Friday Fictioneers : I’ll remember

PHOTO PROMPT © Kent Bonham


 

‘The registration number?’

A gloved hand took the slip of paper from her fingers. Glove and paper vanished inside the open car window for a moment before reappearing.

‘Take it,’ said the voice.

‘Won’t you need it?’ she stammered. ‘To remind you -‘

‘I’ll remember.’

She tried to fix in her head the timbre of the voice, pin down the gender, but there was nothing to identify the speaker, nothing distinctive.

She might have been talking into a void.

‘You’ll know when it’s done,’ said the voice.

‘How?’

‘The world will shift.’

Then the car was gone and she was alone.

 


Here’s my cheerful little entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers. Run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, this is the best writing prompt online and I’m glad to be back after a two week enforced hiatus. But now we have wifi back and I’m in a killing mood … See here to join in the fun and to read the other tales.

Friday Fictioneers : The scribble of her mind

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Sheldon


 

Afterwards, Peter sat on the edge of their bed, staring at the desk, the spot on the corner of the room Danielle had commandeered as an office after her redundancy.

‘A new start,’ she’d said, ‘working for myself. About time.’

It’s only now he sees the cup of straightened paper clips, reams of unintelligible notes, the writing spilling onto the wood, the scribble of her mind.

‘Time away,’ the doctor had said, gaze dropping from desk to bed to floor. ‘That’s all she needs.’

The hospital form shimmers in Peter’s hand, his own guilty signature blotched with tears.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the prompt picture and write a tale. Go here to join in.

That’s it from me for a while – no internet for two weeks. I hope to be back by the end of the month, so happy scribbling all!

The Devil of Moravia : Shaking off the morbid shackles

Is Edmund the same man he was before Slatina stumbled into his life on that cold, desperate night so long ago? Read on to find out more. And see below to catch up with his story so far.

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I was suddenly gripped by a terrible hunger, an overwhelming thirst the like I had never felt before. It gripped my stomach, pulling it tight as a drum.

Unable to pull away, unable to make sense of the horrible drive that befell me, I stared at Peg, helpless, speech a stranger.

She smiled, sweet and sad. ‘Time to accept who you are, sir.’

Once more, Old Noah’s words rang in my mind. Know who you are … no matter how dark, no matter how squalid. 

Finally, I felt the truth of all that had gone before. Slatina had led me to kill. He had led me to drink of others. He had led me to become something … other.

Mouth dry from yearning, I gasped, ‘What are we, Samuel?’

He shook his head in sorrow. ‘There is no name for what we have become. No name any would dare utter aloud. Only know that we are of an ancient evil. We shall be forever.’

‘Forever?’ Was this the truth? To live in horror forever?

‘There will be no forever if the now is not seen to.’ Peg extended her arm. The welts were fresh, barely healed. As if sharp teeth had dragged along the flesh.

My stomach rolled at the thought. But still I gazed on her. ‘I cannot,’ I muttered.

‘And yet you must,’ she said. ‘That creature may be the Devil himself and you his creation, but you are not him. You saved me sir -‘

‘I lured you from your home to die -‘

‘For love!’ She cried. ‘And though you put yourself in mortal danger, still you saved me. You are not him.’

I saw the truth in this. For despite the abhorrent occurences to which I had been witness, I had acted with more decency and courage in recent days than I had in the five previous years.

Peg Fair was now our anchor, our clear head amid the chaos and so it was to her I now turned. ‘Tell me what I must do.’

She smiled, such a sad, gentle smile that tugged at me. ‘You and Lord Samuel are weak. Samuel has fed but little these last days, you not at all. Feed. Find your full strength.’

‘And then?’

She stared at me with such intensity, the room seemed to drop away until there was only Peg and her pale eyes and her words, hard as granite. ‘Even the Devil must die.’

I think I loved her then. For her courage. For her sweetness. For her steel. For knowing what must be done and for not allowing us to shy away from it.

