Crimson’s Creative Challenge #52: The world turned on its head

CCC#52

The ground was autumn-crisp with leaves despite the heat. The oaks along the rivers’ edge black fingers, bare as winter.

‘Not right,’ muttered Clem, knocking the underbrush with his boot.

A fir cone tumbled through the dead leaves and came to rest against a fleshy crescent of Maid’s Bane fungus. Bluebell spikes shivered.

‘World’s turned on its head,’ said Clem.

The sheepdog, Tab, looked up at his master, uncertain.

Gramma Cora – all gums, mottled scalp and whiskers – had told tales when Clem was small. When winter takes summer’s hand, when spring lifts her skirts and dances autumn’s jig … He frowned how did that old rhyme end?

Tab came suddenly to heel, his flank quivering against Clem’s leg.

‘What is it, lad?’

A feather of snow fell on the back of his neck. Soon the ground was white, the air a haze.

‘The Final Winter shall fall,’ he whispered.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge. It’s a pleasure to join in this week to help Crispina celebrate a year of CCC. Do visit here to join in – it’s huge fun.

What Pegman Saw: A million watching eyes

Image: Sukhbaatar Google Street View

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.

What Pegman Saw: A pocketful of keys

We dreaded visits to my great-uncle Dilwyn’s.

His house was a gloomy pile overlooking Hampstead Heath, the walls wood panelled, the furniture solid and carved with grotesques. I remember the drawing room with its Greek masks, the watchful eyes and leering faces. There was a plastered ceiling in there – cracks as wide as my finger, sooty acanthus leaves twined with serpents – that I imagined would crumble one windy day, burying all of us alive.

As we shuffled round the old house stirring up dust, disturbing cobwebs, I envied other children their caravan holidays to the coast or camping trips to the Forest of Dean.

Seeing how bored and listless we were one rainy summer afternoon, Uncle Dilwyn handed me a bunch of keys. Some were dull brass, others rusty iron, all were thick and heavy and felt warm on my palm.

He waved a leathery hand. ‘Go. See what they open,’ he said.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Streetview. This week we are in London.

The photograph is not in Hampstead but one of the rooms in the Sir John Soane Museum in Holborn. Soane was a 19th century architect fascinated with art and sculpture, particularly that of the ancient world. His fascination turned into a collecting habit and through his life he gathered thousands of sculptures, architectural fragments, paintings, models … even the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I.

On his death, he left the house and his collection to the nation and entry is free. See here for more details.

What Pegman Saw : Midday on the highway

By midday we’d reached the highway.

The rain that had soaked us through in the night had stopped by then, but still the road was slick with runoff, every passing truck throwing up a mist browned with mud and grease until our clothes were heavy once again.

After an hour of waiting for someone to pull over, the children were restless, tired of an ‘adventure’ that never ceased, of rest that never came.

‘There are too many of us,’ muttered Rudo, kicking at an empty soda can. ‘No one will stop for eight.’ His voice lowered further as he cast me a dark look, but the words arrived sharp and bright as lightning in my ear. ‘No one will take that child.’

Danai wriggled in her sling, sticky warm on my back, milky breath against my ear.

My child would never be part of this world.

*********************

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we visit Harare, Zimbabwe. See here to join in and to read and comment.

What Pegman Saw : The Last Freeway

Mads was getting tired now, her boots tearing up the fallen leaves and twigs like miniature bulldozers.

At first Col had scolded her, worried they were leaving tracks the Militia might follow.  But as the sun bottomed on the horizon the forest grew quiet and still, every branch snap making him jump, smothering his whispers. 

He tried to focus on the plan. 

Everyone in HomeState knew the stories. If you cross the Last Freeway and scale the Wall, the Grey City authorities put you in a holding camp until you’re shipped back across the border. 

But in the camps they fed you, give you clean clothes … medicine.

Mads coughed, skinny limbs shivering. The rattle was worse. He’d seen the red in her spit, the stuff she’d tried to stamp into the forest floor so he didn’t worry.

One more day, he thought. Just one more.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as it’s starting point. This week, we visit Frankfurt, Germany. See here to join in.

FFfAW: Bright enough to shame the sun

This week’s photo prompt is provided by Michelle De Angelis. Thank you Michelle!


 

Masts stripe the water, their reflections breaking into nonsense with the ripples.

The bridge raises, the pleasure boats scudding through like eager ducks. It’s summer so families have gathered, trapped on either side of the water by the raised bridge, children waving happily to the skippers floating below them, sun glowing from every bronzed face.

And then there’s me. I’m pale where they are brown, the Moon to their myriad Suns.

My hands are cold. My limbs white beneath layers of wool and linen, I am smooth and flawless as a tomb carving.

Here, stranded – this is my natural state. Close to mankind, but cut off from it, I walk among them but never touch, never make contact … not until I must. Then I burn, bright enough to shame the sun, bright enough to blind.

The bridge lowers. The families disperse to buy ice cream and eat doughnuts.

I walk among them, waiting for my time.

 


Written for Priceless Joy’s FFfAW. Be inspired by the pic and write a tale here. This started as a reflection on the water and turned into … whatever this is. Vampire? Ghoul? Someone with an acute allergy to the sun? What do you think was going on in my head when I wrote this?

Call for Urban Fantasy beta readers … tentatively

 

The Shambles, York, Tudor buildings
Image : Pixabay

 

Having finally finished the first draft/second draft/alpha read rewrite of my work in progress – The Restless Dead – I’m now searching for some lovely people who enjoy fantasy fiction to be my beta readers.

If you’re interested in being a beta reader, here are some things you should know … 

The book is Urban Fantasy, not High Fantasy. There are no swords and mages, no orcs or elves. It’s set in the present, in real towns in the UK. Supernatural things occur, and a lot of them, but think more Neil Gaiman or Ben Aaronovitch than JRR Tolkien or George RR Martin.

The book is around 300 pages long.

There will be a questionnaire to fill in. I’m working on it now and will try not to make it too onerous! Though, if you’re used to sending critiques, want to write your own notes and are happy to cover the points I raise, that’s fine too.

Ideally, the process will last no further than Christmas. Though that’s open to discussion, of course – you all have other stuff to do!

This book is based in the UK. One of the main ‘characters’ in the book is the city of York, UK (see above!). The settings are English, the language is ‘English’ English, with English phrases and references.

Now, on to the fun bit …

I loved writing this book! I loved getting to know the characters – good, bad and utterly demonic – and I hope that comes across. I want reading it to be enjoyable too. I want the readers to be caught up in every the running, screaming, drunken, creepy scene.

And if you’re still there, here’s the blurb to give you a flavour of the beast …

Thirty-five-year-old Neil sees ghosts. Or at least the last few minutes of an individual’s life, repeated over and over. Death fills every street he walks along, every home he enters. No wonder he lives a reclusive life alone in his bedsit watching Miss Marple reruns and eating cheese puffs. 
Then one day an old friend – Caro – comes knocking, telling Neil her brother is dead. The police say it’s suicide. She says it isn’t. Luckily, she knows someone who can tell her if she’s right … 
Can Neil solve the mystery, evade Victorian psychopaths, shape shifting demons and save the world from an invasion of the Restless Dead? 

Interested? Want to know more? Then pop me an email. You’ll find the address by clicking the ‘hamburger’ symbol up the top of the screen. My email is in ‘view full profile’ under my terrifying photograph! Look forward to hearing from you.