The Promise

 

“It’s not much,” Eric noted.

“That it isn’t,” Morris agreed. “Still …”

Eric nodded. It was better than their tent in the woods. “Walls look sturdy.”

“That they do.” Morris circled the dilapidated farmhouse, hands clasped behind his back. A habit left from years of teaching and one he wasn’t particularly happy to be reminded of.

It still hurt. To have been cast aside. To not be wanted anymore.

“So, she just left it for you?” Eric tried to keep the eagerness out of his voice. He’d hoped for some juicy details ever since Morris had told him about the inheritance.

“That she did,” Morris replied.

He remembered her, of course. Juliette, the brunette. They’d been a couple, in a manner of speaking. “What’s mine is yours,” she had promised. Years ago.

Then they’d parted.

Not once had he thought it to mean anything beyond what she’d shared with him then.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

The Others’ Side

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Why is it this way, Mama?”

The woman let the small hoe drop from her hand. She straightened, hands over the small of her back, achy from the bending. The plot was spare, and the harshness of many a hard winter had stripped most of the topsoil off, leaving more pebbles than dirt. Still, it was better than nothing, and she was thankful.

The child had been sorting stones into piles. Larger ones. Medium ones. Smaller. There were repairs to make to walls and fences, and very little in the way of clay. Sizing stones helped make the puzzle of fitting the best bit in the best place, easier. It was a tedious chore that the girl somehow managed to make into a game. She had that magic in her, Margot did, the spark of joy that Annabelle spent every night praying would not ever have cause to slough off or be snuffed out.

“Mama?”

Annabelle nodded and turned her head toward the object of the child’s query. She’d had no option but to sit the child facing the chasm. One did not turn one’s back to the mist. Disrespectful. Ill fated. Even for children, who normally carried more protection by nature of their youth. Still, it was best to take precaution, and what the child learned early, she was less likely to forget later on and take a wrong step.

There was reason this plot was made available. Not many farmed so near the rift. Some claimed the uneasy air made foodstuffs grow small and weary.

Some did not have the luxury of growing theirs elsewhere.

“The light does not quite shine there the same way,” she said.

“What did they do?” the child’s voice was filled with pity, not fear, and Annabelle did not know whether in this particularity the compassion was something to celebrate or warn against.

“Some say they’d tied their soul to dark,” Annabelle sighed. The split and its reality was not something often spoken of. Yet unless some miracle happened and their circumstances changed, the child was destined to spend many days in close proximity to the Others’ side. It was better she heard truth from her mother, than distortions from those who felt more comfortable with lies.

She felt the child’s small hand slip into her calloused palm.

“They are not different than us, Margot. Not really. There was time before the split, before the earth heaved and the crack formed and separated this land into its pieces, where we all lived mixed together, if we even knew we were more than one kind. Now those who had happened to be on the parts that became the other side of this canyon, have the mountains dump the clouds onto them and the rapids raise a constant mist. It diminishes their sun.”

The child shuddered. Annabelle squeezed her hand to reassure her.

“There are those who chose to make their fear into a hatred, Margot. And that led to needing to make those one hated, be worthy of such ill-regard.”

“So they are good?”

“Most are. And some very likely aren’t.”

“And the big rocks?” Margot turned her head to inspect the piles she had just made. The stones balanced atop each other in formations mirroring the massive ones on the misty horizon.

“Put there, no doubt. No one quite knows why or how. Some say the ghosts of evil did it. The goblins that spit poison from the earth and crack the ground. I? I think it was people who’d arranged them. As you had the smaller ones.”

Annabelle had never shared with anyone the image that she’d seen nine months before the child was born. The figures scurrying on the impossible embankment, tucking what appeared to be smaller stones in the places where rocks nestled atop one another. The reverent silence of the people had her wonder whether they perhaps saw the rocks as headstones, memorials to those who had been lost to the maw that had swallowed so many when it had first sliced open the ground. A maw many did not believe anyone crossed.

She used her free hand to lift the girl’s chin so their eyes met. “Why did you put them this way, child?”

The gray eyes widened for a moment. In thought, not worry. “I wanted to respect the other stones, Mama. Their balance. How they don’t fall into the underside.”

Annabelle’s eyes filled. Her breath caught.

She smiled.

She never did find out who had forced her that night. She was blamed aplenty as it was, and so she never did tell anyone that she’d believed it had been someone who might’ve seen her watch them. Someone from the Others’ side.

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Enough To Share

Photo prompt © Ted Strutz

 

“I kept some for you.”

She offered the crumpled paper reverently.

“Why, I thank thee!” he bowed.

He unfolded the checkered waxed napkin to reveal two potato chips, one small bite of pickle, a tiny sliver of bacon, a dot of olive, a slightly bigger dot of pepper, and a few crumbs of tuna. There was even some mayonnaise for condiment. A feast.

She squatted and rocked back on her heels in satisfaction as he devoured the food. Her greasy fingers left marks on her slacks. She was oblivious. Mesmerized.

The elf licked long skinny fingers. Burped. “No beer, eh?”

