The heating has been on since six and the kitchen is warm. Beyond the windows trees are grey skeletons, the lawn knotted with weeds. Three fence panels slump away from their posts, and the sun is out. Through the glass it pretends that the heat in the kitchen is its doing. Kara knows it’s lying and pads barefoot across the tiles. The kettle has boiled but she leaves it, takes the jar beside instead, twists a slip of paper free. ‘Live,’ it reads. She folds it and places it back, rooting it towards the bottom. Tomorrow she may pull different.
They put the footings in to retain the planning permissions. Susan booked the day off to watch. Invited him as well, suggested they take sandwiches and tea, to watch the first part of their house take shape. Afterall, they’d spent eight years fighting the council for the go-ahead. They might not have the funds to build the entire thing yet, but they could celebrate starting. Then there were doctors, hospitals, a man in a grey suit with a sombre face. Susan’s brother giving a reading. All that was left were foundations.
‘There be giants in these parts,’ Gavin muttered, hiking the pack higher onto his shoulder as they trudged through the snow drifts at the bottom of the monument. In front of him Eddie huffed, his breath turning to ice and smoke. As the sun sunk towards the frozen horizon the temperature would continue to fall, and in the fading light Gavin had to squint to see the humped silhouettes of the outpost. There would be traders there they hoped. A chance to refill their supplies before moving deeper into the wastelands. ‘You believe all that, really?’ asked Eddie. ‘Damn Gav, you’re worse than those priests back at the temple, always trying to tell us that we’re only here by the mercy of the gods.’ He scratched his chin and tipped his head back. They were right beneath the right hand of the statue, the lines of its palm a shadowy black web in the dust. In full light it would seem almost human. The same shape to its face, its arms, its legs. The only …
‘There’s never much green out here is there?’ said Bobby, reaching out to pinch the thorn end of a twig. The bush had rooted into one of the fissures running along the face of the valley and Bobby could see its thin, grey roots spidering outwards in tendrils. He twisted his hand and the twig crumbled. ‘Sorry,’ he muttered and dusted the debris away. He turned and walked the fifty yards back to his car. The boot was still open, the spade inside. ‘I should have found somewhere nicer,’ he muttered, gripping the handle. ‘You would have preferred somewhere green.’
‘They keep the weeds under control,’ Emile explained when Hannah asked why goats were roaming the graveyard. ‘But don’t they eat the flowers?’ ‘People don’t leave flowers here anymore. No one’s been buried here for a hundred years.’ He stooped to avoid a low branch and waited for Hannah on the other side. ‘People can’t be bother with the long since departed. We only see your kind these days.’ ‘My kind?’ ‘Yeah, history nuts who prefer the dead to the living.’ ‘Oh I don’t-’ ‘Makes a change at least. It’s nice to have a little warmth amongst all this stone.’
The jetty had rotten clean through in places, creating a hopscotch of holes almost impossible to see in the dark. Gritting her teeth, Emile slid one foot in front of the other and eased her weight onto it. At the end of the jetty a light flickered and went off. She paused and steadied her breath. Patience, she reminded herself. She’d waited fifteen years, she could afford fifteen minutes to get across this dock unscathed. She ran a hand across the outline of the pistol inside her jacket. Fifteen minutes, she promised herself. That’s all she needed.
The ladder from the garage wasn’t quite tall enough to reach all the way, but it brought us within touching distance of the guttering. From there you could pull yourself up and afterwards, reach down for my hands, smaller, thinner, not quite as adept at clambering about. I let you lead me to a lot of places I couldn’t reach on my own. Perhaps I should have worried sooner about being left behind but back then all I could think of was how strong you were. Lifting me like a bag of sugar to watch the sun set beside you.
Gates called the flat opened planned, Felhorn called it a dump. It occupied the top floor of a condemned building where demolition had ceased halfway through, leaving only front half standing and the rest as rubble. At night Felhorn would dream of the floor suddenly collapsing beneath her bed, the chipboard walls they’d thrown up as protection from the elements tumbling with her for the sixteen floor drop, before waking soaked in sweat in the very sheets she’d just been clinging to, her throat alight and aching. Gates didn’t help much. After six hundred years of not needing to sleep he’d forgotten what it was like to have nightmares and couldn’t understand why she didn’t just change the story if it wasn’t going the way she wanted. Finding him standing above her with that frown on his face when she woke often ended with her sending him sprawling across the flat, magic burning in her veins as it jumped to the surface before she could quench it. It didn’t teach him, he still came whenever …
Even ice has the decency to creak before it plunges you into frozen waters. Really, you should have started with ‘once upon a time’ rather than ‘Hi, my name’s Michael, I’ve just moved it across the hall, could I borrow your phone book?’ That introduction didn’t indicate the shit storm biting at your heels or the chaos coming my way after I decided that for once I was going to be a grown up and actually answer the door rather than hiding until the person on the other side went away. Fairy-tales are supposed to end with happy ever after. Daily Prompt: Suddenly I’ve just finished reading The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert so I decided to go with a hundred word, fairy-tale themed flash fiction for today’s daily prompt. If you want to read a longer piece then just click on the Long Reads option in the menu above.
The battered ford focus spluttered to a stop somewhere north of Watford Gap, next to a suspicious looking field of cows along a winding country lane that looked an awful lot like every other country lane. ‘That would be because they’re not cows,’ said Martha, head down beneath the bonnet as she wrenched something one way and then smacked something else another. The little car had stopped spewing up smoke so James counted that as an improvement… maybe. ‘They’re sheep,’ she said, straightening up and wiping her hands off on her jeans. She left two long scores of grease on the denim, one down each leg. James wondered if that would require a special sort of stain remover or if the normal kind would do. He shifted slightly so she could lean against the gate with him. It was one of those old sorts, made of that metal that turned orange and brown after a while and squealed loudly when you tried to get past. She put her foot on the bottom rung near the …