The Essentials

 

Finally.

She shrugged her pack off and lowered herself so her back rested against a tree, blessing — for the umpteenth time — the waterproofs she’d splurged on several years ago.  The purchase had meant giving up puddings for two months, but she’d never regretted the trade-off.

Food was essential, but so was heeding nature’s call for spending time in the outdoors. It was required nourishment for her soul.

In any weather, no matter damp or cold.

Soon she’d make the tent, gather wood, and light a fire to cook her oats on. But first she just sat, filling her lungs with air and her mind with calm contentment.

Raised in the city, she didn’t know how hungry she was for the outdoors until friends invited them to join a camping trip. She was ten.

Her parents hated every minute of it. For her, it had been like finally finding home.

 

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge #52

 

Fading

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They didn’t tell him he’d be seeing things.

They didn’t tell him how cold he’d be, or how alone, or how desperately he’d miss even the smallest comforts. Like a hue that wasn’t on the scale of dirty-white to sort-of-gray.

Maybe he was dying.

Was this how it would be?

He’d ask.

If he could.

They didn’t tell him he’d be unable to speak. Or that the voice he’d make would go unheard, unseen, unnoticed.

He blinked.

The stag was still there.

Perhaps real, perhaps conjured by the wish to flee combined with the worry about antlers being helplessly tangled as one tried to get away.

“You watch out,” he mouthed. Or said. Or yelled. “Don’t be fooled. Don’t be like me.”

The stag stood still. A statue. Another tree?

Then in one split second it bounded, disappeared.

Come back, he whispered. He’d never been so lonely.

He wept. He thought he did. He was so cold.

He looked at his hands. They blurred. He, too, must be fading.

Eternity.

The shadows crept near. A rumble of garbled monster-speech.

He heaved.

 

“Good trip?”

“He’s kind’a out of it.”

“He said he wanted to try some!”

“Yeah, but how much did you fools dump in his drink?”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge

 

 

A Roof Over Her Head

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Photo prompt: Michael Gaida @ Pixabay.com

 

It looked deserted from the outside, and if someone risked a broken neck to view the inside from the roof, it did not look all that more promising from that angle, either, which was exactly as intended.

It would not do to broadcast the availability of shelter when there were more who sought to ruin what was left than wanted to actually have a roof over theirs.

Better it appeared abandoned and on its last legs already.

The rules were clear: You do not venture out of the pits without permission, and never in daylight. No light allowed during nighttime. Night-vision goggles only. The internal covers at the bottom of pits, which obscured the actual bunker, were to be drawn only after the scopes ensured no one was in the perimeter. The motion sensors were examined weekly. The roof’s latches every other. They could take no risks.

Few had a roof over their heads since the cataclysm, and those who had been fortunate to find or be allowed under one, did best if they kept a low profile or they were certain to lose it. The roof. And the head.

Dingo knew all that.

He also knew that Marlee was out there somewhere, and that the only way for her to find him was for him to plant a signal she would recognize.

How, though, when he was still a Probational and wouldn’t be trusted to come topside without escort for another month?

He tossed and turned on his berth until Steven threw him out, ordering him to go jog on one of the treadmills till he got sleepy.

The common room was empty. The airlock doors blinked slowly to indicate the pit covers had been opened.

It won’t take but a moment to leave Marlee a sign.

 

 

 

For the FFFC photo prompt

 

Warp and Heft

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“All houses bow with time,” Agnes fanned herself. The heat lay on the garden like a leaded blanket. Even the shade of the great oak offered only small respite, though their stifling rooms would be far worse.

“Yet not all houses must endure an Edmund,” Joan giggled behind her fan before frowning at her serving-woman for daring a grin. That girl ought to learn her place! Mockery of Edmund’s evident over-fondness for sweets and mutton was for his equals only to indulge in. It would not do to have the servants ridicule their superiors, or who knows who they would dare disrespect next!

At least the obstinate girl had manners enough to blush crimson and lower her eyes.

Agnes tilted her head mildly. “The estate out-dates our dear cousin by two centuries.”

“And may or may not last this one if he does not move his quarters,” Joan deadpanned but only with half-a-heart. Her wit was wilting. She wriggled two fingers and a woman stepped forward with a glass of mead and a linen square to dab the sweat off of her mistress’ forehead. Her own coif and underarms were dark with moisture. Joan sniffed the sachet at her wrist.

Insects buzzed. The minutes lingered. The house brooded heavy against the colorless sky.

“I wish the air would move,” Joan sighed. Her embroidery lay disused in her lap.

“I wish same.” Agnes’s ivory skin bloomed pink patches in the heat. Her needle, too, lay indolent. She gestured with her fan toward the horizon past the house. “Perhaps these clouds would soon shift the wind before them.”

A distant thunder rumbled as if in answer.

Behind the ladies, one of the serving-women squeaked.

Joan frowned.

“What is it, Marianne?” Agnes inquired, not unkindly.

