Monochrome Monday: The Darkness Within

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The light that poured through her window was the only source of illumination in an otherwise dismal existence. They said her harsh treatment was deserved, that her idle ways had led to an inevitable conclusion. Only she knew just how hard she’d strived to avoid such a fate. She tried not to let bitterness consume her as she remembered the long days she’d spent seeking any work available, and the unpleasant tasks she’d undertaken for a few meager pennies. But the work had simply not been there – not for someone like her, without education or experience.

She held on to her sense of self-worth through the darkest times. Like the light through the window that brightened her days, hope cast its rays into her soul, giving her the strength to continue. Someday she’d be able to leave the bleak confines of the workhouse. With the new skills she’d been forced her to learn, employment would be found. Someday, she prayed, her life would be better.

let the light pour in

bright rays alleviating

the darkness within


Like last week’s picture, this is another photograph taken at Southwell Workhouse. If you’d like to know more about the workhouses of Victorian England, check out Millie Thom’s post here.

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FFfAW: The Touch of his Hand

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The Touch of his Hand

“Are you coming, my dear?”

Millie looked up at the sound of his voice. Tommy stood in the doorway, his hand outstretched, waiting for hers to join it.

She still remembered the first time their hands had touched, all those years ago. She’d shyly slid her fingers into his as they’d walked into the picture house – barely believing the handsome boy had chosen her. He’d squeezed her hand and given a flirtatious wink, setting her heart aflutter. That had been their first date. Many more had soon followed.

The touch of his hand had swiftly become the most important thing in her life: his caress set her senses alight; his support carried her through the hardest days. When his long fingers had slid the ring, the symbol of their devotion, onto her own, she’d known she was complete.

His death had left her adrift.

She’d simply marked time the since his passing, knowing she’d see him again soon.

“Of course,” she said, rising to her feet. Without any hesitation, she slid her fingers into his.

Word count: 175

To read the other entries, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Artycaptures.

In remembrance of my grandparents, Millie and Tommy – gone but never forgotten.

FFfAW: A Mother’s Grief

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Photo prompt © Jade M. Wong

A Mother’s Grief

“We didn’t do anything to it, Ma,” Aeliene said, a waiver in her voice that broke Shylie’s heart all over again. “We were just playing. It came out of nowhere and attacked us. Baen tried to stop it, but, he… he fell… and… and…”

Shylie gathered her daughter close.

Grief encased her as she beheld the body of her butchered son, leaving her as fragile as eggshells. The slightest movement could cause her to shatter, spilling her emotions out for everyone to see. But beneath the sorrow, anger began to burn.

“Are we going to continue like this?” she demanded, turning to the rest of the tribe, gathered nearby in silent respect. “How many more children must we lose before we do something about these monsters?”

They might be pacifists by nature, but fire smouldered within each and every one of them. Her people spread their wings and gave a mighty roar.

Those puny humans wouldn’t stand a chance. Not now.

For the dragons were going to war.

Word count: 173

To read the other entries, or to  submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Jade M. Wong. Thank you, Jade!

FFfAW: The Name on the Stone

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Photo prompt © Yarnspinner

The Name on the Stone

Kaeri murmured a prayer and dropped the stone into the urn, calmly meeting the gaze of the priest on the temple steps. He watched her with narrowed eyes, his attention unwavering until she moved out of sight.

She’d performed the ritual every day for years. Each stone had borne the same name, inscribed in uneven script: Hoenn – the man who’d caused her life to disintegrate.

But Jia, goddess of the downtrodden, had yet to deliver her promised vengeance.

Unsurprisingly.

Everyone knew it was the priesthood who judged the guilt of those named, choosing the punishments they deemed suitable. Only a few names were ever offered for the divine Lady’s attention. And no matter what crimes lay at his door, their own high priest would never be included in that number.

Kaeri had grown tired of waiting for her prayers to be answered.

Finally unobserved, she entered the temple and began her hunt, dagger concealed in the folds of her skirt. Soon high priest Hoenn’s blood would coat the blade.

Today she’d claim vengeance for herself.

Word count: 175

To read the other entries or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Yarnspinner. Thank you, Yarnspinner!

FFfAW: Lessons Learned

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Photo prompt © Artycaptures

Lessons Learned

Hunger gnawed, growing increasingly harsh and insistent as hours dragged by. The dish of food remained frustratingly out of reach.

Finn scowled, trying again to rise. This was ridiculous. He didn’t know what she’d done to him, but the old woman was clearly deranged. “If you wish to eat,” she’d said, “use the power of your mind to draw it closer.”

He’d protested such nonsense, but she’d dismissed his objections, claiming he had to have ‘abilities’ to have found her. She’d then rambled about teachers and students before leaving him alone – to starve, it now seemed.

Abilities? He had no abilities! He was just an ordinary bloke unfortunate enough to meet her, and stupid enough to accept her hospitality.

At first he’d tried to leave, but his body had refused his commands. Fear had then overtaken him, gruesome scenarios running through his mind. Finally, defeated, his options depleted, he gave in and humoured her madness. He directed his fear and anger outwards, willing the bowl to move. Emotion overflowed…

The dish smashed to the floor.

Word count: 175

To read the other entries, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s photo prompt was provided by Artycaptures. Thank you, Artycaptures!

 

The Burden of Truth

Yesterday I posted a piece of flash fiction for last week’s FFfAW challenge. As I mentioned there, I’d previously written another version that had to be abandoned as it was far too long for the 175 word limit. Well, I’ve decided to share it with you anyway. Technically, it’s still a piece of flash fiction, at 769 words long, so it shouldn’t take too long to read.

