Østmarka

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Mez stepped over a fallen log and shifted her backpack, her soft breaths mingling with the harsh crunch of leaves. Light filtered in through the heavy canopy, between densely packed leaves and twisted tree limbs. It made for a beautiful scene; vivid greens interspersed amongst the solid, deep brown. Trees filled every inch of space and the wooded area seemed endless. A vast expanse with not a soul in sight.

Mez gripped the rough bark of a tree and leaned forward, intending to rest herself for a minute. She didn’t sit down because she knew that a five minute break could turn into a thirty minute lapse down there. The harness from her pack dug into the fleshy middle of her stomach, and she readjusted it to her hips. She hadn’t set the gage right and the weight of her pack fell a little more heavily on her shoulders than it should. The image of her tent readily set-up wavered before her eyes and Mez sighed, half relieved and half anguished. She was so close to her mark for the end-of-day camp, but the culmination of a day’s walking didn’t necessarily mean an end to her work. She would still have to set up the tent, build a fire and prepare dinner. Times like this she wondered what the hell she was doing in the middle of a forest in Norway. She slapped at the underside of her arm and pulled back her palm. A grey dot was smudged in the centre, and Mez wiped it disgustingly on her hiking trousers. She had to stop making rash bets.

She took a swig from her warm water bottle, glugging greedily at the spout, before carrying on towards her destination. She pulled off her helmet, clawed back her hair and wrapped a bobble around the short ends. She hated when the strands of her hair stuck to her sweaty nape, and the damp feeling in the crook of her armpits; it made her cringe in disgust. She popped the helmet back on with a sigh. It was at least another mile to camp, but the last leg of the journey always seemed the longest, and today was certainly no exception. Her feet dragged slowly through the underbrush and her eyelids kept dropping now and then. Her breathing grew laboured and there was a persistent ache in her neck.

Ten minutes left. Mez paused again and swallowed, a thick mass clinging to her airway, filling the back of her mouth and clogging her throat. She needed to pee really badly, but every time she tried, the stress of the situation (the lack of privacy) made relieving herself impossible.

It all seemed like a great laugh at the time. Though, she supposed, everything must seem like a great laugh when you’re absolutely shit-faced. Jax was so smug during poker, and the stakes kept getting higher. She wanted to prove a point. But in their version of poker, you weren’t playing for money. It was a mix between cards and Truth or Dare; you played for the opportunity to dish-out humiliation. And whoever lost the round had to complete the task, no matter how horrible or gross. And they had to video document the whole thing for proof. Mez shifted the camera on her helmet. She’d gotten to the final round, the big leagues. Then she’d lost, and all the most humiliating crap you could think of fell on her shoulders. So here she was, miserable and alone in the middle of fuck-all. She sighed heavily and dropped her head into her hands.

A small giggle carried on the wind to her ears, high and feminine in pitch. It sounded like a little girl laughing. Mez looked up sharply and whipped her head around. Her eyes roved over the trees and bushes, seeking out the smallest details. She frowned slightly, not finding the source and chalked it down to exhaustive delusions. She bent over slightly, braced her hands on her knees, pushed back up and carried on, continuously lamenting her poor reasoning when under the influence.

 

The fork clanged against the side of the metal pan and Mez set it down to the side of the camp fire. Despite hating the physical exertion that hiking and camping required, she knew there was one upside to the exercise: weight-loss. You’re using up all this energy through the day, and then when you make it to camp, you have barely enough will power for a few handfuls of trail-mix before you collapse in your tent. So the pounds start to just fall off.

Mez smacked her lips together a few times to get rid of the artificial taste of chicken and leaned back against the tree she was using for a back rest. She’d managed to find a patch of grass that afforded her a brief glance between the canopy growth every now and then. She’d expected a few stars to be out, but the cloud cover was too dense for that, so the only illumination came from the soft flickering of the fire. Mez pulled out a worn paperback from the outside pocket of her backpack and cracked the spine. She managed to get two pages in before her eyes started to itch and the strain to see became too much. She huffed a sigh, slapped the book to the ground, and closed her eyes. A myriad of forest noises began to seep into her ears, and she found her mind softly drifting…

 

Mez slowly became aware again, something pulling on her hair. Her eyes scrunched shut then settled again, and she reached up to smack at the small annoyance. Maybe it was Jasper, her Siamese cat: he liked to play with her hair in the morning while it lay tangled on her pillow. Her hand encountered rough dirt and Mez’s eyes sprang open. Images and recollections instantly flooded her mind, and she remembered where she was. She threw her head up and took stock of her situation.

