Toxic Thunder

pexels-photo-67102

It had been raining forever. At least it felt that way. I liked the rain, but I wanted to feel the sun on my face as I had done as a child. I remembered the yellow warmth, just about. The rain was always cold and wet, sometimes it would be a different colour too. When that happened people stayed inside for fear they might become contaminated. Though really, all water was toxic.

They claimed there was nothing they could do about it. It was a world wide disaster and the predicated death levels were higher then the War. That was the price we were paying for chemical warfare, the government said. Still, scientists and others were working around the clock for solutions whilst there was hope left. Everywhere warning signs stated not to drink unfiltered water, to stay inside as much as possible and report all health problems to a doctor.

Today, the rain was a lime green colour which was why I wasn’t allowed outside. Sitting in the window seat of the second floor landing, I watched a few brave people walking the street below me. They held their umbrellas up high and huddled in thick coats, as if that would protect them.

The book I had picked from our small library lay opened but unread in my lap. Since there was no going to school today, father had insisted we self-educate. My two brothers had taken over the library with their historical debates. Father was in the study and Mother had gone to lay down as as the lime rain had given her a headache, or so she had claimed. I could have gone to my day room, the family lounge or the parlour, instead I went to the best spot in the house to see the outside world.

I pressed the side of my head to the wet glass, knowing I’d be told off for getting my curled blonde hair damp. I didn’t care. I watched guards in red uniforms appear and began clearing people from the street. They must have been told that the toxic level had reached a high. A siren began to wail, confirming that. The street quickly cleared and just in time too as the lime rain picked up and started to change colour.

Black rain began falling and in the distance came a rumble of thunder. I tightened my grip on the book. The page corners curling under my fingers. I had always feared storms, but they were worse now. They said sometime toxic rain conducted lightening and exploded. Fires were common during storms and deaths.

I tried to relax my hands, the hard corners of the cover were digging into me. The thunder growled louder, sounding so close. The street before me went dark with only a few dots of light peering out. The lightening flashed, yellow red, capturing the street in that moment. I heard a popping sound and the lights around me all started to flicker.

The smell of gas and burning electricity filled the air. An emergency bell rang though the house, backed by the siren’s call. There was a rush of footsteps and voices. The clatter of things being dropped and doors moving echoed throughout the house.

‘To the shelter, quickly!’ my father bellowed.

‘I’ll get Madam,’ a maid spoke.

‘Where is Miss Victoria?’ another voice asked.

A flash of lighting hit the sky making me jump as it crackled away. I stood up, clutching my book and hurried two flights of downstairs. In the grand hallway, everyone was rushing into the kitchen, shouting at each other. I joined them hurrying into the cellars. My shoulders and skirts brushing maids and kitchen staff.

I tripped down the stone steps, losing a shoe, and my one of my brothers caught me at the bottom. He had to move me out of the way as the last people flew down and the metal door slammed shut. My brother rushed me down the corridors, through the wine and food cellars. My legs and feet hurt as we went further down. Finally, we arrived with everyone else in the last and deepest cellar. My brother hushed me into a corner and left me breathing in the damp air.

Huddling in the dim light with my family and servants, I caught my breath. My mother looking dazed was sitting on a small bed, half hidden by  a curtain. My father was sat comforting her and my brothers were giving orders to some of the servants. I tucked myself into a alcove, hugging my book and praying we would survived.

Still Alive

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Gift wasn’t sure how long the town had been abandoned as the records only went back fifty years. Crunching glass and fallen plaster under her boots, she entered what had once been a living room.

Looking through the breathing mask’s visor, she spotted the white flowering plant on the window sill. Smiling, she walked over and picked the plant pot up gingerly.

You’re safe now, she thought, clutching the plant, but you’ve got a big job ahead, flower.

Gift stepped outside and back into the war torn grey landscape. Hurrying towards the safety of the underground city, she hoped that one day she would be able to see the green surface world that she only knew from the legends.

 

(Inspired from Friday Fictioneers prompt; https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/3-february-2017/ photo by Roger Bultot thanks)

BattleField

Closeup Photography of Gray Barbed Wire

The battlefield was covered in bodies. They hung off the barbwire, blood dripping out of them and staining the grass red. The sound of gun fire rattled through the air around them, the only sound to be heard for miles.

In the trenches, those men that were alive were little more then skeletons. Their uniforms hung off them in tatty rags. Their hollowed faces told the horrors of war as each had seen it.

