Category Archives: Fiction

The Holloway – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The motorbike growled between her thighs, its back wheel skidding on gravel as she raced down the country road. Her hand gripped the throttle twisting it roughly, her fingers tense inside her leather gloves, and trees blurred as she risked a glance over her shoulder.

They followed. There was no let up, as two, maybe three, bikes thundered behind her. She swallowed and her mind whirled for a moment. Was there even still a reason left to run? She’d saved all she could save, delivered everything she’d been entrusted with, and now there was only escape. There’d be no hero welcome, no liberation, nothing for her. Quietly, the Resistance would win, but they no longer needed her, her job was done. She’d given everything. All that was left was evasion and lonely seclusion – if she could shake her pursuers.

Clusters of flashes zipped past as bullets skimmed and ricochet off the bike’s chrome, and she momentarily flinched and lost balance. She focussed and forced the tension from her body into the bike and sped on.

A shot echoed, its report bouncing through the trees, and then pain erupted in her shoulder knocking her off balance and throwing her forward. The bike shifted beneath her, its weight slipping and its tyres burning against the tarmac, and Ayla let go. The bike crashed to the ground, spinning and screeching across the road, sparks flying and metal glowing. Ayla landed on her back and her body flipped as she tried to pull her limbs close. Ayla felt the impact as her helmet hit the ground and her head spun and lights flickered behind her closed eyes before blackness enveloped her.

Moments later Ayla opened her eyes and, barely allowing herself to move, gazed at the mass of chrome and black metal strewn across the road. Engines roared and as her pursuers slowed and leaped off their bikes, Ayla instinctively twisted and rolled away from the scene. She hurriedly pulled off her helmet, discarding the cracked and shattered polycarbonate, and shaking the ringing sound from her ears. She jumped into a squat and threw herself into the hedgerow. Brambles caught in the tears and slashes in her leather jacket as Ayla tumbled down a steep embankment.

She quickly gathered herself and, on all fours, stared about her. Metal clashed and running footsteps echoed above her and she threw herself into the wall of the bank. She pinned herself there as voices rose and chaos sounded, but no one appeared in the trees above her, and after briefly patting herself down, Ayla bolted forward.

Tree roots, ivy, and moss coated the walls of the holloway and they reached clean over her head. She needed distance from the crash site before she could even think of trying to scale the earthy wall. She ran until the noises lessened and she could hear birdsong instead. Birds sung and twittered, voles peeped out of holes in the ivy, and a squirrel danced through the treetops above. She gazed up and only white light bathed her through the canopy of leaves.

Ayla slowed, pushing her hair off her face, wiping the sweat from her brow, and then lifting her hair from the nape of her neck. The adrenaline rush was gone and Ayla stood for a moment then slowly turned on the spot. Behind her the holloway stretched further than she could see. Steep banks curved either side, like looking through the barrel of a telescope, and in front, the sunken lane lay hidden some way along as a gap in the canopy let the light flood in.

She smiled, feeling safe, and surprisingly fit despite the motorbike crash. She ran her hands along her arms, taking time to check for injuries she might have missed whilst escaping, but there were none. Her jacket, torn and grazed beyond repair, a bullet hole in the shoulder, leather trousers scored and scuffed, but not a scratch on the bare skin beneath the sliced open material. Not a bruise or a cut, nothing but soft skin. She pulled off her gloves, and though her hands shook, she was fine, unscathed and unharmed.

She would keep walking until she reached that celestial rift of bright white light…

***

Behind her, back on the road, three motorbike engines started up as their owners left the scene of the accident. Not one of them glanced back at the shattered helmet, pool of blood, and the broken body – its neck at an impossible angle, prone and lifeless.

 

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Getting words written during lockdown… Miranda’s photo prompt on Mid-Week Flash Challenge is a holloway, a sunken lane in La Meauffe, France, once a site of a 1944 World War II battle – although dating back much further than that. It was taken by Romain Brégetalias Kormin on the Wikimedia projects. I love holloways and the tunnels carved out in nature, completely natural, formed by constant walking and the flow of water.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

BHC Press Online Book Store Launch

My publisher launches their online book store today
accessible at their website BHC Press and at their Storefont 
to help support Independant Bookstores.

