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.
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.
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.’
‘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.
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.
‘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; 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?
The horizon didn’t look like anything Peaches had imagined it to be. She had thought it was going to bright and colourful, like in the old photos and film reals she had seen, instead though it was a dull blue-grey.
‘Not the promises I was led to believe,’ she muttered.
She lent her too thin body forward and rested her chin on her knees. Her arms were tightly wrapped behind her knees, keeping the long wool skirt in place and stopping the strong breeze from getting in.
Around her all the children and some of the adults from the Church Of The Redeemed Evangelists were splashing in the salty water or playing in the sand or exploring the rocks and caves. Cries of delight but also screams of pain could be heard amongst the babble of voices.
Peaches ignored them all, feeling tried and empty of the hope she had been holding in for so long.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ a sharp female voice asked.
With only moving her eyes, Peaches looked up and realised she wasn’t the one being addressed. Before her was a small woman, wearing the clothes of a Senior Sister; a long black dress which completely covered her body and a black head dress with a grey trim. Next to her was a small girl with blonde hair in a blue wool dress who was crying and rubbing her face.
‘My eyes hurt!’ the girl cried.
‘I knew this trip to the surface world would bring nothing but troubles,’ the Senior Sister spoke loudly, ‘and what have you learnt out here? Nothing. It would have been better to remain in the Temple. Come along, child. We shall wash your face.’
Peaches watched the Senior Sister taking the girl’s hand and leading her away to the little camp set up in a sheltered spot. There were two other Sisters sat there and from their clothes Peaches could tell they were Mothers, the highest of the female order.
‘I don’t want that to be my fate,’ Peaches whispered.
She looked at the horizon again, it still seemed bleak. However, there could only be freedom on the other side.
Peaches cast a long look around then slowly got up. She made as if she was just walking along the rough sand. Finally, though she was out of sight and trying to figure out how she could reach her horizon.
(Inspired by a prompt from; https://scvincent.com/2017/03/09/thursday-photo-prompt-horizon-writephoto. With thanks).
Nathaniel braced himself for going outside. He could hear the wind and the rain knocking against the lighthouse door.
‘We’ll need the lantern again,’ Tom’s voice called from behind him.
Nathaniel glanced over his shoulder as the old station master lit the candle and closed the lantern’s door.
‘I won’t need to take my case. Just a few things,’ Nathaniel announced.
Opening his case on the floor, because there was nowhere else to search through it, Nathaniel dug out a large cross, a bible and a small bottle of Holy Water. Pausing he debated what else to take. He had never done this before, he was not that kind of religious man and he was more use to standing before the congregation and leading them in hymens and prayers.
‘You ready now, Father?’ Tom’s voice spoke out.
Nathaniel nodded and closed his case. Then he followed Tom to the door and they both stepped out into the bad weather. The wind blew hard around them, making sounds like a crying person as it swept around the marsh. Rain hit and blinded them, making the walk down the rock steps difficult. The candle flame in the lantern flickered and Tom had to hold the side with the broken panel close to him to stop the light from going out.
Slowly they arrived at the edge of the low bridge and Nathaniel blinked away the rain in his eyes. He could hardly see though and he thought for a few moments he could hear the very distant sea pounding on the rocky shore. The light from the lighthouse flashed by and for a few seconds, Nathaniel thought it was lightening and the sound he had mistaken for the sea had actually been thunder. Then though he looked up and saw the lighthouse beam turning slowly around.
‘Here is good,’ Nathaniel said trying to be bold.
‘I thought you might want to go more in the middle!’ Tom shouted over the wind, ‘closer to where the boy died.’
‘And where did he-?’ Nathaniel cried then the words were snatched from his mouth by a gust of wind.
‘No one knows for sure, but further out,’ Tom concluded after the wind finished whipping them.
Gritting his teeth, Nathaniel walked on, feeling the bridge under his feet and clutching the cross, bible and bottle to his chest. After a few paces he stopped again.
‘This is good enough! Bring the light here!’ he called out.
Tom moved closer till their shoulders were touching and they could huddle over the bible and lantern together.
‘What was the boy’s name?’ Nathaniel asked.
