The Lane

The Lane of Unusual Traders is a shared world experiment from Tiny Owl Workshop. I happened upon this fascinating project a few days ago.   The idea is that each writer adds detail to the world, building and shaping it.  One beautifully written descriptive piece starts off the collaboration giving minimal detail: a few places, a few hints of history and geography, a few races of beings.  After that, the writers will create something that fits and enhances the world. Unlike many shared worlds, this one is not all planned out and invitation only. I love the chance and adventure that creates.

I’ve read all the stories that have been published so far and I am intrigued.  I want to participate. There are only a few days until the deadline for phase 2, which is not much time, but I hope to manage it.  If not, I will be submitting something for phase 3.

The Hunt

I don’t know exactly what happened, but I lost confidence in my writing for a few months. I gave myself a good talking to and I’m back to work now. Writing a short story for the wonderful Trifecta seemed like a good way to get my brain working again. I hope you like the story and that I can stay motivated enough to write one next week too.

The prompt is:
CHARM (verb)
1a : to affect by or as if by magic : compel b : to please, soothe, or delight by compelling attraction
2: to endow with or as if with supernatural powers by means of charms; also : to protect by or as if by spells, charms, or supernatural influences
3: to control (an animal) typically by charms (as the playing of music).

The Hunt

Waiting was the hardest part. Mother said waiting was a skill, like tying knots or shooting arrows. She became stone, save her eyes, constantly searching. Even knowing where she was, Lisha had to concentrate to see her. It wasn’t clothing and body paint that faded her into the jungle; it was stillness inside.

Two years into training, Lisha was improving, able to hold position for hours. But her mind never settled. She thought about being uncomfortable, dinner, friends, the festival. She daydreamed about future catches and the praise she would receive. She thought about being a mother and teaching her daughter to hunt.

Last moon Lisha killed three deer. She once took down a bear and had hidden from a tiger. But animals were different than people. People can feel your thoughts on them. Their spine tingles and blood cools as you hunt them; your excitement fuels their fear. They flee without knowing why. Unlike deer, humans can’t be shot. Killing a man makes him useless. Perfect calm, delicate magic, and timing are needed to charm one.

Lisha is not expected to capture a man. Her mother and the other master hunters would bring men for the festival. But she could not stop daydreaming about it, which is why the few she had come close to had gotten away.

A twig snapped, startling Lisha, causing her to fall. A tall, well-muscled young man stood looking down at her.

He stood not five feet away, his confusion giving her time to remember what to do. She stared into his green eyes, singing the calming song. Without breaking eye contact she stood, beginning the dance, stepping backwards slowly, beckoning him. His eyes locked on hers, he followed.

Mother jumped out behind him, tying his hands, but he hardly looked away from Lisha.

A hunter can claim any man she captures. Lisha was younger than the other girls in the festival, but no one would challenge her right to this man.

Rabbit Pays a Debt

This story is for Trifecta’s April Fool’s day prompt:

rain (transitive verb)
1: to pour down
2: to give or administer abundantly
3: to take a lot of money in bill form and toss it up in the air. This is most effectively done at a strip club for the effect of raining one dollar bills on the dancers (and it makes them feel so pretty), or to snub a hater by throwing money into their face that then falls to the floor like rain (use this when paying a debt to a punk bitch who keeps asking for their money to the point that they are ruining your friendship or when dumping someone who has been bankrolling you for a while now that you’re making money).

It was also inspired by the carrots which are coming up both in the rabbit pot I painted as well as the garden beds. I love carrots! Carrots make me think of rabbits. They are strongly linked culturally, though my friends who keep rabbits tell me they don’t actually eat that many carrots. Rabbits are perfect for April Fool’s Day because like Coyote and Anasi,Rabbit is a great trickster. SAM_1729

***
When you do mischief like Rabbit, you get in trouble. Money, everyone knows, gets you out of trouble. Stealing a carrot can land a body in jail, but a rich man can steal a whole farm, if he has money to buy police.