BHC Press online bookstore launch
BHC Press is pleased to announce they have launched their new online storefront in conjunction with Bookshop.org to help support the independent bookstore community … and make their books more accessible to readers.

“We’re always looking for ways to help support the book community, independent bookstores, and libraries,” stated Joni Firestone, co-founder and co-publisher at BHC Press. “That’s why we’re so excited about Bookshop.org and the benefits and support they are providing to independent bookstores. There’s nothing more magical than a book, and we’re thrilled to lend our support and help to the book community.”

Over 200 titles are available for purchase at the BHC Press storefront, including many award-winning books for both adults and young adults. Books are available to purchase in both hardcover and trade softcover. Every purchase through their storefront benefits and supports independent booksellers.’

Read more at the BHC Press Blog

BHC Press online bookstore launch

You can find my books in the bookstore too – Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak, and Beneath the Distant Star, and A Symphony of Dragons, plus anthologies that I have contributed to, and a copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for which I wrote the forward and an original short story.

BHC Press online bookstore launch

Find your next book and your next favourite read… 

Last – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week144Photo Alfonso Leon SurrealThere was nothing more to say. I stood in the gutter, rain slipping down my face with the tears I couldn’t stop. The last plane had gone and I wasn’t on it.

The streets were quiet. In the distance I could still hear the whine of jet engines. I could still smell the gasoline and kerosene, the fumes, and her fragrance.

Now, my tears ran more freely.

I paced, my eyes flitting from tenement to tenement, my movements twitchy, glitching as I tripped over my feet and sprawled across the tarmac. A guttural moan moved up my throat but I was reluctant to release it. I froze and gazed about me, terrified I might have woken one of the waiting demons hiding in the shadows.

I had no idea what to do.

It was too late to convene at one of the final terminals – the exodus had finished – and I had no one to run back to. I’d be able to hunker down in the apartment for a few more weeks, but after that? And on my own, without her, how would I even cross the threshold into our home again?

I pushed my hair out of my eyes and got to my feet, snapping out of my stupor to hurry on down the street. The eerie silence compounded my fears and my footfall echoed between the tall buildings. As I ran down the centre of the road, I slowed and stopped. There didn’t seem much point in running anymore. For a moment, in the unearthly quiet, I grinned and let a small laugh escape my lips. It wouldn’t be long before lunacy slipped into my mind. What was I running from when there was nothing left to run to?

My breath lightened in my chest, and a feeling like helium invaded my head, and I dropped to the floor. The damp road seeped through my jeans, but I didn’t care, and as my head spun for once the cold asphalt beneath my fingers was the only thing that felt real.

There was nothing left in this world for me. My last foolish mission had seen me trapped for too long, and I’d known even before I escaped that she’d have gone. Our pact determined our actions and I’d been the one to ruin it. I stared up at the sky, grey and overcast without even a chem trail to follow. I knew she’d be angry, furious even, but maybe one day she’d remember me with sadness rather than ire, and recall our love with passion and reverence, but I wouldn’t blame her if it wasn’t for a very long time.

She’d start again in another country with the rest of our refugees, with everyone who’d escaped. Woozy with emotion and despair, I pulled my knees up to my chest and sat there in the road. In the periphery of my sight I knew they were coming. I didn’t care.

Unwilling to watch the gloomy shadows vacate the cover of the tenements, I buried my face against my knees, my fingers threaded over my head. I didn’t want to see what was coming for me.

Scratchy sounds dragged themselves across concrete and I tried to think of her, tried to imagine her soft arms holding me close. Groans echoed in the still air and my own moan mingled with theirs.

Then the sound of metal unsheathed whirred about my head and I cowered into my shell, as it sliced through rotten flesh and meat thudded to the ground.

