Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Paragraphs Of Power Contest ...March. VOTING NOW OPEN.


The image below was the prompt for March. The entries need to reflect in some way the feeling invoked in the author when seeing this image. I am delighted with the standard of these entries...and I don't envy you the reader in voting for your favorite.

Please select from the list to the right.

Good luck to those that entered.

Voting will remain open until March 30th.









Entry #1.That Moment.

There is that moment, there is always that moment when life takes a turn you weren't expecting. A blind turn. A deaf turn. A dumb turn. This time it is with the man I love. “Simyon, what's wrong?”
He inhales, long and deep and he must take all the air from the darkness of the room where we lie in bed and use it for strength. 

I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. I am weak.

“Yes, something is wrong,” he says and I know I've loved him because he hurts people and he knows it and doesn't want to but does it because he has to and then hurts himself in the process. He turns to me in a respectful attempt to meet my eyes in the dark and I imagine he is thinking that some things should be said face to face. 

I see the blue-gray light of the moon shadow his face that I've loved. I hear him swallow and I think as I always do that a person swallows when they want to choke back words they don't want to say. I know what's coming but that doesn't help the death-pain that fills my spirit when his words travel from his mouth across the intimacy of the bed we now share and into my ears: “I don't want to be with you any more.”

There should be relief that it's finally been said. Every cell of my body can at last relax the vigilance and sink into a well-earned slumber. The truth has been uttered. The enemy has arrived and I have been powerless to prevent his arrival. The fight that could have occurred and never did has become obsolete. The conquering has taken place without a struggle.

Our relationship is over.

It never seems to matter that even if you expect the worst thing to happen, nothing can prepare you for it when it finally does. And in the darkness of his loft, our relationship comes to an end. I know there is no point in arguing when you've been deserted. The deserter takes leave of you long before the words make it official.

I ask only why. 

I cannot argue with his factuality: “I want to get married. I want to have more children. I am wasting your time and you are wasting mine.”

Ah, the knife in my belly. It twists. It guts. It empties me of all that I have inside me onto the sheets that I helped pick out and onto the mattress he bought for me two weeks before because he wanted me to have a new bed that was only for us. 

It's not fair! runs through my mind so many times that even Stephen Hawking would have trouble comprehending the number of repetitions.

I had married a man I loved. I married him for life. He gave me four children. He left me and our four children. No man wants me and my wonderful four children. The men want someone else; someone unsullied by grief and loss and divorce and single parenthood. 

In my head I am going away. Simyon is talking but there is something foggy growing around my head that obliterates reality, rendering me incapable of coherent thought. I mutter, “You want more children?  But we have five children between us....”

It is one of those things that had I been thinking properly I would never have said aloud.

He says one of those things that had he been thinking properly he would never have said aloud. “I want more children of my own.”

And then my children and I have been rejected quite soundly and there is another woman in his future, and unborn children and a life they will all live together where they will travel and do all the things we've talked about that we will now never do. He will love her when he didn't love me. He will bite the back of her neck, stroke her cheek, wash her hair in the shower. He will prepare dinner for her and tell her to just 'sit there and look pretty' as he hands her a glass of wine. He will become intimately familiar with her life, her family, her career, her friends and her body.

While she hasn't yet come into his life, she will, and being abandoned for an as-yet undefined variable is worse than being abandoned for a flesh and blood entity. 

I have been abandoned for an unknown.

This is surely the worst thing for which one can be abandoned: the mere thought of something better.

#2… Au Menu Aujourd'hui. 

She fell to her knees, soaked in sweat, sodden hair draped over her eyes like a curtain of rats’ tails, eyes and throat burning from the trichloroethylene fumes still hanging in the air. The stuff stank to high heaven, made her feel woozy, but it was the best in the business for cleaning up blood and waste. Dissolved it right away, leaving nothing behind but squeaky clean, just like the inspectors liked. In a couple of hours with the door and window open the fumes and smell would have dissipated completely, about the same time as it was going to take her to put a not-so-dearly-departed cheating bastard’s bones  and teeth through the tiny abattoir’s crusher, mix them thoroughly with his pulverised innards, and treat the small family farm’s rapidly growing herd of porkers to a delicious nutritious dinner. Twenty four more hours and the ultimate recyclers would give him back to her, one dollop at a time.

She got to her feet, took a couple of deep cleansing breaths and rolled her neck, feeling something pop deep inside. Hungry now, because physical exertion always stimulated her appetite, she picked up a small Tupperware tub and made her way across the yard to the farmhouse. A quick shower and change of clothes first though.

Clean and dressed and smelling of citrus shower gel rather than industrial cleaner and piss, she put on the radio and pulled out a heavy cast iron frying pan, setting it on the stove to heat while she collected what she needed from the larder; butter, an onion, a little salt. The best recipes were always simple.

Bouncing along to a happy tune, she diced the onion and sliced the contents of the Tupperware bowl, before tossing them both into the hot fat. A few minutes later a neat pile of nicely browned meat and soft, translucent onion sat on her plate.

She looked across the table to the empty place where Daniel used to sit and for a moment she thought he might miss him. True, he’d been a liar and a thief and he beat her, but on the days when he wasn’t drunk or stoned he could be a really nice guy; sweet and thoughtful with a heart of gold.

She took a mouthful of the meat and onion mix and chewed, savouring the juices as if they were a fine wine. Yes indeed, Daniel had a good heart, and it was going down a treat.

#3 Sixty Seconds

Mother went crazy the day I was born. Put a gun to her temple and blew out her brains, right there in front of my crib.  Not the best start in life, I‘m sure you’ll agree. That’s what they told me when I was old enough to listen and that’s what they’ve been telling me ever since. Me, I think she was crazy from the get go and I should know. I’m my mother’s daughter after all. But I don’t believe she pulled the trigger. And that’s why I’m here, to find the man who did.

They call it the death house, a place of lost souls and broken dreams. A decrepit mausoleum, that reeks of fear and decay. First a mad house, second a slaughter house. Now a giant empty vessel of mans’ inhumanity, a reminder to the civilised that we’re only ever one step away from chaos. I can still see the hoof marks pounded into the concrete floor. The velvet nosed, sad eyed, beasts are long gone but the memory lives on in the bones of the building. If I close my eyes I can see them, packed together, crazed cattle and crazier people. In my head they all run in together. One seething mass of injustice and right at the front, prodded and poked by faceless, white-coated monsters, is mother, all serene and trusting. A lamb to the slaughter. She was crazy alright. But not half as mad as me.

I’m not here to protest the slaughter of dumb animals, worthy cause or not. I’m here to prevent the slaughter of the one man who knows what really happened and more importantly, why. And he’s here somewhere in the maze of wet concrete and graffiti daubed walls. He’s here to hide the truth he thinks I shouldn’t hear.  I’m here to persuade him otherwise, before we both catch a bullet.

I’ve been running. Not flat out, but in that stealthy, hold your breath and peep round corners kind of way. All the same my heart is pounding and my limbs are trembling, a combination of adrenalin and anticipation. I take a breath. I can hear them up ahead. Or are they behind? The acoustics taunt me. 

Noises ricochet in the concrete shell, swimming pool confusion threatens to overwhelm me. But it isn’t chlorine stinging my nostrils. They call it the death house for a reason. Bile floods my mouth and I swallow it down, and follow the sounds of collusion and deceit.

They gave me a head start, sixty seconds. I’m counting it down in my head. Fifty two, fifty three... 

They could have just killed me there and then. He wanted to, the man in the suit. In fact he wanted to do far more, and would have if it wasn’t for Jack. Bloody Jack! I should be grateful but I’m not. 

Another few minutes and I’d have had that slimy, corrupt, excuse for a cop on the back foot, but Jack had to interfere. Okay, so I was down to my underwear, and tied to a meat hook like the poor sad cows before me, but I had it in I said, I’m crazy but I’m not stupid. Now, instead, it’s a sick  game, hunt the psycho girl,  and they’re one step behind, or one step ahead and I can hear their laughter as they echo the count ...fifty four, fifty five.

Jack whispered “Run,” in my ear when he cut the rope and threw me his shirt. He meant, escape. No chance. They think they’re chasing me –wrong! I’m chasing them, right back to their dirty little lair. Jack thinks he’s protecting me. He’s not. He’s just pushing me nearer to the truth. Someone killed my mother and I’m not leaving until I know why.

When I get to fifty nine, silence hangs ominously in the air. I pause, mid step and strain my ears, desperate for the slightest sound that might indicate their position.

“Sixty. Coming to get you!”

They’re ahead, just around the corner and I’m running, bare feet slapping on cold wet concrete, arms flailing for balance as I skid through a doorway and helter-skelter down a steep flight of stairs. I’m following the sound of their laughter and cat-calls and trying to get my bearings. I’m beneath the slaughter hall, light fractures through grates above my head like faulty fluorescent bulbs, off and on. I blink, gulp a breath of rancid air and push on. I’m not scared, I’m never scared. Fear is for losers.

I round a corner and there they are. McKenzie and Jack and they both have weapons - pointed at me. Shit. Jack shrugs in a, told you so, way, like this is how it was always meant to end. But he’s wrong. It’s not over yet. I’m not my mother.

“I warned you,” he says, in a soft voice that masks the threat beneath. I cock my head and clench my fists. I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I am. I thought he was on my side.

McKenzie scowls, his eyes flicking back and forth between Jack and me. He’s wondering about us, and all the things that don’t add up. That’s not good.

“On your knees!” he yells, closing the gap with a shambling gait as if the chase has taken its toll. He aborts my response with a gun at my temple and leans in with a sneer. “Like mother, like daughter.”
I drop to my knees as the gun explodes. But it’s not my brains all over the ground.

“You want the truth?” Jack hisses as he lowers his revolver. “You really want the truth?”
In saving my life he’s ruined his own and he knows it. I lower my eyes, I can’t look at him. Of course 
I want the truth. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

He crouches close, reaches out, and sighs when I flinch away.

“Crazy girl,” he whispers. “No one killed your mother. Your mother... isn’t dead...yet.”

#4 The Black Forest

Blood dribbled down the glass, pooling as it hit the window sill. Eventually the puddle flowed over the edge of the white painted surface and flooded down the mould stained wall to soak into the dark rug spread across the slate floor below.
Slumped in the centre of the room, the remains of a woman knelt. Her hair draped curtain-like over the ruin of her body, a neat hole in her chest where her heart would have been. The heat of the fire in the hearth dried the blood that covered her, steam rising from her saturated clothes and hair.
Lumps of flesh scattered across the rest of the room, quivering in time to the thumps on the door to the tiny cottage which in turn punctuated the hoarse, gasping cry of the tiny baby lying in the cot in the corner of the room.

Finally the door burst inward, making the baby startle and scream anew, as a knight bearing the golden phoenix of Valdez on his dark blue tabard fell into the room. Behind him, a white robed Cleric of Espilieth struggled for breath as she surveyed the full extent of the horror in front of them.
“The farmer who reported this said that the baby was crying when he left for the fields this morning, m’lady.” The warrior straightened up. “Whoever did this was in and out rapidly; no one else in the area heard or saw anything.”
“Why leave the baby though?” the cleric swallowed convulsively as she picked her way across the room, looking away from the hearth where shreds of skin were draped carefully over the back of the settle.
“Too young to identify the assailants, I should imagine.” The warrior swung round, his lips moving silently as he counted limbs. “Apart from the woman there were another two adults and three children here. They all died in this attack by the number of limbs in here.”
With a quick, skipping step, the cleric made her way across to the cot and after a quick survey of the child’s surroundings, she scooped the little one up into her arms blanket and all, shielding the little girl’s eyes from seeing anything as she left the cottage.
“What do you want me to do in here, m’lady?” the warrior called after her.
The cleric glanced back at him. “Burn it to the ground.”

* * *

"Loriel!" A man's voice echoed through the trees.
She ignored the implied entreaty and carried on walking.
"I know it's you. The cloak doesn't fool me."
“Get rid of him, Lady Lych.” the second voice whispered from the large cloth wrapped bundle on her back.
Sighing, she turned and waited. "What is it now?”
“When can I see you again?” the man caught up with her, his handsome face beaded with moisture and his clothes clinging to his taut musculature. “I have to see you again.”
“That’s very sweet Kal, but you’ll never see me again.” She shrugged. “I don’t dally with mortals more than once and I certainly never settle down.”
“I didn’t say any thing about settling down.” Kal bit his lower lip.
Loriel choked back a giggle at the disappointed puppy dog look on his face. “That’s what you were thinking.”
“Enough flirting. Get us out of here quickly. I can feel trouble approaching.”
Kal took her into his arms. “Well, I might have been.” He kissed her softly.
For a moment, Loriel allowed him the impertinence. This feels too good. She thought as his hands slid under the thick black fur cloak and caressed her body. I have a mission that is far more important than mere physical contact.
She tried to pull away from him.

“You are not getting away from me a second time.” Kal tightened his hold on her and a rough edge entered his voice, a tone that was very familiar to Loriel.
Ah, now this is something I can deal with. She closed her eyes and relaxed.
“Good girl.” Kal kissed her again, harder and more urgently, pushing his body against hers.
As his hands wandered, Loriel felt a familiar heat stealing over her, clouding her vision. She kissed him back and he gasped as her growing fangs raked his lower lip. The blood pouring into her mouth strengthened her.
“What in Hel’s name?” he stumbled back, blood trickle from his mouth, running over his hands as he tried to stanch the flow.
Loriel removed the bundle from her back.
“We don’t have time for this!” this time the voice from the bundle was loud enough for Kal to hear.
He frowned. “What’s going on?”
Loriel stepped back towards him and dropped her cloak. “Lady Hel will have nothing to do with me, Kal, dahling.” She licked a dribble of blood from her lower lip.
He stared at her. “Who are you?” His body reacted predictably to the skimpy, leather battle harness and mythril scale tunic that strained over her buxom figure to end above thigh high heeled boots.
“Tut, tut. So many questions.” Loriel looked at him and crooked a finger. “Come here, Kal.”

He struggled against the spell she wove, the blood magic reaching out to surround him in impenetrable force.
“You want to know who I am?” Loriel smiled, her fangs white against the vivid red of her tongue. “I am the Lych Mistress, Ruler of The Black Forest.” She wound in her spell, pulling the suddenly unwilling man toward her, his feet leaving furrows in the leaf mould.
“What are you going to do?” Kal’s voice rose into a terrified squeal.
“You started this with a kiss.” She said, holding him still in front of her. “So allow me to finish it with one.”
The nails on her left hand grew and she slid them up his body, slicing the wool tunic away to reveal a honed body. Her smile broadened and she stepped in, digging her nails into his chest and twisting her hand.
He screamed and she stopped it with a soft kiss. “Not much longer, Dahling Kal. You have something I need.”
She threw the circle of bone and flesh to one side and plunged her hand into the chest cavity. Simultaneously, Loriel kissed him, ripping his heart from the hole and drawing his spirit through her fangs as it rose from him.
Dropping the body to the floor and ending her spell, Loriel consumed the flesh in her hand, reverently. “Thank you, Kal. You have refreshed my mind and my spirit. I know what to do now.” She turned back to where she’d placed her bundle.

It was gone.

#5 The Girl In The Water

He’d not been sure before, none of the signals he’d expected had been made, but this morning she had looked his way as she stuffed her long curls under her swimming cap.

There was no doubt - she looked right at him, seeing him through the gap in the curtains.

She didn’t smile, but he knew why. This relationship was their secret and she didn’t want to share it with anyone else. She had again looked his way as she flung off the towel she had draped around her shoulders, and he noted with satisfaction the little tell- tale gestures she made showing him she knew he was watching.

The warm glow of satisfaction began in the pit of his stomach and began to warm his loins, but his brow puckered as she stood revealed in her tight fitting wet suit. Each morning she displayed every curve of her body to the watching world and he didn’t like it.

When they were together he’d put a stop to it.

He would also put a stop to her swimming. Of course she’d used her daily dip as a ruse to gain his attention, but now that was no longer necessary, she had told him she was his.

Watching he saw her run into the surf and swim out towards the horizon, an horizon that was frequently invisible on this cold coast, where the line between grey sky and grey water was often indistinguishable. All he could see of her now was her white cap as she rose to breast the waves and his erection rose to meet each forward thrust of her arms and legs.

He turned away from the window and his hand strayed to his boxers, this game they played was always excited him, but now it was time to stop playing. She had finally stopped teasing him with pretended indifference and it was time to move on to the next stage.

It was time to put all his plans into motion.

He knew where she worked; he had become a friend of the Sea Life Centre so he could attend the talks she gave. He loved sitting in the darkness as she spoke about sea urchins and anemones and fish. The rest of the audience thought she was speaking to them, but he knew every word was meant for him - it was just another part of the game they had played.

A couple of times he’d approached her after the talks, when they all gathered for coffee and biscuits.

He had stood as close to her as possible, making sure she knew he was there. Once he’d touched her arm, running his finger up from her wrist to her elbow. She had jumped away from him as if she’d had an electric shock and he knew she’d felt the connection. She’d looked at him, her great dark eyes boring into him speaking of passion, passion for him and him alone.

