Tag Archives: death

The Key of Life – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - KeysTime was running out and she knew it.

Alys let her eyelids drop and rested her head on the soft feather pillow. A tear trickled down from the corner of her eye, slowly running down the creases of her skin and into her ear. She smiled wryly at the warm sensation. She relished every sensation her aging body still had, even tears.

Sunlight spilled through semi-closed curtains, muted by the veils of voile that hung from the rail. Dust motes danced in the summer breeze drifting through the high open window.

The sound of birdsong took her back to days gone by, of days when the sun shone, days when she flirted, and teased, and lived ‘til twilight fell and stars glittered in the sky.

Even the subdued rays teasing her window reminded of nights beneath moonlight, nights of passion, nights of love, and nights embraced in warm arms.

Those days, and nights, were long gone, and so were the people who’d inhabited them with her.

Now, she reclined in solitude upon crisp white sheets, soft pillows, and surrounded by the fragrance of orange blossom from the vase upon her night stand. No one visited any longer except nurses, who were dutiful, and friendly, and engaging, but none were family, none mattered beyond the essentials.

Time was waning and Alys was fine with that.

She listened to the whispering breeze curling around the mock orange outside, lifting the scent to join the foliage in her room. Beneath her dry, closed eyelids her eyes itched, and her nose whistled as she breathed. A limp curl of snow-white hair fell across her brow and tickled her furrowed forehead. Her throat rattled, and despite the nurses’ regular attention, her parched mouth gasped.

Alys placed a frail hand on her chest, gently stroking the lace beneath her fingers, then letting her palm rest still. Her heartbeat pulsed, slowly, steadily – like the rhythm of an evening cricket’s chirrup. She knew the time had come.

She pulled lightly at the ribbons holding her nightgown closed, and they slid away from the bow the night nurse had made. Alys drew her nightgown open and exposed her chest. Pale, papery skin threaded with lilac, purple, and blue veins sat across bones that protruded beneath their fragile shroud. Alys reached down towards her heart, feeling gently along her delicate, cool flesh, until her fingers stopped at warm metal.

A weary smile curved her lips, and her fingers smoothed over the bronze metal plate that sat over her heart. She lifted a thin tab and withdrew a small key. The key was intricate, ornate, and truly beautiful, and she held it between her fingers with true reverence and gratitude.

Not everyone had a key, but due to heart failure decades ago, when young children still sat on her lap, she’d been fitted with a bio-mechanical heart. Coronary lockets they called them, with a narrow door and an interior mechanism that worked with biology and clockwork movement.

Alys held her key and brought it to her lips. With unsteady arms she lifted her hands to her head, and carefully slotted the key into the bundle of curls upon the crown of her head. She liked shiny things – and hairpins, decorations, and ornaments adorned the nest of tousled hair caught up in her bun. The nurses would search for the key – but it was hers and there wasn’t another like it – and eventually they’d find it, but time…

She’d outlived everyone she cared about, and now was her time. She placed her hands back upon her chest, closed her eyes, and listened to the birdsong at her window. Orange blossom filled her senses, and her mouth lolled slightly open. Her chest rose and fell, and her heartbeat began to slow. Alys felt the sun roll across her and as its warmth finally dissipated, her heart whirred, and jarred, and stopped.

Alys was finally where she wanted to be.

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Loving the photo prompt for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge over at Finding Clarity.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

The Practicalities and Fragilities of Death…

Death is a strange thing and people react to it in many different ways.
This post isn’t about grief it’s about the more practical aspects of death.

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My mother passed away three days before Christmas and though I’ve dealt with bereavement before, I’ve never had to deal with it in such a hands-on way.

I knew my mother was dying – it was expected, yet unexpected. There had been no time frame. She’d survived breast and secondary breast cancer for over twelve years, until pneumonia and Alzheimer’s took her. My father’s devastation was hard to bear, and when it came to dealing with death – he couldn’t.

We were there during those bitter-sweet moments that she took her last breaths, and as I hugged Dad I knew I’d be dealing with the arrangements. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to, I would have done anything to make this loss easier for my father, but making arrangements for the death of a loved one is tough.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t know where to start. Who does? Life is about living, not dying, and death – and what comes with it – is very much avoided in general day-to-day life.

The practicalities put you into an auto-pilot mode, and can sometimes dilute your grief. There are things that have to be done and I was very grateful for the sensitive help and administration from my local hospital. The ambulance crew, nurses and doctors were considerate and caring and kept us informed and looked after. We knew this was a one-way trip, and my father would be leaving without his beloved wife.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Our local Health Authority produced a booklet Bereavement Information for Relatives and Friends (The government have a What To Do After Someone Dies site) and it helped us make sense of what was to come. The following day we contacted the hospital’s Bereavement Officer, no, I didn’t know that was a job, but I am very glad it is. He was wonderful, making sure we knew exactly what needed to be done. It was Christmas, and the holiday season was about to start the next day, but he made sure the medical certificate and coroner’s report were hurried through and he made us an appointment to register her death and get her death certificate before each of the offices closed for Christmas. It was good for us to have these technicalities out of the way so early.

The Registrar was lovely, making sure we were comfortable and informed, and he was gentle and calm despite the raging torrential rain storm outside rattling the windows. Carmarthen also had access to the valuable Tell Us Once service, which informs all the government agencies of the death at once, so you have less people to inform.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We had also called a trusted local Funeral Director and met him that afternoon. So many commercials on television claim you need to spend a small fortune on a funeral, upwards of £7k, but that’s not necessarily true. You can arrange a service to fit your needs and budget, though I won’t lie, it’s still an expense most us will agree is very costly. Council fees for a burial plot are about £1,000, but you can arrange the rest of the funeral to your budget.

You can have a direct burial or cremation without a service for about £1,000 – £1,500 and you can add to that any extra you wish.  There are several sites that can give you advice which you can find with this article from ITV’s Tonight Funerals: A Costly Undertaking?

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© Lisa Shambrook

I, and two lovely friends from church, dressed my mother’s body before my father offered his last respects, and it was a privilege to do so. It’s difficult to see your parent’s empty body, and not everybody will have the chance or choice to do this – we did in accordance to burial rites within our religion, but it’s a sure testimony to our loved ones having moved on and left this mortality.

My parents wanted simplicity from coffins to flowers, and we had a memorial service at the church we belong to without cost. We made it beautiful with words, simple white flowers and red roses, and love. Our Funeral Director, Peris Rice, was informative and accommodating, and Mum’s service, and then burial in the cold January rain, just before her 74th birthday, was beautiful and poignant.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The whole process has left me with grief, relief, and a deep desire to be sure that I have talked about and thought about what I want in the event of my own demise.

We weren’t sure what Mum actually wanted, and I was floundering with putting together a service, then Dad phoned. He’d been clearing pieces of paper and notes from a box on the coffee table beside where Mum sat, and had come across a piece of paper. On it was a list entitled Hymns for my Funeral, and she had listed about fourteen hymns, numbering four of them. Beneath that list was a poem Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland. I gave thanks, because we finally knew what hymns to choose and which poem my sister could read and they were perfect. The hymns we didn’t sing during the service became prelude and closing music, and they all spoke of Mum.

In the end I offered a eulogy inspired by photographs of my mother from her childhood right up to the present, which gave an insight into her life and what she loved, Jules read the poem which spoke exactly what I knew Mum would have said, and a dear friend spoke about Mum and our spiritual beliefs. I hope it was what she would have chosen.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I have moved away from this experience with the need to make any future plans my husband or children might have to put in place as easy as possible. We are all going to die. I don’t fear death, but I do have wishes and desires I would love to accompany my flight from this earth.

Neither of my parents had wills, and Dad now understands the importance of making one. We are now facing looking at Probate, and are discussing Lasting Power of Attorney, and Wills…and I want all these things sorted out, not only for him, but also for myself and my family in my own mind and on paper too. We need to talk about what we want – from services, coffins, wills, music, organ donation, religious rites, finances, do-not-resuscitate forms, living wills, and anything else that might be, for some, uncomfortable to discuss.

I want my views known to my family, not only about decisions made when I die but decisions that will affect my life. I want us to talk about care as I get older, what I want in the event of Alzheimer’s or cancer, or any other life changing/threatening disease. I want them to feel loved and not burdened, and I want to be sure I continue and leave this life with grace and dignity.   

