Category Archives: Fiction

White feathers on the carpet

Without a doubt, the last thing that Arlene expected was an angel in her living room.? She had just known, instinctively, that it was an angel, even though it hadn’t arrived in a flash of light or a peal of thunder and there were no scorch marks anywhere.? Just – now you don’t see it, now you do.? There it was between her and the TV, particularly annoying as she was in the middle of her favourite soap.? For what seemed like a long time, she looked at the angel and the angel looked at her.? Not a word was spoken and the only movement was a small amount of embarrassed hand fidgeting on both sides.? In those couple of minutes, Arlene took stock of her uninvited guest.

The angel appeared to be female although, as far as Arlene knew, they were without gender.? ‘She’ was quite pretty and reminded Arlene of someone she went to school with.? Perhaps they take on the appearance of someone you know to make you feel more comfortable.? It wasn’t working.? ‘She’ had long, blond hair and piercing blue eyes, a ‘perfect’ figure and was wearing a nondescript shift that – in spite of its lack of shape – showed that figure to good advantage.? The only thing missing, Arlene now realised, was the presence of any wings.? Shouldn’t there be wings?

“I’ll call you ‘Angel’,” Arlene said suddenly aloud and without imagination.

Angel didn’t respond.

“So,” Arlene went on, “can I help you with something?”

Still no response.? More uncomfortable silence.? Now Arlene was full-body fidgeting.? She didn’t want to upset or – more importantly – annoy Angel, but she was getting bored and her favourite TV programme had almost finished.? She’d have to watch the omnibus on Sunday to find out what Matt said to Diane that made her cry.

This new silence was stretching too far.? Just as Arlene thought she would have to try again to make conversation, she heard a voice in her head.

“The Word.”

Arlene stared, open-mouthed.

“Excuse me?” she asked, out loud as she didn’t trust that the telepathy would work both ways..

“The Word.” came back the voice in her head.

Arlene thought about what Angel had said – twice – and tried to make sense of it.? Without success.

“Why are you here?” she demanded, less conciliatory than before.? “What do you want?”

“The Word.”? There was a little wobble in the voice this time.

“Which word?? I know so many?”

Before Angel could say her mantra again, there actually was a flash of light and a peal of thunder although, mercifully, the carpet remained unscathed.? Standing before Arlene now were two angels, one looking like an old school friend and the other looking like – well – an angel, complete with the most magnificent pair of wings imaginable.? Finally, thought Arlene.? The second angel also spoke to her inside her head but it was with more authority and, thankfully , made sense.

“Child, we have to apologise for this misunderstanding.? Our dear Sister, here, is a trainee and eager.? A little too eager.? Her instructor – me – was explaining about how one of our jobs is to go to Earth and impart The Word.? I suspect I have no need to continue.? We shall now depart and continue our dear Sister’s education, which will include staying in the class until it is over.”

And they were gone.? On the TV, the credits were rolling and, on the carpet, there were two white feathers.

The Bench – Twins

Being a twin can be a blessing or a curse.? Sometimes, you get along well and you always have a companion.? You almost think each other’s thoughts and enjoy doing the same things, playing the same games, reading the same books.? Some twins have even been known to develop a secret language – with or without actual words – and can communicate in a world known only to themselves.? These are blessed children, indeed.

Then, there’s the other side of the coin.? The two children who are actually nothing like each other.? They may – or not – look exactly the same, but their characters, likes and dislikes are almost exactly opposite.? They hate being in each other’s company, perversely dislike whatever the other likes and are, generally, the bane of their parents’ lives.

Two such children were Althea and Carmen.? They were girls, identical in looks but oh so very different as people.? They were both pretty and admired as babies but, as they grew, their personalities began to affect their faces.? Althea was sweet-natured and kind.? Her face was always serene and relaxed, with a slight smile in the corners waiting to burst out.? Everyone liked her from the first moment; Carmen said once that she thought Althea bewitched people – literally.? Carmen, on the other hand, was jealous.? Of everything about Althea.? She was jealous of her ability to charm people,? She was jealous of the fact that Althea found it easier to learn the piano.? She was jealous of the fact that her puppy loved her, whilst Carmen’s ran away into corners to be as far from her as possible.? Before long, Carmen’s jealously had twisted her character and her face.? People used to find it difficult to tell the girls apart but no longer.

