My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the tag “fear”

Dry

The old man stood with a length of coiled rope around his shoulder and spat into the dust.  The sky was cold and clear.  He looked at the sky every day but the clouds still avoided him.

“Giovanni, what’s the latest?”

“January, papà.”

In November they said early December, then it was going to be mid-December, then Christmas.”

“No one really knows, papa.”

“No one knows?”  The old man spat into the dust once again.  He took a leather pouch from his jacket pocket and started to roll himself a cigarette.  “My father could tell what the weather was going to do, a week before it did it.”

“You know as well, papa.”

The old man flicked a match.  He scuffed his boots in the dust, kicking up a little cloud.

“I did once.”  His rummy eyes looked up again at the clear blue sky.  “This year is different.”

From their lofty position on the lower slopes of the mountain, where the pastures lay brown and dry, they could see the distant Monte Rosa.  Even from that distance they could see its barren slopes; only its vague glaciers flickered white in the sun.

“There’s no tourism yet.  Tourism’s suffering and we’re suffering with it, Giovanni.”

“The snow will come papa, it has to.”

“Do you think?  When was the last time it rained, son?”

“October.”

“It drizzled for a couple of hours, Giovanni.  It hasn’t rained in anger since July.”  He flicked his head in a backwards movement.  “Those woods are a tinderbox.”

Giovanni nodded his head.  “The weather channel put the area on high alert for forest fire risk.”

The old man crushed his cigarette carefully under his heel.  “It’s about the only thing the weather channel has got right this year.”  He lifted the rope from his shoulder and placed it on the old trunk of a walnut tree that served as a chopping block.  He nodded down the slope.  “I want to get that fence in the bottom field repaired.  If the snow does come at least the animals will be contained.”

This last comment fell like an axe blow between the men.  They’d already lost a few animals, sickened by the drought conditions; they couldn’t afford to lose any more, there dwindling finances couldn’t take it.  They’d lost the annual orders from the surrounding ski resorts, whose slopes were bare and car parks were empty.  In his 72 years the old man had never known anything like it.  He was almost glad his wife had passed away the previous spring and didn’t have to see what the farm had become.  His son brought him back to the present.

“Five months ago we were enjoying a beautiful summer and everyone said we’d pay for it, that the winter would come early and the snow would be heavy.”

“Yeah, and I was one of them, telling the same thing to anyone who’d listen.  Now I’m just the foolish sheep farmer who can’t tell the direction of the wind even if I wet my finger and hold it in the air.”

“Come on papa.  This year’s caught everyone out.  It’s not just down to us anymore.  Think of all those satellites out there and they still can’t give us an accurate forecast.”

“Any farmer worth his salt should be able to mind his own, without the need for satellites or weather channels, son; just like my father and grandfather used to do.  Maybe the people are right; maybe I am just a foolish sheep farmer that prophesises ‘red sky at night’.”

“Enough papà.  Come on, let’s get the fence fixed so I can go to Cristina’s with that firewood.”

Giovanni looked into his father’s face.  This autumn had taken everything out of him.  His face was drawn and his eyes sunken and dark-ringed.  The quick smile was no longer there, replaced by a stare which admitted defeat.

“We can do the fence later, son.  Take the wood over to Cristina; if her father’s down in town, you’ll have to unload yourself, it’ll take time.”

Giovanni considered this.  It was true.  All the while the weather held, and it looked like holding for a fair while still, the bottom field fence wasn’t a priority.  The nights were cold and Cristina needed the wood.  He took the pick-up keys from his jacket pocket.

“Get some rest papa.  I’ll be back in a couple of hours, three at the most.”

“Give my regards to Cristina and her father, if he’s there.  I guess you’re right, I could use a little rest.”

“There’s nothing more any of us can do papa, at least until this weather shows signs of breaking.”  He got into the pick-up truck and the electric motor hummed as the window rolled down.  “Get some rest papa.  How about we go into town for a couple of beers this evening; it’s been ages since we’ve done that.”

“About the last time we saw any money coming through the door, son.”

The truck engine revved into life and Giovanni waved through the open window.  His father watched as the brake lights flashed once before the car drove out onto the road.

With a final spit into the dust, the old man looked once more at the sky.  With his head bowed, he heaved the coil of rope onto his shoulder and walked slowly to the still-empty barn.

Advertisements

She smiled

The picture hung askew on the wall.  He tilted his head to get a better look. He couldn’t stand modern art but it pleased his wife.

‘It’s straight’, she said.

‘What?  Don’t be ridiculous Alice.’

‘You looked at it wrong when you stepped into the room; it’s the impression it gives.’

‘It’s not straight, it doesn’t matter how I step into the room.’

As he looked, the black and white pixels began to merge.

‘And you can’t see it change, I suppose?’ he said.

‘The only thing that’s changing is your view of it. Of course I can’t.’

He laughed, not meaning to.  It was the stupidity of the situation.  A hamster-wheel rolled in his stomach.  The last time he’d felt like this was on a cross-channel ferry.

Alice fiddled with a coat-button and looked at her husband.

‘You’ve gone a funny colour’.

‘I’m going to find a chair.’

He looked up and the pixels had become rows of black and white teeth; moving, masticating.  Grinding, he thought.  His chest felt tight.

‘I said I’m going to find a chair, I’ll wait for you in the corridor.’

‘Stay.’

‘What?’

‘Stay!’ It was an order.

He backed away and the room lurched as he reached for the doorhandle.

A sound like air escaping a radiator made him stop, as did the click of heels.  But there’s a carpet, his mind argued.

‘Don’t go darling,’ she purred.

He turned, and she smiled; rows and rows of black and white teeth; grinding.

Morning mist

Waiting for the kettle to boil I took my usual 5-minute breather on the balcony, around 5.30am.  It had rained heavily the night before and the morning found itself under a heavy grey cloak.  I always enjoy standing out there; breathing, observing, listening and thinking.  The mountains wore skirts of cloud.  I came in, tea in hand and sat down, with just the first sentence in my head.  Strange how things go off on a tangent as they develop.

___________________________________________________________________

The cloud clung to the sides of the mountain.  Beyond it, the sun had risen but the day had dawned pale and would remain that way.   Water from last night’s rain clung to everything.  Hidden blackbirds chattered in the trees and every now and again a crow would raise its voice above the drip, drip of the water.  Pine scent filled the air, which was clean but sombre.

It was time to move.

There was now enough light to get a helicopter in the air and heat imaging would see through the cloud.  He was sure he’d heard dogs in the valley below, and the rain wouldn’t cover his scent for long.

He grit his teeth as he tipped a little schnapps from his flask onto the blood-soaked gauze on his thigh.  The schnapps was the only thing between a usable leg and infection.  In this humidity gangrene would take hold soon if he didn’t find the help he knew was waiting for him.

Four miles to the border.  Four miles till the forest sloped down on the other side of the mountain.  He put all his weight on the pine branch he was using for a crutch and placed his holed leg forward.

It was time to move.

Goldfish

I move, I breathe.

Outside there are two large forms which move around, making noises.  They continue to make these noises; one very low, the other higher.  I keep moving.

Now I see another one like them, yet smaller.  He’s sitting on the big thing they all sit on sometimes, looking at the big box with light.  He’s doing something with that small furry thing that sometimes comes to see me when the others are not around.  Sometimes it makes strange noises, different from what the others make.  I don’t know what’s happened but the small furry thing has just made a strange noise and now it’s run away from the small form.  I keep moving.

Outside there are two large forms which move around, making noises.  They continue to make these noises; one very low, the other higher.  I keep moving.

There’s something outside.  It looks like that small furry thing but, it’s huge.  I keep moving.  It follows me.  I still move.  It still follows.

Outside there are two large forms coming in my direction.  They’re not making any noise.  I keep moving.

The huge furry thing is looking at me and it follows me everywhere I go.  Now what’s it doing?  Above my head there’s a splash, and a big furry foot with sharp edges reaches down.  I keep moving, near the bottom.  There’s another splash.

The two large forms are very close.  One of them is pointing at me.  Now they’re making different noises.  They look happy.  There’s another splash.

I’ve stopped moving.

 

50-word fiction – The footpath

Lost in the forest, I wandered paths now forgotten by men, and remembered only by ghosts of those now long passed.  Restless spirits watched, powerless in the light of day and waiting for the darkness, by which time I would be gone and away from there.

Then the storm came.

TomTom club

“At the next roundabout, take the second exit.”

“What? The map says go straight ahead. What is she on about?”

She. The TomTom. Faithful navigational servant, and maybe on the blink.

“So, should I go straight or turn?”

“The map says go straight. I think she needs an update, I’ll plug her in when we get back indoors.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Down to third and the roundabout was rounded.

“Go back and take the first exit.”

“Oh, she’s insisting today. Must have her funny week.”

“Go back and take the first exit.”

“That’s not funny Joe.”

Natalie was right, it wasn’t; especially as she’d been suffering for the last few days but I just wanted to find a hint of humour in the situation.

“Go back and take the first exit.” The metallic feminine voice was beginning to grate.

“Sorry baby, just kidding. Shall I turn her off?”

“No. What if the map’s wrong, or the road’s new?”

“Nat, this road was made when Kennedy was still banging Marilyn. If anything, the TomTom’s wrong. Technology eh?”

“Go back and take the first exit.”

“Joe, I’m gonna turn round.”

“Either you drive, or I will.”

“At the next roundabout, take the third exit.”

“Why the third?”

“She wants us to go back on ourselves.”

“So…?”

“So, just drive. Nat, it’s a short-cut over the hills.  It was probably just an old sheep-herder’s route years ago and they came along and stuck tarmac on it.”

“Take the next left turn, proceed for 200 metres then take the next left turn and proceed for 4 kilometres.”

“Must be the sun, it’s got to her circuits.”

“Stop it Joe, I don’t like this one bit.”

Now Nat’s voice was beginning to grate. Two hysterical women in one car and one wasn’t even human. Breath whistled between my teeth as my shoulders slumped in the seat. The road narrowed and continued its ascent as the sun did the opposite, and sank with reluctance into the sea which glowed in late evening shades behind us.  Trees arched over the road and the light retreated. Nat switched on the beams.  Soon the last traces of the sea fell back behind the folds of the land as we climbed further into the hills.

“What’s that sign? Slow down Nat, how fucking freaky is that?”

STAY WITH THE SHEPHERD! badly hand painted in black on an old whitewashed door which leaned against a rotting fence post.

“Homemade cheese and a little wine thrown in most probably, I wonder how much he charges, my stomach’s beginning to…”

“Turn round and continue for 7 kilometres.”

“That’s it, I’m switching it off.” My hand reached out.

“No! No Joe, don’t. I don’t want to stop here either, in fact I want to turn round now.”

The last word was final, and I knew the tone. Nat was pissed off and I understood her.

“Turn round and continue for 7.5 kilometres.”

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and gave in.

“You win Nat. Turn round and let’s get out of here. I want some civilization and a pizzeria.”

The car slowed and nosed into a small track which narrowed into a small dirt track barely wide enough for a car. Either side in forgotten fields lay the rusted hulks of old and battered cars.  The place looked like a breaker’s yard, an auto graveyard.

Nat stuck the car in reverse and manoeuvred to turn round, her eyes wide and accusing when she glanced at me. She ground into first gear and started to accelerate. Through the open windows came a bellowing roar and from the trees burst an old tractor. A wrinkled grey-bearded man with angry eyes sat atop of it.  He turned the machine to face us and it stood in the road, . The road back was now blocked. He revved the machine, and its engine rose and fell, rose and fell as the old man continued to just stare at us.  He pointed at the sign and something akin to a grin, demented and evil, crossed his face in a second and was gone, replaced by the stare, red eyes burning.  He flicked his beams to high, its lights pinning us as the mechanical shovel began to rise then fall, rise then fall, like some masticating prehistoric nightmare.

“Joe?”

“What the…?”

“Joe?”

The metallic TomTom voice broke in.

“I told you to turn around.”

Nat screamed.

The mind and the madman shuffle

I’ve decided I’m fed up with writing about insomnia.  It remains.  So be it.

I was in the waiting room of my GP the other day and I saw a picture on the wall which I’d never noticed before.  I had one of those “what if” flashes that occur far too infrequently.  Oh come on, it beats writing about insomnia…

___________________________________________________________

            The blue-framed picture stood out from the white wall.  It framed a poppy field scene; a blaze of red with a copse of trees in the distance and, further still, white-tipped mountains, hard and stark against the blue summer sky.

The buzzer sounded.  The person next to me go up and shuffled through the waiting room.  A door opened and a white-coated doctor stood, clipboard in hand, and ushered the man through the door.

“Good morning Mr…”

The door closed.  I was next.  I looked at the picture again, studying the contrasts of the blood red poppies against the yellow cornfield against the white mountains against the painful blue sky.  I liked the green, it was reassuring, a place of rest for the eyes in this riot of colour.  I looked at the trees, full in their summer coat of green.  Something moved.  It wasn’t out of the corner of my eye, I was staring directly at it, damn it.

Yes, it definitely moved.  What the hell?  Behind one of the trees a figure, a man appeared.  He poked his head and shoulders out from behind the trunk.  I looked away, it would be ok, just look away, look at the window, think about that bus that’s crawling past in the slush outside.  I looked back.  Still there, he was still there.  He waved, the little bastard waved to me.

A door opened down the corridor and I heard a shambling gait amble towards the reception area.  I was next.

I looked up at the picture.  The little man was joined by a friend.  They both waved as they came out from behind the tree.  The buzzer sounded and the door opened.  A man in a white coat and clipboard appeared.

“Good morning Mr…”

I looked at the picture one more time.

Thank God I was next.

I hope my doctor doesn't mind me using this image...

I hope my doctor doesn’t mind me using this image…

 

In the dark

I woke up and Donald Trump was in his chair and Kim Jong-un was in his and it got out of hand.  I don’t trust either of the bastards with their hand over the button…

In my bed, I slept
as half a world wept
at its sins and punishments.
In the dark bombs fell
a dictator laughed
and split the night, open.

Half a world sat motionless
arms raised in surrender;
to no avail.
In the dark machine guns rattled
an army laughed
and tore the night, open.

In the shower I stood, thankful
as water washed over me like tears
and half a world looked for water.
In the dark a mushroom cloud
a despot laughed
and lit the night, forever.

Swimming and jumping

“You first.”

“Nnh, nnh.  No way.  You wanted to come here.”

