The Sacred Tree – na Bílí – is where I made my home, called by a voice unknown, challenged but in the end found worthy. The heart knows when it is home. I pay my respects from a distance, content to wait.
And trees have time to kill.
My life has been filled with trees, from the day as a teen when I missed my train to work because I was so busy writing a poem (Winter Trees) about the trees which bordered the platform, to the day only a few months ago, when I planted the first trees in my garden.
I love them. I admire them. I respect them. I cry when I see one cut down. I feel pain when I see the naked wound of pale, fresh wood.
Trees are tactile. They invite touch. Against my skin, the trunk is cold, hard, unyielding. The tree is not like me: I am soft, warm, weak flesh. Silent and strong he stands, old long before I was thrust into existence; he will remain long after I am gone.
The tree is not like me. He reaches for the stars, blossoms for the sun, always standing tall and proud, bowing to none, resisting. When the storm rages, he dances and sings, but he is resolute.
I am not like the tree. I drift where life’s breeze blows me. I shy from sun and storm. I am human, enslaved to my weak, warm flesh.
The broad path leads me through the forest, and I am dazzled by the myriad shades of green, by the capricious filter of sunbeams, by the golden fall of last years leaves, shed like autumn tears. Above me, branches interlace, shaping the vault of nature’s cathedral. Protecting. Embracing. Forming me into the precious relic contained within their shrine. I breathe, and the burden of life’s woes is lifted.
Beneath my feet, deep in the dark, damp earth, roots search out kin, binding, weaving together, supporting one another, connecting. They are all different – the oak, the scots pine, the rowan, the willow. And yet, they are all the same.
Just like us.
I was inspired to write this by the #BloggersBash Blog Post Competition, which this year is all about ‘Connections‘.
Wahaaay! Author friend and blogger, Hugh Roberts has just released GLIMPSES, his first book! I’m well-jell of that gorgeous cover! Hugh is a fellow member of the Bloggers Bash committee, and I can honestly say you couldn’t meet a more lovely guy. Not only that, but he’s seriously talented when it comes to penning the quirky and the strange, and he’s a master of the compelling trademark sting-in-the-tail, didn’t-see-it-coming conclusion. Meet your new favourite author, and Give the Gift of a BOOK this Christmas!
The Truth App
London, 28th November, 2030
Melanie Carter had saved for months and was about to change the course of her life.
She left the Everything People’s Electric Gadgets store with a brand new purchase in her possession. She’d fallen in love with the ‘iPad 13’ as soon as she had read about it. The review written by Joan Withers, in a national magazine, had persuaded Melanie to buy one.
On going through the front door, the voice of her father called out to her.
“Is that you, Melanie?”
She wondered why he always asked this question given as they were the only two people now living in the house. Her mother, who had been an expert in computer technology, had died just before Melanie had reached her eighth birthday, and some mystery had surrounded her death. A man had been arrested and charged with the murder, but he had always claimed he was innocent. He had written to Melanie many times, but her father had intercepted all bar one of the letters. However, the one letter she had read had frightened her and she immediately destroyed it. She would never know that he had sent many more letters before and after the one she had read.
“Yes, it’s me, Dad. Have you eaten?”
Without answering, her father nodded his head and continued to watch television. He did little these days but watch television and occasionally surf the web to complete the family tree he had started to put together just before retiring from his job.
Melanie climbed the stairs to her room and closed the door gently, almost as if it was the middle of the night and she did not want to wake her father. She was eager to get her new purchase out of its box. It took her less than a minute to set up. The shop assistant, Greta, had offered to, but she was eager to get home and politely turned the offer down.
She immediately went to the App Store and scrolled through all the wonderful applications that were on offer. Many were free, but some would require payment. Nonetheless, she wanted to start downloading and to use some of them that evening.
Ten minutes later, Melanie had downloaded three free games and a couple of applications that promised to organise her busy lifestyle. These had cost her a few pounds each, but the reviews were very good and she thought it money well spent. Then, out of the corner of her eye and towards the bottom of the screen, something caught her attention.
It was the name of the app that intrigued her. ‘The Truth App.’ It was a strange looking app containing the face of a woman who was smiling. When she placed her finger over the app, Melanie was convinced that the woman was smiling at her, but when she moved her finger, the smile faded away and the woman began to look unhappy. She’d never seen anything like this before and thought it must be something new that only came with the new device.
“Download me,” whispered a woman’s voice. Melanie paused and looked around the room. The sound must have come from the television downstairs as only she and her father were in the house. Her finger once again hovered above the app and, this time, she pressed it.
The download took a few seconds. Melanie pressed the ‘open’ button and immediately looked for information on what the app did; nothing but a blank screen appeared. Even the review section was blank. Scrolling, she flicked her finger gently up the screen of the device. Nothing. She scrolled again, faster this time, but still nothing. When the scrolling finally came to a halt, a tiny door appeared on the screen. There was nothing else on view other than the tiny door and it got Melanie’s heart racing. Her finger hovered above it for a while before finally pressing it. Immediately, a fuzzy video clip started.
What Melanie saw took her breath away. There, in front of her eyes, she recognised her father arguing with a woman. The woman’s face seemed familiar and it wasn’t long before it struck Melanie that it was the same face of that of the woman on the app. They were arguing about money and then about not having anything in for dinner. The woman threw a plate at her father. It missed him by inches, smashing against a wall.
“I know exactly what you have done,” shouted her father on the videoclip. “When you married me you said you would be faithful to me and only me.”
The woman started to cry and held her hands to her face. Then it clicked. This was her mother and father she was watching.
“I’m so sorry, but I love him,” said her mother, as she dropped her hands away from her face. “You and I were never meant to be together, you know that!”
Melanie heard the sound of glass smashing. It was coming from the video clip, elsewhere in the house. She watched as her mother turned around to witness who had entered the house. To Melanie’s amazement her father picked up a knife and ran towards his wife. The screen then went blank.
She tapped the screen, but nothing appeared. She picked the iPad up and shook it, but still nothing. Then she remembered something she had heard many times before when this kind of thing happened with electrical items. She turned the iPad off and back on again.
For some reason the device in her hands felt strange. She fumbled for the on off switch, shaking the device hard.
“Hurry up and start again, please, I don’t have much time!” What must have been a matter of a few seconds seemed like hours, and tears rolled from her eyes as the screen of the device lit up again. She immediately looked for the apps which had been downloaded. Five of the apps were still there, but the one she didn’t ever want to see again was gone. She pressed the App Store icon and searched for the missing app by name, but it was nowhere to be found.
Downstairs, Frederick Carter had gone to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. He opened the cutlery draw and took out a teaspoon just as a noise from upstairs disturbed his thoughts of what he was going to watch next on television. He walked to the bottom of the stairs and started to climb them. He was sure it was Melanie he had just heard shouting yet her voice seemed different. Now, as he climbed the stairs, it was crying he could hear.
“Are you alright, Melanie?” he gently asked as he got to the door of Melanie’s bedroom. The crying suddenly stopped. He hesitated before putting his hand on the door knob. Turning it slowly, he paused noticing the house was now in complete silence. Even the television seemed to have gone silent. Fredrick pushed open the door. “Melanie?”
To his amazement it was not his daughter he saw sat on the bed but the strange ghostlike figure of his wife. Speechless, his body froze on the spot.
The figure moved off the bed and glided towards him. There was no struggle or noise until his body fell down the stairs.
As her father’s body hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs, the noise it made startled Melanie and she woke from the shallow sleep that had engulfed her.
“Dad? Is that you? Dad, are you alright?”
The door to her room was open. She was sure she had closed it when she had come into her bedroom. Melanie got off her bed and walked out of her bedroom to the top of the staircase. The sound of the television coming back on was met by a terrifying scream.
Over a hundred miles away, at exactly the same time Melanie Carter screamed, Joan Withers decided to take a look at the App Store on her new iPad. She was delighted with the review she had written and had been paid well for it. Something caught her eye on the screen of the device. She pressed the app, which seemed to have the image of her father on it. He had been sent to prison for a murder she was convinced he had not committed. She’d never seen anything like this on the iPad before.
