Gaia’s dream

 

The world turned out of summer, and the land cooled. Leaves turned brown, and berries ripened.

High on the sacred peak of Mount Olympus, Gaia slept, and as she slept, she dreamed. She dreamed of small things – puppies, kittens, baby seals with big brown eyes. She dreamed of seedlings, pushing through the soil, green leaves opening in spring sunshine. She dreamed of eggs cracking, of baby birds in soft-lined nests. She dreamed of babies, mouths pursed and suckling, latching on to her great, bountiful breasts.

Far below the mountain top, two priestesses knelt before the sacred well.

“Milk again” one of them remarked. “And winter hasn’t even started yet. Spring is months away. Someone needs to wake her up.”

 

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. 

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Excerpt from “With trolls through the mountains” by Lady Emmeline Graham-Jones.

We had followed the two trolls for several days. It was hard work – resting by day, tracking by night, following them mainly by the noise they made as they pushed through the forest. The native guides were unhappy about the whole thing. They don’t follow trolls, they told us. Trolls can be dangerous and unpredictable.

I have heard this so many times. In fact, there are hardly any reported cases of unprovoked attacks by trolls, either in central Europe or in Scandinavia. They have been known to crush unwary sleepers, but there is no evidence that this behaviour was deliberate.

These trolls were a pair, but they were long past breeding. They moved slowly, and were relatively easy to follow, as they left a swathe of flattened vegetation behind them.

I believe I am one of very few field researchers who can say they witnessed what came next. As the sky lightened above the forest canopy, the trolls embraced, and then settled down to wait for sunrise. From my hiding place amongst the tightly woven bushes, I watched the petrification spread across their skin as the sunlight moved over them.

We set up camp quite close to them, and I was able to examine them. I could see the vague outlines of the larger troll’s facial features. Was this the male? The female had curled herself next to him. You could imagine he was standing guard over her sleeping form.

That evening we broke camp, and waited for the sun to set. Night fell, but the trolls didn’t move. We waited quite some time – two hours by my chronometer – and eventually I approached their sleeping forms. By torchlight they appeared to be still in a state of petrification. Eventually, I reached out and touched the surface of the female(?) troll. Stone. The process of petrification had not been reversed by darkness.

I believe that I was priveleged to see the last sentient moments of an aging troll pair. That they chose to enter a state of petrification side by side is not in doubt. This is one of the strongest arguments I can find to justify the description of the troll as a sentient, feeling being, not unlike ourselves.

I was very moved. The following morning, I made a wreath of woodland flowers and laid it between them, where the stones touched each other. I’m not ashamed to say that I wiped away a tear as I did so.

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.  I continue my exploration of the natural history of the troll. Obviously.

Carved – Leverett Island stories.

Up on the top of Stony Peak, there’s a rock that looks like it’s been carved. If you stand by it and look round, you can see all down the west coast of the Island. It’s probably just erosion by wind and rain, but the story my mother told me is that it was a bathing place for the little people. If you were to go up there after dark, you might see them, jumping and splashing in the water there. Midsummer Eve is the best time to see them, she said, but you must carry an iron horseshoe in your pocket to prevent them stealing you. You should never bargain with the little people, you’ll always come off worst. If you bathe a child in the little pool on May Eve, that child will  never drown, but if you go up there and there’s no water in the hollow, that’s terrible bad luck, and you shouldn’t let that child leave the Island. If you’ve a loved one lost at sea, you should go up there and leave something to call them home – something they treasure. The little people will help you if they’ve a mind to, but they can’t be depended on.

Here’s a little something for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. Leverett Island is a place where stories grow out of the stony soil. I’m in the process of cataloguing them. 

Questing

So, Level 1 of The Quest is all about getting kitted out. I’m a Warrior, so I need weapons – obviously – and armour, and all that. I haven’t told Mum and Dad. They’d go mental – I mean, they’re worried enough as it is. I told Bethany, though. She took the test yesterday, and she’s come out as a Trickster, which is cool.

So, Bethany’s my first partner. She’s really excited about it. I think she wanted to play, anyway, but it’s mostly boys. It’s harder for girls to admit they’re interested.

I told Mum and Dad I was going round to Bethany’s after school, to do some French. Our house is awful. Mum just wanders around. Like, she’ll have a cup in her hand, and she’ll just wander around with it, and then remember she’s supposed to be putting it away, like she’s forgotten where cups go. And she feels bad about me, I know she does. I don’t mind her neglecting me. She’s not neglecting me, really, she just has a lot to worry about.

We got our phones out on the way there. The Quest is totally lame, but it’s sort of cool, too. I mean, we walked past the supermarket, and on screen it looked like this weird rock formation, with people going in and out of this dark, creepy cave entrance. Bethany reckons we should explore it. She reckons there might be treasure in there, or some kind of magical weapon. We’re going to go back there, after tea, and see what we can find. It will be our first real quest. I’m kind of excited, and kind of nervous.

