At the Mirror: Incredible Eyes

Basilike Pappa of Silent Hour writes wondrous poetry and prose. She also shares some exquisitely written artwork by others. This flash story of hers struck my fancy. Suspense, romance, mystery, fantasy, and humor all wrapped into one. Enjoy.

Incredible Eyes

by Vassiliki Pappa

It was a night like many others. It involved me and an old book of fairytales I wanted to be alone with. The book wanted to be with me too; its leather-clad spine fit perfectly in my hand. I curled with it on the sofa and soon forgot everything else in the world.

After a couple of hours, I looked up and out of the balcony. I only wanted to give my eyes some rest and to get a glimpse of the night outside. The moon looked back at me and I smiled. It was actually a streetlamp, but I liked to think of it as a full moon.

And then I saw him: a midnight-black rooster, with blood-red comb and wattles, and eyes fixed on me. He was standing still in the middle of my balcony, with something of the dandy in his stance. He obviously has a way with hens, I thought. Indeed, the more I looked at him, the more I knew that, had I been a hen, I would love to have him jump on me and peck on my neck. Our chicks would be midnight-black, with blood-red comb and wattles. But I would like them to have my eyes…

(Continue reading: Incredible Eyes)

Caught #Writephoto

photo from Sue Vincent

She is bruised on the outside.

Broken on the inside.

And her feet stretch up over her head into the air as the swing reaches the height of its arc. Bare toes blot the daylight rustling through the canopy, and the sun winks through a hole in a tree. A kaleidoscope of light sparkles across her eyes, a vision of angels, a flash and gone.

The swing descends, legs bend, and she leans in, sailing backward.

Long ago, her father had shimmied along the high branch to knot the ropes. When he’d loved her. As a father. As a child.

The ancient maple creaks beneath her weight as she flies forward. Its branch bends and lifts. A rhythm, steady as a heartbeat, slinging her so high that for a moment she is weightless, suspended in green, stretched long, head back, the world upside down, crazy and dangerous.

Then the inevitable fall. The curl inward and backward into another opening, a weightless inhale.

These trees once gathered her dreams. When she was whole among them, a wisp and wish of the world in girl form. She belonged. They are unchanged, sheltering, safeguarding, inviting her to swing. Only she is different. The swing rushes down, catches her, and propels her forward and up. The sun flares through the tree’s round eye.

She lets go of the ropes and flies into the light, a flash and gone.

***

This is a piece of fiction is in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt

Summit – #Writephoto

#writephoto image: Sue Vincent

The cane wobbled. Its tip slipped, wedged between two stones, and stuck. Morten grumbled and shuffled up a step. His grandson was born with the brains of a turnip if he thought an old man could climb the steep path in a day. “A sacred site, pretty view, and perfect breeze,” the boy had explained. Morten would need to grow wings to reach the fort’s grassy summit before nightfall.

He thrust out his cane, planted it, and heaved himself up another step. The voices behind him grew louder, the crowd gaining on him. Resigned to his predicament, he twisted aside and backed up to the low wall flanking the path. His balance akilter, he landed his bony rump on the flat rock, lucky he didn’t tip backward and tumble down the hill. His cane clattered on the stone pavers.

The younger folk—his seventy-year-old daughter and her husband, his gaggle of grandchildren and stampede of great-grandies—hiked up the path. His daughter stooped to pick up the cane. “What is dad’s cane doing here?”

Her husband patted her shoulder. “Someone must have dropped it. We’ll bring it up.”

“Ahem!” Morten protested, but the troop resumed their march, paying him no mind and stranding him where he sat. He leaned forward, rocked, and pushed to his feet. With a grunt of effort, he straightened up, though “straight” was purely a matter of perspective.

He shambled farther up the path, knees creaking and fingers inching along the top of the wall. The breeze felt good, and the view was spectacular even though he hadn’t reached the top. After a short distance, the path smoothed and seemed less steep, and he abandoned the security of the wall. He took a few confident steps, and satisfied, added a bit of spring to his gait. He swung his arms and inhaled a deep breath. His pace increased, a renewed vigor thrumming through his heart.

