#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: G for Goodbye Wanderer


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Goodbye wanderer..

Provided by: Samantha  Redstreake Geary friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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Goodbye wanderer

#atozchallenge : G for Goodbye wanderer

She came to me one morning, among the scattered dry leaves of a maple tree.

For a moment, I did not recognize her— her long- slow-fat slithering amongst the leaves. She lay there, in the dappled fall sunlight looking up at me as I looked down at her, unseeing.

I had dreamed of him again, the man with the yellow snake-like eyes, bearing down on me, pressing down on my face, tearing, clawing, hurting my throat, breasts. He had attacked my body, which had recovered well, as bodies will.  But he ruled my nightmares, and laughed inside my head by day. I needed to walk, run him out of my system, rinse him out of my eyes, my skin, my clothes today, just like on each one of the last ninety-three days.

She moved her head a few yards from my neon-pink sneakers, and that’s when I saw her body painted in patterns of butterfly or hourglass, depending on what you saw first, light or dark, her copper head raised lightly in enquiry, as if to say, what brings you to my home?

I had wandered further in the wilds than I had intended. This was not my backyard paved with bricks. It was hers, because under my dreamy feet I saw soil, light brown, a perfect camouflage. Be careful, my parents had hidden the worry on their faces as they dropped me to my chalet, oh please be careful, wouldn’t you?

 But I was determined not to be careful, not give in, not hold myself back, and now, I had met her.The cold morning breeze ruffled my hair as I came to a complete stop, but cold had nothing to do with the goosebumps on my legs.

Rest a while, follow my example, she kept her gaze on me, I will watch over you when you sleep, I’ll stand guard on your dreams. I’m your sister, you have skin and I have scales, but we are the same. We are still when left alone. Threaten us, and we strike back. We mean no harm, you and I.

I took a step back, then another. She did not move, as if surprised at my retreat, not wanting to startle me into flight. She lay her head back down, no hint of fangs or the venom they held. She had other uses for them.

I walked back towards my home, and she waited a few heartbeats before slithering away. Goodbye wanderer, she seemed to say, and fare you well.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Have you ever had a wildlife encounter, felt scared or disturbed by it?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Forever was shorter than she expected


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.

Writing Prompt: Forever was shorter than she expected.

Provided by: Anna Tan, friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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A to Z Challenge: F for Forever was shorter than she expected

A to Z Challenge: F for Forever was shorter than she expected

‘They had warned me, but much too late.’ Mrs. Wallace tossed grain to her flock of lovebirds, ‘I had already married him by then.’

The lovebirds flew all around her in the cage, a whirl of peach and green and teal feathers and beaks, they settled once in a while in her curled grey hair with their tiny claws, screeched and called and tittered in a frenzy. In that moment I saw her, black tees torn in places and jeans spattered with bird poop, laughing, throwing her hands in the air like a mad dervish in ecstasy.

‘He used to do this each morning,’ she smiled as she scattered another handful on the floor lined with feathers and straw, ‘Close the door behind you, or they’ll fly off.’

Outside the cage, a wall stared at me, lined with shelves heavy with rows of books and knicknacks. A goat skull sat on a pile of dusty books, next to a Mexican painted pitcher. A bottle of amber liquid, a floating scorpion inside, pincers lowered. Weird–shaped stones in plastic bowls. Some hair braided with beads.

‘All his stuff,’ Mrs. Wallace had caught me looking, ‘go click them if you want. Things from everywhere you know, antiques.’

Antiques, really? I looked up at the Arizona Ash looming over the building that contained the reception area and a few glass cases with sundry bugs and a smattering of posters. Once I finished up with the interview, I would find myself a pint of stout and some of that shade.

From somewhere inside the park, a lion roared, making me drop my phone. A long, drawn out call, and then a series of breathy grunts, at regular intervals. ‘Don’t worry, it’s just their lunch time, is all,’ she smiled at me once I’d picked up my phone, fumbling over my camera bag in the process. Never heard a lion roar outside of a TV set before.

‘I married Nick because he was handsome, and big, and kind,’ she answered the question I had asked her ten minutes ago, ‘I thought it would last forever. We began with chuckwallas and rattlers, you know, and some of these birds, a desert tortoise and one lame coyote. I love animals and so did he.’

Forever was shorter than she expected. Nick Wallace’s lions killed and half-ate him the year before last.

I had come here to cover the story of the park’s struggle to survive, against litigation, against public opinion. The lion had gone quiet, but the bird noise behind me hit a raucous, hysteric note. I wanted to clamp my hands on my ears, run.

I had to stay and ask her questions though, so I made myself turn towards her and smile. ‘I’ll wait outside.’

‘Head to the big cats,’ Mrs. Wallace did not look at me as she spoke, ‘ I’ll find you. Go on, my husband’s inside with them. You might get a few good shots.’

‘Husband?’ I froze at the door of the cage.

‘I kept Nick’s surname.’ She bent to refill her bowl of grain from a small sack. ‘This is my second husband, Kevin Brenner. He’s managed the money side of this place these last twelve years.’

I had held the door open, and a few of the birds now flitted out, their wings whirring above my head. I began to close it back, but she walked up to me and opened it all the way. I turned without a word, and took off to find the lion enclosure.

I looked back once, to find her still tossing grain, as one bird flew out, then another.

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Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Ever been in a Wildlife rescue centre with big cats?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Everything that happened afterwards


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Everything that happened afterwards…

Provided by: Jemima Pett, twitter buddy, fellow writer, and one of the magnificient Seven of #TeamDamyanti

 A to Z Challenge: E for Everything that happened afterwards

It had sounded like hands rubbing together, her first snow.

 The flakes had come in flurries and gusts, turning the afternoon white. She’d wanted to feel them on her hands, check if they felt warm and soft like cotton wool. But Harry would have none of it. Mum was taking a nap, her tummy swollen with a brother or sister, and he wanted to find Dad, build the igloo he’d been promised.

She had walked, as fast she could in her new boots, holding hands with him, the two blocks to her father’s office. The wind nipped at her nose and lips, her eyes watered. The snowflakes melted in her hands. She wanted to slow down and look up, catch them with her tongue, but Harry wouldn’t wait, Giddyup, Pigtails!

The guard turned them away at the main door. Their father couldn’t see them, not just then, busy at a meeting.  Come an hour later, the guard towered over them with a whiskered smile, or better still, why not get back home for some hot chocolate and wait for him to return?

They nodded and ran off, but once out of the guard’s sight, Harry dragged her to the side of the building. We’ll surprise him, he shook her arm, come on!

In their last home in Florida, they’d gone to the beach each Sunday. Walking in the snow felt the same, but different. She wanted to linger in it, sit down on the fluff.  She’d pulled at his hand, My feet hurt. Why hadn’t she pulled him back harder? A few minutes, and everything would have stayed the same.

Later, he hauled her along, we’ll throw snowballs at his window, he showed me which one it is. He promised he would come out for the first snow.

They’d skipped up on a pile of bricks, kicking the snow off it, and peered into the tall dark window. Why hadn’t Harry thrown a snowball instead, made some noise?

 

Everything that happened afterwards had now become a blur.

Their return to Florida without their father, the birth of their dead brother, their mother growing silent and droopy, never speaking again, fading away from this earth. As she sat in her parked car across the Mayor’s office, watching another snowfall, she couldn’t remember much. Only the choir of her father’s funeral an hour ago, the stern voice of the priest. Harry hadn’t made it. Can’t get leave, sorry, Pigtails. See you when you get back.

But that one moment from thirty years ago, that stayed clear.

She remembered that they’d peered. Through the parted curtains, they’d seen their father in his unbuttoned shirt jerking backwards and forwards on the table, a blonde woman under him. Her bare legs wrapped around his waist, like a white snake. They couldn’t see the rest of her, only the red nailpolish on one foot and black pumps on the other.

She remembered the flakes of snow, falling around her, then, as now.

And she remembered the sound they made, that of slow, unhurried palms, rubbing softly, together.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Have you ever had a few moments change your life? What do you remember and what do you forget? Why?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: D for Damnation awaited her, if…


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.

   Writing prompt: Damnation awaited her, if…

Provided by: Mary Wallace, friend, fellow blogger, and one of the Magnificient Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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Damnation awaited her, if...

Damnation awaited her, if..

     When Lilith opened the door, she wished she’d worn a better dress. The paisley she’d saved for the New Moon Day perhaps, cinched at the waist and flared below, which made her look delicate, a woman a man could smile at, ask out. Marry, even get with child.

What else was a man good for, besides making a woman with child?

He stood, left thumb hooked in the pocket of his jeans, smiling down at her. It fit him well, as did the smile on his shapely lips under his cowboy hat. Who wore cowboy hats these days? Lost wanderers in open-topped blue Mustangs, apparently. She saw it parked outside the gate. It stood like an obedient steed, shiny, as if it had just rolled out of the workshop. A car from another age, just like the man, who asked her whether he could use her phone.

