Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 26

I tracked this week's photo prompt down to being taken by Niki Feijen, a male Dutch photographer. The Internet says it is an abandoned chateau in Belgium, but I can't confirm that, or, if it was, which chateau it was taken in. Such a shame.

As soon as I looked at this picture I saw these two characters sitting in the chairs, but what were they saying? And what was their story? So I wrote it to find out. What will you see?

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.



Country Pile

“It had strong foundations, don’t you think, Payton?”

“It did that, Roderick, it did that.”

The two men nodded as they surveyed their surroundings from their armchairs: the majestic arches rising to the ornate ceilings, the large dramatic windows overlooking the acres of once manicured gardens. They sat as kings in their own palace.

“If only we could have saved it from falling into the hands of the Sackville’s we might have had a chance.”

“Yes, they were conniving. Bronte - that’s where it all began.” Just saying her name Payton looked like he’d tasted something nasty.

Roderick sighed. “Yes. She knew how to entrap her victims. Those beguiling eyes. She entranced us. Had she not attended the Opening Ball when father had finished refurbishing the house, we might still be here.”

“Or at least our family line might be.”

“Yes. But she knew how to pit brothers against each other. It was clearly a dance she had been trained to lead.”

“Her father set her up to it; he admitted as much the night of our fight.” Payton gave an abashed glance at his brother.

Roderick’s eyes grew round. “Really? Now that is news to my ears.”

“Well yes, it would be, our fight was fatal for you. I’ve never forgiven myself.”

“Now, now, we were both enraged that night. She played us for fools.”

“Indeed. And mother never recovered from the scandal, and without her father couldn’t manage it all alone. The downfall began – both financially and socially.”

“Yes, but had you managed to sire just one child with her it would have been worth it.”

“Excuse me? How dare you!”

“Brother dear, we are long past recriminations, it’s just a fact.”

“But Roderick, what you miss is that she didn’t want to sire my children. Why do you think I am here?”

“I seem to miss your meaning ...?”

“She was in love with Mortimer all along. I was just a financial conquest for her to gain favour with him. Bronte was clever with chemicals and biology. She pretended grief at my death because she had been the cause.”

“Payton, dear brother, you mean she murdered you?”

“Yes. Mother might not have had strong genes, but father did. I’d never been sick a day in my life until I married her.”

“Did you know?”

“I had an inkling, but she made sure I didn’t have the strength to investigate further.”

“A sorry tale, brother.”

“It is indeed. And the house reflects it.” Payton waved what was left of their family estate.




Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 25

I spent an awful long time trying to source this week's picture, but to no avail. It was not credited anywhere by anyone, but used a lot. It's tricky when that happens, and a little disappointing as I am always hoping to see more from the creator. Should you come across the owner of it, please let me know.

I planned on being quick off the mark with this week's entry, but despite starting it last Friday, the story took a while to appear and develop. I hope you enjoy it - and this week's prompt picture. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.





My Pretty

“Pretty, oh so pretty, my pretty,” Genghis cooed out of the cell window at the raven who had become a nightly visitor.

He suspected who it was and appreciated the gesture. He hoped the bird would bring him a message, but wondered if the raven was also affected by whatever sorcery had been placed round the cell. He pondered how they had managed to create a place where no magic worked.

The raven cawed and turned its head back and forth indicating something in the sky. Genghis pulled the wooden stool over and climbed up, trying to see further out the window.

The moon was rising and it was getting fat.

Yes! That was it!

“Ha, ha, you’re more than just a pretty, my fine feathered friend. Thank you. I know what to do now.”

The raven cawed softly in response and flew off. Genghis remained on the stool, working out the zenith of the moon and when it would light up the cell. He only had 24 hours until it reached its full potential. It should be long enough.

The following day he ignored the guard’s visits: their jeers, their swears, and the gruel they brought him. Genghis had to cleanse himself ready for the moment.

Once the sun went down he prepared the floor. He had nothing to mark it with, but he knew the energy from his finger would be enough as he drew the incantation lines where the moonlight would hit.

He sat in the middle of the cell floor and waited, moving his mind into a trancelike state ready for transition. 

He felt the beams cross his body and reach the lines on the floor, the hair on his head rising in response to the two energy forces colliding - the moons and his.

Then blankness took him.

When consciousness returned, he opened his eyes. He was sitting on a polished marble floor which swept away in all directions to meet marble walls encircling him. There was a single large window cut into one of them and through it sunlight streamed.

Genghis smiled. He had arrived. He leapt up and went to the window to see the world outside, but all he could see was a white glare as though the sunlight was trapped in a mist. He couldn’t define his location.

The room had no exit either, which baffled Genghis. He was sure this was Maudlin’s home. She was the only one who could affect the shape of a raven; it had to be her.

