Short Stories – some inspired by photographs

  • By Annette Hefford
  • September 23, 2017
  • Comments Off on Short Stories – some inspired by photographs
love of writing

For the love of communication

Many  moons ago, I wrote a few very short (restricted word count) stories for a competition. I would like to share them with you, as they have been sleeping, probably even snoring in an old file. A photograph was given to inspire the writers. As I cannot use the original photographs for copyright reasons, I have used Googles very welcome offering of images – labelled for re-use. I have added and changed a few words now that I can do so with impunity and will continue, whenever I can to edit where necessary … 🙂 (a never ending task).

Writing has been a good excuse for not creating new posts, so the stories are a little compensation. I hope you enjoy as I loved writing them, learning heaps on the way. I still have to learn about “showing” more, rather than “telling”. I might get there one day …  🙂 

~

white world hunting

Hunting for food in a white world

White Worlds  

© 2016 Annette Hefford

The polar bear walks away from the snow covered scrub land into the vastness of his white world. He is alone and hunts for food that is in short supply.

~

The unexpected snow visits at night and drifts across the gardens, and lays a thick white carpet over the roads. A few final snowflakes fall and add to the glistening wonderland that will surprise the children at daybreak.

“Look! Look!” says Rosemarie rubbing her fingers over the frost on the inside of the windowpane. Bare toes on cold lino. Big shivers.

“Wow!” cries Laura as a branch, heavy with snow, cracks at the garden’s end and lands close to the greenhouse. The snow laden roof of the tiny glass structure, holds their interest. “It’s an igloo,” says Laura, looking at the snow piled up the sides. And from green house to Greenland, imagination creates a new white world.

Shovels and brooms would be found in the back shed and the few feet of concrete, from the front door to the road, would be quickly cleared of the drifted snow. The cold is kept at bay temporarily by layers of socks. “Wellington” boots are for the wet, not the cold. When the socks get damp, we traipse inside stomping and kicking the toes of our boots on the step. Just like dad did. Mum put old newspapers down in the hallway and we drip melting snow and leave wet, spreading foot prints as we trudge along, into the tiny room in which we all live. Here we find socks that have already done a stint of snow-play and are dry, waiting for another turn. The fire, guarded well, is stacked with glowing coals, and would scorch bare legs if we dare to stand too close and feet attracted to the flames were soon pulled away. Our mother did not encourage chilblains.

The camber on both sides of the road is steep. A valley for future rains. We make big dams in the gutters, knowing full well, that tomorrow, before the snow sludges its way to oblivion, we will have lakes of water for as long as the dams hold. We shiver and squeal with the fun of it all. If the snow is soft, we quickly make snowballs to catch the passersby unawares. Most laugh but a few, who find the pavement slippery, hold onto the walls of each house as they head for home and their faces are glum.

“Inside kids,” orders mum. Warm drink time. We have Ovaltine waiting for us and mother stands, like a tin soldier, collecting scarves and mittens hastily yanked-off and handed over. The worry of wet things belong to mum. Not that we knew they were a worry. It was just accepted that the next time we wanted to go out to play, dry clothing would be there. Simple motherly magic.

We had shelter and warmth and food. We had laughter and play and in our white world we were not alone.

~

In the weathering is the wisdom 

© 2016 Annette Hefford

Why did I choose to live here? I could have chosen a lower, more sheltered position in which to cling. And cling one must. It hasn’t been easy. I do communicate with those that come to view. My not so luxuriant foliage can still whisper as the breeze catches a few strands here and there. Of course, the sightseers have to get here first. They do not have to cling as I do. I’ve earned my position. I am often considered to be stubborn but I can insist that it’s pure determination.

I know that I am not a constant that I will wear away like the canyon steps, but whilst I can see, I see only the grandeur, the vastness and the wonder of my unique place in life. Have you ever seen such an array of colours. I love the purple. Oh! Colorado.