At first he thought he would go to her house and just knock on the door, but he wanted to surprise her and he knew just turning up wouldn’t be enough. He’d checked all her doors and windows, visiting at times when he knew she would be out or sleeping, but he never found any of them unsecured.
For a while he was angry, very angry, she knew she wanted him, but for some reason she was making it hard for him and he didn’t understand why, but then he realised it was all part of the game. One day when she was giving a guided tour of the Aquarium she left her back pack on the desk in the lecture hall and her keys were inside.

He’d had to laugh; she really was such a little tease. It had been the work of moments to slip out of the centre and across the street to the key cutting booth. When he got back she was searching the floor for them and he’d pretended to find them in the waste paper basket.

When he let himself in to her house, he’d lingered in the tiny hallway, running his fingers along every surface. He yearned to find her bedroom and to smell the air where she slept, but he made himself go to the living room, delaying the pleasure.

The room confused and annoyed him. Every wall was covered by banks of aquariums, all bubbling softly as oxygen pumped in and bubbles rose and fell. Green weeds swayed and fish swam back and forth while the blue light sent odd shadows across the ceiling and floor. He didn’t like it and it would all have to go.

He became angry. Why did she need these creatures when she had him? He flung himself into the bedroom to wait for her. This was not the way it was supposed to be.

He was still annoyed when she came home, despite the soothing influence of her underwear draw.

When she walked into the living room he was behind the door waiting.

She was strong, but he was stronger. He clawed at her clothes, confused by her resistance, but suddenly he knew why, it was the fish and the water. He flung her away and began pulling tanks down. They smashed on the floor and sea water flooded over her where she knelt.
He went towards her, but she wild cry stopped him.


The news reports said there had been a small earthquake out in the channel which had caused an unprecedented and localised tsunami. A couple of houses on the front had been destroyed, but only two people were known to be missing. The man’s body was washed up down the coast, but of the young woman, there was no trace.

“Ironic that her name was Thetis,” the coroner remarked to his clerk as he adjourned the inquest.

“Yes, sir,” the clerk agreed, although he missed the irony and had to google the name.


"I'm stuck in the rain, on a road that leads to nowhere", I think to myself. "But I'm free; I am finally free. "Oh this glorious glorious rain. The fresh, sweet scent of it as it lands upon the trees and grass. The feeling of the earth beneath me. Oh how I've missed you. The kiss of the wind on my cheeks and in my hair. I feel so happy I could dance. "

I twirl in ever faster circles in the muddy earth: trees, grass and raindrops spinning past me in a sparkling haze; giddy with delight, until I fall down and almost kiss the ground. My tears of joy and relief mingle with the raindrops.  Looking around, I notice a small drain hole in the middle of the dirt road. And then I remember.....

Lisa, my dear friend Lisa. You were the only one, in those twelve long, long years, who kept me sane in that house of cold, grey stone, that was run by cold, grey, stone faced people.

My wrists and ankles are criss crossed by permanent scars, which were caused by the shackles they made us wear every hour of every day. I don't care anymore. Those scars are my badge of strength. I am a survivor. And though they took Lisa's life; her pure, knowledgeable and calm presence will live in my heart forever. I  hear her soft words of encouragement in my head even now. 

"Think", I tell myself, "Think". Now where did Lisa say the secret hideout was again? Ah yes, there it is. The old oak tree. I walk carefully to a knotty old oak tree. Then I locate a hollow at eye level. I carefully squint through the hollow. I see it. A small, barely perceptable yellow dot on an even more ancient looking oak tree, which stands another three metres away. I fix the location in my mind, and walk towards it; wet grass and leaves plastering my feet.

Finally I'm standing in front of the second oak tree. Hesitatingly, I move my hands over the gnarly trunk, until finally, I hear a soft click. A small door at the base of the trunk swings open. I crawl inside, carefully closing the door behind me. I descend a crudely made wooden ladder.

Once at the bottom, I look around, then gasp with delight. The cosy little room is filled with a quaint looking bed, table and chair, pantry with delicious canned foods, a microwave oven, sink and tap, and a small toilet behind a curtain. But even more amazing, is the computer on the table, which is switched on and open at a page for people who need to contact the police but don't have access to a telephone.

The pale blue light from that computer is my beacon of hope. 

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