Friday Fictioneers : A visit to the Widow

PHOTO PROMPT© CEAyr


 

The sun was fading as Sal approached the Widow, the crag black against a golden sky. The breeze was chill, autumn coming on before her time.

Producing the flowers from her apron pocket, her voice shook as she spoke.

‘Widow, I bring you rosemary for remembrance of him I lost. Heather for an earnest wish come true. Windflower for anticipation of my dear man’s return.’

Hands quivering, she placed the stems in the rocky hollows, the stone cold and rough against her fingertips.

The breeze blew against her ear like a warm breath carrying a whisper.

Windflower for fading hope … 

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. The most fun you can have at a keyboard. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

According to The Flower Expert, heather ‘indicates that wishes will come true’ and anemones (known by some as windflowers) ‘symbolizes anticipation’ as well as indicating  ‘fading hope’.

Never be alone

PHOTO PROMPT © Karuna


 

By the time Diana reached home, night was snapping at her heels, the first fallen leaves of autum swirling in the wind.

What had her mother always said? Never be alone. Always be inside after nightfall. But despite her best efforts and being ‘striking’ in her youth (not beautiful, never that) she’d always lived alone.

Once inside the house, she locked and bolted the door, passed from room to room, closing the shutters on the darkness. Something warm pressed against her calf.

‘Hello, Grim.’

She lifted the cat into her arms, felt the rumble start in his throat as she ruffled the back of his neck. Not quite alone.

 

After dinner she lit the candles, three groups of three – earth, air and sky as mother had taught her – took a bowl of warm water to the dining table and began cleaning the toys she’d found at the allotment.

She didn’t bring objects home often but these had spoken to her. So much love poured into them, so many hopes and whispered promises. The dreams of a young heart had a potency that faded as people aged.

There were countless similar objects around the window and door frames, cluttering the fireplace. China dolls with missing limbs, brooches, rings, letters of love and loss and friendship, a fabric heart, hand-stitched, a token left for an orphan centuries before. Anything loved could work. Could ward them off.

Grim jumped to the window seat, eyes fixed on the shutter latch. Standing, Diana put aside the doll, its eyes rolling closed.

‘You okay, Grim?’

The cat leapt up, hissing, spitting, spinning on his claws, fur standing from his body like pins. The windows rattled, the glass chiming in the frames. Wind howled down the chimney puffed ash into the air. The floor shook beneath her feet, boards bucking, her chair falling.

She checked the candles, still alive in there holders … and watched in horror as they blew out one by one.

A moment of quiet. Ash fell like charred snow, the only sound her own breathing.

Three loud knocks on the shutter.

 


I wrote the first part of this for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers this week and the wonderfully talented Jane Dougherty asked me about the significance of the toys. That got me thinking. So here’s my answer.

The story that raised all the questions – Toy Soldiers – is here. And another tale of Grim the cat is here.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Break open the earth

Firework, explosion

Image : Pixabay

Someone gripped Ben’s shoulder, shaking him awake.

‘Fetch your kit,’ said the someone, just a shadow in black.

The shadow was breathing hard, a wheeze on the exhale he recognised in his own lungs. Shanty Chest, Dom had called it with a wink. But there was no more Dom. Ben kept forgetting.

He pulled his bag open, grabbing for his jacket, stuffing his bedroll inside, though it slipped and fought him as if it was alive.

‘Move,’ said the someone. ‘Five minutes and we’re out.’

Then there was no someone, no tent, only a whistling, gaping hole and the sky and stars and the stars were exploding over his head, big and white enough to blind, filling the night with cracks loud enough to break open the earth.

‘There coming!’ screamed another someone.

But he was staring up at the stars, watching them break and flash and fade and listening to the crackling hush to silence.

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Use the word – today it’s KIT – in a post. See here to read the other tales and to join in.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Nailed

Spilt red nail polish

Image : Pixabay

 

Her nails are bitten down to the quick. They snag on her clothes when she dresses in the morning – if she dresses in the morning – scratch her cheek as she sits at the kitchen table, gazing out at her soaked patchy lawn.

Once her nails were immaculate, glossy – ten scarlet blades. Men loved them, some ridiculous fantasy about a woman with claws. A barely tamed creature.

Then one night …

There had been drinks, a man she hardly knew, a scene in a bar taken outside on the street, stumbling into an alleyway of binbags and cardboard boxes.

