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

 

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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. 

Mad Betty’s house

The hut nestled under the bank at the end of the lane. We crept towards it. We could hear her singing – a wordless song, or, if it had words, they were in a language we couldn’t understand.

Jack sniggered.

“Mad old bat!”, he whispered. “Grab some ammunition!”

The boys gathered up handfuls of stones and mud, as silently as they could. Nobody spoke. Jack led the way. When I tried to follow, he turned and stood in front of me, legs apart, hands on hips.

“No girls allowed,” he said, ginger head cocked back. “This is men’s work”.

Men! They were a bunch of smelly, scruffy little boys. They were a bunch of pigs.

I didn’t care. I wasn’t even going to watch them. I climbed the bank, and found myself a place to sit, back to the trunk of a beech tree. The light through the leaves made a pattern on my skirt. I could hear Mad Betty singing her aimless song, and I think I fell asleep.

I woke to a commotion – shouts and cries, the sound of stones pattering on a wooden roof, and the splat of mud against a wooden wall. Nothing from Mad Betty, no screams, no shouts. Not even the wordless song. There was silence for a moment, as if the world paused, and then a squealing sound, the sound of some terrified animal.

A herd of pigs went helter-skelter past me, into the undergrowth. I swear that one of them turned to look at me as he went, his ginger bristles shining in the afternoon sun. I turned to follow where they went, but was distracted by Mad Betty starting up her song again. The pigs suddenly didn’t seem important. I sat back down, and let myself drift away.

For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt.  I’m enjoying getting back into a bit of flash fiction.

Stone story

I’m the last one awake, now. My sister, Emerald, was admiring the snow on the mountains when the sun came  up. Standing on tiptoe. Ha! She never learns. She’ll wake up stiff this evening, and she’ll be complaining all night. Ruby, Beryl and Jasper were curled up nicely, like little piglets, while I told them a bedtime story, and they just drifted off. I could see them petrifying while I watched.

At least the days are short this time of year, and tonight the moon will be full, so they’ll be able to run around. I’ll make some tasty mud pies, and we can play some games. Dad might come home. He’s been gone a week now, and we all miss him. He went to look for mum. I don’t think he’ll find her. I think she was Taken.

Aunty Quartz got Taken last month, and the month before that it was Uncle Granite. Cousin Shale went some time over the summer. He’d moved over to sleep on the other side of the pond, but he’d wave at us regularly, and then one night we noticed he wasn’t there.

Don’t tell the little ones, but I’ve heard it’s humans that Take them. They hoist them up with special slings while everyone’s asleep and stony, and then they carve them up, and turn them into garden walls, lintels, ornaments. It’s disgusting! Emerald says she’s seen them, but she’s a terrible liar.

Dad says it’s not true. He says not to worry, but I do. I don’t want to be made into a wall. I’d love to stay awake and keep an eye on everyone.

I’m so sleepy, though, and my legs are heavy. I can’t move my head any more…yawn…I’m just going to close my eyes…

Rooks

Starlings form one being,

that moves and spins, each bird

part of the whole. Rooks,

on the other hand,

travel as a company

of individuals. I’ve watched them,

loosely linked, peeling off singly

or in pairs, coming together

for food, or fighting.

They are a company of swords,

the mercenaries of the skies,

choosing their companions,

committing fresh each day.

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. I have a minor rook obsession. It might show.  

The window

“Did you hear that?”

“Sorry, darling, I was deep in my book. What was it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s so silly. I seem to hear it every night. There’s a rustling noise, and then a gasp. The first time I heard it I thought someone was climbing the trellis. I actually went to the window and looked out, but there was nothing there. Perhaps I’m going a little mad!”

“It’s probably mice”.

“Mmhm”.

 

The spirt of Lady Casabella stood at the casement gazing down. Her lover, Sir Montacute, had been so close. Just as their fingers had touched, he’d slipped and fallen. She reached for him in desperation, but to no avail. He fell silently, mindful of her honour, his eyes fixed on hers.

Casabella watched him fall, and waited to hear her husband’s footsteps behind her. Tonight, as every night, he would rush to the window, and see the broken body far below. He would turn to her, knife in hand, and thrust the blade – once, twice, thrice – into her bosom, and then stand over her as she bled to death.

Night after night she endured this. Night after night, dimly aware that the castle had changed around her, that people came and went, seasons passed. This was the price she paid for her dream of freedom.

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday prompt. 

Spring

There was snow all around, but her houme was a haven for spring. Around the little cottage the grass was green, and the air was scented with primroses and bluebells. Birds flitted here and there, and petals floated down from the cherry trees, echoing the snow falling on the fields and hills all around.

Spring would come in the outside world, and for a few days her garden would be aligned with the land. Summer would leave it behind, and she would watch wistfully as wild roses blossomed in the hedgerows, and fledgelings left nests. Cherries ripened in the orchards, but not in her garden. Autumn brought blackberries, ripe apples, and leaves turning gold and amber, drifting down to form great carpets of colour, but her garden remained green and fresh and young.

She sighed, and turned away from the window. Would she have chosen eternal youth if she had known that it would be this lonely? She ran her fingers through her long, dark hair, and glanced at her reflection in the mirror. Her skin was smooth, her eyes were bright. She smiled.

Yes. She would make this choice again.

 

This is for Sue Vincents #writephoto prompt. 

The Quest

The Quest? That’s the stupid game my stupid brother plays. And half the boys in the school. And quite a few girls, too. My brother’s been playing it for a couple of years now. I know ALL about it – he never shuts up about it, that’s how I know about it.

He’s a Mage. An apprentice Mage. Everyone’s an apprentice. You do this test at the start and it puts you in a group. Like the Sorting Hat. Mage, Warrior, Trickster, Minstrel, Merchant.

There have been SO many fights at school about it. Like, last week two Warriors got into a fight over some gold, and then a Trickster came in and stole it while they were fighting, and so they both beat him up instead.

It’s not real gold. It’s all AR – augmented reality. You follow trails, solve clues, have magical encounters, collect gold to bribe goblins and trinkets to charm elves. Like, we’ll be on our way to the shops and he’s suddenly “Wait, wait, I have to collect that gold!”

Mental.

I don’t know ANYBODY who’s completed it, but they say if you do, you go through The Portal and get some kind of mystical powers.

Double Mental.

My stupid brother talks about it ALL the time. Mum was tearing her hair out, he wasn’t doing any schoolwork, not a tap. He got straight As in the end of term exams though, so what can she say? He reckons it’s because he’s a Mage. As if.

It’s all got serious now, though. He went off yesterday, with a bunch of mates. They formed a Questing Company, apparently. One of each – Mage, Minstrel, all that. The final quest, he said, to find a dragon, and then they get to go through The Portal.

Stupid.

And they haven’t come back. Mum’s beside herself. The police are out there looking for them.

I’ve got a plan, though. I’ve signed up for The Quest. See – I’m a Warrior. Cool, huh? Warrior Maiden plaits and everything. What do you reckon? See, I’ going to follow this stupid Quest until I find my stupid brother.

This is for Mindlovemiserymenageries prompt The Quest.