What Pegman Saw : Ghost Smiles

 

‘… here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning …’

Francis watched his cousins: Ivy’s primrose hair tumbled from its ribbon; Johnny’s  socks were wrinkled, scuffed white from the gravel path. As the oldest, Francis would be in trouble for the grass stains, for the smudges of dirt on rosy cheeks.

‘It’s a box hedge,’ he muttered. ‘And it’s June. No frost in June.’ They didn’t hear, just kept on laughing and skipping.

He could write his name in perfect copperplate scrolls by the time he was four; had known his times tables by six. At each fresh achievement his parents had shown ghost smiles, eyes soon drawn back to the morning paper. No ghost smiles for the twins. Everyone adored them.

Almost everyone.

‘Let’s go into the maze,’ called Francis.

His pocket felt heavy and he smiled.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt using Google Street View. This week, we visit the Palace of Versailles. Pop along here to join in and to read the other stories.

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What Pegman Saw : At night in the theatre

The valley sides are sharp as a sword blow, snow blowing like smoke in the cutting wind. The hills are stripped to black, the trees dark ribs cresting a spine of rock.

Hideo locks the door, clicks one light switch, then the next, the theatre sinking to darkness, leaving only the stage lit.

Their flesh is heavy with frost, strings of sinew holding together slack joints. They yearn for heat to melt the armour from their backs, the swords from their hands. 

Footsteps behind the curtain. ‘Who’s there?’ Hideo’s own voice sounds brittle in his ears.

Something touches his hand, like old meat kept frozen too long. His palm tingles from the cold.

‘We’re closed. Next performance tomorrow.’

The sound of metal hushing against metal. The smell of blood.

The pool of heat expands across the floor as they gather around.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt using Google Streetview. Pop along and join in, do.

Don’t ask where this little piece of horror came from. I found the destroyed theatre, looked at sites about Noh theatre, where I not only found some very disturbing demon masks but this line ‘Japanese religion fears the spirits of those who died violently or in the grip of rage’ and of course, my brain mixed this idea with the theatre, with dead Samurai warriors lost in the snowcapped hills …

 

 

What Pegman Saw : An incorruptible crown

The morning is bitter, hard as only January can be.

Even here in London, far from the fens, the forests, the mist-heavy marshes of my varied Kingdom, ice forms on every sill, beards the wherries as they pull and pause on the troubled waters of the Thames. The lamps burn brighter when the morning is frost-hard.

I must make ready, but the day is bone cold … What if I shiver on that cursed step that waits for me? What if the people believe I quake from terror at my own fall?

For in truth, I am unafraid. I give up a tarnished crown for one incorruptible.

And yet, there is the cold … I shall wear two shirts. They will preserve my body until … Until there is nothing of this body left to save.

I hear another wherry – it is time.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Streetview as its starting point. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

Historical notes.

For those unaware of the fact, England has not had an uninterrupted monarchy.

During the 17th century there was a rebellion, a war largely caused by religion (the threat of Catholicism returning to what was by then a Protestant nation) but also by a poverty stricken king (Charles I) who wanted free access to the nation’s wealth without the inconvenience of asking for it. So he abolished government and raided the coffers.

After some prevarication, the English Civil Wars began and continued on and off for nine years. The rebels won, the king was eventually seized and executed at Westminster, London in January 1649. The country was a republic for eleven years until the restoration of the monarchy in the form of Charles’s son, Charles II in 1660.

On his long journey to the scaffold, Charles I was held at Carisbrooke Castle – from where he tried to escape at least twice. And come the January day of his execution he famously wore two shirts to stave off the cold so he wouldn’t be seen to shiver.

 

 

What Pegman Saw : Control

 

They were taken in front of us, that was the worst of it.

Not snatched in the melee of a fairground, under the sugary mist of cotton candy. Not lifted from their beds, parents too heavy with sleep to hear the creak of boards, the muffled cries.

The way they were taken was intentional – daytime, the family gathered to mourn as skinny arms reached out for Mama and Papa, the hope of rescue dying on tear-stained faces.

We control you, the gangs were saying, from the warped boards of your huts to your corn, your water, your women … your children.

Today they came again, greedy hands falling on my Bernicia’s slick of black hair, plucking at the folds of her dress, the shallow pit in her collarbone.

Strange, isn’t it, how the man who beats a dog never expects it to bite back?

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. See here to join in and to share your own story.

For reference, according to this site the name Bernicia means One who brings victory.

 

 

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : They’ll come


 

Shona drifts past another blank-eyed goddess.

She checks her watch. An hour until the coach collects them from the museum. Only mid-morning and her stomach’s rumbling.

Another gallery. The walls Pompeian red. In the centre of the room, a horse statue, on its back a child. The room is deserted, the air thick, steamy. Her pulse beats loud in her ears, breath coming fast –

Muscle moving beneath her, a jolt as the ground leaps up, falls away, rises again. Her arms scream, fingers white on the reins. She steals a look behind – no one. Tempted to slow, to ease the pain and the gasping, retching, but they’ll come, they’ll come, they’ll never stop and there’s only the horse between her and them and as long as she rides she’s safe. As long –

‘Miss?’

A concerned face swims into view, but she’s already running. She’ll always be running.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a writing prompt using Google Streetview. See here to read the other stories and share one of your own.

Strangely, considering a location chock-a-block with history, I found inspiration hard to come by today. Until I ventured into the the Archaelogical Museum and discovered this amazing statue. The Jockey of Artemision is so dynamic, so different from those stiff, cool-eyed goddesses – so modern in a way – I was captivated.

What Pegman Saw : A storm at Slaughter Bay

 

‘Hello? I don’t know if anyone can hear this broadcast – the signal’s terrible, a stormhead’s gathering, causing interference. I know you’re out there, Stephen, that you might be monitoring this wavelength –

‘I heard something … hold on.

‘I had to look, I thought I heard … The sun’s setting. I don’t have much time.

‘Stephen – anyone – if you’re listening, this is Rodney Statham, Professor Rodney Statham of the Imperial College research team. We were recording the flora and fauna of Slaughter Bay. We arrived seven days ago, a group of five research scientists, two local guides – Burnum and Daku … They were brothers, Stephen. Their poor mother –

‘There! I’m certain this time. Something outside the hut –

‘Stephen, if you hear this, if a rescue party is coming from the mainland – you must stop them!

‘God, that awful smell! Hawthorn and corpses. One’s coming under the door! Another! They’re on me, they -‘

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt using Google Streetview. To join in and to read the other stories, visit here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Pegman Saw : Where the trucks were headed

 

They were housed in an apartment block overlooking the main street into the city.

Morning and evening the road clogged with oily buses and flat-bed trucks spewing dense smoke that oozed along the tarmac, a grey stinking river. Most of the trucks carried munitions workers or mechanics heading for car factories making cheap, boxy run arounds for the home market and – or so it was rumoured – stretch limousines for high-up party members and foreign oligarchs.

The apartment had a balcony, a washing line of twine strung from post to window. When she took in the laundry, she brought the smell of the road in with her, sheets carrying same thick filth that coated the trees and filmed the windows.

Through the long night the road rumbled on, though she knew better than to ask where those trucks were headed.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt using Google Streetview as its source. See here to join in and to read the other tales.