The Spirit of Mystery – Day 28 Prompt / The Sea

The Spirit of Mystery anchors off the Cornish coast. It’s a little after dusk on a warm summer’s eve. A lone mount navigates the narrow pathway that snakes around the cliffs. The wind is low and the determined tap of iron shod hooves carries over the loosely packed stones to the cove below. The small band of smugglers cast a nervous eye from the hidden opening of the cave to the cliff face above. Red Nose Riley, aptly named thanks to his 30 year love affair with a certain Caribbean elixir, speaks to the young man at his side,

“Blayne would have my bloody tanned hide if we don’t get this lot out a sight”

The young man nods and motions a silent gesture towards the men. Making quick work of the booty, boxes are lifted, crates are dragged sideways and the group disappear into the hidden opening, leaving nothing but a trail of fine shingle to be quickly washed over by the rising tide.

At the far side of the cliff, the determined rider steers the horse along the winding trail, shuddering in the dampness and the cold that’s whipping in the air from the sea spray below. A loose fitting hood shields the rider’s face as a dark, heavily woven cloak billows behind and envelopes almost a third of the majestic looking stallion. Most knew the path as treacherous, and many a man and even a few hysterical women have fallen to their deaths, splayed in a blooded heap on the ground below. Unless you knew the curves of the cliff, like you would the fine seam of a glove, it was nigh on impossible to use. Fortunately Ebony Treblayne was as good a seamstress as she was a rider and steered the horse faultlessly down the perilous descent.

Ebony had watched for the ship these last 3 weeks. There had been no news in town and that was surely a good sign. The towns along the coast all carried shipping reports as eagerly as they did news from the crown. No wrecks had been reported within 30 miles of this section of inhospitable coast and the custom guard were still filling the taverns coffers as regularly as ever. When the signal had finally come last night Ebony had been as suspicious as ever. The whisper trail was open to danger, and whispers often got into the wrong ears.

She’d buried herself in her father’s library after supper. Mrs Winstanley the housekeeper, thought nothing amiss. Ebony was as intelligent as she was beautiful and it was her alone who had fought to keep the estate running when her father passed. Most of the staff knew she spent many an evening locked away, reading through her father’s papers; studying farming techniques and crop rotations. Yet, as the library was to the back of the house, facing the sea, nobody saw the burning lantern ensconced on the sill or found the hidden drawer in the mahogany writing desk that held various maps and charts. God forbid they found the latest cargo reports from the crown owned shipping companies in Portsmouth that she had hidden away. Tonight Ebony had sat by the window, a glass of whiskey in one hand and her father’s trusty spy glass in the other, waiting for the ship to anchor.

Ebony quickly dismounted, and walked the horse to a small cluster of trees hidden from above by a projecting cliff ledge and secured the reins. She consciously scanned behind her and raised her eyes to the cliff face above, nothing. Following the shingle by the cave edge she walked around till she came to the hidden opening.  Large stone boulders, 6ft across, blocked the gap, and overlapped in such a way to look as if the hole was completely sealed. It wasn’t until you were stood right in front that you could actually see the gaps between. Ebony followed the hidden path, as she had a hundred times before. Coming out into a vast open chasm, blazing wooden torches secured to the rock face illuminated the hoard that was stashed inside.  Red Nose Riley, watched her enter and quickly stood, swiping a trail of rum from his grizzly red beard.

“Gods splinter, they nearly got us this time” he cursed across the crates and boxes littering the space.

Ebony raised an eyebrow and tried to stop the corner of her mouth rising into a smirk.

“Riley, am I not always right, did you not think I would be” she questioned the towering pirate as she opened her cloak and let it fall against one of the opened crates.

Without the cover of her cloak, Red Nose Riley could see the two brass flintlocks laced across her hips. He coughed, trying to hold down the tension rising in his gut. He shifted uncomfortably on his stout squat legs and lowered his eyes from Ebony’s steely glaze.

