Friday, February 14, 2014

Paragraphs Of Power ... Voting is now open!


Contents MUST in some way refer to the image below.  The quality of the entries is superb. I don't envy anyone making a choice between them. Voting will remain open until February 21st. These are the only entries received in time for the deadline. The winner will be promoted on this blog for the entire month of March; plus a guest post on any topic they choose on a date that suits them.

Good luck!

#1 … Flying With The Wind

I left him standing in the middle of the ballroom.
How could he have said that to me? He’d told me he loved me – had shown it, I believed in his kisses. And now – !
The words echoed in my head again.
‘You’re a tramp! A slut! I heard you flirting with that guy Tim Hearse. Okay, I know he’s rich, I know he fancies you! But how could you treat me like that? I should never have had anything to do with you.’
The sweet, romantic music echoed in my ears and increased my pain as I dropped my hands from his and ran. Ran out of the ballroom, ran into the woods, where the last few leaves of autumn drifted slowly from the trees, falling around me, lit up in shades of crimson by the lights flooding from indoors.
Tears fell streaming from my eyes, and I felt my heart crack devastatingly. What could I do? I hadn’t meant to hurt him. It had just been nice, flattering, to hear Tim saying amazing things to me, calling me the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. No one – not even Gerard – had ever said that to me before. I shouldn’t have responded, I knew that now. But at the time it had been such a gift, such an encouragement. For most of my teenage years no one had called me beautiful. Now someone was doing that. I was excited, touched, moved. I laughed and showed him I was pleased. He took my hand and led me into a small side room off the main dance floor. I knew he was going to kiss me, and that I shouldn’t let him. We stood, only a few inches apart, and he looked at me with an expression I found it hard to resist. Then Gerard came in.
He said very little. ‘Our dance, isn’t it?’ He took my hand and led me out into the ballroom. We danced for a few minutes in silence. Then he started. I’ve never heard such words, such anger. And I couldn’t bear it, even though I knew I deserved it. I ran.
The air outside was cold. The heat generated in my body partly by the crowded ballroom and partly by Tim’s words, disappeared. I felt the cold strike through me. The wind blew from the east, into my face. I felt my dress billowing out round me, blowing back and away. The falling leaves caressed my arms as I raised them into the chill air.  My breasts felt the chill, my whole body leaned into the wind and was one with it. I had no wrap. It was in the cloakroom inside. Should I go back for it? No, I knew I couldn’t risk the possibility of meeting either Tim or Gerard again. I no longer cared about either of them. I was one with the wind which penetrated every part of me and filled my body with a cold joy. I stood, my mouth drinking it in, my arms reaching out to the heavens, my body stretching forward, yet blown backwards. I felt the utter pleasure of surrendering myself to this strong force of nature. I knew suddenly what I would do.
I reached up still further, and as the leaves fluttered round me, I knew that I would fly.

#2 … Theorising with Evidence

Go over the evidence, again, Detective. Show me how you came to this conclusion."
"Very well, Ma'am. The tracks in the grass at this clearing show signs of a struggle between two people. These heavier tracks are obviously male and the smaller tracks with the distinctive grooves of stiletto type heels are female. The male seems to be forcing the female backwards using his superior strength and her unstable footwear against her. We see that, at this point they separate and the male goes down on all fours, possibly to fasten some bonds on his victim. These scuff marks on the bark of this nearby tree show where the male appears to have climbed up and out onto that branch above. The female tracks simply turn on a spot here, I'm presuming she is desperately trying to free herself but she could be tied up; maybe even has a noose around her neck. I am making the reasonable assumption that the assailant was intent on hanging the victim and leaving this distinctive signature of blood red petals at the scene of the murder. We also found some black sequins consistent with a vintage ballgown. I'd say he's a real sicko; possibly a lonely transvestite."
"Detective, have you ever heard of romance?"
"They waltzed. He proposed. She said 'yes'. He climbed up on the branch to shower rose petals in her hair as she spun about in delight below him. The ring is a solitaire and it costs approximately £5,000....and we're very happy together. Now I'm going back to bed."

#3 Black as the Raven

Black as the raven
Still as the night
Shrouded in plumage
Hidden from sight

There is a time between night and morn when otherworldly creatures prowl the earth and those that fear them seek the security of their homes. A time when enchanted mist envelops the giant oak and slender ash, and the hush of anticipation and dread can be felt as it brushes past. A time when only those with irrational purpose and uncommon need step from safety into the macabre theatre of the dark wood.
That time is now.
I am she. The one they shun. The one they fear. My purpose is resolute and my need is great.
All around, the ancient wood rouses from slumber and observes my progress with interest and amusement. Gnarled branches reach out and tease my hair. Roots ripple beneath the moss and fallen leaves, and I step with care to avoid them. I have been here many times. I understand the tricks they play.
Far above, amidst the skeletal canopy, the guardians gather close. Black wings flap soundlessly against a milky sky. One by one, they swoop silently in, from a place far beyond this realm, to line the upper branches, heads tipped in unison.

