Alone – #writephoto

The child stood on the threshold of morn, his gaze to the dawning sky. “I am off to find heaven,” he said and beckoned Friend Wind to wander with him.

Grandfather Sun stretched his ancient fingers across the Earth. “I will light your path, my child.”

Grandmother Moon yawned and dipped her toe into the sea’s blue rim. “Safe journey, my little one. I will greet you at the close of day.”

The child launched his wooden boat. Friend Wind blew taut the sails and laced the waves with seafoam. The whales crooned love songs and mercurial fish glittered like schools of silver coins.

On the distant shore, the child paused where flowers dripped from trees in pink tresses. He traversed bamboo forests while Friend Wind slithered through the narrow leaves with the sound of rain. He climbed the terraced paddies carving the hills like dragon scales, and stood at the precipice where endless rainbows arced from waterfalls and painted the hills in vibrant hues.

And heaven eluded him.

Come the heat of midday, his goal carried him south to the land of pomegranates and tea leaves, and he rode camels beneath the palms. Friend Wind shared a whiff of fragrant spices and blew patterns in the shifting seas of red sand. The child gathered orange daisies in the desert, watched clouds mirrored in salt mines, and cooled his feet in fairy-pools. He hiked pastel hills and serrated shorelines looming over turquoise waters, sandstone pillars, and limestone islands jutting from the sea like fat thumbs.

And heaven eluded him.

In the afternoon, the child knelt at ancient temples, rode swans by the ruins of frosted castles, and climbed in ice caves. He capered with winter foxes in crystal fields of snow that turned into fields of tulips and lavender. He scaled giant redwoods and napped among the buffalo while Friend Wind whispered lonesome music through hollow reeds. In the twilight, he looked down into the canyons carved by water and Friend Wind laughed for he had carved those canyons too.

As the day’s end drew near, the child climbed a stone mountain that rose wondrously high, and his hopes soared. At the top of the bald dome, he looked for heaven and beheld nothing but Grandfather Sun in the mellowing sky. “I have searched the day through, Grandfather, and heaven has eluded me.”

“I have lighted your path,” Grandfather Sun said. “Now is your time to sit alone and reflect on all you’ve seen.”

The child nodded, too well-mannered to complain further. Friend Wind ruffled his hair and drifted down the mountain. Grandfather Sun winked a wise eye, and as he shuffled below the horizon, he dusted the world with gold.

“Little one, did you find heaven?” Grandmother Moon whispered over the child’s shoulder.

“Yes, Grandmother.” The Earth child smiled. “It was beneath my feet all along.”

***

The descriptions in this piece were gathered from looking at photos of the Most Beautiful Places in the World – Link Here. And Here.

Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto Prompt.

Mask – #Writephoto

The dreamer’s room faded. Stars pricked holes in the velvet darkness as a crescent moon sailed over the restless sea, a bat with silver wings. Tucked between the shore’s boulders, twigs of cedar snapped in the nightfire, scenting the salted air with smoke. The plaintive calls of dragons whispered across the waves.

The crone peered at her latest visitor through slit eyes. Unafraid, the dreamer stood before her circle of flames, silent and sound as the distant mountains of home.

At the fire’s edge, the old woman sat atop her weathered stone, swaying, rocking, singing to herself, chanting words from ancient mouths, words lost, though their power she retained. The fire cracked and cackled, shaking fingers, sending sparks curling, singing, reeling into unsteady darkness. Soon the sea-rains would gray them, rise over cowled peaks and fall with the wind, heavy cloaks of snow coating her magic in ice. Her runes called, choose, choose, the time has come to choose.

The World spun faster, drawing the sky down, the earth up, bidding the waters to eddy and ripple in overlapping circles of light, bringing the forest to sing low and hum, smelling of leaf and loam. Expectation swelled with the tide and clawed at the sand, beckoned her to choose. From the embers’ bright edge, she drew a rune and studied the markings. The sea stilled, and she read the stone:

A call from the sliver moon and realm of imaginings. A strange Way gapes open, make ready for new beginnings. Resolve old myths to seed the soil for deliverance. Ah, the World transforms; emerge from the chrysalis, casting off false faces and old forms of knowing. Prepare for release from time-worn forces. Surrender and soar to the revealing of the World.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for another inspiring Thursday #Writephoto prompt.

