What Pegman Saw: A million watching eyes

Image: Sukhbaatar Google Street View

Khunbish stared through the grubby window, out across the spine of the steppe. She smelt the clouds gathering, sensed the droplets of water shiver as they pinged together, eager to fall. Soon the brown grass would shimmer like a million watching eyes.

She’d played her role well. Allowed her father and brothers to bind her, bundle her in the little shed among the unwanted things. Grew still as they padlocked the door. It calmed the men to believe they retained control.

But she couldn’t rest forever.

As the first bullet of rain hit the tin roof she twitched her wrists, shook off the nylon twine. She reached out with her mind until it pinged against steel, felt for the gaps between the molecules in the padlock and encouraged them to grow. Metal fell to the ground with a bony thunk.

The time had come.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes you all across the world via Google Street View. This week we visit Mongolia. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

When researching Mongolian names, I found Khunbish, a gender neutral name which, according to Mom Junction means ‘not a human being’.

I suspect that describes my character pretty accurately.

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What Pegman Saw: When Archie Gregson lived next door

Image: Google Street view

Archie Gregson lived at Sandy Bay, the guesthouse next to ours.

My mother didn’t approve of Mrs Gregson, her home’s faded pink paintwork, the fact she didn’t wash her step every day or her net curtains every week.

“Clean glass means clean guests, Phillip,” said Mum, scrubbing our windows with balled sheets of the Daily Mail.

I don’t know about their guests, but she had a point with Archie. A torque of dirt circled his neck, river valley runnels up his forearms. In summer he smelt more like the sea than the breeze did.

But when you’re 12 you don’t love people because they’re clean. You love them for skipping stones, for teaching you to catch spiky crabs with a line of string and a chicken bone.

You love them for not laughing when you fall over. For keeping your worst secrets the best.

And so I loved Archie.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that takes you across the globe through google Street View. This week, we pop to the UK, to Great Yarmouth. To join in with the prompt, see here.

What Pegman Saw: A flare in the lens

Image: Google Street View

In the beginning they were just an irritation, like lens flare or a scratched negative.

But he began to see them everywhere in his footage, among the Beng trees of Cambodia, in the dust and scrub of the Golan Heights, studying the murals on the Falls Road.

His hands would shake in the sick red glow of the darkroom as he reached for his magnifier, searching the prints before they dried.

Always the same blond and dark heads, close as if in conversation, the arms round each other, feet in step. Sometimes they were blurred, distant, part hidden behind a lamp post or car, but always the swept back hair, the holiday smiles.

His editor laughed, said they were his signature, better than a monogram. He smiled, nodded, all the while wondering how he’d learn who they were.

Then one dank night driving home on the coast road, he found out.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its jumping off point. This week we are in Cardenas, Cuba.

My story is actually inspired by the Google Street View itself. You see, I kept seeing the same woman and child, in similar poses, arms round each other, presumably tagging along behind the camera operator. I just wondered what if they weren’t known by the photographer? What if their appearance was as much of a surprise to the person who took the images as it was to us?

To learn more about Cambodia, the Golan Heights and the Falls Road, just click

What Pegman Saw: A pocketful of keys

We dreaded visits to my great-uncle Dilwyn’s.

His house was a gloomy pile overlooking Hampstead Heath, the walls wood panelled, the furniture solid and carved with grotesques. I remember the drawing room with its Greek masks, the watchful eyes and leering faces. There was a plastered ceiling in there – cracks as wide as my finger, sooty acanthus leaves twined with serpents – that I imagined would crumble one windy day, burying all of us alive.

As we shuffled round the old house stirring up dust, disturbing cobwebs, I envied other children their caravan holidays to the coast or camping trips to the Forest of Dean.

Seeing how bored and listless we were one rainy summer afternoon, Uncle Dilwyn handed me a bunch of keys. Some were dull brass, others rusty iron, all were thick and heavy and felt warm on my palm.

He waved a leathery hand. ‘Go. See what they open,’ he said.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Streetview. This week we are in London.

The photograph is not in Hampstead but one of the rooms in the Sir John Soane Museum in Holborn. Soane was a 19th century architect fascinated with art and sculpture, particularly that of the ancient world. His fascination turned into a collecting habit and through his life he gathered thousands of sculptures, architectural fragments, paintings, models … even the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I.

On his death, he left the house and his collection to the nation and entry is free. See here for more details.

What Pegman Saw: Cisco’s mission

Image : Google Street View

Every day Cisco sat in the Plaza De Armas, overlooked by the Cathedral and the Jesuit Iglesia.

When drizzle speckled his lashes he pulled up his hood. When the sun blazed he did the same, ignoring the children selling day trips to the mountains or alpaca wool hats. The young hawkers would stare with their deep, curious eyes before scurrying after tourists with deep pockets.

All the while, he’d try to keep the same scene running through his mind and when his rumbling stomach or stiff limbs distracted him, guilt would descend like a cloud. Because how else would God know what he wanted – what his family needed – if he couldn’t keep the image clear in his head?

The kitchen at home. Mama at the stove. The scent of chilli chicken.

Papa walking in through the back door, face wide with a smile.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its jumping off point. See here to join in and to read other tales.

Friday Fictioneers: In the flat below


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Johannes was already awake when the baby in the flat below started crying.

He’d passed the mother once, short skirt above skinny legs, jacket too thin to keep out the cold. The baby was pale and slender as she was, spider fingers grabbing for a half empty bottle of milk.

It was 2 a.m. when the mother’s sobs began – deep, shuddering sobs. He got up, hobbled to his kitchen.

At Johannes’ knock, her door opened. Her red eyes narrowed, suspicious of the old man holding a box of eggs, a half loaf of bread.

‘Too early for breakfast?’ he asked.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic, write a tale and don’t forget to share and read the others.

Not sure if it’s because I haven’t taken part for a few weeks or because it’s Easter Sunday, but for a change I didn’t kill anyone, nothing nasty is going to happen to my characters. Just one human being reaching out to another in need.

Happy Easter everyone.

Friday Fictioneers: Easy Pickings


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Pinkie waits by the big wheel.

The rink is closed for the night, the wind cutting across the ice, bringing winter with it. Fairy lights shiver in the black fingered trees, the smell of fried onions from the food stall reminds him of summer and richer pickings, long nights of beer and open jackets and easily lifted wallets.

‘Alright, Pinkie.’ Rose is smiling, a soft, wet-eyed smile that makes him want to punch her. Her hand in his is cold, slightly damp. Like a dead man’s.

‘The wheel is it?’ he says. It’s high up there. High and windy.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and to write your own tale.

Apologies, but due to a heavy workload this week I won’t be reading as many FFs as usual, though be sure if you read and comment on my story, I will reciprocate … eventually!

Fairgrounds and seasides always have a darker side for me. On the surface it’s all family fun and bright lights and loud music, beneath there’s grime and dirt, rather like the rides themselves. Perhaps it’s all those holidaymakers with money in their pockets that attract folk wishing to have a slice of that money and not always legitimately.

Anyway, for some reason the image reminded me of Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock, the tale of the sociopathic teenage killer Pinkie Brown. There’s death and violence, sex and Catholicism, all mixed together in a rather distasteful brew – or at least I found it so when I read it as a teen. For those unfamiliar with the novel, look here.

In my story, I picture Pinkie meeting Rose, his girlfriend later wife who is oblivious to the extent of her spouse’s depths …