Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 109

This weeks picture was taken by James Wheeler, a photographer from Canada. This is Lost Lake in the Whistler Resort, Whistler, Canada and it's pretty magnificent. Definitely makes me want to go there! You can view more of his pictures over on the 500px site.

I've gone a bit mushy this week, in contrast to last weeks. This picture was too beautiful to taint.

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.


Promises Under the Stars

Their anniversary trip had been a huge surprise. Lucy hadn’t expected anything from him, not after all these years, and certainly not with how dead their marriage had become. But he’d booked one of their dream vacations, or should she say his. Paul had always wanted to go ski-ing in Canada and here they were. She wasn’t a skier, but he’d even considered that in the booking: he’d picked a resort that was also a spa. It meant he could ski while she lounged about in hot tubs and had massages.

Again the level of thought he’d put into struck her. Lucy hadn’t seen the likes of this since they first met, some twenty-three years ago. It was a complete contrast to recent years where he made social arrangements behind her back, only telling her the day before so she either couldn’t join or was left unprepared.

A couple of times she’d found out by accident through a friend of his, or once her mother-in-law. People didn’t expect a man not to tell his wife about family gatherings, and when she’d challenged him, he was never sorry, he made out it was her fault with some remark like “I didn’t think you’d be interested.”

She pushed away the bad feelings that rose from the memories and walked further along the jetty. It reached out under the expanse of moonlit sky, the lake beneath like glass on this breathless night. She breathed in the crisp night air.

She wanted to let go of all the hurt he had done her, but it was hard. She didn’t know if she could trust him not to repeat it. He hadn’t said anything to indicate this change: he was still silent, empty of opinions and emotion, yet cheery and friendly in his usual vacant way. And she went along with it as she always did, because what else do you do? Anger and bitterness are such useless emotions.

She heard footsteps behind her on the jetty and knew it was Paul, instinctively tensing. She waited for him to stop a few feet away and his silence to manifest into something tangible, as it often did, unless she turned and broke it. But tonight he didn’t do that; he came right up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her in. The movement took her breath away.

He snuggled his head into her shoulder, something he’d never done before, and whispered, ‘Hey you, it’s beautiful out here.’

‘It sure is,’ she replied, wrapping her arms over his and hugging them.

‘Penny for them?’ he asked.

‘What my thoughts?’

‘Yep.’

She pulled her head back to look at his face. “You’ve never cared before.”

He lifted his head to meet her eyes. ‘I know. And I regret that. I’ve taken you for granted – for years. I want to change that.’

She pulled her whole body back this time so she could turn and face him.

‘And what’s brought this on? Forgive me if I’m a little sceptical but your promises are often just words to suit the moment.’

‘I understand you feel that way, and you think this is out of the blue, but really it’s been in my head ever since Rob lost his wife last year.’

‘Your brother?’

Paul nodded. ‘They supported each other so much. She did so much for him. In every conversation I’ve had with him since he’s mentioned it, and it made me look at our marriage. I saw how little I support you, and how much you do for me. I haven’t appreciated it. I’ve only ever seen what I did. ‘

Lucy was silent. A part of her was unbelieving, but another part wasn’t – it hoped.

Paul looked into her eyes. ‘I want this trip to be a fresh start for us, a new beginning. I want to try and rekindle what we had when we met.’

Lucy opened her mouth to speak, but he interrupted her. ‘I know you have doubts, I know that I’ve promised things before, but let me show you this time.’

‘Actions speak louder than words? You’ve finally heard me, then?’

‘Yeah, maybe I’ve finally heard you.’ He stepped forward, hesitantly, his arms open. She stepped into them and let him pull her in, her head tucked under his as they both looked out at the full moon. ‘It’s the perfect night to begin our new life together, too.’

Lucy squeezed him, tears rolling down her face. This really was a dream vacation. 



Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 108

This week's picture prompt was created by Russian Illustrator Anton Semenov - He calls this Auschwitz, in his 'City of Decay'  collection. He has some incredible work - very dark though, but I might have to revisit! Anton's personal website contains more creations.  

This week, not a story I wish to expand on! LOL But it's a while since I've had a nice dark tale. 

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.




Rats

I was sitting at my desk when I first noticed the sound. I wasn’t sure if it was a new sound, or whether it was something I had only just registered. But to register it now meant it had to have changed, right?

I tried to identify the location it was coming from. It was a pretty large loft, but with my desk under the skylight I tended to ignore the dark corners. They were full of dust and storage boxes only the cats ever bothered investigating, although coming to think of it, I hadn’t seen Minxy go that way for a while.

Was it getting louder? I couldn’t be sure. It could just be me tuning into it. It was more than a buzzing, it was a strange humming – not electrical; like a collective of people chanting in the distance, but a long way off.

I opened the skylight. Nope, definitely not coming from outside. When I shut it, it definitely seemed louder. Then a scratching sound joined it.

It had to be the cat. I got up to walk towards the corner it was coming from, but as I turned to face it, I heard the cat flap. I paused looking towards the stairs. Was it Minxy? A pitiful miaow could be heard. Yep, it was Minxy. My head flicked back to the strange clawing sound. I felt the hair lift on my arms, and my stomach clenched. I had to do this; I had to find out what it was.

My rational mind tried to de-escalate the rising panic: it’s just an old kids toy, maybe a battery left in there, giving off one last dying cry, or vibration.

But the irrational wasn’t working with it: you always take batteries out of everything before putting it away, you know that.

I took a few steps closer.

Maybe a bird’s caught.

Maybe it’s a giant rat that’s going to eat you.

I picked up an old hockey stick poking out of one of the boxes as I inched closer.

I’ll hit it with this.

What if there’s a horde of them?

I was almost there.

What’s the collective noun for rats?

I don’t know! You and your damn writer brain!

I raised the hockey stick above my head as I reached the box. The scratching was distinct now; something was definitely trying to burrow out.

‘ Mischief! It’s a Mischief of Rats!’ I shouted out loud as I kicked the box.

The lid flapped open and the sound stopped, the sight that greeted me making everything stop.

Faces: all their tiny little faces staring up at mine with their red-ringed, hollow eyes. I dropped the stick and opened my mouth to scream but it remained in an O, no breath moving in and out until the sound resumed: the humming. But I could see it wasn’t really humming, they were saying something, over and over, a mantra of some sort. Then their little hands came up and I saw them grip the open edge of the box. They were going to come out.


My paralysis broke and I turned to run, but I slipped on the hockey stick and fell hard on my back. I tried to scrabble backwards but it was too late, they were out, and flew at me, smothering me before I could move any further. Their voices rang in my head as I felt them trample and tear at my body, and then I was flying, out of my mind out of my body, watching myself be devoured as I floated up to the roof and through. Their words making sense now: ‘sustenance, sustenance, sustenance ...’   


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 107

This week's photo prompt was taken by Russian photographer Daniel Kordan - he has some incredible pictures, definitely worth checking out his site. 

Have you sussed what this is yet? It's not some strange photoshopped image, it's actually a photo of an ice cave being illuminated by a flare - an ice cave in Kamchatka in the Far East of Russia. He explored under the glacier near the Mutnovsky volcano. You can read about it here. 

Took a while for this one to form, now I am interested in where it might have gone had I written further.

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.




Trapping Hunters

“It could be worse, at least we’ve got water,” said Ranek

They both stared at the cascade of water cutting through the ice.

“I can’t believe they did this,” replied Teterin, looking up at the veil of ice they’d been trapped under. It had appeared in minutes. The Nebuli’s ability to manipulate ice was legendary.

“At least we can see the sky.” Ranek perched on a rock.

“Fat lot of good that does us now it’s getting dark. It’s gonna get cold.” Teterin already had his hands stuffed into his armpits.

Raneck sighed. “Do you think Makar will find us?”

“How? Through that veil?”

“If we can see out, they can see in.”

“What, out here? In this frozen pustosh?”

“Why not? He knew we were tracking them. He might even send Nikolay.”

“Why would he send anyone? He doesn’t know we’ve been caught, and he won’t care if he does. Two less to pay.”

“But we’re the best trackers of the Nebuli he has, and he wants them. He knows that without us he doesn’t stand a chance. We found their hideout. We know more than anyone. We’re more valuable to him than you think!” Ranek jabbed a finger towards Teterin’s face to make his point.

Teterin snorted. “You think his l’skivyy ways are because he likes you? Because he thinks you are of some value to him? Ha! Think again. As soon as we tell him where they are, we’ll be worthless!”

“You’re wrong; he will make us his second in commands.”

Teterin let out a bark of laughter. “Oh Ranek, you are so na├»ve. He’s not a man of honour. He’s plokhoy, nothing good in him. The only person he will elevate is himself. He will want the Federation to believe that he found them. There’ll be no hero’s return for us.”

“So what then, we sit here and die?”

“It looks like it. At least we will freeze to death before we starve.”

“Why would they want us dead? It makes no sense.”

“Who? Marek?”  Teterin squatted down beside Ranek.