“The house, My Lady,” the young woman’s curtsy was tense and her finger shook as she pointed it at the lattice work on the third story.

“What about the house?” Joan hissed. She found Agnes far too tolerant of serving girls’ dramatics.

A loud groan answered and the air itself seemed to shimmer. Or warp. Or weave.

A silence fell.

Joan felt the hairs at the back of her neck stand on end.

The insects. They’d stopped buzzing.

Even before her thought completed, lightening split the sky and sliced the roof, the latticework, the heavy beam, the second story window, and the chevrons on the wall, knifing deep into the ground.

Another bolt seared her eyes as it hit the oak.

Sudden wind rose and the air fled, taking with it any memory of the burning house against the raging sky.

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt: Monochrome WritePhoto

 

 

Windowed

cuba11 inbarasif

Photo: Inbar Asif

 

“They’re all old,” the guide gestured, “but some are worse off than others, for they are windowed.”

“Age does not make a building old,” he explained. “Even if sooner or later years form spider webs of fine cracks on every wall, those are just realities built by time. The product of life.”

“But these ones,” his hand rose in half-salute, half-point toward a row of especially dilapidated shutters, “they are windowed.”

When our faces must have told him we still hadn’t the story he’d wanted be told, he sighed and took pity on us. So privileged we had to be to not have lived what would have let us understand the depth of meaning in his words.

“Rooms empty of everything but ruined dreams. Windows widowed of hope. Houses like these go beyond broken relics. Some had gone so long bereft of young ones to gaze through their portals in a waking dream, that short of a miracle to breathe life back into them, they are windowed: dried to the bone of sound, stripped of souls, ready to fall.”

 

 

For V.J.’s Weekly Challenge: Windows

 

Treasure Hunters

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Photo Credit: Joy Pixley

 

It had been a long trek on an oven of a day in what had to be a replica of hell. I was parched half-way to mummification and about as lively as the end result, but Mark seemed as bouncy as a pixie in morning dew.

He checked the map. “Twenty more feet!”

Either he didn’t notice the forest of thorns (and its likely residents) or didn’t care. He was in his element. I definitely was not.

I’d joined THOR (Treasure Hunters Of Renown) a month prior, on the rebound from a breakup. The local chapter was small but Mark’s enthusiasm was contagious and the prospects were exciting. We compared topography maps with old mining records and discussed unsolved mysteries of lost gold from the bandit days of the Wild West. Hunting treasure sounded alluring. It made me feel brave. From the AC.

“I’m not going in there!” I croaked with a drywall tongue as my mind filled with images of scorpions and my ears strained for rattlers. I was sure I’d heard the cackle of ghosts.

If I made it home alive, the only treasures I wanted were a cool drink, my couch, and my remote.

 

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

Around The Bend

tltweek150 JanGenge via Upsplash

Photo: Jan Genge via Upsplash

 

They ran around the metal that machines had bent

And right across the bend of time

Into handmade medieval.

 

 

For Three Line Tales

 

New Wings

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Photo: Boris Smokrovic via Unsplash

 

She clung to the flower and whispered, awe shuddering through with each beat:

“I didn’t even know to imagine how it would feel to stretch wings,

to sense the blood pumping through to the tips, edges fluttering free with the wind.”

 

For Three Line Tales #149

 

Trestle Wrestle

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Photo Prompt: Dawn M. Miller

 

“Stop it!”

Harry’s voice ricocheted off the cliffs. He could feel reverberations from his running traveling through the wooden trestles underneath his feet. Other thuds shook the bridge as well.

The figures didn’t even pause. Gordon swiped a leg under Thomas and the larger man went to the rails but grabbed hold of Gordon’s clothing. They rolled and the men would’ve tumbled off the tracks if it weren’t for Gordon’s belt catching on a spike.

Harry bent mid-stride to grab a stout stick.

It seemed he’d have to knock the two unconscious to stop them from killing each other.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Hold The Rainbow

April Pearson

Photo credit: April Pearson

 

She’s always loved rainbows. Even if they’d signaled more endings than beginnings and more lost pots of golden dreams than she could count. Perhaps that’s why rainbows were so colorful: They distracted you from the fact that they weren’t much more than a trick of light, air distorted through the sheen of still held tears. Would double rainbows herald double sorrow or a chance at joy?

“I wanna hold it, Mama!”

She glanced down at the curly head and her eyes followed the small hand that pointed at the docks across the narrow inlet. “I wanna hold it!”

“You can’t hold a rainbow, Marly.”

The finger remained trained on the colorful arch, and Laurie didn’t needs to see the toddler’s face to know the little girl was scowling. She recognized the full-body-speak from memories in her own bones.

“Come.” She bent and scooped the child into her arms. She was going to make sure life was different for this one. “Such a pretty rainbow, isn’t it? We can’t hold it, but I can hold you, and,” she reached into the go-bag that held everything they still possessed since they escaped, “you can hold your unicorn.”

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge