Ahoy #CCC

Richard was obsessed with maritime objects. He turned his house into a museum and charged the tourists, visiting the seaside village, to view his collection. With the extra money, he brought more things and opened a repair workshop.

Finally, Richard ran out of room and decided to open a shop. He found it hard to part with some of his collection but then he saw how happy people were buying the maritime items and that made him pleased.

In his will, Richard left his collection to the village, saying that the maritime museum had to remain open. Tourism in the sleepy seaside area boomed.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/crimsons-creative-challenge-36/ with thanks).

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The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Shoot Out #CCC

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My English village has a strange legend. There’s a field with a small pathway running by it called High Noon Lane. Back in the 1800’s, an American cowboy arrived looking for a money lender that had stiffed him. It’s said they meet in that field at twelve PM and shot each other dead. The area was then named after that event.

As children it was believable and we would reenact the dual. As an adult, the legend stuck with me and I liked to think it was true, though there was no historical proof.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/crimsons-creative-challenge-19/ with thanks).

Light Signal #50Words

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At the end of the war, Mario was the only one in the Italian mountain village to have a radio. When bad weather was coming, be it heavy rain or snow, he would let everyone else know by keeping his outside lamp lit at all times.

 

(Inspired by; https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/50-word-thursdays-3/ with thanks).

 

 

 

The Tolling Bell #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Ivan didn’t want to go into the abbey bell tower, he had a bad feeling about it tonight. Looking up at the slowly tumbling down walls, the shadows seemed thicker then normal. Ivan tugged on the edge of his father’s red Captain of the guards cloak and tried to explain with hand gestures and tongue clicking that he was afraid and didn’t want to do the night’s signalling.

His father, who held a deep disappointment that his only son was a mute, ignored the young teenage and began climbing the steps that lead into the abbey. His heavy boot steps rang out on worn stones, breaking a doomed silence that had long settled here.

Ivan trailed afterwards, knowing that even if father would listen, there was no choice. Clutching the flicking metal lantern in one hand and a heavy wicker basket in the other, Ivan fixed his eyes on the floor and ignored everything else around him as dust clouds stirred. They reached the bell tower’s spiral staircase and started the long climb upwards.

Years ago, the abbey had been home to monks, who one winter had all gone on a pilgrimage and never returned without a clue to their whereabouts. The village that had been constructed around the abbey  died of the abandonment. Now, it was a tiny out post for a handful of the King’s guards, tasked with signalling incoming threats to the close by farming villages which served the King’s castle.

Ivan had never wanted to be in the King’s service. He had liked looking after the animals and the crops his mother had owned, which now belonged to his sisters’ families. His father though had decided to find Ivan a place within the guards and thus the boy had become the night time bell signal ringer.

‘Here we are,’ father’s voice declared as they reached the small room under the bell, ‘I’ll get you a fire going.’

Ivan nodded and placed the basket and lantern on a little wobbly table. He then lit two more lanterns which were placed on stone window sills across from one another. Now, everyone could see someone was up here. Ivan peered down and saw flickers of light below; guards on watch.

‘Have a goodnight,’ father said and turned away.

Ivan glanced at the fire which was starting to grow around two logs in the small fire place then watched his father leaving. He listened as the boot steps faded and the night settle once more. Ivan still felt uneasy, something tonight felt different but he didn’t know how to explain it. Perhaps, it was just the pressing hand of Winter? There had been no threats for months, so why would there be any now? Especially, with the harvest over.

Going to the long twist of rough rope in the centre of the room, Ivan checked it over and give it a few gentle tugs. He felt the bell swing above, making soft sounds. It had taken him ages to practise how to make the bell sound without getting hurt by the rope because it was heavy and the movement powerful. It was second nature now.

Collecting the lantern, Ivan slipped through a small door and climbed another spiral staircase into the actual bell tower. The chill of wind slapped his face and he realised how cold it was becoming. Wrapping his cloak tighter, he hurriedly checked the bell, making sure the rope was tight and nothing was in the way to stop the swinging movement. Then he headed back down again to wait out the night.

At the table, he went through the basket that the elderly cook, had put together for him. There was half a loaf of hard bread, a lump of cheese, two apples, salted dried deer strips, a small sweet bun and two bottles of weak beer. Ivan smiled, the women in the camp took pity on him, even though he didn’t like it, he enjoyed the benefits.

Ivan kept the fire going, careful to use only the wood he needed. He also made the food and beer last through the night. He kept himself awake by telling himself stories, thinking about the different lives he could have had and watching the dots of lights below moving as the guards walked the abbey’s edges.

There was a shouting from below and Ivan hurried to the nearest window. Far below was a gathering of lights and movement but he could hardly make anything out. Listening hard, he heard a horn blowing and he realised his gut feelings had been right. Scrambling over, he yanked the bell rope and let the clanking chime of metal on metal ring out repeatedly.

The noise of the bell meant he could hear anything else but it wasn’t Ivan’s job to figure out who or what was attack where, only that they were and people had to know. Ivan felt the bell rope going up and down in his hands, the slight sting of burns starting but he carried on ringing as fast and hard as he could. Panic seized him, the idea that he should be fleeing came and went. The bell rang out and out still for what seemed like forever.

Ivan collapsed. His hands bloodied, his body shaking, his ears deafened. He watched the rope moving by itself until it stopped, the bell notes fading. He felt the floor vibrating underneath him but he wasn’t sure of the cause. He curled up, letting sleep take him away.

He awoke in his own straw bed, rough wool blankets draped across him. Someone had bandaged his hands but they did not feel like his own, they were numb and crippled. Ivan rolled over and tried to recall what had happened. When nothing came to him, he got up and went to the window, a few black cloak guards and women walked by about their business.

Ivan wondered around the camp then out and around the abbey. There he spotted his father and most of the guards, they were inspecting small, green bodies on the ground and as Ivan got closer he saw they were goblins.

‘Ah, there you are boy!’ his father called, then patted Ivan on the back before spreading his arms out to indicate the scene before them, ‘this is thanks to you. The attack was stopped and the rest scared off.’

Ivan nodded and nudged a small bow in the grass. He touched his head, it hurt just as badly as his hands did and when he looked he saw red dots coming through the grey cloth strips. He wanted to have a drink and lay down again. There were things to do though and his father decided if he was up then he was well enough to help out.

They worked until it grew dark then returned to the run down house where they had stew and wine by the fire. Finally, Ivan crawled back into bed and dozed there, hoping his father wouldn’t awake him to send him back into the bell tower. He slept fitfully, thoughts filled with bells and goblins.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/11/12/weekly-writing-challenge-167/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Stone #WritePhoto

It was growing dark in the woods and everyone was locking themselves inside their homes. Candles and fires burned brightly, keeping the worse of the shadows away but the villagers knew it would not protect them. Nothing would if the monsters who dwelled underneath the trees decided to eat them.

Kissa led her lame nag pony around the moss covered trees, newly lit lantern held high in her small hand. The brown and white pony whined in pain but there was nothing Kissa could do. She was too busy trying to fight down the guilt of causing the pony to stumble because she had been running the poor thing too hard to try and get home before it was dark.

Now, it was too late. Kissa toyed with the idea of leaving the pony behind. The nag was slowing her down and Kissa could run, she wasn’t wearing skirts but dressed in boys’ clothes to help hide her identity. It was safer, her parents said to pretend to be a boy when traveling to see granny because girls were likely to be kidnapped on the roads.

Kissa looked at the pony. The animal was weary, pained and sad, it would be so easy to let go of the reins and walk away but she couldn’t, Bramble was her childhood friend. So, Kissa clutched the reins tighter and patted the pony’s neck whilst muttering soothing words. She also lowered the lantern to giving them more light to see where they were walking.

‘We’ll be home soon enough now,’ Kissa spoke, ‘look, there’s the stone marker ahead.’

Bramble neighed and limped on. Her hoofs tripping over fallen branches and pebbles.

‘We’ll rest there a bit,’ Kissa added, ‘even though I know we shouldn’t stop. It’s dangerous in the dark but we’ll look after each other right?’

They reached the stone pillar which was covered in green moss and surrounded by stones in a circle. No one alive now knew what the stones had originally been placed for but they were now used to mark the miles between places even though nothing was written upon them. Many people couldn’t read anyway.

Kissa sat on one of the stones, dropping the reins and placing the lantern down. She took the cloth bag off her back, pulled out a waterskin and a wrapped packet. She drink and ate the hard bread and cheese that granny had given her. Bramble stood still, right foot slightly raised off the ground, dozing.

A wind rocked the trees above them, an owl hooted and a fox cried out, the long sound taking awhile to fade away. Kissa huddled into her cloak, trying not to let fear get to her but it was hard as she was just a child of ten years. She finished eating, saving some just in case and took a few sips of water then packed everything away.

There was a rustle in the tall bushes close by and Kissa stood up, clutching for the lantern and the reins of the pony. She shone the light in the direction and waited. Perhaps, it was just the wind or a normal animal? Or it could be….

The breathe caught in Kissa’s throat as images of monsters flooded her mind. She had never seen one before but there was enough stories and drawings around for her imagination to create them. They came in all different forms and colours but the most famous ones were black and red, had huge horns on their heads, faces and bodies of beasts, cloven hoofs, human hands and a taste for human flesh.

Kissa was stuck between running and staying, she felt the tug of fleeing more strongly but she knew Bramble wouldn’t be able to move fast. Staying still and hoping the beast passed by was the best thing to do.

Kissa wasn’t sure it would make any difference though, she had seen dogs hunting rabbits and fox out of hiding by smell and sound. The stories said the beasts had great senses; they could see in the dark, hear and scent twice as better then any dog.

The rustling stopped and the bushes that had been swaying before came still. Kissa bit her lip and slowly moved. She put on the cloth bag and started to led the pony away. It was difficult to soften her footsteps and the hoofs of Bramble. There were too many crunchy leaves and snappy branches.

‘Come on,’ Kissa urged Bramble on, ‘We’re almost home, just try a little harder.’

Before they could get out of the stone circle, a tree next to them, give off a  loud crack, branches snapped and showered down on them. A large beast let out a roar so loud it shook the ground and a huge weight swung down to land before them.

Kissa screamed and threw her arms up to protect herself. The lantern banged against her arms, the candle inside wildly flickered, almost going out. The pony cried in fear and more pain as Kissa had suddenly pulled the reins upwards. Bramble twisted hard away, causing Kissa to drop the reins then using whatever energy the nag had been saving, she ran away.

‘Bramble, come back!’ Kissa shouted, spinning and getting ready to chase after the pony.

A massive, heavy, hairy hand hit her shoulder and Kissa fell to the ground. She dropped the lantern and there was a tinkling of glass. Gasping, she picked it up before the candle could go out. Breathing deeply, she stayed on the ground, tasting rotting leaves and soil whilst staring into the flickering flame. Kissa couldn’t move nor bare to look behind her.

She could hear the monster breathing heavily and sniffing around. Hoofs clomped about and the tree was still making snapping sounds. There came a smell of wet fur, dung and the stink of animals that remembered Kissa of the long haired cows some of the villagers kept.

‘Don’t eat me,’ Kissa mumbled.

She shut her eyes and lay still, waiting to feel that hand again picking her up and placing her inside a wet mouth, full of sharp teeth. She held her breath and prayed, for someone or something to save her, anything that would keep her safe and Bramble too, wherever the poor nag had ended up.

The hands and claws never came though, the monster was still walking around, letting out snorting and growling sounds. It seemed to be keeping it’s distance.

Kissa slowly pulled herself up and sat next to the lantern. She saw the monster; a towering, hairy beast with twisted horns growing on either side of his head, black and red fur, stood on two legs like a man, only the feet were cloven and the long fingers curled up. The face was made up of a large snout, with a wet black nose and a snarling mouth where white fangs were stained black, the monster had deep red eyes that were staring at her.

‘What do you want?’ Kissa spoke as she curled up into a tight ball.

The monster roared and leaped towards her but before it could touch her, the monster was thrown back. A tree trunk broken under it’s weight and the tree fell with a crash.

Kissa shuffled and hit the stone. She cried out then stopped as the monster ambled towards her again. The beast paced around the edge of the stone circle, staring at her and snarling.

‘It can’t get in….’ Kissa mumbled.

Kissa got more comfy and moved the lantern to be at her feet. She hugged herself and hopped that Bramble has made it home. Not sure what to do, Kissa put her head onto her knees and despite the danger she was in, began to doze off.

Three times, Kissa woke herself with a start and the second and third times, she found the monster gone and the woods quiet. She thought about leaving the circle and trying to follow the path home but the candle was getting low and the night was still pressing down.

Finally, she lay down and gave into sleep. Sometime later, the candle gutted and went out. A curl of smoke drifted upwards then the darkness fully settled. The monster crept forward two times and tried to break the protective circle with all his might but nothing would make the strong ancient magic give.

As dawn approached, the monsters faded into the shadows of the trees, going underneath them into the cold, darkness. Sunlight touched everything, birds burst into morning song and Kissa awoke.

Rubbing her face, she looked around and saw no monsters. She prayed her thanks, gathered the lantern and with a deep breathe stepped out of the stone circle. Nothing rushed towards her and she felt the sunlight warm on her face.

Sticking to the path, Kissa walked home, feeling weary with lack of sleep and fading fear. Soon the path wove down into her village and she saw most of the villagers standing around getting ready to head out into the woods. Kissa spotted Bramble standing by her house, her brother holding the reins and she rushed forward to hug the pony.

‘bramble! You’re safe! I’m glad you didn’t get eaten!’ Kissa cried.

Then her parents were sweeping her up and fussy and asking where she had been and what had happened.

Kissa told them everything and when she was exhausted, she fell sleep on her father’s shoulder, truly safe once again.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/10/25/thursday-photo-prompt-way-stone-writephoto/ for thanks).

 

 

 

Postcard #42

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Dear Lucy,

Please ignore the picture on the front. It’s an old postcard I had to dig out of my stash! This is a sign of how bad things are becoming down here. The weather has slowed delivers coming in and only wants needed has been arriving. The shop is sold out of almost everything and the village council are handing out supplies.

I have been raiding my chest freezer and finding all the wild berries, fruits etc we picked over the years. Knew they’d be handy some day, but not like this! Don’t bother to send anything, it won’t get through as they have stopped all personal packages and none important mail. I’m sneaking this one out!

All the best, Vernon.

The Village #TwitteringTales

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Gunther looked out his window, shaking his head. This was the worse snow fall the mountain village had ever seen. People could barely get out of their homes but worse no one could save them. Gunther eyed his axe in the corner and knew he had to do something.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/01/23/twittering-tales-68-23-january-2018/ with thanks).

Snow Day

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The snow fell silent and heavily on the village, making a perfect picture under the gaze of the moonlight.

Haven #writephoto

The sun rose over the little seaside village. The bright yellow, orange, pink and purple colours giving the clouds a rainbow haze against the dusky blue sky. I drove home from my night shift watching as the darkness faded to light and another late autumn day was born.

Glancing over at the sea, it looked calm today. The dark blue, cream topped waves lapping against the crunchy sand shore. The rising sun creating beams of light as the clouds moved. There were no boats or people to be seen just yet. It was too easy to see why this place had been called Haven.

Entering the little road that led into the village which was made up of a handful of fisherman’s cottages, one shop, post office and four holiday homes, I drove past them all and to the larger house that stood by itself on a hill. Originally built for a Navy Admiral who had only lived in it a few years before being lost at sea, the house had then become a hotel and local pub. When that failed, my great grandparents brought it and made it a family home.

Parking up, I just had the energy to get out and make my way into the house. The smell of the sea was heavy and there was sand in the hallway again. Going upstairs, I took everything with me then abandoned it on the chair in my bedroom. I got into bed naked, loving the freedom and feel of the cold sheets.

By the time the sun was fully up and most people were too, I had made a nest out of all the bedding, I settled back and was almost asleep. A car horn sounded and voices shouted. I looked across at the window but of course I couldn’t see anything due to the black out curtains.

I had to wait until the neighbours had driven off or gone back inside before trying again. Being exhausted after a twelve hour shift on the hospital ward helped and I was asleep before I even knew it, safe in my own little haven.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/11/16/thursday-photo-prompt-haven-writephoto with thanks).