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© Lisa Shambrook

My views on remembering the dead are a little different from the norm. I would very much like to keep it simple and quiet, perhaps even without a church service. I wish for flowers to be gathered from the season and tied simply with string and left wherever my ashes are strewn, and a poem, or reading, or memories are shared, by woods or a river among nature that I love so much, with my family and loved ones.  

How do you feel?

Is death a taboo subject or have you made your wishes known?

What are your thoughts on the fragility of death?

Honour those who’ve Gone Before – Send 2016 to its Grave – and Fight!

This is a difficult post to write… We are at the rear end of 2016
and many of us are very pleased to see it close.
I’m not blaming the year itself, but it’s as good a time as any to start anew…

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It’s been tough year politically, personally, and for many of us devastating in different ways. We have mourned political change, grieved lost and broken promises, and endured lies and political manoeuvres. We’ve lost celebrities, almost at a rate of several a month, and we have lost many close to us. Members of my own family and my husband’s family have lost loved ones, and we are holding those still in ill health close to us. As human beings we have also mourned the loss of families and individuals unable to escape war and destruction, and have seen refugees both rescued and shunned.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We’ve been hit by celebrity losses, usually those who’ve been part of our formative years, like Harper Lee who inspired me with To Kill a Mockingbird, Alan Rickman who’s acting has been a delight, and as a huge Star Trek and Star Wars fangirl: Anton Yelchin who played Star Trek’s latest incarnation of Chekov, Kenny Baker – R2D2, and yesterday, Carrie Fisher. You’ll be able to add many more to that list, as we’ve all been affected by those we loved.

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I’ve been hit more this year by the personal losses, not only mine, but many around me have lost loved ones. I was deeply affected by the murder of Jo Cox during the Brexit campaign. It added to my despair of humanity that someone who preached “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than the things that divide us.” could lose her life to an extremist. It was a terrible indictment on society.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My personal depression grew and was compounded throughout the year with the political and public reaction to refugees and those escaping regimes and war. I wondered where compassion had gone that society could publicly turn away from those in need?

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© Lisa Shambrook

At the beginning of September I stood in a place I never want to stand again. I won’t go into detail but I was on the cusp of becoming one of 2016’s statistics. After that night, I went for help and am currently taking antidepressants and counselling. My depression has grown over the years as I’ve spread myself thin to help care for my ailing parents and battle for help through Social Services.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Last Thursday, after about twelve years of constant illness including breast cancer, then secondary breast cancer of the bones, severe diabetes, a partially collapsed lung, glaucoma, and progressive Alzheimer’s, my mum peacefully passed away in hospital with pneumonia. Her Alzheimer’s had broken my heart, and almost taken my dad. I am currently coping with grief and relief, and everything this year has thrown at us.

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Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away after a massive heart attack. I loved her for more than just Star Wars…she fought for mental health awareness, she battled addictions, and kicked the media’s ass when they attacked her for her looks and weight when she returned to Star Wars. She knew who she was, she was excellent at what she did, and fought for what she wanted. Carrie Fisher made Princess Leia badass and turned her into a fighter, who survived and lead the resistance even when the men in her life let her down. Princess Leia grew into General Organa, and Carrie did the same in her personal life.

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© Lisa Shambrook

It’s hard for me to lose my mother, then another inspirational woman, but when we lose heroes we need to try and live what they taught us. My mother taught me much, and I have aspired to be an even better mother to my own children, and I want them to live in a world where those who’ve gone before have made the world better.

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© Lisa Shambrook

So, in the words of Anne Thériault on Twitter –  ‘May we all be able to get up every day and, in spite of our pain and loss and fear, put on our boots and vest and plan to destroy the empire.’ (Check out Anne’s thread on Princess Leia/General Organa…it rocks!) This is how we live, how we continue to go on, to move forward and to honour those who’ve gone. We honour those who’ve trail-blazed, who’ve worked hard, and who’ve left us more to do – so, let’s do it!

