I’ve been trying to catch up on so many things. I hoard bits of stories like Smaug does gold, but whereas his pile is all shiny and great to sleep on, my pile is…less so. However, in saying that, I have found stories written for the prompts set on Flash Dogs This is an amazing site: supportive and fun, setting weekly photo prompts.
Blinded by the Light
The grid had been down for just over six months. Slowly, one by one, the remaining lights are dying, flickering on the dregs of battery life. The clever build dynamos…the smarter ones hide them. Access to power, to an outlet was now bigger business than any drug or company had ever been. Controlling juice was everything, and having it lured people in better than the best hard stuff.
That’s why they’re waiting on the edge, on that cusp between shadow and light. The bridge is shining like piles of purest cut snow. Even from here they catch the strains of music pumping out of loudspeakers, see the flicker of strobes, the promise of tech.
Binoculars pick out revellers on the walkway, high on charged up phones that can’t call anyone but hold memories, photos, last messages…or candy crushing escapism. They pick out the prostitutes, plying sex for tech use, the spotters picking out the juiciest targets, and in the gloom, the dealers to whom you’d sell your soul for a top-up.
Under the bridge, the used up, the useless, the powerless, the hopeless addicts dying for a fix flounder in the dark and dirt. They’ll crawl up from time to time, new dark age trolls trying to catch a spark, a moment of feeling connected.
Those crouching on the cusp move on. The bridge is just another juice trap; there is no illumination here. It’s just tech junkies craving blindness.
He’s still young. Not long out of college, not yet suffocating under obligations and relationships, because he’s smart or just on the sensible side of selfish. Handsome and confident; he’s not hiding behind that bottle or crawling in it, either. It’s a show, and a damned good one, too. He’s silently yelling from every pore and crease in high-end menswear that he’s the man, the one to be, the one to have.
He’s living the high life on the last of his grant money and the fresh cash-in-hand from a shift at the Cafe Bar, and he’ll probably hang out there for the Summer, earning while he’s planning his next move, playing the field, taking his time. He’s young. He’s got more time than he knows what to do with.
Folks back home most likely send him cash, not that he needs it, of course; he calls them on the cusp of feigned indifference, so to keep it cool and polite: a happy balance that everyone teeters on. And maybe he’s the type not to call if things get tight, and he’ll lie gently through his false smile that everything’s still fine, and yes, he’s still single and still working at the Cafe Bar. It’s good pay and regular work, after all. He looks smooth, so he’ll be the sort with lies smooth as silk.
The girl he’s currently with is meeting him here; they said they were going to the movies, but he’ll take her to that quiet spot just out of town. And later, all breathless and giddy and sweaty, he’ll crack open another beer and talk about next year and where he’ll be. He’s the sort to have plans…not dreams…plans!
He’s still young and he’s got his eye on the horizon, so maybe he will be there next year and not like me, stuck at the bottom of a cheap beer bottle and no longer dreaming, telling folks next year, next year, but in these trying times man’s got to have a regular job, you know, and all the while haunted by the ghosts of dead plans.
A wooden king for a green kingdom. Seems natural and sensible. He stands on his dais, eyes gracing each blade rising before him, where dew clings like night’s farewell tears. He reaches out to salute them, these warriors that will all too soon be cut down in the name of order. It’s not lost on him, the irony that he stands upon the buried remains of himself, and he so much reduced in his crowning and neat edges and sculpted form. His arms had once touched the sky and spread so much wider. But he is now a king and more than tree. He has been refined, made into a something. A wooden king for a green kingdom: such a nice design, pleasing to the mind and eye. He is no usurper, no foreign tyrant.
He has legs now, but cannot move. How strange is that? Before he had roots, but could sway and bend and dance. How mad to have legs but never move. But he’s a king now, and the grass, so much greener and wetter than before in this cultivated state, leans to him and waits. To them, he is still taller and wooden; they cannot see he’s changed in all the ways that matter.
They gave him eyes. Perhaps their greatest cruelty. He can see the grass, the teardrops, how mighty he had once been and the mower being pulled from the shed. But he remains a wooden king.
I know he will. I can’t wash it off. Does guilt have a scent? Am I luring him? I’m sweating, soon all these people must smell it, stop and stare with noses wrinkled in disgust.
I know I’m tired of running, looking back, covering tracks. And maybe it’s better, more right, that it’ll be him and not the police. Swift justice in some dark alleyway. At that last moment, will I prefer this throttling guilt to a swift kill and beg?