We spotted another Questor, too. A kid in the year above us. I think his name is Jake. He was wearing Minstrel clothes when you looked at him through the screen. He had a blue sash, so I think he’s Level 3, but he didn’t have a badge, so he’s not part of a Fellowship. I don’t think he noticed us. We need to start thinking about our Fellowship, though. Bethany reckons we should keep it as an all girl thing, but I’m not sure. I just want to get through these early levels as quickly as possible. I’m not just on a Quest, I’m on a Mission.

The Quest is a augmented reality game, involving role-play, quests, problem solving and battling. The aim is to build up resources and form a fellowship to complete the final level and pass through The Portal. A Fellowship comprises one of each possible role – Mage, Warrior, Trickster, Minstrel, Merchant. And nobody knows what happens when you pass through the Portal. 

Another piece for Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto challenge. It’s a continuation of a piece i wrote a while ago – follow the Quest link if you want to read that piece.

The green chapel

Winter sleeps in a cave in the mountains, on a bed of ice. She creeps in there as the snow melts, and takes her long rest, lulled by birdsong and the scent of green, growing things. She wakes as the leaves fall in showers of gold and red, and emerges, scattering frost around her. She walks under winter skies pierced full of stars, and dances in wild December storms.

If you find the cave, and enter it, you will see her sleeping there, pale as a snowdrop, lips like holly berries, hair as black as the bare branches of the beech tree in January. Don’t wake her – one touch of her white hand will freeze your soul, and leave you bound, another stone sentinel to guard her bedchamber.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

#writephoto

Archway

Leverett Island Recordings #15

You’ll have heard lots of stories while you’ve been here on Leverett? Mostly from long ago? I’ve a story that happened not that long ago – in my lifetime. I remember it. People don’t talk about it much, now, but it’s a true story.

It was the summer of ’76, that hot summer. I was 17, so a bit old for playing, but my sister was 12, and she spent most of the summer hanging round with a gang of kids, some from the island, some over on their holidays. They swam in the bay, and from the shell beach on the eastern side, and they explored the island, generally messed around. They’d be gone all day. I had a bit of work serving breakfasts at the hotel, so I’d be finished by mid-morning, and I’d go to the beach myself, with my friends, topping up our tans.

It was a Friday morning, a quiet morning, and I’d finished up early. A few of us were heading towards the shell beach with a football and some cans of beer, when there was a right commotion. A whole horde of kids came charging down the middle road, screeching and shouting. My sister was there, and I grabbed her arm, like, and pulled her out of the mass of them. It’s her story, really.

They’d been up at the Manor. Some visitors think it’s an old church, but there never was a church on the island. The Manor was where Lady Montrevor lived, and she was a terrible heathen, they say. She wouldn’t let a priest land on the island while she was alive. After she died, there was a fire there, and the place was never properly rebuilt. The family built a new place, down towards the bay, with a view out to sea, and the Manor was left alone.

The kids had gone up there, to play. It was cool in there, my sister said. They’d been playing hide and seek, scaring themselves a bit, I think, and then the boys started daring each other to do silly things – climbing bits of wall, jumping off things. I say silly – I’d been doing them myself when I was that age. One of the lads took a run towards the window, jumped from it – and disappeared! That’s what my sister said, he just vanished in front of their eyes. They were stunned for a minute, and then they decided he’d played some kind of trick on them, started calling for him, and looking for him.

They couldn’t find him, not anywhere. The ground below the window was hard, and dusty from the sun, and there were no footprints there, no sign anybody had landed. They searched, and then one of them – his cousin, I think – started to panic, and then they all panicked, came running down to the harbour.

Of course, me and my pals went up there and searched around, thinking he was just messing, but we couldn’t find him. By the end of the day, the whole village was there, and his parents – they were from the mainland – and all their mob, and none of us could find him.

His  parents stayed on. Never left. That’s why it’s not talked about, you see. They’re a nice couple, Sheila and Ted. Quiet, but, you know, they’d help you out if you needed it.

He never turned up, the boy. No sign of him. I still keep an eye out if I’m walking the dogs up that way, but I daresay I’ll never see anything. People started to say the fairies took him. Now, I can’t say I believe in fairies, but I’ve thought about it over the years, and maybe that is the best explanation. Maybe that’s what happened.

May 17, 2013.
Leverett Island.

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. I’ve revisited my stash of recordings from Leverett. This seemed to fit the photo. #writephoto

The sunset gown

She reached out and gathered up the sky, dipping the thread into a vat of it, hanging it to dry, so that the room was filled with blues and golds and that strange green you sometimes see fading away on a summer evening.

She wove a piece of cloth from her memories of that sunset. The deep indigo of the sky, fading to burning gold. She snipped and stitched until she had made a dress that billowed and flowed about her as she moved. Her needle whipped in and out, until the dress was emboidered with masses of clouds, all gold and peach and cream and pink – the glorious colours of burning, endless love.

She stood in front of the mirror. Her hair was a dark ocean, streaming over her shoulders, and the dress was a fiery memory of the setting sun.

The day of the wedding, she took her place at the back of the church in her burning dress. He could only look at her. The bride was fair, and pale, and drooped like a snowdrop as he took her hands, but it was the girl in flames that he gazed at as he made his vows.

For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt #writephoto

#writephoto

 

The mound

Clare looked back at the hill. It was hard to believe they’d been inside it just an hour ago. The burial chamber was amazing  – so well preserved. Once they’d dug down to the entrance, and moved the great stone that blocked the passageway, they’d been able to crawl right into the heart of the hill. They’d been the first people there for 2,000 years, or thereabouts. It was every archaeologist’s dream.

Dave had gone down there with her. He was completing his PhD – he would have so much to write about now. Clare smiled. She could envisage the papers they would write: Dr C Paget and D Anderson. There would be lectures, maybe newspaper articles, maybe a television series. This was a major find.

There were runes carved into the chamber wall. She’d copied them down, and made a rubbing. The papers were stacked in her backpack. Once they got back to the department she’d have a go at interpreting them. Probably an invocation to the gods – though sometimes you found a curse on desecrators of tombs. She grinned. She quite liked the thought of being a desecrator of tombs – a bit Indiana Jones. Usually she was just boring Dr Paget, lecturing on bronze age burial techniques to students who just wanted to be out in the field.

She looked back again. The pathway was obviously part of the tomb complex, and there might well be more remains. She turned fully, shielding her eyes with her hand, and looked at the hill again. Her hill, she thought, with satisfaction.

The path was longer than she’d remembered. An hour later they still hadn’t reached the car. Clare looked round, confused. All these fields looked so similar, and, bizarrely, the hill seemed just as dominant on the skyline as it ever had.

It was much later.  Clare didn’t understand it, and even Dave had lost his usual chilled demeanour. They had been giong in a dead straight line.They couldn’t possibly have come the wrong way, but the sun was starting to set, and they still hadn’t found the car. And the hill was just as close as ever.

The papers in the backpack suddenly seemed very heavy. 

Sanctuary

They looked back at the small temple. There was no sign of the bus station that should be behind it, and the noise of the city was absent. Sam frowned, puzzled.

“Why are all these trees in blossom?” she asked.

Jason shrugged. He wasn’t that interested in the temple. It smelled of piss, and somebody had left a load of old chocolate wrappers in there. Maybe it was the same person who had scrawled their name on the wall, and something obscene about a girl called Angela.

“It’s the middle of September”, Sam continued. “Those are magnolias, I think, and that’s cherry blossom”.

She pointed at something white and something pink. Jason shrugged again, and started to head back towards the bus station. They needed to be on the 2 o’clock bus, or his mum would know they’d been skiving. He was hungry, too, and he fancied some chips for the journey home. Sam followed him, still looking round and wondering.

They made their way round to the back of the little temple, still not able to see the bus station. In fact, they couldn’t see anything. A white wall of fog hung behind the temple. They kept walking, until they were back at the entrance. There was a statue inside, Sam noticed. Must have walked straight past it before.

They heard voices behind them, and turned. A group of people in fancy dress were coming up the hill towards them. The women were wearing white, floaty dresses, and the men were in dark coats and trousers that stopped at the knee. They were laughing and chatting, and passed by the two kids without acknowledging them. One of the men was obviously showing off the temple, and the others were all admiring it.

Then the rain started. The group of – what? actors? weirdos? – dashed to shelter under the temple terrace. Sam and Jason followed them, stepping into the temple itself.

“That IS weird”, Jason said, looking round. No smell, no chocolate wrappers, no graffitti.

What the hell had happened?

#writephoto

The shrine – a tale from Leverett Island

There are a number of ‘holy’ wells on the island. Several are associated with saints, but some are called ‘fairy wells’ by the locals, and have never been adopted by the church. Up towards the north west corner of the island is the well called Three Sisters. It’s a place for women – a place to go if  your baby isn’t thriving and you need to make more milk, or if your husband seems to be watching another woman’s walk, or if you want to bring him to the point. It’s a place to go if a child hasn’t come yet. You must take something white – milk, or cheese, or white flowers, or a white handkerchief. The hawthorn that grows by the well is all hung with white ribbons, mostly faded or stained green with time now. You must ask the Three Sisters for their help with whatever you want.

If you see three geese flying together on your way home, you’ll know they’ve listened to you, and they will answer your prayers. If you find a white feather, that’s lucky. Keep it.

It must be seven years ago that Danny Cumiskey was digging some roots out near the Three Sisters, when his spade hit against a big stone. He tried to dig it out, and realised it had been worked. He’s a very curious man, Danny, known for it, so he kept on digging, came back the next day with a tractor and a couple of fellows, and pulled this great stone out. See the three birds? The Three Sisters. Proof it was all true, the women of the island said. Danny set it up next to the well, and the visitors come and take photographs of it, but we know the real power of the  Sisters is in the water, not the stone.

 

It’s taken me a little while to get tot his, but this is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.