Genghis heard a caw and the bird appeared on the window ledge, then materialised into the dark robes Maudlin liked to wrap herself in. She threw back her hood.  

“Genghis, you made it.”

“I did indeed Maudlin, thank you. But what is this place?”

The smile on her face increased. “Ah, this is my secret place.”

“Secret place?”

“Yes Genghis, where I extract payment.”

“Payment? For what?”

“For abuses.”

Ghenghis was puzzled.

“And how have I abused you, Maudlin?”

“You defiled my sister.”

“Your sister?”

“What did they arrest you for, Ghenghis? Did you think it was just for being a sorcerer?”

Ghenghis did think that. The girl had been used as bait, he was sure of it.

“She was nothing but a decoy, a fake, a peasant to entrap me.”

“Oh no, Ghenghis, she was real and she was my blood.”

“But I only did it to show them, to prove to them that I saw through their games.”

“It seems your paranoia got the better of you, Ghenghis.”

His eyes widened. “But Maudlin you have to believe me, I intended no disrespect, no desire to cross you.”

“It’s too late, Ghenghis, you are here now.”

“And where exactly is here?”

“A plane where things like to visit.”

Ghenghis felt his breath catch and his flesh ripple as cold swept over it. He knew the things that liked to visit in other planes; they haunted every sorcerer’s nightmares.

“But Maudlin, please you have to forgive me.”

She turned her back and walked to the window. He followed, imploring her further.

“You have to understand, I had no idea who the girl was.”

“I’m sorry, Ghenghis, it is already done.”

Her form shrank back until only a raven was perched on the windowsill. It cawed at him, its steely black eyes perusing him once more before it flew off.

Ghenghis fell to his knees in the pool of sunlight. Once that disappeared he knew his life was forfeit.


Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 24

I think I might have unraveled a world of images I want to write for when I sourced this week's image. Sarolta Ban is a Hungarian photographer and artist, and her work is just amazing. I have always loved surreal art, but these really speak to me.

I also have a thing for keys. I don't know what it is, but they just represent so many things to me - in some ways you could say they 'unlock my mind'! 😁

This week's piece came out with a nice, dark ending. I feel like I'm returning to the quality of flash I used to write before I took a 6 month flash from writing it regularly. I really liked this one. Hope you do too.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.






Delivery 

When Jack opened the back door he wasn’t quite sure what to make of this morning’s delivery. It unsettled him a bit.

For the last week, his dog, Darko, had been bringing home bones and placing them on the mat at the back door. He’d been digging them up out of the vegetable patch at the end of the garden. Jack thought he’d found some kind of pet cemetery, but today’s object wasn’t a bone it was a key - a really big key.

Jack picked it up and hefted it in his hand; it had to be at least half a pound in weight, although it still had mud on it. He took it to the sink and washed it, revealing an elaborate filigree top, or ‘bow’ as he later found out. The teeth were also elaborate, with bumps and holes. The internet provided all sorts of terminology, but no indication of what kind of lock it belonged to.

Questions nagged at him: Had the key been buried alone?  Could the lock it opened be buried with it?  If so, could there be a chest buried under the vegetable patch?

Jack tried not to entertain notions of buried treasure, knowing it was unlikely, but the back of his mind kept presenting such thoughts, so he scheduled a couple of days off work and bought a new spade for the job.

Darko loved his dad being home and dug alongside him. By lunch Jack had managed to get a couple of feet down, with a hole big enough for two people to lie down in. He found nothing – except more bones. This piece of land had definitely been some kind of burial site.

Then after lunch he started digging again, going sideways rather than down, and hit something hard with the spade. The dull thud indicated wood, but he couldn’t be sure. He continued to dig and scrape discovering that it ran length ways for several feet as well.

As he ran the spade width ways across the object, he found an edge and started digging round it, until, on one of his shoves into the earth, his spade hit something hard. Looking at the tip of the spade he saw a tiny dent – whatever it was it was metal.

He got down on his knees and scraped the rest of the mud away with his hand, exposing a door handle. This was a door?

He sat back on his haunches; he hadn’t expected that. Someone had buried a door. He felt disappointed. He lent forward again and scraped the earth away from under the handle and sure enough there was the keyhole, one big enough for the key.

Jack sighed and stood up. Did he want to waste time trying to lift a door? What would he do with it, sell it? He supposed it might be worth something. At least it would make the effort worthwhile.

He scraped more earth away with his feet and then stopped. He tapped his toe on the wood. It sounded hollow underneath. How could it be?

He removed all the soil from around the edges and pulled on the handle, hoping to lift the door up. It didn’t shift. He pondered: Could it be locked?