He considered dancing a merry little a jig but dismissed the thought as overzealous. Instead, he picked a handful of summer flowers from the bank and waltzed like a groom on his wedding day. His wife appeared at the path’s peak and laughed, the clouds framing her like downy wings. He winked at her, smiling like a fool in love, surefooted, his life in bloom. The urge to run tickled at his toes, and he leapt into a strong lope, the muscles in his limbs stretching, his arms pumping, his vision clear and soul awake.

His wife opened her arms and received him. At the summit, his grandson smiled as a gust of wind gathered up the ashes from the lifted urn.

***

The image is from Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt. Join in the fun.

The Optometrist and the Dragon #writephoto

photo compliments of Sue Vincent

A man of science, Irvus the optometrist didn’t believe in enchantment. But a dare was a dare, and he wasn’t about to cede his convictions to a bunch of old-timers at the Pickled Sow. It was the 5th century, for Heaven’s Sake. The last known dragon had gone extinct a hundred years ago.

The climb up the scree to the cave was steeper than it appeared from a distance. His borrowed twin-bladed battle-ax weighed a ton, and if the rusted iron weren’t strapped to his back, he would have abandoned it on the dirt track below. Sweat dripped into his eyes and plastered his hair to his scalp. He renewed his determination to begin exercising, again… maybe.

Then he spotted the old skull.

His boot crunched on a human spine twisted like a skeletal snake. Farther up, a rubble of sun-bleached bones littered the loose stones below the cave’s gaping maw.

Irvus paused, tongue idly exploring the gap in his front teeth. A bear or a mountain lion, surely. Had to be since dragons didn’t exist. He wrestled out of the straps crossing his back and hefted the intimidating ax, his pluck rallying with the weapon in hand.

Other than the racket of sliding and tumbling stones, he crept silently up to the cave and peered inside. His breath hitched.

There, bathed in shadow, sat the princess that the wrinkled fellows at the Sow had dared him to rescue. A genuine princess with a perfectly forlorn face, pink lips, and crown of golden curls. She rested on a chunk of stone, her delicate frame draped in azure and emerald silks.

No dragon in sight, he hissed at her. “Psst! Over here.” She jolted up, eyes flashing with surprise. He beckoned with a frantic hand.

She glanced behind her and tiptoed toward him, careful to avoid the sunlight. “Are you a prince?” she whispered.

“No, I’m an optometrist.”

“Oh.”

“I’m here to rescue you; I think.”

“Indeed, you’re very noble. But for me to escape this horrid place, you must first slay the dragon.” She tilted her curly head toward the cave’s interior.

He arched a skeptical eyebrow. “A real dragon?”

She nodded, tears glittering in a pair of startling and beautiful gold-burnished eyes. “I’m trapped by an enchantment, captive here for all eternity or until a brave soul sets me free. Are you truly he?”

Irvus considered her predicament and decided that the whole situation was rather implausible, but there she was, an honest to god princess. She seemed sincere, and so far, he hadn’t seen anything more menacing than a rabbit. Best of all, she’d implied he was “brave.”

He sucked in a breath, stepped into the shadow, and halted. A deep snuffle of warm breath wafted over him from the black of the soot-smeared cave. His eyes adjusted rapidly due to his exceptional vision care, and he gasped. A dragon slept curled in a nest of straw among the jagged rocks.

A magnificent beast, its scales glistened in hues of azure and emerald. A serpentine tail curled around its body and webbed wings folded against its back. Curved claws glinted like shards of ice, and scimitar spikes thrust from its spine. With each restful exhale, puffs of smoke snorted from a horned snout.

The princess threaded her arm through his and gazed up at him with those disconcerting golden eyes, eyelashes fluttering like feathers. In all his years of optometry, he’d never seen eyes so… avian. “Please,” she murmured. “Slay it, free me, and you will win my heart.” She rose onto her toes and pressed her lips to his sweaty cheek.