“If your questioning my lead Riley, show it now you rotten toothed son of a bitch” Riley gulped and looked across at the others. Fear etched in their eyes as well as his.

“Now Blayne, you know I’m only jesting, I’d never run with them there custom guards” his choked laughter sounding flat against the echo in the cave.

Bang! Bang!  Two shots went through his belly and ricocheted off the cavern walls behind. His body fell with a thud, face down. Ebony blew on one flintlock then the other, calmly put them back in her belt and walked over the dead pirate’s body towards the others.

“Right lads, get to work, we’re in for a long night” she said to the small group of smugglers, who stood wide eyed and awe struck in the face of Blaine the Black, the most feared pirate this side of Christendom.

The White Lady

My 100 word piece for this weeks fab Flash Fictioneers photo prompt. Photo by Claire Fuller.

church_and_tree-claire-fuller

The white lady watches from atop an old stone coffin alongside the porch. When the black veil of dusk shadows the earth she wakens and walks, searching in vain. She gave birth in the church yard, alone and afraid and died at the hands of men never known. Her young body was found with a rope around her neck and a small woollen blanket lay empty at her side. The child was never found, some say it was gypsies who stole the babe away and others say her family buried their shame. Yet she searches every night for the child that she lost.

Day 24 Prompt – A Future with the Simpsons

Simpsons_couch-1- (1)Write a story that takes place 100 years in the future.  This is just a bit of silliness, because that’s the way today is rolling. 

When the sun had stopped raging and the waters had fallen back to the seas, there was nothing left on earth but the scorched corpses of a people lost for ever. It was many moons later , when sheltering from a sun storm,  a small group of nomadic aliens had landed on earth. The group had stayed and vowed to make it their home. They had found a book, buried beneath the rubble, in heavy gold font they read the words ‘SCRIPT’ and assumed it must be the bible of the ancients.  A small reel of film was untouched by the ravages and lay hidden in a silver box beneath the holy book. Using a transponder screen they were able to view it. These were the only images left of the ancients that had perished. The small people were in charge, far cleverer than the oldies. If this is how the ancients lived then let it be so they had vowed……………

Lisa pulled the visor down, scan checked her iris over the destination screen and blinked in the acceptance code. She plopped herself back against the seat and tried to relax. She’d had a headache all day and it was only getting worse. When she was sworn in as president, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. At eight she was already considered a risk for the presidency, a little too old and stuck in her ways. Plus her dubious family connections were against her. Never the less, once all the do nuts were counted she’d won the election by a jam slide. She only had a few years before she would be sectioned to the retirement castle with the oldies and she was damn sure she would make her mark first. She knew she was named after one of the ancients for a reason, and this was it.

The monobus lifted suddenly, she felt the thundering build-up of pressure in the engines as it quickly hit light speed and lurched to the side juddering free of the docking rail.  She hated the crude G-Force shields on the public transporters but her own hub was still in the shop, the second time this month. She closed her eyes against the static sweeping over the visor screen and tapped it a couple of times to try and clear it. Nothing. “Damn radiation storms again”, she mouthed checking the sax case was still locked and pushing it back behind her legs on the floor.

In another part of town, in the old section of Springfield underneath the crumbling nuclear plant, a ragged band of rebels were meeting in secret. The Government police force, the Cyclops, were staggered across various buildings opposite. One eye focused on the door way ready to laser anyone who left. The latest shoot to kill policy was a swift kick in the butt to the rising rebellion. ‘B’ gripped his replicator and tapped in an order for food. He was too hungry to think straight and needed a grease hit to kick start his cholesterol level. It was already dangerously low and his heart rate was very nearly close to normal already, damn he needed grease, and quick.

The black market burger trade was thriving in the old town. Rat, squirrel, snake, you could get it all, thanks to the illegal Milhouse replicators. The government had banned them nions ago but if you had the where with all they were easy enough to pick up. B inhaled the congealed liquid that soaked his glove; he breathed in and sighed against the heady aroma of forbidden meat. He devoured the Krusty burger whole and felt the buzz seeping into his blood stream. His heart shuddered in his chest, he lost a beat, his skin went clammy and he staggered back unsteady on his feet.  He fisted his hand and threw it in the air yelling out “Eat my Shorts” as a grease spot splattered on his shirt.