He went back into the house to fetch the key, dismissing thoughts about his foolishness: Did he really expect it to be locked? It was just a door dumped here years ago, how could there be anything under it?

He put the key in the lock and turned it. He had expected resistance, (surely the lock was rusty inside?), but it turned smoothly and he was surprised to hear a click.

He hesitated. He had no idea what he was opening, was he making a mistake? He ignored his apprehension and pulled again. This time the door started to lift. He heard air escaping, and then smelt it; it was rank, with a rancid, acrid edge that was almost tangible.

Then Jack heard shuffling, and before he could drop the door, a hand came out and grabbed his. Then another came out and another, pulling him down, pulling him in.

Darko barked but backed up, pee running down his leg as he watched his master struggle & scream. The sound eventually cut off by the door slamming shut.

There was a faint click and the key shot up out into the air, landing at the dog’s feet. Darko whined, missing his master.



Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Mid- Week Flash Challenge - Week 23

This week's photo prompt is an image of  a 'Mirror Man'. This is one of four sculptures that was on display at the Four Season's hotel, in St Fillins, Scotland, back in 2013 (although a comment on the site in July 2017 suggests there is still one there). They stood in Loch Earn for visitors to enjoy. The hotel commissioned artist/sculptor/photographer Rob Mulholland to make them. This particular photo was taken by Flicker user Alec Gibson. 

My first attempt at writing for the picture seemed lack-lustre - particularly in light of the picture. I did make a second attempt but didn't like it, so reworked the first. I hope you enjoy it.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.




Connection

Lori lay in the plush surroundings of the room she’d booked for the week, absorbing the peace and the early morning light that streaked across the thick carpet. The bed was warm and cosy. She didn’t want to move.

She was exhausted – physically and emotionally. Touring the country to promote her work had taken its toll: all the talking, the standing, the pacing on stage, the networking, the late nights, regurgitating the same old answers to the same old questions, finding new ways to say the same thing and give the same advice; eventually the mind gets fuzzy with all that noise.

And then coming home to find her home gone, her possessions gone, everything she had owned and all the art she’d had stored there, gone. Her adjoining neighbours were also gone, the gas explosion having emanated from their boiler, taking the lives of their children and their pets. It had made her feelings about the loss of her art seem trivial.

And then it had all stopped; she hadn’t been able to function. Family took her in, but she couldn’t get her thoughts together, her mind constantly returning to all the time and effort that had been wasted, how easily it had gone, and how it all seemed so pointless now. Every time she attempted to do anything creative she drew a blank.

So after more than a year of nothing, despite finding another home and settling again, and with the pressure to provide more work for sale and exhibition mounting, she had booked this trip in an attempt to relax and just be for a while, without any expectation. 

As the room became brighter with the rising sun, Lori was lured out of the bed by curiosity. She had arrived late the night before, so had yet to glimpse the views promised when she had made the booking.

She was not disappointed; the Loch swept away to the horizon, the lodge perched at one end of it. Sunbeams peeked through broken clouds lighting up the water, creating a myriad of sparkles that danced across the surface. Lori felt drawn to it. She wanted to get closer, even touch it if she could.

She dressed and took the main stairs down, hoping not to encounter any guests or staff. The early hour afforded her this luxury, and she left through the front door unseen, striding across the lawns at the front down to the water.

Once there, she was relieved to find a small strip of shingle enabling her to step into the water. The cold bit into her toes, but she found the chill refreshing as she continued in until the water was at her knees.

Lori stood still, letting the cold numb her lower legs while she watched the light glitter across the surface. At this angle she felt as though she was a part of the glimmer, as though it reflected off her too. The warmth of the sunlight kept her there, disembodied from the knees down.

She imagined herself floating on the surface, her body rocking with the sway of the water while her mind drifted with the clouds above. She wanted to stay there forever, imagining herself a statue like those she used to create. But as the freezing water started to lap at her thighs, she came too, knowing it was time to return to the lodge and hopefully breakfast.

Lori went to turn but nothing happened. At first she thought her feet had gone to sleep, but her upper body hadn’t moved either. She tried again and nothing happened.

Looking down, she was shocked to find her torso a beacon of light. It shone out of her, moving and jostling, scintillating like the light on the water. She moved her hand to touch it and found her hand reflective too, her eyes captured by its trancelike qualities. She had become as beautiful as the radiance around her. She wanted to capture this moment, and recreate it in art.

Her head buzzed with ideas and this seemed to unlock her. She moved; the light across her body dying as she turned and waded out of the water, wanting to return to the lodge and release the images lining up in her mind clamouring to be created.

The need for rest and peace was forgotten. Lori’s mind had come alive with what it needed to construct. This would be her greatest work yet.