Pressing the image of a tiny door which was the only thing that now appeared on the screen, a fuzzy video clip started.
click image to enter
Oh. My. God!
Hello, my name is Hugh, and I live in both the town of Abergavenny and the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.
I have always enjoyed writing and the fact I suffer from a mild form of dyslexia has not stopped me. Yes, I get things wrong with my reading and writing but I always find those mistakes humorous and always laugh about it. I no longer allow dyslexia get in my way. Now in my fifties, I thought it about time I let my writing become public and becoming a blogger seemed to be the perfect way for me to do this.
I share my life with my civil-partner, John and our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Toby, who I both cherish with all my heart. I have a very positive outlook on life.
I started writing short stories at school but was never really encouraged to continue writing them. Then, many years later, I discovered blogging and wrote and published several short stories on my blog. They soon became hits and I was encouraged to publish some of the stories in a book. Now, finally, my dream of becoming a published author has come true with the publication of ‘Glimpses’ the first volume of 28 of my short stories. If like me, you enjoy shows such as The Twilight Zone, Tales Of The Unexpected, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Dark Side, then my short stories will hopefully take you on twists and turns to unexpected endings.
If you decide to buy and read my book then I’d be delighted if you would consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews help all authors and feedback is vital to improving my writing
I’ve always considered myself as a peoples’ person and I love to hear from anyone. Please do feel free to contact me.
I haven’t taken part in many writing challenges recently. Quite honestly, its all been a bit of a struggle for a while, writing and researching for the blog, keeping up with all your lovely blogs and comments, writing books and all my motherly duties as well. Sometimes everything seems to conspire to suck the inspiration out of you, and it’s a downward spiral from there. But Sue’s picture really spoke to me; it reminded me of all the old places of Ireland I love with my heart and soul and bones. I need to pay some visits. In the meantime, I wrote this, and added a poem I started when I was about 17, but only finished last year. It seems to fit the prompt. At least to me.
Beards of moss drape old stones with velvet softness. Stark-raw and already ancient, these great stone-bones once teased and tortured from the earth into grey new skeletons, wherein men danced and dreamed and viewed the stars, survive in hunched fragments of former glory.
Now tumbled and crumbled, they lie discarded, forgotten, memories of magic dormant yet still alive throbbing within them. You can feel it if you touch them, feel the vibration in the air on your skin. Be still.
The earth remembers. Time is meaningless here; there is no rush. She feels her way, creeping slowly over recumbent remains, claiming lost treasure torn from her flesh. She heals the hurt without reproach while no one notices.
What cities lie buried beneath each hill?
Monuments born of ancient times,
Forgotten and lost but standing still,
Neglected, disconnected, these are our crimes.
What histories are etched into ancient stones?
Tales decayed with the fall of walls,
The sag of dynasty, the crumble of bones,
The march of ghosts through tumbled halls.
If we could learn to unlock the past
What shrouds would unfurl from our eyes?
Would realisation be ours at last?
Understanding the what, when, who and why's.
The power was strong, up on Shee Mor,
I felt at great peace, content.
At Moytura, where warriors fought their war
no harm for me was meant.
At Uisneach, by the lough where Lugh was drowned
I grieved for Eire's loss, watched Beltaine fires leap.
Then to Tara, where High Kings were crowned,
the Sacred Stone sadly lost in eternal slumber deep.
These places, their magic floods my soul,
washes me clean of the now.
Their stories surge through me, re-make me whole,
ancient voices tell of the how.
Ancestors sing and call me home.
I would go if I knew the way.
Under my feet, beneath the loam
stirs blood, beats heart of a by-gone day.
Head on over to Sue Vincent’s blog to take a look at the other entries, and if you fancy giving it a go yourself, here is what you have to do;
Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by Wednesday 25th May and link back to Sue’s post, not this one, with a pingback. Please make sure that the pingback works and if not, copy and paste your link into the comments section of Sue’s post.
Don’t forget to use the new and shiny #writephoto hashtag in your title
Due to the volume of entries, only the first few posts will feature on Sue’s blog during the week and all posts will be included in a round up on Thursday 26th May.
