Beyond the Light #Writephoto

copyright Sue Vincent

On my last day, the impenetrable rain finally clears, and my hostess suggests a walk. I’d rather stare out the window and wallow in my disappointment. But her enthusiasm won’t be thwarted, and I can’t very well blame her for the weather.

We venture through her back gate. A gray mist stalls between the trees’ black silhouettes, robbing me of a mere glimpse of blue sky. Spring has dawdled, and leafless twigs knit a dark filigree above the crooked boles. Only the mottled grass seems to have noticed the changing season, but it squishes beneath my feet and soaks my shoes.

I shove my hands in my pockets against the chill. “Is spring always this… dreary?”

My hostess chuckles. “It depends on your perspective.” She steps aside and beckons me to stand in her place.

I smile at her attempt at humor and comply. The morning sun casts rainbows in my eyes.

Gift my gloomy heart
Solace from expectations
Where darkness shelters
A new perspective beckons
In dawn’s awakening light

 

A haibun/tanka combo.

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the inspiring #Writephoto prompt.

Escape – #Writephoto

Image copyright Sue Vincent

Alue nudged the prison door open.

Dawn’s light dappled Glenglisun’s slender towers. The jade patina of jungle growth, of humidity, of misty warmth, swathed the city as if it were fashioned of ancient bronze. Spindly minarets blended into the soaring canopy, and its flowering arches belied the peril within its walls.

Naj crept past her. The goblin moved in a crouch, long limbs corded with muscle, his double-bladed glaive clasped by its wooden shaft. Alue’s breath clogged in her chest. Someone had slipped them a key, left the weapon. Someone had freed them, and yet she cringed at the possibility of arrows tracking them from the rooftops.

At the building’s end, Naj ducked to his right and vanished. She darted after him, hooked the corner, and smashed into Danian. The changeling grabbed her arm, steadying her, and she stifled a curse.

“Quiet,” he whispered. “Follow me.”

“I’m not following you anywhere.” She wrenched her arm from his grip. “You’re a liar and a thief.”

Danian closed the gap, his breath in her face, irises black with fury. She mirrored his glare until he swung away. “Your choice,” he growled and set off for the city’s high wall.

Naj paused. His yellow eyes narrowed to slits, and he studied her as if she were a new specimen of plant life. “Do not die for your stubbornness,” he warned and loped after the changeling.

The patronizing arrogance bristled, but so did the truth. Alue’s last choices had cost her more than her freedom. She raked back her froth of red hair, swallowed her indignance, and dashed after them.

Danian avoided the stone streets, escaping instead over a weave of dirt pathways. He halted in the shadow of one of the grass and mud homes. The wall loomed ahead, draped in a camouflage of leafy creepers. Guards idled by the stone columns flanking a filigreed gate, inattentive, but holding spears no less deadly.

“This way.” He made a short retreat and veered toward a cluster of aerial roots that a large banyan had suspended over the wall. Strangler figs twisted around them. A natural ladder. “We go over,” he whispered and scrambled up. Alue climbed without effort, relying on her elven agility, hands and feet finding easy holds. She jumped to the other side and waited for the goblin. Naj landed with a grunt.

Beneath the canopy, time stalled, the day cast in perpetual dusk. Birds squawked and howler monkeys roared. Danian ran ahead. Alue leapt between giant teaks but struggled through the lattices of vines that snagged her body and tripped her feet. Hands bloodied by a fall, she tried to rip the barriers aside, tempted to scream with frustration. How long until the changelings hunted them?

Naj drew her back. His glaive swung like a scythe, slicing through the tangled underbrush. It swept over her head in a terrifying arc, and a green snake thudded to her feet, severed in two.

“Do not kill here!” Danian ordered. “This is changeling territory. If you make a mistake—”

The snarl of a big cat silenced him, the sound chilling to the bone. And close. Naj spun, his glaive raised. Alue froze, the animal behind her.

“Don’t harm it,” Danian’s hand edged up toward the goblin’s weapon. He met Alue’s gaze. “And don’t move.”

Alue fought the agonizing urge to run, fear trembling through her limbs. She couldn’t bear the predator’s presence at her back. Slowly, she disobeyed, rotating, peering into the jungle’s green depth. A massive panther, a slick blackness smooth as starlit water, crouched amidst the mottled undergrowth, baring deadly fangs. A guttural growl rumbled from its throat as its muscles bunched.

Danian breathed in her ear, “Trust me.”

**

I’m cheating and sharing a bit of my WIP (still a first draft but edited so that it makes sense). This is in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt. I couldn’t pass it up.

Fragrant #Writephoto

Copyright Sue Vincent

Agatha inherited her grandmother’s home, a small thing as houses went, with creaky floors and spidery cracks, a kitchen with two hundred years of updates and none of them modern. The place smelled of beeswax and herbs, lemon polish, patchouli, and memories.

She loved the quaint place that would become her home, but it was the formal garden that she roamed first. The Garden of Good Intentions, a little hand-painted sign said at the start of the nearest path. Neatly edged walkways, lined with bright fireworks of lavender, divided the round garden into quarters like slices of pie. All well-tended. But it was the myriad roses that had soaked up her grandmother’s devotion—old garden heirlooms and hybrid teas, exotics and wild species, miniatures and clusters of grandifloras.

The garden had once filled Agatha’s childhood with magic, but now as she strolled the pathways, her eyes widened with dread. She was born with a withering, wilting, aphid-prone, black-spotted thumb. In a year, the cherished garden would be dead.

Despite its impending doom, the place was worth an effort at least. Lips pressed between her teeth, Agatha rummaged in the shed for clippers and gloves and donned her grandmother’s straw hat with plastic daisies wired to the brim.

She watered too much when she wasn’t watering too little, cut away dying canes and broke a few living ones, deadheaded, and made her own fertilizers and bug sprays that scarcely worked. In the autumn, she trimmed the bushes back so far that she figured a few would never see spring. And yet somehow, they always recovered after a year… or two, heavy with blooms, vibrant, and smelling like heaven.

Jocelyn inherited her grandmother’s home with its creaky floors and spidery cracks, and though the kitchen had been updated, the place still smelled of honey and herbs, lemon polish and memories. She loved the quaint place that would become her home, but it was the beautiful garden that she roamed first. The Garden of Good Intentions, a hand-painted sign said at the start of the nearest path.

**

This story is in response to Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto prompt. Sue shares a new prompt every Thursday.

Fall #Writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

Mrs. N planted moss around the bubbling waterfall and wiped her muddy hands on her jeans. Thank the stars that autumn was yoohooing at the garden gate. Summer was Mrs. N’s most hectic time with keeping the property up and making it look pretty for the residents. No doubt about it, everything grew like weeds—assuming there was such a thing—but it still required knuckle-swelling, knee-creaking work!

She preferred a natural-looking landscape, but even that took planning. “Meticulous design is the foundation to success,” the boss man insisted, even if most people didn’t realize it when marveling over the results. And honestly, that was the point, wasn’t it? Nature was supposed to look natural.

And it wasn’t only about plants; there were animals scurrying and flitting about. The perfect garden had to take them into account too. As usual, she’d planted wildflowers here and there for a lively surprise and to satisfy the bees and butterflies.

This year had been dry, and sprinkling raindrops on roses had taken an ocean of effort. She smiled at the waterfall and checked the crumpled list of chores she wrestled from her back pocket. Seed-gathering! That had started way back in July, for heaven’s sake. Envelopes lined her garden bench with thousands of varieties, gazillions really, at least that’s what her aching back told her.

Some perennials needed to be divided, but she was too worn out for that. They’d grow or die off—survival of the fittest didn’t only apply to creatures with teeth and feet. And she’d resigned herself decades ago to just flinging her bulbs willy-nilly. The leaves would cover them in a few weeks, and she’d consider them planted!

She sighed at the grass stains on her knees as autumn bellowed and rattled the gate. Tuckered out, Mrs. N made the same deal with herself that she made every year. Screw it. Time for some fun.

With renewed vigor, she rummaged through her shed. Autumn… autumn was for artists, and Mrs. N was the top of her class, a master, even better than that Dutch guy. Autumn was where she shined. It was messy and creative, a free-for-all celebration after the endless toil of summer.

She lugged her cans of color into the sunlight, all the ones she’d restocked last winter, including an array of scarlets and golds, pumpkin and vermillion, a touch of eggplant and jay blue. With a rusty screwdriver, she popped off the lids.

After swigging down three bottles of hard cider, she did some stretches to limber up. A bit tipsy, she threw open the gate and let autumn burst into the yard. The two of them twirled through her garden in a drunken dance, giggling and snorting and splattering color with fat brushes until the place was a messy, vibrant masterpiece.

With a satisfied yawn, Mrs. N settled into her lawn chair, content to let autumn fling the last drops from the cans. She put her feet up and admired their work. When autumn too wore herself out and disappeared through the gate, as she always did, Mrs. N snuggled under her white blanket and dreamed about spring.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the colorful autumn #Writephoto prompt.

I’m on the road again with sketchy internet. I hope you enjoy and will respond to comments and return visits as soon as I’m able. Enjoy!

 

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.

Conflagration #Writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

Conflagration

Carnelian skies burnish the dying day just so

On the cusp of our years we awaken

Narrowed to a sliver of brilliant flame

Faithful to the fires sparked in a child’s dream

Longing for dismissed choices, second chances

A conflagration of wishes whirling, urgent

Grieve no more, my heart

Retrace your rubbled path and behold

A sacred branding of the soul

Trust that love mattered

In the final hours as

Our whispered farewells

Nudge us into ash

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the beautiful Thursday #Writephoto prompt.