One Thousand Steps

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

The snow fell softly in the early hours, blanketing a brittle frost with a bridal veil.

She undid the entrance flap and shivered in the chill. Her thin underclothing was not sufficient for the cold. She retreated back into the shelter to don her clothes, lace her cloak, and pull on her boots.

Still when she emerged from the tent, her breath caught in the frigid air. She welcomed it. She needed her wits about her, today more than most.

Her feet crunched over the frozen ground as she hurried to relieve herself by a nearby tree. The warmth leaving her body felt palpable. In it there was relief and wariness, both.

She did not fold the tent but she did not know if she’d return to it. What she did not carry along might not be seen again … and she would not be carrying much. She was warned to bring naught but herself.

“You’d have no need for anything,” were the instructions.

The words could be ominous or comforting. She wasn’t sure which it was and she didn’t think she was meant to be certain about it. Or about anything.

There was some food left in her pack, but her stomach did not feel ready for any digesting. She drank some water instead. It tasted flat and smelled of the container it’s been in, but it would have to do. She didn’t know where water sources might be found and even if she saw some on the path she didn’t think she’d be able to avail herself of any.

She shuddered again. Of fear. Of cold. Of worry. Of expectation. Of trepidation. Of all of the above.

It will be what it will. She had little choice now. She’d given her word, and what follows was not for her to decide on anymore.

She turned her back to the tent and began counting paces. The location for her tent had been marked. The one thousand steps were to be taken away from it, with the rising sun at her back.

She mouthed the numbers, ignoring the breeze as it tunneled under her cloak, the errant twigs that grabbed hold of her hood and deposited wet fluffs of snow on her hair, down the nape of her neck, on her back. No one had said what will happen if she lost count. She did not intend to find out.

The steps became a meditation of intent and tunnel vision. The world receded into the yard immediately ahead. Then the next. Then the next.

Nine hundred ninety nine, she breathed.

“Turn around.”

She jumped. The sound came from the space her body had just vacated.

She turned only to be blinded by the sun’s glare, rising through the narrow branches of a sapling. The light speared her.

When she finally adjusted, she was elsewhere. The forest was no more. The world as she’d known it, gone.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Tea Time

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Inle Lake, Myanmar (Photo: Julien de Salaberry on Unsplash)

 

Arkar waited. The sky, his namesake, spread gray and calm above him.

Sometimes it took Dachen a little longer to make it. No matter.

Long breaths passed. A dog barked in the distance. Children laughed, and Arkar thought of the first time he’d met Dachen. They were but boys themselves then. Dachen had just come to live with his grandparents, who lived downstream from Arkan’s childhood home. The old folk enfolded the young orphan. “Our great joy, he is, true to his name.”

Dachen was as gregarious as Arkar was shy. They balanced each other. Then and since.

A pat sounded and Arkar lifted his pole in welcome. Dachen neared and expertly swiveled his boat to face Arkar’s.

“Twelve fish today,” Dachen’s face shone. He accepted a cup from Arkar. “Two big ones here for your wife.”

Arkar smiled his thanks. For the fish. For his friend. “Tea time?”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Myanmar

 

 

Cruella De-Guile

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Photo: Martin Adams on Unsplash

 

She was queen of artifice. The mistress of malicious.

She made rules that made no sense yet claimed to be officious.

There was no way to do right by her. Even flattery was suspicious.

She’d lay down her law with harsh demands. Her punishments were vicious.

“Beware the dragon,” many warned. “For she is capricious.”

Those who did not heed soon realized that her attentions weren’t auspicious.

She was queen of cruel decree. Her requests often lubricious.

They learned to lay low and wait. Salvation would not be expeditious.

But the day came when he arrived, beautiful, seditious,

And turned the draconian,

Propitious.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Draconian in 103 words

 

The Marianna

 

He did it. He’d pared it all down and tucked it all in and stocked her all up.

He was down to one set of waterproofs, two pairs of jeans, three tees, four pairs of socks, five undies, six favorite CDs, seven books.

He was going for eight apples, nine carrots, and ten bananas, but he ate two bananas walking back from the store. So there was that. In any event, there were many other odds and ends he didn’t count but that counted just as much: sleeping bags, towels and dishes and batteries, the manual pump. All the things that would make it home.

For it was going to be. Home. The first he’d ever owned.

This boat: The Marianna.

His little sister had always dreamed of living on one, and her yearning settled in him after she died.

He smiled at the sky. “Welcome aboard, Marianna. Let’s fly.”

 

 

For Crispina’s CCC #53

 

Slivers Of Dreams

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Photo: Marina Shatskih on Unsplash

 

All those dreams that he had

As a child

Snug

Under covers

At night,

His tattered teddy

In arms.

His dreams

Parsed out

Into slivers

When

Under stars

At war,

His battered rifle

The only thing

He could

Hug.

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Dream

 

 

In The Shallows

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

There was beauty in the shallows.

The mirror of the skies. The crystalline water in their unabashed reveal. The bottom — old and newer bits together — inviting her to step in and stir the quiet till it rises soft between her toes to momentarily obscure all things.

Opacity reassured her.

Like the enveloping from clouds when they leaned in close in misty acknowledgment, it held reminders:

That life was often muddy.

That clarity was temporary, hard won, and easily disrupted.

That fog spread quickly and lifted slowly, leaving damp disorientation in its wake.

That even shallows could reflect upended bowls of heaven and earth.

 

As if it heard, the water summoned her and she stepped into the silt. Wavelets nipped at her ankles, snapping cold against her skin.

Her toes disappeared, and she thought how apt it was to have her foundation hidden underneath a swirl of settling.

She breathed and closed her eyes and stilled and became one with the water, one with the sediment of time and the detritus of being.

Slowly, both the lake and her mind cleared.

She heard her spirit whistle on the wind.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

Unspoken

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Photo: Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

 

He couldn’t bring himself to tell her.

Instead he left breadcrumbs. Glowing pebbles on a midnight road.

Receipts. ‘Forgotten’ notes. His boots in the garage, muddy though the yard was not.

Liminal clues in hope she ask him where he goes …

Refugees sheltering in the woods.

Perhaps she already knows.

The mud this morning on her shoes.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Challenge: Liminal in 57 words

 

 

What She Ought

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Photo: Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

 

She looked so fraught

I thought she fought

For what she brought.

She apparently did not

But then still she almost forgot

To tell me of some fish she’d caught

And how distraught

The worms she bought

Were at the thought

That she decided that she ought

Just put potatoes

In the pot.

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS challenge: “ght”

 

All Caught Up

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She leaned back, took a long look around, and sighed in satisfaction.

He’d love it. She was sure he would.

It took three full weeks and dozens of hours, but now every piece of paper he’d ever owned was alphabetized and catalogued. The photos organized by color, location, and main character. The receipts tagged and ranked by preference: favorite things first, the things he’d never order again, last.

He was due home by nightfall. She could only imagine his delight.

The office was transformed. So was the garage. She even organized the nets and oar for an artistic touch. Bronzed all his mementos so they matched.

No more desk and drawers. No more folders. No more boxes with a mishmash of photos and cards. Goodbye to letters stacked together by arbitrary designations of correspondence, when they could be more logically sorted by zip code (or when there was none noted, ordered alphabetically by addressee’s given name and divided by paper-type).

It had been a Herculean task, but she was undaunted. Who but her would take it on to help him out?

She couldn’t wait to show him how she’d got him all caught up.

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #236

 

 

The Biggest Yield

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Photo: João Silas on Unsplash

 

They never expected it to turn out as it had.

Sure, they hoped their hard work would bear fruit. Of course they put all they had into it. They needed sustenance, which — without gold or title or power or support or skill — meant they had to find a way to raise it.

Through thick and thin and cold and rain and mud and sun.

Some of it with bare hands. Some literally blindly, given their bad eyes.

They did what they felt they had to do. They just never expected to manage quite so well.

Not when all they’d ever been told was how unworthy and incompetent and incapable they were. A burden on others. Unproductive mouths to feed.

They’d soonest have believed they’d amount to nothing than that they’d amount to so much. Or have such plenty.

Enough to get through the winter and the early spring. Enough for next year’s planting. Enough even to give.

They had the biggest yield anyone had seen in years.

They never expected it to turn out as it had.

To have so much to eat, to be able to be those who feed.

It had to be the fairies, dusting magic onto their field.

 

 

 

For the Word of the Day Challenge: Yield