Vicious claws
Cruel beaks
Beady eyes

Soft cawing builds to a mocking cackle as I approach.
I quicken my pace as night chases and dawn beckons. He will not wait, cannot wait. I know this to my cost. I have one last chance and I fear that once again the sun will beat me to the prize.
Fear snaps at my heels, but I banish it with an anxious smile. The creaking limbs of the great oak and the cawing of the hooded mob cannot distract me. I won’t allow it. He is near. I feel his presence. Awareness prickles my skin and my heart beats a staccato rhythm to accompany my expectation. As my pulse quickens, I take a breath. The vapour envelops me and I inhale it greedily. Just a few more steps, just a few more seconds, I am almost there. I pray silently and I am rewarded.
The transformation has begun.
My dress, black as night, softens as I draw near. Feathers emerge where taffeta once hugged my frame and I smooth them gently. I raise my eyes and bask in the final caress of moonlight as the eastern sky hurries to break the spell with the shimmer of morning.
And now his tears fall, soft red petals of longing, and I reach out to catch them. Not a single tear must reach the forest floor or he will be lost, I will be lost, and the macabre voyeurs above will beat their wings and crow their derision. I gather each fragile essence with care, hands gently cupped, but desperation threatens to disarm me as the precious cargo seeks to trickle free between my fingers.
He must appear soon.
I count the seconds silently. The last petal flutters to meet me and I watch its progress with open mouth and held breath. Please I whisper silently, though in my head the plea is a desperate roar.
The baying mob above my head is suddenly silenced, and the giant sentinel oaks still their mischief, as the final petal dissolves in the pool of tears. I raise cupped hands to my lips and drink.
As the last drop of nectar passes my tongue, one raven among the many, spreads his great black wings and takes to the air. The others watch as he circles the canopy before silently spiralling down to land before me.
I smile. Relief floods my soul.
He is tall. His dark eyes mirror my pain. He has been long gone and long awaited.
“You have returned,” I sigh, as silken feathers transform and he stands once more a man.

Black hair
Black eyes
Black cloak

“Finally, my love,” he whispers hoarsely. It has been an age since he has spoken anything other than the language of the raven.
Reaching out he takes my hand, our fingers threading together seamlessly. My heart rejoices as my brain delivers the warning I choose to ignore.
All around, the colossal trees move closer, shouldering their peers aside as the macabre spectacle begins. Above, the mob resumes its fiendish cackle as they jostle for position in the canopy. The morning light is held at bay as the mist thickens around us. 

I know what is to come. I have always known it. To save my love, I must forfeit myself. My skin prickles with emerging feathers. My heart is filled with fear, regret and the unfairness of our bewitchment. Soon, I shall be the cursed one forced to join the flapping, cackling, crowd. Soon, I will lose him forever.  I lean into him. His freedom is worth far more to me than the horror and eternal torture that is my future.
He smiles, his breath warm against my ear. “Fear not, my love. We are not yet lost.”
My eyes fill with tears, as my feathered fingers grip him tightly, and he dips his head and presses his lips gently against my damp cheek.
I hear the collective gasp of our audience, as the sun breaks through and chases through the clearing. I count the seconds in my head. Once touched by sunlight the deed cannot be undone our fate is set and we are destined once again to spend our days in despair, our nights in misery, and that brief time between, in endless searching.
I cling to him. The sun spears the ground at our feet. His leather boots stand firm. My bare feet dance to avoid it, but miraculously as the sun advances, the tiny feathers begin their retreat, until my skin is pure once again, and my dress returned to taffeta.
“Believe,” he whispers. My tears glisten joyously on his lips. He smiles once more, and the sun anoints us both - in human form.

 #4 … A Rain Of Rose Petals

I'm free... Or at least I want to be. No... I'm free. I've come to terms with it and made up my mind about it. I'm turning away and I'll never look back at you. I know you only too well and this black dress of my mourning proves it to all who dare to look at me, who dare to see my brightness underneath this black. My aura is whiter than white. This forest in all its bleakness is the most beautiful forest in the world. There has never been and never will be such beauty to behold ever again!

Thank you for the lessons. I could have done without the bruises. Luckily, they all fade... Just like my love did for you. The heavens are favouring me, smiling down upon me and I'll dance in this rain of rose petals to prove it. Thank you for the sunlight and the cold. I'll disinfect myself and the world along with me.

