Sunday Photo Fiction – Valhöll

197-04-april-9th-2017© Photo: A Mixed Bag

The seven men heaved as one and the prow pulled free of the sucking mud. Progress was slow, the air unnervingly still. The lapping waves seemed determined to thwart the efforts of the two young women pulling desperately at the centremost oars, the remainder lying useless beside the still, fur-swaddled form of their brave lord.

The seven reached the place where the wounded and dying littered the slope and waited, thankful for the warmth of the nearby pyres. For many, this would be their final sunset; no spoils or glory, no tribute walk, nor welcome feast. This defeat had cost them their home, left them stranded with too few to man the oars, forsaken by their gods.

“It is time,” said the tallest, his gaze pinned to the two, now distant, figures who had abandoned their arduous task and stood poised by the dragon headed bow.

The oil soaked cloths were bound tightly to the seven shafts. The boy could barely walk, his calf rent and weeping, yet without complaint, he touched each of the waiting arrows with burning brand.

As one they raised bows, pulled flaming shafts quickly towards their cheeks then, loosed.

Mercy saw the daughters fall, the oil catch, the fire quickly race from arrow to timber and flesh.

For the rest, lay Valhalla and the sweetness of vengeance.

By Sally-Ann Hodgekiss

Sunday Photo Fiction – April 9th 2017

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Sunday Photo Fiction – Better Late Than Never?

03-saschadarlington-12-february-2017Photo © Sascha Darlington

Better Late Than Never?

I wait for awe and wonder to overwhelm me, for the crisp unfiltered air, the give of the surface beneath my feet, the bright, bright light of the mega-sun to awaken the torrent of emotions I have long imagined this moment would bring.

It doesn’t.

Yes, the EndeavourZ arrived safely. Terraforming was a success, just as I had calculated, and Zeta 466 is now everything and, if the brochure I was just handed is to be believed, so much more than we ever could have hoped for.

And yet I cannot join the rest.

Zeta 466 was meant to be ours. I was to help transform this new world for all those to follow. As the lid to my stasis pod had closed, that hope and expectation swelled within me until I had almost burst with anticipation.

Then it all went wrong. To avoid the pull of a distant, failing Sun, the EndeavourZ was forced to detour for over two hundred lightyears. Eventually, even stasis ceased to hold back time and we scientists slept the best part of our lives away while others avoided our miscalculation.

As I look down at the welcoming induction centre, all I feel is bitter regret, crushing disappointment and the unceasing ache of my failing bones.

By Sally-Ann Hodgekiss

Sunday Photo Fiction – February 12th 2017

 

FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 31, 2017 – The simplest of things

photo-20170130154651135Photo prompt provided by Jessica Haines.

The simplest of things

One of my most brilliant childhood memories waits in that wonderfully crisp and renewed time following the violence of a summer storm.

Any distant rumble sent my mother to the centre of our home, each flash of lightning, a harbinger of the gut trembling roll of thunder sure to follow. Oblivious to her fear, I would don my gumboots, pull on a rain jacket, just to keep mother happy, and wait for the rumble to grow distant and the last of the pelting rain to be blown out to sea. Then off I would run, down the washed-out gravel drive, towards that perfect dip in the road, where the all too briefly fleeing runoff pooled and swirled before bullying through the narrow drainage pipe leading to the neighbour’s dam.

As the receding flow eddied past my ankles I remember feeling as if the clearing sky and that all too fleeting burst of chilled water held all anyone could ever need to be happy.

By Sally-Ann Hodgekiss in response to
FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 31, 2017

FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 10, 2017 – Douglas

photo-20170116154648707

Photo prompt provided by Shivangi Singh

Douglas

“Can I do it? Please?”

Dad paused his shovelling to wipe the perspiration from his crinkled brow. “It’s too hot sweetie.”

I bounced around the tiny, potted fir as if Douglas really was the puppy I had begged for. “Please. You said he was mine.”

Dad smiled down at me before returning his efforts to the growing hole. “You get the most important job.”

“Huh?”

“You get to watch him grow. One day, he’ll be as tall as…”

“As me?”

He laughed. “As the roof!”

Eyes shaded from the glaring sun, I peered towards the lofty roof peak, knowing he was telling a huge fib.

 

It’s been two decades since Dad passed. The house went, but Douglas remained and so did I. No amount of protest could convince the homeowner’s association to save him. How could a lifetime of memories ever compete with a new swimming pool?

https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/fffaw-challenge-week-of-january-17-2017/

Sally-Ann Hodgekiss

FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 10, 2017 – Hope

photo-20170109154625698

Photo prompt provided by Louise – The Storyteller’s Abode. 

We packed them in so tightly, a woman towards the back whimpered.

None turned to offer help or switch places.

The youngest children were last to fill the bottom level, frightened into a silence more heart-breaking than if they had cried out or struggled.

I tried not to make eye contact as I closed the lower door. Instead, I followed protocol, stoically channelling the next group towards the upper deck.

Did they know?

They had to by now. One by one, TV and radio stations went dark. Supply trucks never arrived. Those sent in search of answers never returned. Still, even when the power flickered out for the last time, the desperate hauled up the putrid water from the river and continued to ration the last of their food.

The boats were meant to bring hope, and yet they must have seen, even in the eyes of those cajoling them towards the ‘arks’, that the virus left no room for even that.

And yet we had to do something. Didn’t we?

https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/fffaw-challenge-week-of-january-10-2017

 

Sunday Photo Fiction – Gone

https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/sunday-photo-fiction-november-6th-2016/

180-11-november-6th-2016

It had once been glorious.

Footmen waited, unvarying in their dark livery, gazing over manicured lawns, ordered hedgerows, carefully weeded gravel paths silvered with torchlight.

Arriving in fine carriages, delivered to these very doors by pairs of high stepping horses, men and women of privilege were ushered towards the warm glow of the graceful entrance.

Inside, dressed timber floors polished to a blinding sheen, mirrored fabric and finery as the fortunate swept past moulded ceilings and inlayed doors towards the elegance of the dazzling ballroom.

These very stones once trembled with the sweet anguish of a string quartet, tittered with scandalous gossip and warmed at a tender proposal…

The words sprayed rudely onto the soot-stained stone were childish and crude, devoid of any passion or meaning. Beyond the gaping maw of the entry, what remained of the timber flooring was left gauged and thirsty. Everywhere, melted syringes and fast food wrappers had been permanently fused with years of dust, decay and senseless destruction.

Ahead lay the ballroom, a blackened shell half filled with the charred debris of the upper floors. The two remaining roof beams were skeletal, a fragile black to contrast angry grey of the afternoon.

I would have done anything to save it, if only I had known it was rightfully mine.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Trapped

https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/sunday-photo-fiction-october-30th-2016/

179-10-october-30th-2016Trapped…

You can see me can’t you? Please. Look. Look really hard. The eyes. You know these eyes. They are my eyes.

I try to follow the familiar figure as it passes through the limited scope of my vision. I Fight with everything I have, straining until my mind almost bursts from frustration, but they won’t move. Nothing will move.

Thankfully Paul reappears, pulls back the covers, then smiles towards the rumble of footfall.

I ache. Please Paul. Turn. Turn towards me. Look. You of all people must see.

A small figure leaps from somewhere to my left, landing on the centre of the bed. With a bounce he spins to face me, flips the cape behind him, lifts the black mask from where it sits askew on his grinning face, crosses his legs, and then upturns the large black bag.

Sticky, tooth rotting candy tumbles towards me.

“Wait until Mum sees this Stevie. I can’t believe she let you go this year.” Paul ruffles Stevie’s fine blond hair and then my heart squeezes with pain as he passes by so close I can smell his cologne.

Stevie watches the door and waits. When all is silent he selects one of the large teeth-smashing all-day-gob-stoppers, peels back the wrapper, fixes his eyes to mine, and then grins.

On the inside, I shiver.

Sunday Photo Fiction

178-10-october-23rd-2016Regret

My stomach lurched into my throat as, without warning, the chopper suddenly dropped several metres. Steve’s eyes flitted back up from where my hands rigidly gripped my harness and I caught the last hints of his mirth before he could smooth his features.

He leaned in close so the barely dulled whamp-whamp-whamp of blades wouldn’t drown out his retort. “I’m sorry, but how can this still get to you?”

“If man was meant to fly…”

This time his head tilted back and even the pilot turned at Steve’s deep, booming roar of laughter. “It’ll be fine Mam. You’ll do fine.”

I wished I could channel his confidence, but he wasn’t the one forced to stand and face them. They would be wanting more than just the platitudes of sympathy Steve had prepared. They would be screaming for answers, explanations, blood. They would view me with the same ire as the perpetrators and be justified in doing so.

“We could have stopped this Steve. We could have saved them all.”

Steve’s ear-to-ear grin vanished like the smoke it was and he turned to stare down at the waiting crowd. There was nothing he could say.
There was nothing any of us could say.

