She sat upright on the sofa, as was her habit. Her mother had always made her sit upright and at moments like these, she was grateful. It helped keep her together, keep her from slumping down into a heap. In one hand she grasped the photo frame. It was an old photograph of her husband and no one would have recognised him from it, but she remembered. In her mind, he hadn’t changed, not until the very last.
She had put on the old record. It was an old song, but it had meant so much to them both. It had been their first dance at their wedding, and just last year at their golden wedding anniversary they’d danced it again, not quite a deftly, but with just as much love in their eyes. It was their song.
Johnny Mathis’s golden tones rang out from the speakers, singing “Chances Are”.
She held the photograph to her heart and said a final goodbye.
This story was written for the Word of the Day: Chances and the Ragtag Daily Prompt: Song
Thorneycroft had been famous once, challenging other schools, like Rugby and Winchester for the honour of sending the most alumni to Oxford University. Unfortunately, times had changed and the school closed, leaving behind a wealth of objects to commemorate a century of learning. Now it was a museum, a monument to the past, open to the public for a negligible fee. One of the visitors shuffled along the forgotten corridors and breathed in the aromatic aroma of wood, polish and chalk dust. Heaving a nostalgic sigh, the man walked back into the main hall, filled with statues, his walking cane echoing around the hall and clicked against the marble tiles. Then he stopped and looked up at the statue of a man enrobed in black with a flat-topped mortarboard hat upon its head. The sculptor had excellently captured the bushy beard and even the foreboding glint in those eyes. He remembered that face all too well. He’d been a strict disciplinarian, a bit of a devil, but in an age where caning boys had been the norm, he’d never resorted to physical punishments. He’d been feared but nevertheless was the mainstay of the school. Recalling his last meeting with the man now immortalised aptly in stone, he’d asked him why he’d been so hard.
“One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try and tell them,” he’d replied smiling.
This short story was written for the 50 Word Thursday challenge, click on the link below to see the post, it’s not too late to take part in this challenge, which finished on Wednesday.
But it still wasn’t finished. So here is the finale.
Sun, Sea and a Cup of Tea – Finale
Jane walked down the street from the apartment complex to the main part of town. She heard a couple of guys wolf whistle as she went past. She smiled to herself. Her fifty-year-old body may not be as slim as it used to be, in fact curvaceouswould have been a kinder description, but clearly, she still had it. Then she heard footsteps behind her. Angela was walking a long behind her wearing a white sarong dress over her black bikini with a black wide-brimmed hat. She wore stylish espadrille wedges on her feet that gave her extra height. Jane felt a pang of jealousy as she realised the wolf whistles hadn’t been for her at all but for Angela’s stunning twenty-something year old figure instead.
Angela walked up to her and gave her a warm smile. “Hi Jane, are you headed into town too? Do you mind if I join you?”
Well it didn’t seem finished and a few people told me that it needed some more, so here is part two.
Jane opened the door to her apartment. To her relief her husband had managed to wake up, all by himself and judging by the sound of the shower was preparing himself for the day ahead. It was twenty minutes past ten and he’d been asleep since eleven o’clock last night. She had heard practically every snore. She was beginning to worry that he’d gone into some kind of hibernation. She’d always suspected he was at least half bear, he was hairy enough from the neck down. When they’d met he had a good head of hair too, but that had since deserted his head like snow deserted the mountains in summer. He claimed that thirty years of marriage to her had caused it to fall out.
She walked over to her open suit case and took out her travel kettle. She knocked on the bathroom door. “Who is it?” Her husband called out. Who does he think it is? She wondered.
Putting on a bit of an accent she replied “It’s Lolita your Spanish maid can I come in and squeeze your bottom?”
It had been a while since I’d been to the family homestead. It was a rambling clapperboard house that at one time housed two extended families. Now only Mother lived there all alone. Walking up the pathway I passed plant after plant that was withering and dying in that long hot summer. It had been months since we’d had any rain.