She pressed her arm under my nose, the scent of her exploding on my tongue, of hay and sweat and warm, soft evenings. I could hear her pulse, the rush of her blood in her slender veins, each pump of precious fluid forcing an extra layer of scent about me, until I felt I could trace her life – the acrid air of Southwark, the sweet wild flowers and grasses of her family home.

And as I imagined her mother and the washerwoman, the country smells of milk and animals and clear running water, somehow she was in my mouth, her skin salt on my tongue, my teeth pressing into her, a soft, sweet release of fluid inside me. And she tasted as I imagined, but better, bringing life and fire and heat into my heart, flowing through me until my pulse rang in my ears and it was hers and hers was mine, two strong hearts beating as one.

Suddenly, she pulled away. ‘Sir, I am weak.’

The blind pleasure of that moment passed away and I looked about me, dazed. Peg’s face was ashen, the only colour about her the blood greasing her arm. I could feel the wet of her smeared upon my face, rouging my cheeks, my chin, the world coloured red through gored lashes. I felt filthy, ashamed.

I glimpsed Samuel, greedy eyes watching me, watching Peg, knowing that he was hungry for her too.

‘Edmund.’ The Frances Demon’s voice reached me through the door, at once alluring and revolting. ‘Time to finish this.’

She was right, it was time. I signalled Samuel over, bade him put his shoulder with mine and together we finally moved the press aside. I took by the arm when we had done, pulled him back a few steps away from the door.

‘Peg,’ I whispered, ‘get yourself away under the bed. Keep hidden. Whatever you hear – no matter what you hear – only come out when all has grown quiet.’ I took her hand . ‘Get away then. Somewhere far. Do not look back.’

Pale and weak as she was, she squeezed my hand, nodding her assent. I waited a moment for her to hide herself and turned to the chamber door.

‘Come in Slatina. We shall not stop you.’

And there he was, within the chamber, the door closed behind him as if he and Frances had passed through it without an opening or a closing. He seemed to glow, from his pallid skin stretched across his skull, his teeth, shimmering bright as pins, his eyes like embers. And Frances beside him, so alike in every devilish detail, she might be his twin.

I thought of all that had gone before, of the night of my first meeting with the Devil, of our visit to Samuel and the killing of the thief. I thought of the Earth Angels and Frances coming to me, our dreams of escape. Of the cupboard of horrors, of Old Noah and his wise words. All of this tumbled before me like magic lantern slides and at the end, as the light of my memories faded, there was just the four of us facing each other. And it felt right that we who had so closely tied ourselves together should be present at the end.

‘Edmund, Samuel.’ Slatina gave his most ingratiating bow. Before taking Frances by the hand. ‘All of us, together at last. You cannot imagine how much this pleases me.’

I smiled at the little man’s arrogance. ‘Pleases you?’ I said.

‘Why, yes,’ he said. ‘It has been difficult for you, I know. Shaking off the morbid shackles of human existence. But you see the truth now. There is no life for you but with us.’ He pulled Frances close, their faces turned together, meeting in the deepest of kisses.

I swallowed the bile gathered in my throat, blinked away the image of my own girl, gone now. ‘You assume much,’ I said.

He released her and looked at me with the most loving smile. ‘There is no choice for you, Edmund. You are mine.’ Steel glittered in his eye. ‘Forever.’

‘There is always a choice,’ I said, walking towards the shutters, towards the drawn curtain, ‘For those prepared to sacrifice all.’

I looked at Frances for the last time, at the hollow woman she once was, a wax likeness of her old, sweet self. ‘Farewell, love.’

I reached for the catch, lifted it free and flung wide the shutter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Line Tales : A simple lie

three line tales week 74: an empty school

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash


 

It was a simple lie. I didn’t even have to form the thought into words, Weber saw to that.

‘A yes is all we need. A yes and all of this can be over for you.’ His shirt was dark with sweat and even from the other side of the desk, I could smell last night’s schnapps on his breath, the sharp fug of raw onions.