‘Paul, I believe!’ Tom shouted.
‘Paul? To the spirit of Paul, if you are out here, we do not mean you any harm, we wish to help you. Come towards us,’ Nathaniel began, ‘your sister has been worried about you for so many years, but now it’s time you went towards the light and up into Heaven. Your family is awaiting for you there. You will not have to be lonely or lost ever again.
Nathaniel paused for breath and felt Tom shivering violent beside him. A worrying thought entered Nathaniel’s mind; he did not two deaths in his hands tonight. Swallowing water that tasted salty, he held out the cross and hoped he was doing this right.
‘Paul come towards us now! Let us help you cross over! Go into the light, rise up to the Holy Father and Mother. I release you from this Earth and into their hands. Go now and be at peace!’
Giving the cross a little wave, Nathaniel then tucked it back in the crook of his arm and palmed the bottle of Holy water. Carefully he unscrewed the lid and let a few drops fall out before closing the bottle again. The wind snatched the Holy water drops away and mingled them with the rain. Whatever power they might have had seemed lost but Nathaniel hung on to his faith.
‘I bless this place!’ Nathaniel screamed into the wind, ‘I release all the spirits that have lingered! Go into Heaven! Go and be at peace! Go!’
The wind howled and pushed hard against them as more rain flooding down on them. Tom lost his footing and waved his arms around to try and keep his balance. The lantern light waved and flickered around. Nathaniel grabbed and held on to him, struggling to juggle the things in his hands too.
Somehow, they steadied each other and the light candle survived. Pushing Tom ahead of him, they made their way back to the rock steps. Behind him, Nathaniel swore he could hear people crying but it must have been the wind. Feeling their way up the rocks, like tried and injured sailors, they reached the lighthouse door.
Tom opened the door and they tumbled in, slamming the door shut and fighting the wind as they locked it. Tom set the lantern and himself down on the first step. Nathaniel slumped against the door and they both caught their breaths back.
‘Is it done?’ Tom finally asked.
‘I did my best,’ Nathaniel answered, ‘though with the storm it was hard to tell anything.’
Tom nodded, ‘best go up and tell her.’
Collecting the lantern again, Tom started climbing the stairs.
Nathaniel opened his case and placed the now wet cross, bible and bottle inside. Closing it again, he picked up the worn handle and trailed after Tom upstairs. Water dripped off them and back down the steps. In the quietness of the lighthouse they could both hear the storm now raging outside.
They reached Mrs. Fitz and found her comfortable in bed still.
‘It’s done,’ Nathaniel said coming to her side and sitting down.
The dying woman didn’t reply.
Nathaniel took her hand which she had just slipped back under the blanket. He patted the warm skin and began praying, whispering the words softly with a bowed head.
Tom moved to the other side of the bed, the handle of the lantern tightly clutched in both his hands. The candle flame still glowing behind the glass.
Nathaniel finished his prayer and just as he was about to start another, Mrs Fitz’s fading voice uttered, ‘thank you, Father.’
‘Your welcome. Sleep now,’ Nathaniel whispered back then he took up the Lord’s Prayer.
The storm carried on through the night, seemingly attacking the lighthouse but the building had stood for hundreds of years and was well use to taking on bad weather. As dawn finally broke, grey and watery, the wind quieted down and the rain turned back into a light drizzle.
Nathaniel finished his final prayer and looked up at Mrs Fitz’s face. She was gone.
Tom, having placed the lantern down hours ago when the candle had finally melted and go out, drew up a blanket and lay it over her face.
Nathaniel took in a few deep breaths and moved his stiff body. He stood up slowly, feeling weighed down by numb limbs.
‘Thank you, father,’ Tom whispered, ‘I know she will be fine now.’
‘Of course. She is at peace,’ Nathaniel said.
‘I shall walk you back to the station and signal a train to stop for you,’ Tom spoke out.
‘Thank you,’ Nathaniel replied as he collected his case, ‘might I go to the top of the lighthouse first?’
Tom glanced up then with a single nod turned towards the stairs. They went up and on the fourth floor was another bedroom this time with a double bed and dust growing thickly across everything. They went up again and Tom opened a heavy metal door and stepped out.
