There is A House

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The house sit in the middle of the woods looking out of place and yet there something about it that made it seem like it had always been there.

Vines and climbing flowers covered the white stone walls whilst weeds grew out of the cracks in the brown roof tiles. Flowers grew at the doors and windows, masking holes and dirt. The trees surrounding made the house look like it was playing hide and seek. The sun just got through to the house and made dapples of light and shadow on the walls and windows.

They called her a witch, a crazy animal lady, a mad woman, someone to void because she wasn’t ‘one of us.’ The children teased each other to go visit her house, maybe knock on the door. The teenagers threw things at her, broke into her house, spread dirty rumours about her. The adults ignored her, muttered about her to their neighbours, shunned her from their society.

I knew different though. She wasn’t some crazy old hippy, hermit lady or a witch making potions and casting curses. She wasn’t mean or in league with daemons nor was she an outcast of society or someone to be feared and hated.

She was a nun, Sister Benedicta.

I visited her about once or twice or a month after we had first met and she had saved my life when I had been ten years old. It had been a stupid dare by my older step-sister and I had eaten poisonous berries. My step-sister had left me there in the woods, being sick and crippled by stomach cramps.

Sister Benedicta or Benny as she liked to be called, heard me crying and thought me a sick animal. I was too ill to escape her and far too sick to worry about her killing me and cooking me in a pot.

She nursed me back to health and told me her stories.

‘But why does everyone make stuff up about you? They fear and hate you but they are nothing like what they said,’ I had asked.

‘Because when I first came here to spread the word of God and help the sick, a man fell in love with me. I rejected him because I was all ready married to God. He spread rumours about me. Called me a witch and made everyone question my nature,’ Benny replied.

‘Was there nothing you could do?’ I asked.

‘No. He was a Lord and everyone knew his power and they trusted him. He was handsome and could have any woman he wanted. Not being able to have me, made him bitter. The villagers cast me out and I found this abandoned woodman’s cottage and made it my own.’

‘And the Lord?’ I questioned.

‘I don’t know. Who rules this land now, Child?’

I told her and with a nod, Sister Benedicta said, ‘that must be his son then.’

‘If he’s gone, why don’t you come out and tell everyone that you are a nun?’ I suggested.

Benny shook her head, ‘I’m too old for that and I am happy enough to end my days like this soon.’

‘The perhaps, I can do something….’

‘Bring me food when you can and books, paper and ink, perhaps wool to knit with and cloth to sew.’

Ten years later, I was still bring things to Sister Benedicta. I was married with two children and had a little farm to run. I brought Benny whatever was in season, wood for her fire in the cold months and crafts to fill her days with.

I tried to get her to move in with me and my family but she refused.

‘I like to be with nature. I like to pray in quietness. Your farm sounds so pleasant but also so busy. I would only be in the way. I’m better here, living out my days until God calls me home.’

‘As long as you are happy.’

‘I forever am.’

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).

St. Mary’s Retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transition #WritePhoto

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It wasn’t the priest hole in the wall or under the floor the Catholic priest had been expecting. Looking out of the small arched doorway, he could see a neat flagstone path leading to a small hut covered with ivy.

‘The well house,’ one of the maids explained.

‘Oh,’ was all he could reply.

The maid led the way with a quick step and the priest still clutching his bible followed her.

They left the family and other servants in the chapel behind, hurriedly tidying things away. Then everyone scattered as on the other side of the house, the guards and pursuivant entered through the main door and began their search for Catholics.

The maid open the hut’s door and rushed inside. The priest followed, closing the door behind him. He looked around in the gloom and saw the moss clinging to the walls and before him the huge construction of the well. Above ran thick wooden beams and there was a system of pulleys and weights to the left side.

The maid was turning the handle which was causing a long pole to also turn and a thick rope began to twist around the pole as the bucket was drawn up.

‘Where am I to hide? The guards will search in here!’ the priest cried for he could see no where safe.

‘In the well,’ the maid gasped.

‘In there….’ the priest trailed and looked over the edge of the solid wall of the well.

He couldn’t see anything but darkness.

‘They won’t look for you down here,’ the maid added.

The priest looked towards the door, ‘is there no where else in the house?’

‘Not that I know. I was told to bring you here. The bucket is coming up now,’ the maid pointed out.

The priest stood back as the rope came to an end and the bucket full of water appeared.