One ‘yes’ and Professor Greenspan’s room became a store cupboard, his class taken by the oily Professor Marlin.

I walked past Greenspan’s apartment today. The windows were boarded up, misspelt obscenities scrawled across the warped wood. With a pen, I wrote in shaky text, I’m Sorry.

 


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

 

Friday Fictioneers : The Golden Boy

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


 

Five minutes in the old city and she was lost.

Countless winding alleyways walled with golden stone, scented with spices or stables or wine, hustling with traders and patched thieves. She didn’t care. She would have worn the city as a coat, eaten every crumbling temple, sunk into its foundations like good, sweet rain, she loved it so.

The city was him. He had worn it on his skin like cologne, grown golden in its reflected rays.

Now he had slipped into the desert forever. But some days she could imagine turning a corner, being blinded by gold …

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Write a tale and read the other wonderful stories here.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence : Glamour shot


 

The Sands of Love.’ Sy pulled on one glove then the other, his fingers resembling over-stuffed sausages, straining against the latex.

‘What was that?’

‘Her first film role. Nineteen fifty three. Blink and you’d miss her.’

Francie looked down at her paperwork. ‘Never seen it.’

‘Not missing much. Gangster B movie. But she had glamour. Stood out, you know?’

Francie scribbled her signature at the bottom of the form before looking up.

Soap scum floated on the bath water, strands of long grey hair looped on the enamel. A crumpled square if tin foil – grubby brown shining at its centre – lay by the taps. One of the officers had found a teaspoon and a lighter in the bottom of the bath wedged under the body. She must have wriggled some as she died.

‘Doesn’t look too glamorous now. Okay, Sy. You can move her.’

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventures’ #tuesdayuseitinasentence. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

 

The Devil of Moravia : The Changeling

 

Arthur Rackham, fairy tale, book illustration

Image : Pixabay

Edmund’s fate is chasing after him. How much longer can he outrun it?

To read previous instalments – from quiet beginnings, through a debauched middle, heading for a blood soaked crescendo, search below.

Onetwothreefour, fivesix , seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelvethirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two, twenty three, twenty four, twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eighttwenty ninethirty, thirty one and thirty two.


 

Then came another voice, familiar and yet one whose distance in recent times had plunged a dagger of yearning in my chest.

‘Edmund. Come to me.’

‘Frances?’

Did I slumber still? Was that sweet, clear voice reaching to me through the veil of my consciousness, worming inside to pluck at the very root and core of my manhood?

‘Edmund, my love. Open the door.’

I looked about me, from Samuel to Peg, to the broken window glass and the fallen furniture. This was no fantasy, no wishful dream. My dear girl was outside the door. Oh, to gaze upon that face! I made to rise, but Peg Fair was by my side in a moment, restraining me.

‘Please, sir. You mustn’t go.’

Despite wearing only my nightgown, I pushed back the covers, shrugging Peg aside. It was as if my fever was still upon me, fizzing in my brain like strong wine, pushing me onward when the lucid part demanded me to stop.

‘You do not understand!’ I bellowed, dragging the blanket box aside, tripping on my gown, only to rise up and set to clearing the door. ‘Frances needs me. She has been unwell.’

Peg’s voice, calm, insistent, pressed against my certainty. ‘You have been unwell, sir, or you would understand what happens here. Your lady is not your lady.’

‘Do you hear me, Edmund? Come out to me. Come out to your Frances.’

What nonsense Peg spoke. For that was my love’s voice. The same, sweet girl who had twisted daisies in my hair, had laughed like a child to see me look so foolish. The same girl who had loved me more than I ever deserved to be loved.

I had to reach her. The need grew inside me, gnawing at my heart, pushing me on. I had dragged the blanket box away, but still had to move the chair, the clothes press, tall as a man, heavy as two. Splintered wood covered the floor, sweat broke out on my forehead, my back, but still I pressed on, had to press on.