Yesterday’s story was from the viewpoint of the knight, Sir Jonin. It might be best if you read that one first. Today’s story is from the viewpoint of his friend Mikael, and hopefully will answer a few of the questions raised by the shorter piece…

Knights

The Burden of Truth

“And so we bade farewell to the grateful villagers, and mounted the fey beast, finally setting ourselves towards home.” Sir Jonin’s voice rose and fell dramatically as he neared the end of his tale, his gestures broad and extravagant. The younger knights watched, transfixed. “That it carried two made no difference to the creature. It was so swift, so smooth, we could have been riding the wind itself.”

Mikael gritted his teeth and tuned out his friend’s voice. He’d heard the story – and its multitude of variations – many times before. Each telling set him on edge. Unlike everyone else present, he actually knew the truth in the the tale.

More so than even Jonin.

There were a few undeniable facts, and these were common knowledge: the pair had been missing for several months after the battle of Ebden Moor – presumed dead – only to suddenly reappear, riding together on a mysterious steed that afterwards vanished. Anything beyond these few points was subject to Jonin’s wild imagination, and liable to change with each retelling.

It was the truth that set anxiety clawing at Mikael’s chest.

For the truth was that, whilst Jonin had definitely been present during their adventure all those years earlier, he hadn’t exactly been aware of what was happening. Mikael shuddered. The memory of blood staining his hands as his best friend bled out against the stones would remain with him forever. Jonin had remained blissfully unaware throughout it all.

His friend hadn’t seen how his blood caused the standing stones to glow, opening a gateway into the Shadowlands. He hadn’t seen the way the world shifted, twisting in kaleidoscopic fragments, until the landscape held a faintly alien appearance, and the air shimmered with magic. He hadn’t been witness to Mikael’s desperate pleas for help as he held his dying friend.

Nor had he been witness to the bargain Mikael had struck with the Faerie Lord who’d come to their aid. The other man had only regained awareness as they rode their benefactor’s obviously fey steed back into the mortal realms, the wound in his side healed as if it had never existed.

To them, their magical encounter had spanned mere minutes. For the rest of the world, however, they’d been absent for months. Never one to miss such an opportunity, Jonin had proceeded to fill the missing time with a myriad of imagined adventures – each wilder than the one before.

Mikael leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes as the hubbub of the feast washed over him. Men and women talked and laughed, their antics growing increasingly rowdy as brimming tankards were downed. Faint strains of music barely carried over the chatter. The air was filled with the mingled odours of rich food, wood smoke, and too many unwashed bodies. Jollity held sway.

It had been some time since Mikael had felt like joining in with such revelry. But tonight wasn’t a night when he was free to drown his sorrows – not when he and his young wife were the guests of honour. It was meant to be such a happy occasion. He forced a smile, a laugh, struggling to hold a cheerful mask in place, even as his mind drifted back to that fateful day.

At the time he’d thought the deal to be worth it. He and Jonin were more than just friends, they were brothers in arms. Brothers in everything except blood. He would have given anything to save him. When the Fae had named his price, Mikael hadn’t hesitated before agreeing.

But now…

Mikael gazed across the room at his beloved’s glowingly gravid form. She smiled tenderly, rubbing a hand across her stomach.

Now, he wasn’t so sure.

He rose to his feet and hurriedly left the hall, needing to be alone. He couldn’t stand the thought of sitting there a moment longer, faking happiness. Not when he knew that his world would soon shatter. A moment later he heard the sound of heavy footsteps following him.

“What’s wrong?”

He halted, closing his eyes. Of course Jonin had followed. Mikael sighed, leaning against a tapestry covered wall as bone deep weariness swamped him. He’d sworn himself to silence, had determined the other man didn’t need to know the price he’d paid. For years he’d kept his vow, whilst the payment remained in some indistinct future. Only now was his certainty wavering.

They’d always had each other’s backs. He wasn’t sure he could face the trials ahead on his own.

But how could he tell his best friend that the price of his recovery had been the life of his first born child?

Word count – 769 words

FFfAW: The Truth in the Tale

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The Truth in the Tale

Jonin enjoyed telling stories. He couldn’t deny it. As a knight of many years’ service he had numerous exploits to share. But there was one thing everyone wanted to know – what really happened after the Battle of Ebden Moor?

There were only a few known facts. He and Mikael had been missing for months, given up for dead, only to reappear, riding double on a mysterious horse that vanished soon after. Beyond that was… open to interpretation.

And shy of truth.

The truth… was that Jonin knew little more than they. He had no idea where he’d been or what he’d done. One moment he’d been upon a battlefield. The next, a fey beast was carrying him and his closest friend home. And several months had passed.

Mikael, annoyingly, had told him little. He’d claimed Jonin had been wounded, though no sign of injury remained. He’d insisted they’d spent the months travelling, but no memories leant credence to his claim. He’d offered no explanation for the horse.

His audiences didn’t need to know that, however…

Word count: 175 words

To read the other entries, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Dorothy. Thank you, Dorothy.

As you can possibly tell from how late I’m posting this, I struggled a little with this prompt. It was only once I changed the bike to a horse that I had any idea what to write at all. Unfortunately, the ideas then flowed so thick and fast that writing a story in only 175 words became an absolute nightmare! This is the third one I’ve written. The first is over 700 words, the second nearly 600 and not yet finished!

The 700+ story is more or less complete, and tells Mikael’s side of events. I might post it later…