Rabbit borrowed money from everyone, a little from each, hoping they’d forget. Times being hard none forgot. They all looked for Rabbit when they had need of their money. But one thing Rabbit can do is hide.

Rabbit was resting in a briar eating fresh blackberries, when he heard voices.

“Have’ya seen Rabbit?” asked Possum

“I’ve not seen him since I let him a few dollars” said Fox

“I sore need the money I gave him” Said Possum

“Have’ya talked ta Bear? He gave me what Rabbit owed, sayin’ he’d get it back from Rabbit along with what’s owed him” said Fox

“I’ll go see him now” said Possum, hurrying away.

Rabbit was afraid. Bear had a long memory and was mighty fierce. Rabbit added up what he borrowed all together. It was enough money to fight over.Rabbit made a plan.

He told Chicken, a known gossip, about a beautiful lady at the hoochie-coochie show on the edge of town.

That night Bear came to the show. The girl came out, hiding behind two fans. She danced ‘round the stage, everyone hottin’ and hollerin’. Bear didn’t see too good, but he knew this must be the lady he’d heard of. To impress her he made it rain, emptyin’ his wallet. Later Bear tried to find her, but she was gone.

Next day Rabbit found Bear sighing in his cave.

“Why do you sigh?” Rabbit asked

“I lost all my money, to impress a lady. Now I have no money or lady” Bear said
“Good news! I’ve come to pay you back. Lucky I waited or you might have lost this too” Said Rabbit, giving Bear almost as much money as he had thrown at the mysterious lady.

Which Home?


Up until now I have always written something new for the Trifecta prompt, that is sort of the point for me.  While I am editing this novel I don’t have much chance to write new stories, and I fear the creative parts of my brain meats will dry up like beef jerky.  Writing something fresh with the prompt lets me just run wild with it, as opposed to editing with is soul numbing. However I have been neglecting the editing, so today I decided to post something from the novel instead, to encourage me to do better work on it.  It took almost as long to edit this passage (which started out at 500+ words, lots of which were so, really and very) as it does to write something new.  I tend to be uselessly wordy, over describing things and babbling. Having word limits has helped me work on this problem.

The following is from “Lost in Reflection” which will be released later this year.   The story is about Marney, a 16 year old who ends up trapped in a another world.

***

You can’t survive alone.  Most people stay in dense, walled towns like Derry, where the buildings touch and the people know each other.  The gates lock at sundown every day. Only in numbers do people have safety, because out there are dangers and temptations of darkest dreams and delightful nightmares. Every fairytale agrees about that.  There’s a sort of magic here which some humans even learn to use. A wizard lives in Derry to help keep the town safe from magical threats, native beings, and for lack of a better word, monsters.

I’m lucky the worst thing I met were cranky chickens.  There are so many scary things here that many don’t even have names.  There are rules: Don’t be alone outside a city at night.  If anyone offers you food and you’re not 100% sure they’re human, don’t eat it.  Don’t play games with non-humans, just to name a few. Most rules have exceptions.  If you’re out at night, light a fire, unless you think you might attract Fireflies. Don’t follow bouncing lights unless you’re already lost and think it might lead to safety.   There are too many to remember, and I have a feeling they change anyway.

Mrs. Shaw let me stay and work at the Milk Maid.  The work wasn’t hard; cooking, cleaning, and gardening.  The sort you do with your body while your mind thinks about other things.  At first I was always thinking about getting home, but soon I realized I was thinking about home less and less.

This place was great.  No one had called me fat or questioned my sexuality.  I didn’t miss school, and loved being treated as an adult.  I liked the people, inn, and town.  The happier I was the guiltier I felt. Mom had a hard time raising me alone, after my father left. Even twelve years later she has trust and commitment issues. When he left, it broke her heart in half, me disappearing must have shattered what was left.

Socially Transmitted Insanity

I wrote the following for this week’s Trifecta prompt “infect”.  This piece is not clean or polite.

***

Writing was the calling and fetish of the mad.

