Slide #CCC

The abandoned theme park was where we hung out. I loved the creepy feeling of the dilapidated buildings. All my friends were daring each other to do stupid things and I got picked to slide down the helter-skelter.

I climbed the rusty steps and held on to the blue painted chipped handrail. I made it to the top and hurried into the dark mouth. I felt the helter skelter shaking as I shuffled downwards.

There was a snapping and groaning of plastic and metal. I tried to run but my head hit the tunnel top and stumbling down my belly I blacked out.

Screaming from the girls outside brought me back to then all sound faded as I shook the pain from my head.

I carried on sliding down, feeling all the bumps of the joints underneath me.

Finally, I reached the end and slide out into a dirty puddle topped with leaves. Breathing deeply, I waited for the cheers of my friends but none came. Instead, other voices crowded the air welcoming me to Fun Land.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/05/13/crimsons-creative-challenge-79/ with thanks).

The Cry #FFFC

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Magic was something that everyone had. We were all born with it but had different quantity of it. Of course, I had been doubly blessed and sent off to be with grandma as soon as I could walk. Here at her cottage and gardens, I and the other apprentices learnt the crafts and what our lives really meant.

Though I had often wondered, late at night or whilst sweeping out the pig pens, what the other side of magic looked like. There were many different kinds but the Dark was the most fascinating. And despite what everyone thought, it wasn’t all evil. I doubt any of the rumours surrounding those people were true but unless you were on their side, you didn’t know.

Leaning on the broom I was daydreaming about the dark witches when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, thinking I was about to be told off for not working but it was Elan.

She was dressed like me, in a plain blue working dress but she had on a leather apron which meant she had been working in the lab. On her head was a small, bronze tiara which marked her as head apprentice.

Elan began speaking slowly and moving her hands in a directional way.

I watched and waited. Trying to figure out what she wanted. Sometimes, I picked up what people were saying easily and other times I didn’t.

I had been born deaf. I could speak a little but preferred not to. I could lip read and hand signing was always useful. I had been trying to learn how to mind read but it was tricky.

Elan paused, signed and took out a notepad. We could all read and write. She wrote something then turned it to me and I read;

Go fetch a mandrake 

I shook my head, the colour draining from my face.

Elan snatched the broom from me and hit me over the head with it. Straw and muck rained into my hair and headache like pain thumped into my skull.

I turned to get away from her and she began beating me with the broom. I ran off and I guess she must have been shouting after me because I saw the looks on the other girls faces.

All the way to the back of the garden, were the dreaded greenhouse was. Ivy covered the glass thickly, blocking out most of the light. The door too was covered but with a sharp tug the ivy would give way. Dead plants and broken pots were scattered around. A rubbish dump lay around here and wild roses grow amongst other things that had survived and planted themselves.

I crept up to the door which I know was stupid. I felt for the handle and slide the door back. Stale air crept out, hot with the heat of summer. I went in and didn’t look around. The layouts were all the same in each greenhouse, even the order of plants by ages. New seeds to the back, the oldest at the front and then a procession of growth in between.

The pots were black hard clay and sticking out of them were dark, thick leaves. Elan hadn’t told me which one to pick. I debated going back to ask her but decided to take a chance and picked not from the first group- the oldest- but from the middle and still fully grown.

Picking up one of the mandrakes, I walked carefully to the cottage and to the back door. I guess the girls who had been around before had told the others what I had been sent to to and they had all left the area. No one wanted to be around, even outside incase something happened the mandrake got loose.

The kitchen door was open but the room empty. A well stocked fire and going in the massive fireplace and pot was bubbling. Vegetables half cut lay on the table and a plate with the remains of a meal had also been abandoned like even the servants had known my task.

The door to the basement was the lab and I went slowly down the stairs which were lit with candles that dripped globs of red wax. I smelt burning of something harsh which I couldn’t put my finger on. I felt the steps more then seeing them and arrived at the last one before I knew it.

Lowering the mandrake which had been blocking my view. I saw the lab which was full of tables, bookcases and equipment then ahead of me was an open doorway. I saw a shadow go past and guessed everyone was in there.

I walked over and stood in the doorway. There was grandma, Elan and three other woman. The room was circler and empty but for the markings on the floor, the black candles and a bowl which was were the burning was coming from.

Elan waved me over and I walked around the markings on the floor, the bricks of the wall scraping my back. I held out the plant to her, but Elan shook her head and pointed me over to grandma. I went with dread filling me. I didn’t need a note telling me what I had to do as I could sense it.

Grandma handed me a dagger then floated across the floor. As one the witches put earmuffs on and pressed themselves near to the door. They watched me whilst their months carried on moving, I guessed saying the words to the spell they were casting.

I set the pot on the floor and grab all of the leaves of the mandrake in one hand. I didn’t want to do it. Why couldn’t they have picked someone else? I put one foot onto the lip of the pot and gritted my teeth. Of course, I knew why they always picked me; because I was deaf and less affected by the mandrakes’ evil crying.

I yanked as hard as I could, felt the soil give way and the leaves move up in my hand. I shut my eyes and kept pulling. The dagger shook in my other hand and I felt my fingers start to go numb.

I opened my eyes and saw that the top of the mandrake was coming up. Soil was raining down and the pot was cracking under the pressure. I grabbed tighter, knowing as soon as the mandrake felt air that it would try and borrow back down. Breaking the pot would help but would also send the mandrake into shock and that kind of scream could kill everyone.

I shut my eyes again, concentrated and pulled as if my life depended on it. I felt the pot and more soil giving way. Something brushed my skin and I opened my eyes to see a small branches trying to curl around me.

With the dagger I tapped the branch away and pulled the mandrake up the rest of the way. The horrible thing popped out. It was a dark brown colour, all wrinkled and covered in soil. Many branches that made up the limbs were thrashing around, dirt going everywhere and roots were desperately clinging to whatever they could, including myself.

It was hard to pick facial features out of the folds of flesh but I could just make out the screwed up eyes either side of the bulbous nose. The mouth was torn up in a terrifying scream showing off rows and rows of fangs.

I could hear the screaming. It rang in my head and made me feel dizzy. I was deaf, so the mandrake’s crying and screaming should have no effect on me but for some reason it did. Before I could feel anything else, I stepped into the circle and placed the mandrake into the bowl of burning herbs and green liquid.

I swung the dagger up and brought it down into the mandrake. I didn’t want to see if I had killed it or not. I fled the room, tripping over someone’s foot as I did so.

Laying sprawled across the cold lab floor, I felt the door shoving me further along as someone shut it behind me. I felt sick, dizzy and there was a ringing my head that I knew shouldn’t have been there.

I let time passed for awhile then got up on my hands and knees. I crawled to the stairs. Feeling like I was a ship on a stormy sea and at any moment I was going to be tossed into those monstrous waves. Reaching the stairs didn’t stop it. I climbed them like a baby for the first time and at the top I pushed opened the door and lay down on the warm kitchen floor.

I threw up, everything coming out of me and covering the floor. I was spinning like a child’s top and flying off into nothingness. After everything in my stomach was gone, I dry heaved until blood appeared.

I hugged myself, gulped in air and curled up on the floor. Tears washed my faces and the screaming in my head wouldn’t stop. I felt like I was dying.

Slowly, everything began to fade. My body felt better, though exhausted. I stretched out, feeling waves of sleep taking me.

Next time, Elan could get her own mandrake.

 

(Inspired by; https://fivedotoh.com/2020/05/11/fandangos-flash-fiction-challenge-65/ with thanks).

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 2)

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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)

Memory #WritePhoto

Who knew what the old standing stones remembered. I ran my hand along their rough cut, damp moss covered surface as I walked around each one. Did they remember where they came from? Who brought them here and what worship they became a part of?

