Never Alone

ivan-bilibin

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

Living in the woods all my life, I never thought I would come to fear the forest.  The sounds, especially during the night, once offered comfort in their familiarity.  I felt safe.  I felt secure.

But when my brother left home to find work in the city (there was little work to be found where we lived)…when my sister got married to a man who lived on the other side of the river…when papa died…and then mama too…I was left alone.

The days and nights seemed longer then.  Noises beyond the cottage were magnified and echoed through the trees.

And then one day a stranger appeared on the path that ran close to the garden.  He asked for help; said he was lost.  In that moment I realised how much I missed my family and the company of other people.  The cottage was so isolated that it was rare for people to take the little used forest track that ran for miles between the closest village and the road to the river crossing.

He spent many days under my roof, talking and laughing.  I was content in his company but I couldn’t help but think of the future.  After a few weeks I asked if he would stay…

The look on his face was answer enough.  No, he would not.  Could not.  I nodded and we spoke of it no more.  He had made up his mind.

Over the next few days my anxiety of being alone and my fear of the forest increased.  It was then that I knew I couldn’t let him go.  So I ensured that he would never go away.

Six months later and another wanderer found his way to my gate.  He had hurt his leg, tripping over a hidden tree root in the forest.  Could I help him?  Of course I invited him in, though my first guest did his best to make his warning known.  Sadly, the injured man had yet to learn how to hear him.

However, he did notice strange noises.  I thought he meant from the forest, like the ones that had once scared me.  Instinctively I felt drawn to take care of him, to protect him, but when he too said he must leave…that there was something not quite right here…well, I couldn’t just let him go.  The forest was dangerous but the cottage was safe.  He would understand in time.

Years passed and my family grew.  My home was filled with voices and activity once more, and emptiness was banished to the past.  No longer would I fear the woods, not even in the darkest of winter nights.  Together we were safe, stronger.  I would never be alone again.  And besides, the dead did have their uses…


This was written for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.  When I saw the picture, I knew I had to give it a go.  Thanks for the inspiration, Jane.  I really enjoyed writing this 🙂

Excavating the Archives: Echoes of the Past

mitchells fold

Footsteps echo on the ancient ground.  Snippets of conversation carried on the wind of time.  Shouting.  Screaming.  Laughter.  Crying.

Experience imprinted on the landscape.  Memories forever carved in stone.  Life and death remembered.

Stories waiting to be told…truths waiting to be heard…

The past is never silent.


A quick read from the archives, dating back to June 2014…

https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/echoes-of-the-past/

Untruths

through the tree canopy

I don’t have the words to tell you how I’m feeling; please don’t ask for I will be forced to try and explain, to compromise and approximate, confusing what is with what might be, as if I was writing fiction…exchanging truth for something else entirely.

Hungry Ghosts

I was going through one of the old short story folders on my computer yesterday, when I came across this spooky, horror one.  Written a few years ago for a friend who had an interest in such things, I thought it would be perfect for Sindy’s Spooky Writing Challenge – my favourite writing challenge of the year!  It’s not my best piece of writing, but I hope you’ll agree, you can see how much my writing has developed over the last few years.


Night time

Hungry Ghosts

To be the son of an impious man was shameful.  My father was greedy, coveting riches ceaselessly.  We lived in a palace full of treasures but he always wanted more.

However, nothing was harder to bear than his lack of care and respect for the dead.  I often found myself wondering if our home – my father in particular – was cursed.  His insatiable desire to possess everything he saw was bad enough, but he despised waste.  It would have been a noble quality in any but him.

I would place offerings of food and drink out for the spirits of our ancestors during Ghost Month, when spirits left Diyu, the lower realm, and on Ghost Day, when the spirits came to visit the living.  I didn’t want to anger my ancestors, and I couldn’t bear the thought that they might go hungry.

But my father didn’t believe in any of it.  He would not publicly say this, of course; to do so, would probably bring ruin upon our home.  Nonetheless, I often noticed that once I put out the offerings, he would take them back, returning them to the kitchen under the cover of darkness, when the thought no one saw.

The shame!

I had observed him doing this the previous two nights, and today was Ghost Day

I was standing on the edge of the river with others from the town, watching the paper lanterns float away on the current.  Everyone present was hoping that the light from the lanterns would guide any wandering spirits away from this place so they could cause no mischief.  The full moon above glowed brilliantly, its golden-silver orb reflected in the water. And silently I wondered if the ghosts of our ancestors would go hungry tonight.

And what they would do in return.

When I returned home to bed I couldn’t sleep.  Finally, when I couldn’t stand tossing and turning anymore, I got up, careful not to wake my sleeping wife, who, like the rest of the household and town, was oblivious to my father’s insulting attitude towards the ancestors.  I decided to go for a little walk around the palace, to see if that would still my unquiet mind.

And that’s when I saw it, a dark shadow climbing over the roof of one of the outer buildings.  Even in the light of the full moon I couldn’t make it out clearly.  I wasn’t even completely sure of what I had seen.  However, fearing attack, I decided to investigate.  My father was an important, powerful man and this would not have been the first time an attempt had been made on his life.  I had my dagger at my side and was capable of using it to deadly effect, if it was indeed an assassin.

My fear proved true, for whoever it was ran silently passed the treasury.  Many valuable items were displayed all around the palace but these were ignored too.

It could only be an assassin.

When they reached my father’s chamber, they opened the door and slipped inside.  A moment later, I did the same.  My plan was to take them unaware, and immobilise them quickly before any damage could be done.  If I sounded the alarm, not only might they kill my father, but themselves also.  I needed to determine who had hired them and why.

Inside the room, all was in darkness.  Slowly I crept along to where my father slept.  I held the advantage in the dark, knowing the layout of the room; the assassin would have to let their eyes adjust to the dimness, or so I hoped.

Noiselessly, I released my dagger from my belt, and turned the corner into my father’s sleeping quarters.  That’s when I paused.

The shadow was hovering over my father, who was gasping for breath, and yet I couldn’t see what the assassin was doing.  There were no hands around my father’s throat.  No knife was protruding from his chest.

‘Stop!’ I called out.  Two blood red eyes shone at me out of the darkness as the culprit looked up.  And that’s when I realised this was no assassin at all.

In shock, I dropped my dagger, it’s clanging on the floor was almost deafening in the silence.

I tried to move but something, some otherworldly power, held me fast to where I was.  I tried to call out for help, but again, something had made me mute.

I knew what was happening…and what was going to happen.  I knew what hungry ghosts did to satiate their craving.  And when my father exhaled his last breath, he became the meal he was so unwilling to offer our ancestors.

When it was done, the shadow left the bloody remains on the bed and approached me.  I thought my heart would burst out from my chest in fear.

‘You are honourable,’ it whispered to me.  ‘You are safe from the spirit of your ancestors.  Continue as you have always done.  Respect them.  Honour them.  Placate them.’

‘What of my father?’ I asked, the power of speech now returned to me.

‘His greed in life will plague him in death.’

I understood what that meant.

My father was a hungry ghost too now.

Monsters and Manners

the silence remains

‘I don’t believe you!’ Pete Lovelock, the demon detective growled.

‘But it asked so nicely.  It said “please”.’

‘Let me get this straight.  You rang me, terrified about a monster in your basement and then decide to let it out…because it said please?’

‘What else was I supposed to do?’

‘How about ignore it!’

‘I couldn’t have.  That would have been the height of rudeness.’

‘Look, lady.  It’s a monster.  It can deal with a little bit of impoliteness.  Now it’s out there, on the loose, causing who knows how much trouble.’

‘Well, it’s not my problem now.  It’s yours.’


This was written for Day 8 of “A Month of Mini Writing Challenges“.  See this page here for more details and a list of prompts.

Choosing the Road (Earthbound #7)

It has been (many) months since I posted a chapter from Earthbound.  If you are new to this story, visit its index page here where you will find links to all the previous chapters as well as little more information about the story itself.


The first step of a journey is always the hardest.  You must work out where you need to go and how you are going to get there.  You don’t want to begin by starting down the wrong path, for who knows if you might ever find your way again.  Thankfully I had my map laid out before me.  All I needed to do was follow the directions I had been given.

From my look around I could see there were three options before me.

The first to my left was a narrow animal trail that seemed to disappear as soon as it started beneath the tree canopy.  The way looked barred in places due to overgrown brambles.

The second directly in front of me was much wider and the path clear of all obstructions.  The sun shone down through great gaps in the branches overhead, bathing the path in golden light illuminating a number of wild roses.

The final one was to my right and appeared wider than the first but narrower than the second.  To either side of it grew two young oak saplings flanking the entrance, and just beyond them I could see a little of the way ahead due to the moderate light that filtered down in places.

I had a choice to make.  The dark path, the light path or the one that was in between.   The bramble track, rose track or oak track.

I closed my eyes and allowed my heart to make the decision…