 

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Slip From Grip

british-library-atIgjLlFryg-unsplash

Enslaved persons cutting sugar cane on the Island of Antigua, 1823, (The British Library)

 

 

She fed them well so

They would

Sleep,

And silently

She gave the slip,

To all she knew

Yet did not sweep

Away the bite

Of whip.

She fled,

So the child in

Her belly’s keep,

Would not writhe, helpless,

In another person’s

Grip.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: slip

(Note: Dedicated to all who suffered and still suffer under the yoke of injustice, discrimination, racism, and pretense. We can do better than this. We must do better than this.)

 

 

 

 

To Know Good

valario-davis-knAVZEz2Dfw-unsplash

Photo: Valario Davis on Unsplash

 

 

“So how do you,” he asked,

“Know good

From bad?”

 

“By the heart,” she replied.

“By the actions that

Build

And prop up,

And the words that

Support

And patch the

Cracked places

Inside broken parts.”

 

“And how,” he pressed,

“Do you know what

Just needs

Giving up?”

 

“By the soul,”

She patted the warm place

On her lap.

“For breath

Matters,

And hope

Matters,

And kindness

Is superior to any

Pass-by-night

Emperors

Full of promises

Of might,

Touted

For our good

But seeped in

Falsehood meant

To bring on

Plight.”

 

He shuddered

And she stroked his wet cheek

And held a cool

Palm to his brow.

“Now sleep,

And let spirits

Of light,

Hold back the bad

And

Fill your cup

With good

Till the world grows

Up.”

 

 

 

For RDP Sunday: For Our Good

 

 

 

Resolute Rose

caroline-hernandez-ybBvORpb9Xk-unsplash

Photo: Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

 

 

The least of hardship was when

She broke her toe,

Age nine,

Her youngest brother

Then a mewling newborn

In her arms.

She’d been pacing

Through the night

To let Mother

Recover some.

Ever the intrepid

Elder child,

Rose missed but

A step,

Taped her toes,

And walked on

Till the morn.

 

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Intrepid in 52 words

 

 

 

Temptation

 

The sun beat on his nape and his shirt stuck to his body, too wet to do any good in absorbing the sweat that trickled maddeningly down the center of his back and soaked the waistband of his pants.

His arms ached. Granite did not easily yield.

The soft ripples of the water mocked him, parading a breeze he did not feel. The pillar blocked what small air movement could be had. To add insult to injury, the hot stone reflected the stifling heat back at him. The path was an oven.

A dragonfly skimming the river caught his eye and he paused, mallet in mid-air and chisel in position, muscles bunching under the folds of his damp sleeves.

What if? he pondered.

He shook the thought out of his mind. Let the mallet land.

Who knew what lurked under the surface of seemingly inviting water. Better hot than drowned.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

 

Carve The Cliffs

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

The calls of people searching for him reached his ears but he ignored them. They’d find him soon enough, and there would be punishment for him whether he answered or not. He preferred making good use of his time till then. Listening to other things.

The gulls dipped and screamed above the crashing surf. A rain-cloud hovered over the water, advancing like the searchers toward an inevitable drenching of the shore. It was his perfect weather. This mist on air. The colors. The expectation.

Did the cliffs welcome the rain or dread it? Sometimes he wondered whether for the rocks, perched above the ocean, there was relief in showers washing like tears down their stony cheeks.

He could see those. Tears. Cheeks. Faces. Hidden in the rocks.

Others mocked him for it. They said he was loose in the mind. Lacking logic. Too dreamy. Insane.

They tried beating it out of him. Did they think their thumps and slaps and lashes could drive away who he was, the way a kick sometimes dissuaded a stray dog from nosing near the chicken coop? There were times he’d wondered, curled in sobbing misery, whether it would not be better if they could.

Yet as soon as the sting subsided and the tears dried and a new morning dawned, he would feel the itch inside his soul awaken, stronger. It could not be squelched. It would no be ignored. There were spirits in those mountains. There were faces in the cliffs. He saw them. Heard their call.

An arm grasped his shoulder. Shook him. Slapped his head. Angry words garbled at his ears. He let the scolding drip to the ground. He let himself be led.

When he was grown, he vowed, he was going to carve the cliffs and release the stone-people from the prisons of ancient overgrown rock. He was going to help, so the rain could wash, freely, down their liberated cheeks.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Out Of The Blue

Photo prompt: © David Stewart

 

The streets still shone with wet but the dome of sky stretched clear above. The wind had swept away the clouds.

She shivered even though the air was warm. Perhaps it was the damp that had her reaching for her shawl.

She hugged herself and wondered if she’d ever know whether he had left because he wanted to or because he had no other choice or because he did not know any better.

“Where are you?” she whispered.

She jumped when the fountain unexpectedly came to life and bathed the roundabout in blue.

It felt like a hello. From Hugh.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

By Heart And Hand

desert pool AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

There is water

For the thirsty

Even

In the desert,

Where heart and hand

Were put to work

With foresight of what

Must be done,

To hold

What would otherwise

Be lost

To shifting sands

And blazing sun.

 

 

 

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Manmade