Shouting, screaming. Then hands were pinning her arms. An animal terror making her freeze, a desperation to escape his trap, that leering, beery breath on her face. She’d fought but he was strong, grip tight – tightening – and she was falling and he on top of her, his weight knocking her breath away, pinning her to the wet tarmac, the base of her spine grinding. And she was clawing, clawing at his wrists, wriggling, sinking further, then …

She was on her feet. Her hands were slick, greasy – stained black in the darkness. He was silent.  Slumped cloth and steaming flesh. She’d ran.

Days later, though she’d washed and washed, the rust was still trapped under the nails, scarlet on the surface, browned like henna on the underside.

So now, the blades are gone, the rust too. But still she smells the metal of that night. And no matter how much she gnaws at herself, the scent clings …

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventures’ #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Today the word is NAILED. See here to read the other tales and to join in.

Also, for The Daily Post’s Daily PromptSCENT. See here to join in and to read the other posts.

Esther Newton’s Monday Motivations : Parts of a dismembered whole

Black cat in shadow

Image : Pixabay

He struggles to remember when he first saw the darkness in his daughter Emily. Perhaps it’s the effects of the medication, but the past arrives in clumps, like clay torn from a sculpture, parts of a dismembered whole …

 

 … An afternoon in summer, sunlight gilding the garden gate. A young girl – Emily’s best friend, Charlotte – stands in a forest of scarlet hollyhocks, lace trimmed vest just visible through her torn pinafore, tears washing the cut on her cheek …

… Tying posters to lampposts as the drizzle gathers on his lashes. MISSING: Trixie … Fluff … Tuppence … Sox … A series of fuzzy pink noses, ginger stripes, black and white patches. A look from the neighbour that’s as misted as the day. Another? is all she says before softly closing her front door …

… Emily shares an abusive text from a friend – foul words, hard to forget. His arms wrap tightly around her fragile frame. If he can hug long enough – well enough – perhaps love will find a way inside her. An almost overwhelming urge to squeeze too hard, to make something happen, but nothing helps. Defeated he leaves her room, crosses to the airing cupboard, unearths a half-drunk bottle from beneath the faded pilowcases …

… The news report. Her school’s front gates. Familiar flaking paint above the rolling headline, yellow on red. The death toll rising …

 

As his eyes flicker closed he knows the truth. The three of them have always walked hand in hand – he and Emily …

And the darkness.

 


Written for Esther Newton’s Monday Motivations prompt –DARKNESS. So, yes, it’s painted in the blackest hues.

Friday Fictioneers : A beckoning sliver of darkness

PHOTO PROMPT © CEayr

PHOTO PROMPT © CEayr


 

Susie sucked the end of her pigtail, pinafore sticking to her, face hot from running.

She’d never noticed the door before, the rusty chain fastened with two padlocks. Susie understood about padlocks, knew you needed a key to open them. But the chain was waist height, easy to get under and the door was ajar, showing a beckoning sliver of darkness.

‘Coming! Ready or not!’

Danny! He’d find her soon, tease her for not hiding, for being a baby.

As she ducked under the chain, a voice called, ‘Come in and close the door behind you.’

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the photo and let it prompt to to action – in fewer than 100 words. See here to join in and to read the other, fantastic tales.

 

Love brings her home

Skeleton woman

Image : Pixabay

 

She ne’er did love me better than when she died.

 

The priest had gone, the black backed beetle taking his spell book, the vial of magic potion that was to shield my Mary’s passing to the Otherworld. He left the smell of incense and pudding and fear, scurrying back to his plump little wife and her baked apple cheeks, leaving me to witness the final breaths of my own dear one.

There were no plump blushes in our marriage bed that night. All fat had been worn from Mary, as if the fever was a living thing that had crawled beneath her skin, feasting on the layers laid down by every Harvest Home and Twelfth Night cake. There was nothing left of her I’d known, that merry, scolding, worrisome woman. One last look she gave before those yellowed lids sealed forever.

And that was Love.

And this it is that brings her back. Out of the cold, cloying ground, clawing through rotted wood, through tree roots, cuffing away sleeping larvae. From the graveyard she comes, past the graves of mother, sister, our own lost babes, shadowing the path she trod the day we wed, beneath the black limbed yews and their shining, bloody berries. Through the village, past thatch and tile and folk she called neighbour who bolt their shutters against her coming, whispering incantations to keep her bony fingers from their doors.

Tis not them she seeks.

I listen for the slip and drag of her feet on the path, the broken china ting of her fleshless heels on stone. I throw wide the door, inhale the scent of falling leaves, the smell of summer dying.

‘Welcome wife,’ I say as she comes home.

 


Happy Haloween All – may your life be filled with Treats and devoid of Tricks