The soldiers looked out over the destruction. They were living in a hell they would never escape from. Viewing the dead with envious eyes and wishing to be amongst them.

The Season of Change

autumn, fall, forest

The colorful leaves fall from the trees, dancing to the ground.

I walk through them, admiring the feel of the misty morning on my skin.

Though, it’s just a vision of what once was long ago before the finally war.

 

Beacon

beacon

They had been travelling for two years when the wood elf spotted one of the last beacons. He dismounted from his bay horse and on long legs ran up the hill. The adventuring party watched him go, wondering what he had seen before realising themselves. Three of them dismounted from their horses; the two human fighters and the half-elf wizard. Whilst the dwarf healer and halfling thief stayed on their stout ponies.

The elf came to a stop before the burnt ruins. He nudged an untouched wooden plank with his deer hide boots, flipping it over and staring at it. His hand rested on the  jewelled pommel of his magic sword, ready for a possible ambush. He could hear the wind howling through the long moor grass and the small valleys of the hills.

His companions came to join him, but he ignored their whispers for something had caught his sharp eyes. On another hill, higher then this one and a good few miles away he could see another beacon raising. It appeared unlit. He frowned and looked farther around, but he could see nothing other then the moors and the coming storm clouds.

‘Can you see the other beacon? Is that it?’ the half-elf asked at his side.

‘I think so,’ the elf replied.

The two men came to stand beside them and the elf saw they had drawn their swords.

‘What’s going on?’ a voice yelled up to them.

‘It is definitely one of  Abacros beacons,’ one of the men yelled back.

The elf heard the dwarf and halfling dismount and trudge up the hill. the rest of the party began moving around again. Their boots crunching on burnt wood and dry grass. The elf kept his eyes firmly fixed on the other beacon in the distance. Something didn’t feel right. The more he looked the more his eyes confirmed that the wood had not been lit.

That would explain it, he thought, if the chain had been broken, the city of Abacros had been doomed from the start. 

‘This is beacon forty-two,’ the half-elf announced.

‘We have to go over there,’ the elf cut in.

He turned and saw his companions gathered around a tatty map and a large rock. Without saying anything else, the elf went down the hill and back to the horses. He mounted his bay mare and headed in the direction of the other beacon. Disgruntled words tickled his ears, but the growing wind swept them away.

He glanced up at the sky and saw the storm clouds were rolling in fast. This was really not the place to be caught in bad weather. He urged his horse on, knowing the others had joined him. However, the soft, sinking ground was hard going and it took awhile to reach the tall hill. The rain had started falling as the elf dropped from the saddle and walked to the beacon.

The pile of wood towered above him. It was built in a large square with a cone at the top. His eyes had not lied. The thing had never been lit. He looked down and saw something in the grass. Poking it with the toe of his boot, he saw it was a dirt covered dagger. Just above it and still reaching out for the blade was a dead hand.

‘He’s been here years,’ the voice of the dwarf rumbled, ‘crude arrows Outlanders, maybe.

‘So the guards were attacked then?’ the first man said whilst the other just shook his head.

‘That would explain it,’ the elf answered, ‘and after all these years we now know what happened. The guards were slay before they could lit the beacon. The line was broken and that’s why help was too late.’

‘And Abacros fell,’ the halfling whispered.

Thunder rumbled, drawing their attention away. The horses whined, a few stamped their feet and shook there heads. The elf took a last look around and knew they should be on their way. At last they had an answer for the king.

 

Photo prompt from; https://scvincent.com/2016/09/22/thursday-photo-prompt-beacon-writephoto/

Xenophobic

Finance, World, Accounting

Xenophobic: ‘A person who is fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or of people from different countries or cultures.’ From thefreedictionary.com.

The girl making his coffee in the retirement village cafe wasn’t the normal one. Henry stopped suddenly and felt someone bump into the back of him. An angry snappy voice sounded in his ears, but he never heard what they said. He couldn’t take his eyes off the girl behind the counter. Her skin was dark, as dark as the night, he thought and her black purple hair was all twisted together in many braids finished off with plastic pony beads.

Someone, probably the man behind him, brushed hard passed Henry and up to the collection counter. He heard a low muttering and the other woman behind the counter taking the next order. He felt the urge to get out, but he still couldn’t take his eyes off the foreign girl. She turned and he saw her bright white eyes with a dark brown center staring at him. She was saying something, but he could not hear her.

She placed his cup of tea down and moved it across to him. Henry looked down at it, chewing his tongue with his remaining teeth.

‘Did I put too much milk in it?’ the girl asked with no trace of an accent.

‘I didn’t save this country for the likes of you,’ Henry growled.

The girl froze and Henry was aware that everyone else seemed to as well.

The girl opened her mouth and shut it again, her face crumpled like paper, but then she seemed to hold on and uncreased her expression.

‘I’m very grateful though,’ she muttered.

‘I don’t care,’ Henry snorted.

He turned and left, trying not to hobble so much. Behind him voices started whispering, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. It didn’t matter, he didn’t care.

 

Least We Forget

Bill travelled back to France not knowing what he’d find or what memories would return. Sitting in his granddaughter Bethany’s bright purple car he looked out over the almost familiar countryside, trying to remember. The land had healed and changed since the First World War and Bill’s last visit in the mid-sixties with his wife and five children. He turned to his granddaughter and tried to tell her this, but his mouth was dry and wordless.

There were bottles of water in the carry bag by his feet. He lent forward and dug around for one with great difficult.

‘Are you okay, Granddad? Do you want me to stop?’ Bethany shouted, slowly and clear.

He turned his head, aware she was speaking but not quite catching her words.

She repeated what she had said, but Bill shook his head as his useless fingers finally found a plastic bottle. He pulled it out, showed it to her as explanation then tried to open the lid. He could barely feel the blue top under his fingertips and couldn’t get any grip at all. He shook the bottle in vain and embarrassed turned to Bethany.

She gave a single nod, indicated and pulled smoothly over. She took the bottle from him, easily opened it and handed it back, keeping the lid in her hand.

Bill gratefully drank from the bottle.

‘We’ve not got much further to go to the cemetery now,’ Beth spoke into his ear, ‘does any of this look familiar to you?’

Bill swallowed and looked around. His lips formed a few words, but his throat didn’t give sound to them. He tried again then shook his head and drank some more water.

‘What did we do with the cards?’ Beth asked and began digging around in the footwell at Bill’s feet.

She pulled out a plastic wallet full of large picture cards, ‘here there are. Okay, Granddad. Put your glasses on.’

Bill frowned and lend down, waiting for her repeat the instructions.

Beth picked up his glasses that were resting on the dashboard and helped Bill put them on. She took the bottle of water from him, screwing the cap back on and putting it down. She pulled out the cards and looked through them with Bill watching over her shoulder. She found the new ones she was looking for and passed him one that showed a picture of France. Bill looked at it closely and nodded, not sure what Beth meant as he knew where they were.

She put another one into his hands; a war cemetery. He nodded again as he looked at her. That was their destination. Beth shuffled the cards and found one that had two clock faces on it. She changed the first set of hands to show the time now and the second clock to show their time of arrival. She gave it to her granddad and received a nod from him after a few moments.

‘Do you really understand?’ she shouted.

‘Yes,’ he forced out in a stuttered whispery voice.

Beth held her hand out and he gave her the cards back. She put them away again then drove off. Bill stared at the French countryside, barely recalling marching through it with his unit. He tried to remember the faces and names, but it was too difficult now with the photographs and writings. Strangely, he could see the horses though and thought about trying to tell Beth about them, but it was too much effort.

The sign of the cemetery appeared and Beth pointed it out to him. She then turned in and parked up amongst lots of other cars. She got out and went to the boot. Bill watched her getting his wheelchair and bringing it over to him. Beth opened the door, undid his seatbelt and helped him into the chair.

She then wheeled him forward, so she could grab the cards and hand them to Bill. Closing and locking the car door, she wheeled him away as Bill quickly looked through the cards.

‘What is it, Granddad?’ she asked loudly.

He held up one of the new cards which showed a photo of a poppy wreath lying beside a white headstone. Bill felt Beth’s breath in his bald head and heard her cry a few faint, ‘oh!’ sound before she hurried back to the car. He turned and could just make out, his granddaughter opening the passenger door and leaning over to the back seats. She pulled out the wreath and brought it back to him.

‘There, Granddad,’ she said.