“Get on your fucking feet!” she screamed, and I sprang from the ground, my head spinning.

She was here, beside me, her wakizashi swinging through the air and severing an infected head from its shoulders. I yanked my katana from its sheath and joined her, suddenly invigorated. Together we fought, until the bloody mass at our feet stopped writhing.

“I waited!” she spat at me.

“I can see that…” I replied as she threw herself at me. Relief flooded my system making my legs go weak. She kissed me, violently and fiercely, then extricated herself and stared at me.

“You prick!” She slapped me, hard across my cheek, and it blazed with fire. “Don’t you ever give up.”

“The plane?” I began.

“There won’t be another. We’re on our own,” she said, as I nodded. “Just us, that’s it.”

“That’s enough.” She grabbed my hand and we ran, flames now flowing through my body with the intense desire to live. “That’s enough.”

 

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Really enjoying getting stuck into some more short fiction for Mid-Week Flash Challenge, which you can find on Miranda’s blog. This week’s photo prompt is Surreal by Alfonso Leon and drew me right in…

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

A Doorway to Nowhere – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week143Photo Cornelia KonradsThe light was definitely different. It was warmer, brighter, and at odds with the spot where Eva sat.

Eva squinted and leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands and her elbows on her knees. The light on her side glanced off her spectacles, flaring against the lenses, and she adjusted her position. She stared at the opening made of weaved twigs and sculpted into a doorway, and let her mind stray.

A portal, a gateway into another world, maybe the threshold of adventure … so many ideas spun through her brain and she let a smile spread across her lips. The leaves on the other side whispered, then the trees around her fluttered and so did her heart. It was all she could do to stay put on her small portable stool, but she did. Eva softened her grin and leaned down to pick up her book. The day was yet young.

About thirty minutes later Eva had read and reread the same page multiple times and she finally dropped the book. It rested in the moss at her feet and her gaze returned to the doorway.

Her sigh reflected the breeze and she knew the sun was different on the other side of the track. She repositioned her body again to her previous studious arrangement and watched the opening.

Eva’s eyes began to blur and her eyelids closed, just briefly as her elbow slipped off her knee, and then a bark cut through her reverie. The bark echoed bouncing off the trees and she looked up to see a golden flurry of fur flying at her through the portal. The dog, an excited retriever, bounded up and wound itself about her legs, snuffling at her feet. Unable to resist, Eva’s hands buried themselves in the dog’s fur, fluffing and stroking the animal as it pushed against her like a cat demanding attention.

“And who are you?” she asked. “Where have you come from? Somewhere exciting?” Her voice lifted and the dog licked her hands. “Another world? No wonder you want attention! What’s it like in your world?”

The dog stared at her with big brown eyes mesmerising Eva. When the dog finally strayed from her touch, snuffling back towards the portal following its own trail back through the leaf mulch, Eva followed. She didn’t even pause when the dog hurried back through the doorway, and she stepped right through.

The light shone brighter, glaring through the canopy, and Eva shielded her eyes as she tried to follow the dog, but it loped away too fast vanishing into the trees surrounding the meadow. Eva looked back through her portal. Her stool now lay on its side beside her book, dull in the lesser light, and she turned back to the meadow searching for the dog.

The sun tingled against her skin and Eva shivered with anticipation. Leaves rustled and the dog bounded back out of the trees followed by a young man. He paused when he saw Eva and called his dog to heel. Eva stood with the doorway behind her as the dog waited impatiently at the man’s side. She stepped forward and the dog leaped across the grass to welcome her.

Eva grinned as the dog eagerly jumped and the man issued a quick reprimand. “Fenrir!”

“It’s okay!” she replied, laughing.

The man hurried over with apologies slipping from his mouth and a smile in his eyes, but Eva smiled widely.

“He likes you!” the man said. “I’m Jake.”

“Eva, nice to meet you, and you too, Fenrir.”