The door creaked just like it always did as I pulled it open and walked into the relative coolness of the dark hallway. It smelt of wood and beeswax. All the wooden furniture was polished to an incandescentshine. I felt a bite on my ankle. Looking down I saw a solitary ant climbing my bare leg, which I promptly squashed beneath my fingertips. The long hot dry summer had brought out a lot of ants lately. God, how I’ve prayed for rain.
“Mama, where are you? It’s me Laura” I called out, my voice echoing around the practically empty dwelling.
“Laura, is that you? I’m upstairs dear, In Aunty’s room.”
There were a lot of bedrooms upstairs that were practically untouched, except for dusting, since the previous occupants had departed. Her Great-Aunt Sally had lived in the bedroom at the very end of the landing and for the last few years of her life had rarely left it. It was still full of all her knickknacks and memorabilia.
I walked in to find my Mother sitting on the bed crying. I sat next to her and put my arm around her.
“There, there Mama. Great Aunt Sally’s been dead twenty years, why are you carrying on so?”
“No, it’s not that. There was a storm last night and it blew over that old tree, the one that your Grandfather planted not long after he bought this place.”
I still couldn’t understand why she sounded so woebegone. All this fuss about a tree. I couldn’t help feeling some scorn. It was a lovely tree, but It was only seventy years or so old, not really that old as trees went. I gave Mama another hug, but she pushed me away.
“You don’t understand. There was a body buried there, under that tree. The storm brought it to the surface. It was wrapped in a tarpaulin, but it was unrecognisable. There was a locket with it and in it was this key.”
I looked down at the small, ornate brass key in my Mothers frail old hand.
“What was the key for? It’s too small to be for a door.”
“It was the key to this box. No one could open it when she died but we didn’t think there was anything important in it. Not enough to force it open.”
I remembered the beautiful small box, inlaid with scented sandalwood, that now lay on the floor, open.
Also, on the floor, lying as if it had just fallen from my Mothers hand, was a small leather-bound book. The kind used for keeping a diary or perhaps notes and recipes in.
I reached down and picked up the book. I recognised the highly ornate handwriting from birthday cards I had received as a young child. It was Great Aunt Sally’s writing.
Well this was my attempt. Like my friend says about herself, I am not at all familiar with the genre. I never read horror books and I never watch horror films. I am scared stiff of them. I am therefore not a very good judge on whether this story I have written actually meets the requirements of being a Horror Story. Please let me know if you think it works.
I found the map among my Aunts things. Mad Aunt Alice, she’d been cruelly called by my Father. Growing up it had just been my Father, Aunt Alice and me. Aunt Alice had looked after me tenderly, but she never spoke. My Father would order her about, shout at her and even hit her, but she never spoke.
My father always called her Mad. Said that she wasn’t ‘all there’. She’d been like that since a childhood game with an Ouija board had gone wrong. The Devil’s got her tongue and he won’t give it back. That was what my Father said. I never paid no mind to what he said though. He was drunk most of the time. Aunt Alice was always kind to me. She made me dinner and breakfast. Washed my clothes and made sure I went to school. Father went to work then came home and drank. His exercise usually involved smashing something or punching Aunt Alice. She never said a word.
Then one day Father grabbed me by the skirt and pulled me towards him. I screamed at him to let me go. Before I knew it, the Knife had appeared in Aunt Alice’s hand and my father’s head had rolled across the floor. I will never forget his eyes. They put Aunt Alice into one kind of institution and me into another.
She’d overslept again. This was the third time this week!
Luckily, she had only overslept by five minutes and she always allowed enough time to get ready for work. She would have to do something simple with her hair again, no time to blow-dry, just a pony tail.
Walking into the bathroom she checked her face.
Was that a new wrinkle? There just above her right eyebrow?
She didn’t remember seeing it before. She had a few frown lines on her forehead, but who didn’t when they’d passed the thirty mark?
After her shower she slapped on a bit of extra moisturiser, just to try to keep the lines at bay. She also promised herself a spa day in the not too distant future.
Her commute into work wasn’t remarkable. The usual traffic, the usual impatient honking of horns. The idiot who cut into her lane without any indication. Why did people insist on driving without bothering to let others know what they are going to do? They’ll end up on a slab one day in the morgue where she worked.
She worked as a mortician at the local morgue. Not a glamorous job but it was stable, there will always be a constant supply of customers, that was for sure.
As she arrived at work her colleagues all greeted her. It may surprise people to know that people who work in the morgue were actually quite upbeat and friendly. She got on with almost everyone. Of course, she spent most of her time with the customers and they couldn’t answer back or get on her nerves. She probably had the best customers of any company anywhere in the world!
Stan came up to her to give her the news.
“Morning Jenny, you’ve got two new ones come in this morning. Do your best to a make them look nice for their families. One is a lady in her early 90’s who died in her sleep. The other’s a girl in her early twenties, had an overdose, poor thing. See what you can do.”
She went into her studio and looked at her customers. What a contrast.
One was as wrinkled as a burlap sack. There wasn’t much skin that wasn’t wrinkled.
The other was as perfect as a body could be. Not a blemish on it. The face didn’t have a single wrinkle. It was flawless.
And yet, here was a woman who had lived a long life. Who had had children and grandchildren and who, judging from the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and around her mouth, must have enjoyed a good laugh. The wrinkles were like life’s calling card etched on her body for all to see.
And there was this poor, lovely, unblemished girl who had not really had much of a chance to live life to the full.
She realised who she most wanted to be like.
Never again would she look at a wrinkle in the same way.
It wasn’t a curse, each was a little blessing.
She was lucky to have her wrinkles. So many people didn’t live long enough to get them.
He glanced out of the narrow window at the ships anchored in the harbour. This was the scene that had greeted his eyes every day of his life and it had inspired him to write several novels. Many of his books had Piracy as the main theme. He’d written many of the men who had come off those ships into his novels, embellished to represent a pirate king or a kidnapped victim.
The book he was currently working on was particularly challenging. It was a story or revenge and books about vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule. However, he also knew that brevity was key. People’s attention spans nowadays were shorter and novels were often half the size they used to be. He decided to use a mechanism that was the retreat of many authors faced with this problem. He would use flashback to condense a long time into a handful of pages.
He began writing furiously and with a smile he placed his pen down at the end. He knew he’d penned another great novel. If only there were enough people around who could actually read. The Covid pandemic had killed all the teachers.
This story was written for the 50 Word Thursday Challenge.
I’d decided to make the most of my freedom. I’d no lectures today, no tutorials or dreary sessions in the library reading about Einstein’s theory of relativity. This was my first real day of freedom since lockdown had ended and that deadly virus, so persistent, had finally rescinded to controllable levels.
It had left it scars. I still avoided crowds where possible and I don’t think any of us would ever feel the same again.
Today I went to Greenwich to bask in the history or my scientific forebears. I’d wandered around the observatory where scientists of old had gazed through their telescope and seen the glories of a distant planet.
Then I sat and had a picnic on the green.
I gazed in dreamy contemplation across at the building in the distance topped by a triangle, really a pyramid and although it was a simple thing to be doing, something strange was happening.
It seemed as though those scientists who had walked this ground were passing on their knowledge and mixed with my own studies of theoretical physics I suddenly had a ‘Eureka’ moment and, without an apple like Newton, I had worked out how to travel through time!.
This story was written for the 50 Word Thursday challenge posted last week. Today is the last opportunity to take part.
And the Words: “It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.” – H.G Wells, The Time Machine
She woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. The dream had been so real. She shook her boyfriend awake, who was snoring beside her and described her dream.
“I dreamt I saw a church with an obscure 8-sided tower. A priest came running after me and told me it was the end of the world. People started screaming and the sky turned black.”
Her boyfriend responded sarcastically, “It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.”
The next day they left their hotel room to explore the town and walked down a side street they’d never been before. Her boyfriend held her hand tightly, in his overly protective way that she hadn’t made an issue of, but she stared back in amazement at the obscure 8-sided church tower and she knew what was going to happen next.
This story was written for the 50 Word Thursday Challenge: