The Skulls: Microfiction

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Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The princess was awakened in the night by rough hands and gruff voices.  Her attendants were killed, and she was thrust into deep hole, a dungeon known only to few, while her captors decided if she was more valuable to them alive or dead. She was a pawn in dynastic feuds.

She lay there in the dark, too stunned and fearful to think or do anything. A rustling in the fetid space around her, finally got her attention. Somehow she knew the sound came from beings, not only rats–though they probably would come looking for a piece of her to chew on soon.

“Don’t be frightened,” she said. “Someone will help us.

My mother used to tell me stories. Shall I tell you one?”

More than a little frightened herself, she began speaking, telling a tale of magic and light, of music and sunshine, of finding a way home from the darkness. Gradually, figures appeared, glowing spirits. They hovered around her, listening to the tale and illuminating the dungeon with their light. She was now able to see that all around here were piles of bones and skulls, the remains of men, women, and children who had been left here to die alone. The princess told these lost souls story after story, until she, too, was near death.

But the princess did not die. One of her attendants had hidden under the bed and survived the slaughter in the bedchamber. This loyal attendant had run for help, the kidnappers were captured, and the princess was rescued–but she did not forget the lost souls in the dungeon.

Eventually she became queen. Shortly after her coronation, she returned to the dungeon. Ordering her guards to remain at the entrance, she walked down the dark steps alone. She sat there in the dirt and told a story of magic and light, of music and sunshine, and of finding a way home from the darkness. She rose then and told the spirits she would build them a new home.

Before long a section was added to her palace. It was called Hope’s Annex, named for the Queen, who had taken the name Hope. The bones from the dungeon were gathered, sorted, and placed there. The building was filled with light from large windows and glass doors, which were opened to the flower gardens in fine weather. It was furnished with comfortable seats, tables, and bookcases crowded with books. People visited, day and night. They read the books, had concerts, and told stories. And the spirits were happy, at last.

 

This is for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt is the illustration above, which is certainly strange. I have no idea what the original fairy tale was about.

 

 

The Balloon: Microfiction

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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

She had raged against the war, raged against the loss, and raged against fate. Her husband and her three sons had been killed; her grandchildren would never be born. Her city was destroyed, and there was no one left to rebuild it. Bodies lay in the streets, dead of starvation, disease, and hopelessness. Now the fire of her rage had died to embers. Over it, her sorrow had once simmered and stewed, but now, it too was gone. She was hollow, like a shell abandoned on the beach. She wondered if her body carried echoes of her life before–when she had dreams.

As she walked toward the ancient walls of her city, she noticed a balloon rising in the distant sky. A sign of hope or help? Too late, she thought. She wondered if she imagined it, as she watched the balloon ascend higher and higher, mocking her. She knew she would never rise; the only way for her was down. She hoped her flight would be graceful, like the balloon’s, a final bit of beauty amidst the tragedy of her life. She stood at the top of the city’s wall, spread her arms, and dived into the wind.

 

After

She floated, carried by wind currents, by angels’ breath. She floated like a leaf upon the water. She heard a sound, like echoing voices, and a door between worlds opened. There was her city spread beneath her, filled with joyous people, busy with the tasks of everyday life. In a blink, she stood now in the market square. Her eldest son saw her and greeted her with a smile. She noticed a balloon high above her. She dared to dream. Here and always.

 

This story was for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday strange microfiction challenge. The prompt was the painting above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving

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Fritz von Uhde [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

 

She rose in frigid darkness,

hauled water from the well,

lit the fire, cooked the meal,

her work uninterrupted, invariable,

her duties clear,

no surprises, no light in her world,

(no lightness in her soul)

hours of toil,

before she could creep down the steps

to her cold, damp cell,

limbs stiff, ossified, a fossil of a woman

wearing her weariness like a shroud,

her life safe,

(as long as she could work)

well, safer than others,

who hid in fear,

she had a roof,

a bit of food,

she wished she could long for flowers

sunshine, love,

but the reality was

she only wished to survive.

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge, using the words

Life/Work/Real/Safe/Clear.  I used reality instead of real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 20, 2017: A Quadrille

In 1799, George Washington died,

the nation cried,

with solemn faces,

tears leaving traces,

salt licks of grief.

No relief,

we look at the past,

and fear the future casts

black shadows—so we mourn,

torn

between hope’s whispers, freedom’s shout,

resist, watch out.

 

Another quadrille for Dverse.

 

Countdown to 2017: Tend the Fire

 

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Simon Vouet, “Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope, and Beauty,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Toll the New Year’s bells,

sing, ring, out with the old,

tick tock, the Doomsday clock,

crash, boom, the bombers croon,

disaster looms,

resist, persist,

as midnight strikes,

what is and was

and what will be,

shadows still,

not foreordained.