“Are you local?” asked Jake, looking behind her at the gap in the trees framed by sculpted twigs. “I’m from the next village …” He indicated behind him with a sweeping hand. “We don’t usually walk this far, and I’ve never walked beyond the tree gate, but Fenrir got spooked and ran away – finding you, as it happens.”

Eva turned to gaze back at the sculpted trees. “Yes, a few miles back that way,” she said, smiling, and she knew her long-awaited adventure had begun. “Maybe you’d like to walk even further along the path today? With me?”

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I only wrote three Mid-Week Flash Challenge pieces last year, which you can find on Miranda’s blog, and I’d like to do better this year! So, the prompt photo of an art installation by German artist Cornelia Konrads caught me. When have I ever been able to resist trees?

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

For the Love of the Moon – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Super Blue Blood Moon over River Towy - Ralph Waldo Emerson quote - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Cara moved slowly down the jetty, enjoying the warm weathered wood beneath her feet. She stretched her fingers by her side, flexing them and releasing pent up anxiety. Air caressed her naked skin and with conviction she pushed her shoulders back, ignoring the twinge of pain, and rotated them in unison, smiling wryly at the cracking sounds her bones made echoing in the humid night air. She drew in a deep sigh then let her breath ride on the breeze that fluttered about her.

The stars twinkled like diamonds studded in blue satin and Cara was exactly where she wanted to be.

Dainty steps took her to the end of the pier and she carefully lowered herself to the broad pontoon, her mouth opening as she smiled at the sway beneath her. Her knees were noisy too as she bent and dropped to the floor, but they would soon be eased.

She sat, her hands flat on the deck beside her, leaning back slightly to gaze up at the sky. The Milky Way stretched across the night and she wondered what it would feel like to float up into the sky.

Cara let her feet dip into the water, toes first, testing the temperature, then her legs up to her calves. She welcomed the flow about her toes as she gently moved her feet.

Water and stars…and my moon, Cara breathed out her words, almost silent thoughts, but a soft whisper took them from her mouth.

She jumped at the hoot of an owl and water splashed about her toes, and she laughed as the bird soared across the lake disappearing into the dark woodland at the shore. Bats also darted, seeking gnats and midges, but Cara felt akin to them and enjoyed their swooping paths.

Cara gazed at the moon. All her life she’d worshipped the deity of the night sky, softly lighting the dark and showing her that even when she wasn’t whole she was still full of depth, and mystery, and power. She smiled at the moon and lifted her hands, cupping them about the orb before her then closing them in a prayer.

Thank you, she whispered.

She shuffled forward on the deck and lowered her body to the water. The little strength in her arms left her and she let herself go, plunging with abandon. She didn’t hear the splash she made, just the bubbles and the oddly comforting gurgle that rumbled in her ears as she slipped down through the water.

For a moment she let the water envelope her, like a cocoon, then she moved her arms downwards and kicked her feet. She broke the surface and swallowed a deep gulp of air, her feet and hands still paddling. It was colder than she’d expected, and it took a moment to adjust her breathing and relax her body, but soon she stopped agitating the water and let it lap at her chin, her hands gently undulating beneath the surface and silver hair spread like a watery spider’s silk.

Her creaking joints quietened, the pressure easing as water supported them and pain lessened as if leaching into the liquid surrounding her. Slowly Cara let her body rise and floated with her head back, half submerged. No sound but the lapping water, and nothing to see but the stars and the moon bathing her in white light.

Still floating, Cara let the moon bless her, its gentle rays soothing away her pain and hurt. Stars shimmered and glitter rained down in spirals like winter snowfall. She smiled, meds kicked in and fatigue faded replaced by lofty intoxication. She was alone in the world, completely and utterly, and when they finally came looking they’d wonder, but they’d never know. Not until she was home.

Cara gazed up at the moon as water closed over her face.

