Endless Harmony

a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She’d never have believed the vastness had she not been there to see it.

In person.

On the edge of endlessness.

The breath of eons crashing at her feet.

The spray of ancient rhythms that had been there

All along.

Through war and storm and hope and flood and cold and warm and days like this when no one but herself was there to witness it.

She’d never have believed the power that it held, contained within each curl of wave, in every roll of whitecap licking sand.

It filled her.

With awe and ache and gnawing yearning to something that went beyond her words and into thoughts unformed, or perhaps ones made of memories in utero: the hiss, the beat, the drums of hearts.

And this.

Another memory

To merge into

In endless harmony.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto (2nd week)

 

The Look

Atilla the tractor 1

 

“It is looking at me.”

“What is?” I was dozing off in the delicious sun on the first dry weekend we’d had in a while. The lush grass under me felt springy.

I thought the word was so apt. Springy. The double meaning of the season and the bouncy vivaciousness of it all.

“It is looking at me.”

I inhaled slowly with more resignation than irritation. I might’ve known this would not go as I had envisioned. While I was content to lie still and let the sounds of the birds and the hiss of the breeze and the faraway whir of a tractor in someone’s field fill and nourish me, Marlee had been tugging on grass-blades and clucking her tongue and shifting positions every three seconds.

She’s always been flighty. A flit-bit full of frown and furrow, forever on the edge of tumbling from one thing to another.

I loved it about her. She was the counter-weight to my molasses and the engine to my stasis. Her hypervigilance also made my idea of a relaxing afternoon where we do nothing, an utterly foreign thing.

Perhaps an even frightening one.

I opened my eyes. “What’s looking at you?”

“That.”

I raised myself on an elbow and scanned the field. There was no one there.

Marlee sat, violin-string-tight, eyes glued ahead.

I followed her line of sight. Nothing. Not even a bunny. Just a tractor that most likely belongs to the farmer whose land we might be trespassing on. I squinted against the glare – the cab was empty – there was no one there.

Marlee did not move.

Resigned now, I sat up and stared harder. A caterpillar undulated up a flower’s stem by my knee. A bird dove at the tractor, perched momentarily on a mirror, and flew away.

“The bird?” I chanced.

Marlee shook her head but her eyes remained trained on the vehicle. “The tractor,” she said. “That thing has eyes. I swear it blinked at me.”

 

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

The Apprentice

The monochrome image shows the base of a tree with a hole, like a doorway, through its base...

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“It requires one step through.”

She squinted at the trunk. “I can see the other side.”

“So it would seem.”

She circled the tree and peeked through the opening. “It is as I said. I can see your legs.”

“I’m sure you believe you can.”

His calm voice infuriated her, but she knew that getting riled up will only lead to another long lesson in teaching her self-control.

She breathed.

He nodded.

She turned away from him and breathed again and then counted to ten for good measure. She could almost imagine him chuckling, though she knew he probably would not give her the satisfaction of seeing him react that way. Still, she could feel his amusement. It had been the hardest thing for her. His mild dismissing mockery. It was a constant reminder that she was a mere neophyte swimming furiously upstream in hope of getting even the smallest measure of trust, let alone recognition.

Why did he take her on when he had so little regard for her?

She circled the tree one more time. In part to move some of her agitation, but also to use the trunk as some shelter from her mentor’s scrutiny. She knew what her eyes told her: A hole in a tree, a gap she could toss a pebble through (not that she’d dare, now that he told her what it was), certainly of no size to fit a person.

She also knew that eyes can lie.

Still she resisted.

“Perhaps you aren’t ready.”

In spite of herself she felt her fingers clench. She hated when he did that. It made her feel like a child to be goaded.

Perhaps I am not, she retorted in her mind.

“Indeed, perhaps you’re not.”

Her eyes flew to meet his. She had suspected for some time that he could read her mind, and it felt like someone’s wandering hands rifling through her underwear drawer.

“I could read it in your eyes,” he noted, confirming rather than reassuring.

“What if I go through with it?” she sighed. She felt not so much resigned as she did defeated. He always got his way in the end. She could flail about and delay and prolong the path and belabor the process, but inevitably he got her to do things as he’d wanted. Half the time she thought his goal was to get her to where she would no longer resist him, while half the time she felt that the day she ceased rebelling would be the day he tell her that she’d failed completely.

Even now he did not answer till she asked again.

“You will see what there is for you to see.” He lifted his hand to indicate it was time for her to suspend all judgement, ignore her perceptions, and walk through the tree that he said was a portal.

“Is this the last test?” she fretted.

At that he chuckled. “It is never the last test …”

As she turned toward the tree she heard him add in a small voice that perhaps was made with mind, not larynx, “not for you, not for me.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

Perpetuity

a channel of water flowing out to sea, with the sun reflecting on the water.

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“You know,” she said, “this will be home.”

I looked around. Marsh and bog and semi-dry patches that high tide or rain were sure to turn completely water logged. It looked a misery.

“It will, too,” she added, even though I hadn’t said a word. She always knew to read my body’s thoughts, even when I voiced no words and moved not a muscle.

Some days it made me hate her. For my utter lack of privacy.

Other days I felt indebted beyond measure for not having to find ways to explain when words had never been accessible enough to match my thoughts with meaning. And for being seen by her when no one else seemed able to or cared to try.

“Wanna know how?” Fiona pushed a heavy lock of hair off of her eye and I knew then that she already had a plan, and that the plan was sounder than the muddy ground we stood on. I knew that gesture, that flowing move of clear-eyed determination that carried with it more than just a touch of crazy. For neither one of us was sane, but Fiona was nuts enough to get us out of scrapes I did not see a way out of. Somehow my sister, younger by three minutes and wiser by ten decades, thought ahead in moves others did not appear capable of anticipating. It had saved us, more than once, of certain death.

She was about to do so now.

“How?” I asked, though I knew she didn’t need me to.

“Stilts.”

She yanked a twig out of the soggy ground and scratched a diagram into the patch of godforsaken earth in the end of nowhere anybody, that an hour earlier I did not know existed, let alone that it belonged to us by ancestry through crumbling deeds that no one since an ancient relative had made use or taken any heed of.

“They thought the place too wet,” my sister noted as the outline of an elevated house rose like a phoenix from the lines she etched into the dirt. “But not Friar Felix. He saw the same potential that I see. The fish and clams and seaweed. The crabs. The cattails by the spring that makes the stream that gurgles out to the sea. A place to be.”

She glanced up at me and the hazel in her eyes reflected the sun’s rays along with something far older. Like a memory not of hers that nonetheless also held on to our own desperate need for belonging.

“I don’t know if he knew, Finley, but Friar Felix had bequeathed the deed to this land to his sister’s children, and to their children’s children in perpetuity.”

My sister turned her gaze onto the water and her voice dropped to a whisper in the wind.

“We are those children’s children’s children, Finley. This is our home. It will be home. You’ll see.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

At The Window

Wacton church window

 

She’d drag her trunk over every time she was left alone. It did not happen nearly often enough, so she faked head-hurts when her need got too great.

She’d drag the trunk over and place the foot-stool atop it. Gather her skirts and climb to stand precariously on it, balancing on tiptoes.

It was the only way to reach the window.

It was the only way to look out.

The only way to see the fields. The light upon the water in the distant pond. The green or bloom or brown or white of seasons. The birds. The trees. The world outside.

She didn’t know how long she’d have to stay confined to the Women’s Tower. Probably till she was of age to be married off and be conveyed in a shuttered carriage to the Women’s Tower in some other lord’s estate. The curse of her birth.

Highborn girl-children did not go out of doors very often. They did not spend time in the courtyard after infancy and were never unveiled or unaccompanied. Their chastity required they not be seen.

She watched the peasants’ children frolicking. She watched the girls work the fields, herd the geese, chase stray ducklings, spread seed for the hens, milk the goats, cut the hay, grind the wheat, slap cloth against the rocks at the sparkling stream. She could almost feel them breathe, though when she tried to draw breath herself it only let in suffocation. So much so she sometimes did not need to fake a head-hurt after that.

The latticed windows did not open. Two narrow slats near the corners of the tower room did respond to her mother’s lock in fine weather to allow air through cracks barely as wide as her wrist. Not that she was allowed to try and push an arm through them. It would be unseemly.

Still, she tried. Once. The marginal openings met a stone ledge’s resistance after a few inches’ opening.

Protection from invaders and wild-men, she was told.

Guarantee against escape of any kind, she thought.

 

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

First Day Out

transition

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

It’s been a long time since she was able to hold her head up.

She knew every crack in the ceiling. Every shade of light on the walls. Every spider web.

They kept the latter undisturbed.

“Let them be,” she’d asked when the housekeeper had come in one day, armed with an upended broom. The matronly women had frowned only to have understanding effuse her face with something between pity and compassion.

“You keep ’em company, then,” the housekeeper had said.

She’d cried a little after the woman had left the room, tears accumulating small pools in her ears. In them was the relief for the small thing she could still control to protect, and the hollowing despair for how much of it she’d lost, that she begs company of arachnids.

Months passed since.

The webs accumulated. Elaborated.

The seasons changed.

She watched the spiders, and found her own cobweb to hang on to and get stronger.

She learned how to control a torso that would no longer answer to her command. She found ways to manage the awful dizziness of gravity. She made peace with her chair and its straps as her adopted exoskeleton.

And she was strong enough, finally. To hold her head up.

A gentle sun licked the edge of the gate. The mostly overcast sky offered her pallid indoor skin a needed measure of protection. A glint danced on the fence’s wall and she practically felt it.

