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

 

 

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper : Creepy quote of the day

Crow caught in a spider's web

Image: Pixabay

 

Young Will Stanton has discovered he is one of the Old Ones, defenders of the Light against the forces of Darkness. It’s Christmas Day and the service has just ended at the local country church. Snow has the land in an icy grip, sinister black birds lurk in every tree and as the congregation fades away, the Dark pins Will and other Old Ones inside the church …

The Old Ones stood in the doorway of the church, their arms linked together. None spoke a word to another. Wild noise and turbulence rose outside; the light darkened, the wind howled and whined, the snow whirled in and whipped their faces with white chips of ice. And suddenly the rooks were in the snow, hundreds of them, black flurries of malevolence, cawing and croaking, diving down at the porch in shrieking attack and then swooping up, away. They could not come close enough to claw and tear; it was as if an invisible wall made them fall back within inches of their targets. But that would be only for as long as the Old Ones’ strength could hold. In a wild storm of black and white the Dark attacked, beating at their minds as at their bodies, and above all driving hard at the Sign-seeker, Will.

 


The lovely Mandibelle 16 has nominated me for the Three Quotes, Three Days – thanks Amanda – which is a lovely thread where bloggers post edifying quotes to inspire and encourage others.

Sadly, I find I am not the inspiring and encouraging type. So I thought I’d spin the prompt into something more ‘me’ and (it being the season for the scary) post some favourite quotes from crackingly terrifying books instead.

I can’t talk about Susan Cooper’s criminally underrated* The Dark is Rising without, quite frankly, coming across as a bit weird. 

It is without doubt the book that has shaped me the most so far as taste in literature and my own writing is concerned. It’s the mix of Christmas and the snow covered English countryside and pagan, Celtic and Arthurian myth, magic and danger and good versus evil. I’ve basically been looking all my life for a book that will take hold of me the way this book did. Still searching.


*I only say this because so many people haven’t heard of or read these books. Which should be a criminal offence – no exceptions.

P.S I have not watched the film adaptation made in 2007 where all pagan elements were removed along with most of the back story and several major characters and our hero became American. With apologies to my lovely blogging cousins across the Atlantic, but that’s like adapting The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and having Tom Sawyer come from a council estate in Central London. Poor show! 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill: Creepy Quote of the Day

Ancient graveyard

Image: Pixabay

 

Arthur Kipps is alone at the isolated Eel Marsh House, with only the plucky Jack Russell Spider for company. It’s November, the light is fading, and Arthur spies The Woman in Black, standing amid jumbled gravestones … 

 … Now, however, as I stared at her, stared until my eyes ached in their sockets, stared in surprise and bewilderment at her presence, now I saw that her face did wear an expression. It was one of what I can only describe – and the words seem hopelessly inadequate to express what I saw – as a desperate, yearning malevolence; it was as though she was searching for something she wanted, needed – must have, more than life itself, and which had been taken from her. And towards whoever had taken it, she directed the purest evil and hatred and loathing, with all the force that was available to her …

 


The lovely Mandibelle 16 has nominated me for the Three Quotes, Three Days – thanks Amanda – which is a lovely thread where bloggers post edifying quotes to inspire and encourage others.

Sadly, I find I am not the inspiring and encouraging type. So I thought I’d spin the prompt into something more ‘me’ and (it being the season for the scary) post some favourite quotes from crackingly terrifying books instead.

This quote is from the creepy The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, actually not an easy novel to quote from successfully, as the atmosphere of dread and impending horror is built subtly over chapters, not in quotable chunks. You’ll just have to read the whole book to appreciate the full effect …  

The Graveyard Book: Neil Gaiman : Creepy Quote of the Day

Dagger with silver hilt

Image: Pixabay


 

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even now you had been cut, not immediately.

The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet …

 


The lovely Mandibelle 16 has nominated me for the Three Quotes, Three Days – thanks Amanda – which is a lovely thread where bloggers post edifying quotes to inspire and encourage others.

Sadly, I find I am not the inspiring and encouraging type. So I thought I’d spin the prompt into something more ‘me’ and (it being the season for the scary) post some favourite quotes from crackingly terrifying books instead.

Today’s quote opens with one of the most arresting first lines I’ve read, from the wonderful The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I won’t be officially nominating anyone else to take up the mantle, but if you fancy a go…