Still Water #writephoto

Author Sue Vincent's #writephoto Writing Prompt
Author Sue Vincent’s #writephoto Writing Prompt

I have looked out of this window every day of my life. I have seen every mood of the ocean and shade of the sky conceivable. The tide has washed many trinkets and curios upon the stony strand, but never before a man.

I watch him wade the shallows, the surf rolling and dragging at his sodden cloak, foaming like playful kittens around his knees. His stride is strong and purposeful, and I know he has come for me. My heart beats faster, louder than the flurry of my footsteps on the tower’s stone stairs, as I rush to meet him.

He has tugged his boat well above the water line. He is not fooled by the benign fawning of the waves upon the shore.

 “My father will kill you,” I say.

His eyes are blue as the gentian which flourishes on the cliffs, and as wide as a summer sky. “It is worth the risk. I came to see if the stories are true.” His bright gaze travels from my hair to my lips to the curves beneath my gown. “And I see that they are.”

The thick gold light of evening paints him with the glamour of the Otherworld, and when he pulls me to him, I have no will to resist. The taste of salt is sweet on his tongue. Water drips from his flaxen braids, and the dampness of his cloak is cold on my skin, but I am heedless.

Tomorrow, he will be gone, and I will go back to my long lonely life. Must I die an old woman who has never known a man’s love? No; I will take all he has to offer.

In the morning, my window reveals a world transformed with fury, as the sea lashes against the cliffs, filling the air with stinging spray and the sound of thunder. The tiny coracle lies beached on the pebbles, well beyond the ocean’s briny grasp.

“Your life is forfeit today, if you think that frail craft will carry you safely home.”

He just laughs. “The old man of the sea will bear me through the storm, have no fear.”

He speaks with bravado, full of the conviction of youth and his own power. He pulls a gold ring from his finger and presses it into my hand. He seals my protests with a kiss.

“If you ever escape, come to me.”

I let him go. I could have stopped him, for I have power of my own. I slip his ring onto my finger and rest my hand against my belly. He left me with something far greater than gold and a promise.


I wrote this story for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto writing challenge. If you want to take part, here’s how;

Use the image to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… by Wednesday 1st June and link back to Sue’s post 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:)

The Glade #writephoto

The Glade Sue Vincent's #writephoto Prompt www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
The Glade Sue Vincent’s #writephoto Prompt
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

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.


the glade

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.


ancient places
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!


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Or try one of these…

Fire and Water | Prose and Poetry

Fire and Water | Poetry and Prose www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Fire and Water | Poetry and Prose
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

First up, I tried Sacha Black’s Writespiration. This is what we had to do; Get a timer, set it for 120 seconds and when and ONLY when you are ready to do the challenge, scroll to the very end of the post to see the one word prompt. Write hard and fast until your time is up. The word Is ‘ARMOUR’.

Unfortunately, I had so many interruptions, that it took me over half an hour just to get a few words down, which kind of disqualifies me. So I decided to run with it, edit it and post it here, instead.

The date is November 3rd 1324. Drizzle falls like tears from a swollen sky, but it is not so grim without as within. I sit with Petronella through her last moments, in a cell dank with mould and ripe with the ghosts of its past inhabitants.

Her body is gaunt and bloody, her skin a mass of puckered welts and scabs, broken open and oozing, the souvenirs of her private torture and public floggings. She holds her head high, hands folded together and resting still like pale butterfly wings in her lap.

“Your pyre is built high,” I say. “They want everyone to see it.”

“I am the first,” she replies, “but I will not be the last.”

“But you did nothing wrong.”

“The truth is not relevant, only what people believe.”

“Why did you confess?”

She looks at me for the first time. “To make it stop.”

I bite back my impatience. “And now you will burn for it.”

“So how could I win?” She smiles, a broad glowing smile, as footsteps echo distantly on stone. She gets to her feet, raising a hand to smooth the tangles from her hair.

“How can you smile?”

The key turns in the lock with a rasping, metallic protest, and the door begins to swing open.

She pauses. “Armour, isn’t it?” And then she is gone.

Next, I tried a bit of poetry for Jane Dougherty’s challenge. This is what we had to do; I leave you to choose the form and use the Munch painting, ‘Moonlight’ as your inspiration. I’m adding a selection of words for you to use—verb, nouns, adjective and adverb—that you can use if you want to add a bit of a challenge to the prompt.

winding – moonlight – follow – heavily – path

I didn’t use her picture, but I did use all the words she gave us, and tried an English sonnet.

Where does she wander on this starry night?
A wraith, a shadow, she’s frail as a sigh,
Woven from stardust and strands of moonlight,
Feet tripping dainty as she passes by.
Discarding my fear, I follow her path,
A winding trail through glistening grassland,
Over rounded hills, past the fairy rath
To the foaming sea, roaring on the strand.
With greedy hands, the salt wind tugs her hair,
Waves throw themselves heavily on the shore,
She lets her robe fall, stands tall without care,
She is the shape of my love, form I adore.
White flesh gleaming, she wades into the deep,
Slips beneath the surface to endless sleep.