He swallowed, kissing a pastime sorely absent from his hectic life. He gathered his faltering courage and inched toward the dragon. The slumbering monster shifted and sighed, blasting him with heated air. His hands tightened around the haft of his battle-ax, and he glanced behind him, chewing on a lip. “Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea.”

The princess winced at the pun and crept up behind him, her eyes alight with a strange glow. She waved him onward and pressed her slender hands to her heart. He faced the beast, raised his ax to his shoulder, risked another step, and kicked a stone. It rolled and clinked against a deadly claw. He froze.

The dragon’s eyelid quivered and rolled up. In a tremendous surge, the colossal beast reared. Wings unfurled and thundered against the cave’s ceiling. Its scaled tail uncoiled and swept the cave’s debris, flinging stones and raising the dust. It bared its fangs and blew a stream of fire over Irvus’s head as it scrambled back against the wall.

Irvus shrieked and turned to run. The princess met his charge and heaved him back toward the dragon. “Kill it,” she screamed. “Slay it now! Kill it.” She blocked his way out, stalked toward him, hands raised to force him into a fight. “Kill it, or I’ll be trapped here forever. You can’t leave me here.”

He thrust the ax at her. “You kill it.”

“I can’t,” she cried, shoving it back. “The enchantment won’t permit it. It must be you. Please.”

He faced the dragon, sweat drenching his body, his hands slick on the ax. The dragon writhed against the back wall, massive chest heaving. Its tail thrashed and slapped the rocks of its nest. Fire flared with each breath, burning the walls. It extended two sets of razor claws, poised for an attack or… Or warding one off?

“Kill it,” the princess urged over Irvus’s shoulder.

Irvus hesitated, mesmerized. The dragon blinked at him with wide doe eyes, the most beautiful nut-brown, liquid eyes he’d ever seen. The beast probably had a family history of healthy eye care, a diet rich in dark leafy greens and fatty cold-water fish. The smoke wasn’t good, but the cave’s shade provided protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

“What’s the matter?” the princess cried. “Kill it! Hurry! Don’t leave me here. Break the spell.”

He hefted the battle-ax. The dragon looked at him with those soft chestnut eyes. The heavy ax head slipped in his sweaty hands. He tightened his grip and raised it over his head to fling at the beast. As much as he cringed at the thought, he couldn’t forsake the princess to a cave-bound eternity.

“Yes,” the princess hissed behind him.

The dragon shuttered its sublime eyes, lowered its scaled head, and stilled as if awaiting the fatal strike.

“No, I can’t.” Irvus’s arms relaxed. Suspended behind his head for the killing blow, the heavy weapon sagged. The weight of its iron blade pulled him backward. His balance teetered, the haft slipping through his fingers. He lurched over the stones, struggling to find his footing, and the weapon slid free. A gasp and thump behind him loosed a shudder that rattled his bones.

He spun around and gaped at the dead princess, the ax blade embedded in her forehead. He slapped his hands over his mouth in a panic.

Then her body began to bloat, clothes splitting at the seams. Irvus stumbled backward as scales erupted on her skin and a spiked tail snaked from her back, elongating across the rubble. The princess’s fingers lengthened, joints swelled, and nails curled into crystalline claws. Her face contorted, nose and jaw jutting into a horned snout. Limbs bulged and crooked, every inch of her transformed except the sightless golden eyes staring at the ceiling.

“Thank you.”

He yelped and pivoted. A brown-eyed woman sat on the black stones of the dragon’s nest, her human nakedness wrapped in a blanket of glittering azure and emerald scales.

“You broke the enchantment,” she said. “You set me free.”

“You’re the princess?”

“A librarian,” she said. “Are you a prince?”

“No, I’m an optometrist.”

She gathered the serpentine skin around her and stood. “And the kindest man I’ve ever met.”

He smiled, puffed up his chest, and offered his hand. “Are you ready to go?”

They walked to the sharp rim of sunlight at the cave’s entrance where he rearranged the dragon’s pelt to shade her face. The gray-beards at the Pickled Sow might accept his tale about accidentally slaying a dragon, but they’d never believe those perfect brown beauties, not until they spied them with their very own eyes.