I pressed my hot, tear stained face to the biggest of the stones. It was a much taller and narrower then the others that made up the wide circle. Perhaps it was the oldest too? Only the stones knew that answer. Breathing deep of the earthy scent and I liked the cold against my skin.

I wondered if the stones had seen sacrifice of animals and or humans and if women had travelled up here to give birth? Religious ceremonies must have been held here. I imagined everyone in my church coming here instead to hear the Sunday prayers and give worship. How did people feel about standing in the elements? Well, the church wasn’t much warmer or drier!

Rubbing my face, I turned and put my back to the stone. It was getting late, the sky was a wet dark grey, clouds heavy with snow and the temperature was dropping fast. I should go home but I couldn’t face my parents and older brother just yet. We have been arguing again about why my brother got to do things I couldn’t. He was only three years older, so why was it okay for him to go out at night with his friends and I wasn’t aloud too?

I had come here, having stormed out of my house. I could have gone anywhere; to a friend’s, to the cafe or to the abandoned farm but no, I had tracked out here in just pink ankle boots, thin tights, mini skirt, fancy top and short jacket. Not the clothes for walking or for being out in the almost minus degree evening air.

There was something quiet, calming and mysterious about the standing stones that had always called to me. I wanted to uncover their history because no one knew their true story. There were folklore and myths, some rough science stuff but no real facts about why, how and who.

The stories and secrets they held fascinated me and I felt I could imagine what the stones had witnessed by being this close to them. Would I have liked living in the time when the circle was made? Would the ancient Gods have listened to me and answered my prayers? Maybe, I would have been a virgin sacrifice, my blood spilling out over the stones as the hungry Gods grinned at my pain.

Ah, maybe it was better not to have been born back then. I lent off the stone and small snowflakes started to fall. I held out my hand and caught one, it melt the second it touched my skin. It was time to go home and face my family. Hopefully, they had no plans to sacrifice me.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2020/02/27/thursday-photo-prompt-memory-writephoto/ with thanks).

Time Blur #FridayFictioneer

Ivan and his friends were repeatedly told not to go near the tumbled down red barn on the edge of Slim’s farm. From a distance, there seemed nothing wrong with the abandoned structure so the teenagers wondered why they had to stay away.

Bored one afternoon, they checked the barn out. Entering, it seemed to be a normal, empty wooden building. So, had some bad secret the villagers wanted to stay hidden happened here?

Messing about, they accidentally triggered something. There was a mighty whooping sound, the barn began to shake then vanished, casting the teenagers into time and space unknown.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/02/19/21-february-2020/ with thanks).

Coming In From The Storm (Part 3)

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

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

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

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

He went over and rubbed her shoulders and back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming In From The Storm (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eve snorted and shook her mane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued….

 

 

 

Coming In From The Storm (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Another farm! Look Eve!’ Cole cried.

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

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

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

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

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

‘We have no choice,’ Cole spoke.

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

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

To Be Continued…

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

Smultronstalle (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The small town of Norrtälje sits next to the Norrtäljeviken bay that leads out to the Baltic sea. There’s a large harbour here which is used by pleasure boats and opposite is a nice restaurant and ice cream parlor. In the town there’s all kinds of shops and it’s pleasant to wander around.

We go shopping first and as much as I want to walk around by myself I can’t. So, I keep my headphones on, ignore Oscar’s demands and put a few things I want into the baskets from the shops we visit. I even get some new clothes, books, stationary and snacks without having to pay for any of it myself. Hugo is generous like that and doesn’t seem to care about flashing lots of money around.

Morning of shopping done and we drive to the harbour. We are meeting Hugo’s two cousins and their families at the restaurant for lunch. There’s six of them all together- four adults, one teenage daughter and one child son. They all have blonde hair and blue eyes, nice tans and good figures.

We order food. Oscar decides he wants pancakes and nothing else. I get a burger and watch the boats till the food arrives. A mixture of English and Swedish conversations happen but I don’t join in any of them.