Sing, ring, in with the new,

the bogus god,

jittery and twittery,

embodiment of hate and fear,

hollow crowned,

filled with vain conceit,

yet mortal.

 

From ashes, hope rises,

like the Phoenix,

even now,

(See the flames flicker?)

glimmering, gleaming,

in the darkness–

gather round,

the embers glow, the fire grows,

no dying of the light

but gently, delicately

feed the flame,

tend it carefully till the dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Angel’s Voice

 

 

 

In the dark of winter night

speaks the angel, fierce but sweetly,

singing in a voice commanding,

crying in a voice demanding,

with caramel breath and radiant light,

shimmering and glimmering like the star

shining, pulsing, glowing bright

twinkling, twinkling from afar,

resplendent, lustrous, but not so cheery,

brilliant, dazzling, then her query–

Why do you fight and foster hate?

Why do you listen to lies, then wait

for signs and words and soothing vows?

Don’t you sense that something’s wrong,

that freedom and choice will soon be gone?

The sun will rise on empty space

where earth once was, but now no trace,

so, light the candles and ring the bells

wreathe the doors with evergreen boughs,

but call for love and fight for right,

prevent the waning of the light.

Then she vanishes, darkness returns,

we search for angels, and the candle burns.

 

This is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

 

The prompt words were:

Sense/Fight/Free/Voice/Choose

Happy Holidays!  Wishing all of you light in the darkness and peace, and joy in the new year.

 

 

 

The Red Tree: Microfiction

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Virginia Sterrett (Old French Fairy Tales (1920)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Dove was tired of rules telling her how to dress, how to behave, how to think. She tore off the black cloak that covered her from head to ankle and threw it to the ground. She took the pins from her hair and let the breeze toss about her long, golden brown curls. She removed her shoes to feel the grass, slightly damp, on her bare feet. Then she walked to the red tree with its fruit of many colors, and defying the laws of her people, she picked a purple one and took a bite. She didn’t die; she didn’t feel any ill effects at all. In fact, the forbidden fruit was delicious. She continued to munch on it as she strolled home, ignoring the gasps and murmured prayers of the people she encountered.

Within an hour, the council summoned her. Though her parents begged for leniency, Dove was unrepentant, and the council banished her from the village. She hugged her parents and left her homeland.

She walked for days and nights until her food was gone. Wrapping herself in the hated cloak, she cried herself to sleep. In the morning, she woke to see the bright, rosy-pink dawn, and she was filled with hope that something good would happen that day.

She brushed the dirt from her clothing and continued her journey. Before long, she came to a town. As she approached it, she heard the most glorious sound.  She stopped a woman and asked her what the sound was.

“It’s the town choir,” the woman said. “Come, I’ll show you.”

The woman took Dove to the town hall. There Dove saw that the sound—music—came from a group of men, women, and children dressed in colorful garments.

That is how a rainbow must sound, thought Dove.

In time, Dove discovered that she had a voice, too. All she had to do, was open her mouth and let it out.

This was the first of many discoveries Dove made. She soon realized that the people of her homeland were not protected, they were trapped there by their ignorance and fear. She took a new name, Violette, for the purple fruit she plucked from the red tree, the fruit that set her on her journey of discovery and knowledge. Eventually, she fell in love and gave birth to a daughter. They named her Aurora as a reminder that dawn always comes, even after the darkest night.

 

Although I went way above the word count, this fairy tale is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.  The prompt was the painting above. I have no idea what old French fairy tale it is actually illustrating.

 

 

 

Hearing the Spirits Sing on a November Morning

 

In autumn’s quiet dawn,

shadows lurk, spirits between worlds,

they flit, dancing just out of sight

till light, when mortal forms wake,

and under an azure sky gaze in wonder

as glowing colors break.

The golden hues cannot be named,

nor explained,

but must be experienced and felt instead.

Nature is terrible and beautiful,

like the volcanic eruption,

with its fiery trails that end in destruction,

but the true miracle is the seed

once planted, sometimes with little more, proceeds–

growing, thriving, becoming food for body and soul,

still and all—

it’s up to you, to choose

to worship the volcano,

stand there as the hot lava flows

burying you, and us, and so it goes,

or plant the seed and watch it grow

and in the time before the dawn

and as the world turns in cycles and seasons

be glad for the choice, be happy for reason

as with the spirits dance in joy

though you may not see them anywhere

but know they sing in gentle breezes

and sun-kissed air that greatly pleases,

whispery sighs, floating cries,

“hope is better than despair.”

 

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 by William Blake 1757-1827

William Blake, Oberon, “Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing,” [Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons