Snow falls over the Cornish village of Torre, blowing along the narrow alleyways, drifting against the door of the Free Traders Inn. The village lock-up shimmers with icicles, the sign above Grubb’s pawnbrokers’ sways but doesn’t creak – George Grubb gives nothing away for free.
Wind howls across nearby Merrin Moor. There are tales of a beast sniffing through the gorse so best to keep inside by the fire.
Up on the clifftop, Torre Point lighthouse winks over a churning grey sea, keeping its secrets close. The village is awash with stories of that lighthouse, of strange men coming and going, of boats out in a storm …
When Josey was a little girl, she would spend rainy afternoons playing with her mother’s pot of spare buttons – pearlised cuff buttons, chunky wooden coat buttons, shimmery greens and blues from old skirts and blouses. Josey let them run through her fingers like sea-smoothed shells, listening to their their soft chink and slither, pebbles caught in a swell.
Now Josey carries a pair of nail scissors in her coat pocket. She snips the threads and cords while people aren’t looking, adds their buttons to her stolen treasures.
But the collection isn’t Mother’s. They don’t feel the same.
The battle was over. Mab didn’t know which side was the victor, which the loser and she cared even less. Static fizzed through her wrists, conducted along the nerve endings to settle beneath her thumbnails – the familiar signal evil was approaching.
‘Sorry I’m late,’ said Moll, dusting ash from her sleeve. ‘I was watching the firestorm. Beautiful, the way it cleanses a city.’ She looked round her, at the fallen masonry, the ivy snaking over graffitied walls. ‘Nice. Oh, by the way, Cass won’t be joining us.’
Mab sighed. The two witches just didn’t have the same ring.
Despite loving the photo, I wasn’t going to take part in this challenge after reading Jane Dougherty’s TLT – Jane had done such a good job, there could be no better interpretation.
Then for some reason, the Macbeth witches sprung to mind. I thought the derelict cloister would be an appropriate meeting place for their modern counterparts – slightly more sheltered than a ‘blasted heath’.
There’s an interesting analysis of the witches here.
The photographs are dry and faded, curled like autumn leaves. They burn even better than I expected.
They are the last thing that connects us. I sold our belongings when I sold the house, forty years of a shared life distributed among house clearance auctions and charity shops, ready to be re-purposed or sent to landfill. There’s something fitting about that last, your jumpers chewed and clawed, used to line rats nests.
I watch the flames die, wait for a sense of freedom to descend but none does.
I can’t burn the memories.
Written for Friday Fictioneers, the writing prompt run by the wonderful Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s. See here to join in the fun.
Khunbish stared through the grubby window, out across the spine of the steppe. She smelt the clouds gathering, sensed the droplets of water shiver as they pinged together, eager to fall. Soon the brown grass would shimmer like a million watching eyes.
She’d played her role well. Allowed her father and brothers to bind her, bundle her in the little shed among the unwanted things. Grew still as they padlocked the door. It calmed the men to believe they retained control.
But she couldn’t rest forever.
As the first bullet of rain hit the tin roof she twitched her wrists, shook off the nylon twine. She reached out with her mind until it pinged against steel, felt for the gaps between the molecules in the padlock and encouraged them to grow. Metal fell to the ground with a bony thunk.
The time had come.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes you all across the world via Google Street View. This week we visit Mongolia. See here to join in and to read the other stories.
When researching Mongolian names, I found Khunbish, a gender neutral name which, according to Mom Junction means ‘not a human being’.
I suspect that describes my character pretty accurately.
Flames shine through the stained glass – red, blue – the colours falling on my cowering children, faces lit with fire and ice.
Our attackers have stopped beating at the door. The night is hushed, aside for the whimpering of the children. Jack’s eyes are wide, cheek crusted with blood. His sister wriggles in his arms, reaching for me. The men would have killed them – will still kill them.
The stink of burning grows sharp, smoke billowing soft under the door. A pyre for me. Those men – mule eyed, calf faced – how solid have they grown imagining flames licking my neck, devouring my hair? They will share grim smiles – the ones who brought the proud witch down.
I close my eyes against the blinding smoke. Red and blue vibrate inside me, pulling together, hard as ice, unforgiving as flame.