When the food all comes, Oscar changes his mind and kicks up a fuss. He decides he wants a burger like mine. So, Hugo has to order him one but then Oscar has to eat his pancakes as the ice cream inside of them is melting. I can only roll my eyes and feel embarrassed for mum and Hugo but they made Oscar a brat, so it’s not really my problem.

After lunch, we go onto the cousin’s yacht and go out for a ride in the bay for a few hours. It’s really nice with the water spray air and wind whipping my hair. It clears everything out of your head. Also, I really wanted to but I didn’t push Oscar overboard!

Later, we go back to one of the cousin’s house. Oscar and their son play some games outside whilst the teenage daughter and I watch TV but most of the shows are in Swedish, so I soon get bored and find some books written in English to read. We have a late tea outside in the evening light then stay until it’s really dark and Oscar gets overtired and becomes grumpy.

We go back, passing only one other car on the road on the way then we arrive home and all go to bed.

In the morning, I’m the first up. I grab some food and pack it in my bag then I head out to the clearing. Once there, I check the berries but none look ready to eat. It’s a lovely day out though, so I have breakfast then do some reading and writing till lunch time. Mum text’s me then asking where I am and if okay?

I reply back letting her know then eat my lunch. Birds are singing in the trees, there’s the noise of a tractor in the far distance and sometimes cars along the road. Once, I hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the road. A dog barking for a minute or two. The wind plays through branches, bushes and leaves making gently noises but that’s it!

I lay down and relax. Feeling calm and safe here. I watch the sun shinning through the tree leaves and I shut my eyes for a nap.

I still miss England and my grandparents and the fact that my new home is miles away from anywhere! But I’m getting use to it and things are not so bad here after all.

 

Smultronstalle (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The Swedish countryside reminded me of England’s farmland and meadows. There was so much open space broken only by a few trees, hedgerows, red houses and barns. All of it was circled by gigantic lakes and wide rivers, which were dotted with islands. On the shores, small docks with pleasure boats moored up, waiting to be taking out on adventures.

I could walk the countryside and lake shore for hours, sometimes even take the small boat out on the lake, lost in my own thoughts. Until my step-dad, Hugo, appeared in his old black jeep, claiming, ‘ I’ve been searching all over for you, Lacy! It’s time to come home now.’ Though it wasn’t really my home that was back in England with my dead grandparents, father and brother.

The Swedish house was a huge three bedroom bungalow with a massive kitchen, living room, dinning room at the front of the house then a walk through pantry with the bathroom and a short hallway into a snug room. This joined the back of the house were the bedrooms where. Outside there was a nice decking seating area, a large rectangle lawn surrounding the house and half hidden in the left to go wild back garden was a small wooden sauna.

It’s a world away from the two down-two up terrace house I had grown up in with my grandparents. Dad and my brother Alex aged ten, died in a car accident when I was three. Mum couldn’t cope so her parents looked after me.

Then mum meet Hugo, a rich businessman who’s half English half Swedish, they married and had a son, Oscar, and decided to settle in Sweden moving between Hugo’s summer house in the countryside and his smaller house in Stockholm in the winter.

I hadn’t seen them or even been to Sweden until two months ago when my grandma passed away, almost three years after grandpa had died of the same lung cancer. I didn’t want to come but being seventeen it was either that or go into a foster home and that really didn’t appeal to me.

Of course, mum was shocked when I agreed to move to her and even more so when she met me at the airport.

‘You’ve grown so much, Lacy!’ mum had said, ‘you look more like your dad then me. It’s all that curly dark brown hair and you wear glasses too. Your eyes are brown like his were. You have my freckles though! But you’re tall like him, he had really long legs. Well, you’ll be able to show them off. Sweden is hotter then England in the summer, but the winters are so much colder!’

I don’t hate my mum or step-family or Sweden, it’s surprisingly nice here and there’s very little traffic or people about. It’s so much quieter, stiller and cleaner then the council estate. Most of the field are either for food growth, left wild or for animals to graze on, which are mostly horses. This area is famous for it’s prize winning horses across all sports.

I sometimes like to sit and the watch horses in the fields when I come across them but most of the time I just walk around. That is the one draw back to living around here; there is nothing close by. The nearest shops are a twenty minute car drive away and they are like a small corner shop and a petrol station. It’s about an hour Stockholm, though there are other towns and big shopping places in-between.

Of course, Hugo’s summer house as a TV, DVD player, internet etc but Oscar normally wants to watch something or be on the computer at the same time I do and since he’s a spoilt brat he always gets his own way. Oscar is eleven and mum baby’s him far too much whilst Hugo is too busy to really care.

So, that’s why I spend most of my time outside.

Recently, I found the perfect spot to hide in for awhile. Following the road away from the cluster of houses that make up the neighborhood by the lake shore, through a farmer’s field that has a footpath at the edge and into a wooden area which has a smaller clearing where lots of wild fruit, vegetables and herbs seem to be growing.

There I can sit on the grass in the shade of the trees or the full sunshine if I move further out. I can read books, write in my diary, do school work, daydream and anything else I fancy doing. It’s become like my sanctuary away from the world. I’m happy there and don’t feel sad about my past and issues.

Currently, I noticed that wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are growing in the clearing. I’ve been watching them and wondering when they best time to eat them will be.

That’s how Hugo came to know about my special place. I asked him one day over breakfast. Oscar was stuffing his face full of pancakes which I’m sure he was addicted too, mum was busy making him some more and Hugo was reading a newspaper whilst I was picking at the cereal in my bowl.

‘Hugo?’ I asked.

He hummed to show he was listening.

‘Can you eat the wild berries around here?’

‘Sure,’ he replied, ‘as long as they are wild and not in a farmer’s field. Wild berry picking is something my parents always enjoyed doing. Bit of a tradition in Sweden.’

‘How do you know when berries are ready?’ I asked.

‘Their colour changes and they don’t taste tangy or sour. I guess it depends what the berry actually is.’

Hugo folded the newspaper and give me his full attention which I didn’t like.

‘Strawberries?’ I shrugged and tried to act like it had just come to my head.

‘When they are all red and have no green left on them,’ Hugo answered.

‘Okay, what about blueberries?’

‘When they are a sort of dark purple.’

‘And raspberries and blackberries?’

‘When they are red and black,’ Hugo said and he give a small laugh, ‘where have you found all these berries? Maybe we can pick them together?’

I debated telling him then reasoned he probably knew about the place anyway, ‘in a clearing in the patch woods, passed the first field opposite the road that turns down to here.’

‘Oh, that clearing! The fruits are good from there,’ Hugo spoke.

I nodded and took a few sips of orange juice.

‘Why do you care anyway?’ Oscar snapped, bulling his way into the conversation.

Mum put two more pancakes on Oscar’s plate – his seventh and eighth-  then sat down to finally eat something herself.

‘None of your business,’ I muttered.

‘Tell me!’ Oscar shouted, ‘mamma make her tell!’ he banged his fork on the table.

‘I found some all right and I wanted to know when I could eat them,’ I explained angrily, ‘you don’t like fruit and veg anyway, so there!’

‘I do like fruit and veg!’ Oscar yelled, ‘show me where they are! Mamma make her show me! I want some!’ and he began kicking his legs about under the table.

I moved so he wouldn’t hit me and abandoned my breakfast at the same time.

‘Oscar stop that,’ Hugo said.

‘Stop kicking, darling,’ mum added, ‘today we are going into Norrtälje to do some shopping and visit your dad’s cousins. We can get you some berries there if you like.’

I got up to leave, thinking of grabbing my things and heading out to the clearing.

‘Lacy, you’re coming to. You agreed last night,’ Mum said.

I turned ready to argue, teenage mode on and angry flaring in me. I opened my mouth to say no but both mum and Hugo had stern, no arguments please faces on and I knew there was no point. The last thing I wanted was to turn into a second Oscar and at least in Norrtälje I could go shopping.

 

To Be Continued…