Watching

On the screen, tiny people walk to and fro along winding paths. A girl in pink pauses by the lake. A dog runs after a ball.

I’d like to be there. I’d like to sit under the cherry tree; to dig my fingers into the rich earth. I’d like, too, to plant the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace; to pick the roses that smell of home; hear a robin singing.

I can’t, of course. I can only watch. The simulation’s different every time. Tomorrow the girl in pink may bring a kite. A child may place a toy boat on the pond. A different dog may sniff a tree trunk. I watch every day, remembering the time when we took all this for granted – grass, flowers, the sound of birds, the smell of alyssum. The time before we lost it all.

A piece of prosery for Sanaa at dVerse: 144 words of flash fiction, incorporating a quotation from a poem. Tonight Sanaa’s given us a line by Katherine Reigel: I’d like, too, to plant the sweet alyssum that smells like honey and peace

These are the things they don’t tell us – prosery for dVerse.

These are the things they don’t tell us:

  • Where we’re going.
  • How long the journey is
  • What we’ll do when we get there

They tell us why we’re being sent. We are misfits, troublemakers, boat-rockers. We are not wanted here. We’re not criminals – oh no – and this is not punishment. This is opportunity.

Gossip, of course, is rampant. One group thinks we’re being trained for extreme cold. One groups thinks we’re being fed birth control pills. Pink haired Jaine thinks we’re going to be saving the planet.

Me? I listen. I watch. I notice who gets the best seat, who takes the first potato, who takes the last slice of cake. Who glances at their neighbour. Who laughs too much. Because I don’t know where we’re going, but I do know that when we get there, I’m going to survive. I’m going to thrive.

A 144 word flash fiction for Jade at dVerse. Prosery is a dVerse form – 144 words including a quotation from a poem. Today, the quotation is “These are the things they don’t tell us” and the poem is “Notes on Uvalde” by Girl du Jour. You can read the poem in full in Jade’s dVerse prompt. It’s immensely powerful and very moving.

Sky – prosery for dVerse

“Mama, what did you do in the Kingdom of the Sky?”

“I wandered”

“Lonely?”

“As a cloud, I was never lonely. Clouds are always clustering together, sharing gossip. The moon is lonely, sometimes. I would visit her and drink pale tea and tell her stories. When I was a star, I spent hours on the phone to my sisters. We would wave to each other across those vast distances.”

“What did you like best?”

“Being a cloud. I was close enough to see what was happening down on the earth. People would look up at me, children would give me shapes and stories. But I liked visiting the moon, too. I liked her sad music and her translucent biscuits. I liked to see her smile”

“Would you go again?”

“No. I’m your mama, my feet are firmly on the ground. Go to sleep now.”

A prosery piece for Lillian at dVerse. 144 words, including the quotation. This one is so famous I’m not going to insult you by picking it out!

Moon story.

“What is it?” Ellie asks, knowing it’s a ball.

“It is a moon, wrapped in brown paper”, he tells her. Mama casts him a dirty look, preparing for disappointment. Yet, when Ellie pulls off that brown paper, there it is, silvery-grey, glowing, wanting to float.

Outside, the sky is dark. There are stars, but no moon.

“How did you find it?” Ellie asks.

He shrugs. “It was caught up in the ash tree. I climbed up there, prodded it with a stick, managed to catch it”.

She thinks of him, risking the thin branches at the top to bring her treasure.

Later, they climb the hill behind the house and let the moon go. Hand in hand they watch it rise, bobbing into its familiar place. She knows she will always have a bond with the moon now. Its smile will be for her.

A flash fiction for Bjorn at dVerse. We take our line from Carol Ann Duffy’s poem Valentine: “it is a moon, wrapped in brown paper”

How they kill the city.

They silence him, but his shadow shouts on – a nightmare scream that fills the room, echoes down the corridors. They shut the door, but the scream spills under it. They brick up the doorway, plaster over it, so that you’d never know the room was there, but the scream remains.

They leave the house. Ivy grows over the walls, blocks the windows, but the scream continues. They bulldoze the damn house, but still the scream is there. People move away. The street empties. No-one can live there.

The neighbourhood thins out. Empty houses can’t be filled. The scream just spreads, filling the whole city. It won’t be drowned by sirens, car horns, piped music. People leave their homes, their jobs – relocate.  The scream is alone, echoing down silent streets of boarded-up shops, empty apartment buildings. Dandelions split the tarmac.

Bjorn is hosting prosery night at dVerse. It’s our only prose prompt – 144 words, including a line from a poem. Tonight’s line comes from Maya Angelou’s Caged Bird: “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”. 

Measure twice, cut once III

I wove the fabric for the princess’s wedding gown, so I know it’s perfect, but for one small flaw.

I wove it over the winter, a special commission. Pure white, reflecting the colours of the world. I didn’t use white thread, though – I used the soft grey wool from a lamb’s throat, jaybird feathers, words torn from old love letters, wisps of grass, dried violets, a single thread of my own brown hair. As I wove, I whispered old words over them, san fold songs – songs of snow and ice, of clouds and gulls and seafoam. I made white through my own will.

I sew the wedding gown, knowing the princess will look like a rose flowering in the snow. The prince will turn and look at her, and his face will light up – as it lit up when he used to look at me.

I smile as I stitch, embroidering the snowy cloth with flowers – roses, lilies, snowdrops. When it’s finished, there’s just that one flaw – that single thread of my hair, dancing across the train. I leave it there, just to remind him of me.

Ok, this is the third draft of this small story, for Tanya Cliff’s Writer’s Workshop at GoDogGo cafe.  This week we’re thinking about our opening – using a single sentence or paragraph to introduce character and conflict.

This means I’ve had to sacrifice my best sentence, but you have to kill your babies in this game.

 

Measure twice, cut once.

Even if I was blindfolded, I could tell what fabric I’m cutting from the sound it makes. This one is heavy, expensive, made to drape like water or snow across a girl’s hips. I know, because I wove it.

I wove it over the winter, a special commission. Pure white, reflecting back the colours of the world. I didn’t use white thread, though – I used the soft grey wool from a lamb’s throat, feathers from a jay, words torn tenderly from the love letters he sent me, whisps of grass, dried violets, a single thread of my own brown hair. I wove them carefully, whispering the old words over them, singing the old songs – songs of snow and ice, of white clouds, of gulls, of sea-foam. I made them white through my own will.

And now, I’m cutting and stitching, to make a wedding gown for a princess. She will look like a rose flowering in the snow. The prince will turn and look at her, and his face will light up, the way it used to light up when he saw me.

I smile as I stitch, a mistress at work. I embroider the smooth white cloth with snowdrops and lilies, with white roses and lily of the valley. When it’s finished, there’s only one flaw – that single thread of my hair, dancing on the surface of the train. I leave it there, just to remind him of me.

Over at Go Dog Go, Tanya Cliffis hosting a series of writing workshops. She’s given us a theme – Measure Twice, Cut Once – and asks us to put up a first draft this week, to be worked on over the next few weeks.

This is my first draft. I think my pronouns are probably a bit baggy, and I’m not sure how easy it is to work out who is who. But it’s a first draft, so I’m not being too fussy.

Prosery: between heartbeats.

If I concentrate, I can slip between the molecules in the wall. I can absorb the energy of a bullet, make it my own. There are moments caught between heartbeats when I can stretch time. I’m not sure what that makes me – angel? demon? blessed or cursed?

I’ve always done this: slithered out of my own body, wriggled under the skin of lovers. I have survived car crashes, conflagrations; I’ve sought vengeance: spread my fingers in the rapist’s brain; I’ve sought mayhem – guided the arrow that started the battle.

I have watched everything I love grow old and worn. I’ve moved on and started over a thousand times. I’ve passed through ice and flames. I’m not even sure of my own name now, wouldn’t recognise myself in a mirror – except for my eyes. There are galaxies in there, burning in the darkness. I’m lonely.

Kim is hosting the prosery prompt tonight at dVerse. What’s prosery, I hear you cry? A piece of prose, 144 words, incorporating a line from a poem chosen by the host. Tonight the line is from Louis MacNeice – “there are moments caught between heartbeats”

 

Damn cow

A cow is screaming across the arroyo. I’m sweating, but my mouth is dry – my lips taste of dust when I lick them. I feel like screaming, too. The cow won’t last the night. We lit a fire to keep away night creatures and it’s comforting. If the damn cow would stop screaming I might get some sleep.

Tomorrow, I’ll dig for water.

The moon is bright and there are more stars than I’ve ever seen before. A few nights ago we had the strength to sing, but now we’re too exhausted. We passed more abandoned cars today, found some melted sweets, licked the papers for the taste of sugar. We can’t keep going, but we can’t stop either.

The cow screams again. Somebody swears at it, and we all laugh. What else can we do?

Linda is hosting at dVerse tonight, and it’s prosery night – 144 word flash fiction, incorporating a quote. Tonight’s quote is from Jim Harrison – “a cow is screaming across the arroyo”. I had to look up arroyo – it’s a dried up creek bed.

Party animal – prosery for dVerse

He was so gorgeous. It was hard to believe – she’d met him on the train, mentioned the party – and now, look, here he was, putting up decorations. She couldn’t remember buying such life-like bats, or such realistic cobwebs, but the room looked amazing. Her fingers absently rubbed the sticky patch on her throat, where moments ago he had set his lips.

How beautiful he was, and how creative! He’d transformed her flat-pack flat into a dark, mysterious boudoir.

He turned and grinned at her.

“If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant” he murmured. “I can’t wait to meet your friends. Are they all as warm and beatiful as you?”.

He held out his hand and she drifted towards him, unable to help herself. She needed the feel of his mouth on her throat again.

Victoria is running the dVerse bar tonight, and introducing us to Jane Kenyon. It’s prosery night, and the weather here is awful – it’s cold and wet, with intermittent hail. The perfect night to sit around the fire and swap spooky stories. More stories over at dVerse – and the quotation we have to fit into our 144 word prose is “If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant”. Come and play.