Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 90

This week's photo prompt was taken by Kurt Gordon, an Australian photographer who travels a lot and takes a lot of pictures. You can find them on display over on 500px. He has some stunning shots. This one was taken when he was on the 3rd day of the Inca trail. Simply called Stone Stairs.

I tried to come up with something original, because initially all I came up with were cliche ideas for this photos. I like how it panned out.

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.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Taking a Fall 

Abby could sit here forever admiring the view; the perfect glow of light coming in and colouring the world inside this beautiful cave. She’d been lucky to stumble upon it. She smirked – stumble being the operative word.

She looked down at her crooked leg that had now gone numb in places (at least she hoped that was why she couldn’t feel all of it), and then down at the steps she’d managed to crawl up in the dark since her fall. In the dawn sunlight she could see how well crafted they were, and how they spiralled down into the cavernous green hollow.

Abby also noted how the ground fell away steeply on one side of the stone staircase at the entrance, and reminded herself how lucky she’d been with how she’d fallen in. She’d been foolish to continue moving around at night on the dark mountain side. What had she been thinking?

She’d been thinking about getting to the top first, that’s what she’d been thinking – like it was some kind of race completing this Inca trail. She’d missed the point entirely. She knew that now. They didn’t call it a pilgrimage for nothing. It was about the journey not the destination. All the clich├ęs were starting to make sense now.

She’d wanted a new challenge, a change of life, a change of self – and well she had certainly got that spending all night trying to pull her broken body up some mysterious steps.

A part of her was in awe of the place that had come into view over the last hour, but another part of her knew she was still in shock from the accident. She had to get out of here while it lasted and try and find some help, because without it the chances of survival were slim.

Abby wasn’t a natural survival type. She hadn’t taken a proper look at her leg – hadn’t dared. Mostly because she wouldn’t have a clue what to do to help it, but also because seeing it might send her into a panic.

Panic would be her undoing right now. It was why she was focusing on the things she was grateful for, like how she’d fallen through the hole onto the steps rather than into the abyss beside them, and how beautiful the location was, something she wouldn’t have seen if she hadn’t fallen in.
She’d survived the night by concentrating on climbing up the steps, one tiny bit by one tiny bit, the mental focus allowing her to push out the pain and all the other thoughts, and she would survive by continuing to do that.

This reminded her of what she needed to do now. She could see the top. It wasn’t that far; she could even count the steps. She would make it out of here, she knew that, so she started again, dragging her body up each step, pushing the pain to the back of her mind, and resisting the urge to scream either in response to it or to attract attention. It would be a waste of energy.

Then she heard a scrabbling sound, a face broke the perfect circle of light, then another couple of faces, and someone shouted, “Hello, are you okay?”

Relief overwhelmed her. She knew the light would lead her out of the darkness. 


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Review - The Raven's Wing, by Michael Wombat

The Raven's WingThe Raven's Wing by Michael Wombat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I begin to try and impart the colourful, magical, mysterious, and intriguing story and characters Michael Wombat has created with this magnificent novel? I am not really a reader of historical fiction, but this book is so much more than that - it is a mystery, a crime thriller, a whodunnit, a psychological thriller and it dabbles in magical realism. It has so much to offer.

The characters are well developed, layered, perfect and flawed in every way that makes them captivating, allowing the reader to feel connected and care about them. I feel like I have been a part of all their lives: John, Moss, Jenifry, Pentecost, Ailred, Ralf, even Wyni, John's wife, who is a ghost. There are fabulous twists and shocking turns, and everything that real life can throw at you, yet set in the medieval times. The backdrop is real and gritty and engages all the senses - some less desirable, like how people's effluence was disposed of and corpses rot.

Inadvertently I have also learnt a great deal about life in medieval times: from the language of the time, to the politics, religion, hierarchy, and day to day life of both peasant and gentry. It was eyeopening and yet related to current day. There are extensive notes in the back to support everything and explain things for the nosy reader, like myself.

The story itself is fast paced and barely gives you time to catch your breath as you move onto the next gripping scene. It follows Minstrel John on his quest to avenge his wife's murder, after being left an intriguing object at her funeral, which he then tracks down to the the owner, who needs his help as their fates intertwine. There is violence, there is death and murder, and even attacks by wolves. And there is witchcraft and magic. Personally I couldn't want more from a book.

Michael Wombat has a way with words that is beguiling, and together with the usage of words from the time and the dialect, as well as translated lyrics from medieval songs and his own wonderful poetry, it a pleasing and easy read that flows well. I encourage everyone to give it a read, you won't regret it.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 89

This week's prompt photo I found online, probably through Twitter, but I can't find any results on its origins online on any searches.

And this picture can only bring one thing for a primarily Horror writer, like myself. A dark tale, and one that might CONTAIN TRIGGERS. So be aware that you might be disturbed by this one .

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.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.



Scarred

She ran her fingers over them feeling the bumps and dips. Her legs were scarred for life, and so was she.

People didn’t get that; people thought that as it was over and no longer happening, she was fine. Because she could function, go about her day to day chores, nothing was wrong – all’s well that ends well.

But they weren’t inside her head; they didn’t see the things she did: the knife tip against her skin, how it quivered while he did things, trying to hold it and her where he wanted them. They didn’t recall the smells: the unwashed body odour that made her stomach churn, the stink of beer-breath heating up her ear as he moved up and down, and the blood – that had its own indescribable smell. They didn’t hear the sounds that were triggered by other sounds: a door hinge creaking like the door to her cell opening, people whispering bringing back the filthy words he’d utter while doing those awful things to her, and the sound of anyone urinating like he’d do in the corner after.

She had no words to explain the sickness and dread they brought, that she’d lived with the entire 16 weeks of her imprisonment. She was no longer able to form any. He’d made sure of that when he’d finished with her, grown bored of her supplication, her lack of fight and thrown her out onto the street where someone had found her, still bound in the ropes she’d been kept in, which had become embedded in her skin and scabbed over. Even now she could still feel the sensation of the knife slicing her tongue, even though she couldn’t feel anything else inside her mouth.

But it wasn’t visible like the scars on her legs. And they weren’t visible when she wore trousers, which she did most days. So all was fine and all was normal. 

She wished she’d died in that cell. She wished he’d killed her.    


Thursday, 3 January 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge Week 88

This week's photo is actually a Windows 10 Spotlight photo. But it only gave credit to Getty stock images and not who actually took the photo. It's a little atoll in the Indian Ocean, in the Maldives and utterly dreamy.

I have this as my current screen saver and keep dreaming up stories for it. If you enlarge it you can see more detail. I tried to be original but it's hard, and this story unfolded this way. I might one day grow it to a proper size.

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.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


Little atoll in Indian Ocean, Maldives

Free


Lizzy stood at the fore of her little two-man sailing yacht, scanning the horizon with her binoculars. Suddenly she spotted it. It was barely a blip at this distance, but it was there and that was all that mattered. 

Her heart picked up speed as she rushed back to the helm, checking the position with the binoculars and putting it in line with the compass, moving the tip of the boat round and opening the sails to pick up the breeze and get her there faster. She couldn’t wait. 

The blip grew into the tiny island she’d been dreaming about. Lizzy got ready to navigate the reef surrounding it. She knew the small inlet well, having done this countless times, but her excitement this time meant it was harder to focus and she forced herself to take it slowly. 

She could see the little island house set back from the shore, and a figure inside. Her stomach flipped.
As she drew closer the figure came out and ran to the shoreline, wading into the water to meet her, waiting patiently until she was close enough to throw a rope down so they could pull her in. 

Again she had to force herself to focus on the task of getting the yacht into position and fixed so it wouldn’t drift, either onto the coral or away. Only then could she do what she had dreamed of doing this past year, of jumping down into his arms. 

They stood there in the surf, the soft waves breaking around them as they reacquainted themselves with each other’s touch, smell, embrace, and most importantly, lips. It was a while before they pulled away, and walked with arms round each other back to the shore and into the small island house Rufus had refurbished and made liveable. 

Lizzy sighed. “I can’t believe how magical you’ve made it. It’s wonderful. I began to wonder if I was ever to get here.” 

“I was worried too. I got the radio working but the reports scared me. I didn’t think you were going to be able to get out.”

“If I had left a day later, I wouldn’t have. They blocked the harbour entrance, raiding everything going in and out. I had to switch off the CB in the end and maintain radio silence. I couldn’t handle the sound of hearing our friends lose their boats, and some of them, their lives. And I was worried they might come after me.”

Rufus squeezed her. “I’m glad they didn’t. Did you get everything out?”

Lizzy jumped back. “Oh, no, Rusty!”

She rushed back into the water to the boat and shinnied up the rope to climb aboard. She flung open the doors to below deck and heard the whining. 

“I’m so sorry Rusty, in my excitement I almost forgot you!”

She opened the door to the dog crate and her beloved whippet came bounding out, licking her face all over as she cuddled him. Then they went back out on top and jumped off into the water, making their way to shore, Rusty going mad at the sight of Rufus who was squatted down ready to embrace his friend.

While Rufus made a fuss of the dog, Lizzy took in a deep breath and looked round at their island paradise. It was far enough away to survive the human apocalypse going on back in the inhabited world, and small enough to not be easily found. It was only because it had been their holiday destination for years, after they’d discovered it on their honeymoon, that they knew its exact location, which shifted slightly from year to year with the motion of the sea and sand.

Rufus’ predictions had been correct and she was glad he’d left when he had, as scientists and academics were the first to be condemned and imprisoned, and later publicly executed. Lizzy had remained as long as she could to gather the supplies they needed, stocking the boat every night, and pretending to be a part of the uprising every day. She’d got out in the nick of time, knowing the search lights were being installed as she’d slid the boat through the marina during darkest part of the night. Only turning the engine on once out in open water, glued to the radio, she’d been terrified she’d been spotted, but with Rusty comforting her as they embarked on the three month sail, they’d made it out to the little island atoll, and sanctuary.


  
 

Friday, 28 December 2018

Review of A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book for my bookclub, and had initially been dubious that it was a book for me. It is more literary than I would normally choose, and I don't have a particular interest in Japanese culture. But what unfolded was an emotional journey through sensitive topics like bullying and suicide.

The book flicks between two worlds: Nao's and Ruth's. Ruth finds Nao's diary washed up on the beach of the remote island she lives on in British Columbia, Canada and starts to read and translate it. Nao's diary talks about her life in Japan, since moving there from America with her Japanese born parents. Ruth believes the diary has been washed up in the 2011 tsunami and attempts to track down Nao and her family.

It's difficult to talk about this book without giving away the story. It is a slow intense read that reveals various elements of Japanese culture. It tells the story of a teenage girl, Nao, who was raised in America and has been thrust into Japanese life and the difficulties she experiences, as well as the difficulties her parents experience. It is also tells the story of her great grandmother, who is a Buddhist nun, and her great Uncle who was a Kamikaze pilot. And it tells the story of Ruth and her husband, and their life on a remote island.

The tales are interwoven, and no more is given than absolutely necessary. The reader is left to feel their own emotions about the things that are uncovered; the author doesn't provide the reader with a judgement either way, although we do see Ruth and her husband's reaction to some of it, if only to explain more fully what is being described in Nao's stories.

I loved the depth of this book, of the characters and stories and their lives. I also loved other topics which are touched on, like Buddhism and Quantum Physics, and the appendices in the back that give more detailed information on these topics.



View all my reviews

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 87

This week's photo prompt was taken by Carlos M Almagro, a Tenerife based photographer. This was taken there. He has some incredible pictures on his website, definitely worth checking out. He calls this one Calm and Joy.

I had this story in my head for a while, but I struggled to develop it and not sound like a boring narrative. I hope it's worked.

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.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.





Released

Sitting here in the little wooden chair, enjoying the sunrise for the first time in decades, I sighed: I was safe. I’d dreamt of this moment and it didn’t disappoint; my mind was my own again.

It hadn’t been easy getting here, a life-long mission, through many lives. Time after time attempts had been made to release me, but each time the demon had remained and gone on to create further pain and misery. But finally the right words and incantations had been found.

I could no longer remember a time before the demon, only when I had first spotted it. I had glanced in a mirror – a luxury item in that lifetime – and I could see it in my eyes: a dark reflection, a dullness that hadn’t be there before, something looking out that wasn’t a part of me. And then the thoughts had started: the paranoia, the thoughts telling me to hurt myself, the urge to hurt others, and the confusion about whether I had or not leading me to self-destruction or reclusion.

It leached onto others and turned them too. A few strong ones had resisted and identified the truth, so I developed a way to shackle my true essence to them and find them in the next life, hoping to harness their abilities to rid me of this thing. It hadn’t worked until now. 

It was thanks to Emmie. She had persevered through the last seven lifetimes, edging closer and closer to the solution. She had tried spells and enchantments, sometimes distracting the demon, allowing me to return to myself for a few moments and regain my inner energy. And in those lucid windows she had taught me how to build my strength and increase my protective wall, pushing it out, making it more difficult for the demon to re-engage, even though it ultimately did, until the day her team had found the words.