Nathaniel followed, feeling cold and wet air sweeping passed him. The huge light of the lighthouse which had now gone out dominated the roof floor. A rusty railing ran around the edge stopping anyone from falling off. Nathaniel went to over and looked out. Far in the distance, he thought he could make out the sea but all around him was the marsh. A stillness had settled over the tall grasses and stagnate water pools now, bring a calmness that seemed heavenly.
Nathaniel took a few deep breaths then thought he heard the sound of playful children laughing somewhere below him in the marshlands.
Nathaniel waited on the doorstep to the lighthouse listening to the rain and wind picking up. He knocked again, louder this time then felt a chill go up his spine.
What if I’m too late? he thought.
He reached for the door handle and tried it, the simple brass knob turned and the door opened on squeaky hinges. He shone the lantern in and though he had not given much thought to what he would find inside the lighthouse, he was pleasantly surprised.
Many years ago, someone had re-done up the lighthouse and turned into in a comfy home. The ground floor had been made into seem like the front hallway of a house. A light bulb with a white shade on it hung down from the ceiling. The walls were painted pale blue. A handmade rug covered a large area of the floor, an empty wooden hat stand stood next to wall hooks that held three coats and a small wire framed rack on the floor held a collection of boots and shoes.
Nathaniel collected his case and stepped inside. The stone spiraling stairs were straight ahead of him attracted to the wall on his left. Next to the stairs was a small table that held a very old fashioned phone and a vase of fake red roses. Then he spotted a totally out of place door set into the far wall with a little sign reading bathroom. He pondered this then wondered if he should take his coat and shoes off.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs, catching his attention.
An old man appeared coming down. He wearing a white shirt, blue jacket and blue trousers. A scrubby beard covered the lower half of his face and his blue eyes flashed with worry and panic.
‘Are you him?’ the old man cried, ‘Father Tawny?’
Nathaniel nodded, ‘yes, I am.’
‘I’m Tom, the station master…well, retired now. The trains don’t stop here any more. But I still volunteer from time to time. I was meant to meet you. But Mrs. Fitz, she begged me to stay with her in case she passed before you came,’ Tom gushed.
‘And is she…?’ Nathaniel trailed.
‘Hanging on, just about though…’ Tom added in a dropped voice.
‘Then I must- here,’ Nathaniel said and give the lantern to Tom, ‘Sorry, I stole it and broke it. I would not have made it across that marsh without it though, thank the Lord.’
Tom stared at the lantern as if he had never seen it before then nodded his head. He blew out the candle and placed the lantern down next to the table.
‘Come up, then,’ he spoke.
The old station master turned and led Nathaniel up the stairs. The first floor was a kitchen with the cooker, sink, work tops and cupboards special made to fit the rounded walls. A small fridge and freeze took up all the room under the stairs. A small table and two chairs stood in the middle. Above the sink was a net curtained window.
They carried up to the second floor which was a living room, once again the furniture had been made to fit the round walls. There was a sofa, an armchair, a TV stand, cupboards and a bookcase. Carpet covered the floor and wall lamps lit up the room. A window above the sofa had a curtain half drawn across it. Nathaniel marveled at it all. The place seemed so homely.
They climbed the third section of the spiral staircase and arrived in a dimly light room.
‘This is it. The bedroom,’ Tom pointed out as he came to a stop.
Nathaniel give a nod. Two small single beds was opposite them, bedside tables were either side with lamps on them, there was a small dressing table and a wardrobe tucked under the staircase which carried on upwards. A window was slotted between the two beds, a dark curtain pulled tightly across it.
‘Mrs. Fitz?’ Tom said softly and moved to the first bed.
Nathaniel followed him and saw an old woman laying in the bed. The blankets were pulled up tight around her so that only her face poked out. A white night cap was on her head, keeping her hair back. She seemed to be struggling to awake.
‘Sit down, Father,’ Tom said indicting a rickety wooden chair next to the bed.
Nathaniel placed his case down and sat.
‘Mrs Fitz? I’m Father Tawny. Shall we prayer together?’
The dying old woman’s eyes eased open and looked up at him.