Be bold, be Leia. Be true, be Carrie Fisher…

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Let’s relegate 2016 to the dark and distant past, and kick 2017 into gear and fight!

We have empires to destroy!

 

Visual Dare – Candid

I remember childhood tinged with yellow. Fields behind my house, long grass with ox-eye daises teetering on the breeze and scratchy corn itching my back as I lay staring up at gold-edged clouds between pages.

Then there were rosy sunsets and flushed cheeks and hands clasped tight as first love blossomed.

I wished for bouquets of red roses and a white wedding dress. I wanted teal bed linen and seafoam walls, and trails of green ivy climbing the brickwork. I wanted pink wine and black coffee, and multi-coloured years, merging into the silver of growing old together.

But life’s palette will be never more than my crayon box colours as I rest in a lost, brambled corner of the field behind my childhood home. My bones are bleached by time and the sanguine pools beneath me long consumed by mother earth as my first love became last.

(147 Words) 

00. VisDare BadgeWritten for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare – One week, 150 words, one black-and-white photo that could spawn a hundred different stories.

Go take a look at the stories in her comments, each a different take on the picture above!

Love Bites 2016 – Arctic Chill

As one of the hosts for Love Bites 2016, my entry is inadmissible but I’m still compelled to write about the chill of betrayal:

Love Bites 2016 Arctic Chill - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Arctic Chill

He shivered, violently, but the chill still seeped through every pore. Her voice tickled his ear and he tried to open his eyes, but his eyeballs wouldn’t keep still and his eyelids failed to listen. Her soft, smooth tones swam through his head and for a moment he was content to drown amid their cadence, and her undulating words held no sense. If he were to drown it would be preferable to the hell he shook within.

As his freezing body shuddered again, her fingers grazed his hairy cheek, stroking the crystalline frost from his beard. His eyes still refused to open and her cheek suddenly rested against his temple, her hair draped across his forehead, her lips touched his, but it barely ignited his senses. Arms snaked about his shoulders and she slipped down against him, uttering nonsensical words that slowly began to pierce his brain.

“Wake up…” the words reeled and lurched and stumbled, but had no meaning. Her voice swathed his consciousness like melted chocolate smothering a truffle. Chocolate leached through his mind, flashing up a vague memory of exotic pralines and dark lips – and the kisses that followed as sultry as the chocolates themselves… Those kisses now moved across his face, and touched lightly on his errant eyelids as he struggled to open them.

Body warmth surged as she straddled him sinking down into his lap, but frostbite curtailed any desire that quivered. His body trembled beneath her fingers and he finally looked into her eyes. His body tingled and convulsed and his eyes rolled, but he caught her gaze and it sent shivers of ice down his spine like quarry bolting from a rat. The warmth that teased his body radiated from her fingers, her arms, her legs and her body, but her eyes shone like an arctic ice-flow, blue and cold and frozen.

Deep within his recollection she evoked a stirring of love, an emotion now so void of worth, his brain couldn’t comprehend the feelings that fell like soft rain in his head. Memories surfaced, like drug-induced hallucinations and her velvet voice caressed his mind as soft as fresh snowflakes. Memories flooded his confusion, but he remembered her coy glance across the dancefloor, his arms pulling her into a tight embrace, her kisses, and her pleasure. He saw halcyon days beneath sun-drenched skies, beneath umbrellas and beneath the sheets. He saw devotion and love and – betrayal. His body recoiled at the memory. It was no longer her dark hair, her dark lips, her tropical beauty, but pale skin and fair hair that draped over his body beneath the bed-sheets.

He recalled her ice-chip eyes as they bore holes in the crisp white sheets as he lie beneath the blonde. Pain and guilt mingled in the frigid air amid the pleasure that writhed upon him. And his lover’s moan of disappointment before she fell across him amongst shattered glass and ruby beads of blood.

Now he sat, naked, chained and exposed in every way possible in a shed on a mountainside, and her eyes stared with cold indifference.

“You remember?” She kissed his ear and it stung with frostbite and shame.

He couldn’t respond; his body was too far gone to elicit any reply. The sores on his wrists from the chains seeped pus and black ichor, and his brain felt the same. She gently lifted herself from him and blew a kiss, then winter’s wind whipped around the barn and his heart shuddered as the bolt clanged back into place.

