There is a chill in the air this late autumn day, but she doesn’t mind. A freshness on the breeze roses her cheeks, her warm breath forming mini clouds that briefly engulf her features. She loves days like today where she can take her time and enjoy life; finding pleasure in all the sounds around her, the rustle of leaves underfoot, distance birdsong, the wind tickling empty branches overhead.
She’s always enjoyed this walk, the gentle pace, the repetition, one foot after another, left, right, left, right. The destination pulling closer with each step. She feels herself relax as she follows the twists and turns of the path, knowing she will unspool completely when she arrives.
A movement catches her eye and a dark blur bursts into view, dashes across the path before disappearing into the unkempt grass on the other side. Startled she jumps back, scared by the sudden appearance of the local cat on the hunt.
A pause, she laughs, adding to the noise of the forest, her sound bouncing from tree to tree, reassuring the thumping beat of her heart as her laughter tumbles away through the trees. She continues on her way.
Evening settles around her, the sun sneaking through the gathering clouds to brush the tree tops on the horizon, spindles of light cut through the trees leaving strange shadows across her path. She feels the first droplets of rain, puts her hood up and pulls her cape tighter around her body.
Up ahead she glimpes the first sign of the cottage, a trail of smoke rising in the distance, buffeted gently by the rising breeze. She imagines the roaring hearth inside and quickens her pace towards the warmth.
Through the gate at the end of the path now, the long mechanical groan of unoiled hinges seems louder in the gathering twilight and then, there in the cottage ahead, she sees him standing in the window, watching and waiting for her.
She walks briskly now, the quiet of the woods behind her, a new focus in front. He is waiting, she walks with purpose, striding up the path to his cottage, cape billowing.
The door opens and there he stands, silhouetted as the night descends.
“Hello little girl”, says the wolf.
This post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #35 — Bronze.
We all laughed as we watched the episode of a long forgotten television show.
It seemed like such a silly notion, to everyone else at least, that someone would colour themselves that way. But not to me, even back then I knew I wanted, no, needed it, craved it.
I don’t remember a single day when I’ve been happy with my skin. The dull white has always marked me out as different, as something other. All around me were bodies deemed more acceptable, vibrant colours and shades everywhere you looked, yet when I’d walk from the commune to the working fields I could feel their eyes crawling over me, while my own remained cast down as my alabaster feet kicked up dust.
It’s just a colour, my parents told me over and over, everyone has one and this is yours.
White isn’t a colour, I looked it up once. White is the absence of colour, it reflects everything, absorbs nothing.
Was my pale epidermis why I felt so empty, so disconnected from everything, as a child?
When the others have gone to sleep I watch the episode over and over, learning how to count Mississippi-ly, dreaming of being able to change colour so easily, a few quick sprays and no-one would stare anymore; bronzed.
I looked it up too. Bronze was a metal or a medal for third place.
I could be third place, it’s better than no place at all.
I’d be bronze and I’d be anonymous just like everyone else.
The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #34 — Celebration.
The radio breaks their early morning silence as they drive.
“Next up, Kool & The Gang wi…” the announcer is cutoff as the ignition is killed.
They step out of the car and pause to savour the coolness of the dawn air before they head inside. Stop and smell the roses, is what they might say if they were prone to speak.
Past banners and balloons in the corridor they enter the main room. Above their heads the ceiling fan spins, the curls of party popped paper caught there trails spirals in the sky, cutting through fake smoke and still flashing lights. Tables are strewn with half-empty glasses, champagne corks, congealing finger food, bedecked with streamers. The walls are festooned with multi-coloured balloons and banners, chairs still hold jackets, and the edges of the dance floor glow LED bright. It’s warm and the aromas of spilled wine and vodka bear a stale metallic edge.
Close your eyes and picture it, the scene played out a thousand times before in this very room. Cram it full, turn the volume up, lower the bar prices, sit back and wait. Glasses will tumble from hands, chairs will rock over, and dancing will win out in the end. Conversations will be shouted back and forth, verbal tennis punctuated with screams and laughter.
Except now there is only silence.
The partners slowly turn their gaze from the room, to each other, and then back to the room to face the bodies lying there, lying everywhere.
It had been a celebration.
The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #29 — Tennis.
I think the part I loved the most was when I was first released.
That whooooosh, the rush of fresh air as the can was popped open, the golden light that greeted me as I tumbled out onto the luscious green grass. I know I was only there for a moment but it’s still such a vivid memory.
I briefly chatted to some of my co-workers while we waited, I think a couple of them were a little scared, which is weird, because it’s literally what we were made for, but I guess it makes sense. Not everyone wants to be thrown up in the air to be hit by a racquet.
After that, of course, it was down to business, we all have a job to do, right?
I didn’t have to wait long before I’m rolled fast, picked up, thrown and bounced. Then I’m in a pocket, then I’m up in the air, then BOOOOM I’m flying back and forth so fast, the grass, the net, the people are all a blur of colour and noise.
It’s wonderful. I felt so alive!
But then, just like that, you hear the words and it’s all over. Game, set, and match.
It only really struck me when I was dropped back into the cannister, back into the darkness.
I’ve heard that sometimes us older tennis balls see the light again but, well, for me at least, I’ve seen nothing yet.
Don’t get me wrong I know I’ll never be new again, but, ya know, I’d at least like to be used.
The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #29 — Interview.
Of course I was nervous, who wouldn’t be. The weeks of waiting now boiled down to the next couple of hours.
I closed my eyes, focused my breathing, and thought of the conversations I’d had to prepare for today. Most people had said the same things; ‘I was the right man for the job, no way they could trip me up, no questions I couldn’t answer. Be confident.’
I was ready. Just as I had been. I was the right man for the job, I was confident of that, and the questions they would ask would confirm it. I could feel my pulse slow, my mind calming. ‘You are ready’ said the voice in my head, ‘be confident’. It almost sounded convincing.
Just then the door creaked open, and a voice said “General Tibbets, they’re ready for you Sir”.
As I followed the Private, I saw he was more nervous than I was, his clenched fists visibly shaking. A child to have lived through such events.
The interview went as expected. I answered their questions; Yes, I captained the flight of Enola Gay on the 6th August 1945. Yes, I gave the command to drop the bomb. Yes, I felt remorse but I was following orders.
I remained calm, stoic, and resolute. Even when someone suggested it was all, ultimately, my fault I remained confident.
And then, just like that, it was over,
The same quivering private accompanied me back to my cell.
The door clanged behind me, and I finally broke down. Sobbing long and hard over the death and chaos I had unleashed on the world.
The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #28 — Damage.
“Look at you, with your designer pant suit, that flashy watch, and just look at your new £200 hairdo, aren’t you just so fuckin trendy! Put down that Starbucks cup and take a proper look at yourself, you blinkered idiot. Where do you think those limited edition sneakers were made? How many people worked in treacherous conditions for that handbag, and don’t even get me started on the smartphone that’s constantly plastered to your face.
And it’s not about the obscene amount of money you spend it’s the frivolous way you do it, no consideration, no wider thought to the damage your actions are inflicting on others, children on the other side of the world are being beaten, living in shacks, earning pennies, just so your brand label jeans have the right amount of pre-scuffing to match whatever bullshit fashion trend you need to follow today.
Don’t you see, it’s all just a way to keep you in your place? Buy more, consume more, throw it all away and start over every month. A new trend, a new must-have, keep up with the fuckin Kardashians. Ignore the rest of the planet as it burns, as the waste mountains grow, as the air clogs up with the shreds of the dollars you don’t even realise you’ve set on fire!”
She screams, slamming her hand down on the counter. Her breathing ragged, her glare fierce. She lowers her head.
She looks up and whispers.
“You are so damaged you can’t even recognise it.”
She watches a single tear roll down the face in the mirror.