The Seagull

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Thank you Alex for the use of your beautiful photo x

I saw a dead seagull today and it upset me more than it should have done, or perhaps more than I thought it would.

A big herring gull, crisp white feathers and smooth grey wings. Strong, curved yellow beak, but greyish filmy lids closed over fierce proud eyes.

Still and silent in the middle of the road, carelessly crumpled and neck bent awkwardly back on itself and legs outstretched.

You should be flying free and wild, soaring over the sea, screeching your savage call to carry on the wind. Not here.

You should look down upon seas churned with foam, waves crashing towards the land. Not here.

Not dusty tarmac. You should blink fiercely out of existence into magnificent nothingness.

A dirty city street is no place to die.

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.

As the Barrel Swings…

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I must thank Lady Joyful for lending me the use of her picture, please go and have a look at her lovely blogs. As well as being a talented card maker, she also does the Photo A Day Challenge and we both agreed that this particular picture looked as though it had a story to tell.

So, here you are. Thank you, Lady Joyful, for lending me your picture and providing me with a haunting title…

As The Barrel Swings…

The landlord was proud of his beer and justly so. His inn was warm and welcoming, clean and restful, and the brew he served danced as lightly on the tongue as if it had been stirred by the Little Folk themselves. The landlord like his father, and grandfather before him, believed in giving a good beer to his customers and proudly hung a barrel outside his inn, directly outside his daughter’s chamber window, and as she lay in her bed, she could hear it creaking gently in the breeze – a badge of office and confirmation of the delicate beverage to be found within.

The customers came, from far and wide, to drink this beer and eat home made bread and cheese, the yeasty dough and white crumbly cheese the perfect accompaniment to the golden, summer-smelling beer.

The landlord’s reputation spread, attracting custom from all over the county, including the gentry and their friends. Sometimes the landlord’s wife and daughter would be obliged to help serve thirsty farmhands their drinks, while the sons changed barrels and cleared tables, good humoured and bluff.

And then one day, as the breeze blew, it brought something new. Something slim, dark and rapier sharp, riding on a fine grey stallion, soft of mouth and light of foot. The young man was friend to the squire’s son, but a very different being in this country of blonde men and women, apple cheeked and round limbed. No, this young man was dark and fine, delicately drawn and thin but strong, as the muscles corded and rippled through the fine cotton on his shirt.

The landlord’s daughter couldn’t take her eyes off him. Her eyes lingered admiringly on the strong young throat, shadowed darkly with sleek hair, so very different to the yellow coarseness of those around her like the stubble on the fields when the wheat was harvested.

He laughed and lowered his tankard and his eyes fell upon the landlord’s daughter. A speaking silence hung between them, dark eyes locked on blue. A brother’s shove flung thoughts of love aside and she returned to her duties.

A murmuring, a discontented mutter from the brother to the father and all eyes turned to the dark young man, slim and elegant like a shady flame.

His eyes returned again and again to the landlord’s daughter, plumply pretty and moon fair.

He watched her and waited, a sleek dark fox patiently seeking his prize. As she slipped out the back to empty the spitoon, the young man nonchalantly left to use the privy. He caught her by the stables and looked deep into her eyes. She gazed back and was lost as he raised a hand and placed it gently, oh so gently, on the soft skin of her throat. A meeting was arranged, a time was agreed; and they parted with the promise of passion to be shared.

A figure slid out of the shadows by the stables, a brother had heard and reported back all to their father, not a word left unsaid.

With fury and rage, the landlord simmered. He and his sons swore that the daughter would not stray and resolved to stop this in the country way.

Night time fell, a summer evening sweet with promise, yet anticipated chill as Autumn waited around season’s corner, the wolf of Winter not far behind. The scent of honeysuckle gilded the air as bats slipped through the sky and an owl called softly as it flew past on moth-downy wings, startling the girl who waited by the elm. Her heart beat brightly in her chest with pleasure as she waited for the one who held her love.

The slim young man set out eagerly on foot, weaving through the darkness to where his love waited, the one in whose eyes he had seen his future. His foot fell on the gravel path – at once he felt a warmth at his back and a fear at his soul. The breath left his lungs with a terrible blow.

His love stood waiting, waiting by the tree as he fought for his life and tried to struggle free.

The landlord and his sons – for it was them of course – beat the young man until he was dead. The daughter’s heart broke, piece by tender piece, as the promise of a future slowly disappeared, as the evening dew fell, as mist wreathed the tree.

Left with a body they had to hide, the man and his sons took it inside.

