What pegman saw : When the old devil calls

This week Pegman takes us to Wroclaw, Poland


 

I huddle under the sign of the Blind Beggar, the first flakes of snow snatching at my coat as darkness reclaims Alms Street. A pair of bangtails scurry from the rookery, shawls pulled tight to keep out the chill, their conversation shrill with drink.

I don’t see the child until a tiny hand slips into mine. A boy – I think – no more than four, eyes too-wide in a narrow face, like a creature adapted to the night.

‘Says he’s ready.’ The voice is faint, a hiss through narrow pipes. The child vanishes into a low alley, bare feet silent on the cobbles.

The only sound is the shush of falling snow as I follow Old Noah’s messenger into the slum. When the devil calls you come, but fear has me like a hook, trying to pull me away to anywhere but this place, this night.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt using Google Streetview. See here to join in and to read the other stories. I saw the statue above the doorway with her blank face and clapsed hands and the rest came from there.

Bangtail – Victorian slang term for a prostitute

Rookery – Victorian slum reknowned for crime and prostitution, the most notorious of which was the Old Nichol.

 

What Pegman Saw : No amount of riches

 

This week Pegman takes us to Pena, Portugal.


 

‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ He watched her face closely, a smile playing at his lips, never warming his eyes.

She was careful to control her expression in front of him, keep a light burning in her own eyes, even when cold lead seemed to fill her chest. A painful lesson she had learned early in their marriage – he must always see what he wanted to see. ‘It is truly beautiful,’ she said.

The Moorish arches, streams twining through tree ferns and palms, the mountainside hugged in green … Yes, beautiful.

Another beat to examine her expression and he was satisfied. He released the grip on her arm, turned to talk to one of his men, his attention pulled to something more important.

Her husband was a brilliant man, but one thing she knew and he did not. That no amount of riches can fool the prisoner they are free.

 


Written for What pegman saw, the prompt with Google streetview at its heart. See the pic and write a tale and visit here to read this week’s stories.

 

 

What Pegman Saw : The king of meaningless expressions

 

The sun slumped low in the sky as we pulled into the drive-in. Kids clustered at the entrance, the girls whispering and giggling behind cupped hands, a boy tossing a ball on baked concrete.

Mansell turned off the engine, cuffing his top lip. His shirt collar was dark with sweat, his tie hanging limp. ‘Damn this weather, eh? Hot as asses out here.’

My partner was king of the meaningless expression.

Pulling on his suit jacket, he nodded towards the drive-in shelter, its corrugated iron roof, its strings of dusty bunting. ‘The boy’s parents run this place, you say?’

I checked the manila file on my lap. ‘For the last five years. Mother and stepfather.’

He opened the door to the SUV, pulling his jacket collar straight. ‘I’ll lead.’ He nodded to the open file. ‘Keep those photographs hidden. We need answers – the sight of blood only ever brings more questions.’

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a photo prompt using Google Streetview. See here to join in and to join in.

 

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : Where I began

Today Pegman walks through  Portal, ND


 

Mum told me the place was called Railway Avenue.

When I was a kid lying on my bunk, pillow wrapped round my head to block the shouting, I imagined what it was like. A countryside lane, maybe, with a redbrick station and a flower bed, the town name picked out in yellow begonias. Maybe the line had long closed, leaving the grass to grow tall between the sleepers, with only the field mice left to follow the old ways.

When she finally kicked me out, I packed a bag and hiked there just to see, just to know the place where I began. I found a truck stop, a rundown cafe surrounded by wide open tracts of churned up dirt grubby with engine oil.

It made me smile. I was sixteen and it seemed right that my life began somewhere where even hope couldn’t survive.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a great writing prompt inspired by Google Streetview. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

What pegman saw : Mystified Cottage

 

 

 

Mystified Cottage it was called, a stocky one storey building snuggled in the lap of the Dales.

In the parlour two Carver chairs scuffed their backs against a worn sideboard, in the kitchen a Welsh dresser wore a motley of grease from generations of braised brisket and pigs head pies, gifts from the blackened range.

Tom Dunty the coalman would chuckle under the slick collar of his backing hat that the cottage was so called because all were mystified as to how the Crofts raised seven children inside. Though as Tom signed the register on his wedding day with an X, I’d guess he was parroting his snippish wife Mary.

He was wrong of course.

The name was no riddle to any who stayed a night beneath its eaves, any who dreamed of oily black feathers, of straw dollies swinging from dusty beams. Who heard The Lady call their name …

 


Written for What pegman saw, a weekly prompt using Google Streetview as its inspiration. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

The ‘backing hat’ Tom Dunty wears was a cap with a strip of leather sewn to hang from the back in order to protect a coalman’s neck and shoulders. See here to learn more.

What pegman saw : Under a blood red sky*

 

Chen and Kochanski exchange snaphots over the rehydrated mac cheese.

‘This your boy?’ asks Kochanski, looking down at a dogeared print, a child no more than six years old with Chen’s face, his wide-set eyes.

‘Yeah,’ says Chen. ‘He just had his twelfth birthday. I sent him a vidi-message but you know what it’s like. It’ll be a few weeks till I get a reply.’

Chen takes a similar print from Kochanski, creased, well thumbed through lonely nights in a single bunk. They share stories about their kids, how they’re a similar age, how in another life they could – should – have been friends.

Kochanski glances at me, but quickly looks away. She’s been the same since the first mission brief, gaze sliding away, distrustful.

She’s smart. In my pocket are similar photos, downloads from the internet of other people’s kids, a perfect, unknown family.

Not everyone was sad to leave Earth.

 


Written for What pegman saw, a writing prompt using Google Street View. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

For all you sci-fi aficionados, Chen and Kochanski are characters from the BBC comedy sci-fi series Red Dwarf, set a long way from Earth, millions of years in the future.

The title is taken from a U2 album of the same name.

What pegman saw : The Whisperers

 

It’s after the museum closes for the day, after the last tourist has shuffled out onto Nassau’s sweating streets, that the Whisperers come.

Jalen takes his time locking doors, scooping dropped tickets from the floor. The dust slowly settles, a powdery gauze slipping over the displays.

When he’s done he stops, lets the thump of car stereos, the calls of passersby drift like silt to the bottom of his mind as They float to the surface.

They’re shy at first, hugging the shadows, but then one will step forward, whisper a name – Efe, Temitope, Abena – then another comes and another, name after name, countless names. Jalen feels the manacles cinch his own ankles, the sea water swell his lungs as he sinks below the waves, as the sun slips away and green night falls.

Some days he wonders if he’ll join them, whispering in the darkness.

 


Written for What pegman saw, a prompt using Google Streetview. See here to join in and to read the other tales. Inspired by the Slavery and Emancipation Museum in Nassau.

I’m still in Mothers Day recovery mode, brain still frizzed and frazzled, so my usual Monday instalment of The Devil of Moravia will be tomorrow instead.

If I have some brain cells back by then.