A Stranger’s Eyes

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Photo: Conner Baker on Unsplash

 

Her hand clasped the steering wheel and she fought against the tears that threatened to blur the road ahead.

The wheels whirred over miles and miles of black as the stars spread a rotating canopy over her car. A bug atop a line drawn in the sand, she was. A smidgen on the wide expanse of life under the heavens.

She won’t go back.

She could not allow it.

He had her squelched under his thumb for so long that she did not recognize her own face in the mirror. Her eyes had become a stranger’s.

“There are times,” her mother once said, “when a woman must believe herself. You may think yourself broken, but you will love again the stranger who was your self.”

She’d thought it cryptic at the time, melodramatic.

She understood now. “I’m coming home to myself at last, Mom.”

 

 

 

For the dVerse Prosery prompt: Love after Love in 144 words

 

 

Collateral Damage

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Photo: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

 

“They’re collateral damage,” he said, and gestured toward the flash of news images across the screen. “It’s not anything personal against them.”

He shrugged as if his words explained all of what happened. Of what continues to take place.

“They never should’ve put themselves in this situation,” he added, perhaps because he’d perceived my incredulous stare as an invitation to explain further, or perhaps because someplace, somehow, he felt ashamed. That is, if he was capable of shame, which as the evening dragged on I found myself increasingly doubtful of.

I glanced at Brenda, whose dinner plate seems to have become her world. Her absconding only made me angrier, but the boulder in my throat allowed no sound. I shook my head.

“Well, they could’ve stayed where they were,” he retrieved a comb out of his pocket and proceeded to slick back his salt-and-pepper hair, and the outrageously incongruous act against the reality of utter misery, somehow released my breath.

“They are children!” I choked on the word, but the rest tumbled out behind it as if afraid to become lodged again. “They could not make the decision to stay. They had no choice where to be born. Or who they were born to, or whether or not to put themselves in any situations.”

He continued to groom himself with the comb and I fought the urge to grab his arms and toss away the thing, one of the many things, the children were denied.

“Their parents should’ve taken better care of them,” he added blandly.

I took in a deep breath. “Even if that was true, which it is not in the vast majority of the cases, how does that make it acceptable for others to deliberately traumatize these children further?”

He raised an eyebrow in disdain to signal that my upset was the overreaction. “If their parents stayed in their own countries,” he stated sedately, “instead of coming here, the children wouldn’t get locked up. It’s simple, really. If a person doesn’t want their kids to suffer, they should not do certain things.”

“So now we’re talking like the mafia? Threatening people with harm to their kids?”

“Calm down,” he drawled. “Now that people know their kids wouldn’t have it easy here, perhaps they’d think before they decide to make their kids into collateral damage. If they did as they were told and stayed wherever it was they belonged, none of this would have to happen.”

I inhaled and glared at his wife, the colleague whose silence at the face of cruelty made her increasingly less of a friend. Her eyes scanned the wall someplace not quite behind my head.

“So you approve of terrorizing children,” I stated, my fingers groping for my purse. Her birthday dinner or not. I was done. “This is exactly what mafia does.”

He actually cackled. “They’re the mafioso. It’s their fault if their kids are cold and wet and getting hurt. What did they expect, crumpets and tea?”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS writing challenge: co-

 

Up Or Down

 

She could go up

Or down

On the path

Into town.

There the low road

Awaited,

Full of snarls and

outdated.

Or she could take

The high

With its twists,

Turns,

And sighs.

 

She could go up

Or down

On the path

Into town.

So she paused to

Reflect,

How to best

Course correct,

And decided it

Best

To give the high road

A test.

 

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Voice Of Song

Lady Liberty SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

There is no

Place,

No space,

Without

Voice.

 

If the trees of our soul

Fall

With no ears near

To hear,

Silence deafens

Roar into

Lore.

 

Be the voice

Of your song.

Let the air move

Through lungs

Via cords

To record:

You’re aboard.

 

 

 

For the dVerse Quadrille challenge: Voice

 

Ripples In The Water

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Photo: Bibin Tom (Tulabi Falls, Manitoba)

 

The dream took almost a decade to fulfill.

And there it was. Reality.

She could scarcely believe it.

First there were the logistics to overcome: savings to secure, the children to raise beyond immediate dependency, paperwork and releases to organize, complicated details to ensure such international travel would even be possible.

Then there was the soulmate to find. Or rather, to have find her.

She looked around. At the deep calm. The ripples in the water. She’d pinch herself, only  it would rock the boat and she had no intention to fall out. Not when it had taken so long to get in.

“You’ll have to adjust,” they’d told her.

“Some things you just won’t be able to do,” they’d said.

Well … stubbornness had gotten her through the accident. It got her through years of being a wheelchair-bound single parent.

It got her back into a canoe.

With Hugh.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Manitoba, Canada

 

Faith in Stones

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They none of them could explain when it had been built or how it had been done. The standing stones were magic enough, but the slab of solid rock perching above their heads against the laws of order and human power — it went beyond what anyone understood.

Even The Sage did not know.

And she knew everything there was to learn and some of what could not be taught yet she ascertained anyhow.

“Though I heard say …” The Sage stretched the words as every child and many an adult leaned into her speaking. It was the mid-of-day that followed the longest morning. A time of pause and story. “… that it could have been the Angel Bird.”

The elder’s wisps of hair haloed her face. The oval itself was shadowed by the relative darkness under the stone overhang.

A child shifted in his mother’s lap. An errant toddler was reprimanded. A baby’s wail was quieted by its mother’s nipple. The people settled.

The Sage lifted her chin and many eyes followed. Soot and marks of time tanned the gray expanse above.

“In her beak, the Angel Bird can carry many men into the sea. Her wings can mask the stars so fishers lose the way back to their hearths. She can lift a whale and place it on the shore to feed the people. She can bring the howling wind. She can ice the river. She can slash the fire in the skies. Yet she can also pluck a clover and carve a snowflake. She can blow a single hair off of an ailing person’s forehead and lead them back to health or to the place-of-no-more-breath. … ” The Sage paused and filled her own lungs with air. “Perhaps the Angel Bird was the one to lift the slab atop the pillars.”

“Can she take it down?”

An admonishing murmur rose. Young voice or not, saying a thing made it. Now the notion hung above them like storm-clouds. Fear thickened the air but to state the worry might make it, too.

The Sage raised her palm but let the silence linger. Her eyes wandered over the cracks and small crevices of the ancient stone.

The questioning child was not to blame. The Sage had wondered similarly herself. Had her thoughts manifested through the young one’s mind? It had been known to happen. Sometimes it was a sign of too-easy a persuasion. At other times it signaled the nascent perceptiveness of a future apprentice.

The girl met The Sage’s eyes with tears brimming at the unfairness of collective condemnation, but stared on, defiant.

The latter then. The Sage allowed a corner of her lip to twitch. She’ll take it on herself to observe the child. In the meantime the girl deserved the response that had chased away many an hour of The Sage’s sleep.

“Indeed the Angel Bird can …”

People gasped. More frowns were directed at the girl, who pulled herself straighter, pushed a mess of tangled hair off her face, and squared her shoulders.

The latter. No question now.

“And she likely will. In time,” The Sage added.

An audible inhale rippled through the group as more and more faces lifted to inspect the heavy ceiling. No longer a taken-for-granted solid refuge, but a slide-between-the-fingers sand.

“All things die,” The Sage pressed on, aware that the answer had become the opportunity for its own story. “It is no curse nor blessing. No different than the change of seasons or the leaves that bud and green and grow and brown and fall. In early summer it may seem that foliage had always been and always will be, and yet we know that time will come when the leaves will die and the branches be laid bare.”

“This is no leaf,” a woman murmured, eyes uneasily on the rock and her body curled over a nursing infant.

Several other women fidgeted and darted glances at the sunny meadow at the shelter’s side.

The Sage sighed. Panic tended to have its fingers intertwined with knowledge. She knew it better than most.

“Life requires faith,” she said. “Every person who ever took shelter under this place of magic — from the first ancestors to the persons sitting here today — accepted that it is not of our doing. Whether by the Angel Bird or a different magic, this marvel means that our people do not suffer in the rain or ice or burning sun. We did not build this. It is our home but we do not own it. The most we can do is ensure we keep it well and are not the ones to destroy it.”

 

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt

The Amateur

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Photo: Alex Andrews on Pexels.com

 

He was an amateur in

Matters

Of the heart.

Oh, he prided himself on being

An expert

Of the physiological

Domain.

And perhaps a tinkerer

In that

He was.

But he was not even

A dabbler

In intimacy.

He lacked all expertise

In the understanding of

Connection

Or trust

Or hope.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Amateur in 51 words

 

No Prayer Crossing

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Photo: Faris Mohammed via Unsplash; Punakha, Bhutan

 

I glanced across the chasm. For someone born and raised in the Alps amidst sharp elevations, I was woefully unequipped. Sometimes I wondered what Karma I’d accumulated to explain it.

“You are protected, Dania.”

I looked up desperately at my mother, who wore an encouraging smile and already had one foot on the swaying bridge and a hand held out to assist me. Even as a baby I’d been known to tremble at the sight of any height, yet Mother’s optimism never wavered that one day her offspring would overcome what to her was an incomprehensible fear. She adored climbing.

Why she took me to Bhutan.

“This bridge is blessed,” my mother tried. “You’ll come to no harm.”

“I cannot,” I whispered, my legs shaking. Each prayer flag a flutter to match mine, the river vertiginous miles below. “No prayer will suffice. My very soul knows it’ll die.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Bhutan

 

Cleaning Up

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Photo Sebastian Sørensen on Pexels.com

 

No amount of soap and water could clean up this mess.

Even if I were to try, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d go about it, or if the effort was worth the results. Perhaps it’d be better to burn the whole thing to the ground and start from scratch.

I eyed the matches on the stove and looked at what I could no longer justify keeping around.

I wouldn’t miss most of it. Or so I had to hope.

My fingers struck a match and I held the small flame to the ring, amazed as always by how easily it grabbed hold and circled to make a blue-yellow-purple circuit of heat.

The fire leapt and danced and hissed.

I sighed.

It was time to wave good-bye. I needed a fresh beginning.

I set the kettle on to boil, sat back down, and hit “Delete.”

 

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS writing prompt: Clean/Dirty

 

 

The Moon

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Photo by George Desipris on Pexels.com

 

“What’s wrong?” I burst into her room with uncombed hair dripping from the bath and my bathrobe hanging half-opened.

She was sitting in her bed, sheets all tangled, the pillow clutched against her chest.

When she said not a word, I felt the terror rise inside me, too.

She’d had good cause for nightmares in the past, but it’s been years since any of those had woken her in such a state. Why now?

“What is it?” I crossed the distance from the door in three steps but dared not touch her lest my hands make her remember other ones, a lot less loving. “Can you tell me?”

She shuddered as if coming back from a great distance.

“I dreamt I was the moon,” she whispered. “Vast and cold and deathly airless.

“and,” her breath caught, “I dreamt that he found his way there.”

 

 

For the dVerse prosery challenge