The moon smiled, Selene smiled, waiting for her beloved to return…

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Stars and the moon enthrall me, so loved this prompt picture by James Wheeler – Moonlit Dock for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

The Sign of the Dragon – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The Sign of the Dragon - Mid-week Flash ChallengeThe stones rocked inside Arla’s gnarled hands and clattered to the table. The old hag’s forehead creased and Talita’s parents leaned forward with expectation. When the runes were tossed at her birth the expression on her parents’ faces said it all

Arla’s finger shook as she read the symbols and sealed Talita’s fate.

***

It began with herbalists working with essential oils to calm her fervent spirit and treat thickening patches of skin. But as ridges hardened Talita fought her childhood with rage and passion that threatened fire.

Scales decorated her body and wing buds began to push through her shoulder blades, and it ended with the ashes of surgeons glowering in the scorched dust of her furious breath. Copper hair glinted in sunlight as her parents closed the book on her burgeoning puberty and iron doors became her prison gates.

***

“’tis true love that will release her,” Arla’s last hurried words rang through Talita’s parents’ heads and suitors were summoned as their daughter turned from teen to adult. But when faced with the abomination that swept through the Eastern wing of the castle every man turned tail and fled.

Talita watched the exodus from her window and curled her wings about her. She wasn’t sad at the sight of the fleeing men, but loneliness and desire bit deep within her belly, roiling like a black cloud on a thundery day. The time had come and as night fell Talita rocked the bars at her window, gently teasing dry brick and clay with her fingers until the iron rods bowed and fell free.

Moonlight filled the room and Talita cast a last glance behind her. The bed, a huge four poster, sat swathed with drapes of dusty velvet, scorched and singed, lost amongst the vastness of the room. A mirror blackened with soot reflected tears and frustrations and fury. Her wardrobe doors lay broken on the stone floor, discarded clothes strewn like ghosts of fabric, torn and beyond repair. Her life lay in tatters of dreams and destruction.

She released the binding cloth that swathed her body, no more a piece of clothing than a mere mantle, and climbed onto the windowsill. She crouched swinging her tail, coiling it about her. She remained hunkered, one hand clinging to the last bar for a moment, then stood and leaped, spreading her wings and soaring up into the sky.

Storybooks told her that dragons lie to the north and she dropped into the cold currents that pulled her from home. She flew for days, stopping to rest in caves and sleeping by burning logs, and each day her limbs grew colder and her scales spread further. Her hair thickened like wire and coursed down her spine like a bronze, wavy waterfall.

Finally, after weeks of solitude, beneath the crescent moon, far, far in the northern lands Talita whirled and somersaulted, and called with every fibre of her being. Her call echoed and in the still night air an answer sounded, echoing back with vigour and urge.

Talita danced and a dragon as red as rust wheeled before her, drenched in moonlight and stardust. Flames lit the indigo sky and embers flickered in their wake and Talita discovered her release.

Her last human traces vanished with bronze spines prickling down her back and her tail swished with ardour and arrow barbs. The dance beneath the moon heralded a new beginning.

***

“And that’s how grandma met grandpa…” soft words left the dragon’s mouth and she smiled as the baby dragon snuggled at her side and yawned, his needle teeth clashing as he closed his mouth and his eyes. “True love,” she whispered as her son fell asleep. “That’s all it took.”

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No doubting I’d want to write for this photo (unable to find a source to credit) for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, I mean – dragons!

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Romance – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Week95PhotoRomance was dead.

It was tough to feel romantic when the world burned about you, but Rourke felt sure he could still conjure up something more than just flames of lust.

His hand reached out and his fingertips brushed Lena’s wrist. She snatched it away, sighing as she gripped her hand and held it to her heart. “Just don’t,” she said with a sideways glance at Rourke.

He shook his head and lifted his hands in surrender. “Wasn’t doing anything,” he countered.

“Don’t lie.” Her eyes twinkled, but the anxiety behind them remained.

He thrust his hands beneath his thighs; sitting on them seemed the best option. He watched her as she gazed about the vast room. Rubble lined the walls, or what was left of them, and smouldering fires sent spirals of smoke up into the open, dark skies. Bombs continued falling miles away, and aircraft hummed in the distance. Lena’s soot-blackened face turned to his, and she spoke with reverence and loss, “There’s nowhere sacred left anymore.”

