Excavating the Archives: Unearthing Secrets

I had never built a brick wall before so was unsure how far down the foundations needed to go. Was it as deep as the wall was to be tall? Or was I confusing that with a tree and its roots?

I paused, momentarily muddled, before resuming digging. Better to have more foundations than not enough.

When the trench was two foot deep, the spade struck something with a sickening sound. White bone gleamed from out of the soil. That’s when I realised I would have been happy with a fence.


This was originally posted on this site in January 2019. You can find it here.

Excavating the Archives: The Princess In The Library

Once upon a time, in a land not-so-far away, there lived a princess.  Well, no.  She wasn’t a princess.

She was a librarian.

But, she felt like a princess, because she spent most of her time in a castle, by which she meant “library”.

And every day, the Prince – who wasn’t really a prince but an English Professor – would come to the library on his lunch break.  They would smile shyly at one another, but never talk.

One day, that changed.

‘Come fair maiden, take my hand,’ he whispered. ‘Let me show you a world beyond these shelves…’


This was originally posted on this site in September 2016.  You can find it here.

Excavating the Archives: A Fairy Price To Pay

The following piece of flash was extended and included in One Turn of the Wheel, my first collection of tiny tales, published by Three Drops Press in 2018.One Turn of The Wheel

I wandered a year and a day in the wildlands, never meeting another living soul on my travels.

Through the wastelands I journeyed; an unforgiving land that told me those who ventured to be there were closer to the world of Spirit, for I could not see any other merit in it. I saw evidence of their existence, these strange people, but never once did I see them.

After that I came to the land of water. Streams, rivers, ditches, ponds, lakes, meres…all manner of watercourses bisected the land. It was treacherous, travelling through these parts, for it was never completely steady beneath your feet.

When the boggy ground became more firm, I reached the open land between the water and the forest. It took many days to reach the woodlands edge, but when I did so, what I found disturbed me more than anything I had yet encountered and its discovery would have lasting consequences.

I had been walking beneath the tree canopy, day having started its slow descent into night many hours before, when up ahead I saw the twinkling of lights through the branches. I was eager to see people, to talk, to have human company, if only for a matter of minutes, so I proceeded recklessly. My isolation had made me drop my guard.

Brazenly, without caution or fear, I pushed my way through the undergrowth and that’s when I saw them, dancing in circles, laughing and singing as they spun round and round. I don’t know how long had passed with my just standing there, mouth agape. I knew what was before me. A company of the Fair-Folk, making merry in the woods in the moonlight.

I should have moved on, crept away while there was still a chance, but I stood there, motionless, transfixed.

As one they noticed an outsider in their midst. I knew the penalty of intruding upon the secret rites of the Fair Folk. I knew what they did to those not invited, who lay their eyes upon their Fairy Rings.

The music stopped. The lights went out. An ominous, unnatural silence sprung up in the forest. I was seized before I could even turn around to run.

In those brief moments, thoughts of my family, my home, my village, filled my mind whilst an ache beyond anything I thought I could bare ripped through my heart. I knew I would never see any of them again; I would never be allowed to return. I was going to spend the rest of my days, however many they may be, in the land of the Fey…in a land of magic.


This was originally posted on this site in October 2014. You can find that post here.

Looking back with a heavy heart…

I was saddened to learn that last month Zimbell House Publishing closed.  I have fond memories of writing for their varied anthologies, and always will.  When I first started thinking about submitting my work back in 2015, Zimbell House was one of the first venues I tried. That first story was The Water Wytch, and was included in the anthology, Elemental Foundations. Between 2015 and 2017, I had stories in 11 of their beautiful anthologies:

  • The Water Wytch in Elemental Foundations
  • The Spirit Man in Pagan
  • A Teller of Fortunes in Travelers
  • The Wood-Shades of Winter in On A Dark and Snowy Night
  • Returning Home in Where Cowboys Roam
  • The Apothecary’s Tale in The Key
  • The Sultan’s Daughter in Veil of Secrets
  • Jousting for Murder in Tournament Games
  • Fairy Magic in The Lost Door
  • Night’s Magic in Nocturnal Natures
  • A Family Reunion in Children of Zeus

They were generous with rewarding their writers with paperback copies of the books they had stories in – something which is quite rare. It was always a fantastic day when these beautiful books arrived in the post.

Having my stories included in these anthologies boosted my confidence as a writer, and for that I will always be grateful. I wish them all the best for the future.

Excavating the Archives: Colourless

I look out of the window on to a black and white world. Where did all the colour go? I used to think sepia tones were dull and morose, hearkening back to a time before, tainted with nostalgia, that required the wearing of rose-tinted glasses. Now I long for those insipid hues…

The shadows outside lengthen as the sun dips lower and lower in the sky. The black and white world is now more dark than light as day slowly fades into night. The cracks in the ground, of which there are many – when was the last time it rained? – are shown in stark relief. Nothing grows here any more.

My mother has a painting of a dandelion over the mantelpiece, its bright yellow head an affront to the greyscale space it inhabits. I wonder how, when everything else has lost its colour, that one painting of a weed is as bright and as vibrant as when it was first painted…

Mum says, if she could, she would pick the seed head from the painting – it’s there lurking to the side of the bright flower. Thinking me still a child, she says she’d ask me to make a wish and then together we’d blow really hard and disperse all the seeds. Of course, my wish would be granted, she says. It’s magic. I’m not convinced, but I know I would do it any way.

And I know what I’d wish for: a secret doorway that would appear in our living room, one that could take us back in time to when the world was still gleaming and awash with all the shades and colours of an artist’s palette.

I hate the plainness here. It stifles hope.


This post was first shared on this site in September 2018. You can find the original post here.

Excavating the Archives: A Spring Enchantment

Fera had been looking forward to the Spring Fair since the end of the Winter Market.  Beneath clear blue skies, the sun shone bright and strong, making it feel unseasonably warm for this time of year, but who was going to complain that the weather was better than it should have been?

As Fera moved in and around the crowd, she couldn’t help but smile; she was mesmerised by the noise and bustle of activity wherever she looked.  Then, above the calls of traders and the chattering of gossips, she heard it, soft and distant at first, but as she pushed her way through the throng, it became louder and louder until suddenly she found herself at the front of semi circle of people.  Before her a man a few years older than herself was strumming on a harp.

It was as if the world had stopped.  There was nothing except the music, nothing except the musician’s fingers strumming the harp strings.  Time faded away, lost all importance.

Was this magic? she wondered, before the very thought disappeared, chased away by the enchanting melody.

When the music finally stopped, she realised she was the only one still there with the musician.  The market traders had packed away and gone, the crowd too, though they would no doubt return for the evening entertain.  But just as that thought crossed her mind, she noticed that it was dark, day having given way to night many hours before.

Naturally, the young woman began to feel self-conscious.  Why should she remain when others had not?  Instead, all she could ask was, ‘Why did you stop playing?’

The musician smiled.  ‘Because the spell is at an end.  The charm is cast.  There is no more music left to play.’


This post was first shared on this site in March 2018. You can find the original post here.

The Beguiling of Merlin (a poem)

Since posting the latest Weekend Writing Prompt, where the word is “Beguile”, my thoughts each time I sat down to try and write a response went to one of my favourite paintings: The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones.  This beautiful picture had already inspired me to write two linked drabbles, one from Nimue’s POV and the other from Merlin’s, back in 2015. And so I wondered, could I create a 51 word poem using the 200 words I wrote back then?  The answer: yes, but not in 51 words…

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones (picture credit: Wikipedia)

The Beguiling of Merlin

Nimue:
Air full of the heady scent of blossom
She swayed captivatingly in the soft moonlight,
An enticing smile playing on her lips.

Words, ancient and powerful, escaped her lips
She caught his eye
And laughed sweetly.

Merlin:
Drowsily he watched her.
Everything about her was enchanting: her voice, her movement.
The very air tingled as if…

Returning her smile,
He knew it didn’t matter.
It couldn’t have been important.


Written for Weekend Writing Prompt 194: Beguile | Word Count: 70 – yes, that’s 19 words over…

Fight and Flight

 

Image credit; Simona Sergi @ Unsplash

Animosity and accusation hung in the air between them.

‘What will you do?’ he asked, staring at the envelope on the table. It had been hanging from the ceiling when she’d arrived home, she’d said. He hadn’t read the letter, but then he hadn’t needed to.  To know it was here, that it had arrived…to see the look on her face was enough. The jagged top edge where she had torn the paper, ripping at it in panic no doubt, captured his attention. He couldn’t look away. It was better than having to see her red-rimmed eyes again.  He was a coward and he knew it.

‘What can I do?’ she said quietly. Her voice was forlorn.

He could tell her eyes were filling with tears again but still he could not look at her.

‘Say something,’ she prompted.

‘What? What can I say?’

Anything,’ she spat at him.

Her pain and shock had turned to anger.  He couldn’t blame her for that, yet it still sent a jolt of revulsion through him.  He could just about tolerate her neediness, but there was something ugly about the creature she had turned into. And it was all because of that blasted letter.

He had caused this.  He knew that. But he wasn’t going to take all the blame.  He hadn’t made her do anything.

‘Grow up!’ he barked. ‘You think a few tears are going to fix this?’

This only served to bring on the next set of sobbing, which vexed him further.  He needed to think and he couldn’t do that if she was acting like a baby.

‘You knew what you were getting into from the beginning.  Don’t pretend you didn’t.’

‘But-‘

‘No.’  He cut her off.  ‘You did.  You’re just as responsible for this mess as I am.’

‘That’s not-‘

He snatched up the letter and shoved it into his pocket. ‘I need some air,’ he hissed before storming out.  What he actually meant was that he needed to get away from here.  From her.