Peace – #Writephoto

In the end, I returned to the sanitarium. This time by choice and without the reams of commitment papers, the hustling of orderlies, and motherly coaxing of nurses. The baby-blue walls and polished linoleum shine with familiarity, and the bars feel less restrictive than I remember.

I wander the halls with a certain air of freedom, considering my state. The same doctors make rounds in their cliched white coats and spectacles. Clipboards hang on hooks bolted to metal doors, and fluorescent lights hum in group-counseling like a chorus of wasps.

Despite the harsh glare of the world inside these walls, I’d found healing here. It came with compassion, by listening to stories with a crack in my heart, by risking a touch, a tear, an act of kindness. Not toward me, but toward others. Healing wasn’t about banishing my demons, a goal that had led me astray for years. It was grounded in the audacity to love, and I’d found my courage like a tidal wave.

I pass through the locked doors into the yard, and no one minds. The heat doesn’t bother me anymore, nor the cold, though today’s a brilliant day. At the rear of the grounds, a leafy glade snuggles up against the stone wall separating us from a less forgiving world. It once was a place for smoking or sex, but cameras curbed that urge, and now a bench offers a place for solitude and reflection.

This place suits me, and I plan to stay. I could travel anywhere in the world I wish, but my calling is here. Alone on the bench, I wait.

A woman heads my way. She’s thin, her skin sallow and eyes so tired they appear bruised. One arm wraps her body, and fingers twitch on chapped lips. She doesn’t see me, but I witness a cloud of despair encasing her like a thunderhead and a soul as bright as the sun. She sits beside me, and I enclose her in my arms, sate her need for love and peace. I open a crack in her heart.

In doing so, I receive more than I give and begin to heal my last regret—that my life’s purpose manifested with such sublime clarity only upon my death.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for another wonderful Thursday Photo Prompt.

Tunnel #Writephoto

Azalus teetered on the bluff’s edge, warded sword wheeling for balance against the brilliant sky. The mountain beneath his feet offered no reprieve, a sheet of obsidian sleek as spilled oil.

Below him, the massive dragon shot up along the mirrored wall, its neck and talons extended. Slit reptilian eyes reflected the inferno erupting from its throat. The beast blasted through its own blaze, and its maw gaped, scorched shards of the last armsman wedged between rows of serrated teeth. In a heartbeat, chances of escape had dropped from doubtful to dismal.

Gaylen’s whip coiled around the vambrace shielding Azalus’s forearm, and he clasped it as his feet slipped into the heated air. His body slammed against the rock wall, and the dragon altered its flight to pick off the newly dangling prey.

“Dragon,” Azalus shouted to his fellow fugitive and pointed the tip of his sword at the ascending beast. Jade scales glimmered like sunlight on still water, and webbed wings beat with the snap of wind-caught sails. Beautiful and deadly.

Above him Gaylen hauled. “Reavers are closing.”

Suspended on the whip, Azalus kicked against the cliff’s sheer face. Gaylen heaved, and when Azalus reached the lip, he thrust his sword arm across the rock, fighting for leverage. Movement at the forest’s rim caught his eye. “Reavers. Behind you!”

Gaylen staggered. His face morphed into a fusion of disbelief and despair as his flesh yielded to their enemy’s iron bolts. The whip’s stock eased from his hand. Azalus slipped into the air.

The monstrous dragon’s throat yawned, jaw bones split, and fangs hyperextended. Azalus straightened, arms overhead, sword in a two-handed grip. The beast’s gullet stretched open, air drawn in for another explosion of fire. He speared between the teeth, slid over the forked tongue, and descended into darkness. The welling heat and sulfurous reek burned his lungs as he glided down the blackened throat. With a vengeful howl, he thrust the blade forward and carved as he fell. Steel sliced through flesh, thudded against bone, and blood gushed, dousing the rising flame.

Azalus’s careening descent ceased, or the dragon plummeted with him. He braced himself against the blood-slick wall, sword jammed deep between the vertebrae. The creature writhed and spasmed, and Azalus swallowed his gorge as they plunged toward the vale.

He woke with a gasp, disoriented, heart pounding. His body felt trampled, but nothing of his pain foreboded death. He gulped a breath and listened, willed his nerves to stillness. The dragon lay motionless, he lodged in its throat in a pool of congealed blood. Rising to a crouch, he yanked his sword free of the flesh, and with fingers tracing the throat’s charred wall, he staggered down the tunnel toward the light.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for another fun #writephoto prompt. Check out her site and join in the weekly fun.

Monster – A Children’s Story

My writing break is busy with little projects, and new book ideas are happily simmering. The rain lingered through most of May, so I spent a couple weeks playing at other kinds of creativity. I thought I’d try to illustrate one of my children’s stories. Here are the first six pages. A  couple still need some work, but it’s a start. The verse is hard to see at this mini size, so I added it below.

Monster

In a dim and distant galaxy
Due east of dusty Mars
Spins a tiny greenish planet
Nestled in a spray of stars.

Its rivers teem with fishes
Its fields grow golden wheat
And fireflies light its lanterns
Along every nighttime street.

The sun smiles at its dawning
Rain only drips at night.
Even prickly woodland beasties
Hardly ever raise a fright.

“Life is grand in Alderdoof,”
The elders often say.
“Could a soul in all the village
Want it any other way?”

Yet, inside a shingled cottage
At the end of Grabble Lane
Lives a gloomy, grouchy creature
Ana Goblyn is her name.

She’s sour, dour, and cranky
Her lips droop in a frown.
She’s bored with every place and person
In her friendly town.

She snuffs and snorts her crabbiness
At doting mom and dad
Who shake their heads in weariness.
“It’s really not so bad.”

“Your chums skip in the daffydils.
Why not go out and play?”
Ana grunts and glowers grumpily
And yearns to run away!

“My life is oh so commonplace
My chores are never fair.
My mates think I’m quite ordinary
And I hate my curly hair.”

“Why can’t I live where everyone
Adores a prize like me?
Amongst a band of monsters
Where I’ll do just as I please?”

“A fine idea,” her father shouts.
“Let’s build a shiny ship!
We’ll add two booster rockets
To give you lots of zip.”

They toil in the garden
For an endless, grueling week.
Her ship peeks over rooftops
Its metal smooth and sleek.

(23 more stanzas in case you’re eager to read the rest!)

At last, the craft is finished.
Eager Ana packs her sack.
She scrambles up the ladder
Not a single wee glance back.

To Alderdoof she bids farewell
And to her mom and dad.
Yet, oh, one watery tear does fall
Her parting a morsel sad.

The spaceship flies past pearly moons
And girds a sparkling star.
Now all alone, she wonders why
She’s traveled quite this far.

Then on a sodden planet
She spies a foggy shantytown
Pulls on the spaceship’s landing gear
And gently sets her down.

From a bank of fog with eerie grace
Emerge her curious hosts.
They look like leggy lizards
With bodies as wispy as ghosts.

Their scaly skin is slimy
Much greener than a fish.
And long hooked tails like fire-pokers
Flick and flop and swish.

The only hair upon their heads
Sticks out from twitching ears.
And yellow eyes, flecked with red,
Blink as the monsters near.

They click their claws in unison
And sway from side to side
While Ana wonders if it’s wiser
To spend her days inside.

Around her shiny metal hull
The monsters plod and prowl.
Then bare their pointy yellow teeth
From snouts bent in a scowl.

Those ghastly, ghostly monster-frowns
Make Ana shout with glee.
“These grumpy, lumpy lizard things
Are grouchy just like me!”

Without a thought, she pops a pout
And opens up the hatch.
She clambers down the ladder
To a soggy, grassy patch.

The creatures wince in horror.
They cringe at the fearsome sight.
The thing climbing from its tinny can
Is twice their size in height!

It has no tail or claws or fangs
Its teeth shine white as bones.
Two legs, not four, lumber
Across the weathered seaside stones.

Centered in its oval face
Is a point with two round holes.
Its blue orbs look like drowning pools
That plan to steal their souls.

Atop the creatures head twists
A tangle of coiling curls.
The monster can only be the dreaded
Spoiled human girl!

The ghostly, scaly lizards squawk
Turn hooked tails and flee.
They scuttle and scramble and dive headfirst
Into their foggy sea.

That rude reception draws a sniff
Her welcome disappointing.
Ana boards her lonely ship
Head hung low and moping.

“I suppose I might fly onward
To another flaming sun.
But this journey hasn’t turned out
As I hoped when it begun.”

