Up In Smoke

anton-rusetsky-PTiNuIxdKrk-unsplash

Minsk (Photo by Anton Rusetsky on Unsplash)

 

“These stacks look like a hand,” Bella rested her chin on the window’s ledge and gazed at the golden hues of sunset over Minsk. It was beautiful.

“A hand with six fingers.”

Bella scowled into the glass. In her mother’s tone she heard challenge, dismissal, and disdain. It stole the luster off the previous moment’s calm. She resented the coldness with which her mother marred everything during this visit. It felt like a smudge she could not wipe.

So she was surprised when her mother came to kneel on the bed by her, close enough to touch. Close enough to feel the trembling. Her mother rarely cried.

“Six fingers for the six millions,” her mother whispered. “And these clouds like burning souls against the evening sky. Everyone my mother had known. Our whole extended family. Burnt. Dead. Gone. This city will never be free of them, Bella. They speak on.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Minsk

 

Portal To Tomorrow

B alarm trumpet SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

In the portal to

Tomorrow

Let the trumpets

Ring not

Alarm

And rush to

Harm,

But stop to the

Hubris

Of war.

In the portal for

Tomorrow

May those men

Who rashly

Spend

The life of

Others,

Know the call

Of trumpets

Often heralded

Only pain,

More gore.

Enough.

Enough.

No more.

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Portal

 

 

Over Barricaded

pawel-czerwinski-0lCqhJxu6D8-unsplash

Photo: Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

 

There was a wall in there.

A barricade against the world.

He’d built it, bit by bit, from hurts and slights and bigger woes.

And hid.

Within.

Where he thought he’d be safe, and from where he could watch from a distance, reassured by barriers and gates and locks and elaborate booby-traps that made sure no one got too close.

There was a wall in there.

And a moat.

Alligators, too. For insurance.

Only that they had become hungry with the years, as less people even attempted to get near him, and therefore there was less bait.

So that he was, in many ways, imprisoned.

He’d been young when he’d built the wall, and he didn’t plan ahead. So needy of a solid barricade he’d been, that he never made a way to unlock the gate.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Barricade in 136 words

 

 

Fortified

 

They’d fortified the ceiling.

So they said.

The old structure needed periodical reinforcing.

So they said.

The thickness of the walls supported their claims. The deeply recessed windows. The heavy coats of paint on ancient plaster.

‘Twas all a ruse. Of course.

The false ceiling hid a warren of crawl-spaces and narrow hiding places. A stream of escaped slaves was followed by a flood of those fleeing Nazi persecution and thereafter a steady trickle of modern-day refugees.

The ceiling hid them all. Young and old. Broken and defiant. Desperate and bewildered. Men and women and the all-too-heartbreaking child.

Some stayed a night. Others for longer sheltering. Hilda had stayed the longest. A girl on arrival, she was almost a woman at war’s end. She emerged educated. In silence. In stealth. In compassion.

She became the guardian of those who followed.

Fortified with hope of one day needing it no more.

 

 

 

For the Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Dedicated to all the heroes who — often at tremendous risk to themselves — had managed to shelter the needy, the desperate, the voiceless, and the vulnerable during times of injustice, persecution, violence, horror, and hate. To all who do so still. May we one day need to do so no more.

 

Warehoused

Photo: © J Hardy Carroll

 

The cells were small. Sturdy enough to keep them separated. Aerated enough to keep them alive. Near enough to let them marinate in each other’s misery.

What the jailers did not foresee, however, was how they were just close enough to offer comfort. Fingers laced through fencing let them hold hands. Almost.

Oh, they moved to corners when anyone came. Pretended to hate each other. Endured each other’s fake bullying that so amused their captors.

But in the silent moments they sat close, back-pressed-through-chain-to-back. Their ‘caretakers’ warehoused them like animals, but the children’s defiance held: they remembered they were siblings.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

Slivers Of Dreams

marina-shatskih-sIzj2poobss-unsplash

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

 

 

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

 

 

Become Stone

Photo: #CCC48

 

She crouched and tried to still her heart and limbs so the water would not give her away in wavelets or ripples.

Her teeth chattered. She wasn’t dressed for wet and the day’s sun had little warmth, none of which reached the shaded culvert.

She strained to listen.

She did all she could think of to hide her steps, but she wasn’t likely to escape the dogs. If they brought them. Oh pray please, please, that they did not. Not the dogs.

Her breath hitched and she bit down on her lip to try and swallow the sob that rode on it. The metal taste of blood filled her mouth. She heard barking. Surely the dogs could smell it. And her fear.

She closed her eyes and prayed to become stone.

She would not feel their chains, the bites, the clubs, their touch, their lashes, if she were a stone.

 

 

 

For the Crimson Creative Challenge

 

On Delicate Wings

On delicate wings NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

What had happened to you

In the short life

You knew?

Your wings’ rhythm

Aflutter

To a drum

Gone

Askew?

Your beauty imbued

By what could life

Subdue,

You flit on right

Through,

Gloriously determined,

To be you,

To be you.

 

 

 

 

For the Sunday Stills challenge: A bug’s life

 

 

Read To Remember

Photo prompt © CEAyr

 

“I read to remember,” she said, her voice steel and quiver. “I read because he no longer can and because I know he was, most very likely, reading at the very moment his life stopped, evaporated, in mid-word. I read because mine almost stopped in the loss of him and in the enormity of the awfulness that took him and so many.

“I read to not forget. Because there is a bigger spark in life than in sorrow, and because he never would have left us, and certainly not this way. If it weren’t for the planes.

That September day.”

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all the lost, and to all those who lost so much, and to all that has been changed — insidiously and indelibly for so many — on September 11, 2001. I was here. I remember and I understand why we remember and what we must remember about ourselves and about who we can be. May we hold truth. May we be the better, kinder, more humane version of ourselves.

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers