Wednesday 29 June 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 256

This week's picture prompt first appeared on the account of eclecticmark5909 on a social media site called Ingur, so I am assuming it is his own picture taken in the graveyard (and I can't find anything to say otherwise). 

Now some people believe this to be a 'mortsafe' created to deter body snatching and grave-robbing in the 18th and 19th centuries, BUT this particular image is of Seath Mor Sgorfhiaclach's grave in a secluded area of the forest of Rothiemurc­hus estate, near Aviemore, Scotland. He was a 14th century chief of the Clan Shaw, and Suzie Lennox, a historian specialising in body snatching, said it was put there to stop people removing the stones that lie on top of it - because they are cursed, and people touching them have died! Read her blog post about it. It's fascinating. 

Of course this image lends more to something being stopped from getting out raather than something getting in - or does 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.

An ancient grave in a forest graveyard with a heavy iron, black painted latticework cage covering it. The grave of Seath Mor Sgorfhiaclach in a secluded area of the forest of Rothiemurc­hus estate, near Aviemore, Scotland

Sweet Revenge

She kicked it, but all that did was leave her hopping and her toe hurting. Mandy hated him – if he was still alive she’d strangle him, here in public at his graveside. She didn’t care if they carted her off.

She’d put up with him for years. His stupid jokes and his stupid laugh that always grated on her. She’d ingratiated herself with his spoilt, stuck-up children, pretending to be okay with not having one of their own because he didn’t want any more. She’d tolerated all his groping and pawing – even in public – letting him think she loved it. She shuddered. Anyone watching would think it was from the cold. And all along he must have known, if he’d done this.

She’d sat there at the Will reading, ready to receive some kind of recognition for all the work she’d put in. All the years of pretending to care, even wiping his arse while he was sick, but it had all been for nothing. He’d seen straight through it.

She wanted to scream, and she could, people would think it was grief, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. She had no doubt he was there watching her. It was the kind of thing he’d do – although usually with other people, not her. He loved to stick around and reap his sweet revenge. She’d been foolish to think she’d gotten away with it.

Mandy looked at the cage he’d had put over his grave to stop her getting in. He knew she’d try and find a way to exhume him and take what he had put in his coffin. They said you couldn’t take it with you, but he had. And she hadn’t minded, because she knew there was plenty more. She just hadn’t known she wouldn’t be seeing any of it.

Her mind tried to think of ways round it, ways to get into it. How far did this thing go down? But she knew her husband and how thorough he’d always been. She’d be a fool to try. She considered coming back in the dead of night with a blow torch, but they’d know it was her – who else knew what was in his coffin with him? He’d made sure his kids didn’t. But he hadn’t stiffed them the way he’d stiffed her.

She snorted – stiff, that was funny; he’d not been stiff for years. Clearly he was making up for it.

The laugh broke her rage. She sighed, and looked at the strange lattice work on the grave. It reminded her of something. It was similar to some iron work he’d had made for their home in Greece – a home she still had access to. It gave her an idea. Mandy smiled. She’d show him sweet revenge.

Wednesday 22 June 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 255

This week's picture prompt creator has been difficult to trace. It's tagged everywhere by being by Zoraya Tonel, but I haven't been able to find any artist with that name, despite trawling many sites. It seems they had a Google Plus account and that is now, of course, gone. This is all over the place being sold as wallpaper and prints, yet the original image it's been created from was very different (Tineye Reverse Image Search threw that up, along with this image), but although it's been around since 2013, all the links are now dead - websites shutdown etc. So no success, which is a real shame. I hate it when artists aren't credited properly. 

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.

Looking at a small, low sitting stone cottage on a hilltop, with sun beams cutting through the clouds and highlighting it. Seen from a tunnel opening, across a lake and showing a hanging wooden bridge to reach it.

Coming Home

As he came through the tunnel, he paused and looked up at the cottage, nestled into the hillside. Home at last. He couldn’t quite believe he was here. He had wondered if he would ever make it back, but here he was, full of hope, full of love, full of anticipation.

As he stepped across the stones on the lake to the wooden bridge, a crack in the early morning clouds opened and cast the dwelling in a divine light. It highlighted what he felt returning to the sanctuary he once called home, before he was brutally taken and forced to serve in a war he didn’t know anything about. Ten long years he’d been gone, surviving all attempts on his life, and shameful about having to take lives of others to do so.

He strolled over the hanging bridge, enjoying the sway of it as it brought back childhood memories. He wondered how his family were, how much they had grown, and what they might look like now: his brothers, his mother, his father, his sister. They would be overjoyed to see him, to embrace him again, and so would he.

