Three Line Tales : Playing with creation

three line tales week 35; deer at sunset

photo by Rebecca Johnston – here’s a bigger version


‘What does it mean?’ said Tully, blinking away the mist that gathered liked tears on her lashes.

Wing laughed. ‘Mean?’ he said, cuffing his nose with a meaty fist. ‘A bleached deer with the dun means nothing, only that God is bored and plays with creation as a child plays with a poppet.’

But Tully had been watching, seen the crows clinging to the trees like stubborn snow, seen the ice-coloured squirrels and the ghostly, stripeless badgers. The creatures of wood and heath were paling, fading into the mid-winter sky and there was no part of her that could guess why – yet.


Written for Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales. See the lovely photo, write a story of three lines. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

By the way, dears, for those of you not in the know, poppet (though used more recently when referring to a sweet and likeable child) is an old word for doll – though one often associated with witchcraft.


A lead feather boa

Rusty bicycle

Image: Pixabay


‘Okay. Run it by me again.’

‘Land’s End.’


‘To John O’Groats.’


‘For charity. To save pandas.’

‘Okay.’ Dave eyed the soggy tyres on the ‘reclaimed’ bike, the red brown rusty spokes, the chain draped over one pedal like a lead feather boa. ‘But on that?’

‘It’s for charity,’ repeated Sarah, voice brittle-cheerful as blown glass.

‘I know honey, but …’ He nearly didn’t say, but the words filled his mouth and had to come out. ‘Is this like the skydive you tried to do for dolphins? Or the sponsored swim for dung beetles? Or the sponsored silence for howler monkeys?’ Dave had loved the thought of that last one, the sweet, mute irony of it.

Sarah’s eye twitched. ‘They were all good ideas – ‘

‘Brilliant ideas,’ said Dave a little too quickly. ‘But – .’

‘I know! The skydive for dolphins was cancelled because the week before the plane crash landed into a SeaWorld, the swim was scuppered by millions of ladybirds invading the local pool -.’

‘Made the local news, that.’

‘I know, Dave. And the sponsored silence … Well, that was really unfair. Who gets disqualified for a sneezing fit? Bloody Gina should have been disqualified for wearing that mucky old gorilla suit.’

‘To be fair, she didn’t know you were allergic.’

‘So she said. It just seems everything I try to do is doomed to failure. And I love pandas so much.’ Fat round tears, heavy with mascara, began to ooze down her cheeks.

Dave fished a paper hanky from his pocket. ‘Well, I can see why you love pandas,’ he said, gesturing towards her eyes. ‘It’s cos you look like one.’

As she wiped her face, Dave stared at the drooping chain, at the slashed seat, green with moss and sighed. ‘Alright. I’ll take a look at it for you. I just hope those chubby bamboo eating bastards are grateful.’

She slipped her arm around his back, planting a kiss on his stubbly cheek. ‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ she said.


Jane Dougherty’ Microfiction Challenge: The Freedom of Rybka


Tanya felt the wave coming before she saw it – an extra hard tug on skirts already soaked, anchored to her thighs. She smelt it too, the metal brine scent of the deeper sea, chill water churned from below, lifting fragments of seabed, scraps of broken shell and fins – the sea’s graveyard.


She tightened her grip on his hand, felt the moist leather of her glove, salty now, slippery as fresh peeled skin.

Seeking a reflection of her own fear in his face, she saw only joy, his arms flung wide, wings ready for flight. A flicker pierced her chest – she should have known. All these months he’d spoken of escape – from his father, from an imposed future of tenants and rents and broken backed harvests. But when she’d pressed him for details, he grew poetic, talked only of eternity, the moon and distant stars.

‘Freedom, rybka!’ he gasped as the wave scampered up his back, tumbling over his shoulders.

Freedom? To drown? To drift, puffy, grey, needled by blue crabs?

She imagined his boots – buffed to a fine shine, soles kept slick for dancing (how he loved to dance!) – slipping on the little pier, leather gliding over lichen …

… she released her grip.