As tender and tenacious as a spider web strand.

“I’m ready,” she smiled. “For my first day out.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt

 

 

They Bowed

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“They bow, you see,” Mir explained.

The child held on silently to his hand.

Mir peered down at the small head, so uncharacteristically still, the red curls shining like molten gold under the sun.

The quiet lingered and Mir did not break it. More words would not change how there was only so much one could say about some things.

A bird fleeted close. A bee buzzed by. Somewhere a donkey brayed and a dog’s bark answered.

Still the child did not move.

Mir let the air in and out of his lungs mark the passage of time, even as he knew it would not be measured in the same way by the child. Nor would it matter. Time is rarely what it seems to be, anyhow.

The air shimmered. The scent of smoke wafted from someplace beyond the fields, and in it mixed the faintest hints of manure and baking bread.

A caterpillar inched its way atop a blade of grass.

“There is no wind,” the child finally noted.

“There is not,” Mir confirmed.

“Are they tied together?”

“They are holding limbs.”

The child looked at her own hand in her grandfather’s. She did not look up, but Mir could feel the connection being made as it wove a thread of understanding between the two of them, between them all.

A hush fell. Then a sudden breeze rippled through the field and whistled an unnamed sound as it passed through the stacks. The tips nodded.

The child bowed back.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt: Wicker

 

The Intertwined

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.

Nate trembled. He fingered the rough edge of the faded construction paper and the sensation lifted him into memories filled with the scent of glue and the sounds of children.

It’s been how many years since? Thirty. At least.

He inspected the note again, as if expecting more words to appear among the scrawled letters on the hand-torn bit of yellowed-green. None did.

It was not signed, but even after all this time there would be no mistaking it. Not by him.

Elinor.

Kindergarten sweetheart and schoolyard tormentor, both.

What did she want? Where had she been? Why write him now? Why him? Why this way?

Tears pressed behind his eyes and he was surprised by their intensity. The last time he’d felt that way (well, the last time he consciously admitted to it being so), was when he’d seen that ad, twelve years ago. The image of it unfurled behind his mind’s eye, never really forgotten: “Missing. Elinor Bricks. Age 23. Long dark curly hair. Blue eyes. Medium height and built. Last seen walking into the woods south of Sparrow Street, wearing blue pants, gray jacket, sneakers, and a brown messenger bag.”

Two weeks of searching before the police had folded their tents and left the flyers for the wind and squirrels.

Three months before he could sleep.

Four years before he let himself date anyone. Two more before he married. Five before he lost Marianne and little Morris as the baby tried and could not be born.

Could that have been only last year?

His heart had been hollow. Since.

Now this.

“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.

Their ancestors had planted those trees over a century ago. Hers and his. Far apart enough to stand alone. Close enough to weave together roots and canopy. They were a symbol of connection. The place where marriage took place and funerals left from. Where roots spread fingers to hold on even as they reached to grip new spaces. It was the very place where past and present, love and life and loss and longing intertwined.

His fingers spread over the bit of paper, reaching to embrace it, and interlacing words with the unknown.

He trembled.

His heart thundered.

“I’m sorry, Marianne.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Prompt: Rooted

 

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

 

 

Tut’s Trough

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“It’s been here since time before time,” Marty’s voice rose in self-importance.

“I don’t think Mammoths would agree,” Donna deadpanned. She was tired and the tour-de-woods was becoming tedious. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Marty. She did. Or at least, she had … before he’d unleashed his inner Know-it-all in what he appeared to consider some form of seductive foreplay. It did the opposite for her.

To be fair, she’d always claimed men’s minds could be just as attractive as their bodies.

The key being ‘as important’ she sighed to herself, not the sole importance.

Marty, oblivious, nodded. “Mammoths didn’t need troughs,” he added pedagogically. “They weren’t domesticated.”

Donna slapped at some buzzing insect on her arm. The noise ceased. She’d slap away Marty’s patronizing tone, too, if she didn’t so abhor violence. These days.

The very thought stirred guilt. It wasn’t his fault she was there. It wasn’t his fault she was broken and that time hadn’t ever been kind to her kin.

She forced herself to breathe and glanced at the moss-covered structure in an attempt at interest, only to be mortified when the first thought through her mind was how much it resembled a sarcophagus and how peaceful it would be to lie in one for all eternity.

Or until some form of grave-robbers came.

She shuddered.

“You okay?” Marty’s voice filtered through her distress. “You look as though you’d seen a ghost!”

How little you know, Donna thought. “I’m fine,” she said.

The line between his eyebrows smoothed and he gestured grandly toward the vessel. “Some say it is haunted,” he leaned close to her and whispered a mockery of suspense, “for how this simple trough tricks the vulnerable into thinking it resembles King Tut’s tomb.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt