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).

 

 

 

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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).

Postcard #39

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Saw this postcard at the last car boot sale of the year and it so reminded me of you. I was hoping it would reach you before Halloween but doubtful with the village post! Found this book too and it seemed interesting, something about a vampire virus. Anyway, hope to see you around Christmas.

Ben.

Village Bakery

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Every morning, Jenny got up and went to her family’s bakery. Always the first to arrive, she tied on a clean pale blue apron over her black pants and white blouse then set about the morning tasks. Firstly,  she took the now clean aprons out of the washing machine and hung them up on the line in the little yard. The sun was just coming up and there was only the sounds of birds to be heard.

Secondly, she checked the stock rooms and made a list of everything that needed re-ordering then Jenny placed that notepad on her grandpa’s desk for him to see. There was no need for her to clean anything as her grandma and mother tided when they closed then again before they opened.

Tying back her short chestnut brown hair and washing her hands, Jenny went to the back kitchen and the bookcase of recipe books. Even thought she knew how to make everything the bakery sold with her eyes shut, she still liked the comfort of the big, overused books. Selecting one which was all in her great-grandmother’s handwriting, Jenny placed it on the book stand and flipped through the pages.

Grabbing the ingredients, she began to make a few different loafs of bread. It didn’t really matter what kinds they were because the second they were on the shop’s shelves they would start to be bought. Having mixed, divided and put the additional ingredients in to the batches, she let all the dough proof.

At that time, other family members began arriving; Jenny’s parents and grandparents. Greeting each other, they all began their morning tasks. Her mother and grandma cleaning everything, her grandpa going in his office to do paperwork, her dad coming to help with the baking.

As the sun fully rose on another picture perfect summer day, the villagers and tourist started awaking. The lovely aroma of freshly baked bread filled the warm air. The bell above the bakery door tinkled and the first customer arrived. Jenny smiled as she heard an old man’s voice asking what bread there was this morning.

Her grandmother began answering as her father pulled a tray stacked with white and brown loafs out and carried it into the shop. Jenny breathed in deeply, shutting her eyes. There was no better job in the world she decided.

Imbroglio #atozchallenge

 

pexels-photo-89820.jpegImbroglio: an extremely confusing and embarrassing situation.

I wanted to hide my shame, but I couldn’t, the best I could do was get up and leave. Even though that didn’t feel right. I had always been one to stand my ground just like my mother had told me. She had been too headstrong and modern for this tiny Irish village in the middle of nowhere. She had never been accepted by the locals and many were happy that she was now dead.

Wrapping my shawl tighter around me, I walked across hilly ground. Not really going anywhere because sometimes you just had to walk away. The wind twisted my loose hair about and though I felt the chill, I was warm enough. My hands dropped to my rounded stomach that was no longer concealable.

Behind me, I could still hear the villagers’ voices and laughter, even though the pub was miles away now. I blamed my mind and the fact that their harsh words would always linger with me. I wanted it not to be true, but it was hard not to believe them when I myself didn’t know.

I came to a sheltered nook and gratefully sat down. The thin grass was dry and so was the soil below. I curled up as best I could, wanting to feel safe. I tried switching my mind to other things, but I couldn’t let it go.

Sighing, I wondered why love had to be so confusing. Even the most simple love could be, but in my case it was far from simple. My hand rubbed my stomach in circles as I fell into more deeper thinking.

Was the man I had fallen in love with and grown to know for two years really lying to me?

The locals said he wasn’t American like he claimed to be, but a born and bred Irish man. He’d gone to America to be an actor, but that hadn’t lasted long. Now, he was working where he could and he was married with a family too.

I just couldn’t picture my dashing boyfriend being like that. For a start, when I’d announced my news he’d been delighted. Surely if I was his mistress he’d have recoiled? And he’s away so much because he’s an actor and he has to travel to filming locations.

Rattling my mind, I tried to think if I had ever noticed anything that might have suggested other wise. Had their been papers about? A call or text on his phone? Reminders on his fridge?

There seemed to be nothing. I had to know though! I got up, struggling to do so then under a darkening sky, I walked back to the village.

I needed to hear the truth, not just for my piece of mind but for the baby’s too.