A Bit Of A Re-Blog…

73413178_553060501929597_9041579587477176320_n

I just seem to have had one of those weeks where I have run out of time, not been able to catch up with anything and I have been using the same shopping list for the past ten days…consequently we have plenty of cat kibbles, a bewildering preponderance of frozen peas, pepperoni and vegan pizzas and an advent calendar for Charlie. The others don’t bother so much but Charlie loves the daily thrill of opening the little doors…

Anyway, I was trying to catch up with my NaNo when I found this little story from a few years ago, and it made me feel a little sad at how bleakly it read, although the original idea was actually sparked by a charming dinner service I saw in our supermarket, with all manner of fanciful beasties…have a read and see what you think, friends, and I will try to be more organised and catch up with everybody…

Alice Updated.

Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”

Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out drinking all night!”

These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.

It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of summer when she had been at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or how she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this.

The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.

Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.

Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”

The tall dark boy with knives in his eyes laughed like a maniac and pushed the glass towards her.

She drank, and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.

When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.

She sat up and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and as warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.

And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock, and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.

She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.

*

Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”

The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.

A Vision Of My Old Age

71341850_755213668234021_6686870128291741696_n

She wandered, this woman, age indistinguishable from the lines on her face. Up, down and along, the breadth and width of the country. Her face was strangely calm, bleached and blanched of the pain of past emotion, past trouble, past life, that had scored their marks indelibly on her skin with a sharp instrument as bitter as words.

Instead, now, she raised her countenance to the kindly sun, let the rain fall upon her eyes, the snow colour her hair and the wind slap her cheeks. At night she slept – never in towns, never on streets where malice and pain lingered, collected in corners like dirty washing up left too long, grey and grimy.

Instead, now, pressed against the earth, curled against a tree, buried by leaves or grass she found her rest.

She wandered, crossing the country, past looking but always searching for a memory. She filled her eyes and mind with sights and sounds to comfort her empty heart. Home; a memory, warmth, light, family, children – curdled like milk left out too long, sour and tainted with expectation. She sometimes took that memory out and carried it, looked at it like an untrustworthy torch, flickering and weak, two small faces raised to hers – “Mummy!”

Then she put it away, put it away in a box at the back of her mind and continued to wander.

She walked north, feet drawn by ancient blood memory and right-feeling, walking away her own family history but unknowingly walking where her ancestors had first come ashore, first lived in sight of the rest of the world.

One early morning, as she lay in the shelter of an old hedgerow she became aware of a fox looking at her, and perhaps stirred by the echo of a family pet, dog or cat, she stretched out a hand to it. It regarded her steadily for a moment, nose working busily to process all the rich human scents and then it turned and slipped away into the undergrowth again.

She sighed, a little saddened, but rose to her feet and raised a calm face to the horizon.

I stoop again to tighten the knot in the rag that’s holding my boot together and walk on, heart beating in time with the rich pulse of the earth.

Summer Son

38461452_304744653604282_9166102723886579712_n

He was born to her in the middle of the year, when she was bright and warm, full of love and hope. He slipped easily into the world from her body and at once she felt his absence within her.

However, she nurtured him carefully in the outside world and poured all her love and hope and soul into her son, with his eyes as blue as summer skies, hair as gold as ripe wheat and smiles as warming as the Sun himself.

Mother and son formed the perfect unit of two, never needing anyone else, their spiritual footsteps so closely linked they were like one person. Her son grew and thrived.

When does it begin, the slow inexorable divorce of child from mother; the loving, inevitable withdrawal, as he chose his own paths, his own way, and the life that was once so closely bound to his mother’s diverged.

He kept a part of himself for her; but her boy, her bright boy, into whom she had poured her life and soul, left her.

Autumn crept into her bones and winter settled in her heart; yet still she hoped he would return to her sometimes, and bring a little brightness with him, restoring a little of her own youth.

She was grateful, then for the windows of social media that allowed her to look through at her son’s life and glimpse a little.

Eventually, the soul cold winter triumphed and she gave in on a day not unlike the one on which she welcomed her son into the world. It was only later, when he was checking his messages, that he found out she had died.

Ruin

37019298_282441879167893_3839492194717138944_n

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.

Maiden, Man, Death.

36649151_275190939892987_6600685338845249536_n

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)

30704441_228104561268292_1613794885859540992_n

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.

Hope

23635505_157138631698219_480874407_n
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.

Pipes

22831100_145465186198897_439903516_o

The little girl sobbed in fright and sat up in her bed, as once again, the old pipes and plumbing of the house began to scream and whine. Her bed shook as the floorboards juddered, and, panicked, she called for her parents.

They arrived, tired and rumpled from their own room, and the little girl tried very hard not to cry as, for the umpteenth time, her father explained with exasperated kindness how it was just water moving through the pipes that made the house shake, that the pipes expanded and contracted in the heat of the day and the cool of the night.

Unconvinced, the little girl let herself be tucked back into bed and given her favourite teddy to hold. She drifted back into an uneasy sleep.

The days passed, the nights too, and the dark circles under the little girl’s eyes grew. Every night she lay awake and trembled in fright as the pipes howled and wailed their screaming demon song.

The blood pounded in her ears as she lay in bed, taking on the rhythm and depth of footsteps, troll footsteps, that thumped in her head till her heart hurt and she grew dizzy from not listening.

Till one night, she couldn’t bear it any longer. She pushed her warm duvet aside, leaving behind the comfort of her teddy, not even stopping to push her feet into her little pink fluffy slippers.

She crept out of her bedroom, and across the landing, avoiding the creaky floorboard that would alert her parents. She placed her palm against the bathroom door and pushed. It opened silently, obligingly, welcoming.

The tiles were very cold under her feet, and were faintly vibrating, or so it seemed. A tiny whistling, ghostly and ethereal, was issuing from the plughole of the washbasin. The little girl could just reach, if she stood on tiptoe, to pull the light cord that illuminated a tiny mirror over the basin. She caught a glimpse of her own pale, tired face and leaned forwards, a little further, over the basin.

The plughole gaped, threateningly and suddenly the whistling howl was louder. A lot louder and as the little girl leaned forwards, the plughole leered and yawned and gaped and –

Gone. Suddenly swallowed. The little girl was gone.

Her parents would never move from that house. Her father blamed himself, and her mother swore that she could her her little girl calling, lost, somewhere in the pipes.

Thank you to Samantha – great name – of Key Image, for the idea for this little story, after a conversation about plumbing… !

Boots

22643347_141537206591695_794779156_o

All my life, I have been haunted by a scene, one particular scene, dream-like and yet so vivid I live it every single time, over and over again.

I’m tired, so very tired, aching to my bones. We’re marching, or walking rather; my eyes are fixed on the back of the man in front of me, the monotonous drag of his feet and slouch of his shoulders.

The straps of my pack are chafing my own shoulders and I hitch them up irritably, the rough green canvas scratchy against my fingers. My rifle is heavy and unwieldy, slung across the front of my body. I’ve had enough now,, how had I ever thought this could be an adventure.

The captain calls a halt, and we slump down gratefully for a minute’s breather and a gulp of lukewarm water from my canteen. I try to adjust my boots – the tough leather has rubbed the skin off in a red angry circle all around my the bottom of my shins.

The man – boy, really, next to me, coughs and spits, the road is dusty and relentless. Up again and onwards, the going’s better now, a country lane, dusty, still, yes but curving round to the left and there’s a farmhouse, yes, a little farmhouse and a yard we’ll be safe there can rest but there’s a shot –

                                                                  *

I woke up, sweating and cold in my own bed, my husband’s warm bulk, snoring gently, next to me.

I shrugged off the remnants of the dream, along with my sweaty pyjamas and got ready for work. Tense and headachy all day, legs sore with phantom blisters, I was only too ready to go to bed when I got home –

                                                                   *

I’m tired, so very tired, aching to my bones. My boots are chafing the skin around the bottom of my shins and it’s red and bleeding. These boots were shiny when we left, shiny and proud, now as cracked and as battered as I feel. How could I have ever thought this would be an adventure?

Sweating, tired, the straps of my pack are digging into my shoulders, and hitch them up irritably. I fix my eyes on the back of the man in front. Captain calls a halt and we slump down, exhausted. I reach for my canteen of water, a lukewarm mouthful and then drop sharply into sleep.

I wake sweating, and uncomfortable up again and onwards the going’s better now a country lane dusty yes there’s a farmhouse a little farmhouse and a yard we’ll be safe there can rest but there’s a shot –

Monster

22323942_135010533911029_1971301412_o

Ahh. That time of year again. The crispness of approaching winter in the air, a relief after the slop of soggy leaves underfoot. A sinuous mist that hung and curled, cat-soft around the corners of the city streets.

The veil is thin at this time of year, and as he thought, so he stretched his wings, the grimy sandstone rippling into leathery life. He turned his head, grating and grinding. Perhaps a good year to fly, although the last time he had ventured forth was when good King Richard ruled. He had seen what had passed since and decided, yes, a good night to fly.

Creaking and stretching he extended one scaly leg to his left, balancing, then – away. His powerful wings beat away the layers of time that had settled like a second skin and carried him up. Up, and over the city.

He noted how it had grown, the small mean buildings had given way to brick built structures and gleaming glass towers, far more splendid than his own humble church. Surely these splendid buildings were houses of happiness and joy, and his stony heart swelled with the thought that people had discovered how to live together with love and kindness.

But as he flew, silver threads of thoughts and scenes drifted up to him. He saw:

young men, reeling, drunk

girls, staggering, vomiting

children, crying in pain and fear

dogs whimpering in fright

women, weeping in the cold

And then. He saw a tall man, bending over the body of a woman. He paused, outside the window of the house. He watched, as the man delivered one final punch to the woman’s face, and as he stood upright he licked the blood from his knuckles with relish and saw the silent watcher at the window.

Their eyes met and held and the watcher knew fear, the spine creeping chill of evil and despair. He let his wings carry him away from those eyes, cold and stony dead.

Now who’s the monster