Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 35
Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 35.
This is a flash fiction challenge. The prompt is a song. You are not required to write about or even mention the song. It’s there only to get the ideas moving around in your brain pan. If you want to write about the song (or the video- it’s all good here) go for it but don’t feel like you have to.
500 words, but it’s a slushy 500, meaning you can go up to 700 or as low as 300.
Post your entry right in the comments section of this post.
MAKE SURE TO PUT YOUR TWITTER HANDLE NEXT TO YOUR WORD COUNT AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR POST. IF YOU’RE NOT ON TWITTER GIVE ME AN EMAIL ADDRESS OR SOME OTHER WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU!
The challenge starts whenever I post this on Tuesday and ends at 4:30PM Pacific Time on Friday. You read that right. Pacific Time.
This week’s song prompt is a lovely tune by the talented Connie Dover.
The song is… “I Am Going To the West”. Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/VoW7LxQLttk
This week’s Judge is…. back by popular demand… The Dark Fairy Queen herself… Anna Loy!
That’s all you need from me.
The challenge is open from the moment you read this until 4:30PM Pacific Time on Friday October 18th…
Posted on October 15, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.
I suppose it’s an old story, and oft repeated. God knows I have repeated it often enough.
Restless with what I have, I go looking for something better. Sacrifice what I have for the chance to find something more heavenly. Only to realize when I got there I had descended further into hell.
New job, more acclaim, additional clout—these are the goals I originally followed. In the process I broke my mother’s heart. My greed brought shame to my father.
Then I shifted my goals to seeing the marvels of nature. I traveled to every land and did not limit myself to merely seven wonders, but instead sought to see every island, canyon and plain. For the beauty of the earth I walked away from my friends.
Then I shifted my goals to pleasure. I explored the limits of sexuality and depravity. I sought to enhance every experience with alcohol. I tried every form of high available in our lost world. And then the one I drove away from myself was me.
I no longer recognized who I was. I had no idea who I had become.
So then I looked for who to blame. The abundance of money had allowed my restless pursuits. The moral climate had opened the door for my conquests which were thinly veiled failures. Technology had made so much more available to me. All worked together to do me harm, but I was the one using and guiding these tools. I was the one to blame.
I went everywhere to escape myself, but I brought myself with me everywhere I went. My wanderlust knew no limits, but I came to understand it was just escapism in disguise.
That had to be worst freshman year of college, ever. I hope my sophomore year goes better.
I came to on a lawn covered with dew, the silver starlight refracting through the droplets to shine a thousand pinpricks of light upon my face. My feet were bare, my peasant shoes long having worn away as I’d made my journey west, and as I stood, the moisture cooled my skin, causing goose pimples to break out across my body.
There had been no reason for me to leave home, other than there had been no reason to stay. I was an outcast from a dead village, the last of my people – but not the first – to make the journey west. Looking out over the Sundowned Sea, I found that I could no longer remember the journey. I knew that there were mountains and valleys, rivers and forests, and I must have eaten and slept and walked for months, but it made no more of an impression on my memory than a faded dream.
The goddess who’d called me was one I’d known even as a young child, for she visited the people more than any of her brethren. She was dark, and called hate and jealousy to the fore of your mind whenever she spoke. I’d set fire to my mother’s bed on her orders, and I’d walked across the world to answer her call.
The sun would rise soon, filling the sky behind me with pinks and oranges and yellows, the colors the heralded a new day, which meant that it was time for me to find my rest. The shadow of an oak would provide my shelter, and the breeze from the south, my blanket. I curled up in my bower and watched the silver beacons fade from the sky. I had been called to the west to do great deeds for my goddess, and in the night we would begin her work anew.
I closed my eyes, and listened to her song, and felt once more those first words touch my heart, and stir my memories.
In this fair land, I’ll stay no more
Here labor is in vain
I’ll seek the mountains far away
And leave the fertile plain
It’s what I’d done. I’d left the land I’d lived in for nearly 30 years. I’d abandoned it. Because it was a dead-end. That land of work I used to live in. Where nothing ever changed. No matter what I did. No matter how hard I worked. No matter what I tried. Nothing ever changed.
I didn’t have the words then, to explain what was happening. How do you explain to everyone you know that you’re trapped? Stuck in place. In a cage. That’s what work had become. A trap. A cage. Where nothing would ever change. Where I faced the same day, the same problems, the same expectations every day. Where there was only one way to behave. Only one way you could be.
I remembered the words I’d been told a thousand times, across a thousand days. “You should be more like him.” I used to wonder how I could. “How can I be like someone else? Someone I’m not?” Until I found myself asking, “What would he do? How would he react? What would he say?”
And I lost me. Somewhere.
Do you want to know if you’re trapped? Look in the mirror. Into your eyes. And ask what the person you see in the mirror wants. What that person feels. If you don’t know. If you can’t answer. You’re trapped.
And I listened to her words as she sang them. I know they weren’t meant for me. But it felt like they were.
Where waves of grass in oceans roll
I stand ready on the shore
To cross the inland sea
I am going to the West
Her words echoed in my memory. For 3 years now, I’d been on a journey. Across an inland sea. A sea within me. A sea I had to cross. To find my heart. To find my soul. To breathe life into me. I remembered standing alone. Straining my eyes, my mind, my heart, to see the future, what was ahead of me.
I couldn’t. No one can. If they tell you otherwise, they lie. Don’t listen to them.
“What are you going to do when you grow up?”
“What are you going to do to earn a living?”
“How are you going to pay the bills?”
“Where are you going to live?”
Yet, no one ever asked the questions that mattered. And it was those questions that ate away at me.
“Who am I?”
“What do I want?”
“What do I believe?”
“Are my dreams still alive?”
“Am I still alive?”
I remembered everyone thinking I’d gone crazy. Telling me to pull my boots up, and get tough. “They’re watching you. If you don’t straighten out, they’ll get rid of you. If you don’t behave, they’ll get rid of you.”
They did. And it hurt like hell. And it scared me stupid. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep. I swear there were times I couldn’t breathe.
But with time, that changed. I figured it out. I’d done what I had to do. To save me. I’d escaped.
You say you will not go with me
You turn your eyes away
You say you will not follow me
No matter what I say
I am going to the West
I am going to the West
It cost me everything. Every friend I had. Every person I knew. To escape. To take those first steps into that inland sea. To begin to ask those questions.
“Who am I?”
“What do I want to do?”
No one followed. That was what scared me the most. What kept me there in the first place. What kept me trapped. What kept me lost. The fear everyone would say what they’d said all my life.
“I will not follow you.”
“You can’t live that way.”
“You can’t be that way.”
“You’ll always be alone.”
If only they knew.
If only they knew.
The Only Way Out Is West!
Sean was the only one of us who ever got away after sixth form. Few of my close friends went away to university. But Sean escaped and travelled west following the sun.
“Did you know Lowestoft is the most easterly point in the British Isles therefore the only buses out of town go west?”
A fact he was fond of telling me as we revised for our geography exam – a lot of good it did either of us, there were no questions about seaside fishing ports in East Anglia. We laughed insanely although none of our friends understood why we found it so amusing.
It surprises me they never guessed I had this massive crush on Sean back then; he could have read the telephone directory out loud and made me smile.
I made him a mix tape for the journey to London. Any song I could find with the word “west” in the title.
“Thanks Squirt!” he bent down kissing my forehead with brotherly affection as I handed over my gift at the bus stop.
Perhaps I should have told him then how I felt but he was off to the big city while I was stuck here. I’d got a job at the harbour, reasonably well paid, with good prospects – you didn’t up and leave security.
Some twenty years later and my life looked very different, the job got stale like rotting fish, to be honest they were looking to make someone redundant. When my husband walked out it gave me that much need push.
It was time to go west and chase my own dreams, if I could figure out what they were.
I’d planned to look Sean up, we’d lost touch, but I had this daydream all figured out in my head that I would bump into him and… yeah I know, in a big city, as if that would ever happen?
But unexpectedly he came back to Lowestoft. I met him a couple of nights ago in the pub just as I was having my leaving do.
I looked up into those familiar deep brown eyes. We talked all night, walking along the beach when the pub closed and they kicked us out.
We swapped stories, each of us trying to outdo the other in our romantic tales of woe, but I laughed the loudest and longest I had for a long time.
As the sun rose from the east so the trawlers followed and the town started to stir. We said goodbye. Sean wished me luck with an awkward pat on the back rather than the hug I longed for.
So now I was here waiting for the bus, waiting for something new to begin in my life.
There was a wild biting cold wind blowing straight off the sea, I was afforded little respite from the dilapidated bus shelter. Shattered glass lay sprinkled at my feet resembling fake diamonds that had lost their sparkle.
I wouldn’t miss this place would I?
This town I had grown up in, the salt air that filled my lungs, the pervading smell of fish that lingered softly on my clothes after a day’s work. Unsuccessfully I tried to think up as many reasons to leave as I could but this was my home, good and bad.
As I spotted the bus coming from one direction I saw someone running from the other.
“I think someone else wants the bus.” I said as I handed over my ticket hauling my case on board unaided.
From the bus step I was almost eye to eye with Sean, because how could it have been anyone else?
“I’ve brought you something for the journey.”
He handed me a cassette box.
I thought how strange that a ninety minute mix tape was larger than hours’ worth of music on my new iPod.
“You getting on?” asked the driver.
“You’re travelling light.” I said. He had no bags with him.
“All I need is this,” he replied pulling an old walkman out of his overcoat pocket, “complete with double headphone socket and two sets of headphones.”
So this time we travelled west together!
700 words including title!
The Dying of the Light
“My Lord, here are your guardsmen. Each is worthy of your trust and love. Every man here bears a champion’s name and tales are told of their great renown. Families across the land have welcomed them and feasted them on the hero’s portion. Our enemy’s men tremble and their women frighten children with the mere mention of their names.
Here is Einon ap Geraint, called the Anvil. He stood against their vanguard in the first rush of their charge. They swarmed and swooped in numbers like starlings roosting on a summer evening, but they broke against him as waves against a rocky shore.
Here is Brynmor ap Idris, the Mountain. He slew the enemy’s champion, Grimm the Kinslayer, who boasted that his spear was a gift from their Gods. In that mighty struggle Brynmor took the first thrust from the spear in order to lay hands upon the warrior. With arms rippling like oaken boughs, he lifted the enemy high above his head then threw him down, breaking his back as the earth trembled and shook with the impact. He cut off the Kinslayer’s head and broke the spear across his knee.
Here is your captain Cadfan, the Battle Raven. In the heat of the fight, his flame shone and dazzled like the setting Sun. He carved a path of blood to their Prince and none could stand against him. Alone at last he faced the royal guard, who fell to his fell sword like ripe corn falls before a scythe, and great was the slaughter of his passing and worthy of song.
The last man here is best known to you. Maldwyn, named Brave Friend, whose butchered body we found shielding yours, broken sword in hand, faithful even to his last breath.
These warriors are the brightest and the best of our people. Each of these mighty men, sworn to defend you, and oath breakers none, now travels with you, in death as they did in life, as you begin your next journey. The wood of your pyre burns fitfully, gathered at night from land still wet with the blood of your enemies. Broken weapons surround you, Arthmael, last Lord of the Cymru, but your hand still holds your royal sword.
Your people have dire need of you, and your champions, against an enemy that lays waste to our homes and families. May your coming be as swift as the next Sun’s rising. The smoke bearing your spirit rises and turns toward the setting Sun. So, until your return, we will sing our songs and look to the West.
Into the West
Cobwebs undulated in the chilled breeze in the dark corner of the kitchen. She hugged her knees to her chest and squinted at the luminescence from the fridge. The glow disappeared abruptly as he slammed the refrigerator door and opened a can with a malicious hiss. His boots clomped across the linoleum and he callously stepped over her feet. The lounge door clicked shut releasing only a thin strip of yellow light to invade her gloom.
The television blared, her heart pounded and thunder growled throughout her head. Her ears buzzed a high-pitched, tinny sound that threatened to drive her mad. Her body hurt, pain seared through every muscle, every sinew, and her fingers clasped tight around her knees, holding herself together.
She slowly unfurled her fingers, intensely aware of pain. She looked down and bent her index finger, crunching the bones as she righted its angle. Anguish and agony clutched, sinking its ready talons into her fading heart. She stared vacantly at the grease-spattered kitchen tiles, the overflowing crockery in the sink, the broken plate on the floor and her shattered dreams, crushed and ground into the bloody lino at her feet.
A sliver of white light glanced through the grimy window and she cast her gaze towards the beam. She rose, slowly, nervously, and stepped lightly towards the window, her bare feet treading numbly across the splintered china. At the window she pressed her cheek against the cool glass and stared up at the shimmering moon.
Clouds drifted across the night sky and she stared into their depths, imagining mountains and valleys, and sparkling streams. Starlight sprinkled oceans that swam across the sky and she dived into the glittering deep. She swam, embraced in velvety water, warmth seeping into her cold bones, releasing seized muscles and soothing tension. The moon moved west, casting rays of hope across the navy night, and she burst out of the ocean, wandering on soft pillows of cotton-wool. She danced across waves of green, rolling between the clouds, burying her feet in meadows of everlasting flora and rivers of swaying grass.
She gazed across the firmament, dipping into her dreams, renewing hope. Her bower waited, a copse wreathed within mists and emerald green. She stepped lightly across the night, and settled, resting beneath heaven’s verdant canopy and wind’s gentle blanket, her mind at ease and pain long gone.
Cobwebs undulated in the chilled breeze in the dark corner of the kitchen. A draught blew through the grimy window and ruffled the hair of her broken shadow that lay cold and still.
I watched him from across the street nearly every day for over a year. As was our ritual, I sat on the wall outside my office and he sat on the bench across the street; I with my lunch and he with his bag of bird seed. The only days we skipped were the rainy ones.
We acknowledge each other’s presence on occasion with a nod or a wave, but we’ve never spoken a word to each other. Even still, we’ve always gotten along with a mutual kind of respect.
His withered hands took great joy in feeding the pigeons that kept us company for an hour at a time. The old man was a kind of rock for me. He kept me grounded when stress overwhelmed me. Something about him just soothed my nerves when they needed soothing. Watching him never failed to bring a smile to my face, even on the worst of days. I’m certain his feathered friends found the same solace in his presence. He had that way about him.
I don’t even know his name, but I consider him one my greatest friends. I never learned his story, but he felt like kin. He reminded me of the grandfather I’d lost as a kid- a kind and gentle soul.
Every day when our time was up, he’d get on the bus and I’d return to work happier than I’d left. We had a good thing going.
Yesterday, he never showed up. I even gave him extra time in case he was running late, though he’d never been late before. Not once that entire year. The sun shone bright overhead, so I know it wasn’t the weather. Today was the same. I waited, but he never showed. I can’t help but fear the worst.
I tell myself he’s gone west to be with his daughter in California even though I know nothing about the man. The more likely possibility, well let’s not talk about that. He was too good a man for such a fate- the fate that awaits all of us regardless of how wonderful we may be. And let me tell you, he was the most wonderful person I’ve ever had the privilege of never meeting.
Sue was looking out the window at the familiar view, the wheelie bins were strayed across the narrow footpath like an urban assault course.
‘Life is a young person’s game,’ Greig said.
Sue was still feeling stunned.
‘It’s a great opportunity,’ she said, ‘Fab job and a bloody house thrown in. What’s to stop you?’
‘Yeah, it’s great,’ he said before taking a sip of coffee, ‘You’d be a fool not to take it.’
Sue turned and faced the kitchen wall mouthing a swearword.
‘A house. A job. A great job in a great place. It’s what we wanted,’ she half shouted, ‘Plenty of time for you to find something there.’
Greig shrugged and the silence lingered between them.
He slurped his coffee to break the silence and palpable tension, ‘Look, I’m settled here. I’ll find something here, eventually. But I’m not going to up-sticks to move out west now. I’m past all that. It’s a young person’s game.’
Sue looked at him not bothering to hide her anger, ‘You’ve said that already.’
She’d been excited before telling him moving to the US – to Cali-for-ni-A! – and now she felt like she’d been punched in the solar plexus by a heavyweight.
Later that day Sue went around to her friends in a terrible state and told her all that had happened. Fiona then told Sue what she wanted to hear, along the lines of: “too good for him” – “he’s an idiot” – “what is he thinking” – “dickhead” – “better off without him” – “let’s get drunk!” and after a couple of bottles of wine she did feel a bit like it could end up being a good thing.
Meanwhile Greig rang his dad, ‘Cheers for doing that. She’ll do a good job for your business. She should never find out anyway.’
‘She bloody well better son!’ Greig’s dad said, ‘Trust your new woman is worth it.’
‘Oh yeah, she is,’ Greig said, ‘Maybe we’ll be both be over for Christmas.’
I only said I could not go because I have never been and had no wish to leave. You never made your reasons clear to me. We had it good here. The land was rich and filled with all we ever wanted. You never explained why you wanted to leave it all behind.
I understand the West is beset with the promise of untold bounty. The air seems light and beautiful, with colors which we struggle to describe due to their sheer brilliance. But none of it means anything unless we are together. I hoped you would understand, that you would rather stay in a lesser place if it meant staying here with me.
Where did it all go wrong? When did you decide being without me could be an option? I didn’t mean to call you fat. That was a mistake. And that whole thing with the prostitutes was blown way out of proportion. I swear all we did was play Monopoly. Naked. And that when I took a ride on the Reading that day it was nothing more than a move across the board which cost me two hundred dollars, Monopoly money.
And then there was that thing with my cousin. I was helping her with her undergarments. Nothing more. And, okay, maybe she really isn’t my cousin per se, but that doesn’t mean I slept with her. And even if we did sleep together, naked, while you were out of town, that doesn’t mean we did anything. And even if we did do something, that doesn’t mean it meant anything. And even if it did mean something, it doesn’t mean it meant more than what it means when it means something with you.
Go West if you must. Explore the unexplored and go sail the seas beyond the sun. I will always miss you. I will forever see your face in the back of my cousin’s head, your breasts on the chests of every whore I play Monopoly with. I cannot help myself. That is what you mean to me.
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