#writephoto

Beyond #writephoto

Everything alive here, now and before, is the favour of the sun; its light and warmth. In the cold of late winter, before the spring, before the earth has warmed and, in its turn, warmed the air which remains chill to our senses, our sun can give its warmth directly: the wonderful experience of feeling its heat on your body as you walk outdoors, or through a sunlit window as you sit.

To think of all the sentient creatures of the world which have sensed this too. From the time of insects energising their gossamer wings for flight, and upon the scales of giant lizards, the dinosaurs, and the feathers and down of early birds, then the mammals and us.

It is believed, with the irreversible stresses we have placed on the Earth, that the next life forms will not be organic but cybernetic, in order to survive the heat and extremes of the environment. What will a cognitive machine make of the sun’s radiant energy, if it analyses it through an electronic sensor chip, with artificial intelligence; or even senses it at all? What meaning will such an experience have for the soulless beyond?


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto challenge – “Beyond”.

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The Sign Writer’s Decision | #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

The carpenter had done his job: a sturdy monument to his trade; the fencer had brought it directly to the site and sunk it firmly in the ground; the surveyor, having previously measured out the respective distances, had paid the sign writer a florin to finish the work. And so the painter walked the mile up from the village of Long Standing and stood before the unfinished post with the coin jangling in his pocket, a brush behind one ear and, amongst the few possessions in his knapsack, a can of fresh white paint.

The surveyor had instructed him thus: the post being a mile from the village, two miles to “Great Risingham”, and two and one half to “Little Risingham”. He would be along shortly to oversee the work.

The painter, satisfied to be at the right place, sat resting his back against the post and waited on the surveyor. Over time, not being of those parts, he wondered idly which way the two villages of Great and Little might be set. As he saw things, either way could boast the same. He plucked a stem of tall grass from the side and sucked on its sweet fractured end for inspiration, though nothing came.

Not even any sign of the Surveyor by the time the sun was at its zenith. An hour later, he took a quarter of game pie, an apple and a water bottle from his sack and began his lunch. When he had gnawed the fruit to its core, the Surveyor still hadn’t shown. He threw the core into the hedgerow and sighed. His paint was thickening in the heat; his patience was running thin. He stood to look at the post and, thrusting his hands into his pockets, felt the hardness of the coin within. Taking it out, he played with it in his agile fingers and, wanting to go home, an idea came to him. Little and Great Risinghams? He would toss the coin.

And this he did and just before dusk he had completed the work, packed his sack and was on his way, back towards Long Standing. He would, of course, give half the fee back to the Surveyor, if he met him; it was only right and fair. And any traveller wanting to know the way, and coming upon the sign, would have to do what he had done: toss a coin, or simply choose, being forewarned, for the painter’s coin had chosen “Little Risington”, and this is what he had placed upon both markers, his contract fulfilled for precisely half the bargain.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Decisions”

Threshold #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

“It’s a bit big.”

“What is, woman?”, said Mr. Neanderthal regarding Mrs. Neanderthal with despair.

“The door”, she replied. Mr. Neanderthal turned to take in the enormity of the threshold to the world outside as if for the first time. It was a bit big, he thought.

“Give over, missus!”, he said at length, “This is what you’ve said you’ve always wanted.”

He turned imploringly towards the woman, gesturing with his arms outstretched.

“Look at all this space; you wanted new open plan living, a nice sea view, cold running water, five minutes walk to the gathering bushes… and now you’ve got it. So stop your whining.”

“Neighbourhood’s not all that though, is it?”

The wife’s mother had an annoying habit of saying the wrong thing at the worst times. She sat in a dark corner of the cave, sucking on a tusk. He felt the blood rise to his cheeks at the same time his heart seemed to fall into his aurochs-skin boots. It was something he might have considered ironic had he any notion of human physiology, but he hadn’t. He had only raw gut instinct and a few things his father taught him about flints and never to approach any wild animal downwind.

“What are you saying, mother?”, he said after a lengthy sigh.

She took the tusk from her mouth and spat something onto the floor before jabbing the tusk’s sharp end vaguely towards the scene outside.

“Place is full of them bloody Homo Sapiens, isn’t it? Coming over here, diluting the gene pool…”, she began. He’d heard it all before and he wasn’t having any more.

“Look, mum, there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re good people. I’ve hunted with them and they’re okay, very cooperative, very generous too, with their skills, give you their last…”

“Bah!”, the woman interrupted, “Well, the Great Elder has called us to have a vote and we say an end to it. We want tighter control on who comes in, and we don’t want them telling us what to do: the size and shape of the berries we should be picking and how many fish…”

“Don’t talk daft, woman!” Mr. Neanderthal’s dander was up. “You’ve been reading the wrong cave paintings again. You don’t want to believe what Boris drew on the side of the cliff – Many More Mammoths = Neanderthal Health Service. What is a Neanderthal Health Service anyway? Look, it’s our kids future; you’ll be dead soon, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Charming, I’m sure”, the old woman said quietly. He regretted mentioning the D word to her now. After a while, she spoke more,

“So you reckon our kids will have a future then?”, she said.

If he was honest, he’d say he wasn’t sure. The world seemed to be forever shrinking and the last ice age seemed generations ago. He’d like to trust there’d be Neanderthals while there were still flints to knap and elephants roaming the south downs, but who knows really?

“How about I fetch some skins and you and mum can make some curtains?”, he said, “Might give us a little privacy, at night, when we light a fire.”

He got no answer. The older woman was breaking the tusk open with a lump of granite while Mrs. Neanderthal busied herself with some ironing. He shrugged his shoulders and turning to the mouth of the cave, walked out into the evening light.

(567 words)


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Threshold”.

apologies to one of my favourite authors, William Golding, who wrote “The Inheritors”. This is more a reflection on Brexit, its probable causes and the aftermath, the sorriest mess I hope ever to see in this country of mine.

Rift #writephoto

a flash-fiction story.

There were once rivers of rock, oozing, bubbling, living, white hot streams, rumbling rivulets flowing under dense, murderous skies. Then, during the cooling, they’d set, contract and fracture. The fractures would often tear along the site of an anomaly, something in the mixture of stone which ought not to be there, a weakness.

In this rent, the anomaly was an empty scotch bottle, a large, plaid neckerchief, and a child’s shoe: size 3, blue leather, with a buckle strap. This anomaly, it goes without saying, is not the cause of the geological fracture but it might be the reason for its presence. For what use is a thing without a purpose? The bottle held the liquor, the neckerchief held something we have yet to determine, and the shoe held the left foot of a boy, identity unknown.

He placed the items in a row along the rent’s edge. Then he opened a tape measure to about thirty centimetres, locked it and placed it in front of the row before sitting down on the opposite side. He took photos with his mobile phone but, to be safe, he opened his notebook and with a pencil began sketching the items in turn, along with some dimensions and relevant notes. He spent a little more time on the shoe, not because it was difficult but he felt somehow it was the most important. He wondered what had happened to its other; he hoped there was a good explanation; he didn’t want to imagine anything sinister.

Just then, he heard his name called. He was some way off from the rest and Miss James was crouching low and doing something with Tim’s leg. Tim was crying. Tim always found something to wail about on school field trips. Miss James called his name again. Don’t wander too far, or something like that, caught on the wind. He’d just about done anyway. Picking himself up, he closed the book, put the tape in his pocket and then he nudged the objects back into the cleft. He wondered again about the shoe, whether it belonged to Tim, and whether it was why he was crying.

He looked across at the class and saw they were heading back to the bus. Only Miss James stood still, waiting, and looking very stern. Next year, he would drop geography and concentrate on art.

(393 words)


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Rift”

The Standing Stone #writephoto

a flash fiction

For a billion revolutions since its birth, itself not a fleeting moment, the rock communed deep within the soul of the Earth, amongst kith and kin. Suddenly, there came the violent, shifting erosion of glaciers, three, or possibly four, moments in succession. What had been concealed was revealed thereafter; a bleaker experience, the dual wearing punishments of air and water in motion. Still throughout, it reposed in quiet submissiveness beside the mountain’s feet.

When the animated ones first arrived, they showed little interest. The stones watched them skitter and slide, grow and alter: larger, quicker, smaller, taller, slower, and all multiplying until the stones began to discern subtle differences between them; in particular the thin upright ones which took an interest in them as not before.

No sooner had the stones noticed them when a number came with woods and vines, and attacked the ground upon which the greater stones rested. Brutally, they felt themselves being hacked away from their brethren and dragged indignantly to a foreign place. There, these thin creatures hoisted each stone arbitrarily, and without regard to the stone’s sensibility, onto one end and shoved it down into a hole.

No great time has passed yet for a great stone to quell its anger; it burns hot and the energy is immense; it calls out yet the creatures who did this thing appear, in the main, oblivious to its cry. The stone, against hopelessness, must learn patience. As quickly as they came, the thin ones will be gone and the ground will continue to shift and break, and be unable to restrain the great stones. They will find rest again and their dignity will be restored.

In time.

(279 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Timeless”.

Honour #writephoto

A rose plucked and laid
red across a pallid stone
for love enduring,
memories of adonis’ wounds
mingled with a turmoiled earth
which, amongst the remains,
bore blossoms of a different kind
though red, not of a rose,
though dead, not for love
but honour.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Honour”

Up against Quintus Horatius Flaccus and Wilfred Owen, I ought not to try for a poem this time but I simply didn’t have a story.

I then wondered, in my ignorance, whether poetry was a higher form of literature and should therefore be truthful. From the heart, so to speak. I don’t think I believe in the sentiment of “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Amour sans frontières.

#writephoto: Before The Flood

Removing themselves from the tent, the three of them sat cross-legged on the sheet of tarpaulin, and looked skywards.

“Red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning”, said Japheth.

“Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight”, added Shem.

“Baked potatoes on lamb, shepherds’ pie!”, said Ham.

Shem plucked a sod of grass and threw it at Ham. It struck the top of his head and bounced away; they all laughed at that.

Outside of the city, the sky appeared vast and overwhelming, its shocking redness increasing its imposingness; the broken plane of cloud resembled a sheet of bloody tripe.

“I imagine it’s like being inside the belly of a dragon”, said Japheth.

“Like a belly of fire?”, asked Shem.

“Do you think the dragon’s fire starts in its belly?”, said Ham, “wouldn’t it more likely start from its lungs?”

“Don’t be daft. If we were inside its lungs, it’d have a coughing fit. It’d cough us to the other side of this field!”, cried Shem.

“It’s commonly held that the dragon makes fire from its pyrotid glands, situated at the back of its throat”, said Japheth.

“Are they very big, these pyro whatsit glands?”, asked Ham.

Japheth shrugged in ignorance and said, “Dunno. Why?”

“Well, they’d have to be to get us, this tarp’, the tent, the field and all these trees inside…”

Shem plucked up another sod to throw at Ham and caught him squarely on the side of his face. Pieces of grit flew into his ear. Just then, the dragon coughed and expelled all three across the field and over the trees in a plume of flame. They screamed but Ham screamed the loudest.

He woke in the dim half-light of new day with Shem barking hotly into his left ear. A rasping, congested voice, something about his turn to light the fire, put the water on, and make breakfast. He’d been dreaming again. Outside it was raining; he could hear it softly pattering on the canvas overhead. It looked like another wet day ahead, like the six before; and how many more?

Removing himself from the tent, he crouched down and lifted a corner of the tarpaulin which covered the fire pit and the wood. The wood seemed dry but the pit was waterlogged. He looked skywards and cursed until the rain burned his eyes and he had to turn again to the ground. It was a good job they weren’t shepherds, he thought, because they sure hadn’t heeded the warning.

(415 words)


Inspired by and written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Renewal”.

image by Sue Vincent.

The Name Of The Cloud That Ate The Sun

In the ages of yore, a sky ogre, becoming jealous of the day, transformed himself into a great cloud and, gliding stealthily through the high air, swallowed the sun whole. As he slowly digested the heavenly orb, the Earth below became dark and dismal until nighttime seemed to reign the hours in perpetuity.

The men of Earth, fearing for their futures, sent an emissary to appease the cloud and plead that he might release the sun, if only for part of the time.

“And what shall I receive in return?”, demanded the cloud.

The emissary thought hard for a while until a notion occurred to him and he said,

“If you allow the sun’s release for part of the day, we will honour your name in a great book made exclusively for this purpose.”

The cloud considered the offer for a moment and then asked, curiously, “What name?”

The question shocked the emissary as he hadn’t an answer to hand, but he wasn’t anything if not quick of mind, and so he explained,

“Is any name enough for one as eminent as yourself, sir? Surely, we would honour you with many names, each befitting your many natures: there shall be high Cirrus, and broad Altostratus, and elegant Cumulus, and bold Cumulonimbus, and…”

“Wait!”, screamed the cloud, “What are you suggesting? Those…names!”

“Do they not please, sir?”, asked the emissary growing nervous. “Are they not honourable enough”

The cloud curled itself around, self-consciously, and grew slightly redder.

“Well,”, it said, “I was thinking…. of some names…. a bit like Sith, or Neff, or Porr. Something like those. Memorable names; simple ones as the sun, the sky, and the moon have!”

The emissary thought hard and fast.

“But, your honour, are you not greater than the sun you’ve consumed? And as for the moon, well… An eminence as yourself, my lord, deserves the greatest of names, the longest of names, and, clearly, the most obtuse of names, to be both scholarly and divine.”

The cloud considered this and, growing increasingly flattered, finally agreed and spat out the sun into a clear portion of blue sky. It then regarded the emissary below,

“Go on then, man, go and write the book!,” he insisted.

And so the great book was bound and the many names inscribed therein and that is why few men remember, or even know, the names of clouds now, whereas even a child knows the sun, the sky and the moon. Yet a deal has been made and is appropriately honoured, and the sun is set free for some of the day, or until the cloud deems it is time enough and devours it some more.

(448 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

photo provided by Sue Vincent.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;” said Shakespeare through Juliette.

I am, it seems, still stuck on the issue of the naming of things. If, I wonder, a rose was called a pig, would it smell as sweet? The subjectiveness of taste, the prejudice of association, the scepticism in the face of a simple truth – who knows? Maybe the pig would become the ideal house pet.

The Naming of Things

Imagine the sun rising, an bright, early dawn, in the garden at Eden. Adam rolling to his right side to lean on one elbow, the back of the hand on his other arm coming up to rub the sleepy dust from his eyes, blinking towards the divine yellow light. In a moment, he jumps up.

“Eve, where are my clean fig leaves?”

Eve, already in the midst of making the first brew, calls back,

“In the airing cupboard, dear!”

It’s another big day ahead, another commission of naming things. It’s hopelessly random; up until yesterday, Adam had to confront Eve with a mime for fig leaf. Leaf turned out to be a cinch but fig, for some reason, caused much hilarity which reduced Eve to tears, entirely down to the fruit’s similarity to the parts of Adam which differentiated him from her. And so fig and leaf had to be summarily named.

Today, for a change, he would name some of the things which stayed put: immobile, stationary, inanimate, and inert. Of course, such words as those would be as alien to him as discombobulation would be to a child, but the sense of it is understood. Intellect precedes language. In fact, were it not for Eve, he needn’t bother with the task of naming stuff at all; he knew what he meant without words, and a leaf is a leaf is a leaf.

(234 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

I was also inspired by the following quote,

“Finding the words is another step in learning to see”

This is from an article in Brain Pickings on the book, Gathering Moss, by bryologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer and on how she believes naming confers dignity upon life.

“Bryologist” was a word unknown to me and the significance for me is that as a young child, mosses fascinated me. I used to collect them and study their forms under a small optical microscope I had asked Father Christmas for. All that time and I hadn’t known there was a name for what I could have become had it not been for the distractions of teen culture and girls.

The resemblance of the fruit of the fig to both man and woman body parts is a well established one, I believe.

Alice At The Lake

Alice looked up after a sup from her daisy cup and said, with a frown, “Everything in there looks upside down”.

At this the toad remarked, “Whatever’s good for you, for us it’s the other way around”, and with a hop and a plop he disappeared below.

“Strange fellow”, thought Alice, and the voice in her head agreed, “Strange fellow indeed. Though wouldn’t you like to follow, just to see, the world not as it is but how it could be?”

Alice didn’t like the voice in her head; it was always too clever by half, often just contradictory for the sake of it and, on occasion, not beyond a little sarcasm. She sensed the start of a battle of wills.

“Follow him, in this dress?!”, she cried. And the voice in her head, caught off guards, replied, “Oh well, dear, you know best”.

But then it continued, “Oh! I can’t stay here all day gossiping, I’ve got better things to do”, and was off. Alice knew not where the voice went when it was sulking; suddenly she felt alone and melancholic.

“One needs to break the tension.”

Alice looked around but saw no one. “Pardon?”, she said.

“The tension, one needs to break it.”

“Who are you?”, asked Alice, “and where are you?”

“I am the lake”, it said. “look, down here.” It went on,

“For pity sake, I see your confusion but what you see is just an illusion; it’s as I did mention, all down to the tension, which one may break by casting a stone, then one will see, what lies beneath will be gone.”

“Oh”, thought Alice and picked out a nice stone by the bank but hesitated. Ought she to cast it? The lake noticing her dilemma, said,

“One ought to do as one’s heart wishes. But, please, if one does it, do mind the fishes.”

Alice considered the fishes, and the kind toad, in their upside down world and dropped the stone where she stood. She wiped her hands down her dress, because, in the great scheme of things, wearing a clean dress didn’t really matter. Then, taking one long last look at the lake, she went off to find where the voice in her head was hiding.

(373 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto Prompt – “Beneath”

Yes, it Lewis Carroll’s Alice. I was thinking of calling her something else but a) it was a problem coming up with a name, and b) it would be too obvious who it was really.

I think it became, unconsciously, a bit of a parable of first world politics. If you can see this, all well and good; and if you can’t, just go ahead and cast a stone, I don’t mind.