Writing that made my head hurt! Have a great weekend, everyone! Ali

The Dance Tree #writephoto

Tree #writephoto Thursday Photo Prompt image (c) Sue Vincent
Tree #writephoto Thursday Photo Prompt image (c) Sue Vincent

After a brief comments conversation with Helen Jones, I wrote my story inspired by Sue Vincent’s prompt and beautiful picture.


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.

 

Friday FANTASTIC Flash with Darlene Foster, Elissaveta Marinova, and Me.

Friday FANTASTIC Flash Writing Challenge. www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Friday FANTASTIC Flash Writing Challenge.
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

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.

You can find out more about Darlene and her books on her website, www.darlenefoster.ca and on her blog,   https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com. You can buy her books on Amazon.

*

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.

ellie
You can find out more about Ellie on her blog, A Writer’s Caravan. She is currently busy working on her first novel, The Sands of Time.
*
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…

Friday FREAKY Flash with Ed Mooney, Geoff le Pard and Jane Dougherty

Friday FREAKY Flash http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

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…

The Hunter

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?

Ed Mooney, Ruinhunter. The man behind the camera. www.edmooney.wordpress.com
Ed Mooney, Ruinhunter. The man behind the camera. http://www.edmooney.wordpress.com

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!

Dolly Mixtures

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…

Friday Fantastic Flash Writing Challenge http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

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!

 

Friday FREAKY Flash with Éilis Niamh, Helen Jones and Geoff le Pard

Friday Freaky Flash – http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

I set you a monstrous challenge for last week’s Friday Freaky Flash, and some of you almost snapped my hand off as you reached for the gauntlet;

Demons. Witches. Vampires. Werewolves. Tell me your most monstrous story.

But first, a late entry for the previous week’s dreams challenge from the wonderfully talented poet, singer-songwriter, blogger and philosopher, Éilis Niamh

Four PM, the night of the blood moon, saw me picking my way carefully across gnarled tree roots and jagged cracks as I entered the park alone. The day’s warmth seemed to be fading more rapidly than the sunlight, but both cast a collective shadow, an impending foreboding that silently trailed behind me. My friends tried to warn me earlier. People were being advised to stay indoors after five, they said. But I already had plans.

I noticed an absence of birdsong as I ducked inside the tent which mom erected for our campout. We’d watch the eclipse in style, faces turned to the stars. But first, we had a play to rehearse.!

At six PM, Kyle, a teen actor in our play, nervously checked his watch. “It’s late” he exclaimed. “I need to get home to my family.” He got on his bike, and the night swallowed him.

With growing trepidation I zipped the tent, fiercely hoping he’d make it home alive.

I sprawled on a sleepingbag and the casual conversation between mom and I created an oasis within the rapidly encroaching darkness, hovering watchful, right outside.

Suddenly, something under the sleeping bag bumped me from behind. “Mom!”

“What is it?” She half-turned from the mirror.

Desperately, I fought back panick. “Something’s wrong. Under the sleeping bag. I don’t want to touch it.”

Her presence behind me was reassuring until the cry of alarm. Startled, she dropped the edge of the sleepingbag and stumbled backward against the wall. “It’s a bug. It’s been skillfully dismembered.”

“How did it get in here?” I thought of the bug’s insect family whose mother or father would not be coming home tonight, and the boy who might not make it home, and wanted to cry.

Something was dreadfully wrong.

Mom stepped around in front of me, and was staring at me with hollow eyes. Her energy grew distant, dissociated. I watched in horror as her spirit ebbed out like a tide, and the dark separating silence took its place behind her eyes. Her mouth spoke with someone else’s voice: “A witches brew.”

I bolted. Outside, I almost crashed into a woman.

“Who are…”

“I can’t go back in there to get mom,” she interrupted apologetically. “She’ll have to save herself.”

Heart pounding, I stood in bafflement for a moment. Then I knew. She was myself, who separateness would have stolen from me. In a daze, I reached for her. She had no body, but slipped seamlessly into the space which could have permanently held absence.

When mom emerged moments later, I was fully integrated. Hands clasped together, we fled the shadows of separateness and the vacancy of an eclipsed sky.

When I woke, unsettled and disturbed, my ancient kin stood around me, Sadbh’s peaceful light Glowing soft above my head. “We can expand the light within and woven around us until there is no place for the illusion of separateness,” Caoilte explained. I waited expectantly. “It starts within you, first.”

You can find out more about Éilis on her blog, The Sound of What Happens.

Next up it’s Helen Jones, who is new to the challenge, and who floored me with this beautifully intricate twisted tale of what it feels like to be a monster…

Monsters. That’s what they call us.

Like I care.

I can’t help the way I am, any more than they can. So I ignore the taunts, pretending even to myself that the words don’t hurt me. But at night they return, banging around in my head until I can’t take it any more and bury my head under my pillow, tears hot against cool cotton.

‘Dirt eater!’

‘Toothless!’

There are others like me, but base born, no more than cattle to my people. I’m different, because of who my parents are. We don’t get born that often, you see. Some sort of genetic throwback, memory of a time when we had to live in hiding, demonised and forced apart from society simply because of who we were. I don’t know when things changed and we started to take over. It’s so long ago now, though there are those who can remember, their skin stretched parchment pale over their bones, eyes a sunken glitter. I see them recoil as I go past, baring their teeth at me, hot hiss of breath.

And every day I shrink a little more into myself, every night I curl a little tighter in my bed.

My mother tries to help me – I suppose she feels somehow responsible, as my mutation is only carried on the female line. She is here now, sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for me to emerge from under the pillow.

‘Come, my darling girl,’ she says, cool voice in the dark night.

I give in. Pulling the pillow away I feel her hands, chill on my hot skin. See the gleam of her teeth as she leans in to kiss me, before her dark fall of hair blots out what little light there is.

‘Do you want me to try again?’

‘What’s the point?’ I mutter, rolling over and hugging the pillow. I feel her touch my hair.

‘It might work, this time.’

I roll back. ‘Why? Why would it be any different this time?’

She stared at me, her beauty all fine planes and shadows. ‘Halloween is coming…’

‘I know.’ How could I not? The biggest festival of the year, presents and parties and fun for everyone.

Unless you were like me.

‘There will be a party. You could go, dress up-‘

‘I don’t want to try again!’ I snap the words out.

Mother pulled back, dark silk around her like wings.

‘But darling…’

‘I don’t want to talk about it any more.’

I roll over again, ignoring her. She probably needs to go out, anyway. It’s feeding time, after all. I hear my father moving around down below, then his call. Her weight leaves the bed.

‘Just think about it.’

She touches my hair one last time. Then I hear her squeak as she changes, the flap of wings, the sting of her teeth as she nips my hand. Ashamed, I pull it away, sick of what I am.

Human. In a world of vampires.

Helen is the author of the The Ambeth Chronicles. You can find out more about Helen and her books on her blog, Journey to Ambeth, and you can buy her books on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

And last but by no means least, we have the wonderful Geoff le Pard, who is no stranger to this blog, with a right creepy tale which has its sting right in the very last line… genius!

Toni thought the back bedroom odd from the outset. The smell – like something she remembered from her grandparents’ farm when she was small. ‘What’s the smell?’
John turned from the window. ‘What smell?’
The seller appeared behind her. ‘The farm probably. Over there.’ Toni couldn’t say why but she didn’t like him at all.
They moved in. John wanted to use the back bedroom but she refused so it filled with the stuff they didn’t need immediately.
When John went away for a conference Toni avoided the room until she couldn’t find the address book. ‘Damn where is it?’ She lost track of time and began to feel sleepy. She knew she should get up but dozed. Instantly she was in the room but it was night. She was in bed. John came to her and they made love. Yet when she opened her eyes it was the seller not John.
Toni came to with a start, shaking her head. In her hand was the address book.
When John returned she had news. ‘I’m pregnant.’ They were delighted.
Slowly the back room emptied, though Toni never went back in it, leaving it to John.
Then six months later, he went away again. She had him make sure the back bedroom door was firmly shut. He even offered for her to come with him but she knew that was stupid.
As she lay in bed her mind drifted back to the farm and her childhood and that smell. It came to her: It was the smell from the parlour when they laid out her great aunt. The smell of death. Maybe something had died on the farm next door. There had to be a rational explanation. Even so she didn’t want to fall asleep yet eventually tiredness overtook her.
She was in the back bedroom, in bed but this time she was on her own. Gradually she realised she was in labour and the baby was about to appear. In horror she watched as the infant’s head emerged, calloused, weeping sores and tiny black eyes set almost touching. There was no hair but rather two stubs like the beginnings of horns. A man was taking the baby; the seller.
She woke with a jump. Her phone was ringing. She pulled herself out of bed and realised pains were shooting across her stomach. Labour pains. She snatched up the phone. John.
‘John, the baby’s coming. I need you.’
‘What? Now? Oh heavens. Right I’m on my way. I’ll call an ambulance.’
‘Thanks.’ Relief flooded Toni. ‘Why’d you call?’
‘What? Oh the seller rang. He left something important and he’s coming round to collect it.’

*Shudder*. 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 him on his blog.

Thank you all for being such good sports, and for supporting my blog with your most excellent stories.

Which brings us to this week’s Friday Freaky Flash challenge; in case you hadn’t noticed, next weekend it’s Halloween, the night when the souls of the departed are said to walk the earth. What are they up to? Why have they returned? What, or who are they after?

Give me your greatest, gruesomest, gory, ghoulish GHOST STORY. Have you got what it takes to frighten the life out of me?

Good luck, and have fun with this one. 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 29th October @ 12:00pm. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!