And into the barrel they carefully packed the fine young man from whom they had hacked, body and soul, life and limb. They emptied his life into the barrel, they sealed it with tar and hung it with care.

The barrel was replaced outside the daughter’s chamber window: she returned home, sadly and quietly, a little bit older and a world of grief wiser and retreated to her bed to cry and mourn.

She never married or looked at another man, grieving for a love so briefly held and lost, yet unawares that the man she mourned and longed for hung within touching distance.

As she aged, he decayed, united in loss; and the landlord thrived.

The Thought Mouse

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The old lady sat in her chair and looked out of her window, over her back garden. The front garden was little more than a token, a slip of green and a stone step, enough on which to set a pot of cheerful seasonal bulbs. But her back garden brought her pleasure: crammed with old fashioned roses that lounged against the walls or reached joyously upwards, spilling silky petals and heavy scent.

The potted jasmine threw lacy designs against the trunk of the old lilac tree, growing delicate white flowers, the shape of an elegant lady’s shoe that overflowed with perfume. As the old lady’s sight had failed, she had come to value her other senses more dearly and had taken care to grow plants that spoke to her with their smell and touch. She reached absent-mindedly down to the side of her chair, reached for the soft warm ears and rounded head of her dog, then sighed as she remembered. He had passed from this world and into the next a couple of months earlier, lying in her arms while the nice young lady vet spoke soothingly.

The old lady felt a shove of grief, as vicious as a mugger but pushed it aside and resolutely peered into her garden, seeking distraction at the bird table. Bold starlings chattered and bustled, while little brown sparrows darted in to seize a beakful of seed and deliver it to their half-fledged babies, chirping sweetly and fluttering their wings imploringly

But what was that? A sudden scurry, a swift rush, sharp enough to catch her old eyes. A little mouse! He looked cautiously from behind the geraniums and darted a little closer to the food. The old lady smiled to see him select a sunflower seed, holding it in his tiny pink paws and nibbling at it delicately. She watched as he wiped his whiskers fastidiously and left, following an obviously familiar route along the old brick wall. Weeks passed, and it grew to be a regular event.

“Come on then, cheeky,” she would call and a small brown head would pop out of a crevice in the wall, black beady eyes alight with interest, The old lady waited for his visits and he brightened her hours, for as summer progressed, she knew she hadn’t long left.

One day, she left a little piece of chocolate by the bird table, a particular treat for herself and something mice preferred above all else, she recalled hearing somewhere. She waited for the little mouse. He arrived, following his usual route, but instead of seizing his chocolate and retreating, he sat up on his haunches and regarded her steadily.

“What is it then? You’ve got a look in your eye like my old Rex when he wanted a stroke!” Gently the old lady reached out and touched the tiny head. Smooth warm fur, soft as silk met her fingertips and the old lady smiled.

A sudden flurry of wings startled the mouse and he left rapidly, with a whisk of his tail. The old lady got to her feet – for all her age she had remained fit and limber, thanks in part to careful eating and regular walking. Suddenly tired, she returned indoors to sit in her chair, and enjoy the evening sun as it set over her garden.

“I’ll just close my eyes a minute, then I’d better see to dinner,” she thought. As her eyes closed, she felt again the warmth and fragility of the little mouse head under her fingertips and smiled, as the last of the evening sun fell upon her tired old face.

***

The house was empty and clean. Airy and welcoming. The young couple marvelled at the price and high ceilings, loved the mortgage and picture rails.

“All untouched, so perhaps if you fancy a good make-over project, rip out the garden and extend the kitchen into this area…” The man and woman looked at each other. It was peaceful, happy and welcoming. No one had lived there for months and it would be a lovely house to raise a family, pleasant and untouched.

And yet, if anyone had cared to look, as the smart young estate agent swept the hopeful young couple out of the room, they would have seen a trail of tiny pawprints, along the old skirting board and disappearing outside.

Words and drawing Copyright © 2016 Samantha Murdoch

The Nature of Compassion

 

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“Come the revolution they’ll all be dead,”
His father said and he shook his head.

The boy, he watched and inside he cried,
Cried for the innocents who had died.

He watched and waited,
He waited and learned
And vowed to help with the knowledge he earned.

This kind young man
He thought: “I can.”

Out on his own,
He flew to the zone

He tended the dying,
Wiped tears of the crying.

Then one day, the young man fell ill.
His last breath left him and he lay still.

His mother, she cried.
Part of her died.

His father raged and he shook his head.
“Come the revolution I’ll see the bastards dead.”

Words Copyright © 2016 Samantha Murdoch