against us.

Someone was shaking me awake. The faint ringing of bells from my past in my ears. Waking, I saw an old woman, half her wrinkled brown face was covered by long, ragged, white hair, her simple peasant dress too loose around her wasting body.

The sun had rose and brought another day of apple picking with it.

To Be Continued…

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Rock God #FridayFictioneers

Tank looked up at the statue of a sliver car with the words ‘Rock Rogers’ scrawled across the side whilst his breathing echoed in the protection filter mask.

The earth’s ground air was too poison to breath and the humans that had survived through the V-Plague of the late twenty-first century now lived underground and the sky. Tank and his crew came from one of the sky communities and their mission today was only a close visualisation one.

‘They worshipped some strange Gods in the past,’ Tank muttered.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/03/18/20-march-2020/ with thanks).

Postcard Story

church-2188793_1920

Dear Alma,

Very cold, snow keeps coming. We are in old church, trying to keep warm. It feels wrong to burn fire inside but if we don’t we’ll die. There is little food and water, we are trying best to survive. Must hold out till support and supplies arrive.

It’s wrong to go war with Russia in winter. The people are use to it and know how to survive. We don’t and are badly equipped. I fear I never see you again and this church will become my grave. I hold tight to memory of you and pray all time for saviour.

love, Viktor

Dear Diary

journal-2850091_1920

Dear diary, it’s snowing!

I woke up this morning, confused as normal about the darkness and what time it was but then I saw it was after nine and time to get up. I drew back the curtains and saw huge flakes of snow that were falling quickly to an all ready snow covered garden.

It made me happy. Snow always has that effect on me. I guess because it reminds me of being a child and all those winters spent in snow covered countries skiing with my dad. I’ve not been on a slope, real or fake since his death four years ago.

It still hurts too much because that was our thing. The one activity that my mum couldn’t take away from us. I’ve not actually spoke to her since his funeral. I want to forgive her, I really do but it’s just so hard. She ruined my childhood with all her venom for dad.

I know though that in the next few months she wants to a solid part of my life again because of the baby. I’m hoping that might help fix things between us. She has repeatedly told me how sorry she is and how she’s moved on. I know things weren’t all her fault and it’s not like dad caused their marriage breakdown.

They were just teenagers, first time lovers, when mum got pregnant with me. They married because that’s what mum’s dad wanted. Granddad was old fashioned and wanted right done by his only child. Eight years or so later, they decided they couldn’t be together anymore.

Mum said dad ruined her, if she hadn’t got pregnant, if she hadn’t married, she could have had a life, a better career and met someone like her current second husband who was far more suitable for her then dad had ever been. And that’s what I heard all throughout my life even when I had grown up and left, the little contact I had with mum she would always have to bring stuff up like this.

Lately though, mum’s contact has all been remorseful and calm. She said she felt I was old enough to understand her position better now that I was married and pregnant myself. She hoped I’d have sympathy for her, be able to let everything go and we could start again because she did want to be a grandmother.

I would like that. I would like to fully trust her and for us to have a relationship. I know dad would want that too, he was always telling me not to blame him or mum for them hating each other. They were young, they were forced into things. Everyone makes bad choices, it’s the way of the world.

 

Frozen In Time #WUWritingPrompt

The windows were crazed by icy lines as if a spider had gone hyperactive and spun it’s web madly. Frost lay inside the house as well as out, showing that this place had long been abandoned to nature.

My breath fogged before my face and I had cover my mouth and nose with my scarf. Dust lay thick and a crumbled calendar on the wall was dated ten years ago.

I didn’t fear the homeless, drug users or anyone else who might be here because the house wasn’t suitable. It was colder then outside and the water was frozen in the pipes. Plus, this house was far from anywhere else. My guess was it could have been the game keeper’s home from what had once been a big estate before the land had been sold off for the building of new houses.

I photographed what interested me, taking my time and enjoying this experience of untouched urban exploring.

