A sense of self – for MLM’s Menagerie

I remember being left behind, because they were always doing that. Turning back and giggling, faces close, dressed the same, as if they had some codeword.

Maybe they did.

I sometimes tried to follow them, but they would run ahead, until all I could hear was their laughter. Then I’d pretend I’d just gone into the woods to gather berries, or leaves. I’d pretend I didn’t care.

I pretended so hard, for so long, that I lost track of what I cared about. I was like a locked book, key lost in the forest.

A quick flash of fiction for a wet Sunday and Mindlovemisery…

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Streaky sky

Fine streaks foretell fine hunting, grandmother says. Beasts, men, berries, it’s all hunting to her. Dark streaks, dark times, with little to eat. Light streaks for feasting. She nods confidently, sitting in the sunlight, stitching.

My father laughs at her. Somewhere, there are fires burning. That’s what stains the sky.

 

I’m missing a bit of flash fiction, so I’ve started this. Way into the 52 prompts, but there you go. 

The chair – story elements for MMLM

Judith winced delicately and picked up her glass. A sip of rock-filtered, hyper-oxygenated water was soothing, but part of her envied the full-bodied red that Joe was swigging. He’d offered her some, of course, but she’d smiled and declined. He should know by now that she never drank wine when it was just the two of them

She watched him, irritated, yet again. When they’d first met he’d been bronzed and athletic. Now? He ate like Henry VIII, and breathed like Darth Vader as he did so. He’d grown a paunch, and wore loose, bright patterned shirts to hide it. Worst of all, he clung to that comfortable old reclining chair that no longer matched her tasteful decor.

Judith dabbed her lips with her cream linen napkin, and glanced sideways at the cellphone on the mantlepiece, wondering if Jack would ring. Of course not. He was far too discreet, far too professional.

Ah, Jack. Tall and slim, blue-eyed and understanding. He’d totally appreciated her vision, her desire to make the house lighter, brighter, fresher.

Jack wasn’t in the phone book. He couldn’t be Googled. You only found Jack through personal recommendations. Or perhaps he found you, he’d murmured, with his twinkling eyes and reassuring smile.

In the living room, now, Joe’s head was nodding. He’d already kicked his chair into recline mode, and now he started to snore. Another night sleeping downstairs. Judith shook her head. She felt no anger now.

Jack had understood completely that she needed to get rid of that tatty old thing. He’d shaken his head at the very sight of the chair.

“It’s no trouble at all”, he assured her. “My boys will come at night, in and out. Anything at all you want to get rid of, just  leave it in the chair. It will be gone before you come down for breakfast.”

Maybe she felt a little pity, then? After all these years? She tucked a bright, checked blanket – hideous thing – round Joe’s sleeping form, and bent to whisper in his ear.

“I do hope you don’t mind, Joe. It was the only way to get rid of the chair.”

 

This is for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s writing prompt. A list of words (in bold) to incorporate in order into a story. I assumed I’d go sci-fi, but I didn’t. 

The lady harpist

Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange771px-hans_thoma_-_fru%cc%88hlingsmelodie_1914Mrs Arbuthnot was always keen to inject a little culture into the village fete. One year she had produced a historical pageant. Two years ago, she organised poetic recitations, and last year there had been a delightful song cycle from a local mezzo soprano. This year she had come up with nothing, apart from an offer from the town’s brass band to do a medley of songs from the shows – “Very popular, Mrs A”, the band leader assured her.

You can imagine her delight, then, when Lady Shrewsbury contacted her and offered her the services of Evadne Pettigrew, celebrated for her performances on the harp. So delightful. So appropriate to an English summer afternoon. Mrs Arbuthnot accepted with delight.

The day of the village fete dawned bright and clear, and Mrs Arbuthnot surveyed the rectory grounds with satisfaction. Gaily coloured bunting fluttered in the breeze, and local ladies in summer dresses and bright cardigans loaded victoria sponges and jars of jam onto trestle tables. All was well.