As he climbed up the hill on the other side of the bridge, he urged his legs to hurry, his impatience growing. He looked for signs that they were awake, but he couldn’t be sure if that was smoke coming from the chimney or whether it was mist from the low hanging clouds. There was no light in any of the windows.

When he reached the path up to the front door, he slowed his pace, wanting to savour this moment of joy. He came to the door and turned the iron ring handle gently, considering not waking anyone and just sitting in the lounge until they stirred.

When he stepped inside, the front door opening into a small porch and then the kitchen, everything was still. More than that, it was covered in a thick layer of dust; the kitchen table, the oven hob, the counter tops. He moved further in, passing into the long, low ceilinged living room where he found all the furniture covered in white sheets, which had thick layers of dust on them, too.

He searched the house. Not a sole was in it; he was alone. Where was everyone? And how long had they been gone?

He stood in the kitchen, unsure what to do. He could only clean up the place and make a home here for himself until he could find out what had happened. He opened the doors and windows and began cleaning out the dust. He brought in wood from the woodshed that was still heavily stocked, and got the oven lit and hot enough to boil some water and make some tea. Not quite the homecoming he imagined but at least he was here.

In the living room he pulled all the sheets off the furnishing and set a fire in the hearth, bringing the room to life, and taking a moment to sit and drink his tea, and listen to the fire crackle. Later that day he foraged for food, and ate alone.

This went on for several days until he decided to try and find out what had happened to his family. The town was a good days walk over the mountain, so he packed up his bag and set out early the following morning.

He climbed up the hill behind the cottage and up into the mountain, finding the track through the peaks. He climbed down the other side and walked into the forest, finding the brook that ran down the side and would take him to town.

The brook wound back and forth, and then came to a point where it ran into a tunnel. He didn’t remember the tunnel, but trusted the water and followed it through using a small side path that ran alongside it. He could see light at the end, which he focused on until he came out into it.

He blinked. The water ran out into a lake, there were stepping stones and a wooden hanging bridge, and there on the hillside was the cottage. How had this happened? Had he circled round on himself? He climbed up to the cottage and found it all closed up as it had been when he arrived several days ago. What was happening?

He set off again, this time in another direction, and after several hours of walking along rocky mountain hillsides and more forests, he found himself in another tunnel that came out at the lake with the view of the cottage.

This time he went in and stayed there. Cleaning it all out again, and sitting once more in front of a roaring fire in the living room with a cup of tea. He didn’t know what was happening, but at least he was safe here. At least he was home. 

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 254

This week's picture prompt is another picture by Andrew Ferez, a Russian artist illustrator. He calls this one Original. I used a picture of his back in March of 2020, on Week 147, and have accidently picked another by him. But he does have some extraordinary piece, worth checking out on his Deviant Art page where he is 25karitnok.

This story got a way from me a little bit, and despite a hard edit to try and bring it until my own word limit, I haven't managed it. But further cutting is not possible without losing the story. 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.

A painting or drawing of a man in a suit with his back to the viewer, looking in a mirror and the image in a mirror is off a long toothed alien beast. There is an orange candelabra on the wall by the the mirror holding 3 lit cancels. By Andrew Ferez

Gentlemen's Club

Patrick straightened his tie in the mirror. This suit would get him into the gentleman’s club this time. Randolf had advised him what to wear, and he’d followed it to the letter. He’d get in and finally be able to lay eyes on those inside.

Despite appearances, the patrons were a reckless lot, although not in the conventional sense, only with money – particularly other people’s. They cared little for the consequences as long as it didn’t impact them. And that’s what had brought Patrick to their door.

They’d taken his name, his business and his reputation. They were only interested in the profits they could make, then they’d move onto their next victim. But he was here to change that; he was here to settle the score.

When he arrived at the exclusive club, secreted away down an alleyway between two grand buildings, the doorman didn’t even glance at him, not now he looked the part. He was guided through the ornate foyer and led through into a series of elaborate rooms. The walls were adorned with beautiful wall hangings and there were groups of high backed leather armchairs strategically placed throughout to allow both privacy and companionship if desired. At the far end there was a bar and food was served on silver platters to those who ordered it. The quiet murmur of conversation filled the air, his arrival not even warranting a glance.

Patrick went to the bar and ordered a whisky, seeking out a single armchair by one of the large, ceiling-high, leaded windows. He moved the chair so that it faced into the room and from his seat, with drink in hand and newspaper on lap, he observed the room.

He saw the men he wanted enter and join a group of armchairs where four people were already seated. He watched them shake hands and laugh. He could almost smell the arrogance from his seat.

He got up and walked over to the bar for a refill, needing to move to release the anger stirring within. It wasn’t time yet, but it would be shortly.

Then a familiar face arrived.

‘Patrick! You made it!’ Randolf extended his hand and Patrick gave it a hearty shake.

