The freezing mist settled on the humps and hollows of the land. She’d known cold days here before, but somehow it had seemed bearable, then. This new coldness had a blade in it.
The old house still stood, but another family lived there now. Another mother who’d looked her in the eye with kindness, a father who’d clutched her hand in his.
Her grand-daughter lent an arm as they set foot into the field, and she knew, immediately, what the Bible meant when it said ‘his blood cries to you from the soil.’ She fought the urge to sink to her knees and lose herself in the rich black loam. The cold dark earth.
Her grand-daughter was speaking; praying, probably. She didn’t hear. Her mind was with the memory of her husband, carrying three of his children out here into his own field, burying them with his own hands. He’d filled their graves with his tears.
Lost before they’d lived, the priest said they’d never see Heaven. Unbaptised, unwanted by God, there could be no burial, no Mass, no requiem. No rest, and no eternity.
Their tiny faces lost to her memory, and their bones to the land.
The Long Step
Pablo knew his time had come, at last. In truth it had come years before, but nobody had wanted to take his hand and lead him to the mountain.
Nobody wanted to say goodbye.
But is wife had been gone so long that only the oldest children remembered her. The sickness had eaten her, and she’d chosen to take the Long Step early.
Pablo had no dependents now.
And so, one morning, he took his silent leave. He dressed simply, bringing only his stick. He slowly climbed the mountain road, savouring the air and the sky and the birdsong, the tang of sore muscles, the thump-thumping of his old heart.
Finally, he reached the end. The Long Step beckoned, out into eternity.
One final breath, and then…
Peace enfolded him, like a closing eye.
Surprised, the women at the mountain’s foot ran to catch the floating baby, newly reborn.
‘Who was due to Step today?’ they asked, but nobody knew.
The Great Escape
‘Faster, dammit!’ Her voice was raspy with sand and dry air. ‘I’ll leave you behind, nephew or no nephew!’
Cleve flung himself flat on his horse’s neck, hoping he wasn’t whipping it hard enough to hurt. He opened his dusty eyes and peered back at his aunt, tearing along behind him astride her huge black charger. She looked as raddled and sweaty as he felt. The sandy dunes, peppered with their horses’ hoofprints, soared above them.
‘Aw, c’mon, Elsie!’ he yelled back. ‘Herbert’s going as fast as he can! Plus, we’re carrying the loot, don’t forget!’ His aunt bared her teeth, giving her horse a savage kick. She was almost level with him now.
‘They’re catching up, Cleveland!’ she screamed. ‘And you know what that means!’
‘They’re in a balloon, Elsinore!’ he shouted. ‘How fast can they even go in that thing?’
As if in reply, a searing red light filled their vision. Elsie swore loudly as a huge rock above their heads, heated instantly to explosion point, shattered into shards all around them. The horses screamed, and Cleve watched as the huge silver balloon peeked over the horizon.
Elsie leaned in and smacked him across the head.
‘It’s not the balloon I’m worried about, boy!’ she yelled. ‘Ride!’
These are tales you may have seen before, if you’ve assiduously followed my ‘career’ on Flash! Friday. The first tale, ‘Consecrated Ground’, was my first entry for Flash! Friday, almost two years ago. It was one of the first pieces of flash fiction I ever wrote, back when the genre was brand-new to me; I still think it works, but perhaps that’s just my fond remembrance. ‘The Long Step’ was written at the start of this year, and ‘The Great Escape’ (which probably owes a little to the movie ‘Cowboys and Aliens’) was first posted in April of 2013.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little stroll down Memory Lane, and that these stories might inspire you to seek out your own prompt images, set your own word limits and create some new and fascinating titchy tales – it could be the best thing you’ll ever do for your writing.