Contented

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

There was nothing wrong with her beyond that she could not abide much in the way of interference, and had always preferred the company of fair-folk and the song of wind and dust-in-light to the over-stimulating presence of other humans.

She’d gotten through the requisites of growing up: the schools, the get-togethers, the expectation of having friends, the beck and call of work one needed in order to make a living. She’d endured the close proximity when needful, but mostly let the din of people’s voices wash over her like an avalanche, while she curled up inside her mind and sustained herself on preserved pockets of precious solitude.

Most wouldn’t have believed her had she laid bare her wistfulness for isolation. Or perhaps some would have, but had never said it. She did not much care to find out which of the two or neither it was.

Three decades had passed and the half of another, before she began wondering if she’d live to see the exit of another year or self-combust under the pressure of life’s demands for what felt like constant interaction.

Then Aunt Carolina passed. She left behind a small fortune in savings bonds and an old house no one would have wanted. The latter was to be torn down and the land sold to become someone else’s problem.

Or so the estate managers thought.

Cilia fought them with a ferociousness that surprised her at least as much as it had anyone who’d ever known her. It wasn’t that she’d been a pushover till then, only that she had never found it worth the effort to try and exchange one relative discomfort with another. This was different.

This house was what she suddenly did not know how she had ever lived without.

In the end they relented after she gave up all claims to any of the funds Aunt Carolina had left. She’d get only the cottage and its contents. None of her cousins — not even Marley-the-Meddler — objected. Their share grew with her out of the pie.

The attorney warned her that the house would sooner gobble up what savings she had than be a home that could house her. “The gloomy place is centuries old,” he warned. “It doesn’t even have running water.”

“Aunt Carolina had lived there till she died,” was her retort.”She bathed. I’ll manage.”

She did much more than that.

For the first time in her life she could feel herself actually breathing.

The garden’s stone walls wrapped around her like a hug of moss and ancient patience. The cottage creaked and cracked and breathed as if it was itself alive with memories and whispered sighs of times before. And she did not have to explain to anyone how none of that was a menace. The walls held echoes of calm solitude. The garden wreathed itself in growth. The birds chirped. The kits of a fox mewled. The silence gleamed.

She knew why Aunt Carolina had refused to leave.

“We are like twins stretched over several generations,” she murmured into the fire as the wind whistled in the chimney and the elves made a racket in the trees outside her door. “You must have known, someplace, that I will need to find this. As you had, in your time.”

She stretched her feet and giggled at the big toe that the hole in her sock had liberated. A wooden box sat, heavy, in her lap.

She’d come across it in the crawlspace earlier that afternoon. She’d climbed up after a noise she thought was a squirrel’s nestlings. Instead she found a loose board, half-an-inch of dust, and a pile of rags atop a box.

“The house and all its contents,” she smiled in recollection of Aunt Carolina’s will. “I should have known you’d leave more than enough behind to keep the roof above us for another eon.”

 

 

 

For the Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

Cryptography

https://crimsonprose.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/no-junk-mail-1.jpg?w=640&h=427

 

“How would this work, exactly?”

Jason shrugged and bent to scratch a bug-bite on his ankle, shaggy mane covering his face.

Mark narrowed his eyes. “Seriously, Man, who’d put a mailbox on a crypt?”

Jason straightened, and not for the first time, Mark couldn’t help but think of puppets with too many strings and too few fingers to operate them. Everything about Jason was too long, too lanky, too loose. It was as if someone had forgotten to tighten the screws in his friend’s joints. He’d known Jason since Second-grade, yet something about seeing his classmate’s movements in this setting, woke a bell of alarm in Mark’s belly.

He moves like a mummy, he realized. Shuddered. Shook it off.

“My Granny says some use it,” Jason replied, oblivious.

“For real?”

The tow-headed boy nodded. “Requests for revenge, mostly, she says. After all, it is the crypt of a mass-murderer.”

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Garden Gnome

Gnome1 DvoraFreedman (2)

Photo: Dvora Freedman

 

“You can do it!

Go higher!

Almost there,

Almost there!”

Garden Gnome,

Will inspire

Every bug

On stem’s stair.

 

 

 

For Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Lawn ornaments

 

Incoming

Photo Prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

He wondered if the trains will still run after it happens.

If the luggage, piled in little mountains of possessions, will wait patiently for familiar fingers that won’t come, or will surrender, indifferent, to any rummaging hand.

If there’d be any.

When its all said and done.

He felt the urge to check his watch but curbed it. The digits never changed sufficiently when you were waiting.

Instead, he let his eyes glide over the other passengers, then up the columns where the dual landing strips awaited the incoming spaceships, already brightly lit.

Had to mean it was almost time.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Two By Two

twins OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

“Do we have to?”

“For the hundredth time … yes, we do!”

“But no one else is going!”

“No one else will be around for long.”

She felt his pouting through the ground. His clomping had a rhythm for each mood, and this one spelled: I’m thinking of an answer to refute you. She counted his foot-beats and waited. Never took more than a minute, with this kind.

“So Noah says.”

She couldn’t help but smile at his predictability. “So he does.”

His tetchy steps continued, unconvinced.

She said nothing but upped their pace a bit. It wouldn’t do to be late for this one. They cleared the lee of a dune and a gust of wind blew sand into their faces. She shook her head to clear it from her ears.

“And you believe him?”

At that she paused and turned her head toward him. “I’d rather believe him than perish.”

“But look!” He bellowed, and if she hadn’t known him well she would’ve missed the fear under the notes of clear frustration. “There’s not a drop around.”

She sighed. For all her projected certainty, he was voicing the doubts she did not let herself express. The blue skies mocked her loyalty, and the parched ground billowed dusty clouds as proof of the utter lunacy of leaving the herd to follow some two-legged prophet and his nightmare.

And yet, her own dreams had been filled with thunder. She’d wake startled, breathless with the premonition of a fruitless escape from tumbling mud that rose above the highest dune and all the way to the horizon and beyond.

She breathed and chewed her cud a moment before resuming her walking. She’d rather be a fool who lives. Especially with the calf that she could feel kicking in her womb.

“Noah said he’ll have fresh hay and all the food and water we can stomach,” she cajoled.

“Alfalfa, too?”

She grunted her assent along with her amusement. Her mate had always been partial to alfalfa, and the rare treat’s season had long passed.

“He promised some of that, yes. And barrel-loads of dates.”

His footfalls overtook hers, excited now. “Dates?! Why didn’t you say that sooner? Stop dawdling and pick up your feet! How much farther to that ark, you said?”

 

 

 

 

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Two

 

Take The Trail

sun shade path PhilipCoons

Photo: Philip Coons

 

Take the trail

Up the path

To where spring

Flows through minds,

And where fairies

Inspect

Those whose feet

Trail behind.

Listen on

To the leaves

Speaking tales

To the trees,

And to elves’

Rustling limbs

As they flit

In the breeze.

 

 

Dedicated with love to Dee, whose trail now flows wholly through realms beyond this physical one.

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Trail

 

 

 

The Winner

wesley-eland-678737-unsplash

Photo: Wesley Eland

 

It was never about the money, or the endless calculations, or the disappointment she learned to expect and accept. The odds were against her. She knew that. Everyone said so. Many laughed.

And yet …

She could scarce believe it when she saw the numbers and date and words line up, when she knew that for once — in the way that mattered most — she was the winner.

She rubbed her eyes. Checked everything again.

She called to double check. Her heart thrumming in her chest.

She wrote down every detail: The place. The time. The plan. The day when her life would forever change.

Or had it changed already?

That night she tossed and turned and even though she finally fell asleep, she woke before dawn with her heart aflutter, and gazed into the ceiling till the morning brought with it the first few rays of sun.

A day reborn. Herself, perhaps, as well.

Nights will never be the same, she thought. Nor mornings.

Nor any other time in any other hour. Winter or summer. Light or dark.

She counted down the days, excited beyond words and somewhat frightened — should she tell? Who to? How much to share? How much to keep to herself?

Eventually she’ll have to. …

Oh, there will be a celebration! She could list in her mind the friends who’d rejoice with her. She could also note the dread of recognizing those whose green-eyed-monsters might awaken. Will she lose friendships over this? Will jealousy taint what she’d never quite dared to believe would be awarded her?

“I won the lottery,” she whispered to herself, holding the bit of paper between shaking fingers. “They’ve checked it out and they’ve agreed. It’s approved. Two more weeks … I won’t believe it till I’m there. Till after. Till I’m back home with a new life in my hands.”

She pulled out the photo. Drank it in. The ebony chubby cheeks. The dimple in the elbow. The eyes. These eyes …

“I’m coming, Bomani …” She kissed the picture that the orphanage included with the adoption papers. “Mama’s coming for you, my little son-to-be.”

 

 

For V.J.’s Weekly Challenge: Lottery

 

Shadow Path

shadow path OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

He took the path in shadow, and it seemed he was forever chasing sunlight as it progressed across the crater faster than his feet could carry him.

Bone-dry tired as he was.

It was better, he supposed, to be in the shadow. He was, he knew, perilously close to collapse.

Still the sun called to him. The shimmer played a trick upon his eyes and he craved the light even as he knew to fear it.

He’d been crossing deserts for what felt like a millennia of a parched destiny.

In linear time it had not been even quite a week …

Since he took the path of shadow.

In life. In hope of refuge. In this.

The sun slunk lower, further elongating the darkened tide of baked dirt, spreading to gobble up the fast receding patch of light.

He’d need to make camp soon.

One time had been plenty to be taken by surprise.

He knew.

Shadow will not wait long to turn into pitch dark.

 

 

 

For Terri’s Sunday Stills: Path

 

 

 

Glacial Undertones

Glacier AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

He will carve mountains

For them.

Slow but steady

In his pressure.

Relentless

In the calculated cold of his

Convictions,

That curl like tight fists

Under an unquestioning love.

He has carved himself

In the process,

Into valleys of sacrifice.

Carved them, too,

Into mirror images

To reflect the truths he holds.

He will carve mountains

For them,

Heavy-handed and doggedly

Protective.

Glacial with volcanic undertones.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Glacial in 66 words

 

 

Not Disappointed

john-westrock-766541-unsplash

Cape Disappointment (Photo: John Westrock on Upsplash)

 

The damp timbers creaked under her feet as she wondered if the fog would lift. She half-hoped it would not.

She was still small and timorous when her uncle had brought her here for the first time. “And you won’t be disappointed,” he had laughed, the lines about his eyes creasing in merriment.

It was only later that she understood his joke. It still made her smile.

Indeed, she loved Cape Disappointment. Even in the fog. Perhaps especially in the fog, in its unique magic. She’d read that almost a third of a year’s hours are spent in fog on the headland, masking rivers, hugging sand.

A gust of wind dripped cold into her collar and she laughed. Her uncle used to shake a branch onto her. This felt like a gift.

“You were right, Uncle,” she wiped a tear. “This place did not disappoint. Neither did you. Not once.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Cape Disappointment, Washington, USA