The wave hit him, carried him from her. Then another hit and another, white crests battering his head, an avalanche forcing him down, burying him under endless ocean. His cap buoyed for a moment – swirling on an eddy brown as drainage water – then sank.

Tanya fell to her knees, wave after wave pulling hungrily at her clothes, smothering her face. Then she realised – beneath her was the submerged pier. Her fingers dug into crumbling wood, hooking barnacles, muscles trembling under the barrage of shivering water, flowing into her ears, nose, mouth until she was unsure where the sea ended and she began.

When the wood gave way to oozing sand, she flung herself on the beach, hacking brine, lungs and stomach scoured, eyes salt singed.

For the longest time she lay still, waiting for the land to reclaim her, for the sea to give up its hold for good. When strength returned, she unlaced her boots, numb fingers peeling off her jacket, her over skirt, the second skin of her stockings.

Her knees were still soft as jellyfish as she stood.

‘Freedom,’ she whispered, walking along the shoreline, footprints swallowed by each fresh wave.


Written for the very talented Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. See the picture and write a short piece to accompany it. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

By the way, my dear, ‘rybka’ (according to this site) is a Russian term of endearment meaning ‘little fish’.





Spider Time

Dew drop spider's web

Image: Pixabay

Ripening they hang, mottled berries in Autumnal hues.

Their dew-beaded threads span brown twigs and evergreens, cross every path and doorway. Webs ping and snap under my outstretched hand, their pulpy occupants beating retreat on hooked feet. Some tangle stringy sticky in my hair, span my shoulders, eight legged passengers hitching a ride before their tickling makes me shoo them away.

One web in the front garden, butressed by fuschia and skeletal fennel, contains the biggest. The size of a grape, she bounces on her silky hammock, growing daily, warping the threads around her.

I wonder what happens when the spiderlings come. Does she pop, spread her feathery flesh for the young to feast on? Do they skitter free, leaving her shunk, wrinkled, from grape to raisin in the dash of their hair’s breadth legs?

It’s growing dark, street lights blinking on, sucking every colour but orange from the day and anyway, dinner calls.

I leave her to the speckled damp, the rocking breeze, her patient waiting.






#tuesdayuseitinasentence: What are little girls made of?


Image: Pixabay

‘What’s the matter?’


Maisie sat on the back door step, bottom lip out, arms crossed over her chest like a dam holding back the flood.

‘Doesn’t look like nothing,’ said Dad. ‘Budge up.’ He squeezed in beside her, the stone cold on his backside.

Sparrows hopped in the bird table they’d made together last year – a pole with an old tea tray hammered to the top. Maisie had added the important touches such as splodges of lilac paint and glittery star stickers that had peeled off after the first heavy rain. He should have bought some varnish for it, lacquered over the stickers, but being practical never was his thing.

‘Ali doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.’

Maisie and Ali had been friends since nursery, though half of that time seemed to involve them fighting.

‘Well,’ said Dad, ‘I’m sure it’ll blow over.’

Maisie shook her head.

‘You’ve fallen out a lot of times over the years, love – ‘

‘I hate her.’

‘Maisie – ‘

‘She said I’m ugly. That I’m fat. That I’ve got slitty eyes.’

There’d been name calling over the years – of course there had – but school had handled every instance so well, the unpleasantness all dissolved so quickly. Now that mean little cow Ali … After all the birthday parties and sleepovers. And Maisie always the kindest girl … His daughter’s pain hit him in the chest, leaving him gasping for breath.

He looked at his big little girl, at the grown-up body with the ten-year-old child trapped inside. Life would never be easy for her and he wouldn’t always be around to help. But he was here today.

Gently, he took her hand. ‘You’re a beautiful, gorgeous girl – outside and in. And Ali …’

‘Is made of poo and twigs.’

He laughed so loud, the sparrows shot in the air and away over the garden fence.

‘Well, I was going to say she hasn’t got a heart half so big as yours. But maybe she’s made of twigs and poo too. I’ll ask her mum.’ He squeezed Maisie’s hand. ‘Fancy an ice cream?’

She looked at him from under long, blonde lashes. ‘Ice cream sundae.’