With some effort, the maid pulled the bucket over and unattached it. Water sloshed on the floor and splashed up her skirts. From the corner, she brought out an empty bucket and attached to to the rope. Then turning to the small window sill, she did something the priest could not see.

‘Here’s a candle,’ the maid said, lighting a thin white candle and handing it to the priest, ‘there’s a ledge down there for you to stand on. When the bucket gets there shout stop and I shall try to do so. Blow the candle out when you can. We shall come and get you when the guards have gone.’

Nodding the priest, helped put the bucket into the well then climbed in. Juggling Bible and candle in one hand, he held the rope with his other then watched the maid lowering him in.

The wet walls of the well rose up above him and the priest watched for any ledges sticking out. The candle flame fluttered and wax droplets burnt his hand. The priest held tightly on, feeling his stomach aching. Then meters down the well, he saw the ledge.

‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ he screamed upwards.

The bucket jerked and he heard the echoing strains of the maid trying to hold on. The priest scrambled out and found to his shock that the ledge was just enough for him to stand upon. Almost tripping on his robes, he nearly tumbled backwards and the candle fell from his hand.

Hugging the wall, he pressed his face into the cold, wet stone and took a few deep breaths. He shut his eyes and started praying hard as the bucket went down passed him. Further below, he heard it hit the water and then the bucket began to raise up.

The priest stood in the pitch darkness for so long he lost track of the time and his repeated prayers. At one point, he thought he heard voices above and the maid had returned for him but no bucket came down.

God delivery me for this, he thought, bring me peace.

What felt like a long, long time later, the priest heard movement and the creaking of wood. Gently, moving his face from off the wall, the priest looked up but could not see anything for awhile. Then a light, like the Spirit of God, shone down and the priest saw the bucket and a candle inside.

He grabbed the bucket, pulling on the rope to signal he had it. Taking the candle out, the priest climbed inside and tugged on the rope again. The bucket swung then he as lifted up and up till at last he could see the lips of the well.

He reached the top and all put fell out of the bucket as two male servants tried to help him.

The priest rested against wall, sipping wine that someone had pressed into his hand and shaking his head whilst repeatedly saying, ‘never again, never again.’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/05/23/thursday-photo-prompt-transition-writephoto/ with thanks).

The Walk Home #WeeklyWritingPrompt

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Even though he had to work on Sunday, Nick always went to church afterwards. Sitting on the cold wooden pews, he stared at the alter watching the candles flickering against the stone wall and stained glass arch window above. Nick shut his eyes and prayed, thanking God for his second chance, for removing his sins and his needs now being meet.

Not long ago, Nick was barely surviving his fourth year on the streets. Newly released from jail for robbing shops, houses and cars, he found himself with hardly anything. He couldn’t get a job and when he spent all the money he had, he found himself with no home. There seemed nothing else left for him to do but die in the gutter.

However, death had left him alone and during his first snowy winter on the streets, Nick had often visited churches and other holy places that left doors open. There he had found himself again through religion.

Years later, with the help of a few kind people, Nick had turned over a new leaf and found employment in maintaining the cities’ churches. An old victor had allowed him to live in a tiny vicarage which was very basic but at least it was warm and dry. To Nick it was the best home he had ever had.

Leaving the church, he made his way through the graveyard. It was snowing heavily again and some of the smaller headstones where almost covered. Nick was careful and respectful in his walking, he tried not to disturbed anything. His breath misted in front of his face and snow fell on his worn coat and rubber boots. He didn’t shiver or really feel the freezing air, he was use to the cold now.

Leaving deep footprints, he went through the open gate at the end of the graveyard and along the path to the vicarage. Snow lay thick on the roof of the building and also on the window sills. There was little arched porch at the front and Nick huddled underneath. He shook the snow from his coat and boots then dug in his pockets for the key.

In the quietness, Nick putting the key in the lock and opening the door sounded louder then normal. Heading in, he turned the light on and felt a brush of warmth. Taking his his things off in the hallway, he went into the small living room and looked out. It was dark outside but thanks to the streetlights reflecting off the snow, Nick could make out some of the graveyard and the church.

‘I wouldn’t like to be out there right now,’ Nick mumbled, ‘thanks for my new life.’

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2019/01/21/weekly-writing-prompt-177/ with thanks).