“Yeah, but you’re older than me.”

“Two months.  Big deal.”

The boys stared across the lake.  It shone black in the high summer sun.  Black and deep.  Overhanging trees edged the lake and reflected in the shallows.  Further out a fish jumped, its body smacked the water, creating a noticeable ripple.

“Pike,” said one of the boys.

“Tench,” came the reply.

“Tench don’t jump.  It was a pike hunting something on the surface.”

A pike hunting on the surface.  This possibility changed the game although neither admitted it.  There were some big fish in the lake.  How big?  And pike could be nasty.  Rows of backward-facing teeth.  They’d heard stories from the fishermen who sat on the banks, passing away their time away from wives and children.

As they stood, their feet growing colder and whiter in the pebbly shallows as their indecision increased, the distant surface of the lake rippled and wavelets raced towards them as a fresh wind blew across the lake.  One of the boys crossed his arms and rubbed them.

“You’ve got goosebumps,” said the other, “you’re scared.”

“I’m not, I’m cold.  We could’ve been halfway across the lake by now if you hadn’t have been so scared of a few fish.”

“You mentioned the pike.”

“It was a pike, tench don’t jump.”

“Says who?”

“My uncle.  He’s a fisherman, he told me.”

“Go on then, you first.”

“No, you go.  You’re the one that was scared.  I dare you.”

“Let’s go together.”

They placed a hand on each other’s arm and shuffled over the hard slippery pebbles.  Clear water rose up their legs.  When it got to their knees they both stopped.

“It’s cold.”

“Yeah.”

A passing cloud blotted out the sun and the air grew chill.  The surface became leaden.  Another gust of wind tore across the lake.  A few yards ahead of them the water erupted as a huge fish leapt.  Its splash seemed to echo as its body smacked down on the still-boiling water.

“Pike.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you see the size of it?”

“Yeah.”

“Fancy climbing some trees?”

“Yeah.”

Grey

Imagine someone just turning out a light.  One minute I was in the sunshine, strolling over the small bridge that crossed the river that tumbled between grey rocks green with moss.  The next, I’m crushed under a leaden sky and grey walls closed all around me, taking my air.

I find myself in front of what remains of a Cold War-era apartment block, the same colour as the sky with glassless windows, graffitied walls and waste of every kind strewn over the broken concrete.

A cold wind blows along the street and I pin the collar of my jacket with one hand and I look to bury my head in my jacket as litter dances little waltzes around me.  I stand back from the building, taking it in.  My stomach knots as the wind drops and the air stops breathing, tense.  A pale face appears at one of the holes that were once windows.

I start to shake.  The sky mirrors my soul as I wonder, not for the first time, why I came here.  I know why.  Pain.  Pain is why I’m here here.  White shards of pain that strip and shred the nerves as vultures tear at a long-dead carcass.

The first couple of months had been fine, taken care of by concerned doctors whose hands caressed the prescription that I eyed as a spectator watches for the matador to give the bull that final thrust.  Even the sight of that little A6-size slip of paper was enough to alleviate the pain I (imagined?) felt.

Then, when I started to walk without wincing, the morphine prescriptions dried up and stopped.  They stopped but my body’s craving didn’t. And so here I stand, shivering, waiting for a little packet of warmth.

 

Fear the night

Sleep eludes me, deserts me
It skirts my nighttime like a seige
Sleep seized from the grasp of the sleeper
Who should now be in deep slumber
As I fumble for words
(I write)

“Sleep sir, sleep!” I hear
As once again I fear
To go to bed
Lest nightmares awaken me
Awaken me?
And dreams haunt me
Dreams? Ha!
You have to sleep to dream

Sleeps eludes me, deserts me
My night perched on a precipice
A night-borne orifice
Black and deep
Like the narcotic sleep
(I crave)

The last long day

Today I left my place of employment after more than 11 years.  The big hole that has been left by such an absence will be filled however, as  I am now studying the Cambridge CELTA course to teach English as a foreign Language.  As one door closes…

*********

The last long day

I’m left static and still

and I must keep moving

just keep going

never slowing.

 

But now, but now

a halt has been called.

Time to take the time that’s mine,

to use, shape and mould

As a new life chapter unfolds.

 

I won’t be lead blindly

as I carve and scythe

and make my way

with my destiny

in my hands.

Over yonder

Do not step into yonder pasture,

however the grass may be greener.

Do not follow the grass-flattened footsteps

of another,

who will lead you tither.

For the fickle will change

and though you may rage

and cry against your injustice

and spill tears that are useless.

 

To whom will you turn

when the wild winter wind burns

your face and tears your eyes,

as you stumble and chastise

your decision taken,

your intention mistaken.

 

For however that distant green field

may taunt you,

do not stray across those borders,

entrapped by those hoarders,

who will suck your soul

and bleed you dry and left to lie;

choked and broken

God speed this bullet

96 years ago the First World War, the Great War, was finally over.  A generation of young men, those that returned home, were left to pick up the pieces of what they had experienced, seen and endured.  They said it could never happen again. but it did; 21 years later.  As terrible as the Second World War, the same as any war, was, there is something truly horrific about the trenches.

***

The ground heaves and shakes and small rivers of dirt fall, splattering my helmet and the pounding of the earth is like a fist in my back. I look at Jenkins; he’s now bleeding from the ears and nose from the concussion of this incessant artillery barrage. I look at the lieutenant; his face flares white in the explosion flashes; dark rings his eyes and he’s gaunt, like the rest of us. He’s one of us now. After two years in this hell-hole the only part of Cambridge that remains is his manners. He looks at me.

‘Don’t,” he says.

He knows I want to look, I can’t help it; George was my friend from the pre-war days. George who had the nerve to stick his head above the trench, only for a piece of shrapnel to tear it off and fling the rest of him across the trench. The trench, this devil-made wormhole. What will I tell his wife when I get back…if I get back?

A let up in the barrage and the shadow of the black Somme night passes across the trenches, leaving destruction, torn and twisted bodies, fatherless children and husbandless wives but now all was silent. We’ve been stuck here for months, barely advancing, barely retreating. The smell of the ripped earth and dank mud in which we wallow is everywhere, except when the wind blows towards us and the stench of death and decay replaces it.

‘Help…’

The voice is faint but it’s there. In the sudden and welcome silence it’s as clear as birdsong on a June morning, agony and suffering coming through in just one word.

‘Who the bloody hell is that?’  Symes; newly arrived from the train, all shiny boots, clean puttees and enthusiasm. They always arrive with enthusiasm. What the hell are they telling them back home? Five days a week killing the Hun then Saturdays and Sundays off, French whores and bistros thrown in?  ‘Can we not do something for that poor bugger sir?’ he says, turning to the lieutenant, who sighs.

‘Corporal, take a look and be bloody careful.’

I take off my helmet and place it on the butt of my rifle and slowly raise it above the trench, joggling the rifle to simulate movement: nothing. No sniper fire to split the night. The lieutenant hands me his field-glasses as I replace my helmet and climb the ladder. They say there’s nothing blacker than no-man’s land at night but that’s not strictly true, especially following a barrage. The artillery will always find something to burn, even if it’s just human remains, and little fires dotted around cast an unholy light in the field-glasses. I first scan the enemy lines, looking for movement, but I see none.