In this lifetime, Emmie had been born into an academic family, one with a unique interest in alchemy with an extensive library on the practices of the black arts, including how to perform exorcisms. Once we had found one another again, I became her pet project and we went through rigorous tests and experiments trying to unhinge the thing. She brought in an entire team, determined to achieve it this time, each member bringing their own insight to the table.

When an invitation and airline ticket arrived by courier I didn’t hesitate, despite the noise in my head ramping up significantly. But I wasn’t going to hurt myself or hospitalise myself; I refused to accept that there was something wrong with me, or that I had a fear of flying, or that I was infectious and couldn’t be around other people. I just kept going, first into a cab and then to the airport, dowsing the worst of the torturous thoughts with booze on the flight.

It made the ensuing boat trip less enjoyable, but with my head hung over the side for the duration, vomiting, meant the voices couldn’t cut through the sick induced fog in my brain.

Once I arrived at the remote destination - a barely populated remote island - I was led through a series of instructions. With each one I could feel the demon rise and struggle, its panic increasing to a screaming pitch. The small group were aware of this and handled me as though I was no longer lucid, placing me in the chair and setting stones in a circle round it, placing each one with a different chant, tone, and language.

With the arrival of each one, I could feel my own energy rise and the demon’s being pushed out. It grappled for my mind, tearing thoughts of malice and hatred across it; screaming at me, screaming at them, monopolising my ability to think.

At the last stone, the group joined hands and synchronised the final invocation, turning in a circle, each stepping on the stone to push it further into the sand. And on the last word, it flew out of my brain like a cork from a bottle, leaving me exhausted but elated, back in control.

They left me to gather myself, telling me to take my time, encouraging and reassuring me that I would be safe outside of the circle too, but for the moment, this was where I wanted to be, remembering who I was, ready to be my own person again.  




Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 86

This week's prompt photo is actually a close up shot of a much larger photo, taken by Brian Romeijn, a Rotterdam based photographer, who became well know for this series of photos he took of the Orient Express, which stands abandoned in Belgium after its last trip in December 2009. You can see the original picture on his site, Precious Decay, along with a variety of other photos of urban decay.

It prompted a dark tale. I went for a ghost story and this came out instead. Enjoy!

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.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




Lie In Wait

He walked through the carriage. He could see them all perfectly in his mind’s eye, seated in their finery. The travel outfits, the latest fashion of the era, bought specially for the journey: bustles and black ties, stiff collars and corsets. He could hear their pleasantries and their witty banter as they past the time staring out of the windows. Men and women – rarely children, unless groomed for such a trip to sit quietly and attentively – impressed by the carriages, the exquisite train, all revelling in their wealth and comfort, all believing that it was the purpose of life.

Then as he passed through into another carriage, he felt it. It was still present at the edges, gnawing away at the fading decadence. A pervasive darkness that lay in wait, as it had done then. Little had they known how vulnerable they’d been; how easily they had been taken and diverted. He wondered how it had manifest; how it had travelled from one to another.

He witnessed the dark stains, too numerous to hide, even in the decay that the decades had wrought; the rips and slash marks in the upholstery where the filling now burst from, and heard a whisper of the cries that had been released in their last throws.

No one had been able to explain the arrival of a train full of slaughtered people, with no one living but the driver, who had been oblivious to the contents he’d been carrying, despite spending a lifetime rotting in a prison cell paying for it. People had speculated on who else it could have been, how someone could have jumped on or off the train and done it. But he knew differently.

He had examined the faded pictures, identified the marks from one to the other, how each had taken their part; the system and pattern was ever present in the chaos of the pictures if you had a mind to see it, and he did. And here, now, he knew he hadn’t been wrong in its origin. 

He paused in the middle of the second carriage and waited. It whispered at the edge of his hearing, words starting to form, cajoling, persuading, enticing. He smiled. If he could get it to come to him, he could give it what it needed: a channel, an outlet, a place to reside. He would welcome it and give it an opportunity. It would be his, to use as he pleased.

His head tilted back as the murmurs grew to voices, and opened his arms. The smile on his face spread, his mouth opening wide. And as it arrived, a roar of laughter built up inside him and exploded out, shaking the remains of what they dubbed ‘the carriages of carnage’, waking the souls that slept there, to taste the fear again.