What Pegman Saw : The many in the one

 

I tell Mammy, “The church speaks to me.”

I don’t expect tears of joy, the kisses and blessings. I don’t expect to be trussed in my coat, my hat with the ear flaps, my scarf, my mittens and heavy boots until I’m muffled and leaden, a deep sea diver wading among the coral.

Mammy’s heels clip-clop on the cobbles, the sound echoing between staring houses.

It speaks again as we enter the churchyard. At first it’s like one voice, a wind sighing through narrow gaps. But then I hear the many in the one – crying, whispering, calling for help that never comes.

The rectory door bell rings. I shuffle on the step, aching to run but held by Mammy’s joy, her fierce pride that the Lord has chosen to speak to me.

The door swings wide. There’s the black shirt, the white collar.

One look and it’s clear – he knows.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Stockholm, Sweden. See here to join in, to share, read and comment.

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What Pegman Saw : Take me to the water

 

 

The faithful lined the banks of the river all year, churning the water to a thick brown soup of mud and prayer leaves.

The winters were the busiest now, as if God was more likely to grant relief from pain and suffering if the pilgrim had to crunch barefoot through frosted grass and stiff fringes of reed.

Prime didn’t want to believe in a god like that, but then he knew the secret. He knew the discarded crutches, the lives reborn, renewed, weren’t due to God at all.

Sometimes the knowledge made him flinch under the grateful tears, the blessings of the cured as he helped them, sodden, from the water.

He would lie awake wondering – did it matter? Was a cure any less a cure, however it happened?

Still, he crept to the water under cover of night to feed Them, to hear Their true voices.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the grand writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we’re in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. See here to join in, to share, read and comment.

What Pegman Saw: The one who made it home

 

 

He was one of the displaced after the war, I think.

Just one of thousands forced to flee along the river bank, pushed on by the stink of burning and blood, outpaced by the corpses floating downstream.

I don’t know why he stopped here. Perhaps he finally felt safe. Or he just couldn’t walk anymore.

Did he imagine getting old like this, sleeping on a palette bed by the river, earning a few riel carrying sacks of rice and bales of cane, arthritic joints growing gnarly as kapok tree roots? Nothing to his name other than one set of clothes, a string hammock, a battered water carrier.

As I take his wrist, check for a pulse I won’t find, I think how at peace he looks, how the young man he was still peeks from behind that old man’s death mask.

Perhaps he finally made it home.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as it’s inspiration. This week we visit Cambodia. See here to join in, share and comment.

Cambodia has had a traumatic past, years of war followed by atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. To learn more about the war, see here and see here to read about the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

 

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : The City of the Dead

 

 

Mayor Leopold Hare sunk to his haunches, ran slender fingers over the gouges in the concrete. ‘And this happened last night? Where were your Watchmen, Captain Hopkins?’

Hopkins heard the accusation in Hare’s chilly tone but ignored it. ‘On a call. Domestic over on Lafeyette and Third.’

Hare creaked to his feet, turning hollow eyes along the road, to the broken stone slab of the Grandjean Mausoleum. ‘What is that smell?’

He’d noticed it when he arrived – like spent matches and fireworks … Like Hell. ‘Sulphur,’ he said.

Bone dry leaves spiralled in the wind, drifting around Hare’s feet.

The Mayor nodded. ‘I thought so too.’ He tapped a bony finger against his lip. ‘A daemon then? Stealing our citizens? To what end?’

Hopkins could only shiver, only think of the other bodies ripped from their Endless Sleep over the previous days.

Something evil had come to Necropolis.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt inspired by Google Street View. Visit here to join in the fun and pen a tale of your own.

Now, who could resist a creepy tale when faced with the Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans? The sight of those amazing graves – resembling so many small stone houses – had my mind wandering to a City of the Dead where something very bad is happening. A bit off the wall, but Halloween is fast approaching.

Notes

The Mayor’s surname was robbed from the ‘Resurrectionist’ William Hare – see here to acquaint yourself with his grisly story.

And the Captain’s name was spirited away from Matthew Hopkins, the 17th Century Witch Finder General. See here to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : The long rest

 

The ground took Mother a year ago, swallowed the desiccated morsel of her body in one gritty gulp. On the day of the funeral, I stood in woody silence, veil shielding my dry cheek. I thought how strange it was she would no longer turn those fish eyes onto my needlework, the crabbed pages of my journal, my private, never-private space.

Then this morning I found Father, quite still over the morning paper, his face a silver grey, the colour of my half-mourning gown.

He will not be my first subject and I regret so many sweet creatures had to die for me to refine my art, but they shall accompany his long rest – the leverets on his knee through the week, the clutch of drowned kittens brushed and beribboned for Sunday.

But first there is much work to be done. I shall fetch my knife.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Streetview as its jumping off point. This week we visit the Douro Valley, Portugal. See here to join in, share, read and comment.

N.B

The Victorians imposed quite a complex system on women to denote the stages of mourning after a close relative had died, starting at black through lilac to white. See here to learn more.

And to see the kind of work my character might have produced, see this gallery of the work of Walter Potter, the famous English taxidermist here.

 

What Pegman Saw : Parallel Worlds

 

 

It’s only after thirty years away, I see how idyllic my childhood home is and I have the strangest feeling of seeing two parallel worlds, as if each eye is imprinted with a different image, my brain struggling to reconcile the two.

There is the picture window gazing onto the endless ocean, a porch swing wide enough for two, a spotless white picket fence.

Blink and I see the other world …

… six years old, paint brush falling from my hand as a boot kicks me from behind. The graze on my temple from the fence  …

… shivering on the porch swing as the dark creeps in, as wild things snuffle closer, as the shouting from inside turns to screams …

… banging at the picture window as my mother walks away, never turning, never looking back …

Tugging my collar against the wind, I’m glad of its beauty.

It means it will sell quickly.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt inspired by Google Street View. This week we are on Mackinac Island, Michigan. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

 

 

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : ‘Are we close?’

 

‘Are we close?’ said Collier, tucking his chin into his furs. His eyes were barely visible, a squint between the brim of his beaver fur hat and his upturned collar.

Dunning nodded. After a moment, Collier shuffled back to the fire. They’d exchanged few words in the six days since heading out from Jackson, though Collier tried to talk over coffee each morning. Dawson had little to say to the lawman. He had little to say to anyone.

Besides, Collier would want to discuss Sol Jäger and the massacre and Dawson didn’t want to know who he was tracking, to make a judgement about the man’s guilt. The money purse in his pack – that was all he needed to know.

Dunning kept his growing unease to himself. Unease about a trail too easy too follow … about following a man whose name meant ‘hunter’.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Alberta, Canada. See here to join in.