#5 … Freedom.

The young woman woke in small jagged increments as if she was barely coming to life for the first time. Her palms had formed hollows in the mud and her fingers were curved into the dark earth as if they were rooted into it for security. She lay, stomach down against the ground, at one with the land. Slowly awakening, her consciousness began coming back to her, at first in tiny ripples and later, in vast waves.

At first she thought she was still imprisoned in the dank stone crypt where she was unjustly locked away in isolation for months, but yesterday, she finally managed to escape. After running away as far as her emaciated legs would take her, she collapsed in the vineyard nearing her home.  She sensed fresh air, the twitter of birds, the sweet earth, and life. Her mind flickered.  Could this be freedom?

She rose from her resting place in the cool damp earth amidst tangles of grapevines and stretched toward the sun as if her very soul was pulling her body upward toward the heavens, longing to fly with the angels in that ethereal realm, longing to escape the memories of isolation that pulled her like quicksand and swallowed her whole. She struggled to breathe with her chin tilted high and lips parted to receive the breath of life from above. She was too weak to stand on her own so she dangled there by the grace of God, gathering strength and purpose as her mind comprehended the new circumstances. No walls, no iron bars, no darkness, no putrid stench of rotting flesh, excrement and mold. Just sunlight and blue sky before her like a vast warm sea and the grapes were growing in lush canopies of green leaves all around her as far as she could see. She began to quake as relief grew within her and felt as if she was ripping wide open. In that instant, her shoulders relaxed and she began to cry to the heavens with tears burning trails down her face. She shrieked and wailed in protest to the injustice she had endured then looked at the heavens to implore.  How could you let that happen to me? Why, Why? Her clenched fists trembled with rage as she shook them at the vacuous sky. Her knees wobbled as she looked at the soil beneath her bare feet and then down the distant path between rows of grape vines leading toward her home. With one uneasy step, she began her journey back to where she had loved and been loved. But what would she find there now?  Her family was gone. The grandparents who cared for her lay dead in a tomb, in the same dank prison she had just escaped.

She paused, afraid of death and wished her mother were at her right, holding her hand, and her father were at her left, supporting her arm, but she stood in the pathway alone. She had spent half of her sixteen years without her parents. Only a vague image of them remained with her now even though the pain of loss still surfaced without warning like a frigid wind on a balmy day. At the time, her grandmother explained to the little girl, “It is as if they just disappeared into the forest.” She nodded at the young girl with a peculiar little smile across her face.  She sensed the old woman twisted the truth, perhaps to spare her young feelings; however, she also sensed something sinister in her grandmother’s explanation. But as a child, she had no right to speak her mind and she was greatly dependent upon her grandmother once her own mother was gone.

Now, even grandmother was gone. The last image of Grand’s face hung in front of her as she walked. It was a hideous sight with her mouth wide open as if screaming and her eyes bulging in horror while the strip of cloth around her frail neck became as tight as her sixteen-year-old granddaughter could twist it. That’s how Gran looked back at her from death and now that’s the only thing she could remember as she dragged through the endless vines.

She walked with her eyes cast down to the ground, deep in thought. After all, she couldn’t see beyond the endless rows of grapevines. Fatigue enveloped her as if a hand wrapped its loose fingers around her entire being and squeezed. She wanted to reach home before she stopped to rest, but in the sea of greenery, she was unaware of the distance. She paused, and stretched her neck to look for the familiar stone walls and there they were in front of her, just up the hill. She drew a quick breath and hurried on, hobbling without noticing. She gathered up her long skirts to take extended strides without tripping on them.

The ascent, though tenuous, seemed easier as she neared the entry. The courtyard was completely empty as if there was no life within the walls anymore. No sound emitted, no voices echoed, no cart wheels squeaked. Momentarily, she froze in place, sensing the hush and looking around for signs of life, but there were none. Confusion drifted over her and her sanity faltered. I left a tomb - or did I? Perhaps this is a dream and I never escaped. I feel stone underfoot as I did in the tomb and silence is dead here, just as it was there. So where am I? She spun in a circle, searching as she twirled, searching for signs of life and lost sanity, searching for comfort and normalcy. Her arms stretched out from her sides as she continued her rotation and after finding nothing of comfort, her gaze rose again to the sky until the tornadic swirl inhaled her consciousness and left her flailing. Her knees bent without resistance as she collapsed onto the stone pavement, a fallen angel.


1 comment:

  1. Good to see this back again Soooz. An excellent selection. Have voted. Wish you well


Please leave a comment/review on any of the stories/poems contributed.