The delicious recoil…

Recently, despite the medication and watchful awareness on my part, I suddenly spiraled down into an irretrievable darkness. It set upon me with such speed and blind-sidingly irrational ferociousness that all the mechanisms I usually employ to drag myself from its dark and dreadful depths vanished in a rapidly opening bottomless chasm and were lost for all eternity.

Of course there were instances to blame for the episode – difficulties at work, jetlag, and so on, small innocuous itches that, upon waking, managed to quadruple in mass, each suddenly weighing the equivalent of an elephant or a cement truck. They then banded together and pressed down with the sole aim of abrading my psyche until all that remained was a pile of innocuous dust. The problems loomed, a coffin of injustice, blocking out the sun and the moon and family and reason.

There was no escape, except perhaps in an act of pure and monumental significance, one that would break through the smothering oppression and hopelessness, and burst forth screaming ‘BASTARDS!”

Then, with a little help, reason returned, all calm and benign; dissolving barriers and banishing maniacal thoughts – laughing at their absurdity, chiding like a school-mistress, resetting perception and getting on with things, locking that dire day some place it was sure I would never find it.

All things plodded along at the usual mundane place, until today…

The recoil, the yin to the ever-so-dark yang, is upon me now and in my madness I welcome it with open arms.

When viewed from a safe distance, it is frighteningly destructive – I am unable to concentrate on what is directly in front me, but the fanciful, even the apparently impossible is suddenly tangible, more within my reach than anything my mere senses can detect. I must create, solve, renovate, reform, revolutionise, and anything that is stupid or inconsiderate enough to stand it the way of this mandate is my enemy.

Seeing as I am sitting at my chaotic desk, I grasp the only creative outlet my overflowing mind has – I write. Fortunately, writing is easy. No canvas, no messy paints or mosaic tiles (a recent trip abroad has provided no end of inspiration on that front), nothing to clean up or make room for or purchase, no need to make public my inner turmoil amid piles of tools, paintbrushes, chisels and sandstone – I can stealthfully do this at my desk. Brilliant!

Armed with a brimming packet of Peanut M&M’s and a conspiratorially willing keyboard, I am free.

I am a deity of wisdom and my words are golden, imparting truth beyond worth, not pearl-like, no small yet brilliant treasures these. I write clouds, vast and undeniable, bold, grey, in-your-face cumulonimbi, complete with heralding thunder and imparting lightening. These words will change, revolutionise, edify… if only I can get them down before they are stolen by the rush of activity that begins with a flittering in my stomach then bubbles and fizzes upward, flinging ideas and impulses at breakneck speed until my mind is a vortex, a hurricane, dark and tumultuous, yet perfect and luminous and lighter than breath.

Is this mania? If so it’s bloody brilliant.  I want to bottle it and squirrel it away, or, no, share it, for surely everyone would benefit from seeing this glorious, infinite world from this perfect perspective. ‘Grab your selfie-sticks people and stand just here… that’s it… a little to the left…’

“Aaaaahhhhh’ they shall sigh and the problems of the world will melt away.

In fact, why am I wasting time at work, lashed to a purpose not my own, slaying precious glorious seconds, and innumerable parts-there-of doing menial tasks that don’t even rate on the scale of world-altering. How can I book a venue for an upcoming function when the façade of my house needs to be rendered, then painted a brilliant warm red, by tomorrow? How can I help plan a game-changing meeting when I can almost feel the calm that could be had sitting in my backyard if only I could find those fruitless mulberry trees I saw by a pool in Spain and have them grow to full maturity overnight? Focus is there, laser sharp, a thread of spun gold that can cut through all and everything, but it is aimed squarely out the window – elsewhere.

Of course I can’t leave. I’m paid to be here and here I shall stay. So instead I roil and bubble with wasted energy, thoughts floating off towards an unreceptive ceiling, creative juices spilling uselessly on the carpet, and I take another handful of M&M’s and let my mind secretly scale mountains.

Monday’s Finish the story

https://mondaysfinishthestory.wordpress.com/

Coins“She lived a life that some would describe as being on edge.”

But, for Rosa, the odds were always stacked in her favour. The truth was something she would keep till the day she eventually slipped from this earth, for she had learned the hard way that her twist of fortune endangered everyone who ever got too close.

A less optimistic person would think her shiny burden a magnet for all that was wrong with the world.

Maybe they were right.

Rosa had left a trail of carnage and misfortune behind her that more than proved the point… And yet here she was, physically healthy and unscathed. That had to count for something right?

She let her fingers caress the surface of the unique coin she kept safe in her double lined pocket and then turned the crisp pages of the newspaper until, once again, she felt the metal burn and hoped his would be the day she made a difference.

(Word count 149 – Sally-Ann Hodgekiss)