‘Help…’

My vision jumps from crater to crater, searching for life and hoping for it also, in this God-forsaken pit of human misery. At first I see nothing, then I take a slower, longer sweep with the glasses. I see movement; slow, shambling movement some twenty yards away where the barbed-wire is stretched across and upon which hang torn and crow-picked corpses, like some infernal spider’s web. A slow, crawling movement catches my eye and even in the dead-light I can see enough. It’s a soldier, a German soldier, gone from the waist down, pulling and dragging himself inch by agonised inch towards our trench.

‘Well I’ll be damned. It’s a Jerry sir and in an awful state by the looks of it.’

‘What the Dickens…’ as he climbs up, taking the field-glasses from me and looks upon the awful site before us. He wipes his mouth with the heel of his hand, sighed and turns, stepping down into the trench. Not a moment too soon, as a high whistling noise is followed by chaos. The concussion from the blast is enormous, filling my head with a death-roar and I could feel my ears and nose bleeding freely. Symes is on the floor of the trench, his legs pinned down by dislodged sandbags but he’s ok. Upon hearing that whistle, the lieutenant, Jenkins and I all threw ourselves against the wall of the trench. Symes will learn, if he has time.

‘Corporal, who’s our best shot?’ but he looks at Jenkins, the Welshman is a crack shot and needs no introduction.

‘Help…’

‘Take him out Private. I won’t risk stretch-bearers to bring him in but the sorry blighter has suffered more than enough.’ He moves aside from the ladder to let the Private through.  The figure is nearer now but still a good fifteen yards away. No trouble for Jenkins, who could shoot a canary in a Welsh coalmine from fifty. The first signs of dawn are beginning to pink the early clouds, which a rising breeze is scattering. Jenkins brings the rifle up to his right shoulder, intent only on what he sees at the end of the barrel.

“God speed this bullet and put that poor devil out of his misery”, the lieutenant says, to no one in particular.

“Amen,” says Jenkins, and his finger tightens on the trigger.

As if in response the morning sun throws its first rays of light through the breaking clouds and onto the battlefield. The bombardment has done a lot but not enough; the barbed wire is still in place. If we have to go over the top we’ll be torn to pieces by the German machine-gunners.

The report of Jenkins’ Lee Enfield barks out. The lieutenant raises the field-glasses but they aren’t needed. As more lights floods across the battlefield the sliding, shuffling figure shimmers and fades to nothing.

We look at each other in silence. We’ve all heard stories of ghosts on the battlefield and I guess with so many men butchered on a daily basis it was only a matter of time. I wonder, should God grant any lasting peace on this Earth, in 100 years how many of our souls will still wander here, lost in a foreign land far from home.remembrance_day___poppy_day_by_daliscar

***

I’d like to acknowledge http://femaleimagination.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/11-november-world-war-i-ends/ for the use of the photograph.

I see you in the darkness

The sunlight for a second
Blinked
A shadow
Its shadow
By my window whispered
Or did it laugh
As I felt its draught
And shivered
My skin crawled,
then froze
The shadow passed
for now
But it’ll come back
When night falls chill
For I will give it life
In black and white

There is no war to end all wars

One hundred years on and…

A brief truce broken
A steel head awoken
And glared into the night
A firefight,
Candlelight: mourners
Apparently security means a dawn raid
An air raid,
Siren
Not silent
Blaring, uncaring

The choke of smoke
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
On whose hands the blood
That puddles the street
Beneath frightened feet
Running, fighting
Toe to toe
Door to door
Calibre counts much more

A prayer for the lost
And for those who remain;
Once again
The blinding smoke
The dust that chokes
The blood that soaks
The tears that burn
Amid the fires that turn
Earth to hell
A hell on earth

Suffer little children
As men hide among you
While their enemies’ bomb you
Poor innocent souls
As the death toll
Rises
Through wars’ devices
Bodies twisted and torn
Lives shattered and shorn
Of all hope of peace

A three day pull-out
A humanitarian hand-out
Look at me
Through your blood-shot,
Blood filled
Hateful eyes
They say security means war my friend
Do you really think
It will ever end?

Once green world memory

Where be now the wind
that once blew?
Around the compass, all around;
south, east, west and north true.
Flag flutter memory
just choking on dust.

Where are you now rain,
that once fell?
Down from the heavens, drenching me;
downpour, shower, drizzle.
Umbrella memory
doesn’t dampen dust

You frost, cold and white,
that once lay.
Covering the fields, chilling me;
your kiss hard underfoot.
Winter boot memory
now walking in dust

And you the snow, you
fall no more?
Stinging my face, red cold my nose;
freezing, numbing my hands.
Sheepskin glove memory,
tracing in the dust.

From you the sun, where
can I hide?
From your lofty perch, glaring;
shrivelling, withering.
Once green world memory,
now turning to dust.

 

 

StoryADay May day 3 – Red sister

The prompt from 3 May contained required the use of ‘vermillion’ and ‘musky’.  I think I managed it.  It’s still 3 May in New Mexico, for example so technically I can still squeeze it in.  Well, it was written before my Swiss midnight.

**********

 

Her face looks beautiful in the bright, white light.  Her musky perfume fills the air as we sit on the terrace.  The shadows of her features pronounced in contrast, her nose creating a pyramid-shape and the furrows creating trenches in her forehead as she looked away from the glare; it’s a magical moment but one doomed to pass quickly, as all moments do.  In this early evening dim I am fascinated.

The day had dawned cold but bright, and, following breakfast of espresso and a croissant we decided to take a long walk along the coastal road, up and down the small hills with little traffic to disturb the tranquillity of it.  We must have walked more than 10 miles before deciding to stop for lunch at a small restaurant just off the road, perched on a small cliff overlooking the rock-strewn beach beneath us.  We ordered a Prosecco each from the bar and sat down at one of the small, plastic tables on the terrace, pulled our coats around us and lit a cigarette.

We had a fine lunch of spaghetti with clams followed by a shared lobster – what the hell, it was a special day after all.  The two bottles of white wine went down well, so well in fact I kept nodding off in the taxi taking us back to the hotel.  We stayed in bed for a couple of hours, making sweet love and holding each other close, barely speaking; there was no need.  Finally, as the daylight outside faded in its wintry haste, we took a shower, dressed and went down to the hotel terrace looking over the sea.  I tightened my scarf around my throat while she pulled down her hat and we sat.  Our drinks arrived.

The seagulls were screaming, swooping and diving every time a wave broke and the sound, along with that of the waves, filled the evening.

The western sky still glowed a variety of pinks and one by one the stars appeared but none outshone the beautiful Venus, her vermillion majesty abroad in the evening sky.  Sitting above the now-set sun she took centre stage.

“What’s that low star darling?”  She asked, pointing to it.  “It’s so bright.”

It was in fact enormously bright, even in the frigid winter air.  The hairs on the back of my neck made a lazy, crawling motion.  As we looked, she continued to burn brighter then, suddenly, her light expanded. It continued doing so until it seemed the sun had returned from below the horizon.  Still the light expanded.  The first knot of fear appeared in my stomach.

“What is it Honey?” She asked, holding my arm tighter.

“No idea, well actually I do but it’s not a rational one”

“Tell me!”  It was an order.  She fumbled in her bag for her cigarettes.

VENUS HAS EXPLODED! I wanted to shout.  I didn’t however.  My mind filled with possibilities and ramifications of our red sister disappearing into a million pieces.  My mind asked how, yet I knew the answer, it was obvious.

“Do you remember you read that article in the newspaper the other week about the approach of a couple of asteroids, big enough to do damage?”  I took one of her cigarettes and lit up.  Bloody low- tar were not need at this moment.  I broke the filter off and continued smoking.  I had her attention.

“Well the experts said they would pass within so many million miles of us.  I think that while we’ve been looking out of our porch to see if something was crossing our front lawn, no one told us what would happen if we left the back door open.  We’ve been worrying about a rogue asteroid or a misdirected comet for years but we’ve never considered other planets, I mean, why should we?  I think something has hit Venus and whatever it was was big.”

The light consumed the night sky.  The moon no longer cast a reflection over the calm, black sea.  The only reflection came from an ever-growing light around 100 million miles from us.

“Then we’re OK,” she said, sounding fairly convinced, “I mean what harm can it do us from here?”

She had a point; I mean what was going to happen?  A huge piece of rock had thrown itself into the second planet and by the looks of it had obliterated it, creating nuclear chain reactions and sending a million pieces flying through space.  What harm could it do?  I didn’t want to analyse that question, I didn’t need to.  I knew that somewhere across the gulf of space a piece of our sister planet was heading our way.

We ignored the cold and remained seated outside.  The bowls of olives and peanuts had been consumed; the ashtray had been emptied once and was steadily filling up again.  The light was getting ever brighter, the night sky lit completely, even the birds in the trees started singing, thinking it was daytime.  We continued to sit and watch, entranced.

Her face looks beautiful in the bright, white light.  In this early evening dim I am fascinated.  They told us the world would end December.  I’m now going to order us the most expensive champagne followed by the finest cognac.  I don’t think I’ll have time to pay for it.  I don’t think we’ll be here much longer.

StoryADay May 2014 (day 2) – My fridge, my end?

I know, I’m late but there was no way of doing this yesterday, work gets in the way sometimes. “Magnetic words” – that took some thought and alas…this is all I came up with. Roll on to Day 3

**************************

I can feel my heartbeat, my temples are thumping; a bit like the sound of a washing machine on slow spin at the end of its cycle. My stomach cramps, or rather alternates between cramps and butterflies that flutter by. I need to step away, I need to get a grip. What is going on?

I woke up, splashed my face and made my way to the kitchen, no changes from my usual Sunday morning habit of making myself a pot of tea and preparing a plate of digestive biscuits and placing both on the little coffee table, spreading out and opening a book. This morning however I awoke early; thunder trounced my head and lightning tried to sear its way through the blinds and the rain hammered on anything it touch. A perfect day for reading, I thought, pouring the first cup from the pot. Then, without taking either opening a book or switching on my laptop, I step over to the fridge.

I, now, you, why, see, kill

It’s been a week now. Last Sunday morning I awoke, made my tea and started to read when a whispering noise made me look up from my book. I didn’t see anything; at first. The words, they rearranged themselves, on their own. There’s no one else here except me. There hasn’t been since last Saturday, except now I think she’s come back. Or she sees why I did or else…I’m going to see why she will.

StoryADay May 2014 – Getting Home

Well, I didn’t expect to take part in this, I never have done. When I received my StoryADay May 2014 email this morning I paid it little attention as I had a busy, busy day ahead of me.  However a couple of inspired hours this evening have produced 1,500 words – whether they’re good words or not I’ll leave up to you.

I’ve no knowledge of Ohio but Google maps gave me a geographic idea. I’ve no way of knowing if there’s a bus station in Marion, Ohio. I know there’s a Route 23 – Google told me. Anyway, here it is.

Thanks Julie, thanks Neil.

**********************

It isn’t normal, there’s no way this is normal. Bob Dylan once said you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows and normally I’d say Old Bobby was right. I do however wonder what he would’ve said if he was stuck here with me in this dog-turd bus station, where the lounge caters for both arrivals and departures, somewhere in these back-fields of Ohio, watching a little Vespa getting blown around like a dropped chewing gum wrapper on a Chicago street. The wind and storm came from the north; now it comes from everywhere. What can I do to get back in time for my presentation tomorrow in Chicago?  I look out of the greasy, finger stained window. The rain meets the glass two inches in front of my nose horizontally.

‘It’ll blow over,’ says some farmer Joe, probably a local from two fields down the road, ‘it always does.’

Genius. A down-home nougat of wisdom from the corn flats of Ohio. It most certainly always does, it’s called a weather pattern, and weather patterns; unlike other patterns, like those of the floral leaning on my wife’s dress, blow over.

‘You hear that honey? The man said it’ll blow over.’ Mrs 1978 big floral dress speaks just as I was thinking of her. Is that a sign of true love?

‘Blow over, my ass,’ not even bothering to turn around. I can see her reflection in the darkening window, trying to look sympathetic with arms folded, at least, when one of them isn’t shoving a donut into her cake-hole. Then, joy of joys, the baby starts crying. Tommy was fed only an hour ago but now he took up a wailing normally reserved for paid mourners at funerals. He takes after his mother; two peas from the same pod. I snatch half the piece of donut from her hand and shove it in the baby’s face. He shuts up and eats, he always does. It’ll give me a chance to think. If I wasn’t at the presentation at 9am the next day I was out of a job and out on my ass. And here I was stuck near Marion, Ohio. Not even Marion, Indiana, where at least they have the ghost of James Dean for company.

‘Don’t give him crap to eat; it’s not good for him.’ I presume she must’ve sprayed donut as she had a mouthful when I took half of it from her. Shame it didn’t fall backwards.

‘Start taking some of your own advice sweet cheeks and lemme think.’

‘The hell you think you’re talking to? I’m your wife and dammit you better treat me like it.’

I jump with a start as horizontal water turns to horizontal hail, big enough to bring joy to any gin tonic. My reflection mopes back at me in the now-black glass. The overheads come on full and an announcer’s muttering something through a wall of static. Hell you say boy?

‘I said, you skinny son of a bitch that you’d better treat me like it.’ A sugary paw that seems to be growing around the wedding band given aeons before pinches my shoulder and scatters refined fat-powder over my jacket. Enough weather watching. I drop my shoulder and spin round, nose to donut-crusher. The view outside was better. The rustle of the donut bag plays me in.

‘We flew to Cincinnati and we came here to this forsaken land of the corn, to see your father who doesn’t know who you are, your mother who’s too drunk to remember who you are and your shit-for-brains farmhand brother who doesn’t give a ding-dang-doodly who you are. Any why? Because you get…’

A chubby hand with weight behind it pushes me up against the window. A spray like a winter gritter truck fans out to great me. I blink.
‘You leave my family outta this.’ Another push and a podgy finger wave. ‘You leave my poor daddy outta this. Ma mama’s worked double shift trying to bring up Billy and care for pa.’ Tears somehow found their way around her ample cheeks. She’s a-hurting. Not as much as she will be if I lose my job and she has to cut back on her pastries. Hell, this is her fault anyway. Even the lack of rental cars is her fault.

‘Start eating three, yeah just three square meal a day and maybe, just maybe, you could get your ass in the car and travel further than the KFC before you start complaining and threatening to throw up. If we’d brought the car we would’ve been halfway to Chicago now.’

‘Maybe if you had yourself a decent car I’d be able to travel in it; that thing stinks and makes me sick.’

‘It stinks from the shitty Marlboros you smoke and the greasy food you eat. And what about my frigging presentation tomorrow?’ I bang my hand against the window, punctuating every syllable, raised voice barely audible over the wind trying its best to rip the roof off and the windows out.

People start to give us some space and make an unconscious ring around us. Great. End of the world weather outside. Hey honey; let’s watch the Laurel and Hardy couple go hammer and tongs in this excuse for an bus station lounge.

‘Maybe if you were the sort of husband you should be, I wouldn’t eat so much.’

‘What? I do 12 hour days in the studio to keep you in ices and him in diapers.’

‘You don’t know what it’s like bringing up a kid on your own, cos your husband ain’t there half the time.’ Thank God for small mercies. I take a series of deep breaths, my eyes blaze fire. She steps back and takes her hand away.

Noses and glasses peered over sports pages. To hell with them; I have to get out of here. I look around just as a gust hammers the window. Suddenly a garbage bin, the size of a small car, spins away from its post and heads toward the window. A communal intake of breath: even we’ve taken second billing now. I push my wife away from the window but she takes it badly, falls over on her ass and curses me to the four winds, except I think there are more than that outside.

Mr “it’ll blow over” comes over to me, holding up a key. ‘Son, we ain’t going anywhere yet. I got a cousin down in Columbus, you can take my car and leave it with him. You can get a plane from there; sure as hell get you there quicker.’

I liked the sound of down. The storm came from the north, from the lakes. Maybe it wouldn’t get that far. My wife, still sat on the floor, looks at me and shakes her head.

“It’s the job or us,” she says, without a hint of emotion.

I take the key and thank the man, and promise to fill up with gas when I get there. The address of his cousin is written on a torn flyer for a nearby agricultural show and tucked in my back pocket. I go over and ruffle Tommy’s hair and bend down to kiss him.

“Without my job there’ll be no us. Now get up and get going.”

She pulls Tommy away from me and holds him close. “Get away from us you selfish piece of shit.” The last word spat with cobra-like venom.

Against the advice of a security guard I head outside. The door is almost ripped out of my hands as I step out and hail rips into my body as I look for the brown pick-up. It’s sitting 50 yards away, rocking on its springs. I’m finding it hard to breath but tuck my head down and try to run. I fall over twice before getting to the door, fumble with the key in the lock and get inside. I turn the ignition and the truck starts straight away. Even with the lights on visibility is difficult. I head out onto the back roads trying to find my way onto Route 23.

I manage about a dozen miles, the last two through a black wood, without seeing another vehicle, which begins to concern me a little. I think back to my wife and kid sitting there in the airport, no doubt wondering how I can be so callous as to leave them there. Lost in thought I don’t see the fallen tree until it’s almost too late and I slam on the brakes. That was a close one. Now what shall I do?

I’m sitting here feeling the will drain out of me and join the puddles of water around my feet. A head-wrenching ripping sound comes from outside the car and I look up, and see a huge, dark shape crashing down in my direction.

Shadowplay

Living in a daily world of imaginary conflicts, in which the tide of others washed and pushed against him, He lived ever in anger’s twilight. The anger simmered, threatening to boil over but not quite managing to do so. In some ways it would have been better if it had.

In his make-believe world in which everything was a hurt against him, either directly or indirectly, he no longer lived; not in the true sense of the word. Whereas sensibility to his condition was heightened, other important aspects of his character were made obtuse. Happiness was an emotion felt by others. His anger would obtund any sense of enjoyment or achievement and his spiral continued downwards.

The world outside is bright
Spring fills the air
The fields and the trees are colour
Animals awaken from winter slumber
But within him the winter remained
And for him the clocks unchanged
He slivered on ice
where others walked on grass
He shivered with cold
while others warmed to the sun
He withered, his face white
when others danced with new life
He lingered in the shadows
whilst others cavorted in the long,
joyful hours of sunlight
He revered in his head
his sufferance in a world
where hurts imaginary
and conflicts obtusely
Beat him to the ground
into the dust, to be found
Where maybe hope one day
will bring him out;
out into the world again.

Depression can take manifest itself in various guises, this I know from personal experience.  Whilst at the height of my chronic insomnia 4 years ago the hospital put it down to depression which, personally, I couldn’t understand as there was no real motive, so I believed.  I just thought it was the other way around – that I was shot to pieces in the head, imagining scenarios which weren’t there simply because I didn’t sleep.  Thankfully, with loving support and no lack of determination, I managed to untangle myself from the shadow-spectre of this awful and destructive condition. 

During last 4 years I’ve started writing, which is a therapy in itself.  I still don’t sleep anywhere near the recommended 8 hours but whoever recommends this probably has nothing to do all day.  The above, in a very rough form, has been around quite a while, probably written during ‘recovery’ stage.  Ordinarily I avoid personally-related posts, but this is different – I want that reminder there.  I want to remind myself of where I was and where I am and be thankful for it.

C.

p.s. – Shadowplay is a track by Joy Division from their “Unknown Pleasures” album.  It just seemed apt in this case.

Smoke, ash and death to all

His eyes reflected the glowing, boiling mass of cloud, which masked the fear that lay behind them, as the first cracks appeared in the ground beneath his feet. The raining, burning acid ash now found its way to his skin. Confusion, as he looked around.

An hour before, the blue morning sky had been rendered and torn as a distant flash ripped through the atmosphere. The forest he had been looking at from the brow of the hill had danced before his eyes as the very Earth shook and moved on its axis, unable to sustain the blow which punched through its hide of rock and water and deep into the mantle.

He made his way down the gentle, stony slope and came to the first trees of the forest. He had no intention of getting tangled up inside but at the moment the trees offered protection from something as yet unknown but he felt sure of its arrival. His senses were in overdrive. Nothing moved and no animal called, and the only sound was his own reluctant footfalls as he wandered in rough circles, unable to decide any immediate action. Even the ground was silent in its shudder.

A vague, low movement on the horizon caught his attention. In the distance the blue of the morning was replaced by darkness and lightening flashed within the grey, growing veil, spreading over the sky, snuffing out sunlight with every passing second. He knew this was different to the frequent, sudden thunderstorms that marched through the low, wide valley, which were pedestrian compared to the jostling knot of clouds that raced towards him. His reluctance to enter the forest proved wise as huge clouds of smoke started to billow from the green foliage, obstructing his view and making it hard to breathe. He had to move.

Suddenly, from the trees there was movement as animal after animal crashed through the undergrowth and out into the open. Without waiting he followed, starting to run, his burning skin pushed to the back of his mind as instinct took over. The animals bunched together and ran before him as he gave chase, gaining ground with every stride. He was now on the level plain of the valley floor, and the tremors were less obvious now he was moving. The distance between him and his prey continued to lessen until, for no reason he could understand, he started slowing to a walk, the hunt for food no longer a priority.

He looked up at the sky, the seething cauldron of smoke, ash and fire replacing the daylight. He started to run but this time Tyrannosaurus realised that for the first time in his life if wasn’t hunger that filled his belly and drove him on, it was fear. His head filled with sounds of terror and ruin. There was nowhere to hide now.

Yesterday evening I flicked through the channels to find something which would make a good background as I ate my sea-bass.  I tripped over the last 10 minutes or so of a documentary on National Geographic about the last extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.  I like the asteroid theory.  An increase in volcanic activity is far too slow, almost glacial.  I like the idea also of T-Rex chasing something, but for the first time in its life not with the idea of eating it.

My T-Rex here is portrayed as ‘he’.  I can do that, he won’t mind, as either by slow volcanic ash or mad meteorite mayhem he met his end a long time ago so I can call him what I want, although Lassie or Fluffy probably wouldn’t suit him very well.  If Thomas Hund hadn’t thought of it first I may have called him Toby. 

How to say goodnight

This started out as a prompt in Writer’s Forum magazine, giving me the title.  I really enjoy these exercises and they can make a wonderful change from whichever project you’re working on.

********************************

Walking together
Under foggy street light
While you wonder
How to say goodnight

How to say goodnight
Will it end in a kiss?
Or will you return home
And regret the chance missed

Regret the chance missed
As she fades from sight
Wishing you knew
How to say goodnight

One Step Lovers

They stood side by side, hand in hand and their feet touched.  Mary could feel Tom’s hand squeezing hers, letting her know, without words, that they were one, a couple, and were in this together, as they had been for almost two years now.  He turned to kiss her.

It had started as a slow, drunken dance at a Christmas party; his steps awkward, a little drunk and she, not sober, sometimes trod on his feet, giggling.  They held each other close enough for their colleagues to start nudging each other and pointing.  Tom didn’t care; he didn’t want the dance to end, ever.  He was aware only of Mary’s perfume, the clean, shampooed scent of her shoulder length raven hair and her soft skin as he pressed his cheek against hers and whispered ‘you’re beautiful’.  Mary felt a butterfly take flight inside and she slung her arms around his neck as he held her, while Bryan Ferry sung “Slave to Love”, and the evening finished with a lingering kiss.

They started going out together over the Christmas period and returned to work a couple.  Both thought that working for the same company would get in the way but as Tom worked on the brokerage floor and Mary in the back-office a floor below, they rarely saw each other during the day and always had something to talk about in the evenings.  Recently they’d spoken of engagement, normally after a bottle of wine but they talked of it nonetheless. 

Tom let go of her hand, turned and placed his hands either side of her face as he bent to kiss her.  She held his gaze as her lips parted to meet his.  She felt their lips crush and she threw her arms around his neck, pulling him towards her.  The kiss was passionate although love had now replaced the lust that Tom had felt that first night but she still drove him wild.  He didn’t want that kiss to end, ever. 

Suddenly the floor shook beneath them once again; another explosion.  The heat and smoke were becoming unbearable and the couple parted.  Tom placed his cheek next to hers and whispered ‘I love you’, and Mary heard, above the noise and chaos she heard.  She pulled away and mouthed ‘I love you too’ back to him.  He felt tears sting his eyes as he smiled at her, drinking in her beauty in the late summer sunshine.  Then they turned.   

They stood side by side, hand in hand.  Mary could feel Tom’s hand squeezing hers, letting her know, without words, that they were one, a couple, and were in this together.  They stood, eyes closed and he gave her hand one last, tight squeeze.  They stepped off; into nothing and into forever.

***************************

Recently I read an article on 9/11, about those that became known as ‘the jumpers’; those men and women that chose to jump from the Twin Towers instead of burn.  It’s estimated some 200 people jumped before the towers collapsed.  In fact the images of those men and women are some of the clearest memories I have of the tragic events of that day.

I didn’t know this before reading but America in the main has tried to forget the fact that people jumped, because that would be considered suicide and that is contrary to God’s law.  I like to think instead that it was God and God’s love which gave them the initiative and courage to find that second way, knowing there was no way out. 

There seems to be a shadowy recollection of a man and woman jumping together but I can’t be sure after 12 1/2 years.  The possibility of a couple jumping together, finding strength in each other at the very last, pulls my heart strings, very tightly. 

I don’t do dedications, as they seem (to me) a somewhat futile exercise.  However, the events of that day in which 2’977 people lost their lives, between NY, Pennsylvania and The Pentagon, were so great that no-one remained untouched.  To all of those lost, and especially to the 200 who found the courage to take that final step.

The Old Iron Gate

In a recent edition of Writer’s Forum, I was interested in an article called ‘Morning Pages’, where you set yourself a morning hand-written (in my case) writing exercise of 3 notebook pages.  At first it read more like a diary and I was for giving it up.  Then I started pulling sentences out of the air and adding to them.  I didn’t really intend to air them but this morning’s one pulled me a little.  It’s not a story as such, more a descriptive exercise, however the last line leaves itself open for future ‘maybes’.

 

The path led out from the garden gate.  The forest appeared as a line of trees above the tall, well-kept Laurel hedge which ringed the garden.

            The grey gravel paths criss-crossed the smooth green lawns, unblemished by weeds or unwanted flowers and stopped in front of the tall, white marble water fountain, its centrepiece depicting St. George slaying the dragon and instead of spouting fire from its mouth, the dragon spurted water.

            From the fountain another gravel path rolled its way across the immaculate lawn, maintained like a tennis court, and to the huge iron gate.  The gate was 9 feet high, with a gargoyle detail atop its heavy wrought-iron metalwork, which twisted this way and that, and the gate made an impression, from one side safety and from the other a daunting, forbidden door.  A heavy iron bar bolted the gate and both moved without the slightest sound, as if the huge hinges were oiled daily.

            Turning my back on the gate I took in the whole garden.  The centrepiece fountain and the zig-zag paths which made their way to the old house in one direction, to the wide red-gravel driveway in another and to the landscaped gardens in another, the riotous, seasonal flowers vying for attention against the well-watered green backdrop.  I breathed deeply, as if inhaling the beauty and perfection.  Turning, I breathed deeply once more, because as soon as I turned and saw the gate, a dread surfaced in my stomach.  The world outside the gate fell into shadow by comparison.

            Wind-blown leaves, dead and dry as animal bones in the desert, stuck against the bottom of the hedge, unable to find a way through.  Outside the gate a path led in 3 directions; left to the village, right to the little churchyard and straight, if one had the nerve and courage, straight to the forest.  The last remnant of a much grander forest which was here at the time of the civil war, when even the cavaliers and roundheads shied away from it, unless need drove them inside.  Woodmen stayed at the fringes, their axes reluctant.  Firewood was taken from the ground, no-one ever thought or dared to cut fresh wood to make a fire, should they have to spend the night in the vicinity, whilst passing through, or rather round the forest.

            Now looking through the iron gate a dread chilled my blood.  My happiness at being surrounded by such beauty in the garden was extinguished, as the sun behind a raincloud, when I turned to look at the forest, the grinding of ancient branches in the breeze, the death-rattle of the leaves leftover from autumns past adding its voice to the melancholy chorus.  My hand touched the cold iron and without looking back, I took the middle path.

Flash Fiction Friday 113: The Third Rail by Christopher Farley

Thank you Morgen.

The Train Window

I was still breathing deeply and out of breath as the train left Milan and entered the countryside.  My heart was beating like a hammer on an anvil.  Did I really just witness someone killed?  Did I really see those men take a life?  Did those men see me as I ran for the safety of people and the station?  I was too far away to do something and hopefully to far away to be considered a witness, at least by those men.  Who were they?  What had the dead man done?  I relax into my seat, breathing under control and look out of the train window.