Ana dawdles in her silent ship
While wondering what to do.
Perhaps she’s learned a precious lesson
And grown up a day or two.

Maybe chores aren’t quite so vexing
Her parents more than fair.
Perhaps her chums are a tad bit fun
And there’s worse than curly hair.

The cozy town of Alderdoof
Seems such a kindly place
Far away from where she waffles
In the starry void of space.

A sudden thought bubbles up.
Could it be that she’d been wrong?
Could her cranky, crabby crossness
Be the problem all along?

With nary a grousing rumble
Not a gripe or grumbling groan
But with a happy smile, Ana turns her dials
And sets her sights on home.

Inside-out #writephoto

“You will wed Nallea,” Lord Rydan commanded. “It is already agreed. This is not a lad’s game.”

“She’s seven!”

“In eight years, she will be fifteen. I will not argue this with you.”

“I don’t know her. I have no idea who she will be!”

“That is of no consequence, Raze. You will be Lord of Vestrelle. You bear responsibilities, duties to the land, a future in the kingdom. Do you think these puny provinces will remain under separate rule? Do you believe our rivals will idle contentedly within their walls?”

Raze curled his fingers in silence, any reply wasted breath. “What about love?”

Rydan’s eyes tightened into pale slits, and he faced his son. “Love will follow.”

“Did you love my mother? Did she love you?” The questions had barbs, and Raze would use them to pull his father’s heart inside out. “Was your marriage forced upon you against your will?”

The Lord waved away his argument, but his jaw softened. “No, it was not.”

“Did you wed her for love?” Raze would force an answer. Even if it made no difference, his father would acknowledge the unfairness of his demand.

Rydan retreated to the window that peered over the rose garden pruned and dripping in the squalling rain. Its glory had turned brown and brittle during the bitter months of snow, love’s blooms reduced to thorny canes with sharp tips. A corner of his father’s heart had remained faithful to his mother, tenderly caring for her roses, his affection for the delicate petals a stoic confession of love and longing.

Four years ago, she’d drowned on the winter sea, and though they’d all, more or less, moved on with their lives, they each saved a sacred place for her. She had carried a piece of their hearts with her when she died, and the wounds had yet to heal.

“Yes, we wed for love,” Rydan said. “There is your answer.”

***

Thanks for Sue Vincent for her Thursday #writephoto prompt.
Check out her site and join in the fun.

Obelisk – #Writephoto

The horror on my mother’s face earned her a compromise, and I hauled my keepsakes into her attic. The rest I sold or trashed—all my belongings, from my gabled home and rusted car to my laptop and half-squeezed tube of toothpaste. Then I emptied my bank account and donated every red cent to the cause. I wouldn’t need it where I headed, and it would help spread the word of salvation among those left behind.

We gathered by the obelisk, thousands of us, believers young and old, some in homemade robes but most in jeans and rolled up sleeves. Anticipation crackled in the air and prickled the nerves. The sun dipped toward the burnished sea and the sky turned to brass. The moment was nigh.

Some fidgeted and grasped at fleeting minutes with fretful yearning. Others reconsidered the wisdom of their choices, whimpered their regrets, and lobbed breathless pleas to the ether with white-knuckled fingers, but not I. My veins pulsed with intrepid hope, dreams of pristine worlds, a homecoming with my ancestors, a vibrant vision of a future among the stars.

The sea shaved slices from the sun and the horizon deepened to green. The moment passed and our ship never came. I watched faith peel from the devout like onion skin, tearful and pungent, the betrayal palatable and mutating faces with grief, anger, and despair. A few backpedaled with delicate reasoning; others scratched for ways to undo what they’d done. Most vowed vengeance. The buses had departed hours ago, and as twilight faded, the horde of disillusioned started the long walk to town.

My back to the obelisk, I waited as night drew up its coverlet, not the only one to remain on the rocky point but one of few. The sea lapped on the shore to the rhythm of my breath, and the stars winked on. The prophet had promised us a life of spirit and relieved us of our worldly possessions for the start of our journey. There never was a ship, intergalactic or otherwise; I knew that now. But he hadn’t betrayed me. He’d done as he promised—freed me of the heavy trappings that weighted my life, and set me on an altered path. I faced a new future. Like it or not, I was reborn.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto prompt. Visit her site to see other creative entries.