He smiled, smudged the tears from under her eyes. ‘Okay. Ice cream sundae. Last one with their shoes on is a rotten egg.’


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Take the word (this week it’s MATTER) and use it in a sentence or post). See here to join in and to read the other stories.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Void

Silhouette against a green and purple sky

Image: Pixabay

I say I am hurt. You say nothing.

I say my head is too heavy to lift from the pillow. You look away.

I say every part of me hurts. You rise, calm, silent and drift from the room.

I drag myself to where you are, press your fingers to my exposed bones, show you my desecrated heart.

But all you have – the whir and click of your brain, the bellow wheeze in your lungs – can only be for you.

For me, there is only a void.


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. See the word, use it in a sentence or post. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

Under the skin

Henna hand tattoos

Image : Pixabay

‘Can you recommend anything?’ she says.

The doctor stares at her palms, at the intricate design of tendrils, petals and leaves that curl over her skin.

‘And you say this happened as you slept?’

Scepticism in the doctor’s voice. She attaches no blame for that. Seven doctors, three specialists, a holistic healer – all have seen the scars, all shook their heads, doubtful, doubting her honesty, her mental health. She knows some have suspected her of making the marks herself, of scouring the patterns with a razor, a pin, a knife, waiting for the wounds to heal to delicate threads and whorls.

‘It happens every night as I sleep.’

Every morning the same, the pain somewhere new – the base of her neck, behind her knee, the sole of her foot – and when she looks there it is, another flower, another leaf, a serpent, the scaly dragon’s head, wings outstretched, ready to fly from her back.

Suddenly she doesn’t know why she’s here, why she’s put herself through the scrutiny, the prodding, the intrusive examinations, only for the same bafflement to follow her from the consulting room.

She grabs her coat, mumbles an apology, makes to leave.

He grabs her hand, his cuff rising on his outstretched wrist. It’s then she sees it.

The same brown scars, the same curls – the same dragon’s head, beady eye winking.

‘We need to talk,’ he says as tears soak her face.





Cinnamon eyes

Indian vegetable market

Image: Pixabay


His eyes betray him.

His skin is acceptably pale, freckles prickling his nose, hair mousy like his father’s, sun-bleached at the temples.

But charcoal lashes ring almond eyes, irises dark as cinnamon bark. One look and the chill English rain evaporates, the wind loses its icy nip and with it the stink of petrol and chemical perfume.

Now, the stunted oaks are gone, replaced by ferny tamarinds, pods clacking in a breeze soft with jasmine and musk, cardamon and sandalwood. A chai wallah calls, pouring a boiling arc of saffron scented tea from one pot to another, rickshaws bump and rattle, always onward, always gone.

Yes, his eyes betray him. But not to you.

To you they are a world you’re breathless to understand and with each stolen glance you yearn to discover more.


Written for The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt – EYES. See here to read more posts.

The Devil of Moravia: The sound of feasting crows

Lightning bolt

Image: Pixabay

Previously, I published a story featuring the reprobate gambling Lord Edmund, who one storm tossed night was about to put a bullet through his head when he heard a knock at the door. I though it was about time we learned what happened next. Look here to read parts one and two.

Cursing myself for a coward, I turned the key and flung wide the door.

Rain and wind and cold, wet leaves pelted my face, stinging my eyes. I stood like a fool, spitting and coughing.

Then above the howl of the wind, a voice. It sounded neither male nor female, young nor old, but in it I heard those killing waves, the sound of feasting crows.

‘Lord Edmund Spencer,’ said the creature. ‘I have something for you.’

A cowled figure stood on the path before me.

I could see nothing of his face, nothing but the shadow of the man. He was a stranger, yet some base instinct told my arm to raise, to point the pistol at him and shoot. How many times, through all the horrors that have befallen me, have I wished I had listened to that animal nature that called to my reasoned self? What pain I could have saved the world if only I had listened to that still small voice.

‘Lord Edmund?’

And with those words I was undone. For the voice was neither demon nor monster, merely a man, storm tossed, soaked through with chilling rain. Still, I found I could say not a word, merely standing aside to let him pass. When he made no move to enter, I remembered myself.