They jumped as the chapel wall tumbled a few feet away, and a cloud of dust and debris billowed swooshing out the candles that sat at the altar.

“At least there wasn’t a roof, or we’d be crushed…” he offered, staring up at the long-gone ceiling, gazing into the stars that peeped through the smoke-filled sky.

“I didn’t think they’d continue through the night. I thought there was enough destruction in daylight. I thought we’d be safe.” Lena wrung her hands and Rourke moved to touch her face.

This time she let him and his fingers caressed her cheek. He moved closer and the pew creaked with their weight. She turned to face him and Rourke swallowed. Firelight bathed her in flickering shades of amber and crimson, and his heart wasn’t the only part of him that reacted.

“See!” Her throaty laughter lit up his soul and he smiled as demons danced in her eyes. “I told you,” she said, “romance is gone. It’s just survival now.” Her gaze moved across his face and lingered like her hand did as it moved down his chest. His shirt, unbuttoned as he’d dived for cover, was now no match for her fingers as they strayed with insistence that betrayed much more than romance.

Lena gazed down at the floor. Torn white lace mixed with ash and debris, and red petals lay strewn across the scorched scarlet aisle. They’d tried. Old fashioned romance he’d called it, but Lena knew better. She moved her face to kiss his fingers, and her insistent hand pushed against his chest. Marriage called for more than just ceremony – even in times of war and destruction. Rourke didn’t resist.

Romance was dead, and the last cinders of her wedding bouquet confirmed it.

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Amazing photo for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and a photo created  by a company called Ars Thanea, find out more here.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Black Water – Mid-week Flash Challenge

Sunbeams glanced through the pines in a ricochet of dancing light across broken roof slate, and the wind wandered aimlessly exhausted amid the boggy heat.

Lance and Scarlett had fallen for the property, literally, upon first sight. Scarlett’s fingers had shaken as she clutched the details in her sweaty palm, and Lance had visions of renovation and luxury whirling through his head. It had been the easiest sale, and they hadn’t even gone to see the house in person.

The Estate Agent had watched the couple leave her office and finally let out a shaky breath. Shivers tingled as she tried to forget the day she and a colleague had visited the long abandoned property to take pictures. It was done, sold, out of her hands.

Fixing the place up would be a long and expensive job, but Lance couldn’t wait to get his hands dirty and his creative mind busy. This was their dream.

The woodland could be curbed, the tangle of brambles and bush, trained, and the pond turned into something truly beautiful. The house, the original stone actually made Lance’s heart somersault, would be lovingly rendered and he’d already made investigations to roofing companies to find the closest match to the tiles. The photo on the page was enticing, but the finished images in his head completely bewitched him.

Scarlett grasped his hand as they fought through the undergrowth, following the wall beside the overgrown driveway. Excitement was palpable as the tip of the gables and the tiny attic window came into view. Lance squeezed Scarlett’s hand and let go as they began to hack at the brambles, already brown in late autumn’s warmth.

Scarlett took a moment to shove a long stick into the still green water and swirl it around. “It’s not deep,” she said as her stick bumped into whatever constituted the pond bed. “Probably deeper in the middle…”

Lance grinned and wiped the sweat from his brow. “C’mon!” The concrete yard was much clearer of debris and they stood in front of the house. “After years of no care and attention, this place is finally going to get the love it deserves!”

Scarlett pulled her shirt away from her clammy skin and leaned up to kiss his cheek. “So much love!”

“Let’s explore. This place has so much history, and we know nothing of it!” Lance could barely hold himself back and took Scarlett’s hand again. They crossed the threshold together, staring up into the dark, damp house with joyous anticipation. “Let’s discover its secrets!”

The wooden stairs creaked and strained, roof tiles shivered, and timbers itched with stories to tell. Floorboards, rotting and splintered, with deep holes leading to dark cellars, urged each step. Up in the attic, a partition wall, built to conceal, shook as sunlight from the fragmented roof shone in touching cracks and tell-tale interior scratches.

Slates gripped battens and rafters, and cracked pitch and roofing felt hung in stiff curved capes, ready to crumble at the slightest touch. Weathered beams braced, and plaster, paint, and mildewed wallpaper trembled and curled as mysteries clung in sanguine stains like red wine.

Outside, humidity cleaved to the trees, draping them in beads of perspiration and heavy sighs. The heat hung like a cloak and the blanket of algae swathing the pond sat in undisturbed silence, hiding its treasure beneath a mantle of green.

The house and its grounds whispered, telling secrets, not least its latest, as the Estate Agent’s colleague lay trussed and knotted beneath the calm shroud of black water and green weed.

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Feeling emotional today so this was cathartic… Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and a photo taken by Flemming Beier, a Danish Photographer, click his name to see the picture this story was inspired by.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Drained. Empty. Done. – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

RadioArts Cadena de AmoreDrained. Empty. Done.

That’s how I felt. Life had sucked me in and spat me back out, drained, empty, and done.

There was nothing left and nowhere to go, and I’d dropped to the ground with a whirlwind of emotion spiralling through my mind about an hour ago. Rage, disappointment, and anxiety had flooded my body, and I’d ridden the waves until they crushed me.

Now I sat in the dirt, my arms tight about my knees, rivulets of mascara smudging my cheeks, and a runny nose glistening atop my lip.

I threw my head back and stared up at the sky. Grey clouds rolled and mists closed in and I relished the pathetic fallacy. Mournful moors and lonely mountains spread before me and I howled. I bawled and let the tears flow afresh like a waterfall tipping over the edge of a precipice.

I felt better as the tears dripped off my chin and down my collar bone, sliding into my cleavage. I cried more, letting the liberty of anguish relinquish my anger. I shook with sobs, my breast rising and falling against the black swathes of chiffon. Guttural and organic, my cries echoed and spilled right out of me and into the gathering fog.

“Damn you!” I cursed with abandon and wiped my nose the length of my forearm. I was ugly crying now, but I didn’t care. I was far enough away to shout and swear at the drawing night without concern, and my blubbing continued relentlessly.

Finally my body was done – drained, empty, done.

I sniffed and wept, but there was nothing more to give.

I opened puffy eyes and blinked, wiped my nose again and cleaned my arm with an inconspicuous piece of chiffon, before dropping both hands to the ground and leaning back. I really was alone up here, completely alone. I took a moment to compose myself. Wiping my wet eyes with my fingers and smudging away the lines of black mascara with my thumbs.

I sighed, my body catching with every breath as the sigh escalated then I breathed out. A few more and calmness overtook my torment. Images of betrayal, of a cheeky grin, a guilty grin – my lip curled, but I lifted my hands and lowered them in a palliative movement.

I remembered my agony, up here beneath the glowering sky, and smiled with wry embarrassment. He was not worth those tears, that grief, and exhausted I let my head sink again to my knees. I stroked my leg, soft and smooth and worth more than him. In a gesture of acquiescence I lifted my left hand and felt something weightless alight.

Very slowly I moved my head, peering from beneath my hair and saw a chaffinch, sitting, as unperturbed as my morning hairbrush, in my hand. I raised one eyebrow and he cocked his head. Grey and pink feathers ruffled in the breeze and his tiny feet tickled my palm. Was I Cinderella? Would he speak?

I held my breath and he stared at me, his black eye glistening. He warbled something deep within his throat, but I didn’t understand. Then he zig zagged through the misty air ‘til he was gone. Then I understood.

I sniffed again, pulled out my reticule, and checked my face. Fresh mountain air would take away my puffy eyes and a quick wipe corrected the stains on my cheeks. A brush of powder, a sweep of eyeshadow, and a stroke of eyeliner was all it took. I got to my feet and shook out my dress, clouds of dark chiffon billowing like the cumulus above.