Those with demanding demons and dangerous desires took up the pen when the pressure of being, being alive, being buzzy broken, being bold, being beaten, became too great, ejaculating misspelled, grammatically incorrect, beautiful, tragic, hot life onto paper, and into the minds of the lifeless.

Mom read a bit of Kerouac after putting little Timmy down to nap.  For an hour she ran away from spit up, jello molds and obligatory missionary sex.  She huddled in the bed of a rusted out pickup truck, smoking reefer and looking up at the endless desert celestium.  She had freedom of the open road from her comfortable chintz sofa or mint-green kitchen chair.  She went to the clinic of depravity where Doctors Lovecraft, Shelley, and Poe injected dried up wickedness to vaccinate her from smothering her tow hair cherub-cheeked darling with a stuffed bear while he slept.

Dad spent the night on underage heroin addicted hookers with Hunter, while never straying from the sanctity of marriage. He learned to appreciate his own comfortable life after embracing loneliness, alienation, and self-loathing with Salinger and Falkner.

Sane people could open their wet willing minds and pull in a little insanity.

Everyone needs a release.  Society can’t function if all the drones have hum-drum blue balls.  The masses jack off with words to stay proper, and all it costs is the minds of a few mad ones, who fuck themselves raw, lubing up with cocaine, reds, alcohol, acid, and opium.  A few crazy bastards burning, pumping out their souls for everyone.

Now the mad ones take mood stabilizers and SSRIs, trimmed wick, limp-dicked.  The vaccine no longer produced, because it turns out normalcy was the disease.  You infect us, self-help books on my shelf, coffee in my mouth.  Your suburban fantasies slip in as you stroke my hair, whispering sweet goals and profit projections.

Sane people in creative writing classes train for a proper vocation.

Madness is epidemic.

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Peach Blossoms

I know I said the next one would be happy. Sorry, I lied. This one is not happy, but I think it is sort of fun at least.

I am killing two birds with one stone today.  Who throws stones at birds? Seems like a rather silly way to get dinner. Anyway…The story below was written both for Trifecta and inspired by the peach blossoms that are stubbornly blooming in my garden, even though I begged them not to.  They are so lovely and charming that I can’t help but take joy from them.  But they are also fleeting and delicate.  This weekend there might be a frost, and if there is, all of the flowers will wither and die overnight.  If not, they will stay a short spell longer gracing my garden for few weeks before floating away to make room for summer’s peaches.  I enjoy the fragile blossoms while they last, but I adore peaches. I appreciate that something so striking can be transformed into something delicious and that not everything that is lovely is just for looking at. Beautiful and practical is the best of both worlds.

Peach Flower

Then again, some plants are not very pretty at all and they make great fruits or vegetables.  Beauty is not everything, and when it fades, which it will, I hope that I have plenty of canned peaches to last me through the winter.

Stepmother’s Toast

“A fairy tale is a story, a pretty vintage lie handed down from mother to daughter across the generations.  As we grow up, the lies slough away, washed off our brains by science, reason, and experience.  No 100-foot tall beanstalk could support its own weight. Clouds are puffy water, unsuitable foundation for a giant’s castle.  Horses are noble creatures; we can’t blame them for lacking the whimsy to evolve a single golden horn.   Fairies don’t flutter by on gossamer wings, nor do wicked witches sell produce door-to-door in this age of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. There are no magic lamps with jinn in residence or talking animals, unless you count the brutish groomsmen.

Why do we insist on holding out for Prince Charming, doing our best to freeze our bodies with creams and botox, so when he finally comes to rescue us, our skin is smooth and our cheeks blush prettily at his chaste true love’s kiss.

By the way, you look lovely, my dear, fresh as a peach blossom.

Many cling to fantasy, unwilling or unable to doctor their expectations with a pinch of reality, a dash of practicality.  They try every magic they possess to find and capture, or if all else fails, create their prince.  He is kind, manly, strong, gentle, clean, yet unafraid to get his hands dirty.  He will stand up for you, but never stand up to you.  He loves what you love, is respected by his peers, successful in business, and must make an excellent father, to raise the pretty princesses and handsome princes you spawn.