The door slammed behind him.  He stood on the porch, closed his eyes and took in a few deep, slow breaths. One glance to the left and he saw the edge of the woods where he liked to walk.  A glance to the right and he saw his car.  He patted the pockets and found the keys.

Had she known he was planning on leaving when he stormed out? Had he?

But she knew him better than he knew himself.  And that was a dangerous thing, he admitted, as he crossed the driveway. Why did he have to let her get so close? He was vulnerable now. She had made him weak. And that made them both targets.

She was standing at the window now.  He could feel her eyes on him as he unlocked his car and got in. But he didn’t once look up, never gave her the slightest sign that he had seen her. That he cared.  Instead, he slammed his hands across the steering wheel a few times, his own frustration boiling over into anger at the way things had turned out.

Then, with no idea of where he was going, and no idea of what he was going to do next, he started the car and sped away, his tyres skidding across the road as he took the turns far sharper than he should of.

He was only a minute from the house when his phone started to ring. Her name flashed across the screen.

‘Can’t you give me five minutes of peace?!’ he roared at the phone without answering it. With one eye on the road and the other on his phone, he turned it off and then threw it behind him. He didn’t care where it landed as long as he didn’t have to see it.  He didn’t want to be reminded of the mistake he had made.

It was too late to fix things. She was on her own now.  They both were. But he doubted very much that would save them.


Written for: What Do You See? #65 hosted by Sadje at Keep It Alive – Thanks Sadje for the inspiration!

This is the first time I’ve joined in with this prompt, and as soon as I saw the photo, the story was suddenly there waiting for me to write.  I love it when that happens.  However, the rules do ask that the responses are family-friendly and there is a lot of anger in my characters and in this scene, so I’m not sure if I broke the rules here…apologies, if I did…

Weekend Writing Prompt #189 – Troglodyte

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Word Prompt

Troglodyte

Challenge

 

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word (see note below).  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.
  • A note on the word: you can use any variation of the word (for example: call, calls, calling, called etc).  If you find you are struggling to use this week’s word you may substitute it for a synonym – just include a note to explain the swap.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun! 🙂

Can’t wait to read what you have come up with!


Whispers and Echoes – an online journal of short writing – is always open to submissions *
Check out the journal’s full submission guidelines here

Weekend Writing Prompt Year 1 Anthology: Outcast and Other Words – Read for free here

Excavating the Archives: The Christmas Present

Moira had a secret. A dark secret. One that kept her awake at night. One she didn’t dare breathe a word to anyone about. The only person who knew about it was Moira herself, and that was the way she intended to keep it. It was a heavy burden to bear, and the stress of wondering if anyone would find out ate away at her.

As the days passed and no one said anything, she couldn’t help but think maybe…perhaps…she had got away with it. However, she didn’t dare to hope and the anxiety remained.

The days shortened and the nights lengthened. Autumn turned to winder, rain to snow. And still nothing was said. It seemed Moira had got away with it and the secret was hers alone. As long as she could keep it to herself…as long as she didn’t confide in anyone…it was as good as if it had never happened. And, if she was the only person who knew about it…was there a chance she had made it up? Was it all just a bad dream?

Christmas was only days away. Moira wrote and posted her Christmas cards and bought presents for her family and mailed them. The Christmas tree and decorations were put up, adding warmth and colour to the long wintry nights. Moira felt her spirit lift. It was, after all, her favourite time of year. And, in amidst the seasonal cheer, her secret was forgotten.

A knock on the door on Christmas Eve disturbed her evening of mulled wine drinking and A Christmas Carol reading. She found a place to stop, put the book down and went to see who was there. But the doorstep was empty, except for the present, all lovely and wrapped and topped with a glittering bow, sitting there on the mat.

It must have been from her sister, Moira reasoned. She was always in a hurry. Perhaps this evening she couldn’t wait?

Moira picked up the present and put it under the Christmas tree. Then she went back to her mulled wine and book.

The next morning, she got a call from her sister. “Sorry, Moira. We’ve not have time to drop the presents off yet. Are you in this morning?”

Moira paled. Trying to sound normal, she made arrangements with her sister for later that morning. Then, full of suspicion – and a large dose of fear – she went to the Christmas tree.

She removed the present and, with trepidation, unwrapped it. She looked inside. On top of layers of tissue paper was an envelope. She opened it. It was just a normal Christmas card: village church, lots of snow, robin in the foreground. She unfolded it to see who it was from. There was no name. Only a message.

Want to talk about it? A secret shared is a sin halved.

Moira felt the world spin.

“No,” she whispered. “No. It’s not possible. No one knows. No one.”

Carefully she peeled back the layers of tissue paper to find out what had been so carefully wrapped and placed in the box. She screamed.  And then she screamed again.

Somebody did know. They knew everything.


Any thoughts on what Moira’s secret is, or what’s in the box?  I would love to hear your thoughts…


This was originally posted in September 2018.  You can find the original post here.