‘Yes,’ she breathed through dry cracked lips, ‘but first you must do something for me.’
‘Hundreds of years ago, when the sea surround this lighthouse, the owners and men from the village use to wreak ships on the rocks by turning the light off. Then they would salvage what they could from whatever washed ashore,’ Mrs Fitz spoke.
Nathaniel frowned, wondering what that had to do with anything. He moved closer and listened more carefully as the dying woman began speaking again.
‘As a child, I would play with the children from the village and we played a game called Wreakers. In the early evenings, a few of us would be here and we would turn the light on and off as the other children pretended to be ships and tried to reach the lighthouse from the village across the marsh.’
Mrs Fitz stopped and drew in some shaky wheezy breaths.
‘Take your time,’ Nathaniel spoke gently.
Mrs Fitz wet her lips and continued, ‘one evening as we were finished playing Wreakers, I realised my younger brother had not returned. We set out looking for him, but we could not find him. I had to tell my parents and they with the other villagers searched for him. Finally, it was decided he had fallen into a deep marsh pool and drowned.’
‘Oh. I’m so sorry,’ Nathaniel uttered.
The bed clothes moved and a wrinkly weak hand appeared, reaching out to him. Nathaniel took it, clasping Mrs Fitz’s hand in between his. He brushed the cooling skin with his finger tips, trying to offer comfort to the old woman.
‘Please, Father. Go out into the marsh and help guide his spirit to Heaven. I hear him crying so often that I know he’s out there still. A little boy so lost and lonely.’ Mrs Fitz begged.
‘Yes, Of course,’ Nathaniel answered.
‘Do you need assistance, Father?’ Tom asked.
‘Go with him and be my eyes!’ Mrs. Fitz cried out.
‘I shall,’ Tom answered.
‘We will be back soon,’ Nathaniel uttered.
He stood and collecting his case followed Tom back down the stairs.
To Be Continued…
Nathaniel continued to shuffle his way across the low bridge. The candle light from the lantern barely penetrated though the darkness. What he could see of the marshland though, he decided he did not like. A soft breeze made the reeds and long grass rattle together and shadows played at the edge of his vision. The bull frogs were still croaking, now aware of his presence and letting all know about it.
The end of a prayer finished on his lips and he hurried to start up another. The flashing of the distant light stopped him. For a few seconds, the marshland lit up then faded into darkness again. Nathaniel tried to see if he was any closer but it was too difficult to say. Gathering himself, he walked on forgetting all his fears as the urge to just get there took over.
To take his mind off things, he thought about this morning and how everything had been so normal. Soon after lunch as he was heading over to the small village church which he was in his fourth month of being in charge of, a boy had shouted to him across the road. He had stopped and the boy had given him a telegram. It had been a simple request for him to come and tend Mrs Fitz at the Long Grave Lighthouse as she was dying.
Feeling duty bound, he had asked the boy how to get there. Then Nathaniel had dropped everything, packed a few important things in his case and caught the first train towards the coast.
‘I do not regret it,’ Nathaniel muttered through gritted teeth, ‘it can not be much farther now.’
The flashing light came by again and Nathaniel took his chance to try and see further ahead. Luckily, he saw a tall shape growing up out of the mash. Picking up his pace, he broke into a small run. The lantern jiggled in his hand, causing the light to splash everywhere.
He suddenly felt wetness on his face and looked up. He could hardly see but then he felt a fine rain began to fall. Praying it did not get heavier, Nathaniel hurried on until the tip of his walking boots caught a slightly raised plank of wood. He stumbled and unable to stop himself tumbled face down onto the bridge.
Moaning and gasping for breath, Nathaniel moved to curl into a ball. Pain was pounding through his chin, chest and knees. His vision was blurry and his head was swimming. Slowly, he looked up and tried to make sense of what had happened. As the worse of the pain subsided, he pushed himself into a sitting position and looked for his things.
He was in darkness. The candle gone out from the lantern. He waited till the lighthouse beam came around again the spotted the metal frame a little ahead of him on the bridge. Nathaniel pulled himself towards it and picked it up. A tinkle of glass told him that at least one panel of glass had broken.