They had those cellphone things these days, not that she had used them, but youngsters like him did. Odd. Not many lived in the old ways. It suited her though. She had just taken a bath, the house smelled good, of soup and incense, and her own fragrance.

She invited him in, giving her hips that subtle, extra, swing. Even in her plain cotton skirt, the drab garb she wore to hide her true self, she knew how to make male eyes stare– her long, shining hair that stroked her hips drew their gaze, and once they looked at her, they did not resist. Could not. Her body retained its shape from centuries ago, that was the way of her kind, and she was the mother of her kind. The Baalat.

Damnation awaited her, if she gave in, did not resist the call. But too long in her exile she had waited for just such a one.

After she was done with him, she would build another wall behind the house, lay him there in splendor, and build around him. She would give birth right outside the new wall, and her daughters would rise to fight again. She would not return to Adam or Eden, she had never bowed to an Adam’s son, would not start now. She would not bow to God’s will. God was a man, was he not?

 The farm boy stood making his call. Behind him, concealed with heavy drapes, loomed the old wall, its bricks gaping, mortar cracked in places. Lilith grinned, coiling her hair into a black-gold snake, waiting to strike.

She didn’t see that the man smiled too, into the phone. She didn’t see that his palm held a fist-sized, sapphire-colored, glittering rock. Lot’s salt, large enough to turn an Angel or Demon into a pile of ashes.

She did not know, and refused to accept, man’s dominion over woman.

And like all women, she paid for it.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Have you read of the legend of Lilith?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Clearly, it wasn’t going to happen


 

C for Clearly it wasn't going to happen

C for Clearly it wasn’t going to happen

   As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.

   Writing prompt: Clearly, it wasn’t going to happen

Provided by: Anna Tan, friend, fellow writer, and one of the Magnificient Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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So many things could have gone wrong with my son.

He could have perished in the womb– not a human yet, just a lump of cells, busy multiplying, abruptly stopped and flushed out.

He could have died with his mother, not taking his first breath as she took her last.

He could have suffered a birth defect, brittle bones, perhaps, and died of a fracture one too many. He could have drowned while I bathed him and rushed midway to the kitchen to rescue dinner from burning, leaving him alone for three crucial minutes.

He could have been strangled in the chokehold of a friend at school, during the break, in rough horseplay. He could have died of heat exhaustion if I forgot him in the car an extra quarter of an hour while I tried to get hold of a stock of nappies on sale. A kidnapper could have nabbed him while I let his hand go for a moment at the fair as I paid for the toy gun he wanted. He could have fallen down a cliff when we went camping, hiking, slipped off a path while walking right behind me, when I wasn’t looking.

 But I had allowed none of those things. I paid attention like a good parent should, see. Not for a minute did I lose my focus in all those years, not for a moment.  There stood my son, a strapping teen, his muscles strained against the gaping mouth of a Great White at the amusement park.

 We had a glass of wine each, later, at lunch. I drank to give him company for his first drink, you understand, on his sixteenth birthday. First time in seventeen years I touched drink, pinky swear, and that was hours ago. I’d never broken the oath before. I felt fine as we drove, the breeze in my hair. We had seat-belts strapped in,  just the way I had shown him, tugged one extra time to make sure. My sedan kept to the left, going far below the speed limit. I hadn’t given in when he said, Come on, Dad, none of the boys get driven around by their dads. I did not lose my focus, not once.

Clearly, it wasn’t going to happen, and yet it did. That truck came speeding down at an intersection, out of nowhere.  I still didn’t lose my focus, no, not for a moment.

I did all the right things, that’s all I’m saying, you know?

I did all the right things, and yet all I’ve left of him is this photograph, prying open the jaws of death.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Are you a parent? If you are, what did this story make you think about?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Beneath that pious exterior


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Beneath that pious exterior..

Given by : Paul Ruddock, fellow writer, and blog friend.

A to Z Challenge: B for Beneath the pious exterior..

A to Z Challenge: B for Beneath that pious exterior..

               Give me a sense of your history, she said, weighing the hatchet in her right hand, shifting it to the other, as if trying to decide which was the stronger for the job, the one that would not tremble, make less of a mess. Her head came no higher than my chest, and I’m not a tall man. 

               I don’t have one, I smiled at her, willing her to see reason.

              Beneath that pious exterior, you gotta have something, Father.

