Ruin

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And so I find myself walking an unknown yet strangely familiar path – all around me there is a rustling and a fluttering of little birds in the trees and bushes, almost as if they are signposting the way, guiding me.

Along the little lane, surrounded either side by old trees, old country trees, oak, beech, ash and the witch’s own rowan, leaning over me. Along the verges, cow parsley, delicate and as frothily white as vintage lace, ramsons, smelling sharply of garlic and long lush grass, encourages me onwards; my feet responding to some old memory that leads me to an old wooden stile, battered but still sturdy enough for me to cross out of the cool green darkness and into the field beyond.

And somehow what I half-expected wasn’t there. I pick my way across the rough tussocky grass. And as if in a dream, I see it; I am approaching the back of the house, rising in red brick splendour, through the gardens, (the rough remnants, the herbs, the rosemary, the lavender, crushing under my feet and releasing their evocative fragrance) immaculately kept within neat boundaries of shaped box.

I am come home!” and this thought gladdens my heart as I make my way down the old stone steps, old even then, feet wearing away grooves and leaving echoes of lives gone by, and into the kitchen.

Cook’s let the fire go out!”

And feeling the bustling dogs, crowding about my knees, my hounds and her little dogs, my father’s wolfhound – I put my hand out, down by my side and half -expect to feel the soft smooth domed head of my favourite Talbot beneath my touch – heart wrenchingly disappointed yet somehow not surprised when she’s no longer there.

More stairs and into the hallway – grass underfoot now, crunching and dry – and with every hesitant step taken the picture is clearer, dark oak floorboards, rich paintings on the walls, a highly polished side table loaded with fresh flowers – she insisted upon fresh flowers for the house always – and linen fold panelling, gleaming with beeswax hiding the oubliette from long ago – but not now.

The curlicue of banister and wide stairs and a memory of small white hands – how proud she was of their dainty appearance, lavishly beringed, small yet strong enough to wring a dove’s neck, poised prettily on the turn of the carved finial. And a memory came then, of the last day, my father’s voice raised in anger, her mocking laughter – the blood and the pain.

It’s gone.

I open my eyes to the present day and find I am sitting on a heap of old red bricks, worn and unnoticeable amongst the tough old grass. The sun beats down, burning bright from the cloudless blue sky. Somewhere above me I hear swifts screaming and the clear bubbling song of a lonely lark. I put my hands to my face to wipe away the tears that suddenly, inexplicably are flooding my eyes.

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Maiden, Man, Death.

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She walked with grace in her step and the scent of summer in her hair. As she moved, the folds of her dress shimmered with the rainbows of rivers and moths and butterflies fluttered from it as she flowed along Mother Earth’s ways.

Trees leaned confidingly towards her and she touched them as she passed, with love and care so they blossomed. All the golds of this good earth glowed in her hair, buttercups and daffodils, ripe barley and goldfinches.

When she lay down to rest, the trees and grass enfolded her lovingly, protectively and wild deer showed their trust by lying down beside her. Every morning when she awoke she gave thanks to the Universe and Mother Earth for their gifts and generosity and as she sang her gratitude the little birds stopped to listen.

Her eyes were the clear blue of a summer sky, filled with gentle warmth for every living creature; no snake or spider or scorpion held fear for her as they were all Mother Earth’s children.

Indeed, scorpions curled their tails away to avoid stinging her delicate bare feet and snakes curled themselves in her hair and around her wrists, living coils of iridescent jewellery. The spiders spun silk to mend her dress and as she danced the soft breezes were her partner. Tiny white flowers grew in her wake as she walked.

He stunk. Chemically bad, industrially corrupted. He smiled and fawned, ingratiating, yet grubby in mind and spirit. He strode through life with every appearance of confidence and intelligence; yet inside, cancerous doubt and invasive fear lived.

He searched. He looked for something to fill the dark void inside him – he who had seen Hell sought to bring others to him and his understanding, baiting traps with soft words and gifts, anything to catch an offering for the gnawing hunger inside him.

Others slid uneasy from the clawing need, sensing with ancient animal instinct the corrosive burn of his interest. He dressed with care yet somehow always appeared slightly dirty round the edges, fingers stained and sulphurous, fingernails rimmed with grime that reflected his most secret desires.

Assuming familiarity with those around him gave him the courage. The darkness grew. And then he saw her and the fire burned higher and brighter till it threatened to consume him completely and he knew that only one thing could quench it.

She smelt him before she saw him. The dark smoke of his spirit invaded her senses, yet with her belief in the ultimate goodness of every living being, she turned to face him.

He smiled, invitingly, and on his breath she smelled her death. Fear rose in her throat and she turned to run, to fly, to seek refuge among kindness and understanding. He followed. He crept along behind her on slug-soft feet and she felt every step, his starving eyes on her back like poisoned knives, and the want, the terrible Want.

The darkness struck and took her down – gently, oh so gently, he reached out and clasped her throat, rejoicing as he felt the frantic pulse fluttering like a little bird.

And then he crushed it.

Ground out the beat in her throat like a miserly hand-rolled cigarette. She gasped and struggled as his stench overwhelmed her, but the Goddess was kind and she passed quickly, her life spark ascending as swiftly as a little bird, leaving behind only a faint sweet smell, like incense, and a tiny white flower..

Him? Mother Earth took him, for killing one of hers, drawing him painfully through a narrow chasm in the ground, cracking bones and squeezing flesh till all that was left was a yellow puddle, smelling faintly of urine and nicotine.

Father Sun came out and shone, burning, until even that was gone. And the Earth was cleansed.

Hunger (Adult Content)

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He hungered. He burned. He – lusted. No other word for it.

Unsatisfied by his pretty, clever wife he took to late nights and sleazy pubs, ever on the lookout, the hunt, seeking that special something that would soothe the ache in his loins.

His wife didn’t know – how could she, occupied as she was with their children, their perfect home, their lovely life, their status.

He wanted them all and so he took them, and yes, they were willing enough. The shy and the wanton – both could be bought for the right price and often it was no more than a couple of kind words. Behind the pub, dark corners in slimy side streets, their own rooms or flats – he wasn’t bothered, searching as he was for something to stop the hunger.

He sank himself between the loins of thin, hungry young men who writhed beneath him like buckets of eels; women, drawn to him by the unspoken promise of something dark in his eyes. He rubbed and fawned and licked and chatted – still he burned.

One evening, after a particularly stressful day, he found he couldn’t face the faintly accusing face of his wife and thought he would spend a pleasant hour or so fishing in a pub he had noticed earlier on in the day. Tucked away down a cobbled alley, it seemed cheery enough with an old-world ambience and plenty of cosy booths for an intimate moment.

He collected his drink and turned towards the formerly empty booth he had chose, only to find it taken.

And how… the voluptuous woman was, at best, kindly described as overflowing. Pillowy breasts threatened to spill from her low cut, frilled top. Above her cavernous cleavage, a wide, generous face, blue eyes with heavy lashes and plump, succulent lips that were ripe for biting.

He inserted himself onto the bench next to her and placed a hand on the broad, sumptuous flesh of her thigh – such legs, wide, cushiony. All at once it became the most urgent priority, the most important thing in the world that he should bury himself in her folds of flesh, grasp her and inhale her.

Later – but not much later, they hadn’t got beyond a mutual sigh of consent between sucking kisses – in her bed he rolled and fondled and fumbled, sweating and slippery as she moaned above him, beneath him, around him.

He pushed between her eager legs and pushed. He pushed and thrust and at the height of his pleasure – nothing. He awoke, it seemed, only moments later to find himself in unfamiliar, yet strangely recognisable surroundings.

A dark corridor stretched before him, ridged and heaving, pulsating with every step he took. He put a hand out to the wall, strangely slick and warm, and jerked back sharply as it shuddered beneath his touch. All around him in the stifling warmth, the walls, ceiling, floor heaved and contracted while a low moaning filled his ears.

He wiped his hand against his leg and began to run.

Circle

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Hers was the religion of flower and tree, beetle, bird and dew. In every raindrop she saw the smile of the Goddess, in the curve of every branch, the arms of the Mother.

Barefoot, she wandered through the forest, rejoicing in the feel of moss and twig underfoot. Hers were the old ways, lessons learned when the world was young and still learning itself.

The earth sang and thrummed beneath her feet, the wet and the glory filled with a buzzing life, an energy that could be found in the curl of every leaf, a wholeness in every pebble, every rock; the sometimes wildness and cruelty tempered by the knowledge of a never-ending cycle of life and renewal.

She saw the birds hatch their young and the wild cats nurse their kits, hidden away in dens. She witnessed death, brought by swift fang and slashing claw and accepted it as part of the Mother’s ever-turning wheel; watching as remains turned to bones and scraps, carried away by worms, to be returned to the warm wet earth.

She lived in harmony, balance, showing them how to take no more than they needed, always giving thanks and gratitude and love to the Mother.

Then others came.

From far away, they came with crushing foot and rending hand, ripping and tearing the very heart from the land she loved, the trees she cared for. They came, bringing strange bright gods from hot dusty lands, gods that conquered and devoured.

She watched and wept as they cut down the trees, chained her land in stone and iron. People fled, animals died, and there was no renewal, no honour.

Exhausted, depleted, afraid and angry, she fled, deeper into the wild places where the savage side still dwelt. Finally she found what she was looking for, a rent, a natural cleft in the wet red earth.

She crawled inside, deeper and deeper, till the blood pounded in her ears, her head sang and the arms of the Mother enfolded her in the warm red earth. She closed her eyes and waited.

Waited to be reborn.

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Trust.

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Walkies! Great! Let’s go! What? In the car? All right then… but wait. Stop. Please. Where are you going? Don’t leave me! Gone.

Dark. Alone. Afraid. Where am I? Home. Want to go home – what’s that? Frightened. Noisy. Run. Run. Run.

Hurt. Paws hurt. Tired. Alone. Afraid. Hungry. Afraid. Sad.

Dark. So tired. Sleep.

Gerrout! Go on! Gerrout of it!”

Run. Oh – that hurt! Run. Lost. What did I do?

Bad dog!”

Run.

Tired. Frightened. Alone. Sad. I’m not a bad dog. Just old.

What – run!

Shouting, throwing things and not to play.

Here – quiet, lie down…

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The old dog jumped, startled awake at the gentle touch on his head, and struggled to sit up on tired old haunches, ready to run at a moment’s notice on cracked sore paws.

It’s all right, boy, don’t be scared…”

The young man reached out a hand to the old dog who looked up into his face; and consideringly, carefully, he lifted his paw and put it in the young man’s hand.

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The Show Must Go On

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He closed the door of the flat behind him, pulling it gently to for the last time until he felt the lock click. He sighed, as he closed the door on years of memories too. The love and the pleasure, the happiness of learning one another, the likes and dislikes, the simple joy of finding that other person that made his half whole.

He took a step away from the door, and looked up into the sky, dark and lowering with the threat of rain and the colour of an old bruise. He shifted his backpack so it sat more comfortably on his aching shoulders and hefted his case down the steps, stopping one last time to look up at the window, the window into his past, his happy memories of love and closeness and belonging.

The grey, faded curtains remained resolutely closed, closed like an unreasoning mind, shut to explanation, not at home to trust.

He started to walk away, and, as he did, a light rain began to fall, bringing with it echoes of accusations and questions, the tears, the tantrums. His heart pained and his soul weighed him down, failed expectations biting at his heels like the mad dog of despair.

Ahead, a solitary ray of sunshine made a gleaming appearance through the clouds, coyly peeping at his destination. The theatre.

With every step, the sky brightened and the clouds receded. His heart lifted, as did his step. By the time he reached the stage door, the early evening had warmed and dried.

The backstage scents of body, costumes, old makeup welcomed him. He opened his dressing room door, the door to his future and switched on the light.

Sitting at his mirror, he carefully applied meticulous layer after layer of foundation, blusher, contour, eyeshadow, then outlining a pair of lusciously generous lips, filled in with rich opulent purple. He glued outrageously false eyelashes and with every layer, every sparkle, every glittering false nail his heart healed.

Finally, he stepped into the crimson crushed velvet gown and checked its fall around his hips and stockinged legs, leaning towards the mirror to fluff creamy blonde curls around his sculpted cheekbones.

Drawing one last sigh, casting aside his cares with a flick of his gown, he stepped out. Out onto the stage and struck a pose.

House lights down – stage lights up and –

Hello-oo Dahlings!”

Hope

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Thank you Alex for the use of your lovely photo

It was cold. So very cold. The bitter, biting dry cold where the sky was icy bright blue and the very air sang and sparkled with ice crystals.

The little one waited, huddled in the scant shelter of a dark hedge.

The cold was intense, so cold it made your teeth ache and your bones snap. And still the little one waited.

Night came. Someone was near, watching and sad, filled with worry for the little one who waited but whose spark was now very frail. Hope was nearly gone, abandoned before Life was even really started.

The Watcher could bear it no more and stepped down, down from the dark, down in the singing cold as the stars spun in their icy waltz, down in the bleak night to appear before the little one.

She scooped her up, gently, feeling the little life left in its delicate shell and cupped in her hands, and breathed warmth and life into the little one.

Not very far away, a woman lay, sleepless in the dark and the cold, sleepless in the night while tears froze on her cheeks, warm in her bed but cold in her life. Suddenly she thrust back her duvet and thought she would look out into the calm dark, see if it would ease her pain.

She slipped on her dressing gown and went downstairs to open her door into the night, and there on the step lay a little scrap, a tiny thing.

The kitten looked up at the woman and meowed, faintly, hopefully. She bent down to pick her up, and as the little one purred so the frost in her heart began to thaw.

The Watcher returned to her place and told Him what she had done. He smiled and was pleased for although some may be lost there is always Hope.