 

Evadne Pettigrew was not quite what Mrs Arbuthnot had expected. She wafted onto the stage in a white robe and a wreath of roses, followed by two burly farers carrying her great harp. There were a few titters from the villagers as she took her seat and started to play. They soon stopped laughing, however, as the sweet notes of the harp rippled out towards them. Mrs Arbuthnot allowed herself a smile of satisfaction as tears started to flow down rosy cheeks, and grizzled farmers wiped their eyes with the back of their hands.

Nobody knows who noticed them first, but soon everybody had turned to look in amazement at the people in white emerging from the churchyard, and moving down the hill and over the stream towards them. It was Lizzie Jenkins who shouted “It’s the twins!”, and after that,everyone began shouting in reognition. All the dead of the village moved past them, saying nothing, but smiling at their loved ones as they approached Evadne, and gathered round her.

The music stopped, and the forms drifted away, fading into nothingness. The crowd were silent. Evadne Pettigrew was nowhere to be seen.

Written for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange. It’s an odd image by Hans Thoma from 1914.

 

Being requires exploration. By flowering, we heal.

She’d clattered up the stairs, along the corridor, and into his lab, clutching a black linen bag to her chest. She’d begged him for help. He still wasn’t sure.

“You realise it’s a particle/wave ionisation device? It will move you in time, or space, but it’s not perfected yet. You could end up anywhere. Any-when”.

They could both hear the footsteps in the distance, coming closer.

“There’s no other way. Please -” she begged him – “Do it”.

And he flicked the switch.

When the guards arrived, he was alone, tapping away quietly on his keyboard. They ripped the lab apart, but there was nothing to find.

Twenty-seven years later, he still thought about her from time to time – wondered if he’d done the right thing, why she was so desperate, where she’d ended up. Somehow it wasn’t surprising that, as he tidied up his desk, just after 6pm on Friday 17th June, she appeared in corner of the lab. She looked dazed, walked over to him and touched his cheek gently.

“You got old” she whispered. He nodded, silent.

She opened the bag, then, and showed him something he had thought he’d never see again. Bees. A roiling, buzzing mass of them. He turned to look out of the window, at the grove of almond trees, that had blossomed but not fruited for the last seven years.

When he turned back, she saw that he was crying.

 

This is for Jenny Maloney’s Wednesday challenge. She’s sent us to the New Age Bullshit Generator, to inspire ourselves with random New Age style ramblings. Hence the slightly weird title. I’d like to see a randon right-wing rant generator – except I think there might be one in the White House. Anyhow, it didn’t turn out very New Age, but there you go. It comes in at 250 words, which is fairly flash.

The Girl in Blue – 100 words for Jenny Maloney

This is for Jenny‘s Wednesday write.

We were seven sisters, so mum colour coded our clothes to make mornings run more smoothly. We’re not seven any more: Red ran off with a tight-rope walker and sends back pictures of herself in spangles; Orange keeps a hundred different kinds of chicken, and makes pots of unlikely jam; Yellow’s on an ashram in India, finding herself; Green is a corporate lawyer and only ever wears black; Blue – well, you know what happened to her; baby Violet is a tattoo artist in Birmingham; and me? I write angry love poems and wear whatever colour I please.

 

#writephoto Gold – for Sue Vincent

The kids were squabbling over something – some filter Jess was using – and Sukey could feel her blood pressure rising. Literally feel it, as if her blood was going to explode out through her skin, coating the inside of the car with sticky red gunk. She resisted the urge to scream at them to shut up – it would only lead to endless “He did”, “She did” whingeing. She took a deep breath and tried to lower her shoulders.

That was when it came – the great flash of light, just over the brow of the hill. Sukey instinctively braked, but kept her hands tight on the wheel. For a moment or two she was dazzled, couldn’t see anything. The car fell silent instantly, both kids stunned. Joe spoke first.

“What was that, mum? Was it a bomb?”

Sukey shook her head. She had no idea.

They reached the brow of the hill and Sukey stopped the car keeping the engine running. The three of them stared out over the valley before them and the thing that now lay at the heart of it.

It was massive. A vast silvery dome, covered in flickering lights, smoke or steam gently rising round it. The trees surrounding it were scorched and flattened.

Jess broke the silence, this time.

“Wow. What is that? Let me out, mum, I need to get that on Snapchat”.