Then some minor thing goes wrong, an errant sock, less than convincing interest in rose gardening, an unslain spider. You start to question.  Is this really my soulmate?

Each mundane day the magic will erode, slowly turning your prince into a frog.

Anyway, I wish the beautiful couple happiness, of course cursed to be temporary.  Please enjoy the open bar my husband is paying for.”

Prayer

You really can hear the train coming.

Anaxagoras, lover of knowledge, learned something new every day. However he would’ve rather learned something else.  He planned to have years of learning ahead, but he had exhausted his options and escape seemed unlikely.   His hands were tied in silver cord, grounded into the earth. No matter how Anaxagoras turned, he was unable to touch cord to track.  Magic, being highly conductive, would easily transfer from silver to iron, allowing him to save himself if he was careful.  Anaxagoras was always careful.  The cord, was held tight with a railroad spike, dissipated his magic.

He had tried bribing his captors, but they were clearly barbarians, babbling some strange language.   He knew a translation spell, useless of course.  Kaia, His guild and protector on this adventure was likely unaware Anaxagoras was gone, surely in a drunken sleep instead of earning her rather generous pay.  There was no chance of contacting Athena so far from civilization without prayer beads and incense.

Anaxagoras heard a whistle.   Having explored this area for weeks, he knew he was just under 4 miles from Hermit’s Hollow.  Trains normally only blow their whistle when approaching a settlement.  The only train that stopped in Hermit’s Hollow was the 4:15 pm, so this was an express. Given the average express speed, he had approximately 4 minutes to live.

There was only one course available.  One spell performed hands to the ground, one prayer enhanced by terror.  The timing had to be perfect.

The train rounded the hills. He could see the light. Maybe a minute left.

30 seconds. Anaxagoras shut his eyes from the distracting light of his doom.

“Persephone!” Anaxagoras screamed, releasing every watt of magic he possessed into the earth.

The track stopped vibrating. He couldn’t hear the thunderous clanking.  He opened his eyes.

A shadow figure outlined in the train’s light stood before him.

“Anaxagoras, so nice of you to call,” said a voice sweet as syrup, deadly as venom.

***

This was written for this week’s trifecta prompt. I love this world and I plan to write more stories here very soon.

Onions seedlings

I remember hearing or reading the phrase “The opposite of love is not hate, it is onions” once. I have searched for this, but been unable to remember where I heard it, or something like it. If you have any idea where I might gotten this from, please let me know. If not, then it very well might be something I made up years ago on one of my rants and found it so profound that I forgot I said it. It is profound. Take my word for it; I know these things.Onions

This story is inspired by a cluster of onion seedlings that I found in the path between two of my garden beds. When putting in seeds a few weeks ago, I must have laid down a package on onions which spilled without me realizing it, because the seedlings were all tightly together right where the seed packets had lain.

I hate onions. You might be saying, “Kitty, if you hate onions, then why were you planting them?” This is a reasonable question. I am glad you asked. Mostly I plant them because my partner likes them. But there is another reason: they are good in their absence, such as in a mirepoix or broth. You get some of the flavor out of the onion and then remove it, so the memory of onion remains, but you don’t actually have to eat it. No crunch of fresh onion assaulting your mouth, little landmines of anger. No slimy bitter corpses of onions broken down by the heat of culinary battle. Only the spirit of the valiant onion that once fought here remains.

I am not a big fan of hate. Hating does not feel good; it does not make things better; it does not bring joy (or at least I hope not). But maybe, like onion can enhance the flavor of a soup, little doses of hate from time to time fuel our passion for life and justice. Knowing what you hate might give you clearer focus to hold on to what you love.

 

Translucent

“You hear that Danny G. is shipping out next week? You know, Jenny’s older brother, he got called. How many guys we know been drafted? Let’s just enlist. Come on, Frankie, you know we’re going to get drafted anyway. We ain’t in college. We ain’t rich. What ya gonna do, Frankie? Just wait…”

Waiting was its own special hell. The jungle was never totally quiet. At first, Tony noticed every chitter and rustle. Now the ever-present noises highlighted a painful absence of sound, while going unnoticed themselves. The harder he listened, the louder the silence got. A roaring silence of expectation that could at anytime become the whine-boom of dropping bombs or the pop-pop-pop of Charlies hiding in the waxy, steaming blackness. Bullets would light up the dark in fleeting flashes, reminding Tony of firecrackers back home. Bombs set the whole world on fire, like being that point in the sky where they aim the fireworks on the Fourth of July. There was white and there was certainly red. Never any blue. Tony wondered if you might only get blue fire at the very end of this show. Every time, the light show preceded screams.

 

Screams of “Make love not War,” “Hell no, We won’t go,” and others crashed, layering, morphing, making a wall of voices, punctuated with bongos and metallic strikes. Tony wanted to leave, to run from the sound like he had run from the bombs. Crowds, open spaces, and noises all freaked him out now. Sometimes he went back there, running, hiding, unaccountably alive while everyone around him was dead. Tripping over bodies, expecting death.

 

…death is but the final adventure, to a man who has had so many,” said the perfectly groomed minister. Tony wondered if the man had known Frankie alive, or if today was the first time they met; a clean, calm-faced man shaking hands with an old man’s corpse. The minister kept talking, mentioning the places Frankie had been, the people he had helped, the lives he had touched, the family he left behind. Tony zoned out, the words a soft murmur, cool waves on an empty beach. Tony decided that the man had not known him, that he was just reading out Frankie’s life, some punk performance artist reading the phone book.
No one knew Frankie like Tony. They had grown up in the same neighborhood. They fought side-by-side in the war. Tony had pushed his wheelchair through the crowds of hippies when Frankie got sent home. He had known Frankie when he was a scared kid. Tony had seen him at his best, and at his worst. He had known Frankie with two legs, with one leg, and with a shiny plastic leg. Tony knew the sins that pushed Frankie to do good, to make the world better. And he knew the hero’s soul that would pull a buddy out of danger. He knew that kept Frankie going when so many others would give up.

 

Give up. There is only one place left to run; might as well volunteer. Your number is going to get called someday soon. Not even Canada will help you dodge death’s draft.

 

Tony looked around at the people in black, Frankie’s kids, grandkids, maybe even a few great-grandkids. Frankie made something of himself: school, career, charity work. Tony could never even keep a job for long. Frankie used to look up to Tony, a long time ago. Which is why these last few decades being around Frankie made him feel broken and useless. The past, present, and future had danced around Frankie; memory, possibility, regrets, too-lates and never-gonna-happens. He was hard to be around, and when things were hard, Tony ran away.
He should’ve spent more time with Frankie, had more courage. One more should’ve to add to his collection. Frankie was the last one of the guys to die, except for crazy Tony, still unaccountably alive. Tony would be the last one to be planted in the endless field of identical, equally-spaced headstones. No one and nothing to remember him, but a single dot on a field of thousands, a tiny speck of cold white.

 

White posterboard with “Bring the Troops Home” scrawled on it was propped in Frankie’s lap. “I don’t know Tony; it seems like betraying the guys somehow. Disrespectful, you know?” said Frankie, still clean-cut and military, fresh from the VA hospital.
“Yeah, I know man. I used to feel that way. But I got to thinking. If they came home now, no more would be in chairs like you, or ugly as sin like me. We’re not disrespecting the guys, but wanting to protect them, you know? Wanting to pull them out of the fire. Since we can’t protect them there, we have to try to do something here,“ said Tony, behind bushy beard and hippie hair, grown to cover his burned face and missing eye. “We have to change the world, Frankie. We have to make it better. That is our war now, man. Our enemy is the fucking war that is killing our friends. You might have kids someday. You don’t want them sent over there to die, do ya?”
“Me, kids? I don’t know Tony. What lady would want to marry me? And kids…”

 

Kids. Fucking children laying in the road, burned crispy, and thank God dead. If they had been alive when Tony ran into the clearing, rolling around and screaming, he would have lost it. There was enough screaming, inside and out, all around him. Screaming bombs, screaming animals, screaming fire, screaming people, screaming ghosts. Fires ate up the trees, black smoke hid everything. Tony got lost. His face and shoulder were in agony, and he couldn’t see anything to the left. The pain was horrible, he was exhausted, but he kept running. He ran to escape the pain, the fire, the screams, but everywhere he went they followed. No matter how far Tony ran, no matter where he hid, they always found him. Tony was only fear. Everything else had burned away. Run.

 

“..run away, go up north and be a lumberjack? Our number’s gonna get called up. Might as well volunteer. Sign up now, get better assignments that way. What ya gonna do, Frankie? I’m gonna go. I won’t shirk duty. I’m no coward.”

The Interview

She walked into the room with grace.  A young woman of breeding, her whole life spent training for her season.   If my information was correct, she was well educated, speaking fluent French and German, well versed in the arts, playing both the piano and violin passably well, and painting acceptable watercolors.   She had an attractive face and was shapely of figure, with a long delicate neck.  She was quite pleasing, but would not be considered a great beauty, exactly what I required.

I followed her discreetly, watching her interactions. She was polite and attentive her conversation, mildly interesting without being controversial. I had once been like her in breeding and training, but my tastes and pursuits had taken me off of the path to marriage.

Her father was a minor Baron with little wealth. Her looks, talents, and social acumen would do much to find a respectable match.  Greater resources could secure a great match.  The best dresses, costly jewels, and good connections could catch the eye of a man with superior wealth and title.  With my help, she could ensnare a Duke’s son within the year.

She was most charming while dancing, her steps perfect, putting me in mind of a swan.  I would have loved to dance with her, but that is not done.   I was impatient, but the matter was too vital to risk approaching her. My reputation, while not common knowledge, was well deserved and not to be associated with her.

When she finally walked away from the ballroom, I followed.   No one was in the antechamber of the washroom, so I sat on the velvet couch to wait. She stopped to check her reflection in the mirror before leaving, making sure every hair was in place.  I stood behind her, making eye contact with her reflection.

“Miss Kensington, may I call you Clare?  I am Ms. Carlisle.  Your services are required, on order of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, concerning the very existence of the Realm.”

Written for this week’s challenge at Trifecta.

Chlorophyllic Inspirations and Daffodil

While working on editing my novel, I have begun to miss the joy of writing.  Short stories are so satisfying; the delicious snack food of prose. Short, packed with flavor, and then you walk away.  A novel is like preparing a five course dinner party. There is joy in the making, joy in the little tastes here and there, and a big pay off of an amazing product at the end.  But you don’t do that every time you are hungry; sometimes you open the freezer and stand in the kitchen eating ice cream straight out of the box.  I need more snack writing.

Writing prompts, the more vague the better, help me write short stories.  So I have decided to write a collection of story around the theme of plants in my yard.   I should have one up every few days.  They will not have a single genre, theme, tone, or perspective.  They could be realist, sci-fi, horror, humor, or fantasy.  Or something else all together.  Maybe even a poem if I am feeling fancy one day.   I will post a picture of my inspiration.

Here is the first story:

Daffodil

Daffodil

This is the flower that says “spring is coming” to me.  A happy yellow sun climbing up through the dead leaves from autumn or the snow of winter.   The odd thing about the daffodil is it starts to bloom and then like clockwork a few days later we get the coldest weather of the year.  The daffodil is hope in the midst of strife, a bright flame in the darkest hours before dawn.

 

The days and weeks had merged; forming a single dark night since the heavy wooden door had slammed shut, locking Niamh in.  As an enemy to his Majesty she could rot in this hole for all the jailers cared.  Sometimes they brought her food; stale bread, moldy cheese and meats a dog would not eat.  Niamh ate it all, at first. She ate the horrible food and drank the dirty fowl smelling water.  She dreamed of family and freedom.