‘Yes, I fit the bill this time.’

‘Indeed you do,’ Randolf said looking him up and down. ‘Are they here?’ Randolf turned following Patrick’s nod to the far corner where six men were engaged in a conversation. ‘Ah, yes, there they are, gathered up nicely.’

‘It’s only Romford and Delaney I need.’

‘Oh no, dear fellow, it’s all six of them. You might not recognise the others, but I promise you they were thoroughly involved. In fact the one on the right of Delaney was the one who made the decision to take down your reputation.’

‘Six is too many for me.’

‘But you can manage three? We can take half each.’

Patrick grinned. ‘I didn’t think you wanted to get involved?’

‘Initially I didn’t, but yesterday one of them bought up some shares in one of my companies, so I think it’s only a matter of time.’

‘It’s how it started for me. I welcomed the investment at the beginning, but they soon showed their colours.’

‘Yes, putrid colours they are too.’

They downed the remains of their whiskies, and nodded at each other, turning in unison to join the six men.

‘Gentlemen!’ Randolf approached them in a joyous manner. ‘Sorry to interrupt, but we have an interesting proposition for you all, if you would care to join us in the conference room.’

The men smiled, their eyes sparkling at the idea of a new venture. They collectively rose, happy to follow. They smiled at Patrick as they passed, no recognition, which wasn’t a surprise as he’d only been a name on an acquisition paper.

Randolf led the way, with Patrick at the rear, grateful for his friend’s involvement. They took stairs down to the conference room level, and walked to the end of the corridor to a large, elegant room without windows.

The men filed in and sat round the table, three on each side. Randolf smiled at Patrick as he closed and locked the door behind him. The two then stood at the top of the table and turned their smiles on their guests.

As their teeth showed a second set dropped down from behind, longer and sharper. They opened their jackets, taking them off along with their shirts and ties, the men crying out in shock and terror as their armoured skin was revealed. One even dived for the door, but Patrick grabbed him, his fingers and arms having extended, and his exposed talons reducing the man’s protests to a gurgle as he sliced them across his neck.

The other men cowered at the back of the room as Randolf and Patrick advanced.

‘You take our lives; we’ll take yours, simple,’ Randolf said.

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Review: A Winkle in Esturary Mud, by Michael Wombat

A Winkle in Estuary Mud: a poetpourriA Winkle in Estuary Mud: a poetpourri by Michael Wombat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a collection of contemporary poetry written by Michael Wombat over the years and what a joy! So much emotion and some of it quite heart breaking, some of it wistful, existential, and some amusing too.

I'm not a big poetry reader. I studied it at school and college in with the curriculum, but much of that was dated or masked in terms that aren't fully understood anymore. This was fresh and contempory. Michael Wombat explains some of the forms he writes in, from Haiku and Tanka, to Villanelle. And he formats the poems on the page in unique ways which make it more attractive and interesting to read. The poems are divided into elements, grouping them together, which he explains in the introduction.

It's hard to pick ones out, but I laughed at Dylan Thomas Is Not My Real Mum, and really enjoyed the rhythm of Four-beat Downbeat. And The Breath Before The Kiss tugged at my heart strings.

If you appreciate poetry I would definitely recommend a dip into this.

View all my reviews

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 253

This week's picture prompt is a photo taken by Sci-Fi author Gareth Powell over on twitter. He wrote alongside it, 'When you stumble across a doorway in a forest, do you open it?' A brilliant prompt question. 

It's been a while, but this was perfect for a Tricky snippet, and may even help with a plot line. It's been a while since I have provided one. The last time was Week 246

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.

The base of a large tree trunk where there is a roughly cut little wooden or stone door put into it. Taken by writer Gareth Powell.

Secret Door

Tricky marvelled at the huge red giants as she wandered through them. They dwarfed the oak and ash trees that lived here. This had to be one of the oldest areas on the landmass. They must have survived the shift, although she couldn’t rule out that they weren’t super growers too. She knew it was possible for some species to grow a few feet in a year – the purple tyrians did. She couldn’t be sure about the blue deviants as they moved about so much at night, sneaky buggers that they were.

These red giants had not only height, they had girth. Their trunks were wider than the double front doors at the Lansdowne house. You could live in it, although she didn’t think they’d want you to.

Tricky turned a corner and came to a sudden stop. She’d been thinking about doors and there was one in the side of a giant red.

She looked up at the tree. It was still living and seemed to be undeterred by what must be a manmade hole in its trunk. She laid her hands on the bark and sure enough a jolt of burnt orange energy rushed through her. The red seemed unperturbed by the invasion.

The door wasn’t that big. It was smaller than Tricky, and she wondered if it was actually a door or just a piece of shaped wood propped up against it. But when she got closer she could see that was set into the trunk and had a small wooden handle.