‘Come in man,’ I said, the remnants of fear making my voice coarse.

And so he stepped inside Moorfield.

As he breached the threshold, a mighty crack of thunder broke the air directly above our heads, lightning turning that blackest night to day and as it did, he pushed back the hood and I saw my visitor for the first time. What I saw surprised me.

The face was thin, delicately boned, with full effeminate lips that shone red against his ice pale skin. His cheekbones were high, with deep hollows beneath, his face indeterminate of age, so I could not have sworn if he was twenty years or forty.

It was his eyes that struck me most deeply and it is they that haunt me now. In these long lonely hours, they still watch me from the shadows, always searching, looking inside me, seeing my dark heart. And yet, if asked to describe them I cannot say what colour or shape they were, what made them most distinctive or unsettling.

Only that I never once saw them blink.

For a moment, I watched my visitor and I could not be sure why I had come to the door at all, why I had given myself the inconvenience of entertaining a stranger when I had other tasks to complete. I cursed my foolishness, my own fear of the night. But now the man was inside and could not be put out again without a minimum of hospitality.

I slammed the door, cutting off the wind, the sound echoing through the empty hall.

‘Come,’ I said, retrieving the candlestick, leading the way back to the study, the comforts of fire and claret.

As I did so I wondered what the fellow thought of me, armed, answering my own door and in such a disordered state. The manor too, bore no close examination, ancestral paintings and furniture, wall hangings and silver long gone to pay for my gambling debts.

My home was a hollowed shell, as was I.

We reached the study without a word, where I retook my seat, placing the candle and the pistol close at hand on the floor beside me. I may have looked to end my life, but it would not be at another’s hand.

The stranger removed his dripping cloak. It dropped to the floor and in the dim light of the fire I saw a velvet coat the colour of holly leaves, braid shimmering gold, the whole an old fashioned cut but richly made. I  was pondering on the oddness of the man when he spoke again.

‘I have something for you, Lord Edmund.’

His lips curled into a broad smile and I had the strongest notion he knew I had been examining him.

‘So you say,’ I muttered. Those eyes bored into mine, causing me to look away into the dying fire. ‘Well, speak, man. Tell me what it is and leave me in peace.’

My desire to be alone had returned anew and I regretted inviting him in. If I had but ignored that insistent hammering, my troubles might now be at an end.

‘But your troubles are now at an end,’ said the creature, as if those eyes had read my very thoughts.

He gave a bow, so low, so deep, it seemed his chest would touch the floor and as he stood he said,

‘My name is Niccolo Vintila de la Slatina. And the gift I have for you is myself.’

Friday Fictioneers: Only widows




Three days, four nights they waited, staring dry-eyed across the waves, at slate water torn to feathers by the wind.

Shawls pulled tight around their shoulders, the women stood apart, like the rocky weathered stacks at the bay’s mouth, holding strong under fierce gales and knife sharp rain.

Only when the first splintered board hit the shore did they start to crumble. And as the boats returned as match wood – fresh delivered to their feet with every crashing breaker – another woman shattered and another, until no wives remained.

Only widows.



Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. A truly lovely prompt with an amazing community of writers. If you’d like to play along and read more stories, see here.

As it’s the summer hols and writing time is scarce, I’ve combined this  prompt with today’s Word for Wednesday, today’s word being WIDOW.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word comes down from the Old English widewe and it had many variations throughout Europe, among them the Dutch weduwe and weeuw, Old High German wituwa, German Witwe, Gothic widuwo, all linked to the Latin viduus meaning ‘bereft or void’.

Widow’s peak came about because that hairline was supposed to foretell early widowhood, echoing as it did the cap worn by bereaved wives.

The term grass widow is fascinating, at times meaning ‘mistress’ developing into a woman who pretends to be married but isn’t. It could also mean a woman whose husband has disappeared (either presumed dead or through desertion) and a woman who has had children outside marriage.

All bad news for the women, then.

Thanks to Kat, the founder of W4W.