White puffed blue
To the wide horizon.
For the Sunday Stills Challenge: Blue
He was enthralled.
His fate decided
By those who bought
The humans they preferred
To see as lesser than,
In order to exact a price
For their own
His slavery was still
Held against him
In deliberate inequity,
His struggles mocked
As ‘proof’ he hadn’t been trying
He had never been so hungry.
Not even when he’d gone without food for three days to win a dare. Perhaps because at least then the food was there, available to him had he gotten too weak or ravenous enough to render the challenge unappetizing.
He’d won that bet. And the mountain bike his friend was cocky enough to suggest as the prize.
The same bike — and all his gear atop it — that now lay twisted at the end of some ravine he had no hope of reaching. The bike that would have dragged him down to the same end had he not, in some unknown reflex of survival, thrown himself off the seat and against the rocky walls of what he’d thought was a sort-of-trail.
It first it was the abrasions that caused him the most suffering. The skinless arms and cheek. The raw wound on his shoulder where his shirt had ripped.
Then night came and it was the cold.
And the next day, the hunger.
He had nothing on him. No knife. No phone. Not even a lighter. He’d been so proud to dress the bike with a complicated harness to carry everything he needed for his week-long trek. Now he was naked of supplies. Bare of any protection or wherewithal, alone in the wilderness, and ignorant of how to make do without the gadgets he’d never given a thought to the possibility of not having.
Ignorant, too, of the consequences of veering off the path “to test the bike’s capabilities.” He had told a couple of friends he was planning to go for a bike ride, but he had planned to surprise them with his accomplishment post-trek, and in his hubris did not notify them when, where to, or how long for.
Off the trail and into the “uncharted.” He’d felt strong. He’d felt courageous. He’d felt the braggadocio reverberating underneath his ribs.
Now no one knew where he was.
Or when to expect him.
Or that he deseprately needed aid.
He’d never been so hungry. Or so tired. Or so hurting. Or so scared.
He couldn’t help thinking of how someone would one day find what was left of him. That is if some animal did not find him first.
He stopped to rest when the new blisters on his feet had burst and the pain of another raw place was too much to manage.
His shoulder throbbed. His head. His hand where it had slammed against the rock and left two of his fingers black and unbending. He checked the sky and realized a third day was about to end and he was just as lost as he had been the ones before. And hungrier.
He cried a bit. There was no one in front of whom to be ashamed.
Or so he thought.
He woke to warmth and thought he’d died already. The weight of something on his torso must have been the earth, though he couldn’t bother to try and consider who’d have dug a grave.
Then a smell wafted to him and his stomach clenched in painful hunger. Surely not even hell would torment so in death!
He cracked open an eyelid to the view of a lively fire and a shadowed figure stirring something over a corner of coals. He blinked. The figure was still there. He swallowed, and his mouth was not as dry as it should have been. There was a taste of sweetness on his tongue, as well. He coughed just to hear his own voice.
The head swiveled toward him and he could not discern any of its features against the brightness of the flames. A hand reached back into a pack and rummaged, then the legs straightened and the person unfurled and stepped toward him. He squinted but still could not see the face. He wasn’t even sure it was a man.
“Here,” the voice confirmed. A woman, and not a young one. Not warm but by her actions so far, not unkind. “Jerky. Chew on this until the stew is done.”
Undulates across planes
Amidst the snowed patches of
Of blue onto blue
This one planet
All of us –
Me and you.
Lush grass now grew over the span of stones, though none had grown there in the many years when the passage of feet had mowed and flattened any seedling that had found a crack in which to nestle.
The water gurgled as it had, though, flowing like a ribbon of careless abandon underneath. Incoming. Through. Not one look back. Away.
She wondered if the fish silvering in the stream were the descendants of the ones who’d flapped among the rocks and dove out of the reach of all manner of two-legged hunters. Their instincts certainly remained the same.
Honed by years of flight, and generations of bare escape from calamity and disaster and all manner of two-legged hunters’ spread of misery.
For centuries the stones of the old bridge had been the thoroughfare of goods and news — both good and not — from isolated farms to the town’s market and from the town into the farms, and in that order. It had withstood war and fights and blight and playful dares and cruel shove-overs. It streamed with rain and baked with sun and creaked with ice and endured more than one direct hit of lightning. It had heard the laughter of small children and the cries of same, sometimes not much later after. Where rugged wheels and heavy hooves had carved ruts of rattling passage, now weeds took hold to cover any sign of man.
It stood deserted, and perhaps relieved, since the new and wider bridge was built a bit further downstream. The modern pathway accommodated simultaneous travel in both directions as it carried the weight of the machines that belched dark stains onto its tar.
She’d been warned against attempting to put any weight on the old bridge. They all were. “It’s held by no more than blessings and a whisper,” her grandmother had cautioned. “One step onto the wrong stone and it could collapse.”
And yet, it had outlasted both Grandmother’s life and Mother’s and seemed poised to outlast hers, as well. Perhaps blessings and a whisper were better mortar than the speeding up of time.
“And you don’t have much long to wait to outlast me,” she murmured as she walked to the water and bent to dip her palm. Cold.
As she would be, sans blessings or a whisper, before much more water churned indifferently along, passed under the bridge, and was gone.
Photo prompt: © J Hardy Carroll
“Did they tell you what you’d find there?”
Vince shook his head. His eyes sought the window and rose along the flagpole to its top. The silence lingered.
“No,” the Veteran said quietly. “We’d heard rumors, of course, but nothing could’ve prepared us for the conditions there.”
He took a deep breath. His hand tightened around his cup and his eyes remained glued to the flag outside. “People crammed into cold, bare rooms. Without necessaries. Not even a place to sleep. Frightened, sick children. Belligerent guards. I’m ashamed, Son. The flag I fought under now flies over American concentration camps.”
“Come on Daddy, let us go
To the great outdoors
Pack this rock in
And that, too.
I’m all set
And so should you!”
From above the way
The clouds hold sway
As the Arctic clings on
To the day.
There’s naught much more needed
To fill the heart with song,
Than the Great Outdoors
With loved ones along.
She could be
When she strolls
The fine edge
Of the sea.
original fiction, rhyme and photography
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