He’s there….just across the street! So soon? He stands resolute, strong. Is that what righteous should look like? I was on the floor, crying and bloodied: picked up the closest thing and hit out. I didn’t even think to kill. But when he lay there twitching, his face twisted around the impacts, I left him to die and wished it! I was vengeance, yet guilt was my unwanted offspring.
He’s seen me! But my feet are rooted.
He’s coming over. Does he have a knife? A gun? No…knife for this busy place. In the gut? Across the throat? It’ll be in the gut and twisted all vicious and fast as he walks past, like a shiv in the movies.
I hold my belly as an imagined pain unfurls. I close my eyes and feel warmth spill between cold fingers, then slick innards. And my feet are still firm.
He’s coming to execute my sentence, his footfalls like a gavel, his hood a judge’s black cap. He pauses by my side, breathing in my guilty stink, then exhales in a shaky sigh. And then he’s gone, walked away fast, his sentence passed.
I lift my hands…and they’re clean.
There’s just too much down there. So much going on; so much that reaches inside to yank something out. Feels like you’re a lucky dip, where needy and greedy fingers scrape your sides, squeezing the feeling they need to win for ripeness and sweetness, and you smile, or weep, or yell or laugh….whatever it is they pull out. Get it wrong and it’s just junk hurled back, dissatisfaction and disappointment etched on faces and pouring from mouths. Get it right and it’s paraded around…like some bizarre trophy.
And in this mad carnival full of eager punters, you forget these prizes are not for them. With all the noise, demands and probing fingers it never comes to mind that none of you is theirs to rummage through and take. You’re no one’s lucky dip or pick-n-mix. But shame and fear and expectations become the shreds that cover what’s hidden, keeping the game going.
Away from it, with only the cool wind which never takes or expects, honest emotions come out from hiding, no longer fearful of being grabbed and used. Sitting alone, the selfless wind carries away the secret truths of what you feel…and the whispered promises that tomorrow, the lucky dip will no longer be an attraction.
Miles Away in Forty Minutes
It’s always here, even as here moves away. This is the place where she can finally let it all slip from her shoulders. The wooden seats are firm friends, taking the weight of heavy days and the windows gift her cool reflections of a world momentarily passing and moving without her, making her a passenger…an observer. It soothes to sit and watch. For the next forty minutes everything is done, set, requires no thought, no demands for choices, no pressure. Once the fare is paid, she can sit and slip away from a world that’s always asking, begging, telling, yelling, dragging and pulling. It’s always here: the peace, the quiet, the withdraw.
No one questions as they hide behind newspapers, within their own heads, or on mobile phones or distracted by the sights drifting by. People crammed closer than in offices, streets, shops or elevators, yet as far away from each other as one could get.
It’s Monday; the car has been recently cleaned. The scent of polish and wax lingers in the air; the grooves in the floor scoured of their week’s worth of droppings. The windows dazzle, a generous compromise, smothering the too clear world in reflected light. By Friday, a multitude of fingers, hands and breaths will have smudged the world, taking the edge off a hard week.
The tram rolls smoothly along straight lines and round soft curves; it makes her think of caresses, when she had someone to love. A bell rings for stops where a gentle pressure pushes her deeper into her seat, reassuring her: this is not your stop. Hush and rest. It is a moment where she is just for herself, and the world does not press itself upon her, and she can escape while sitting still.
I was drawn as easily as a moth. And if they feel as I do, then they desire to burn. No other light scorches so enticingly. He left a trail of gold to follow, a teasing treasure trail, out to the darkest of places, that place which craves the heat and light. Just beyond the glow of heated scales and burning arpeggios, he stands like some ancient angel crowned in a burning halo, orchestrating fire until the air weeps golden sparks and glowing rivers flow.
Each inhale burns, incinerating from within. It scatters the shadows that have lingered in the cold chambers of my heart, breeding without care in the dark. Is that why I’m drawn? Is this not a pyre but a crucible? Cremation or purification; am I to end or blow the ashes of all that was into the fire whipped wind?
I can’t be sure and I don’t care. We’ve craved fire since we first saw it in the dark. We’ve always seen it as a god, and I’m ready to be judged. I step closer; sparks sear my skin with fleeting kisses. I see him clearly know: the filament heart beating flames. He smiles and fires dance in his eyes. I can barely breathe; he’s stolen my oxygen.
No moth this time, futilely banging against glass; this time I can touch the fire. He leans down and I open up my mouth to greet his heat. No moth fooled by light. I have my fire and swallow it down.
No moth now, for I burn in what I need.