Memories faded along with his cohesion, and as she sat at another man’s table, and slept in another man’s bed, he faded from existence entirely.

(612 Words)

Love Bites 2016 - Arctic Chill

Today is our closing day…so you have a few more hours to get your entry in…go write about love gone wrong…and link up with the other fantastic entries

And if you loved this here are my previous year’s Love Bites pieces: 2013: Pillow Talk and 2014: No More.

And one of my fellow hosts’ piece: Ruth Long – Loveline and Fisticuffs.

Blues Buster: Lost Weekend

alley, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

She swam amid my dreams, peered through the sunlit ripples, and I drowned within the ocean she glided through…

I woke to that fog of confusion, you know the one that suggests you had a great night, but you truly can’t remember…

I rubbed my eyes, hooked the grit of sleep from the edges of remembrance, and let my hooded lids close again. Deep within my drowsy head, she still swam, smiling at me and beckoning me through those rays of white. I tried to wake, blinking as that sunshine ray dowsed me in sharp light from the crack in the dingy curtains.

“Too bright…” I muttered, and held up my hand in front of my face. I tried opening my eyes again. My hand, my palm, was smudged in black and I struggled to focus on the ink. The words were gone, words in untidy script which meant something precious last night, were now smeared across my sweaty palm and lost forever.

Something kindled inside my heart. A spark lit up and travelled all the way to my head, igniting a memory. I smiled and my eyelids dropped again, and lines of blue blinked across the orange vision behind them. The memory deepened and I saw her again, this time her blue eyes shone like crystal, like topaz, and she leaned in close to kiss me. The black of her eyes grew like saucers and I lost myself within their cauldron.

The sound of traffic outside roused me and my aching body twitched. Sleep finally slipped away and I lazily opened my eyes. The mound in the bed beside me made me grin and I shifted slightly towards her. My hand slid back beneath the sheets and my fingers traced her spine down to the swell of rumpled bedding. She gave no reaction and I rolled closer, keen to envelope her within my post sleep amorous embrace. My hand moved to her shoulder with the intention of inviting her into my fog of desire, but when her arm slipped awkwardly away, I noticed her icy skin and I lost myself in horror.

I leaped from the bed, goose-bumps clothing my nakedness, and stared at the prostrate form I’d shared the night with. My hands, and ink-stained sweaty palms, shook as I stared at her cold, blue eyes. She stared back, but with an expression void of life.

The body that flowed like molten glass last night now lay frozen and stiff on the dirty mattress, and ice ran through my veins.

I grabbed my shorts and pulled them on, hurrying to yank up my jeans and pull my sweater over my head. My wallet sat on the bedside table, open upon chipped Formica, and I seized it knocking a small, honeyed, silver spoon onto the floor. It rang like a bell and its chime echoed across the early morning. I thrust my wallet into my back pocket and didn’t touch any of the other paraphernalia on the small table.  I shoved memories of the night before from my mind and sneaked out of the open window. I landed in nettles, but nothing stung as much as the dawn of cold realisation.

I ran as the streetlights dimmed, as the sun rose over the dustbins at the end of the alley, and as my fear swelled into a great crescendo. I ran, and I left my love song, and all its smeared memories, behind in the chill of Amsterdam’s sunrise.

(580 Words)

A chilling piece for Blues Buster over at The Tsuruoka Files…with Lloyd Cole and the Commotions song ‘Lost Weekend’ as prompt.

Blues Buster: Stars (Waiting on a Dream)

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Girl Watching City at Night Free Download Wallpaper at chaoswallpapers.com

 Stars (Waiting on a Dream)

From his perch atop the city, it seemed he could see the entire world.

Below, electricity wreathed the ground in a geometric web of light, winking and flickering in the frigid cold, like a supercharged network created by a techno Jack Frost. Twinkling gold lit up the entire spread of community; interspersed with blinks of red and green ruling the roads, and swathes of neon crawling throughout downtown.

The docks rose in the distance, towering cranes, great shadows on the horizon and the harbour lights danced on black water. The river snaked like a python, like a dark chasm amid the lights and city sprawl, and moved silently through the urban spread until it flicked its tail and faded into the glow on the horizon.