But as the night wore on she dreamed less of home.  She had no way to know day from night and over time lost the ability to tell dream from reality.  Sleep or waking she was trapped in a nightmare.  The pains of hunger, followed by the pain of bad food.  The smell of vomit, shit and the moldy dankness of the cell followed her into dreams, she forgot the smell of flowers and her mother’s cooking.   In the nearly total darkness she forgot the faces of her sisters and the rolling green hills beyond the pale.   The bites of lice, fleas and sometimes even rats would wake her nigh she had fallen asleep.

In the beginning every time light blossomed around the door she rejoiced.  When the door opened and her cell filled with the flickering greasy light of the guard’s torch she felt a surge of hope.  This could be them letting her go, sending her home.  Later she hoped it would be them coming take her to execution.  Now, when the light came she felt nothing.  She no longer cried when they left, or hurried to the food.  She just sat in the corner that was the least revolting.

In the first day she found a few small rocks on the floor.  Whether part of the dirt floor or chips pieces of the large stones of the keep she did not care.  They were tools, her only assets.  At first she used them to try to dig a hole under the wall, but the floor was too hard and the rocks to small.  The place had an underground feeling; maybe the floor was lower than the surrounding ground.

She tried not to think about being entirely underground, an as yet unrealized corpse in a filthy shroud that had been a lovely dress.

Once she gave up on the floor she used the rocks to chip at the mortar between the stones.  She had more success with that, it being so damp in the cell, and the keep being old.  Each little piece she removed, each groove she deepened was a victory then.  But now, she just chipped at the same place over and over, out of habit not expectation.  The light tap, tap, tap near her ear was something like comfort.  The rock was to short, a long thin bone had taken its place.

She sat there tapping, staring into the darkness where food had been left some time ago.  She could smell it mingling with the pervasive stink.  Her mouth watered, her stomach ached in longing and clenched in disgust.  But she did not move to retrieve it.  Eating just prolonged her confinement; best to stay where she was and wait for sleep to come.  Maybe the final sleep and the only freedom she could hope for.

Tap, tap, tap.  Her fingers played out a rhythm, maybe of a song she once knew, now forgotten like everything else.  Sometimes when the beat was resting she would wipe away the mortar dust that build up on the bottom.   She used to run her finger down the whole groove, but she could not longer do that.  In order to touch the back she had to put down the bone and make her hand thin.  When she last cared enough to check it her hand went in the grove almost up to her thumb before she touched the back.

Tap, tap, tap. She thought about getting the food again and decided not to.

Tap, tap, tap.  The rhythm beguiled her, teasing at a melody and music .

Tap, tap, tap. Pain seared her eyes.

She cried out, dropping the bone, covering both eyes with her hands.  Her face wet with tears. She curled up in a ball crying from shock and pain.  Eventually she opened her eyes to find that she could see her fingers pressed against her face, each one outlines in red.

Niamh slowly parted her fingers, looking towards the light.  From the groove in the wall shined yellow light.  It cut through the darkness, a beam from heaven.  Tiny angles danced in the light.

Eyes still burning Naimh reached her hands into the stream.  Even with the dirt and dried blood her skin glowed where the light touched it, bright yellow in the center of the beam, lighter radiating out.  Soon her hands felt so warm in the light, warm for the first time in a lifetime of darkness.

She crawled back to her corner, and looked out between the stones.  The opening was not far above the intensely green ground, less than two feet.  The grove was less than two fingers wide, but half as high as her arm.  Face pressed against it she could see the ground, buildings in the distance and the sky.  She could smell fresh air, the hint of flowers and baking bread.  She might have been able to smell the ocean, or maybe she just remembered how to remember it, because she thought of home and was taken back there on a road paved in sunlight and memory.

Neimh was free again, at least in part.  She stayed there against the stone, face divided by sunlight breathing in her freedom.

She pulled herself away when she realized that if a guard opened the door and saw the light that they would take everything away from her again.  She ripped a piece off over her dress. Using the mortar dust, dirt and a bit of water she made a plug to hide the light if she heard someone coming.

Famished she got the food from in front of the door.

With as much of her body in the light as possible Neimh ate her mother’s fresh baked bread, to the crash of waves and the cry of gulls.