A lone mug stood on the windowsill as if someone had been drinking tea whilst looking out at the winter snowstorm. I captured that moment feeling like it summed up the atmosphere in the house.

 

(Inspired by; https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/2020/01/06/enzo-stephens-just-stay-home/ with thanks).

Leaf Pile

maple-leaf-4597501_1920

Raking leaves should have been my son’s job, just as it was mine as a kid. However, my son is gone and has been for twenty-three years. He had been ten years old, a boy full of life which had been cut short.

I pause in my raking, leaning on the smooth wooden pole as I get my breath back. Looking up at the left front window of my house, I see my wife standing there. She is stroking her short white hair, her mouth moving as she speaks but her eyes are not watching me, they are staring into the distance.

The dementia has her mind in a tight grip of late and some days she doesn’t know who she is. In my heart I know she doesn’t have much longer to live but I can’t let her go. I wave at her and get no response back. She carries on playing with her hair and speaking either to herself or to someone she thinks is there but has long since passed away.

Getting back to work, I pull the dry leaves together into a pile, freeing the grass from the quilt blanket the leaves create. I wouldn’t burn them but put them on the composed heap to be used in planting my show flowers in the spring. Garden is the only thing I have left to enjoy now.

The front door opens and I hear my wife shouting. Her words are garble and it’s hard to pick out what she’s trying to say. She pulls at her hair and dress as she comes down the path.

‘What is it, Olive?’ I call.

She ignores me, trapped in a world of her own.

I go over and leaving the rake against the side of the house. She’s clearly in distress but there is no way she can tell me what’s wrong. It could be she believes she is in a different time and some moment there has triggered the upset.

I talk to her softly, calming her though she seems unaware of me, ‘it’s fine, whatever it is. I can help. You are okay. I’m here.’

I reach for her but she waves my hands away and carries on shouting out what seems to be just random words, ‘not here! Gone! Come back! Where is he? Don’t know what to do! Alex! Alex! Frog in the hallway. Frog, frog, frog! Gone! Gone!’

It’s hard when she gets like this. I want to get her back inside and sat down but she would fight me all the way and last time she pushed me down and I almost broke my arm. I know I’m too old to deal with her now and leaving her care to a specialist would be best. I can’t though. I can’t let her go….

I pick up a stray leaf and press it into her hands.

‘Look Olive, isn’t it pretty? Listen to the sound it makes,’ I say.

She crunches the leaf, tears it up and lets the bits fall from her hand. She stares in fascination.

I give her another and another. She crunches them in her fist and tosses the leaf pieces to the wind. They blow around in the breeze and she watches them go.

I take her hand and led her to the pile of raked up leaves.

‘Where is Alex?’ she asks.

‘At school, my love,’ I reply.

I can’t explain that he’s been dead for years because she won’t understand and though it hurts, it’s easier to lie.

‘School?’ she repeats as she picks up leaves and plays with them, ‘he never comes home. Never. I miss him….When will he come? When, when?’ she cries with desperation.

‘Soon, dear, soon,’ I reply gently, ‘come back inside now. It’s cold out here and you are not wearing a coat.’

I take her arm and guide her away. She starts muttering to herself again, words I can’t catch or understand.

Once inside, I get her in front of the TV, feet up and wrapped in a blanket. Her eyes are distant. She isn’t here, she’s off in the past, some place I might not remember or don’t want to recall.

I stay with her until she is settled enough to be left again. The news is on the TV but she’s not watching it but the sounds of the voices help her to feel not alone.

‘I’m going out again but I’ll be there if you need me. It’s getting dark and I want to finish,’ I say.

She says something which is lost on me.

I get up, go to the front door and on the mat is a crumbled brown leaf. I pick it up and take it outside, feeling a pain my heart that never goes.

Glass #WritePhoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Punch (Part 1)

punchinello-352052_1920

It was Chester’s last fete. No one was interested in Punch and Judy shows anymore. They had grown scary and not politically correct. Soon, he imagined, that everything would be offensive and no one would be able to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing and being put in jail.

Packing the puppets away, Chester knew he would keep them all. He would sell everything else- the red tent, the Italian style back drops and the small van he transported around in. He was in constant need of money and the puppets would have sold for a fair bit but he couldn’t part with them.

He put the doctor, clown and constable in one case. In the second went the crocodile, the dog with his string of sausages and the skeleton. The third was for the baby, Judy and Punch and his whacking stick. The four case, bigger then the others, which he hadn’t opened for this show contained the lesser used puppets of; the hangman, the devil, the ghost, the lawyer and the beadle.

Chester placed Judy then the baby inside. Finally, he picked up Punch. Feeling the weigh in his hands and studying the puppet, Chester felt the deep connection he had always had to this character.

Punch was wooden like the rest of the puppets and dressed traditional in a jester suit of red and yellow trimmed with a matching cone hat complete with pompom at the end. He had yellow painted stockings, red and shoes. His face was hand painted with a long hooked nose which was bright red end, wide teeth flashing grin, red lipstick lips, red circle cheeks, staring blue eyes and just the hint of flock grey hair coming out from under the hat.

Chester slide his hand inside the puppet and brought him to life with simple movements. Whispering words in Punch’s squeaky, high pitched voice, Chester felt like he was saying a final farewell to what had been his life since he could first remember.

The shows had been his grandfather then his father’s trade and naturally Chester had followed them. The puppets, who had been repaired and repainted over the years had belong to his grandfather. It was hard to get good looking traditional puppets like this now, collectors went crazy over them.

Sliding Punch off his hand, Chester placed the puppet in the case. He closed the lid and wondered if he would ever get the puppets out to perform again.

He took the cases to his grey van then drove back to pack up the rest of his show. As he did so, he noticed some of other stalls packing away too. It had been a good crowed for the autumn harvest festival in this farmer’s field and the weather had held too.

The smell of pies, cakes, cheeses and burgers had filled the air all afternoon. Children had ran about laughing, holding balloons, candy floss and over sized stuffed toys won from the game stands. The music and noises of the fairground rides in the field next door had become background to everything else.

Chester drove his van back to the car park, made sure it was locked tight and walked back to the field. He brought a few last minute things – a pie, some cheese and a fancy bottle of fruity wine. He walked passed the craft and snack stalls into the tea tent.

They were still just about serving. He got a cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake. Sitting at one of the empty tables – of which there were many- he people watched and listened to the chatting.

The creeping feeling of being alone came across him. He was an old man now in his mid-sixties. His wife was dead, his only son moved to Sweden for work then stayed due to marriage and two children. Chester had meet his grandchildren once or twice. He didn’t have a good relationship with son or his wife, there was too much bitterness there. Nor was Chester a fan of being called ‘farfar’ the Swedish for grandpa.

He kept his distance, just like he had done with other family members. They had frowned at his career choices, said he was too close to his puppets, thought he was odd and the black sheep of the family. He was best written out and forgotten about.

Chester sighed and finished eating and drinking. He sat until the tea tent closed and an old woman shooed him out.

The fete was slowly closing but Chester walked through the prize flowers, veg and fruit and autumn themed displays as they were packed away. It was always nice to look at the hard work of other people and celebrate their achievements which were so unlike his own.

After, he crossed fields and wandered around the fairground. There were many rides all being lit up as the evening darkness arrived showing that though the fete might have ended the night was still young here.

The air smelt of greasy burgers, hot dogs, chips, melted cheese and burning donuts. There was also a smokiness from all the grills and the sweet smell of sugary treats.

Adults, teenagers and children crowded the muddy pathways. Their voices raised above the booming music to point out a ride they wanted to go on or a food stall they wanted to visit. Ticket booths had queues outside and there was an atmosphere of a party.

Chester walked passed the rides, noticing ones he recognised from his youth; whirling waltz, bumper cars, carousel, helter skelter, haunted house and the ferries wheel. 