The flat, still-green farmlands speed by my view at about a 100 miles per hour; la Frecciarossa – the Red Arrow – is the train taking me across the northern Italian plain.  The vineyards; with vines now stripped of their fruit and displaying their autumnal dress.  Shades of green, red, yellow and brown fill my view: The window view.  Like the mother whose son has upped and left home, bearing the weight of the grapes is now a memory for the vine, which will soon be bare for the coming winter.

The low pylon wires running parallel to the track, powering the great train on its way, keep me company but spoil my view of the pale blue sky, slowly suffocating under fat, moist, grey clouds from the east.

The tilled earth of the northern plain, the soil, freshly turned, contrasting with the green, showing brown but somehow…clean.  The appearance of a hard job done well, of a tidy desk left in its place after a day at the office.  For the farmer it is his desk.  Where is that farmer now?  Enjoying the fruits of his labours?  Probably not; it’s a little early to get on the wine but I appreciate his spotless fields.

Now I’ve left the fields and entered a town.  Grey, monotonous concrete destroys any view I might have had.  It’s strange how grey feels so dismal, especially concrete, even in the sunshine.  If I can’t see out the window then I prefer the black of night, at least I can use my imagination.  God forbid it rain; there’s nothing more depressing than a miserable, wet winter’s day, with the light failing early and the concrete, sodden and cold, both to the touch and eye.  But it ends.

The fields have returned.  In the sunshine the fields come to life, even in the autumn.  The sunshine brings animation, inspiration, motivation even.  Motivation to keep moving; to follow the sun.  To not allow the autumn sun to set forever on another year and be followed with a violent sadness by the arrival of winter.  The sunlight flickers continuously from the flashing shade of the pylons and I shield my eyes.  Then relief comes as the train enters a tunnel, if I remember rightly it’s a long one.  I continue to stare out of the window.  The train roars through and I can’t hear myself think, so I don’t: I just stare, waiting. 

It’s then I notice in the window a shape behind me, blacker than the tunnel wall.  A man; standing…also waiting.  In the reflection is that a knife I see in his hand?

Flash Fiction Friday 108: A Shrinking World by Christopher Farley

Thanks once again to Morgen Bailey.
Still can’t get the hang of this reblogging malarkey though…

____________________________________________________

The greens and greys reflect on the surface of the lake. It’s almost 11pm and it’s still hot and humid. There may be another storm tonight.  More water.  At least the clouds will block out the sun, which won’t set, not this far north.  It’s like having a yellow moon in the night sky. Or what should be night.

You see, Greenland really is a green land now.  The glaciers turned into water quite a while ago.   This high up on the plateau we’re safe from the rising waters, for now.  Ice at the North Pole?  That’s a memory for some of us, for others, the kids, it’s just a myth, like dragons and hoards of gold.

Oh, the push on the boundaries of science.  Fools! In their search to prove or disprove something called Higgs Boson with their atom particle collider something went wrong, horribly.  They shrunk the planet.  Continents started sliding under or over each other and the world, as the old communications advert used to say, just got smaller.  All that water had to go somewhere and so it went up.

The world became estranged mountain communities; the Rockies, Andes, Himalayas.  I even heard there’s a small Alpine community but no one has ever returned to confirm this.  They want to and they try.  They leave in old, rusty ships from time-to-time.  People still insist on leaving, buoyed by hope but not by water.  The oceans are far too dangerous now.  The Earth has become one continuous stretch of water so when a storm hits there’s no longer any landmass to break up the huge waves that just continue to build and the wind continues to blow.  I’ve heard even the most massive ships wouldn’t have a chance out there.  My chance?  I’ll take it on the land under my feet, what remains of it, and hope.

At one time, the world worried about nuclear war and an atomic winter. Now the Earth’s crust is edging nearer to its core and it keeps getting hotter; they created an atomic-particle summer.

And the waters keep on rising.

 

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Tutor & Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and eighth piece in this series. This week’s is a 349-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 34 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 1st December.

A Shrinking World

The greens and greys reflect on the surface of the lake. It’s almost 11pm and it’s still hot and humid. There may be another storm tonight.  More water.  At least the clouds will block out the sun, which won’t set, not this far north.  It’s like having a yellow moon in the night sky. Or what should be night.

You see, Greenland really is a green land now.  The glaciers turned into water quite a while ago.   This high up on the plateau we’re safe from the rising waters, for now.  Ice at the North Pole?  That’s a memory for some of us, for…

View original post 738 more words

A Wing and a Prayer

Originally to be called Angel Wings when I wrote it yesterday, following a thunderstorm after work, just as I got on the motorbike…nice..  However at 4.30am this morning that title seemed like an old UK advert for a sanitary towel (Sorry Ladies…).

***

This has to be the quietest flight I’ve ever been on.  Even the kids have stopped squabbling.  Thank Heavens for small mercies.

The television screens are showing the ocean beneath, from the cockpit camera.  It’s very blue out there in the tropical sunshine.  Every now and again a ship, possible a huge oil tanker or bulk carrier will pass by, appearing tiny from this distance.  Have you ever looked, I mean really looked, at the ocean from a plane?  The way the sun creates 10,000 mirrors on the surface and how you can see the wave ridges, even from this height.

I’m stuck between members of the Ipod generation.  The skateboard guy to my left has Green Day blaring into his ears, he must be going deaf.  The girl on my other side has some awful rap stuff.  I don’t know what’s worse.  I’ll just go back to looking at the screen.  The book on my lap, The Outsider by Albert Camus, lies upside down and open.  I know it’ll ruin like that but I’m otherwise occupied.

My wife’s in the row behind with the kids.  Every now and again her hand reaches over and caresses my shoulder or my neck.  I reach over and put my hand on hers, giving it 3 squeezes. It means ‘I Love You’.  We’ve always done it.  I’d like to change places with one of my children but they want to stay close to Mum.  I can’t blame them.

An hour ago the pilot took us up to over 40,000 feet to avoid a storm.  40,000 feet!  That’s like sticking the Eiger on top of Everest.  We’re out of the thunderstorm as well, so I guess that’s another small mercy.

This has to be the quietest flight I’ve ever been on.  We were just under a hundred miles from Miami when the storm knocked out our engines.  The guidelines tell us our plane can glide that far.  I continue looking at the screen.  I hope they’re right.

Flash Fiction Friday 094: The Freedom Train by Christopher Farley

Thanks once again Morgen.

MorgEn Bailey - Editor, Comp Columnist/Judge, Tutor & Writing Guru

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninety-fourth piece in this series. This week’s is a 580-worder (with an American theme – happy Independence Day yesterday everyone) by Christopher Farley.

This story will be podcasted in episode 31 (with three other stories) on Sunday 8th September.

The Freedom Train

He closed his eyes for a second.  He finally began to believe it really was over.  The mountain of lies and the rivers, even oceans, of deceit no longer mattered.  The affair was finally finished and could now be considered a thing of his past, where it should stay.  It had become like a tedious end-of-season football match; neither side wanting to lose but both would be content if the referee blew time.  Each had said their piece and each had gone their separate way.  The thought of returning to his old life before his spree as a shoplifter in the…

View original post 933 more words

Post Navigation