He wasn’t the only man at the party, and I’d spied a bloke in a grey suit and a pink shirt on my way out… I shook my head. I wasn’t done, after all.

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Inspired to write for this photo literally just as it presents itself… for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and a digitally manipulated photo from RadioArts, this one is called Cadena de Amor.  You can find him on Deviant Art.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Ghosts and Water – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Lake Pehoe, Chile Mid-week Flash Challenge Ghosts and WaterThe mountains rose like ghosts of a world past in pinnacles of granite entwined with shards of history. Shay stood opposite, perspiration biting beneath her armpits like sand ants.

Months, maybe years, of hope culminated in this moment as she stood knee-deep in crystal waters. Murmurs whispered on the breeze as her people shuffled behind her, gathering on the foretold beach.

She allowed a small sigh to escape her lips.

“Is it now? Are we here?” Menon spoke in a low whine and his voice irritated her. Shay tightened her fists, her fingernails too short and stubby to do any damage.

She nodded. “It’s here, and now.”

“But…” Shay’s jaw clenched as Menon’s voice complained.

“But nothing,” she stared ahead, ignoring the muttered protest that Menon didn’t dare complete.

Another voice rose from the crowd behind her, small in its volume but large in awe. “Is that home?”

“Home…” began Shay, “is the other side of those giants.”

Menon spoke again, “The mountains we can traverse like goats, it’s the water…”

“I know!” Shay betrayed her emotions.

“Give her a moment,” cried a voice from the back. “Don’t push her,” called another. Menon dropped to the sand and Shay hoped sand ants would find him.

“We don’t swim,” he muttered.

Shay moved forward, her legs pushing through the water. She’d read the prophecy a thousand times and not once did it ever mention crossing the water. She’d always put the sea to the back of her mind. Now it stood in front of her, vast, deep, and the colour of her hair.

The sun was going down, and their pursuers were less than hours behind. If they were to find safety the water had to be crossed. But if they found a way to cross, so would the companies behind them. Shay’s sigh was louder this time and accompanied by a minuscule shake of her head.

“C’mon then.” Menon was impatient.

Shay’s hands shook as she stared at the land, their promised land, their sanctuary after all these wilderness years. This time it would take more than words to save them.

She refused to look behind her; she already felt dozens of pairs of eyes boring into her spine and the pressure sat upon her shoulders like concrete. Like the concrete prisons that had enslaved so many of her kind. Now they stood on the brink of returning to their own lands, far enough away from the destruction and toxicity of the compounds, and she could taste freedom like salt on the air.

Closing her eyes, Shay offered silent thanks to the ghosts of the past, the Elders that dwelt on in the mountains buried beneath granite tombs, and to the eagles that still soared on the horizon in a welcome that spoke directly to her soul.

Nothing now entered her mind except the cry of the eagles, and the wind that weaved through the mountains and across the turquoise sea.

She’d heard of miracles, she’d met them face-to-face, and she needed one now.

Clenched fists opened as calm washed over her and Shay lifted her arms in a biblical motion. She barely heard the murmur behind her as she concentrated on her ancestors’ whispers.

The ocean bubbled at her feet, sloshing about her legs and soaking her leather trousers above her boots. Maybe it would part like legends of old had once told, but the water remained, cool and fluid.

Creaking iron, steel, metal shattered the silence, and Shay’s eyes fluttered open as gasps flew about her like errant butterflies. Water undulated and waves broke as rails rose from the water bed, sand and water washing over the previously buried struts as they pushed clear of the sea.

They weren’t rails, but a ladder, like a rollercoaster which rose and rested just below sea level, unseen to those behind but a saviour to those who climbed and walked across.

Shay led her people to safety, to the foothills of their home, and as they entered the mountains with feet as nimble as antelope, the ladder crumbled.  Metal shattered and gurgled and disappeared, lost in all but memory.

Eagles and ghosts sighed and Shay took her people home.

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Needed the flash fiction boost, so Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and photo was perfect inspiration this week.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.