With some thought you must see our similarities. We both curve and make layers. We can be touched and touch. We both are adjusted and adjust as best we can to the chaos of our personal territory. We are our own worlds within the world. Naturally, I do not move at my roots too much. Some might say that I live a little close to the edge. I sure am closer to the heavens than most.

It might be nice to feel the depth and I know I shall never comprehend its enormity, but I do listen to those who travel, who explore, who meander. And I know how lucky I am.

I am not locked into restricting, crowded walls nor hidden, trembling within the deep shadows. I am on top. And yes, there is a price to pay. It may not always be obvious because the payment is usually made slowly, in instalments. I know! I know that I wonder at times if being on top is worth it. The harshness, the storms, the strong winds and the heat, well, they can be a bit of a worry, but if you bend, you don’t break. I might creak and sigh a bit but don’t we all at our ages.

The children roll pebbles down my spine, like when it rains and the heavy drops, one by one, follow the grooves; they hide and pool in the crevices, refreshment for travel weary birds. A gift that entices them only to me. No! I am not Rosetti’s Lilith, my hair is sparse and fades, nor a Siren, for I do not “sit, young”. The water revives; it is an oasis amidst the stone. The delayed flight adds memories that I can cherish as the years see my deviation stretch and arch, perhaps a little too low in recent times.

I am resting today and my body reclines and I wave. And I weather some more, and I add peace to the wisdom.

~

Touch And Know Life

© 2016 Annette Hefford

We still touch, my friend and I. Even though the mist slowly gathers and whirls through the paddocks and hides, or reveals only outlines to which we have no names. We still touch, perhaps more than friends as we have slowly created our canopy. So close yet far enough apart to keep the tongues from talking, to keep our hearts still yearning. We grew as we wanted, swayed by showers and good times. Never too far apart. There was always a connection. The gentle breeze would often accidentally push us together, talking of new ideas and down to earth happenings. And the years rolled by.

Our touch supported by the higher branches which eagerly sought and enjoyed the togetherness, if only for a short while. For we were often downcast by the storms that could arise so suddenly. But carefully through the seasons we would mingle again and do our best to enjoy and hope that this time the canopy would be firmer and more lasting. Alas! It does not protect nor hide. The lustrous foliage brags amongst twigged branches but we still touch, my friend and I.

We found as consolation, under our shading boughs, a place for lovers to meet. A lovers’ seat. And our worlds would interweave and we moved closer, our touching bringing tenuous joy. Occasionally the warmth of the day would find a path through summer leaves, clicking and tapping each other as the breeze would have it. Occasionally the beams of light uncovered shared smiles and eyes on eyes, but often shafts would simply display a solitary admirer. Try as it may, the lovers’ seat could not always accommodate those of its name but rustled with fallen leaves, a broken twig, sometimes one lover waiting. But when time permits, we still touch, my friend and I.

In our Autumn, it is hard to see when leaves twist, fly and roll, waving their goodbyes, hoping the distant spring will not disappoint. We orchestrate the dancing, the pirouettes and sweeping leaves as they abandon their protective positions. From lustrous green to golden hues and earthy tones. We do not see them as passing or old or outworn. Although we now feel our unveiling and vulnerability. Standing not so tall, and maybe broader, we keep our ties, amid the rolling mists and cooler times. We remember and prepare. Perhaps not so close, not so protective with our canopy like Chantilly lace and our mostly vacant lovers’ seat. On the edge of winter, we can still touch and know life, my friend and I.

~

Alley

Suburbian alley – most are very narrow.

The Late Walker     

© 2016 Annette Hefford

For long rows of terraced houses, alleys are useful, often being the only access to the end of one’s garden. Some alleys are wide enough for friends to walk side by side, but many are narrow with overhanging branches from neglected trees. And narrow alleys, demand single walkers as my sisters and I used to do when we were younger. And as it was usually late in the evening, we would tell each other ghost stories. And we would always vie for the middle spot in the file order, it being supposedly the safest position. Just in case.