He stared intently at the mathematical placement of roads, intersections and buildings, at the strings of lights that threaded the cityscape, before casting his eyes heavenward and releasing a sigh.

Stars glittered and the moon hung in the indigo sky like a silver marble.

He laughed inwardly, his lip beneath his whiskers curling lightly. He shivered and blew into his cold, weathered hands as the dark sky and dotted galaxies sneaked through his coat. He turned his attention again to the metropolis at his feet.

As he drank in the view, he shifted his weight on the park bench and pulled his camel skin coat close. The city had been his for a while, just a while, just enough to make a name for himself, but there was more to life than fame, and more to this city than cold, twinkling lights. There were better things than your name in lights, better things than hard, gold statuettes, better things than this.

He had no regrets, but she’d been gone for a while, and he missed her.

He liked hearing his name on the lips of others, but no voice beat hers. He adored the cheering of the fans, but her smile was worth more. Oscars shone on his mantelpiece, but no accolade was as soft and satisfying as her sweet kiss.

“I’m coming home, sweetheart…” The words barely left his lips, but they whispered in the raw night air and warmed him.

For a few moments his rheumy eyes wandered the city, remembering, and finally came to rest on the small patch of grass before him. He recalled the young girl kneeling there, staring down across the city in wonder, before leaning over to kiss him. He closed his eyes to capture the moment.

The night wind blew across the city, and up the hillside, chilling his bones and messing his unruly white hair, and he smiled. “I’m coming home…”

Snow began to fall. Soft, thick snowflakes slipped from the sky and grey clouds gently moved across the hillside. The morning would come and the city would slumber beneath a blanket of white, and a lone runner, atop the hill, would alert the authorities to the snow-covered mound on the bench. Blue lights would ride up the hillside, despite the snow, and headlines would be made, but it wouldn’t matter to him, because he’d risen far above the cityscape, far above the snow – and had returned home to the stars and to her soft, sweet kiss.

(541 Words)

My entry into Jeff’s Blues Buster over at The Tsuruoka Files. The prompt song is Lee Ranaldo’s ‘Waiting on a Dream’ and my interpretation took a while coming, but I got there!

Five Sentence Fiction: Hunger

Rain © Lisa Shambrook

Rain © Lisa Shambrook

The rain fell, heavy and abrupt, and before Lily had a chance to move she was soaked, the sky’s tears drenching her t-shirt and darkening her mud-splattered jeans. Shaking, dirt-ridden hands hung at her sides and she stared up into the roiling clouds as the heavens wept with her.

Lily bit her lip as her fingers trembled through her straggly tresses then she flung out her arms in defiance as she twirled; starved vengeance served as she whirled. Her hair spun out in heavy, water-laden rat-tails as she ravenously kicked up earth, and the rain danced on her skin and drummed upon the fresh mound under her feet.

Her laugh echoed as she buried far more than a corpse beneath the hammering of dawn’s heavy downpour.

000. FSF Badge  June 2012

Another Five Sentence Fiction for the word prompt Hunger…make of it what you will in its ambiguity!

Visual Dare: Precocious Spirit

Mists swirled and danced, and Qilaq kept moving despite the sugared ice flurries that numbed her nose. The road was long and she tightened her fingers around the wagon’s rope. Her arms burned, but her snowy white llama sat as still as could be. She moved steadfastly on, followed, as always, by her faithful animals.

A hawk swept by, disturbing the roiling mists, crying as it circled, “Keee-arr, keee-arr…follow, follow…”

Qilaq glanced up and grinned.

A tear slipped down her cheek, turning crystalline, and for a moment she paused. Her heart ached – especially where the bear’s claws had torn through so many layers – and sorrow filled her, but her journey was almost finished. The next life was within sight and as her spirit-guide, her beloved hawk, soared through the narrow mountain pass, Qilaq quickened her pace, heading for the light that beckoned her. Heading for Spring as her Winter passed.

(150 words)

00. VisDare Badge

 

I loved this picture as soon as I saw it and wanted to write…take a look at the other few tales over at Anonymous Legacy and Visual Dare.