Friday Fictioneers : A watchful eye

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Nathan Sowers grandson of our own Dawn M. Miller


 

Dew had settled on Bertha’s shawl, seeped through to her dress. The damp drew out the warmth from her shoulders, making her shiver.

She glanced into the mirror, at the reflection of a wormy shed, the path leading to it choked with fleabane. Back when she was ill, she would have seen the shed’s lone window as an eye, wide, watchful, judging …

A scrape, a thump. The demons were awake inside the shed. Thank goodness she’d thought to lock the door, to protect herself against their grasping claws, their greedy mouths.

‘Mama!’

How the devils screamed! She closed her eyes.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Write a story and join the fun. See here to learn how.

NB Bertha’s name just sprang to my mind when I went to write this. Hardly surprising for anyone who has read Jane Eyre, for Bertha Mason is Rochester’s disturbed wife, the original ‘madwoman in the attic’.

As a teenager, I loved Jane Eyre, but grew to have greater sympathy for Bertha after studying Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, which explores the themes of racism, colonialism and prejudice in Charlotte Bronte’s original telling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Pegman Saw : Three weeks out of Resolute

 

The twins were the first to reach the shoreline, barreling through the snow like ploughs, kicking up the powder with heavy boots.

The rest of us followed at our own speed, striding,  limping, managing best we could with whatever loads or injuries we laboured under.

Nanty and I were the last, she leaning heavily on my arm, though she was no burden – the weight had dropped from her since we left Resolute. Her chest rattled as if her ribs were loose – a bone wind chime, she joked.

‘You see it, Bea?’ she gasped, eyes sparkling. ‘You see it?’

I saw it – a bank of grey cloud, solid as a raft, sitting on the distant water line.

‘Just as I dreamed it,’ she whispered.

Just as we’d all dreamed it, every night for the last seven weeks. Nanty saw salvation, the others hope. What did I see?

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week, we visit Resolute in Canada. See here to join in, to read and comment on the other tales.

What do you think Bea sees? What could the others possibly see and what are they all running from? Answers on a postcard – or just pop them in the comments box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Line Tales : She sells seashells

three line tales, week 134: a mysterious water gateway

 

She picked through boulders jade with seaweed that slipped like oiled hair under her palms. Her skirt was already wet around the hem – by that evening there would be a pale tide of salt to rinse from the wool.

The wind tugged at her bonnet, caught in the basket swinging from her elbow like a sail, pulling her onward. Driftwood rattled like bones as the waves retreated.

All day she turned the rocks, split them with her hammer, rock after empty rock that she returned to the sea. But there were others … spiralled shells and discs of bone, creatures resembling giant woodlice, curled as if hiding from some ancient storm … And the thrill of those made her forget the rest.

 


Written for Three Line Tales. See here to join in the fun.

The character in the story is based on Mary Anning, the early nineteenth-century paleontologist and fossil hunter who found the first identified ichthyosaur skeleton, plesiosaurs and pterosaurs. Although she contributed a huge amount to the knowledge and study of marine fossils, being a woman she was not able to take part fully in the scientific community that benefited from her work. She did not always receive full credit for her discoveries and struggled financially for much of her life. She died from cancer at the age of 47.

The nursery rhyme, She sells seashells along the sea shore is supposedly about Mary as she did, indeed, sell fossils to tourists visiting her home town of Lyme Regis in Dorset. To read more about Mary, see here.

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers : The sting of ash

PHOTO PROMPT © Carla Bicomong


 

‘Dodie, wait!’

Gray’s voice carried over the scrubby boulders, through gnarly sea oak and salted grass. I should have stopped, but the smell of burning pushed me on, pulled me up the hill when I stumbled.

Not wanting to see, needing to see.

I reached the cliff edge, a sudden wind nearly knocking me sideways, nearly blinding me with the stink of burning, the sting of ash. I looked below through squinted eyes.

A hundred pyres drifting on a mirror sea, each one a livelihood, each one a future.

‘All the boats,’ I gasped, disbelieving. ‘They burned them all.’

 


Written for Rochell Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture and write a tale and don’t forget to share, read and comment on other stories. See here to join in.

 

What Pegman Saw : ‘Are we close?’

 

‘Are we close?’ said Collier, tucking his chin into his furs. His eyes were barely visible, a squint between the brim of his beaver fur hat and his upturned collar.

Dunning nodded. After a moment, Collier shuffled back to the fire. They’d exchanged few words in the six days since heading out from Jackson, though Collier tried to talk over coffee each morning. Dawson had little to say to the lawman. He had little to say to anyone.

Besides, Collier would want to discuss Sol Jäger and the massacre and Dawson didn’t want to know who he was tracking, to make a judgement about the man’s guilt. The money purse in his pack – that was all he needed to know.

Dunning kept his growing unease to himself. Unease about a trail too easy too follow … about following a man whose name meant ‘hunter’.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Alberta, Canada. See here to join in.

Three Line Tales : Midas touch


three line tales, week 128: a golden person

photo by Sharon McCutcheon via Skillshare


 

The royal apartments lay heavy under the stench of a hundred fires. He’d opened the shutters the evening before, sat shivering at the window seat as the sharp stink of burning wood, the tang of hot metal – even the sweat of the founders – fouled the air.

How was his love? Fretful, sleepless, on her knees in prayer? He closed his eyes at the thought of her wasted frame chafed by a rough flax shift, just as he closed his eyes to the note she had passed the jailer. That wavering handwriting – so changed from the sinuous curves of her early love letters – crawled through his nights, scratched at his tranquility like a fleshing knife.

The judgement had been unanimous, it was out of his hands. And the punishment for treason had remained the same since his great grandfather’s time. But he was still the king – one word to the executioner had been enough. Molten gold would replace lead.


Written for Three Line Tales. See the pic and send a link here.

I know this is a horrible end, but it is not without historical precedent. According to Smithsonian.com both the Ancient Romans and South American tribes used molten gold as a method of execution. Though perhaps not KIng Midas himself.

 

 

What Pegman Saw : An end to Evil

 

Freya’s cottage was easy to find – black and squat as a toad with a beetling turf roof and runes painted in spidery white around the door.

As we drew near, the clean smells of lake water and freshly caught herring were swallowed by others – burnt bone; rotten meat; urine strong enough to make me squint.

Fell dropped back a step, clamping a hand to his nose. He was too young to remember that same stench in our own village, but still fear clouded his eyes.

His brother Kari – older by five years, taller by a foot – twitched but kept pace with me. He remembered.

At the door Kari nodded – as the eldest to bear a loss this was my privilege, my burden. The wood shuddered under my fist.

‘Come out, witch,’ I called. ‘It’s time.’

Soon there would be chains and rising lake water and an end to the Evil.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its source. This week we are in the Faroe Islands.

On a little wander I found this cottage and couldn’t help but be reminded of a fairy tale – a witch’s cottage, perhaps . A quick internet search and I discovered Norse witches – the vǫlur – who might travel from village to village wherever they were called upon and could control a man’s movements in battle. The vǫlur were not always beneficial and after Christianisation, practitioners could be executed.