From his pocket he took the matches and waited for the light to come back around. Then he opened the door, lit another match and tried to get the candle wick to take it. The match flickered out. He tried again and this time it worked. The light showed him what he had all ready guessed. A panel was gone and another was badly cracked.
Shinning the lantern around the bridge he search for his case. Not seeing it, he felt a lump in his throat. He looked over the side, praying it had not fallen into and/or sunk into a pool of mash water. Luckily, his case had just slipped down the side and it was safe. Nathaniel pulled the case up and checking it was okay, got to his feet.
Feeling better, he walked more carefully towards the lighthouse. Approaching the towering structure, the light which had been his guide started to blind him and Nathaniel had to keep looking away. He also noticed that large rocks were now dotted throughout the marsh and the closer he got the more the rocks loomed out of the darkness.
A lot fast then he now thought, Nathaniel came to the edge of the rock that the lighthouse sat upon. A small stone staircase, cut within the rock trailed upwards. He looked up and saw other lights shinning from the lighthouse. He shuffled onto the first step and began to climb upwards, keeping the lantern low so he could fully see.
At the top, he stopped and looked at the front door of the lighthouse which was now before him. Feeling a wave of relief that he had just about made it , Nathaniel placed down his case and knocked loudly on the the door.
To Be Continued…
Nathaniel arrived late at night on the tiny train station platform, tried and dirty from the journey. As the old steam train pulled away behind him, he looked around, loosely clutching his large case in one hand at his side. There was a small hut with a single door and window to his right. A light in an old fashioned black case with a fancy pointed dome on top hung over the door.
He went to the window and looked in, but it was dark inside. He tried the door but it was locked. Sighing, he walked away and back to the middle of the platform. There was nothing else here and no other source of light. For a few moments, he wondered if this was a dream; had he fallen a sleep on the train?
Then from far in the distance came a flash of white light and Nathaniel saw for a few seconds what lay before him. Stretching as far as he could see was a marshland. Large pools of dark water, some of which were half hidden by the giant reeds created moats around islands of tall grass. Unseen bullfrogs croaked loudly and splashed into the deep waters, their sounds the only thing that could be heard.
‘Yes, I’m dreaming,’ he uttered, ‘this can’t really be the place!’
He went back to the hut’s door and banged loudly on it. The lantern above his head swung, creaking on a short chain. No one answered the door.
‘Hello? Is anyone in there?’ Nathaniel shouted, ‘I’m Father Tawny and I’m looking for Mrs. Fitz. She called me to give aid in her dying hour.’
His voice faded and he listened hard but still heard nothing. At a lost for want to do, Nathaniel paced the tiny platform which was actually only a few feet across. His case swung about then he placed it down and carried on walking back and forth. Every so often he would see the flash of white light in the distance and catch a glance of the dark marshland.
‘God, I could do with some guidance,’ Nathaniel muttered, ‘how am I to get over there?’
He quickened his pacing as he tried to think. He went back to the hut again and double checked the door. He rattled the handle hard and without really meaning to give the door a sharp kick. Suddenly, the door handle and lock came away in his hand, the wood splintering loudly. Nathaniel stumbled backwards as the door squeaked open.
He looked down, seeing the handle and lock in his hand. Glancing around he made sure no one had seen him then walked into the hut. The door, he noticed had totally rotted away which had made it easier for the handle and lock to come away. He set them on a small desk and looked around in the gloomy light.
There was hardly anything inside the hut. He found a stack of tickets, a few pens, an empty water bottle, a box of matches, four candles and a large lantern. Upon realising this, he thanked God, collected the last three items and took them outside under the light above the door.
Inspecting the lantern, Nathaniel saw it was a simply made long rectangle with black iron and thick glass panels. The handle was a massive hoop like that of a door handle and seemed quite secure. The door was a latch lock and it took a few moments for Nathaniel to open it. Picking the biggest candle, he placed it inside and lit a match. The tiny flame glowed brightly then become two as the wick caught.
Removing the match, Nathaniel shook it out then closed the lantern door. The candle light made a nice circle to see by.
‘Thank you, Father,’ Nathaniel whispered.
