What Pegman Saw: The grieving widow

The room was unassuming, the furnishings plain but clean, old but well kept, very much like the landlady, Mrs Hollis.

‘A month’s rent in advance,’ she said. ‘No lady visitors in the rooms, please. We’ve had unpleasant moments. In the past.’

My gaze lingered over the sloped ceiling, the low window that looked over a square of clipped lawn, gaudy sentries of begonias and geraniums.

I paused, feeling her watching me, enjoying her confidence shift into uncertainty.

‘Is everything to your satisfaction?’

‘Everything, Mrs Hollis? No, not everything. But the room? Yes.’

A little sigh escaped her and I felt glad I’d made her wait for my approval.

‘May I ask, is there a Mr Hollis?’

‘He passed.’ She shook her bowed head. Not a bad imitation of a grieving widow, though I’ve seen better.

I turned my attention to the shadow behind the door.

Mr Hollis, I presume.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its inspiration. This week we visit Delaware.

I tried to be inspired by the location itself, read about Maryland and Delaware and this house – Great Oak Manor – that has been host to John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemmingway in its time.

I’m afraid, though, my mind is too tied up with ghosts to shake them off and Mr Hollis jumped out at me at the last moment.

Crimson's Creative Challenge #61: Burrowed deep inside

#CCC61

Liz sat at the kitchen table. The tea pot was still full, the tea cold.

Open on the table was a brown paper package with an illegible postmark. Instead of bubble wrap, the wadding was sheep’s wool, the lanolin having left a greasy film on her fingers.

The packet had contained a single giant seed, rounded at one end, pointed at the other, curled like a speech mark. The seed was enamel hard, the surface patterned with oily rainbows as if it had lain for years, burrowed deep inside the mouth of a hungry oyster.

At first she’d cradled it in her left palm, coming to terms with its weight, the heat of its skin.

Then the seed shivered. Lay still. Shivered again… As if a tiny heart beat inside.

That was when Liz decided she didn’t want to hold it anymore.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #61. See the pic and join in here.

And if you’re wondering how I came to write a story about a giant, pulsating seed… Well, the image looks like a giant hothouse to me.

What Pegman Saw: The Desert Kin

Image: Google Street View

The shack had been the post office of a mining town, now deserted. Sunbleached boards across the windows, tiles missing from the roof like a reptile shedding scales.

‘This it?’ Roddy’s usual cocky smile had slipped as we’d driven further into the desert. Now he was a fifteen-year-old boy again, arms tight folded, fear skulking behind his eyes.

‘It’s okay, kid,’ I said, smiling. ‘Soon have a fire going. Go fetch the bedrolls from the pickup, would you?’

I scanned the plain, the distant ridge of smoke grey hills. At least we’d see someone coming. Any vehicle would kick up a dust trail and as long as we were vigilant –

Something cold brushed the back of my hand. Instinct made me look, but there was nothing. Of course not. You don’t see the Desert Kin. Not unless they want you to.

‘Roddy, I’ll take first watch,’ I called.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Cloverdale, New Mexico. See here to join in.

Crimson's Creative Challenge #60: Diversion

CCC#60

Culvert is the name I have chosen.

Over the weeks of my recuperation, as my bruises faded and bones mostly healed, I considered alternatives – River, Brook, Flow… Shimmer had a certain ring. But Culvert. Culvert fits.

Three months ago, I stepped into the shallow waters as one thing – a good but conventional mind, a man who looked both ways at an intersection, had cut sugar from his diet, paid his taxes.

Hours later, I was dragged out… Changed. Now red lights are a challenge to my sharpened reactions. Dietary advice I leave for those who need it. And taxes… Well, let’s say, any tax collector only visits my office once.

My time in the water diverted my old self and something new was built over the top. The babbling brook that was me is still there, buried under new, hard layers.

Culvert is here to stay.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #60. See here to join in.

A frostbitten heart

Image: Pixabay

Each time the snow fell, covering the land in ankle deep crunch, she went looking. And when ice turned the world to a hard snap, she searched then too.

She looked for the lamppost’s prism of glass, for dancing shadows falling on iron earth, for the faun and his parcels of paper and string.

Standing under heavy white firs, she listened for the chatter of beavers, for the sleigh bells’ frosty chime. 

Always Winter, never Christmas.

The lack of magic became a physical pain, as if the cold had bitten her heart, broken it into glassy shards. Even the brilliant snow held no pleasure for her, as if it was already easing to slush.

She’s old now, still searching. Still driven on by that frostbitten heart. But sometimes, as she plants a powdery kiss on my cheek, I smell rosewater and lemons

and I wonder…

***

For those unfamiliar with the references, do take a look here.

I’m unsure if this is a cautionary tale about fruitlessly seeking magic in a world where none remains, or one cautioning against giving up hope too soon. You decide.

That’s it from me until after Christmas. As you read this I’ll be at work, selling holly and ivy and glitter to the good folk of Bristol.

Happy Christmas all and see you once the glorious madness is over.

Friday Fictioneers: Sparkle

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

All existence was slate to him now.

The pressing clouds. The lake veined with ripples and reflected woodland. The lawn, preserved in ice. His own body – heavy, cold, grey. Even his heart felt sluggish, the beat glacial slow.

A flicker out on the water caught his eye. A glow – soft as candlelight – danced towards him. The ice, the sky, the dull, flat water, all shimmered gold and silver, sparkling.

A sigh of music, a sweet song of family from long ago, caught on the breeze and was gone. Through tears, he reached towards the light.

And was home.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff’Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Write a story based on the prompt photo, share, read others and enjoy. See here to join in.

Writing Competition: This is the end, beautiful friend

Image: Alicja Pixabay

Is it me or does the world feel like it’s more messed up than ever?

There was a time when all we had to fret over was nuclear annihilation and whether Wagon Wheels are smaller now than they were when we were kids (Yes they are.)

Now the NHS is on its knees, we’re threatened with medicine and food shortages if we leave Europe, civil disobedience if we don’t.

We’re in the middle of a man made Mass Extinction event, global warming is causing erratic weather patterns that threaten much of life on Earth and we’re liable to choke on our own plastic waste in the coming decades.

The question is, where do you channel the quite justified anxiety caused by these concerns?

Do you

A: go full Rambo-style survivalist, build a bunker in your flowerbeds and wait for the coming end armed with a cricket bat and some ancient tins of fruit cocktail to throw at oncoming hordes (I’m in the UK – holding them off with an assault rifle is not an option)?

B: pretend nothing’s happening, keep the worries inside until they form an ulcer the size of a dinner plate?

Hmm. If only there was some useful way to work through these anxieties …

Storgy Magazine has the answer.

They’re running a competition called Annihilation Radiation. There’s an End of the World theme, but here’s the twist that got me excited.

You enter the comp through Storgy’s Submittable page. Within 24 hours, you’ll be sent a link telling you whether you’ve been allotted a Beginning, Middle or End story.

Will you get to write a tale about patient 0 in a global a virus pandemic? Or one that records the catastrophe as it transpires? Or tell what life could be like after the mushroom cloud has settled?

And they’re not purely looking for grim outcomes – humorous stories are encouraged.

If you fancy a go, follow the link and if you do enter let me know – I might just be tempted to hold your hand through the End of Days.