And so it was that Carmen decided to take Althea to the park and let her have a little ‘accident’.? At the age of fifteen, she was all too unnaturally aware of the different ways someone could die without it looking deliberate.? There was a deep lake in the park and she was grateful for the fact that swimming was something that her sister could not do better than she could.

Their mother was overjoyed when Carmen suggested going to the park for a walk, even though it was already toward evening.? Perhaps things were improving, she hoped.? It was quite cold, so Carmen persuaded Althea to wear her big, woollen coat.? No point in catching a chill.? They also decided to take the dogs, although Carmen’s had to be persuaded.? They were waved off by their mother and she breathed a hopeful sigh as she turned, closed the door and returned to preparing the evening meal.

Carmen sat on the bench in the growing mist.? She wanted to go home.? She hated her sister and her stupid dog.? She hated her own dog; useless thing liked Althea more than he liked his own mistress.? Perhaps that was why he had jumped at her as she had moved to hit Althea over the head with a branch.? Perhaps that was why he had run in front of her as she chased Althea along the side of the lake, and why he had, seemingly, tripped her up with his lead.

The pain in her head, where she had hit the corner of the bench arm, didn’t hurt any more and, luckily, she had stopped feeling cold, even though she had left her coat at home.

The Bench – Spot

Not an original name, Spot, but it suited him perfectly.? The little cross-breed was completely white except for one, teacup-sized black spot on his left flank.? It made him look as though he had a portal to another galaxy in his side, or an eye without the iris.? His small, slightly pointed face seemed to always have a smile on it and he had a twinkle in his eye.? Throw a ball and you could be sure that Spot would rush off and return it to you, whether you wanted him to or not.? Bring out a brush and he would immediately be on the floor, waving his paws in the air and anticipating the bliss to come.? If there were children about, he was the gentlest soul you could imagine, allowing them to do things that other dogs would repay with a nip or a full-blown bite.

And yet here he was, sitting by the bench in the park, waiting to be taken home.? He waited there every night, as this was when he was first left there.? He waited with his tummy growling and a wild thirst in his mouth, because he knew that there would be food and water when he arrived home.? Big Master had? taken him from the puppy group when he had just left his mother.? It was cold outside and there were soft, white flakes on the outside ground.? He had been carried into the warm inside and handed to the Small People, who cuddled and fussed him until he was tired and fell asleep in his new bed.? Life was sweet for a while.? Big Mistress made sure that the Small People took him for walks to give him exercise and to the park to make sure he met other dogs. He was well fed and had a comfortable place to sleep.? The warm weather came and went and Spot was the happiest dog in the world.

After a while, the Small People weren’t so small and they had other things to do.? They couldn’t take him for walks.? Big Mistress was always busy in the house and couldn’t take him out either.? Big Master had never shown any interest in him from the day he brought him into the house.

Then one evening, Big Master made happy noises to Spot.? He fussed him and gave him treats, putting his lead on him and walking him out of the door.? At first, Spot thought he was going for a walk with Big Master for the first time ever, but they went to the car and Spot was lifted onto the back seat.? There was a? journey and the car stopped.? Spot was lifted out of the car, his lead and collar removed and he was told to ‘Sit’ by the bench.? He was an obedient dog and did so without complaint.? Big Master climbed back into the car and drove away.

So, here he sits, waiting to be collected.? His tummy had long since stopped growling and he felt no thirst.? Even though there was mist all around and the leaves were red, gold and brown, he wasn’t cold.? He wondered when the daylight would come back – perhaps that would bring someone.

The Bench – Ava

Ava slid into her usual place on the bench.? She and the bench were good friends.? It was her favourite place in the park and she objected if she couldn’t be alone.? She liked the peace of that particular corner of nature and it was the perfect place to think.? Even though it was on a path, few people went along this one and it was rare that she was disturbed.? Somehow, when the sun went down and the night-time animals were about, that was the best time of all.

She couldn’t remember why she preferred this time of day; it wasn’t something she dwelt on.? It was enough for her that she did.? She sat and watched a small rabbit, separated from his warren-mates, move tentatively across the open space in front of her.? She had difficulty remembering her own family; it was a long time since she had been in contact.? She wondered how they all were.

She watched the mist swirl round her and mused that it was a good thing she had her coat on.? It always seemed to be like this when she came to the bench.

She looked down at the small suitcase beside her and tried to remember what was in it.? Clothes, of course, and some toiletries, but what else?? Funny – she’d only packed it earlier that day.? She couldn’t remember what was in it, no matter how she tried.? Was her memory fading?? Ridiculous!? She was still young.? Memory loss didn’t happen to people of her age.

A man walking his dog came into view along the path.? Ava hoped he wouldn’t come past her but she was out of luck.? As he came closer, the dog sniffed around the bench and her feet but, thankfully, didn’t try to jump up at her.? The man walked quickly passed and didn’t even respond to her “Good evening”.?? People are so rude.

A sudden memory leapt into her head.? They did, sometimes,? This one was of a similar time at the bench but it was very faint.? She saw herself, as though through another person’s eyes, sitting there.? Just like now.? With her suitcase full of things she couldn’t remember.? She heard a noise behind her and felt a pain in the side of her head, then nothing.? Strange, how your memory can play tricks on you.

She wondered if Callum would ever arrive; she was bored now.

Light was beginning to appear in the sky.? As the shadows crept across the grass, the bench was empty once again.? Until the night returned.

The Bench

Without a doubt, this was the most beautiful place in the park.? The trees were different heights, different colours and had different characters.? Yes, the trees had characters.? Some were upright and sturdy, some were bowed and conciliatory looking.? Others spread as far as they could, attempting to take over any available space.? The grass was usually a deep shade of green, except when it was covered in snow and, even then, it glistened like stars, so you didn’t mind.? The single path that wound its way through the trees was a pale grey and contrasted well with nature’s colours.

Beside the path stood a lone bench.? Made of wood, in the typically functional style of the urban park, it offered the ambler a place to rest before carrying on to further delights.? It gave you an uninterrupted view of the green, brown, yellow and red foliage which swayed, hypnotising you into a peaceful state.? Plain as it was, no-one would call it ordinary.? Lovers would sit there, planning their future or making up from the argument of a few hours before.? Children would stop there with their parents to take a drink that was always carried in that huge bag that one of them had over their shoulder, or to work up some new energy before rocketing off along the path to a new adventure.? Couples, or friends, of advanced years would lower their aching bones onto the forgiving wood, giving their joints a chance to recover before making the effort to reach the car park and their ride home.? Teenagers would gather round and on it to hold their meeting, in which little was discussed and nothing was resolved – just a sense of camaraderie prevailed.

And in the night?? Who knew?? Lost children, who had wandered, unfound, for years – perhaps centuries – in an effort to locate whoever had left them there without realising.? Dogs, taken to a place far from their home and left to fend for themselves, but ever returning to that place in the hope that they would be remembered.? The lover who had anticipated a rendezvous in order to run away to the perfect life, only to be disillusioned and left to pine away.

That bench knows things.? The wood in it keeps a thousand, thousand secrets,

Step one …

IMG_3684treecoveredpathStick to the path, Red was told.? Don’t step into the woods.? No good will come of it.? There are things living in the woods that would mess with your mind as soon as say ‘Good morning’.? All your life, you are told what to do and what not to do, and given creepy reasons for it.

Well, on this day, Red had decided to buck the trend.? She was going to step off the path – just once – and prove the grown-ups wrong.? It was her day for taking the shopping to her grandmother, who lived about ten minutes away through the trees.? Every time – EVERY time – she walked through that door it was the same thing: stick to the path, don’t step into the woods, no good will come of it, there are things living in the woods that would mess with your mind as soon as say ‘Good morning’.

She walked far enough away from the house to be out of sight, but close enough for someone to hear her scream if she ran into trouble – she wasn’t stupid – and she stopped.? There were one or two birds singing in the trees and a soft breeze rustled the leaves that still hadn’t fallen.? She could barely hear the clanking of pots as her mother washed the dishes from breakfast.? No other sounds.? She looked along the path in both directions and could neither see nor hear any signs of movement.

Now, she thought.? My moment has arrived.? She shifted a little towards the edge of the path and waited.? Nothing.? She moved even closer to the edge and waited again.? Now her foot was grazing the path border, a line of stones slightly raised to show you just where to stop before it was too late.? Red breathed in deeply, lifted her foot and moved it over the path border, without actually putting it down on the other side.? It hovered, as though transfixed, for several seconds and then she took the final step – literally – and put it down on the soft, mossy earth.? Now she stood straddled between right and wrong.? Was this the end of her?? Would something come tearing out of the trees, teeth glinting in the sunlight, and rip her limb from limb???? Was she to be the proof that dark things did live in the depths of the woods?? She waited for what seemed like hours.? Apparently not.

Red put her other foot onto the woodland floor.? Still no apocalyptic monster.? She realised she hadn’t actually breathed out in a while, so she did.? Given that she was now well and truly in unknown territory, Red decided to walk amongst the trees.? She kept the path in sight to her left and took the time to feel the forest floor under her feet.? She almost wanted to take off her shoes and socks to feel it on her skin, but she had a fear of stepping in ‘something’ that a small animal might have left, so didn’t bother.? As she looked around her, she spotted something brightly coloured a little further away from the path.? It was purple and seemed to shimmer in the limited sunlight that reached it through the canopy.? She checked her position.? She was still close to the path, although further away than she remembered.? Judging the distance to the purple thing, she decided she could still reach it and stay within range of the path.? She put her back to the lifeline through the woods and counted her steps as she moved towards the object of her desire.? She made it in fourteen steps.? The purple thing was a flower.? It was still covered in dew, which is what made it glisten, and it was one single bloom in a sea of brown leaves.? She knelt beside it to have a closer look and it seemed to stare back into her very soul.? She felt herself floating and was suddenly looking down on the flower from an apparently great height.? She blinked and, when she reopened her eyes, she was back on the ground.? She glanced back at the the path.? It had gone.? She thought she could hear her mother calling, reminding her of the dangers of stepping off the path.

Always and forever

IMG_3958It was hard to look at that place after so long.? The trees had grown and the grass needed cutting but, apart from that, nothing had changed.? There were more grave markers in the churchyard next door – obviously – but the overall feel was unmistakeable.? I looked at the windows for signs of familiar faces, but there were none.? No laughter spilling from rooms around the building, no good food smells drifting from the kitchen, no sounds of wheels on the gravel driveway.? Even the gigantic iron gate seemed sad and despondent.

As I peered through the bars, as small shiver went through me, a feeling that there was something nearby that wasn’t there before.? Something that knew me well yet was so distant in time that it might walk straight past me.? I turned.? There was nothing.? I would have liked to have run, in my bare feet, across the grass to the imposing front door, played hide and seek in the Long Gallery with my friends, sneaked into the kitchen for a secret taste of tonight’s meal.

A hand rested on my shoulder.? A soundless voice whispered close to my ear:

“Time to go.”

My hand was taken and I felt myself rising into the air.? Now I was looking at the house at an angle, now from above.? It drifted out of view behind the clouds and was gone.? It was always the same.? No-one I know and nothing to see.? In another hundred years it would be the same.