He looked across the crumbled ruins sensing the tension rising in the group. The lego bricks were strewn all over the stoned flooring and Major Nelson was struggling with the large war plan laid across the makeshift table. He’d make a mark, position some men then use the wet cloth to wipe them off the aqua mat and start again. B’s baby sister was sat in the corner, rocking on her knees. She was sucking a large sugar coated dummy, savouring her fix; she was an addict and always had been. He looked across at her but she was already high, the heady dose of sugar already hitting her pupils. He was worried about her. He kept it to himself. He had to.

Above ground, in the church of the Sacred Kwik-E-Mart, the head of Homer the Weird was already animated and booming to the crowds. The aisles were quickly filling up for Sunday service and the air was buzzing with the latest propaganda pop-up tarts that had been handed out all over town. The real rebellion was underway. With the government busy chasing B and his 2 foot rebels the oldies had started to meet en mass. For years, a select band of grown-ups had been secretly studying the ancient texts and the small reel of film from before the ‘Great Big Bang’. Things were about to change……………………

Day 23 Prompt – My Town

Describe/Fictionalise a childhood memory.

Only a short piece today, I struggle with non-fiction, think I like to lie too much (is that why I love storytelling, lol). So just like trying poetry and possibly mushrooms I’m continuing my quest to try something I don’t like every day, or possibly every other…..town

I spent my childhood in the town I still live. A small little market town that nestles in the Pennine hills, between the Lancashire & Yorkshire border.  Where Bronte Country meets the Yorkshire Dales and where green leafed bridleways snake around the outskirts and a stretch of canal meanders past the edges. A place where the quirky and the quaint swallow you in and call you a friend.

I remember the characters that I saw as a child. Some we were scared of, others we would watch and laugh or admire.  They all had names, never their own, but a name everyone knew. Whenever you went home and told tales of who you’d seen you nearly always got a “Don’t be rude” frown, but as they turned to walk away you could just spot the signs of a knowing grin.

‘Rag Albert’ walked round town with a rope as a belt. His pant legs always tucked-in to boots that never had laces. He looked through the bins, for cast offs and scraps and waved a bony hand at everyone who passed. ‘Gladys’ wore black and had hairs on her chin. She only had 3 fingers on one of her hands and we were always told that her mother had cut them off when she stole from her purse. ‘Benny Bicycle’ was short and round, he sat on a tricycle and wore a jaunty beret. He would launch a spit straight at you if you wouldn’t push him up the hill. There was also ‘German Anna’ who wasn’t from Germany. She would stop you in the street and read your palm for a few pence, if you didn’t pay enough she would just hold you firm, not saying a word till you paid up some more.

When I think back now, through adult eyes, it’s hard to believe that we thought this was normal and nobody cared or batted an eye lid. Today there are still a few that are quirky, new names have taken over the old ones. Times change and faces too, but thank god there will always be the quirky.

You, Me and a Cheese Sandwich

Day 21 Prompt – He or she sees their crush in a library. Describe the incident.

 

It was a quarter to six and Sheila was on her own in the main library. The only other people were the six or seven members of the Tuesday night painting class that were in one of the little meeting rooms upstairs. Sheila stood behind the counter and waited, fighting the ache that was strumming in her forehead. She put her hands flat on the desk, palms down, spreading her fingers as wide apart as she could, stretching them ever wider till she felt the sting. She knew the pain would dull the pressure in her head, it always did. She’d known that for a long time now. Pain was good; pain took away the fear and made tiny little lightning bolts sizzle in her blood.