***

This rather long and silly story was inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt: Shelter

 

Dusk: #writephoto

photo from Sue Vincent

I dreamed this story Saturday night in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. Something a little different.

***

I can’t remember much bout that time, cept for the crazy animal fear. Like you weren’t in yer body but thrashing around outside yer skin, a thing gutted and clawing at some god to lift yer sorry ass outta there. Bombs pounded on our camp, and the screaming lay over the roar and rumble like I was trapped with a flock of gulls, and a pack of wolves were tearing at our throats, only it was worse than that.

And the reek of all them loose shits and us pissing in our pants, including mine. We were burrowed deep and bunched like rabbits, and it was blacker then death with yer eyes pinched shut. Already buried alive, I think. A funny thing how that situashun was better than being out there—tho I weren’t laughing. No, not at all.

Mason kep talking in that flat, butter voice of his thru the whole thing like he was telling lullaby stories come lights-out. I think Mason’s stories saved our asses on those days. Powerful stories bout life after the Reclamayshun, after the killing is worn out and we can go home.

Then my ears is ringing, and I’m breathing dust like I’m drowning. Some little kid’s keening so shrill it slices thru the exploshuns. And my heart is jumping on my ribs hard, and I know I jus gotta get out a there. It’s real bad, that feeling. My mind is so beat on like an old rug that it comes to me clean and clear—I got no choice in this life but where I’m gonna die. And I don’t wanna die jammed in a hole.

Then it all stop. All of it stop. The bombing and screaming and coffing up dirt. Mason makes us sit for seems a week until we gonna die from jus sitting still, already buried in our grave and starving to boot. When he say to give it a go, we dig out, and the world don’t look the same at all. It’s a hell place like the devil took a shovel and turned up the whole land for spring planting.

Mason stands atop the wreck and stares up at the dusk sky. There ain’t one single bomb raining thru the air. Little white puff clouds look fresh-washed and soft on that gold and blue, like a summer dress on a pretty girl. The world ain’t all broken up after all, and I think maybe Mason was right when he was telling us stories and promising hope.

Sanctuary #Writephoto

I shook off the transportal’s disorientation and trembled with the cold. Authentic cold. Maybe not what I’d expected, but a clear signal that I’d arrived. I’d grown sick of my shipbound existence, the sensory constancy, the monotony of routine, the same faces, same pastimes, same food. The same, same, same. After six cycles, the head of Assimilation approved my placement. And here I stood.

Time to face my new world, my chosen sanctuary, I squared my shoulders, hauled in a breath, and marched through the gray arch into a landscape felted in white. I halted. Warning bells clanged in my head and reality punched me in the chest. Something had gone wrong.

In a panic, I checked my chrono. I had minutes before the ship barreled out of range. Hands fumbling, I opened my comdeck, desperate for a connection.

“Connection established. Audra receiving. You have one chron before communication terminates.”

“Audra, this is Cloe. There’s been a mistake. You need trans me back to the ship.”

“Cloe? Give me a second.”

“Hurry!” I pleaded. A gray-haired alien in a charcoal coat strolled between the white trees, and I turned my back, hiding my dread.

“Your entry was a success.” Audra’s voice crackled with interference. “…didn’t show one irregularity. What’s the matter?”

“This planet,” I whispered, “it’s not the one I approved.” Tears blurred my vision, and I couldn’t stop shivering. “The locators guaranteed an 89% match to my parameters. I saw the images. They sent me to the wrong place!”

“I’m sorry, honey. You certified your choice. The portal’s closing.”

“Audra, you have to help me. Don’t leave me here!”

“All right, I’ll try. Tell me what’s wrong with it? I’ll issue a…” The comdeck fizzled and died.

I throttled the useless thing and smashed it on the stone steps. Face raised to the milky sky, I shouted, “I wanted colors! You sent me to a black and white world.”

The gray-headed alien in his charcoal coat glanced up from where he threw black seeds on the white ground. Gray-feathered birds pecked around his black shoes.  “That’s what you get for arriving in winter.”

I frowned at him. “Winter?”

He angled his head toward the gray buildings in the distance. “They didn’t tell me either. Let’s get a cup of coffee, and I’ll fill you in on something called spring.”

***

Another gorgeous photo and fun Thursday prompt from Sue Vincent. Join the fun. 🙂

Woodland #Writephoto

My husband and I head out in our hiking boots when the dawning sky slides from lavender to blue. He treks up the hill ahead of me, and we squint when the sun twinkles through the trees.

“Stop!” I shout, too late.

My husband shrieks and bolts behind me. “What?”

“Oh my God, you stepped on it.” I suck a breath through my teeth.

“On what?” Nature boy peers over my shoulder and then checks the soles of his boots for dog turd or deer duds. But poop isn’t the problem.

I creep forward and squat down for a closer look. The thing is squashed, imprinted with his zig-zag tread, opalescent wings mashed into the pine needles. I poke it to see if it’s alive.

“What is it?” he asks from a safe distance.

I look up at him, the horror of our situation congealing in my chest. “We’re in such big trouble. You stepped on a fairy!”

“A what?” He inches forward as if the fairy’s going to leap up, whip out a wand, and shrink him into a toad. “Is that bad?”

“Of course, that’s bad!” A wing flutters, and we share a glance. “It’s not dead. We have to do something.”

“Throw it in the bushes.”

“No! We have to help it.” I gently scoop the fairy onto a fern, and we head downhill. “We need to call someone for advice.”

“Take it to the vet,” Mr. Helpful suggests.

“The vet?” I shake my head. “I’m calling Colleen Chesebro. She knows about fairies.”

“The swamp-fairy whisperer lady?”

“She doesn’t live by a swamp anymore. I think her fairy knowledge has expanded.” We push through the screen door, and my husband fills a shoebox with toilet paper as if he’s adopting a gerbil.

“Really?” I blink at him. “Toilet paper?”

“It’s soft and fluffy,” he explains.

I rest the fern on the soft, fluffy toilet paper and call Colleen. With the phone on speaker, we chit chat our greetings and get to the issue at hand. “Colleen, my husband crushed a fairy and—”

“He what?”

Hubby jumps in, giving me the skunk eye. “I stepped on it by accident.”

“Anyway,” I say, “It’s still alive, but it’s sort of squashed, and we don’t know what to do.”

“First thing,” Colleen says, “leave it in the woods where you… squashed it.”

The hubby and I wince in unison and look down at the shoe box. “Umm…” I say into the phone.

Colleen sighs. “Okay, scrap that. New first thing, bring it back to where you found it and leave it there.”

I grimace at the phone. “That doesn’t seem very compassionate.”

“Fairies are magical,” Colleen explains. “Trust me.””

“What if the raccoons get it?” my husband asks.

“The raccoons won’t bother it?”

“Cougars?” he asks.

I worry he’s going to list off the entire contents of the animal kingdom, and apparently, Colleen does too because she nips that recitation in the bud. “Animals don’t harm fairies. Nature is symbiotic. You probably have a forest fairy, part of the same ecosystem as the ferns, moss, and trees. The Earth will heal it or transform it.”

“Oh,” I say. “Well, I guess that makes sense. Are you sure?”

“If I’m wrong you’ll only be cursed for life.” She chuckles. “Just kidding.”

Great, a comedian, but I have to ask, “How will we know if you’re right?”

“We won’t be cursed,” my brilliant husband replies.

“You’ll know.” Colleen smiles through the phone line. We give her our thanks and hike back up the hill with the shoebox. The sun shoots spears of warmth through the evergreen, and we gently rest the fairy and her fern a little to the side of the path. The least we can do.

The next morning, coffee in hand, we climb the leafy path to check on our charge. The fairy is gone, but the forest is alive with butterflies.

pixabay images

Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto prompt, and to Colleen for letting me insert her in my story.  I hope you enjoyed my fairy tale.