              She swung the hatchet now, in slow, lazy, arcs. She wasn’t looking at my face, but below, below my middle. If not for my hands tied behind my back, I would have drawn my cassock closer.

              This year will be a hard winter, may the Lord save us. I drew my legs together on the straw, trying to look as chatty and unthreatening as possible.

               She watched me, like a bird with large yellow eyes, her head swerving, this way and that. She watched me from behind her hair, from behind her torn sleeves when she wiped her face. The air in the barn smelled of her, of blood and meat and wool shavings and steaming dung, of life, too much life, too attached to this earth. Behind the barn, the woods trilled with life, roosting birds calling to their mates, the hiss of breeze caressing leaves, an occasional coyote setting off on its night’s walk with a bark, a drawn-out whinesong.

              I longed to join them.

              I did not hurt anyone. That is one fact I knew about myself, as sure as I was born, as sure as I would die. I was not the one who hurt your brother, I wanted to add, but didn’t. Words had lost their use now, I saw that in those half-hidden, shaded eyes.

             Ah, come now, give me something else. You’ve heard my confessions often enough. Your turn now.

             She swung the hatchet at the pile of firewood, splitting a branch in neat halves. She’d studied more than music and sewing in the last dozen years, but she hadn’t learned much about me, nor about tying knots I couldn’t wriggle out of.

 

By the time I was done, the hatchet was wiped, and shining once again. Technically I hadn’t hurt either of them. You don’t hurt once you’re dead. I rolled up my cassock. This one would have to go.

              Her bones and pieces of her insides littered the pen, where the Middle Whites, the Large Black and the Large White had begun to work on her, and her clothes. Their large rolling bodies shoving each other, they snouted and snuffled into the bloodied mud.

             Rest well, my child. I eased myself out through the gap in the fence at the back. Excited, high-pitched screams rent the air.

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Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? What emotions did this story raise in you?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: After the darkness…


Another big day this year: the first day of the A to Z Challenge –I’m equal parts nervous and excited! Are you taking part? If you haven’t signed up for the biggest blogfest ever yet, you could still do it today! 
As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: After the darkness..

Provided by: Peter Nenafellow writer, and blog friend.

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#atozchallenge: A for After the Darkness

#atozchallenge: A for After the Darkness

   After the darkness of his room, its absolute quiet, this seemed different to Joseph. For one, he felt the swish of air under his robe. Strong hands carried him, holding him by the arms and legs, swinging him lightly. This must be yet another dream, a message from Báʿal. He would wake up any moment.

    Reuben and Judah argued somewhere nearby.

   Joseph couldn’t make out the words his brothers spoke, but Judah seemed angry, and Reuben, pleading.

      What is it about this time, he wanted to ask, but no words came. Fabric pressed against his lips, his new beard, his soft mustache. Someone had gagged his mouth. He struggled and the men carrying him stopped, as did the voices.

       I told you to make sure he sleeps. Judah’s whisper, rough and close, grated against Joseph’s throat, his chest. Why did his brothers want to make sure he slept? They had tied him up, and now carried him in the dark. What in the name of all that’s…

      I did. Reuben’s voice cut into Joseph’s thoughts.

    Now he will know it is us. We have to get rid of him, and it’ll be all your fault.

    No, send him away. What if father finds out?

    He won’t. The old man would go so blind with crying he won’t notice a thing.

Joseph listened as the air changed around him. The incense-laden air of his home gave way to the open, the smell of hyacinths, cattle dung, stale food and jasmine in the night, and the poison of his brothers’ breaths moving back and forth as they wondered whether to strangle him, throw him in a ditch, bury him.

    Sell him, I still say. Reuben, his voice soft, but urgent.

So it was that in the darkest hour of dawn, Joseph found himself stumbling along, his feet sinking in the soft sand, his hands tied in front of him, forcing him to follow the large, awkward, but sure steps of a camel. The caravan stretched all the way to the horizon when he glimpsed it from the top of each dune and the camel dragged him up, and came sliding back down, still tied to the camel.

In the darkness, his brothers had sold him. He was now a slave. After this night of darkness, more darkness lay ahead.

But in his head, he had his thoughts. In his sleep he would have his dreams. He would still dream of high arches, the insides of lighted domes, of the house of Báʿal. His brothers could not take those away. He would escape into himself, into Báʿal, who knew and forgave each of man’s sins.

As his feet sank yet another time in the warm sand, he looked up and saw in the distance a ball of orange rise, like the dome of the house of Báʿal.

After the darkness, the darkest hour; light.