She looked at the clock, then at the stairs, her eyes flitting wildly between the two. The hands of the clock slowly moved on, seven fifty four. A tiny bead of sweat settled on her brow, she didn’t move. She focused on the second hand hitting its target and moving to the next. She spread her fingers wider. The skin pulled tight, nearly opaque and a second bead of sweat merged with the other. She welcomed the pain.

Seven fifty five, she shot a glance back at the stairs. He always finished the class just before eight. They were coming down; chatting, laughing, heads huddled close. A haze of colour hit the corner of Sheila’s eye, shades of red and vivid blue, patchwork bags and floating skirts mingled into a mass of motion descending the open cased stairwell. Nobody looked her way. The browns and the fawn of her heavy set two piece made her almost invisible against the backdrop of books on the dark shelving behind her.

As the heavy front doors shut loudly behind the departing group, Sheila felt herself relaxing. She lifted her hands and let the pins and needles seep through her fingers. She closed her eyes for a second, savouring the discomfort of the blood rushing back into her fingers. A heady surge of pleasure hit between her legs. She shuddered.

Then she saw him, the teacher,  Jack Marsden; the one man she had loved all her life, the only man who would ever really know her. She knew he felt the same, or he would once he realised it was destiny and they were meant to be together. She would make sure he knew. She shuddered again. With the key in his hand he raised his arm to the lock and the muscular shape of his back stretched tautly against his T-Shirt. She could see him sideways on and caught the side of his square cut chin, the tiny indent of a dimple that flickered in his cheek and the sexy little lines at the corner of his eyes. He turned around without looking up and absently dropped the key into the safe box by the door. He still had his head down, rummaging through his backpack as he came down the stairs. Sheila didn’t move. She watched the stone wash of his jeans strain against his well-defined quads as he took the stairs in clean solid movements.

He still had his hands in his bag and head down as he left, too busy to notice Sheila grabbing her handbag, flicking off the computer and following him out. Once outside Sheila quickly double locked the library doors, dropped the keys into her handbag and pulled the collars of her overcoat up against the bitter night air. She watched Jack continue to search for something inside his back pack as he turned the corner and out of sight. Sheila gave a quick check in her handbag, yes everything there, snapped it shut and followed him round the corner.

She knew the route, she’d followed it a thousand times. She knew every shop that they passed, every car that was parked in the resident only parking bays and every window of the converted mill that overlooked the canal.  She twisted slightly in the darkness and went over on her ankle. She flinched and grabbed for the corner of a bench that sat on the towpath. She sat down and re-arranged the strap of her sensible brown work shoe, rubbing her ankle and cursing the council for the state of the pavement. Then she saw the light go on in his apartment. She straightened up and sat back on the bench opening her bag. She reached in, her eyes never leaving the 2nd floor room. She laid the bundle on her knees and slowly un-wrapped it.  Picking up one of the cheese sandwiches she took a bite then reached for the flask of tea she’d made earlier. She was always prepared.

Sheila was just about to reach for the other half of the sandwich when she saw the second shadow inside the apartment. She froze for a second, and then went for the binoculars in her bag. Her hands twisted tightly round the frame and the pressure in her head came back. She caught the silhouette of a woman move towards the window and saw Jack close the distance between them. Shelia twisted her hands tighter. Then she saw them kiss. Sheila swallowed. Her hand went back into the handbag and she felt the cold steel edge of the knife as it razored across her fingers. She gripped the blade harder and welcomed the pain.

Sheila’s mother always used to say “be prepared” and Sheila always listened to her mother. After all it was mother who said she would marry Jack Marsden, they were seven and neighbours before dad left with Aunty Mary and they had to move house. They never found out who stabbed Aunty Mary outside the bingo hall eight years later, or why a half- eaten cheese sandwich was left at her side. Sheila stood up, straightened her coat and walked towards the apartment, knife in one hand and cheese sandwich in the other.

A Little Book of Happiness

Today’s prompt was to write a story using the words Grandfather, post office, photo album and folder………….

chfphotoalbumIn the little cluttered sitting room, I’m savouring the stillness. Sitting back slowly I let the familiar scent of beeswax and polish, and cabbages and greens waft around my nose. I always call on Pops on a Wednesday. It’s my afternoon off and when the kids are at school and the ironings been done and piled high on beds that I’ve just freshly changed I bustle in the kitchen to bake his favourite biscuits. No matter what else that comes on a Wednesday I always bake him half a dozen or so oat & raisin flapjacks to have with a mug of tea. The scourge is, I hate baking, always have done. I hate the mess and the annoying sweat patch that runs up my back as I murder the dough to just the right texture.  I still make them though. I imagine his skin crinkling at the sides of his eyes and the little twitch of his mouth as he grins and I know how much he loves them.

“Hey Gina, look what I found in the cupboard under the stairs” he says as he shuffles his feet into a pair of threadbare slippers and plops down into the opposite armchair.

“What’s that” I lean over and tug at a slice of tomato that’s got stuck to the underside of his cardigan sleeve.

“It’s your Grandma’s book of happiness, remember she used to call it that” I thought his eyes misted over slightly but couldn’t be sure in the dimming light.

“Yes and you used to say, it’s only a bloody photo album Edna, I’ll get my happiness from the tap room of the Rose & Crown when my horse comes in”  we both smile then, remembering her palms against each hip, her eyes squinted in a mix of fury and humour whenever she pretended she was angry at him.

She’d chuckle and say “Them happiness’s will be there long after that donkey of yours walks home, you miserable bugger” and he’d shoot her a knowing wink and stick the photos in the book for her all the same.

That all changed on the day my grandmother stood on the linoleum floor in the kitchen and started undoing the buttons on her blouse.

“I’m going to be a naturist” she said. “I want to be free and feel the cool breeze against my skin”

My Grandfather was a proud man, he’d seen off Hitler and worked in the shipyards, he was all for nudity, but that was in the bedroom between a man and his wife. “Not in the bloody Kitchen, Edna” he’d shouted over his paper. She’d stuck out her chin. You’ve never been happy, she told him. You’ve always been so uptight – so keen on your horses – and all that real ale!

She’d unhooked her bra. He tried not to look. She pulled off her skirt and her tights. His eyes caught her backside, like an oversized cushion as she went in search of the kettle.

The next Friday she went to collect her pension from the Post office on the high street.  A phone call from Mrs Brown, who lived two doors up, had stopped Pops in his tracks. He’d dropped the racing post and ran out of the house, still in his slippers. Grandma was stood by the counter, as naked as the day she was born, one hand on her hip the other waving her pension book high in the air. Her puppy dog’s ears, marshmallow pink, were swinging free in the wind. Pops had grabbed some folders off the nearest shelf and held them up across her unmentionables. Mrs Brown took off her coat and passed it to him. Nobody spoke.

Grandma worsened quickly from then, and we finally lost her last year. A part of Pops went with her. His sparkle is a little less bright now; his body seems frailer and weathered with grief. I sigh a little deeper and I’m glad of these little bits of time I can still spend with him. I put away the plates and straighten the kitchen before I leave, one less thing for him to worry about. Then I open the bin and see a mound of crumbled flap Jack buried at the bottom. Pops stands in the doorway looking guilty and rocking slightly on his feet

“Oh…… I love you Gina, but you can’t bloody bake” and he shoots me a knowing wink as my hands go to my hips…

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Nothing Stays A Secret!

This weeks 100 word piece for Friday Fictioneers. Photo by Roger Bultot.

copyright-roger-bultotHis voice was barely a whisper, “Does he know you’re here?” I swallowed softly and lifted my face to touch across his cheek.  “No” was all I could manage as the heady smell of him inflamed my skin sending a thousand tiny lightning bolts pulsing beneath my flesh.

I leaned into the fire, his touch like the blaze of burning sun. These feelings like a saw cutting loose the chains around my heart. I could almost hear the chains being sliced. Hang on… that was a saw. I pushed at his chest, ran to the window and just heard the roar of the tree as it fell. “Damn”