“ No, the Nebuli. They knew we were here; they knew we were close to them. They let us into their den without attacking us, which is unheard of. I thought they were finally going to let us converse with them, not trap us like this. What is the point of this?”

“To kill us.”

“They could have done that already ten times over, you and I both know that. Look at what they did to Yakov and Stasik. I’d never seen a shredded body before, it almost made me stop hunting.”

“Me too.” Teterin move round and sat down on the rock next to Ranek. “Maybe this time they want to watch a human die slowly.”

Ranek sighed. “Maybe. But it makes no sense. It’s not their style at all.”

The light above them started to turn pink.

“At least we can watch the sunset.” Teterin leaned back, looking at the strange pattern the ice cover made.

Ranek frowned. “That’s no sunset. The sun has already gone down.”

They turned to the end of the tunnel where the light was brightest; it had a centre like a ball of fire, which is why Teterin had thought it was the sun. But it was moving, getting larger, coming closer.
Teterin and Ranek stood up. There was something carrying it. So far they had not laid eyes on the Nebuli. They’d heard whispers of these ancient creatures being related to dragons, but no one had lived to confirm it. Would they?




Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Review of Educated by Tara Westover

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for my bookclub, and was keenly interested in the entire topic; the book did not disappoint.

Tara Westover's writing is particularly literate for someone who came to formal learning late - or maybe because of it. Her use of words and description is powerful, mesmerising, and flows so well it is easy to visualise what she imparts - the people and the place.

For the first 100 pages I considered this just a novel about people living a different lifestyle. Having had a close friend who was a Mormon and believed in the Holistic way of life and had a distrust of medicines and doctors, and some of the conspiracy theories surrounding Big Pharma, it was not new to me. I wondered at the descriptions of abuse in the blurb and whether it had just been hype, but then I realised Tara was simply setting the scene; familiarising the reader with the characters (her family) and the culture, both religious and in terms of her father's mental disposition. Then the story started to develope as we were introduced to her brother Shawn and other elements of her life that were not quite as easy: the family accidents, the physical abuse, the gaslighting and trying to break out both physically and mentally.

There were strange paradoxes and plenty of inconsistency - even hypocrisy - in how she was raised and the people surrounding her. For someone who wasn't registered at birth, which is officially illegal (I thought), I was surprised at the lack of repercussions when they called to get her a birth certificate years on. There was no inquiry, or authorities querying it. And it seemed quite incredible how easy it was for her to apply and get into a local university just by passing a few tests after studying four basic subjects. It made me wonder why we can't all do this! But maybe the exact detail and difficulty were underplayed. However, when it came to getting into Cambridge, I could only imagine how unique her view point in what she wrote must have been; how differently she saw things, that it made such an impact. If anything it shows that those of us boxed and labelled by the system early on are also limited by it - although I wouldn't wish Tara's journey there on anyone.

As someone who has suffered domestic abuse as a child, quite a lot of this novel was quite difficult in that I felt the dread and the tension before reading certain scenes - any time she was due to see Shawn or he would be in the room I felt this. It made me connect much more closely and consider that Tara sharing her story was something extremely brave to do, especially considering the abusers are still alive. Some may think that was wrong of her to do, but I don't. I think that there has to come a time where you speak out, not just for yourself but for others who have been through the same, or are still stuck in it and unable to find a way out. Too many people make these topics taboo and find it uncomfortable to talk about, but what they don't realise is that this allows a lot of these sorts of abuse to continue. I applaud Tara for doing this and for doing it so effectively, and eloquently.





View all my reviews

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 106

This weeks photo prompt is of a bookstore/library in Yangzhou, eastern China, taken by photographer Shao Feng. It is actually a small shop, but the angle and the mirrored floor gives it a different perspective.

I wasn't sure where this would go but I liked it, and although I have said this many times, I think this might actually be a story I could expand on here, it's definitely got a future in 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.

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




Academic Revolution

I ran my fingers over the rows and rows of book spines, marveling at what the fissure had uncovered. We could never have imagined there was such knowledge available to us; we thought it had died along with the earth.

‘Books,’ I sounded the word out; it was a new word, one of a collection that was expanding with this discovery. A few of us had grasped the process of reading fairly quickly, and were teaching the rest, but it was slow going.

People were used to visual living through the world of fantasy games, which only required vocalization or clicking on pictures. The art of reading had been lost along with all the books in the fires and storms that had been the ending of surface living. The computers, along with the remaining people, had moved underground and survived there.

The only reading now was done through coding and that was all numbers. The number literate were the bosses and lived as such.

But the latest round of earth shocks had revealed this untouched room, full of perfectly preserved books. (I reveled in the sound of the word; they were things of perfection).