Putting the other candles and matches into his long brown coat’s pockets, he picked up the lantern and his case. Moving the light around the platform, he walked to the nearest corner and looked down at the train tracks which led away from the mash. The distant white light flashed by and he turned his head towards it in time to see something at the opposite corner.
There was attached to the edge of the platform a wooden plank. He approached slowly, letting the light show him the way. The plank was attached to a second one then a third by thinning ropes on either sides. It was a bridge just above the marshland. The planks were dark, but dry and seemed to led towards the distance flashing light.
Nathaniel reached a booted foot out and stepped onto the plank. There was a small groan and slight shifting movement. He put his other foot on and uttering a pray moved on to the next one. The bridge held his weight and underneath him rose the smell of stagnate water with rotting vegetation. A bullfrog crocked loudly close by, startling him and Nathaniel saw the long legs of said bullfrog jump off the bridge and splash into a pool below.
Swallowing, Nathaniel tightened his grip on his case and lantern, started whispering another prayer and walked further into dark marsh.
To Be Continued…
(This story was originally written for Sue’s Thursday Photo Prompt Lantern. However, I decided it was too long and I wanted to divided it up into smaller parts, making it unsuitable for the prompt. Sometimes, my story ideas demand to be longer and I like to do them justice, so that what they want to tell can happen. So, please enjoy this story and if you like it please give me a like and share it with your friends. Feel free to leave comments too, I love hearing feedback and it helps inspire me to write more. Also, if you are not already please follow my blog. I’d love to get up to 500 followers this year! I’m currently at 327 followers. Thanks, Hayley)
It’s raining heavily and it’s really windy too. It sounds like a storm is happening outside and I wonder if there’ll be lightening and thunder. I might not see it though as I’m currently sat in my sanctuary tepee. The sound of the weather’s making me feel strangely calm, which is useful after the day I’ve had. Nothing has gone right today, diary. I was meant to be brave and go outside and met my friends for a day out shopping.
I got up and ready. I put on wool tights, my black wool skirt and my new fluffy blue jumper. Then I brushed my hair loose and put on make up! I was so happy and bouncing to go. I left way too early. Maybe that was apart of the problem. The bus was late and packed and I was soaking wet. My umbrella’s useless in this kind of weather!
Only a few minutes into the bus ride, I felt the edges of the first wave. People were too close and touching me and I didn’t want them too. The engine was vibrating under my feet so loud and my stomach went all wobbly. I shut my eyes and tried hard to fade into my music. I told myself that it was just nerves about seeing everyone again. I thought about what I’d buy from the shops, what we’d eat and talk about.
The wobbles settled a little, but I could still feel this panic growing with me. When we arrived, the bus emptied fast and I was caught in this tide pool of stampeding bodies. I knew I had to break out because I was being taken in the wrong direction. So, I scuttled to the side and pressed myself into the corner of the bus station. I was like a crab, desperate to avoid what was the incoming tide.
Why I’m thinking so much about the sea and beach today? Perhaps, because I know that helps. Anyway, so I get out of the bus station and on the street. It’s still rain and there are just people with umbrellas everywhere. I decided not to put mine up and just walk quickly to the shopping center. I ignore the people and just focus on where I’m going. That’s always a good technique to use. Then though, whilst I’m waiting for the light to change, someone bumps into the back of me.
I never saw his or her face. They were gone fast, over the road and around the coming cars. Of course, they couldn’t know how this simple act would effect me, but suddenly I felt like the bubble had burst. I become aware of all the people around me. The press of bodies as the crowd waited to cross over, office workers smoking outside their building, the flow of people across the street. I smelt car fumes, cooking food, the dirt of the city center. I felt the cold rain more sharply on my skin, the wind wrapping around my legs and touching my hair.
I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t move. Tears were appearing in the corner of my vision. The feeling of being gripped grew and I felt the urge to run. It wasn’t safe here. There were too many people, too much going on, it was too loud and I needed, NEEDED to be away from here!
The light changed, people crossed and no one noticed me still standing there. I felt them bumping into me with elbows, bags, bellies, whatever, as they all past me by and went on in their own worlds. A car horn blared. I panicked and ran across both sections of the road, not even looking. I think I hit someone with my bag or my hand, but then I was racing to the side door of the shopping center.
I felt better once I was inside. I took a few deep breaths and really calmed myself down. I must have looked like a victim of some kind of attack though. I was standing with my back pressed to the wall, clutching my handbag and umbrella, looking all panicky. Once again though, no one from the passing people stopped even though I must have met eyes with a few of them.
I went to the bookshop. It was the perfect place, even though it was busy. I went into the one section that is always empty- history and art. I placed my stuff down, grabbed the nearest book and sat in a small over stuffed square chair. I took my dripping coat off and ran my hands over the book cover. It felt smooth and cold. Weird how I can recall such things when I come out of an anxiety attack.
I flipped through the pages of the book. It was about Greek art. I looked at the photographs and read the captions. I felt calm. Normal. It was like nothing had just happened to me. After awhile, I got my phone out and made connect with my friends. They came and met me in the shop. There was seven of us all together; me, Bridget, her boyfriend Ryan, Connie, Alex, Tom and his girlfriend Molly.
It felt like a party! Even though there were so many of us, I felt okay because I knew them all. We went for some lunch and I had a really nice jacket potato, cheese and salad. I felt way better after that and the giggly chatter of the girls was pleasing. We did some shopping, well it was more like window shopping and drifting, but it was fun and the conversations were flowing.
Then though, something happened. We were walking down market street. There were people everyone walking or standing in half circle shapes to look at the street entertainers. We were just passing a religious group who were yelling about human sins and God’s wrath, when I felt it. I got this terrible feeling, like something bad was going to happen. I stopped walking and just stood there.
A part of me was totally aware that I should just keep walking, but I couldn’t move. I was struggling to breath and I felt like crying. One of my friends came back to me, I can’t remember who and they were asking if I was okay. I shook my head and looked at the floor. I told myself I was being silly! This was stupid! Why was this happening? Nothing was going to happen. There was no danger. But in that moment it was so real to me that there was nothing else I can do.
More friends came over. I can’t remember what they said, but then Tom had taken my hand was leading me away from everything. We went into a empty shop. A vintage clothes shop were some strange wind chime music was playing and the scent of incense hung heavy in the air. I took deep breaths. My face was wet and I was crying softly. Someone put a tissue in my hand and I felt Tom rubbing my back and saying it was all okay now.
The attack past. I felt so embarrassed. I wiped my face and now that I could think clearly again I thought of something to tell my friends which would make sense. But I couldn’t describe what had happened. I knew it had been real in that moment, but it for everyone else hadn’t actually been real. I was like I had seen a ghost and was trying to declare it. No one was going to believe me.
Tom asked if I was feeling better. I said I was, but needed a drink. Then I told everyone I was sorry and I didn’t know what happened back there and it was silly. They were concerned, but took it well. We walked out of the shop and went to a cafe. I felt better after, but then I decided to go home.
We said goodbye at the bus stop and I left them all to carry on shopping. I did wish I’d stayed though, but to be honest I didn’t want to face their questions and also another attack was too likely. I got home and got sorted. I had a hot bath. God, I needed one after all that being cold and wet. I felt better again, but I still had a niggly feeling.
I can’t help but wonder what my friends thought of it all. I texted Bridget and spoke to her a little. She said it was fine and everyone knew I’d had a panic attack. It was probably those religious zealots, she said. What they were saying about the earth burning and everyone going to hell, ‘my gran is always getting upset by that kind of thing,’ Bridget had added. I also texted Tom and thanked him. He said it was okay, his younger sister also has anxiety and he understood.
Reading that did help. Perhaps, I do feel a bit better now. I’m sure I just heard thunder…Maybe it was a plane. Hard to tell in here. I should get out anyway and go to bed. Tomorrow is another day and I promise to try harder. It’s not silly either. It is a real thing, but it’ll pass with time. I just got to take it easy.
Heroines needed. Capes optional.
a weekly flash fiction prompt inspired by google maps
Taking On The World One Journey At A Time...
Thoughts and Perspectives From the Mind of a Common Girl