Open Door #TaleWeaver

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Even now, in the middle of nowhere, in the the heart of darkness and grip of the coming winter, did people still keep the candles burning in the old tiny chapel.

If by chance you came across someone and asked them why, they would reply, ‘to keep the evil spirits away. Pray there to be kept safe before continuing your journey.’

You would go and do that. Enter the tiny white building with lots of light spilling out of the door and single window. Take off your snowflake covered hat and kneel before the baby alter. Pray for safe passage through the Nomad Mountains and ask God to protect you from evil spirits, Amen. Then you leave and make it safely back home.

Or perhaps, that response would amuse you because you don’t believe in such things. You carry on, not going inside the chapel but merely glancing at the light pouring out of the tiny building. You walk into the mountains, where you hear crying and screaming. Darkness rolls over you, consuming you and you never make it home.

Somethings are not worth the risk.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/tale-weaver-192-an-open-door-october-11th/ with thanks).

Ubuntu #atozchallenge

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Ubuntu; the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness toward others.

It was a way of life for all who followed that path; helping those who could no longer help themselves.

Modern Love

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I liked the new girl. She was quiet, polite and hardworking, plus she knew how to be a receptionist unlike the last woman! She had been here three months now and we were a good team. Settling into lunch that day which sadly was a working lunch like the many we had to have due to staff shortages, she suddenly switched the conversation.

‘Emma? Can I asked you a personal question?’

‘Sure, Alia,’ I replied. There was nothing I liked better then talking about my life.

‘How did you met your boyfriend?’

I looked at her. She was dressed in her normal long black coat, floor touching black skirt, loose and long black top and a black hijab which covered her head and neck, only showing her dark face. I had often wondered if she was in mourning since she was always dressed in black, but I hadn’t been able to bring myself to ask.

In contrasted, I always dressed in bright colours, favouring; blues, greens, purples and whites. I wore knee or ankle length skirts with leggings or tights, some days I put on trousers. My blouses and tops were sensible enough but some of them did draw focus to my large chest. I’d wear a matching jacket or cardigan as needed. With it being late summer, my skin was lightly tanned. I wore my long med brown hair up or down, depending on how I felt.

I had never seen even a wisp of Alia’s hair so I didn’t know what colour it was. she didn’t wear any makeup either whilst I went through the whole colour plate in time with the seasons and the weather. We both wore glasses- me thin metallic purple frames and her’s thick, round and black old fashioned frames.

I also carted a large and very full handbag around with me, whilst Alia seemed to keep everything in the deep pockets of her coat. Alia had a ring of keys attached to her which constantly made sounds as she moved and reminded me of the housekeeper in The Secret Garden movie.

‘My boyfriend?’ I questioned.

Alia nodded and waited for me to launch into the story. She was use to my length talks now.

‘On a dating website,’ I answered, ‘that’s where I’ve meet all my boyfriends, expect the ones I dated in education. I guess I find it easier, you know? I have a habit of creating bad first impressions with men. Plus, there’s so many different kinds of men you can meet and I’ve found it far better then bars and nightclubs.’

‘Oh,’ Alia responded.

‘Of course, if I could meet a boyfriend naturally I would do. I like the build up of friendship then the slow falling in love and the realisation of it,’ I explained then give a small shrug.

‘So, you’d like it as a fairy tale? Love at first sight?’ she asked.

‘That would make it easier, wouldn’t it? But life doesn’t happen like that.’

I laughed and give a little shake of my head.

The phone rang and our conversation was interrupted by someone making an enquire. After I had dealt with them I turned back to Alia.

‘Why did you want to know anyway?’ I asked her.

She looked a little guilty and there was a slight flush to her cheeks, slowly and almost in a whisper she said, ‘because I would like one.’

Alia pulled her hijab to cover more of her face as if she had told me a dirty secret and now needed to hide away.

I thought over her words for a moment. Sipping my water slowly.

‘And why can’t you?’ I asked.

She didn’t reply and had suddenly found something to do on the computer before her which totally had all of her focus. She ignored me as if I hadn’t spoken.

Casting my mind about, I wondered if Alia came from a family were arrange marriages were traditional. Perhaps, her parents were very strict about her seeing men? I wouldn’t know the truth if I didn’t ask, but I was nervous too and knew it would effect how I saw Alia.

Instead, I asked, ‘you know, online dating is normal now. It’s how most people met. Would you like me to show you how to sign up? I’ll put you on the free site I used. I meet my current and last three boyfriends off there.’

‘But how did you know they were….okay?’ Alia asked.

She looked at me shyly over her shoulder.

‘Well, because I set myself some rules and stuck by them. Plus, once you’ve talked to them online for a bit you get a feel for them. Then you can meet up with just the ones you want too. You have to meet in a really crowd place that you know well. Like in town,’ I added.

Alia waited for me to go on. Her interest peaking and her expression becoming more relaxed.

So, I did, ‘and never go to their houses or a location they suggest that you are not happy with. Art galleries and museums make for good first dates. Or meals out. Whatever you feel comfy with.’

She nodded.

‘So, would you like my helping signing up?’ I asked.

Alia paused then in small voice said, ‘yes, please.’

I smiled broadly and wheeled my desk chair over to her corner. With my help Alia would be fine and I’d make sure she found a suitable boyfriend.

Chapel Keys

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It had been a long day of spreading God’s message, but the two Mormon men were still happy. As they walked down the street, dressed in their fine suits, back to their rented apartment they were tried but still prepared to greet anybody who crossed their path.

A clunking sound and clattering of metal on metal made them pause. They glanced down and saw they had just walked over a rain grid. The tallest one patted his pockets and came to a realisation.

‘The chapel keys! They’ve fallen out of my pocket!’  he declared.

‘Double check,’ the other suggested.

The first did then shook his head and looked down into the gloom of the drain pipe.

‘We’ll have to get them,’ the second replied.

With a nod to each other, they hurried to their apartment were they gathered torches, ropes and buckets. Heading back, they removed the grid, which was heavy and shone their torches down.

A small stream of  dark, dirty water was running by and the keys on their long thin rope could just be seen underneath.

The Mormons quickly set to work. They tied ropes to the handles of the buckets and lowed one down at a time to try and scoop the keys up.

A heavy set man walking his small white dog passed by them.

‘Lost something have ya?’ he asked.

The Mormons nodded and the first one replied, ‘yes.’

‘Good luck,’ the man answered and walked away with his dog.

Setting back to work, they brought up bucket after bucket of sewage water but none contained the keys. Desperately, they tried to think of another plan, but nothing else other than praying came to their tried minds. So, they carried on.

Twenty minutes later, the man came back with his dog.

‘Still at it, huh? What ya lost anyway? Car keys?’ the man questioned.

‘The keys to the chapel!’ the first Mormon replied.

The second was hauling up his bucket and looking deeply grim.

‘Oh….Not good then?’ the man asked. He seemed to be holding in his laughter.

‘Not really…’

‘What’s that?’ the second Mormon cut in as he looked at the scrum in his bucket.

The first peered over and respond, ‘it’s the keys! You got them!’ and he pulled them out.

The keys and rope were covered with something unspeakable but the Mormons were so happy that didn’t seem to bother them at all.

‘Well, goodnight,’ said the man and calling for his dog, he walked down the street, trying to still his laughter.

The Mormons tidied up as best they could then headed back to their apartment. They thanked God doubly in their prayers that night.

(Based on true events)

Petrichor #atozchallenge

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Petrichor; the pleasant smell of the earth after rain. 

Everything smells better after it’s rained. There’s a cleanness in air which my ma said was God washing and cleansing everyone. I use to believe that without a doubt. Now though, I’m not sure. There’s so much I believed in as a child which has faded now I’m adult.

It’s strange how different things are after the rain. You notice the pools and reflections of things more. The sounds of splashing wheels and feet. The dripping of drops off things. I randomly remember a boy once telling me that the rain was actually a leak from Heaven’s showers.

I wondered for ages how that was possible and pictured angels having showers all together. Or God having a bath and all the water overflowing. Maybe that was the real reason behind a flood?

When you’re a child it’s easier to believe in these things. As an adult you are more logic and less imaginative. You know how rain is made and why it falls. The novelty of it has worn off too, like snow. I use to love snow! Now, it’s just a pain.

Even though, I know the truth behind things now, it doesn’t take the pleasure away from them. During the rainfall and afterwards, I open my window to let all the smells and sounds in. I sit on the ledge and take deep breaths till I feel calmer. I try to think of nothing at all, but sometimes like today, my mind wonders.

I look up at the sky, where the dark clouds roam and a few rain drops still linger. Are God and the angels up there right now having a bath and cleansing the poor below?