I held a contest for Flash fiction based on the photograph below. I received only one entry. A damned fine entry. However one entry does not a contest make. I appreciate the time and effort author Karen Charlton took, and whilst it can't be judged against any other story, it is too fine a piece to leave unacknowledged.
So...for your reading enjoyment and with my sincere thanks; here it is.
It was always dark on this stretch of road.
The naked branches of the winter trees arched above Jamie’s head and blocked out the moonlight. Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance. The invisible ground sank softly beneath every step. He knew the path well but it was better to be cautious.
The two pounds he’d received from Tom Phillips were in his breeches pocket and chinked with every step he took. In this silence, the soft chink-chink of metal against metal would carry a long way.
He heard a small owl hoot in alarm. To his right, a branch cracked beneath the foot of a heavy animal. He listened carefully. Nothing.
All he could make out were the brooding tree trunks, silhouetted against the dense undergrowth. That didn’t mean that no one was there, watching him.
Who’d have thought that there were so many shades of black in the world?
He lowered himself to his haunches and groped along the ground for a weapon. Anything. A rock, a branch, anything. His frozen fingers found shards of ice, briers and small stones. Suddenly, they closed on the flaking stem of a sturdy branch. He tugged it away from the briers and tested its weight and length. It would do.
Cautiously, he rose. His ears burned for the sound of soft footfalls, the rustle of dead leaves.
Then he heard them. There were two of them and they moved fast.
A fist crashed into his face, knocking him backwards. Pain seared through his nose and he tasted blood. He lashed out with his weapon and missed. Another iron fist thudded into his gut. Briefly, he bent double with pain. Summoning every last ounce of strength, he raised himself and swiped his cudgel again and again at the menacing shapes which taunted him.
He hit home: twice.
There was a yelp of anguish and the figures backed off. One of them limped.
‘I’ve not got nowt, yer bastards. Bugger off!’
‘Then what the hell do you want?’ Jamie clutched his weapon tighter as a shadowy figure began to circle him. His eyes darted between his attackers.
‘We’ve come fer what yer owe.’
‘Owe? Owe who?’
‘Yer owe the butcher in Morpeth, over two pounds. He’s our mate. Ye’ve just got two pounds from Tom Phillips in the pub when yer sold him yer watch.’
‘Well, ye’d better come and get it, hadn’t yer?’ he snarled.
There was a pause. The footpads hesitated. Limping man still wheezed and clutched his neck.
Anger surged through Jamie. Swearing and screaming abuse, he raised his stick and charged. The unharmed man turned, fled and dragged his companion away. They crashed back into the forest.
‘Bloody cowards! Damn Eddie Chaloner! Sod off the lot of yer!’ he yelled
His curses rebounded off ancient oaks and echoed back.
Silence had returned to the black woods.
Suddenly, a flash of lightening illuminated the road. He could see again.
They had gone.
Catching the Eagle
The Missing Heiress
Seeking Our Eagle