Friday Fictioneers : Why Poppa made them run

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot


 

The pall of woodsmoke that had turned day to night was finally lifting. The fires must have burned themselves out.

‘Where’s Poppa?’ His sister Nance was sitting on a fallen log, feet kicking the crumbling wood to splinters.

The sky was vermillion, the sunset turned vibrant by the filthy air.

‘Where, Danny?’

They would need shelter, somewhere out of the cutting wind. Somewhere safe.

Danny looked at his little sister, at those large eyes reflecting the fiery sky. One day he’d have to tell her why Poppa had made them run, but not today.

He held out his hand.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and to read some glorious fiction.

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Friday Fictioneers : Where the pines stand dark sentry

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz


 

Pines stood dark sentry to the rear of the house, the lake to the front.

Sook’s bedroom was in the roof, chill in the winter, hot in the summer when light rippled across the ceiling, an echo of the broad grey of Loch Giutha.

Joshie’s room was bigger but faced the black pines that groaned in the winds or shivered with unseen creatures.

He could keep his big room. The loft was her turret, the house her castle and if the pines harboured unquiet spirits, the water sheltered merrows, kelpies with manes of weed.

And at night the loch whispered.

 


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

Notes

Loch Giutha does not exist, but giutha is Gaelic for fir tree.

A merrow – like the more familiar selkie – is a Gaelic word for mermaid, while a kelpie is a mythical sea horse.

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.

Never be alone

PHOTO PROMPT © Karuna


 

By the time Diana reached home, night was snapping at her heels, the first fallen leaves of autum swirling in the wind.

What had her mother always said? Never be alone. Always be inside after nightfall. But despite her best efforts and being ‘striking’ in her youth (not beautiful, never that) she’d always lived alone.

Once inside the house, she locked and bolted the door, passed from room to room, closing the shutters on the darkness. Something warm pressed against her calf.

‘Hello, Grim.’

She lifted the cat into her arms, felt the rumble start in his throat as she ruffled the back of his neck. Not quite alone.

 

After dinner she lit the candles, three groups of three – earth, air and sky as mother had taught her – took a bowl of warm water to the dining table and began cleaning the toys she’d found at the allotment.

She didn’t bring objects home often but these had spoken to her. So much love poured into them, so many hopes and whispered promises. The dreams of a young heart had a potency that faded as people aged.

There were countless similar objects around the window and door frames, cluttering the fireplace. China dolls with missing limbs, brooches, rings, letters of love and loss and friendship, a fabric heart, hand-stitched, a token left for an orphan centuries before. Anything loved could work. Could ward them off.

Grim jumped to the window seat, eyes fixed on the shutter latch. Standing, Diana put aside the doll, its eyes rolling closed.

‘You okay, Grim?’

The cat leapt up, hissing, spitting, spinning on his claws, fur standing from his body like pins. The windows rattled, the glass chiming in the frames. Wind howled down the chimney puffed ash into the air. The floor shook beneath her feet, boards bucking, her chair falling.

She checked the candles, still alive in there holders … and watched in horror as they blew out one by one.

A moment of quiet. Ash fell like charred snow, the only sound her own breathing.

Three loud knocks on the shutter.

 


I wrote the first part of this for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers this week and the wonderfully talented Jane Dougherty asked me about the significance of the toys. That got me thinking. So here’s my answer.

The story that raised all the questions – Toy Soldiers – is here. And another tale of Grim the cat is here.

Always old fashioned

They sat in Terry’s office on stiff-backed chairs. Two untouched mugs of tea and a plate of soggy Bourbons perched on reams of paperwork on his desk. Terry didn’t like tea, but he always made himself one when visitors came because it seemed to make people less self-conscious than when they drank alone. Now things such as tea and biscuits seemed old-fashioned in this newly made world. But Terry didn’t mind that. He’d felt old-fashioned since he was a small boy.

The surface of the tea had formed a skin,  wrinkling under the air conditioning like geriatric flesh. He thought of mentioning his observation to the man from the Government – Donald was it? Or Dennis? – but his thoughts often made other people feel uncomfortable. Though Janey had never minded.

The Government man’s suit was as creased as his face, as if he’d used the jacket as a pillow. His skin was greasy, grey as the ring of dirt around his shirt collar. Yes, standards had dropped since the beginning of the outbreak.

Donald / Dennis scratched his forehead with bitten down nails. ‘Doctor Goddard, if you can tell me anything about Doctor Faber’s movements over the last few days. Anything at all.’

The man looked exhausted, but then they all were. He and Janey had taken to napping on the chaise longue in the corner of the office rather than bothering to drive home. They were both single. No one missed them. He gazed at the sofa now, at the threads of gold that could only be strands of her hair.

‘Doctor Goddard. Please. This is a matter of national security.’

‘We were trying to find a cure -‘

Donald / Dennis leaned forward, his tie shifting the papers on the desk. ‘A cure funded by the government, with key research and statistics supplied by our departments.’

All Terry knew was that she had been there one evening, peering over her notes, twisting her hair on top of her head with a biro, and gone the next morning. He hadn’t noticed the slides were missing until the phone rang.

The Government man’s jaw clenched. ‘I cannot stress how important it is we regain those samples.’

He didn’t mention Janey’s safety, that she was out there alone, the world dying around her.

When Terry had picked up the phone, her voice had been faint and breathy through the receiver. He thought she might have been running. Or crying. ‘I’m sorry, Terry,’ was all she’d said. ‘I’m so very sorry.’

Donald would take the words as an admission of her guilt, but Terry knew them for what they were. A goodbye.

 


I fancied revisiting Terry and Janey, two scientists caught in the jaws of a catastrophic disease outbreak. To read their first outing, When the time comes, see here.

Three Line Tales : Away from the chasms and back to the light

three line tales week 64: light bulbs – there is a light that never goes out, maybe

photo by Nick de Partee via Unsplash


 

It stretched across the land they said, one long wire, looping between posts and trees, disused telegraph poles and house gables, a bright line of bulbs – baubles of hope in the darkness.

Travellers brought back tales of how the Light Line saved them in a storm, on the blackest, foggiest night, leading them back to the path, away from chasms, sinking sands, shifting dunes.

No one knew from where it drew its power. Some said it was from the air or from the tides, from the gentle spin and rock of the earth itself. But everyone remembered the day the lights flickered out.

 


Written for Three Line Tales, a weekly inspiration of pics and prose. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence : When the time comes

Petri dishes, mould cultures

Image : Pixabay

‘You get your jabs yet?’ Terry Goddard looked at Janey over his half moon glasses, a sad, questioning smile on his lips.

His hair was uncombed, his shirt creased. He owned one tie and in the ten years they’d worked together he’d never had that washed. Until two weeks ago she hadn’t known he lived alone with a largely absent cat and a hyacinth macaw named Fleming. Then the news had somehow leaked through of how awful it was out there – the looting, the violence, the relentless spread of the disease – and they had spent an evening under the flourescent glare of laboratory lights, drinking a ten-year-old Glenfiddich and actually talking.

Now she wished they hadn’t, that they’d remained polite strangers. Imagining his childhood hop picking in Kent, how he nursed his mother through cancer after cancer until it finally stole her away … It would make it all so much harder when the time came.

‘No,’ she said, rubbing tired eyes. ‘I didn’t see the point.’

He lowered his voice. ‘You’ve got to make a show. For the sake of the others.’ He took her hand, gave it the briefest squeeze and was gone, bustling over petri dishes and samples.

She hoped she died first.

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Use the word – today it’s JAB – in a post. See here to join in and to read the other stories.