He nodded and they set off again. The cemetery was crowded with people waiting for the ceremony and it took them a good few minutes to get to where they needed to be. Beth placed Bill right at the front with the other wheelchair uses. He looked down the line and saw a handful of men in similar clothing to himself. The man who he was sat next to, Bill didn’t recognise, but Bill gave him a nod anyway.

He felt Beth’s hand on his shoulder and reached up to hold her fingers. Bill looked up at the massive wall of names before them and felt tears come into his eyes.

Dancing

Character inspiration:

Ross couldn’t help the smile that came to his face, after all this time he was finally back in the dance studio again. He wheeled into the centre of the springboard floored room and caught himself in the mirror wall. He looked different, another new man. He stroked his flat black hair then his long beard, before deciding that he really did like this new style.

‘Hi. Are you ready?’

He glanced over at the sound of the soft female voice. Monika was standing by the low table in the far corner, her finger on the CD player’s button. The display flashed track one in red letters in an urgent like motion.

Ross nodded, ‘I believe so. I’ve been waiting all week for this.’

Monika pressed the button. The CD’s display stopped flashing, settling on the same words as soft instrumental music flowed out of the speakers. Monika slide over to him, reaching for his hands with her own.

Ross swallowed, nerves and fear bundling inside him. The voice in the back of his head shot up, but he quickly locked it down again. Nothing was going to stop him from dancing today. He took Monika’s hands, her skin felt cool and dry against his hot and starting to sweat palms.

‘Just like we talked about,’ Monika said calmly and quietly.

‘Yes,’ he responded, recalling their phone convention yesterday.

Monika took a deep breath and shut her eyes. Ross did the same and let the sound of the music fill him. He let his thoughts drift away on each changing piano note and opened himself up. No longer was he tied to the wheelchair or the war, no longer just another casualty or unsung war hero, he was a dancer.

He opened his eyes, grinned up at Monika and they danced passionately around the room.

Postcard #14

postcard 14

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Count Down (Part 3)

The train station was easy enough to get to and I arrived there in twenty minutes. Walking inside, I avoided people coming out and found myself facing a fast moving crowd. People of all ages and races were walking about in their own worlds. I found the noticeboard with the ever changing numbers and letters on it.

I pulled out the envelope from my pocket and checked the tickets. I had to get the half past ten train to Worthing which stopped at Brighton’s almost disused station. I found the platform that train was on and walked over. My suitcase trundled behind me and people stayed out of my way.

I passed by yellow painted walls plastered with posters. They were the typical ones that you see everywhere. They told you, ‘not to talk carelessly,’ ‘to join the army,’ ‘remember that you were being watched,’ ‘recycle metal, wood, plastics and paper,’ ‘ignore enemy war propaganda.’ For some reason, that last poster was my favourite and luckily there was one on the wall of my platform.

Coming up next to it, I looked up and studied it for the millionth time. There was a grey cloudy sky which held shadows of fighter planes. There was a fluttering of white single pages in the middle which also meet the top of a countryside landscape in the background. Enlarged in the bottom corner were a blonde young mother and girl. They looked pretty and eager with their blue eyes looking up at the coming down papers. In red block letters across from them was; IGNORE ENEMY WAR PROPAGANDA. Underneath in smaller writing ran; the enemy is feeding you lies. Don’t believe them, do and it could cost your life, your family’s and this country’s!

An old train pulled up behind me and I turned away. The doors hissed open and the handful of people that had been waiting alongside myself began to board. I pulled my suitcase and clutching my ticket in my other hand got on. There was no seat marked on the ticket, so I took the nearest one. Placing my suitcase and rucksack on the seat next to me, I looked around.

From the grubby window to my left, I could see the station and the poster still. To the right, the seats next to me were empty. I looked down the carpeted aisle and could see the tops of heads in seats further down. The doors shut and the engine grumbled back from its ticking over. I felt the train jostling out of the station then a woman shouting for tickets.

I held up mine as you were meant to and became the first person to be checked. I hadn’t realised I had sat in the first carriage next to the driver’s section. The woman, who was wearing a blue uniform that looked too small for her, took my ticket and looked at it. She clipped it with a hole punch and handed it back to me.

‘You know there’s nothing there, don’t you?’ she whispered at me.

I looked at her and found her wrinkled face full of concern and puzzlement. Wisps of fairy blonde hair poked out from under a flat cap. Quickly, I thought of something to say, but nothing that came to me seemed justified. As she moved off, I knew I had been silent for too long.