She paused, looking around her. She didn’t know why she thought that someone might be looking, there were only trees here, and no other people had passed through for some time from how the foliage laid. So what exactly was this? Could it lead down to Stanislav’s lair?

She put her hand on the wooden handle and pulled. The door came away easily; it wasn’t locked.

She peered into the darkness behind and saw a steep incline down into the ground. Could it lead into the network of bunkers, or was this just a hidey hole of sorts? Where did it lead? And was she foolish enough to find out without any guidance or advice?

She stepped back and closed the door, her mind spinning. She could easily travel down it unseen – that would be easy with the peridot and leaf. But what to do once she got down there? If she found Dufray, then what? Or worse if she bumped into Stanislav’s people? So many questions, none of which she could answer without being nosey and taking a trip down there. But she could be walking right into a trap, giving herself to them, when she was only meant to be looking for the obsidian.

She looked up at the tree. It might know and be able to guide her.

She put her hands on its trunk again and embraced the strong energy it emitted, opening up her own energy for it to mingle. She held an image of the door in her mind’s eye and waited. The tree showed different people going in and out, none of whom she recognised. They could also be from any time period: recent or past.

She focused on the incline going down under the tree, wondering if the tree had an idea of where it went underneath. It showed people going up and down with lights in their hands. Tricky saw herself walking down with one of these people and the tree picked up on her intention, leading her down in a spiral, until the light they held was overtaken by a larger light below. Then she saw it: a concrete encased tunnel, like an underground corridor and several rooms. It was one of the bunkers, and she had no doubt that although the face of Stanislav might not be amongst them, these were his recruits – his network.

She thanked the tree by sending out her energy as a token of her gratitude and lifted her hands from its trunk.

She didn’t think it prudent to investigate this alone, but she had mapped it in her mind and knew how to return. It might be a way in later, after she had found the obsidian and had garnered Tumelo’s support.


Wednesday 1 June 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 252

This week's picture prompt was created by Swedish artist Andreas Häggkvist who has created art to highlight awareness for animals and the environment and to save our planet. He has also created (or is part of, it's unclear) an Instagram account for Art for Causes, where you can buy art to raise money to non-profit organisations working to save the planet. Definitely worth checking out. More affordable than I expected. 

I'm not sure what it was about this particular picture that inspired me, but it did, so here's the little piece I've written for it. You could say it is in line with the theme of saving the planet. An imagined conversation. 

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.

A long haired highland cow standing in a snowy field, bordered by trees, with a fox & fox cub and 3 squirrels on it, and another on the ground next to it. It is snowing and the sun is setting. Created by  Andreas Häggkvist

Southern Journey

“Do you think the snow will ever stop?” Mother Squirrel asked Mother Fox from her place on Mr Highland’s left horn.

“It hasn’t now for six months, so I really don’t know,” she replied.

“But we’re running out of food. Nothing new can grow in this endless snow. We’re fortunate enough to have Mr Highland to keep warm in but it won’t be enough to keep the babies fed.”

“It will be better down south.” Mr Highland’s deep voice resonated through his body as he joined the conversation. “We just need to keep going. And with Mr Fox scouting ahead, we should manage it.”

“We need to find a den though,” said Mr Fox from his position on the ground. Somewhere we can all rest for a few days, and maybe where I can hunt down a meal for us.

“You’ll be wasting your energy, love,” said Mrs Fox. “They’ve either died already or are hibernating, hoping this thing will pass.”

Maybe we should hibernate too, mum,” said Fox Cub.

“Oh sweetie, it would be easier if we could, but unfortunately it’s not in our DNA. We hibernate and we starve. Our bodies aren’t built to hold the fat required.”

“Neither is mine,” said Mr Highland.

“Or ours,” said Mr Squirrel. “That’s why I try and hide enough stash throughout the Spring to see us through, but we’ve had all there is and nothing new is growing in this frozen landscape.”

“It’s hopeless!” said Baby Squirrel who had settled into Fox Cub’s fur.

“Now, now, let’s not get carried away,” said Mr Highland. “I’m the only one who will be doing the carrying here. And I say we just need to keep going south. So all of you hold on and I’ll speed up a bit. Why don’t you jump up Mr Fox? You’ll be able keep an eye out for any potential den for the night from up there too.”

Mr Fox climbed up and joined his family who huddled together, with the squirrel family squeezing into nooks and crannies between their legs and tail to keep warm too. It also served as an additional blanket for Mr Highland who barely felt their weight. But that weight would get lighter if they didn’t find some fresh food soon.  He picked up the pace and kept moving forward guided by the occasional glimpse of the sun to stay on track. He was sure there had to be in a break in the weather soon enough. Everyone always said it was warmer down south.