He looked at the game stalls. Grab a duck win a goldfish! Throw three darts pop a balloon for a prize. How many hoops can you score? Tin can alley knock down them all. Ladder climb, ring the bell at the top to win! Bingo. Horse Derby Racing. Whac-A-Mole and finally, the one he wanted; Shoot ‘Em Out

He paid for three rounds, heaved the air rifle to his shoulder and aimed at as many targets he could. The rife give a kick back he recalled from the real thing. In a flash, Chester saw himself in the woods with his grandfather and father shooting deer, rabbits and pheasants.  

Chester focused on the moving targets like they were real animals. His score came close the first tine. The second and third rounds, he shot down enough to win two medium or a large prize.

‘What do you want?’ the grumpy looking vendor man asked Chester and began pointing out the stuffed toys as he named them, ‘a tiger, a unicorn, a panda, a dog or one of these kids movie characters?’

Chester looked across to the other prizes and the vendor continued, ‘the medium ones are a fish, a turtle, a teddy bear, a rabbit….whatever.’

The vendor shrugged his shoulders then crossed his arms over his stained waist coat. 

‘Two teddy bears, please. One white and one brown,’ Chester replied. 

Begrudgingly the the game’s owner handed them over. Chester thanked him and walked away. He would keep the teddies to send to the grandchildren for Christmas. He started to head back to his van but his stomach growled at the scent of food. 

Why not? It’s a two hour drive home now, Chester thought.   

He brought a burger then some chips which tasted much better. For the trip home, he got some bottled water, sweet rock pieces, sticky toffee and hard humbugs.

Back in his van, he sucked on a black and white, minty humbug and tried not to feel tried. Starting the engine, Chester looked in the rear view mirror into the back of the open van.

‘Right, Punch,’ Chester spoke, ‘I hope you’ve had a good last show because it’s time to go home for the last time now.’

To Be Continued…

Mirror #WritePhoto

At the bottom of my great-grandfather’s land is a small shallow pond. In the summer, my younger brother, Dusty, and I would go to stay with him, great-grandma and Grant, one of our many cousins. We would spend all day playing outside. Unless it was raining then we would play in the barns.

Those were our golden days. We became wild children of the woods with no cares or worries. We would play all kinds of games, forge for food and create worlds of our own. Sometimes, the sound of the farm would bring us back to reality; the mooing of cows, the bleating sheep, a tractor engine.

We would stay out for however long we pleased then return to the large farm house for a hot meal, bath and bed. The fire in the kitchen would always be lit, no matter how hot it was outside.

The pond had held a fascination for both of us. It was where the Lady Of The Lake rose up from and give us Excalibur to help us on quests. In other stories; the water had magical powers, drinking it could bring you back from the dead or kill you or give you protection. Whatever we needed it to be in that particular moment.

The pond was also home to the ‘Bogoh monster’.  He’d wait in the depths of the mud then crept out, grip you and try to drown you. He took on many different forms but was mostly like a kacken creature with a hundred eyes and two thousand tentacles!

We saved each other countless times from the Bogoh. It was one of my brother’s favorite stories.

I don’t know how many years, perhaps around thirty?- it’s been since I last stood at the edge of the pond. It seems a lot smaller then I remember but then so does everything else.

Looking down into the rippling water, it’s like seeing into a mirror reflecting my past. My younger self playing with Dusty, who has stayed eleven every since that day.

I can hardly remember it. There was a storm, we had gone to the nearest barn but Dusty had forgotten something and went back to get it. I thought he’d taken shelter somewhere else but next morning, Grant found him floating face down in the pond.

The Bogoh had gotten him.

Tears drop from my eyes, I brush then harshly away. I didn’t really want to come here but I had to say goodbye. All this has been sold, tomorrow work will start to make it gone and soon there’ll be houses built on my childhood world.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/08/22/thursday-photo-prompt-mirror-writephoto/ with thanks).