FFfAW : The Great Black Bird


This week’s photo prompt is provided by Yinglan. Thank you Yinglan!

Another two inches of snow had fallen overnight, a frost following close behind. When Lou finally ventured out, the wooden sledge she used to haul firewood skidded waywardly behind her over the hard surface, while she cracked the ice and sank ankle deep, the snow holding her every footfall.

The cold wants me, she thought, her thigh muscles burning, skirts growing heavier, stiffer. 

Not for the first time, she was tempted just to stop, let the snow take her. Take the arthritis swelling knuckles, knees and wrists, take the knocking in her left lung, the ulcer on her ankle that wouldn’t heal no matter how many hawthorn poultices she made. 

She stopped a moment, breathless from the wind and effort. The crows were arguing in the tree canopy, great black wings flapping like huge sheets of paper. Somewhere in the future, a black bird waited for her.

But not today.

Tugging the sledge, she headed on. 

***

Written for FFfAW. See the prompt picture, write a tale and share with others. See here for the full rules and to join in.

 

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What Pegman Saw : The many in the one

 

I tell Mammy, “The church speaks to me.”

I don’t expect tears of joy, the kisses and blessings. I don’t expect to be trussed in my coat, my hat with the ear flaps, my scarf, my mittens and heavy boots until I’m muffled and leaden, a deep sea diver wading among the coral.

Mammy’s heels clip-clop on the cobbles, the sound echoing between staring houses.

It speaks again as we enter the churchyard. At first it’s like one voice, a wind sighing through narrow gaps. But then I hear the many in the one – crying, whispering, calling for help that never comes.

The rectory door bell rings. I shuffle on the step, aching to run but held by Mammy’s joy, her fierce pride that the Lord has chosen to speak to me.

The door swings wide. There’s the black shirt, the white collar.

One look and it’s clear – he knows.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Stockholm, Sweden. See here to join in, to share, read and comment.

FFfAW : Digging the Dirt

This week’s photo prompt is provided by wildverbs. Thank you wildverbs!


 

Everyone on the little cul-de-sac of sooty terraced houses said what a good neighbour Beryl was.

When Mary at number 5 was laid up with a broken hip, it was Beryl who fed her budgie, put the ancient Hoover through its paces. And when Fred and Sylvie’s son died in a car crash, it was Beryl who organised the wake, made the beef paste sandwiches, kept the mourners topped up with tea and sweet sherry.

On the day she passed away there were many tears shed. By the next day – when her diaries were found – there were no more tears.

There was a diary entry about the baby Mary had given up for adoption when she was fourteen, a sad little snapshot of the golden haired baby boy – the only picture Mary had of him.

There were newspaper clippings of Fred and Mary’s son taped on one page, about the trouble he’d got into in Exeter with that young typist and the reason he drank.

Only the vicar attended Beryl’s funeral.


Written for FFfAW. See the picture, write a tale, share, read and comment – here.

Yes, I’ve gone a little left field. I struggled to begin with but once the title phrase blipped into my head, the rest came easily.

What Pegman Saw: The one who made it home

 

 

He was one of the displaced after the war, I think.

Just one of thousands forced to flee along the river bank, pushed on by the stink of burning and blood, outpaced by the corpses floating downstream.

I don’t know why he stopped here. Perhaps he finally felt safe. Or he just couldn’t walk anymore.

Did he imagine getting old like this, sleeping on a palette bed by the river, earning a few riel carrying sacks of rice and bales of cane, arthritic joints growing gnarly as kapok tree roots? Nothing to his name other than one set of clothes, a string hammock, a battered water carrier.

As I take his wrist, check for a pulse I won’t find, I think how at peace he looks, how the young man he was still peeks from behind that old man’s death mask.

Perhaps he finally made it home.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as it’s inspiration. This week we visit Cambodia. See here to join in, share and comment.

Cambodia has had a traumatic past, years of war followed by atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. To learn more about the war, see here and see here to read about the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers : The Fiji Mermaid

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook


 

Blossom’s heart beat faster as she pushed to the front of the crowd. They’d paid a shilling each to see the Fiji Mermaid, surely she’d be the most wondrous …

Tufts of fur sprung from the balding skin around a jaw of jumbled bodkin teeth. Scales shed from a tail the colour and sheen of the smoke slicked ceiling in Red Lion where Mother held court at the bar.

No beauty, no magic.

Mother’s doughy bosom pressed into her shoulder. ‘A lesson for you,’ she said with a grim smile. ‘Don’t believe any man who promises you a fairy tale.’

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in.

Seeing the collection of artifacts made me think of a Victorian Cabinet of Curiosities, natural wonders that wealthy Victorians would gather to entertain and educate themselves and their friends.

And from that my mind jumped to the Fiji (or Feejee) mermaid, usually the mummified torso of a monkey attached to the tale of a fish, the idea being popularised by P.T Barnum – an illustration of his specimen below. See here to learn more.

Image result for fiji mermaid

 

 

Down the muddied gullies of the Thames

 

They called her Polly-Mynah on account of her own given name and the bird that needled her shoulder.

Down the muddied gullies of the Thames, ‘neath crumbled eaves and untrusting eyes, one body needs another to keep watch or a body won’t last too long. That’s what Polly-Mynah had. Yes, the body in question had an oily black head, a beak gold as a sovereign and eyes sharp as frost, but he watched for Polly, keen as any madhouse copper.

Even when the creature died she kept his name, like a pining widow twines to her marriage vows.


First written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers, October 11th, 2017.