Up, Up, Up… (Crimson’s Creative Challenge #128)

Up, up, up…the steps narrowly cut into the hillside were never ending. Higher and higher we climbed, my breaths coming in ever deeper gasps. From the bottom, the hill looked like any other. So why hadn’t we reached the top yet?

‘Aren’t we there yet, master?’ I uttered, pausing a moment to catch my breath.

I hated how childlike I had sounded, but I needed to ask because I couldn’t grasp what was taking us so long. I was expected at the hilltop temple for my final test before I could ascend to the next level of my training. Being late would give the impression I didn’t care. It wouldn’t look good at all.

Before my master could answer, I carefully turned about so I could see how far we had come. I scratched my head. How…?

We had been climbing for an hour, of that I was sure. But we were only ten steps from where we had started.

‘I don’t understand…’ I mumbled.

‘The lesson is a simple one,’ my master said quietly behind me.

I turned to face him. He was ancient, with a long grey beard, braided down to his waist. I noticed, feeling terribly annoyed, that there wasn’t a single bead of sweat on his forehead and his breath was as steady as if he had just woken from sleep.

I took a few deep breaths and closed my eyes, clearing my mind as I had been taught to do. It didn’t take more than a few heartbeats for realisation to dawn.

‘This is the test,’ I said aloud.

‘Good. Now tell me what the lesson is.’

‘Rushing won’t get me to the top of the hill. I will get there only when I am ready. When I have understood the lesson.’

‘And the lesson is…?’ My master prompted.


‘Good,’ he said again. ‘Now shall we see how you have faired?’ He turned about and began climbing the hill once more.

With a lighter heart and even lighter tread, I followed.

Written for: Crimson’s Creative Challenge #128 from 21 April 2021. At 320 words I’m quite a way over the 150 word limit, so apologies for that…

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…

A New Found Sense of Wonder (Earthbound #6)

(To read the story from the beginning, visit Earthbound’s index page here, or click here for part 1, I Dream of Things Far Away…)

An earth map of the stars…But what to do with such a revelation? I wondered.  It felt so profound that its very essence was bewildering.  Nonetheless I was captivated by the very idea and could not let it go.  To relinquish it now would be as if I had raised anchor during a storm, and so, relentlessly I forged ahead with my deliberations.

I was earthbound, grounded by root and soil, by grass and tree.  How could that which grew from beneath my feet elevate me skywards?  It was illogical; it made no sense.  And yet I was as certain of this as I was that somewhere in the vast expansive sky was my home.  My true home.  It was without reason but, perhaps it was beyond reason, requiring nothing more than simple acceptance.

I got to my feet and made a study of all that was around me, appreciating what I saw with a new found sense of wonder.  For, to my mind, a tree was no longer just a tree but a signpost; the unfurling frond of the fern that pointed like a finger was a marker showing me the way.

And so, with a renewed spark of hope in my heart, I looked at the forest bathed in warm, golden sunlight and mused over the biggest question to face me yet…in which direction was I to take my first step of the journey?

Mapping the Stars (Earthbound #5)

(To read the story from the beginning, visit Earthbound’s index page here, or click here for part 1, I Dream of Things Far Away…)

I was not given long to ponder the merit of changes one could only feel and sense rather than know and understand, or to question the stillness that had come in the night.

Dawn broke with a ferocity I had never before experienced, and the forest came to life with alarming speed.  The world was waking, and yet I felt like I was dreaming, lost in between worlds.  All around me was brought into sharp focus but at the same time my perception was muted.  Acceptance of what was offered no insight into what was unfolding.

As I looked up into, through and beyond the tree canopy above, the strange pattern of brightness that filtered through leaf and branch reminded me of the night sky…may be it was the combination of the dark and light together, which called to mind the endless blackness and the tiny beacons of starlight.

It was the perfect balance between earth and sky, an harmonious joining that set my mind to contemplation, for what I saw was more than an expression of the earth’s fecundity and the strength of the sun.  It was a map.  A star map, made of sunlight and green foliage.

Already exhausted and overwhelmed by all that was and yet wasn’t, I struggled to grasp this latest revelation: there were clues in the earth that would show me the way to the stars.

The Robed Ones – a piece of flash fiction

witchcraft flash fictionThe robed figures moved through the trees in silence, the only sound coming from the breeze rustling the leaves that had yet to be dislodged by the advancing season.  Each one carried a small candle, giving off just enough light to illuminate the way but that was all. Their faces remained in darkness, their hoods pulled low.

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