I watched her walk to the next person and check their ticket. She didn’t glance back at me. I settled back into the chair and saw some houses and trees going by. I felt something digging into my hip and pulled out the timer. It read; 2: 29: 43. My heart skipped a beat. How had to run down so fast? I looked again and beside from the change in the seconds, the hours and minutes stayed the same.

I leaned out of my seat, looking for the ticket woman. I had no idea how long it would take for this train to reach Brighton and I needed to ask. I couldn’t see her, she had already walked through to the door joining the other carriage. It couldn’t be that long, could it?

I got up, feeling desperation flooding me and the urge to do something. I walked down to the first person I could see. He turned out to be an elderly businessman hiding behind a newspaper.

‘Excuse me? Do you know how long it is to Brighton?’ I asked.

He peered around his paper at me, then scrunched the large sheets together in one hand as he fully looked at me.

‘I forgot to ask and it’s important,’ I pressed.

‘Brighton?’ he asked slowly, ‘twenty minutes I think.’

My fingers locked around the timer and my head pounded with trying to work it out.

‘And the south pier? How far away is that from the station?’ I questioned.

He shook his head, ‘I have no idea.’

My face scrunched up and tears threated my eyes.

‘Why are you going there, girl?’ he asked as he discarded the paper.

Violently, I shook my head and dashed back to my seat. Throwing myself down, I sobbed loudly. What was I doing? I screamed at myself. Was that envelope actually for me? Had I stolen someone else ticket and letter? What if that person was still waiting in the park right now? Tears burst out of me. Hot water rushed down my cheeks and I tasted salt in my mouth.

‘I want to go home,’ I whimpered.

Maybe, my mum had been right and if I’d just stayed in bed none of this would have happened. Perhaps, my life event timer would have hit zero and nothing would have come of it. Fool.

A hand touched my shoulder and I jumped. The old man and the ticket woman were staring at me. Both looked worried and had questions posed on their lips.

I opened my fist and showed them the counting down timer.

Recognition crossed their faces followed by a small tremble of fear.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ I cried.

They looked at each other then back at me.

‘I found this note and ticket in the park,’ I added scrambling for the letter.

I give it to the old man as he was closest.

‘It says to go to Brighton, South Pier,’ I carried on with my voice becoming chocked, ‘I didn’t even think about it. I don’t even know if it was for me. What should I do?’

‘Go there,’ the old man said.

I hushed up and swallowed my tears.

‘I have heard of people receiving letters like this before,’ he explained.

‘And what happened?’ I had to ask.

‘They went. That’s all I know,’ he simply and shrugged.

‘Did anyone come back?’ the ticket woman asked.

The old man’s lips grimaced, ‘not to my knowledge. In my day they use to say when your numbers were up you had to go where they requested you to. My timer has never started,’ he finished and showed us his red timer stripped to his wrist like a watch.

He handed the note back to me and I looked down at it.

‘Brighton is sixteen minutes away. Well, a little less now,’ the ticket woman said, ‘if you don’t want to get off you can stay on till Worthington and then get a ticket back to Lewes.’

I took a deep breath, ‘how far away is the Pier?’

‘I don’t know,’ she replied, sadly.

‘Thank you. I’ll be okay now,’ I responded.

They both shuffled away.

I folded the letter in my lap and held it loosely in both my hands. I felt torn. The tears were drying on my face, leaving it sticky. I put the letter in my pocket and wiped at my cheeks. From my bag, I took out the water bottle from before and some biscuits. Having them made me feel better.

After, my thoughts turned back to making a decision and I pulled out the letter and ticket to help me decided. Something on the ticket caught my eye and I looked closer at it. In the bottom left corner was printed my full name; Cassandra Melvin. My breath caught in my throat and I knew what to do.

The ticket woman called over the intercom, ‘Brighton Station,’ less then twelve minutes later. The doors slide open and I got off. I was the only person to do so and after a few seconds the doors closed. I saw the ticket woman come to my now empty seat then rush to the joint area between the first carriage and the second. She struggled to get the old fashioned window down before leaning out of it.

‘Why did you get off?’ she yelled at me.

I held up my ticket, ‘It has my name on it!’ I screamed back as the train started up.

‘But you don’t have to go!’ she roared, ‘quick get back on!’

‘No! I’ve to go! It’s my time!’ I hollered back.

I saw her hitting the emergency stop button and I fled the train station.

To Be Continued….