A Profound Silence

The wind was blowing angrily. Snow swirled this way and that, it blew to the left, then changing direction, blew to the right. Changing direction again it even seemed to rise back up into the sky from where it had first fallen. A confused blur of white specks obscured the countryside.
The wind howled on. Twice I was forced to recover my hat after it was blown from my head. Shoulders hunched, I huddled against the weather and trudged onward. Just a short bracing walk I’d thought, get out for half an hour’s exercise before the snow set in…
The wind fell. The snow continued but all was now deathly quiet. I’d lost my way in the confusion of the blizzard but now knew where I was. After the noise of the gale the deep silence, deadened by the falling snow, was deafening. I headed home through the hushed stillness.


Written in response to the Ad Hoc Fiction 150 word flash fiction competition and the March 7th prompt, “spring”

The Grey Lady in the Night


I saw her ahead of me looming up out of the mist and fog, a stately vision of liberty, upheld torch lighting my way in the gloom. She reminded me of the famous American statue.
‘Come quickly if you value safety,’ she said, continuing, ‘I take in and give protection to all who need it. If you’re hungry I have food, if you’re in need of rest I have beds.’ She turned and walked into the mist, I followed in fear of what might be behind, hopeful of what lay ahead. As she walked ahead of me I studied her from behind. She wore a long, loose grey robe which billowed around her legs as she strode into the gloom. In her right hand she carried a torch playing it along the path in front of us. She had something tucked under her left arm but I couldn’t make out what it was in the failing light. Her confident stride saw her starting to pull away from me, I was forced to push myself to keep up with her. Eventually she slowed and, waving her torch, pointed out a low doorway leading into a snug looking cottage. We entered and she lit what looked to be an oil lamp standing on the table.
‘Sit, rest while I get the fire started. We’ll have a hot drink when I’ve finished.’ I sat at the table, weary after my tiring journey. My glance fell on the object that she’d placed on the table before lighting the lamp. It was what she’d been carrying under her arm as we had walked, a large book with unfamiliar writing on the cover
‘Who are you?’ I asked.
‘Just someone who likes to help those less fortunate than my self. You’re safe here with me.’ Out of curiosity I opened the book and looked inside. It was decorated with strange symbols, stars and half moon shapes, there were foreign looking symbols which I took to be runes, there were even words in what I recognised to be Latin and ancient Greek. If I didn’t know better I’d have thought it to be some sort of magical book, a grimoire perhaps.
The fire had caught and was now blazing away. I watched as she suspended a blackened kettle above the flames. For the first time, in the light of the fire, I caught sight of her face. It was a strong face with a slightly hooked nose, not plain, not ugly but handsome. She saw me watching her and smiled.
‘Like what you see dearie?’ she asked. She noticed that I’d opened her book and went on, ‘I’d be careful what you do with that book, Turn the pages with care otherwise those dwelling within the pages might take it into their heads to grab you and drag you into the book.’ I gently closed the book and pushed it away from me.
‘Is that why I should have no fear of those following me? Is that why I’m safe with you? Because they fear you? But what about me? Should I fear you too?’
‘The king’s men don’t fear me but they do respect me and leave me alone. I told you that you’re safe here with me. And you are.’ She turned her attention back to the fire as the sound of boiling came from the kettle. Unhooking the kettle she moved over to another table, one that looked to be set up as a kitchen area. She took a teapot and warmed it with some of the boiling water, rinsing it around then discarding it into the sink. She then measured out two spoonfuls of what I took to be tea, then filled the pot with water from the kettle. Taking down two cups from where they were hanging above the kitchen table she proceeded to pour us both a drink.
‘Drink this, it’s a restorative, it’ll warm you up and help revive you after your journey.’ I sipped at the drink and found it to have a delicate flavour and immediately felt an indescribable something. I relaxed feeling at peace and wondered about getting some sleep but no, my belly protested that it was in need of food before my tiredness could be accommodated.
‘Do you have anything to eat?’ I asked.
‘I wouldn’t worry about food if I were you. Finish your drink and see how you feel then.’ I continued to sip at my drink feeling more and more relaxed and as I did so my stomach ceased its complaining.
‘Perhaps you’re right, I no longer feel hungry. Earlier you mentioned that you had a bed to spare. It’s late, and I’m on the verge of nodding off sitting here at your table.’
‘I have my bed and I have a spare. If you want the spare you’ll have to bear with me while I make it up for you. That is if you want to sleep alone.’
‘ Alone would be fine, but thank you for the offer.’ I sat drowsing by the fire musing on whether she was trying to somehow entice me or whether it was just my tired mind playing tricks on me.
‘Ready for bed, sleepyhead?’ I woke with a start, I was slouched against the table, my head cushioned by the large book as if it were my pillow. Once more this enigmatic women loomed over me. I sat up then rose from the table and followed her through a door into another room. A narrow bed lay there clad in startlingly bright white bedding. It beckoned to my weariness, I slipped off my shoes and jacket and got into bed otherwise fully clothed. She leaned over me, kissed my forehead lightly, then tucked the bed clothes around my body and said, ‘Sweet dreams, dearie.’ Her last words to me as I drifted off.
I awoke refreshed to find myself lying on a snowdrift of crisp golden-brown leaves. The day was bright and warm with a fresh breeze on the air, likely responsible for blowing away the mist of the previous night. Of the woman or the cottage there was no sign. I found my jacket neatly folded over a nearby branch and my shoes aligned next to my leafy bed. I put on my shoes and jacket and continued my journey wondering where it was that I was going but with no thought of where I might have been.
As I walked my thoughts turned to my dreams of the night before. Who was that mysterious lady in grey who’d given me a bed for the night and nearly herself? How had she come to be carrying my book, the book now firmly tucked under my arm once more?


Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink March 15th writing prompt competition

Yes, We Have No Bananas

The fog pooled around my legs under the dim gaslight as I made my way down to the docks. I’d been invited to meet the Explorer of the South Seas, newly docked in the port of London, to view some mysterious new find. What it was, I had no idea, just that we’d been advised that my employer would be grateful to add it to his collection. I’d describe him as an art collector but that’s not quite right, he possesses an eclectic collection of curiosities accumulated from the four corners of the earth. I hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be another one of those poorly preserved animal specimens. I shuddered as I recalled the Feejee mermaid, an abomination of a creature stitched together from a mouldering monkey and the decomposing tail of a dolphin. It took weeks to get the stench out of the master’s carriage, hence my walking to this appointment.

I was met at the ship by a piratical looking cove by the name of Jones, a go-between for the ship’s owner, it was he who was to broker our deal. He explained that there had been a mishap and that the promised goods were not as they should be. He reached behind his back and produced what I immediately recognised as a bunch of bananas. I’d never seen a banana before but had read a description of them in Monsieur Verne’s recent Around the World in Eighty Days. By all accounts they were reckoned to be a mighty tasty treat.

I notice that while there was a bright yellow example nestled in the bunch the others were a blackened colour which, to me, suggested decomposition.

I took the bunch, retained the blackened ones for my master, and ate the yellow one myself. Mighty tasty.

Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 112 with reference to the prompt: Art Collector; Victorian London; Mystery.

A Questionable Pursuit


I reached the woods full of questions. Who am I? What am I doing here? Where is here? Why am I here now?
I find that I have no memory of who I am. It’s as though I’ve just woken up. I had headed into the woods as I’d felt exposed out in the open. The weather as overcast and threatening too so a bit of shelter wouldn’t come amiss. Wondering where I was I looked around. I appeared to be on the outskirts of a plantation of conifers. The trees in the interior were emblazoned with teal coloured question marks. I had no idea what the marks signified, perhaps a forester was pondering whether they were ready for harvesting. Looking back the way I’d come I saw a rolling, green landscape devoid of any distinguishing features. I turned back and walked further into the woods. I glimpsed a distant figure walking away from me through a gap in the trees, unsure of whether to approach them or not I decided to follow them until I got a better look at them.
The deeper I went into the woods the more nervous I felt. I stopped and looked around, the figure ahead of me seemed slightly nearer than before, it too had halted. Looking around I noticed that all of the trees around me were marked with question marks. Looking behind me it appeared that I also had a follower but one that was looking back over his shoulder, perhaps I’d not been seen. I moved off to one side until I was no longer visible from behind, this caused me to lose sight of the figure that I’d been following.
I started to cautiously move forward, straining to catch another glimpse of the walker ahead of me. After around five minutes of stealthy progress I once more caught sight of my prey. Checking behind me I saw that I also had been reacquired my follower. We seemed to be keeping steadying positions, neither gaining on each other nor pulling away. As the ground rose higher the figure I was following reached the summit. Now that my line of sight was clear of trees I could see that the figure was dressed in remarkably similar way to myself. The same colour top, the same colour trousers, even the hair colour was the same. Looking back I could see that my follower was also dressed in the same manner.
The questions returned. I would appear to following myself. Who am I? What kind of place could this be? Where was this place? Why was it even happening? How was it possible?
Who was the pursuer and who was the pursued?


Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink March 7th writing prompt competition

The Spring of Life

Hope springs eternal, or so they say.
I wonder why they say that?
I see it as an analogy to a fertile spring bringing forth life in an otherwise barren landscape.
A vision of hope. Just concentrate on that image.
A patch of bright green vegetation with the barest hint of moisture, within feet it grows into a languid trickle of water, that trickle starts to excavate a shallow stream bed and so begins a lazily flowing stream. It has no great pretensions, it doesn’t feel the need to evolve into a mighty river. It’s content, happy to laze along in the sunshine, occasionally breaking into a tinkle of laughter as it flows around a pile of rocks. Bordered by water loving plants, fish play making the odd muted splash, it creates a linear oasis as it wends its way across the countryside. Timelessly flowing, at peace with the world.


Written in response to the Ad Hoc Fiction Spring Special competition in partnership with the magazine Project Calm and the prompt, “spring”

The Magic is in You


Everyone has a little bit of magic deep inside them. It may not be big magic, not everyone can be an all-powerful sorcerer. Not everyone can see themselves as a fireball wielding magician. Most of us cannot even make it as witches with minor spells and conjurations. But we do all have a little bit of magic.
There are those amongst us that do well with their little bit of magic. They do good with what they have, reaching out to help those around them; they comfort the sick and the dying, they bring solace and hope. They help their neighbours, they heal injured animals and help the crops to grow to fruition. They look out for the lost and the lame, the weak and the weary. They watch out for the children and the elderly, they feed the hungry, and tend cuts and bruises.
These unsung heroes used to be called cunning folk, the wise women and wise men who looked out for their community. They are not witches. They are simply people with a conscience, people who care, people who have the ability to make a difference. They have the strength to do what you and I cannot. To them all are equally deserving of their care and attention. They seek no material reward for their services but an occasional thank you is welcome.
But what is the magic of these cunning folk? Is it some internal supernatural force, is it magic? It’s not written down, it’s passed down from practitioner to practitioner, mother to daughter, father to son. There are no books of spells, no ancient runes, no mystical scrolls. It cannot be quantified, it cannot be weighed, it cannot be measured. It is more than just common sense, there is a knowledge and an understanding of life and its ways. A knowledge of how the body works, an understanding of the flow of the seasons and the ways of nature. More than that there is a deep compassion for those in need, an empathy for those in trouble. This is the magic that is in them. Look closely enough and you will find that the magic is in you too.


Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink March 1st writing prompt competition

Haiku as a Prompt

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form. Loosely speaking, a haiku in English is a three-line poem with 17 syllables arranged in a 5–7–5 pattern

Trying to write a haiku at the writing group proves very frustrating. I opt to write an observational piece on the difficulties of writing one.
Although I found the recent six word stories challenging the haikus seemed virtually impossible. I look at some of my six words stories for inspiration, wondering if I can translate any of them into this exotic foreign form.
Counting out the syllables of the existing stories I realise that I’m cocking my fingers up one at a time as I write. Glancing around the tables I see that many of the other writers are doing the very same thing. Writing with the one hand they intermittently look down at their other hand as fingers are flicked open or folded into the palm depending on the writer’s preference. Others can be seen to nod there heads in a silent syllable count. It occurs to me to wonder whether it’s possible to form a haiku without this counting process.
I find it a difficult, artificial form.

Success, I manage to convert one of my six word stories, one which implied cheating at that form, into a haiku: I’m gonna cheat and use seven…

I’m gonna cheat and
use seven syllables to
make six word stories

I feel a curious sense of achievement and try another one.

Coming to writing, words fail me:

Coming to write, words
fail me in producing a
haiku, it’s hard work

But are these acceptable? Not all the lines are complete sentences

In desperation I find that I’m ticking off the fingers of my left hand with my right index finger as I look over another of my six word stories.

The tripods from Mars
conquered Earth’s armies with ease
but the bugs overcame

Better in terms of complete sentences and perhaps more original, although I have to say the syllable count of conquered gave me pause for thought.