Feel free to use #writephoto logo or include the prompt photo in your post if you wish or you can replace it with one of your own to illustrate your work. Have fun!
I never liked roses. They are over-blown and gaudy, just like the woman he ran off with; their scent cloying and sweet, like his shirt after he’d been with her; their thorns sharp and piercing, like the words we exchanged before he left.
My life fell apart then, like loose petals tugged by the wind. I drifted like fallen leaves tossed into life’s gutter. I saw myself in the winter trees, de-nuded, laid bare, stripped of youth and beauty.
But trees bud and blossom and green over, year after year. Their splendour only intensifies as they age. The roses revive and bloom, vibrating colour as if it compensates for the barbs they hide. Me, I just faded away.
I never liked roses, until the day I was given a handful of pink rosebuds, and then it was too late. They bobbed like tender kisses atop their smooth stems, their petals tightly furled, the shade of a young girl’s blush, or a baby’s yawn.
She danced when the world was young and green, and she was all that was in it. She danced for herself and for joy, and the glittering eyes of curious stars. Her dress billowed on the breeze, a filmy sheath of mist and moonlight, revealing nut brown limbs which beat a barefoot tattoo into the soil, matching the throb of life deep in the earth.
New flowers sprang up in her footsteps, animals hopped into being as she passed by, created by her energy. Life surged around her, for she was life.
Mankind watched first with fear, then with adoration, and reaped the bounty she created for them. Laughing, she twirled and leapt, swayed and span, wilder, faster, for their adulation.
Her dance bore her across the world, populating every inch with life, and she was mother to it all. But the more she danced, the more man took. They plundered her bounty, and began their own dance.
The earth whirled and froze and thawed and aged. She danced just like she always had, for life depended on it. But her limbs stiffened. Her skirts swirled and settled in folds around her, and finally she stood still. She lifted her arms to the heavens, and the universe took her back, leaving only a shell rooted in the earth, praying for forgiveness.
Last week I challenged you to write about a building. Here is the prompt…
Tell me about a building which is important to you; are its walls ancient and crumbling, or modern shining glass and cold steel? Does it mean home to you, or prison? What happened here? Why do you care?
First off, I’d like to welcome a newcomer to Friday FANTASTIC Flash, Darlene Foster, who submitted this stunning story…
Terror in the Tower
Angela glances at the tower ruins that overlook the city from high on a grassy mound and pulls her sweater tighter around her. She experiences the same chill every time she walks past the site.
When she was seven, her mother took her up to the old stone keep. From a small window, she saw a girl looking out at her through iron bars. Fire blazed behind the child. It had frightened her so.
“Mommy, we need to help that little girl,” exclaimed Angela.
Her mother took her hand and said, “There are no children in there. It must be a trick of the sun reflecting off the water.”
The sad, terrified and helpless child appeared very real.
Angela shudders as she recalls that day. She rushes to work.
It was the feast of Shabbatt ha-Gadol. Instead of the usual tables overflowing with food, around her lay the dead bodies of friends and neighbours. The air was thick with the smell of fresh blood and smoldering wood. Ester searched for Jacob, and Marta in the crowded tower. She witnessed parents slitting their children’s throats and then their own. Terrified, Ester tried to look away, but it was the same everywhere.
Since she didn’t have any parents, she stayed with old Jacob the money lender and his kind wife, Marta. For her board she cleaned the house, made meals and ran errands. Ester stumbled in the smoke filled keep looking for the only family she knew. Eventually she found them, dead in each other’s arms on a bed of straw soaked with maroon blood. A curved butcher’s knife lay beside them.
Did they forget about me? Did Jacob slit his wife’s throat and then his own?
The flames and smoke of the burning wood tower closed around her.
A growing mob outside yelled, “Come out, you dirty Jews.”
Why is this happening?We were promised safety in the tower.
She peered through the iron bars of a low window. Angry people outside the tower waved swords, scythes and pitchforks. It was safer to stay inside. It was better to die by your own hand. That is what the Rabbi said.
In the crowd, she caught the clear blue eyes of a girl her age. A girl dressed in fine clothing. Maybe she can help me. Ester mouthed the word Help.
The girl pointed to the window and said, “Look, Mother, there is a little girl in the tower. It is burning. We must help her.”
Ester saw an elegant woman take the child´s hand and pull her away. “There are no children in there, Angelina. Let us go away from this awful place.”
Ester coughed from the thick smoke and fell backward. The flames engulfed her.
Nine centuries later Angela can feel the eyes of Ester pleading for help as she hurries past Clifford’s Tower on the way to her Hebrew lessons. One day she will stop and help the child.
Next up it’s Ellie, who I met at the Bloggers Bash in London this summer. Ellie is an architect and a writer, so she couldn’t very well ignore this prompt, could she?
Its walls are made of concrete but it is a ruin. Its gate is a vibrant, cobalt blue – a blue so blue it makes the ocean green with envy. There is a tall tree right by its entrance. Was it a palm or a eucalyptus? As the paint chips from the walls, my memory fades.
Its walls are made of concrete and its foundations are deep. A legacy from the French, almost certainly. A century old, perhaps a little less. It is named after a French poet and novelist. In fact, this is the only French term in the surroundings. Rue Sijilmassa, the street that leads to the train station, refers to a medieval Moroccan city.
There are hints of Morocco within its walls, too. Pinned on a long frieze in the inner courtyard, a myriad calligraphy paintings tell the story of a sunny day in Casablanca – moored boats in the port, silhouettes wearing djellabas and countless representations of the Hand of Fatima.
The courtyard is silent. Clusters of palm trees rise from the ground like small oasis towns within walking distance. Under each cluster, a concrete round table and a bench, moulded from the ground.
Suddenly, a familiar scent wafts through the air. Kefta kebabs with chips. A bell echoes and almost instantly, the courtyard livens up. Teenagers rush in and out, their satchel bags tossed around their shoulders. It is lunchtime in Anatole France Middle School.
Its walls are made of concrete but it is a ruin. A sight that belongs to the past, buried along with the smell of the ocean and the innocence of my adolescent years.
Lastly, it’s me with an alternative view of of our ancient ancestors building efforts…
Stone Circles and Concrete Cities
You see them all wrong. You see them as something organic, as if they have grown from the earth, like a tree, or a mountain. But that’s not how it is at all. Those rocks were wrenched from the ground like pulling teeth, and the land shrieked with pain for every single one.
Man did this. Man shaped this landscape, not nature. Trees once sacred were felled to make room for the wealth of cattle, and the unnatural forced growth of grains. In the trees stead, boulders were hewn and shaped and stood in rows or circles, or heaped in mounds, and in these contrived, unholy places they worshipped the stars and celestial beings, where once they had worshipped the idols of the natural world.
Picture this; the concrete jungle of a modern city, with all the detritus it brings, the laying waste of acres of land, the gouging of red-brown earth in which to set foundations, sewers, electrical cables. The land bleeds and we patch it with tarmac and technology.
So you see, we are not so different. We make the same mistakes.
Their cleared lowlands soon turned to bog, barren and useless but for burying bodies to be dug up as future treasure. Hill-tops once bearded and hirsute with green, life-giving forest presented bald domes to the heavens, and man knew in his bones that the earth had been violated.
To make amends, he raised new forests of stone, but to build them, he first had to remove them from her gut, and it was no gentle surgery, that. To cross the bogs he built trackways, but that meant more trees felled, and thus the sacrilege was perpetuated.
Fine temples of tortured stone he raised, and he exulted in his cleverness, while around him the land lay ravaged. Yes, they were just like us.
Now, softened with moss and painted with lichen, shrunken and tumbled with age, whittled by the wind and washed by the rain, these once great structures blend into a landscape they had so radically dominated in their youth. Gradually, they are returning to the sundered womb, she is claiming her property, and they slide with slow deliberation and relief beneath the turf.
Contrasted with today’s abominations, they are but beautiful blemishes on the earth’s hide, just a few erroneous eyesores left behind by a people who are no more. We should heed her lesson, for she takes sly revenge beneath our noses; a twitch of her skin, and cities crumble. A ripple of her ocean, and cities drown. A gust of her breath, and cities collapse. It was ever so, and the work of man is never done.
Cheerful stuff, huh? My sincere thanks to Darlene and Ellie, I am so grateful to you both for taking part and sharing your wonderful stories.
Whilst the frenzy of NANO otherwise engages much of the writing community, Friday FANTASTIC Flash will be taking a short break until Friday 4th December. Watch out for the prompt coming soon…
Last week, it being the season that’s in it, I called for ghost stories. This was your prompt…
Give me your greatest, gruesomest, gory, ghoulish ghost story. have you got what it takes to frighten the life out of me?
Well, the short answer is yes, without a doubt! First up I am so delighted to welcome lovely blogger friend, awesome photographer and Ruinhunter, Ed Mooney, to the challenge…
Many years ago we lived under the sun. The land and sea provided us with everything we needed to live. Times were simple back then, but people were happy and life was good.
Then the darkness came, and with it, a cursed evil, like a pestilence that plagued the race of man. No one was safe, neither man, woman or child could escape it. Even the Sun and the Stars went into hiding.
It started with just a few, but as their thirst grew, so did their attacks. Farms, villages and eventually whole towns were over run and decimated. The lucky ones were drained and died. But as time went on, mankind began to defend itself and fight back. This was no war, it was a battle for survival. Then they began to turn their victims whom joined the ranks of the unholy walking dead.
As the enemy grew, the leaders of man made a pact with the vile creatures, and a truce was made, but at what cos. People were herded like cattle to the slaughter, sold out by their fellow man. The attacks continued but this time by the humans.
I never knew my family, for most of my life, all I have known is the hunt. It is all I know, and I am good at it. It does not matter to me, be they an Evil one or a human conspirator, when I find them, they will die…
Some may call it a curse! This was a path chosen for me, a lonely life. But it is my cross to bear and I shall bear it gladly. Who else can take a stand against this evil? Why should it not be me?
Creepy story, huh? I think Ed has the beginnings of a novel here. Thanks, Ed… I hope this is the first of many stories you will share with us. You can find Ed and his beautiful images of ancient Ireland, along with their legends, on his blog, Ed Mooney Photography.
Next up, it’s the effervescent, energetic, prolific Geoff le Pard, who is no stranger to this challenge or this blog. Last week’s story was macabre enough, but wait till you read this one…
A Question of Position
I’m very rational. Of course I can be startled, surprised and I’ll be the first to admit there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
But ghosts? Spirits from beyond? Give me a break. Sure weird stuff happens but it’s only weird because we haven’t worked out how. There’ll be some modification of Newtonian physics, some subtle exception that explains it.
And then there’s the man at Victoria station, who, I’m about to meet.
It started on Monday. The station was chaos. They’re doing these rebuilding works. It was while I watched the indicator board, hoping my train would show as being on time. That is when I saw him.
I was in my favoured spot, near to the farthest left hand gate. The works have meant I’ve not been able to claim my spot but, happily, today I could. The works have moved.
I was staring up at the board when I saw him. For a moment I was sure he was hanging, and I must have gasped because the chap next to me asked if I was ok. He’s stood next to me for ever and that was a first. Name’s Gerald apparently.
I started to explain, but when we looked the man has gone, replaced by a workman in a hiviz jacket. I thought I must have been mistaken.
The next day, and the next I saw the man. Just glimpses. By the Maccy Ds. Going into the gents. It’s odd – it’s like he wants to look at me but is forcing himself not to.
Thursday, he was on the platform – no one else was there. He must be an employee, though the heavy blue coat looks like one of those old pictures.
I asked Gerald if he’d seen this fella but he said no. He made a joke about it, accused me of seeing a ghost.
When we reached the station on Friday, all sorts were going off. They’d cordoned the spot where I stand. Apparently they’d found a body. Seems like he had been buried there for decades and the ticket bloke said he’d heard he’d been buried deliberately.