‘Lord Samuel, please, sir!’ Peg went to the stricken man. ‘Please. You know the sense of it. You told me yourself that the Devil might bring the lady. Sir! You must tell what this means.’

I stole a look at the curled shell of a man that had been Samuel Longmire Gordon. But there was little to see but a spine circled on itself. Little to hear but weeping. I returned to my work.

A few scarce seconds and the chamber door would be clear. I would see she who held my heart. I knew so clearly that all would be well, I scarce considered Slatina, the Red Men, the putrid scene of ill used flesh at Samuel’s home. All I knew was her, that soon we would be reunited, never more apart.

Now Peg walked beside me, shadowing my fevered moves as if she was a reflection in a twisted glass. ‘Sir, you are not thinking what the lady’s presence here signifies.’ She spoke in a quick, hushed voice, as if keen to tell me all, keener still to keep her words from passing through the chamber door. ‘There was a washer woman back home, lived in the swell of the stream below the mill race. Babbie Peckford was her name. Sweet natured as a doe, soft as a leveret’s pelt, though soft minded with it. She was wed to Nat Marten, though he’d first set his mind to another. A fine wife, Babbie made. Never slacked at her work, not through seven pregnancies and five births. Perhaps tis why the Fair Folk came.’

The door was almost free now, with only the press to move. Still, Peg talked.

‘They took her, sir, to care for their young as well as she had cared for her own. Poor Babbie Marten, Peckford as was. But the Fair Folk never just take, for they think that bad dealing. They leave a body behind, you see? A Changeling. A body who looks the spit of she who has been taken but is not her. Is different as any can be in temperament and nature. Tis what they left. A hollow woman instead of Babbie.’

I had shifted the press aside a little, almost enough. Almost enough to swing wide the door and let my lover in. But something stayed my hand. Something in Peg’s words rang a true note. My body damp from effort, I asked her, ‘What happened to the washer woman?’

‘To the true Babbie? She never saw her children more.’

‘And the … the Fairy woman left in her stead?’

‘She would not wash. Would not cook. Would not care for the little ones. She walked the woods searching for a Fairy Ring, a crossing place to take her home. She was found in the mill race on St Stephen’s Day, blue as forget me knots.’

The fevered energy had left me now, leaving in its stead only exhaustion and pain. ‘You think Frances a Changeliing?’

Peg shook her head. ‘I think she is nothing so sweet as that. Only that love blinds us from seeing what remains when evil has had its way.’

A voice reached us from near the bed. Samuel. ‘If Frances is here, it is because she has fed. Your Frances has been swept away by blood.’

Those words hammered into me, a nail piercing all hope. It was the truth, I felt it. There were but beasts beyond the door, creatures of death and trickery, willing to inflict any pain, to break any will.

‘Edmund.’ That voice, so like my girl, yet now I listened close, with a flash of steel running where Frances was only ever laced with gold. ‘Edmund. I grow cold without you. I suffer such pains.’

Now the spell was broken, I could not believe I had come so close to opening that door, to throwing myself upon her untender mercies.

‘But how can we survive this? Surely, there is nothing to be done.’ I felt suddenly so weakened, my knees buckled under my own weight.

Samuel and Peg exchanged a glance before Samuel went to staring at the floor once more.

‘What is it?’ I said.

‘You are weak,’ said Peg. ‘You have not eaten.’

It was true, I could not think of a morsel of food that had passed my lips in days.

Peg began to roll up her sleeve. ‘If you were stronger, perhaps we might fight the Devil.’

Uncomprehending, I gazed at her forearm, at the fresh red welts that wept there. I was suddenly gripped by a terrible hunger, an overwhelming thirst the like I had never felt before. It gripped my stomach, pulling it tight as a drum.

Unable to pull away, unable to make sense of the horrible drive that befell me, I stared at Peg, helpless, speech a stranger.

She smiled, sweet and sad. ‘Time to accept who you are, sir.’