Friday Fictioneers : The Long Night falls

PHOTO PROMPT © Danny Bowman


 

The sun was low by the time Alison made it out of the city. The streets had been clogged with traffic since the alarm sounded, every lane blocked by dumped cars. In the end, she’d left the Ford and joined a river of humanity drawn to the desert. Beyond the concrete and steel, things felt calmer, voices hushed over the sound of feet stumbling through sand.

A last emerald flash of sunlight and the Long Night fell.

She thought of all those she’d loved as the frost furred her lashes and the cold grew hard. Finally, her heart slowed, stilled.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

The ’emerald’ sunset refers to a phenomenon called the Green Flash. See here.

 

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FFfAW : A single man who can sew

 

This week’s photo prompt is provided by artycaptures.wordpress.com. Thank you artycaptures!


 

Stanley pulls back the curtain, allowing summer to flood the room and his instinct is to close it again. The light’s too harsh, unforgivingly revealing the intimacies of pallid skin and hair. A respectable man would look away, but there’s little about him most people would class respectable.

The body can wait for now. He turns to examine the room.

It’s neat, floor and grate swept, mantel uncluttered of ornament save a carriage clock. A pair of trousers with worn hems lie over the back of a chair, braces still attached. A shirt flung over them shows a neat repair on the shoulder seam. Stanley darns his own socks – he’s not surprised by a single man who can sew.

A rumble of voices out on the landing tells him Inspector Gordon has arrived. He nods to Stanley as he enters the room.

‘Another?’ Gordon averts his eyes from the bed. For a large man he’s squeamish of the dead.

‘Another,’ nods Stanley. His eyes settle on the scarlet cord.

 


Written for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Authors. See the pic and write a tale. Yesterday I created Gordon and Stanley from nowhere and today they’ve crept back into my head, two Edwardian policemen who want to be heard. See here for their first outing, The Scarlet Net.

The scarlet net

 

‘What do you think?’ Sergeant Stanley looked at him expectantly, smoothing his broad moustache with finger and thumb.

Gordon knew that action well. Despite his calm exterior, Stanley was excited by his own theory, keen for the chase. Gordon looked up to the map again. London, speared by a dozen brass pins, red cords looped between them, the capital caught in a scarlet net.

Stanley was viewed as the station’s eccentric, a bachelor at thirty five still living at home with a mother whose wits often wandered. Gordon had visited the small, sooty terraced house where they lived many times for suppers of pie and liqour. Under the flickering gas mantles, he’d viewed the study wall patchworked with newspaper cuttings and photographs Stanley had taken with his box Brownie, monochrome dismemberments brought to life in the musty cellar.

An odd fish, the other officers said. Rumoured to be a regular at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street. And the closest thing Gordon had to a friend.

Gordon sat back in his chair, resting his heels on his desk. ‘Tell me again, Sergeant.’

 


 

Notes

Pie and liquor – meat pie served with mashed potatoes and a green sauce made from parsley and jellied eels.

Lyons Corner House, Coventry Street – Lyons Corner Houses were a chain of teashops, now defunct. The Coventry Street one in Picadilly, London was a known meeting place for gay men in the days when homosexuality was still very much illegal.

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : A curtain pulling shut


 

When I was four years old, my father left the family home to be a lumberjack.

He’d grown up in the brick canyons of Manchester, under the long shadows of the cotton mills, every breath he took speckled with coal dust. He started work aged seven as a scavenger, plucking cotton threads from under the looms. Thunder with jaws, he called those machines.

It was foggy the morning he left, the smoke twining with the fog so the two hung solid along the twisted alleyways. I watched from my bedroom window as he slipped away, smog closing behind him like a curtain pulling shut.

Years later a postcard came. On the front a painting – mountains with snowy, pointed hats, thick-fringed with trees too many to count. On the reverse a message.

The air is clear and smells of pine

I did not recognise the hand.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw. Go stroll through Google Streetview with them and find a view that inspires. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

Three Line Tales : The falling

three line tales, week 83: origami paper cranes on a table

photo by Dev Benjamin via Unsplash


 

The bell went for break, the children’s whoops and laughter receding along the hall as Shona set to tidying. She’d been showing them simple origami swallows, training their faltering, stubby fingers to create sharp folds, the table scattered with a rainbow flock of creased paper wings and torn beaks. The tap of shoes in the hall made her turn.

Poppy. Sensitive, more likely to be found talking to the dolls than her school mates. ‘Miss, the birds – they’re falling!’

Shona smiled, sent the paper rustling with her hand. ‘We made them, remember? They’re not real.’

Poppy shook her head, pointing to the window. ‘Not those. Those.’

The sunlight flickered, dimmed. A sound like hard rain falling. The children screaming.

 


Written for Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales. See the prompt pic and just write. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

Friday Fictioneers : A Criminal Conversation

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bulltot


 

Light from the computer screen filled Campbell’s glasses, masking his eyes. ‘When might your great-grandmother have been admitted to Northmead?’

Sally handed him the details, the paper damp from her hands. Annie Giddings. DOB 4th January 1886. Last seen Bonfire Night 1903.

Campbell hummed tunelessly. ‘Found her!’ he said. ‘Admitted 25th November 1903 for falling into criminal conversations with low men. Hmm … various treatments … Ah! Failing to recover her wits, a hysterectomy was performed.’

The printer clicked and whirred a copy of Annie’s records. Sally clenched and unclenched her fists, relieved Northmead was a ruin so she wouldn’t have to burn it down.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. The best flash fiction prompt on the web. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

I saw the photo and though ‘insane asylum’ then did a search for 19th century teatments for women with mental health problems. Some doctors advocated gynaecological surgery such as relocating the uterus and hysterectomy. Read more here.

Read more on the appalling Victorian treatment of ‘fallen women’ and on the foundling hospitals where many were forced to leave their offspring here (this article is also where I found the euphemism ‘criminal conversation’).

As a side note, 25th November is Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s feast day. Amongst other things she is the patron saint of spinsters.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence : A colt’s tooth

 

‘Alway’s a colt’s tooth, that one,’ Gramma squinted in the candlelight, needle raised like a weapon over her mending.

Mother whisked the crumbs from the table with her cloth. ‘How can you say such things?’ She stopped suddenly, one hand pressed to her stomach, the other holding the rag before her. ‘He has been our verger for twenty one years. He was always … there.’

Gramma chuckled, sucking on her teeth as if they were barley sugars. ‘Verger or no, I’ve spied him over my prayer book, eyes on bonnets and bodices rather than the altar.’

‘Gramma, really,’ I said from my stool near the fire. ‘You mustn’t say such things.’

She tutted. ‘I’ve known that man all his life, Natty – I’ve known men all my life.’ She shot me a lewd wink as Mother returned to her fussing. ‘And I tell you – Verger Mason always had a wandering eye. Now the world knows he has wandering hands too. Well. No surprise to me.’

Mother stopped punishing the table and hurried from the room. Gramma went on attacking her stitching, lancing the fabric as if it were a barrel filled with fish. After I’d got her to bed and began to redo her mending, I heard Mother crying in the room above, the low keening of a heart fit to break.

Logs snapped and spat on the fire as I settled to finish my work.

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. See the word – this week it’s COLT – and create a tale.

I’d never heard of the expression colt’s tooth until I did a quick search for this post – it refers to a young man’s wanton desires but can also mean an older man who keeps a younger woman. I rather like it.