We were all moved around, because three platforms were out of use. I saw him, as I knew I would, by my spot. I knew Gerald hadn’t seen the man even though he was there plain as anything. That’s when the man turned. He looked deformed, one side of his face damaged.
Even though the station was its usual noisy self I heard him say, ‘You!’
Like he knew me.
The weekend, I was anxious. The papers said he’d been buried alive. They did a mock up, in the uniform he was wearing. They said his face has been smashed. Like the man I saw.
I knew I’d see him on Monday. I knew we’d speak. I was responsible somehow. Maybe standing on top of him upset him. Or maybe there’s no logic to how ghosts choose those they seek to haunt.
Spooky story, well, I did ask for it! Thanks Geoff. Geoff has recently published his new book, My Father and Other Liars. You can read an excerpt from it here, when he stopped by my blog a couple of weeks ago. His first book is called Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, and you can buy them both here. You can catch up with Geoff on his blog.
And so we come to our final story from the very talented wordsmith, Jane Dougherty, who has another eerie, spooktacular tale for us today which she claims to be absolutely TRUE!
I noticed them up ahead, the young man in a dark-coloured hoodie, and a tiny tot dressed up like a dolly mixture. The tot was weaving unsteadily between the trees, chasing starling chicks. Light flickered between the tree trunks. Light but no sound. The man sat down on the steps by the side of the path and beckoned to the child. She sat down next to him, quiet and obedient, as he got out his tobacco and ciggie papers.
Tiny tots have an unsettling habit of running towards big dogs, shrieking with pleasure and their arms outstretched to give the cuddly thing a huge hug. Their parents generally follow at top speed, also shrieking, in terror. If you want to freak out a nervous dog, there is no better tactic. Not wanting any accidents, I bent down to clip the lead back on the dog’s collar. When I straightened up, the man in the hoodie was rolling up his cigarette, but the child was nowhere to be seen.
There was no reason for me to be curious, no reason to walk the ten yards to where the man was sitting with his back to me, head bent over his fingers as they flicked over and over. No reason, but a strong, morbid compulsion. I looked down the steps where he was sitting, up and down the cycle track beyond. A cold, damp sensation crept along the bare skin of my arms. There was nobody there. No child with her hair tied in a little blonde fountain on top of her head, no pink tee shirt and shorts, no pink sandles. Nothing. In front and behind the view was barred with the trunks of ornamental trees, tidy and neat, of the strip of parkland. To the right, behind a wall too high for a child to climb, lay the overgrown bank of the river.
I turned, a question ready on my tongue, but the hoodie was bent over his roll up, his face in darkness.
He’ll think I’m mad. Or a child abductor.
The dog whined and tugged on his lead. I walked away, troubled. At the end of the path I turned. He was still there, hunched over his cigarette. Alone.
Three days later, returning from our walk on the same path by the river, the dog slunk back to me, head down, whimpering unhappily. Voices came from the park benches ahead, irritated, loud. A young couple having words. She looked tired. Her hair was wild; a tiny baby in her arms was crying. He sat on the edge of the bench rolling a cigarette. The hood of his jacket obscured his face. A few yards away a tot dressed like a dolly mixture was chasing the pigeons.
A cold damp sensation crept over my skin, like water rising around the refuse trapped in the mud of the river bank.
Hmmm… I can feel a cold damp sensation creeping over my skin just reading that! Thanks, Jane. Jane is the author of The Green Woman Trilogy, and Grá mo Chroí, Love of My Heart, Love Stories from Irish Myth (which is FREE on Smashwords, btw!), which she co-wrote with yours truly, as well as numerous poems and short stories published in various fine magazines and anthologies. You can check them out on her blog, and buy them on Amazon.
Thanks everyone for being such good fun and sharing your fabulous stories with us. For this week’s Friday Fantastic Flash writing challenge, I want you to write about a building which has significance for you…
Tell me about a building which is important to you; are its walls ancient and crumbling, or modern shining glass and cold steel? Does it mean home to you, or prison? What happened here? Why do you care?
You can submit here, I will include links to your blog and books. Entries must be under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. Please send to me by next Thursday 5th November @ 12:00pm. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!