Besides learning the words and their intended meaning, there was debate about the content: how factual was it?

It was difficult to imagine that what most of them held could have been real. Did people go on those kinds of killing sprees? It was difficult to imagine some of the murderous scenes, or the intelligence of criminals portrayed in some of them. Did lives really twist and turn like that? Had elves and dwarfs really existed? Maybe some of the creatures in the fantasy games were based off them. Had there really been intergalactic space travel? Were there other civilisations out there we didn’t know about? Could we contact them?

And then the wealth of relationship matter: did everyone write about their love lives? Was that the fashion? It was strange to imagine people could be such explicit with each other, so physical. It was no longer the way, everything was through computers now except for the odd occasion when it was necessary.

But were they all history books, or were they like the fantasy games? People making it up for entertainment? No one was sure. We were still decoding the categories they had been put in and their true meaning.

But in the meantime, I was the first to open many of them; I was becoming revered for my understanding. Soon I would be like the game coders and able to make an impact on our society.
The resistance might claim that there was nothing of value here, but I begged to differ, they just wanted to keep the number one spot. We were on the verge of a revolution – an academic revolution, one that would see the game coders toppled from their top ranking.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 105

Today's picture prompt was created by Norwegian artist Erlend Monk. He has a few of these, and many images I find intriguing. I might just have to return to use more.

I wanted to capture what I felt when I saw this image. I think I managed it with this tale. Yes, it's dark, be warned.


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.



Captured 

I’d caught it!

As the picture developed in the liquid I could see the outline of an image. One of my hidden motion cameras had picked up something.

As it came into focus it looked like a person, but it was blurred, caught in the midst of what looked like running. It had to be moving pretty quick to be out of focus though; this particular camera was one of my fastest at 1/1600sec.

I took the image out of the fluid and used my photo magnifier to get a closer look. Yes, it was definitely human. What was it doing?

Since Susie had gone missing in the woods I’d been keeping watch, convinced she must have been taken. There were long standing rumours about something in the woods, and it was supported by the evidence of people disappearing. But until this point no one had actually done anything, which is why I’d set up the cameras.

There was no definition of features, so I started developing the next few photos in the reel. There were several more as it moved out of shot, and then it moving across the front of the camera again, this time closer. If I put them together I might have a sort of time-lapse film of their movements. That gave me an idea.

I took the reel of negatives over to a slide machine and fed them in. I’d been working with film so long it only took a matter of minutes. I prepped the room so the light from the machine wouldn’t disturb the rest developing and turned it to the wall, switching it on.

I used the remote clicker to move through the images, watching the blurred figure move one way and then the other across the screen. The image moved closer to the camera each time it crossed. The features were still out of focus but they became more apparent as the distance was shortened.

There was an outline of a face. It looked pale, which could have been the light in the wood, but the ears were strange: sharp tips poking out either side of a wide brimmed hat. Its nose seemed stunted somehow, just black nostrils like too holes above the mouth. But I couldn’t quite see the eyes, each time they seemed to blur across the side of the head.

I stepped closer to the screen, as though that would help, but just as it came so close I thought it might hit the camera, it vanished. 

 I clicked through; nothing, just the woods, no figure.

Then the images seemed to grow dark, which was odd seeing as they were created through mid to late morning. They faded at the edges, the darkness spreading across the lens.

I kept clicking forward. Black.

I clicked a few more times, running through possible scenarios in my head that would cause the camera to blackout. Then two dots appeared in one image and grew as I clicked on.

A sensation started at the back of my neck and ran down my spine, like someone had trickled water down my back. I could see the hairs on my arms raise in the light from the screen as each click exposed what I was seeing. It settled in my stomach as a mix of dread and excitement when I paused, knowing the next image would be the reveal.

I pressed the button down slowly and deliberately and there it was: a creature.

Its eyes were small orbs of white with tiny pin prinks of black in the centre. The face was grey, except the nostrils which were black oval holes. The ears, as I had suspected were long points on either side of the round head, but it was the lipless mouth that drew my eyes, with its row of sharp teeth.

My breath caught but my finger seemed to run on automatic continuing to depress the button.

The face pulled back slightly, the teeth spreading as it grinned. I could see bumps at the edge that indicated fingers. It had hold of the camera.

Then each image was a rushed blur, much like the movement of the creature earlier, until it refocused in some kind of underground room.

My stomach churned as debris on the floor came into view, my hand dropping from the clicker to my mouth as the final image gave a clear shot of the limbs and pieces of body.

I knew more than I wanted about what had happened to Susie.