The Daily Post : The Legend of the Dark Lady

 


 

The fields were barren, the plough ridges hard with frost and the land plucked bare of hips and berries. Winter had been long, harder than memory. Now grain was so sparse in the barns and barrels even the rats starved – those that had not already been roasted over meagre fires.

Death took the sick and old first. Then the children followed on, tiny bodies lying stiff as spades in the churchyard. They piled them under the old yew, the earth too hard to welcome them home.

Then the Dark Lady came in her cloak of storms, her hair of swirling rain, the raven Hok still and watchful on her arm. The people begged for pity, but the Lady’s heart is black as her bird, black as her eyes of ink.

It was then the true suffering began.


 

Written for the Daily Post’s prompt – BLACK. See here to join in.

Hok is Cornish Celtic for falcon.

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What Pegman Saw : They’ll come


 

Shona drifts past another blank-eyed goddess.

She checks her watch. An hour until the coach collects them from the museum. Only mid-morning and her stomach’s rumbling.

Another gallery. The walls Pompeian red. In the centre of the room, a horse statue, on its back a child. The room is deserted, the air thick, steamy. Her pulse beats loud in her ears, breath coming fast –

Muscle moving beneath her, a jolt as the ground leaps up, falls away, rises again. Her arms scream, fingers white on the reins. She steals a look behind – no one. Tempted to slow, to ease the pain and the gasping, retching, but they’ll come, they’ll come, they’ll never stop and there’s only the horse between her and them and as long as she rides she’s safe. As long –

‘Miss?’

A concerned face swims into view, but she’s already running. She’ll always be running.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt using Google Streetview. See here to read the other stories and share one of your own.

Strangely, considering a location chock-a-block with history, I found inspiration hard to come by today. Until I ventured into the the Archaelogical Museum and discovered this amazing statue. The Jockey of Artemision is so dynamic, so different from those stiff, cool-eyed goddesses – so modern in a way – I was captivated.

What Pegman Saw : A bitter offering

Today Pegman takes us the the lovely island of Mauritius


 

‘What about this one?’

Atia surveyed the stone in her brother’s hand. She shook her head. ‘It must have a flat edge and a sharp point opposite.’ She looked up to the mountain. ‘You see? Like that.’

Felix looked, but the peak was wreathed in smoke, a lazy coronet often there on still days. He thought of his friend Cato who’d caught a beetle the day before, big as his palm, black as a thunder cloud with branched horns on its head like a stag.

‘I want to see the beetle, Atia.’ The sun was making him hot and whiney.

‘We must leave a stone for Venus -‘

The ground shifted under him, throwing him down. His knees hurt like bee stings. ‘Atia?’

She grabbed his hand, dragged him to his feet. ‘Run! Run to tata!’

The air stung, tasted bitter, dust filled his eyes, his mouth.

‘Lares help us!’

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt based on Google Streetview.

Of course, having a history degree that touched on the Classics, once I saw the smoky mountain top all I could think of was Vesuvius and what might have happened, had a brother and sister been out making offerings to the Gods on that day in AD 79.

Notes

Lares were household gods, small and personal ones, possibly guardian ancestors.

Venus was patroness of Pompeii, hence the children leaving a token for her.

It seems Roman children called their fathers tata as often as they did papa.

One last thing …

It’s thought Pompeii was engulfed by pyroclastic flow, a volcanic eruption where rock behaves more like water. To see what the Pompeiians might have seen before the end, see here.

 

And for the dormant Goth inside me still …

What Pegman Saw : Becoming

This week, Pegman takes us to the Sambor Prei Kuk Temple in Cambodia.


 

Thursday 4th April 1901

The sun is setting. Naive European as I was – not now, after everything that’s happened – I imagined the evenings would bring some relief, some respite in which energies could be restored. Now, when I lie under my roof of sagging canvas – mosquito nets hung around me like a cocoon – I feel the nights are as hot as the days, hotter even. No respite. Never that here.

It is at night that the forest yearns to overtake the temple, snaking back over the leafy ground and that circle of bare earth cleared by Chanda and the other men. I imagine her – the Forest – sending out her lieutenants – gibbons, snakes, that velvet pawed assassin the tiger – to reclaim what I have stolen.

The men are gone. Have I written that before? I am losing track.

It occurs to me – if the nets are my cocoon, what am I becoming?

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a lovely prompt using Google Streetview as its source. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

 

Friday Fictioneers : Owt or Nowt?

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Kelvin M. Knight


 

The sun squatted low, puffs of apricot cloud still bubbling along the horizon. The colours brought to mind summer, despite the cold that had snuck into her boots.

Edith waited patiently outside the bakers for a loaf, a roll or perhaps a chunk of parkin too misshapen or overcooked to grace the shining tables of Clifton. She wasn’t particular – a full stomach for a ha’penny was hard to come by these days.

The baker’s boy tugged the door with meaty fingers. ‘Nowt today.’ The door slammed, snapping off his words.

Sleeping rough was always colder on an empty stomach.

 


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

If you’re wondering what ‘parkin’ is, look here. And if you’re wondering what ‘nowt’ means … why, it’s the opposite of ‘owt’ of course! Nowt meaning nothing or naught and owt meaning anything – Northern English slang dropped down from the Old Norse and still very much alive up north and in our house, we being defected Northerners! So when someone asks is there ‘owt or nowt’ they’re saying is there ‘anything or nothing’.

What Pegman Saw : The flooded orange grove

The space is cramped, the air hot enough to snatch the sweat before it pearls on his skin.

Below breakers crash, hiss to silence before building again, a sound that fills his dreams with frilled waves and sharpened rocks. He used to dream of home, of orange groves and trees speckled with flowers, a thousand stars in a sky of polished emerald leaves. But each crash of the sea has stripped an inch of his past until there is nothing but the fort, the rocks, the waves.

He will die here.

It’s a certainty that he doesn’t know so much as feel, a knowledge hammered into his bones, a thread spun through every tendon and muscle.

Night begins to fall, the cold beam of the lighthouse a lance subduing the sun until it retreats below the sea.

The waves crash louder in the darkness.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt using Google Streetview. See the pic and wander. Go here to join in and to see the other stories.

I saw the fort, saw the little turrets on the side called garita or bartizan and wondered what it might have felt like to be a soldier in there, looking out on a foreign sea.

 

 

Three Line Tales : Miss Salome’s world stops spinning

 

three line tales week 84: glamping

photo by Niv Rozenberg via Unsplash


 

Miss Salome was nervous of her new home at Lombardi’s World of Physical Wonders.

She was used to the contented cluck of the hens, the rhythms of a farmhouse bound by sunrise and seasons. But Lombardi’s was a like a city, all noise and bustle under canvas and always a new face – Atarah the alligator woman, Sherman the dogfaced boy, the half and half Charlie, Abdu who they called the leopard skin boy … too many to remember.

She had once lived rooted to the earth, now the soil beneath her was forever changing from red to brown to grey, back to red with the rumble of cartwheels.

Then one day she saw him, a man in miniature, so small and perfect he could be cast from porcelain. He sat on the top step of the neighbouring caravan, hands resting on his knees, watching her.

‘Welcome to the neighbourhood,’ he said smiling and for once she was pleased of her beard, pleased it hid the flush of pleasure that rogued her cheeks.

 


Written for Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales. See the pic … and you know the rest. Go here to read the other stories.

To learn more sideshow acts and terminology see here.