I am much older now and even though I am on my own I often think back. I can see the pig tails bouncing and feel the jostling and I might say, in my scariest of voices, “there’s someone behind us,” and we might stop and huddle and listen. Then one might whisper, “shush! Did you hear that?” And our grins were denied by the way we reacted. Some kind of useless protective circle as we grabbed each other. And just in case something, someone really had been heard, we might start to run with a few squeals of laughter. More based on fear than the joke of it all.

Once in a while, the mind does play tricks. It’s a quiet night and as I walk, my senses heighten. Despite my decision to walk home through the alleys, I am not totally brave. The moon almost full, only beams its light when the clouds hasten on their dark journey revealing its face. I do think I can hear someone behind me. I can hear his footsteps crisply moving past the church yard. His? How do I know it’s a man? It seems that I just know. My ears are stretched, my heart beats are noticeable, one or two goosebumps rise on my arms and I walk just a little bit faster.Ancient lights notice

To get to my house, I have to go through three alley ways. I have walked through two so far. The third starts at the building with “Ancient Lights” painted on a plaque just above the front door. It’s about the only part of the old house that I can see. The garden is enclosed by a rickety wooden fence trying to hold in its numerous wayward shrubs and tall trees. The garden, fending for itself, has done well. Overgrown but flourishing, sharing and shedding its old branches where ever it wants to drop them, wherever the winter wind feels fit to let them collect and die, including where I am walking. I shouldn’t think that anyone has tried to neaten up that garden for years.

Because it is cold and late and I wish to be at home, my footsteps continue to quicken and so do those that are behind me. They seem louder, probably closer. Naturally, most men would have a longer stride than mine. Wouldn’t they? Does that mean he would be right behind me before I get to my road at the end of the alley?

I am almost at the Ancient Lights’ house. As I cross the road it is on my right hand side. To my left is a row of newly built homes. There are a few lights showing but it being almost midnight, and their position being away from the alley, they don’t shine on my path so don’t give me assistance or moral support on my walk home. Even the solitary street light is without a glowing bulb. So what shall I do? I could avoid the alley and go the long way around where there are many houses, any of which might give extra courage to a female at this hour. Or I could take my chances and speed up as I go through the alley and I can always cross my fingers for added insurance. Just in case.

I have walked this way every week for a year now and I cannot say that it has worried me too much. Better than paying for a taxi. I take a deep breath. Why should a few footsteps put me off? Perhaps, I should stop and let him catch up with me. No! No! Silly idea, but I do wonder what would happen if I slow down. Will the follower, slow down too? What if I now run? The alley has a bend in it just where the long alley that gives access to the back of all the gardens meets this alley. Oh! too many alleys but could I get passed the joining alley, before the late walker realises that I have started to run? Strange thoughts fill one’s mind when it gets dark, especially if alone.

I urge my trembley legs to move faster. Not exactly a run but enough to make me breath heavily. I am almost at the bend. The man doesn’t seem to have kept up with me. The sound of his footsteps are not included in the other night time sounds. The small street light at the joining of the two alleys is reassuring. I feel a little school-girlishgarden spider for being so nervous and giving my resourceful mind too much scary information with which to play.

I did think about going up the long alley, but only for the shortest moment. Just imagine, cycling down the long alley, and almost crashing into an enormous spider’s web which is stretched between the fences. Complete with a big, fat-bellied spider. It was no imagination on that day. I was young but the terrifying experience remains with me. If I had kept going, I would’ve had long, spiky, feathery legs twitching over my face and its enormous bulging eyes staring at mine. Oh! My God! The thought of what could have been. I don’t know whether the shivers are from the cold night air or the nightmare remembrance as it fulfils its task and fills me once more with dread. Cobwebs would have clung and wrapped around my face. I move my hand up, fingers ready, as if to pull the sticky strands away. The image seems so real. It must have been at least three feet across, that web, its size grows the more I think of it. I shudder to my bones, whenever I remember that scene. So that alley-way is a no go zone. And I would do better not to think of it at this time.

Then, as if to reinforce my nonsense, as I pass the long alley-way, the street light shudders and pings, the bulb crackles and dies, and the moon supposedly without prejudice seems to want to reflect my fear. The beautiful silver comforting beam is hidden behind the deep cover of a careless cloud. My breathing is hard to check. It sounds so noisy. I so want to hear the steps.

Although it’s dark, I know the way and I can see the end of the alley. And tonight, it does look like a welcoming light at the end of a tunnel. To run in the dark may not be the wisest thing to do. But I’m almost there. I see another late walker pass the alley entrance and I try to calm myself thinking that other people are close by and that maybe I’ll catch a taxi home next time. I check the pathway as best I can. I don’t want to trip on uneven slabs. I look up and in front of me, a late walker turns into the alley. And behind me a twig cracks.

I recognise the man in front of me. The sound of my relief whooshes from my mouth. He is smiling and when he approaches, I see he has a small bunch of snowdrops in his left hand. As he approaches, the late walker behind me passes, nods and walks on. I couldn’t see his face, his hat was pulled down. His hands in his pockets, his walk is brisk.

Hi, Laura,” Steve stops in front of me. “I wondered if you would walk home tonight.” He lifts his hand and offers the little bouquet. My mother loved snowdrops. “Happy anniversary,” he says. I half smile back at him. Quieter now, I am a little perplexed. It is not any anniversary that I can think of.

What’s this for?” I say, although relieved, not entirely comfortable that Steve was there. As I move to take the flowers, our hands touch and Steve doesn’t seem to want to let go of them. He leans forward. I step back, stopped by the fence.

It’s the anniversary of the day you left me,” he says, smiling.

I felt the pressure. I heard the slither of the knife and I was aware of my face twisting. Steve’s smile changes as he watches me, and his eyes light up.

~

(There is a connection with the last story and this one but they were written separately for different competitions so do not connect exactly in setting and surroundings but my family wanted an ending to the Late Walker and a short finale. …. hmmmm! )

Not Only Sirens Sing  

© 2016 Annette Hefford

He hasn’t been this way for a long time. At least a year. Didn’t want to be seen here. Didn’t want any connection with the body that was found where the bridge begins. He got scared just thinking of what the papers had reported would happen to him, if he were ever caught.

He almost didn’t turn left, then right and through the first alley and then along by the churchyard. He could have been day dreaming except it was night time and he wasn’t asleep. The darkness seems to muffle the voices. Were they a warning? Yet so soothing, encouraging. Should he stop? But he only moves towards the calming, the pacifying waters. He remembers having heard things before. Perhaps the gulls are mewing, they too want nourishment. They too have souls to satisfy. The night is dark with many shadows that might conjure up things from the past.

Wispy tendrils of mist circle like a cat’s tail, around his legs. He follows a bend and he sees an enticing glow of light ahead. It takes over from the subtle sound, like distant sirens singing. The luminous haze clings around her. It shines like a halo moving gently through the darkness. So he follows. She is beckoning. He is sure of that. Just like before. He doesn’t do it of his own accord. He has no resistance. He moves easily towards this gossamer vision and he knows that she is beautiful with a voice that caresses like silk. He is cocooned and must simply obey.

Branches of willow trees hang over the slow moving waters and the bridge is illumined only by the stars. The moon declines to glimmer and the small lamp post with its dead bulb endeavours to keep any late walker dim sighted. In the shadows by the fence, he sees the flowers, star-shaped. Flowers of remembrance. So white. So innocent. But this is not hallowed ground and he can see remains of old blooms. He listens to the silence and all dissolves and he is beckoned no more. He stops, there is nothing to follow. She has vanished. There is only the bridge and the stream. And the moon now beams through its nebulous clouds, spotlighting the bridge, waiting for this tragic scene to unfold.

He remembers that he almost didn’t turn left. That he didn’t want to been seen here. He feels the tears slowly etch their way down his face, as his arms are pulled back. The succulent expectations of temptation are gone. There is a sharp click and pinched flesh as the cuffs lock. His tears are for his vanished dream and the foolishness of not knowing that wood nymphs also sing.

 ~

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