She was on her back on the ground and a thick vine, similar to Traveller’s Joy, was wrapped tightly around her ankles. The intermittent tugs on her hair were various roots sticking out of the earth, hooking and catching the strands: she’d lost her bobble somewhere along the way. Mez didn’t recognise where she was and the light abrasions on her arms implied that she’d been unconscious for quite some time. Her arms began to flail uselessly by her side and she tried to bring her knees up to her chest. The persistent dragging continued. Her breathing began to speed up and Mez could feel spots of black encroaching on her vision, alarm overriding her system.

She squeezed her hands into fists and brought them back to her sides, shaking slightly with the effort. The whites of her eyes were infused with tiny bloody veins and the black of her pupil expanded to an alarming degree. She scrunched them closed again and tried to even out her breathing, unsuccessfully. Her eyes snapped back open and she began to assess what exactly was going on. She was being dragged – slowly but steadily – to an unknown destination; her legs were bound and her backpack had been left back at camp – which she couldn’t see anymore – along with her food and equipment. She patted hastily at her sides with small movements, cautious that any sudden action may cause the vines to tighten, even though they hadn’t before. Her Swiss army knife should have been in her left trouser pocket, but she’d emptied them last night and had forgotten to put it back in. Her block phone was also back at camp and she didn’t have a cell phone on her due to the crappy reception. It was getting cold and, while the fleece she was wearing was warm, it wasn’t waterproof. And if the hushed rumblings above were any indication, she’d be needing rain cover soon. So to summarise, she had no weapons, no means of communication, and a distinct lack of weather-appropriate garb.

Mez swallowed slightly and looked back down at the vine around her legs. It seemed pretty secure, and when she probed with her fingers, she couldn’t find any slack. She unfurled from her upright position and lay back down, grabbing her hair in one hand and pulling her hood over with the other. It would give her scalp a break, at least. The vine had to be taking her somewhere: it couldn’t just be a scenic tour of the forest. She grasped desperately at a fallen branch as she passed it, but her fingers clenched on empty air and the dragging continued. She flipped over onto her stomach and started to claw at the earth, damp dirt collecting beneath her fingernails. But it was still no use: still, the dragging continued.

 

When the route become more laden with small rocks, Mez began to take notice. There were fewer trees in this part of the forest and more space between them. She moved her head around and spied an outcropping of rocks, seemingly piled together by nature, covered with lichen and creeping ivy. Her eyes trailed from the vines at her feet to their source in a shallow crevice between the rocks.  There was no way she’d fit in the gap, but there was a larger crack a few feet to the right of it that she could manage at a squeeze. She began to panic again. She hadn’t stopped to wonder how the vine was pulling her or where to. But she’d heard about plants that could move of their own volition in documentaries about the Amazon rainforest. What if there was some giant Venus fly trap that was going to swallow her whole? Or it was some kind of plant that drilled roots into you and drained you for nourishment? Mez began to struggle in earnest, yanking at the tough vine breaking her nails in the process. Splinters lodged in her hands and on the underside of her fingers. Just as she was about to touch the rough stone, the dragging stopped and her ankles were released. She quickly scrambled to her feet and stumbled back a few steps, watching the vine warily. It retreated back into the rock and everything was still and silent.

Mez was silent for a few more seconds before turning to look back the way she’d been dragged. She lifted one foot and begun to swing forward when she heard a snap behind her. Her head whipped round, hair tangling in her face and momentarily blinding her. As she pushed the strands away, she glimpsed a meaty fist powering towards her face. She hesitated for too long and was left with no other course of action than to take the blow. Her brain rocked inside her skull from the force and she fell to the ground unconscious.

A blackened hand tightened around her leg, crusted fingernails digging into the soft pale skin around her calf, and she was dragged haltingly into the dark crack between the rocks.

 

A few strands of hair floated softly in a shallow breeze, golden tones shimmering in the flickering flame. The piece of scalp they were attached to had lifted slightly from the bloody skull and the white gleam of bone could be seen here and there. The brain was still contained inside and the individual links of vertebrae still trailed from the base at the back. It rested against another skull, this one empty and green with age. A furred moss covered the surface in patches and any teeth still attached where yellowed. This also rested against a skull, and another, and another. In the semi-darkness, a pyramid began to take shape, consisting entirely of human skulls, both old and new. Rib cages lay in another section of the cave and various miscellaneous bones were scattered along the dirt-packed floor. In a crude metal sconce, hammered into bare stone, a wooden torch flickered lazily amidst the black.

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Short forms

Ok, so our teacher wanted us to have a go at writing short-form fiction: 6 word, 2 sentence, mini-saga and flash fiction. We had a mini-trip to a nearby art gallery for inspiration and this is what I came up with.

6 Word:

Blue dress folded: red splatter stains.

2 Sentence:

On the hill’s crest, soldiers came atop horses covered in red. “Hide the women; they’re back.”

Mini-saga

She lay back against the ground, propped up on a rock. The sun was just beginning to crest above the cloud cover. He looked up quickly, eyes scanning her position before putting hand to clay. He was talented with his hands.
“What will you call it?” She asked.
“Reclining Nude.”

Flash-fiction:

“Jessica? Billy? Time to come in.” Mrs Parker glanced back down at the book in her hand before marking the page and closing it. The sun was beginning to set and she would have to start dinner soon, but not before calling the children in. Otherwise they would play all through the evening. She began packing up the picnic basket, carefully wrapping up all the leftovers so they could be finished off for lunch the next day. She looked at the entrance to the maze again and frowned slightly.
“Come on now. It’ll be getting dark soon.” Hearing no reply, Mrs Parker pursed her lips, placed the packed picnic basket on the ground and walked towards the entrance of the maze. It was already here when they first moved in, Mrs Parker and her husband. A colossal thing, with walls reaching ten foot and spanning a quarter-mile in circumference. Although they had been the happy occupants of the estate for almost ten years, there had been no discernible growth in the maze and it needed no maintenance, even though they had sought out the employment of a gardener to keep the grounds in good condition. Sometimes, Mrs Parker would fell a somewhat ominous presence from the maze: dark and sinister in intent. But that was foolish thinking; symptoms of hysteria perhaps. Mrs Parker made a mental note to book and appointment with the local physician.
Still having heard no response, she entered the maze a few steps before shouting out again, as loud as she could, hearing her voice bounce around the tight corridors and off sharp corners. She was beginning to panic slightly, in the back of her mind. It wasn’t like her children to not come when called, and she hadn’t heard the distant sounds of merriment for quite some time. Mrs Parker swallowed slightly before moving onward. She dare not go too far in lest she loose her way too. She whispered their names now, cautiously, fearing their might be something listening, something she didn’t want hearing her. A sharp snap came from the turn-off to her right, as if someone – or something- had stepped on a twig. Mrs Parker turned quickly, walking back the way she’d come and rushed towards the manor, to enlist her husband in the search.

Torches and lit lamps convened at the entrance to the maze, some still bobbing among the hedges. It was fully dark now and no sign of the children had been found. After a few hours of looking themselves, even asking the servants to pause in their tasks and help, Mr and Mrs Parker still had not found Jessica and Billy, resulting in the prompt phone call to the constable and an even prompter arrival of the local constabulary. But four hours later, they were still no closer to finding the children. Mr Parker held his wife in his arms and gently stroked her arm.
“We’ll have to call off the search, Sir. It’s getting too dark now and the men are getting tired.” The constable held his hat in his hands, a sympathetic frown on his face.
Mr Parker swallowed and nodded, while his wife wailed in worry and sorrow for what might have happened. The constable looked down before walking away and Mr Parker led his wife inside.

In the centre of the maze, a small arm lay limp on the ground, before roots and leaves covered it, leaving nothing behind but a vague impression in the ground.

‘A Day in the Life of a Merc’

Pintada en Marzo 2007 - retocado digitalmente en 21 abril 2004

The air settled cold within my lungs and I wrapped my parka tighter around my shoulders, ice seeping slowly into boot-clad toes.
“Lord knows why we’re meeting here. It’s fucking freezing. No dragon worth its salt would be near this place.”
“Unlikely, isn’t it? But the signs are there: burnt trees, livestock missing, the usual.” Jess glanced across the lake and then back to me, shivering in her denim jacket.
“I told you to wear a proper coat. The forecast said it would be cold.”
“I know, I know.” She stomped her feet a few times and heaved a sigh.
A deep rumble filled the air and a battered Jeep rolled over the dirt road, coming to a stop on the pebbled shore. Jack pulled the keys out of the ignition and rolled the window down.
“Helloooo ladies! Kinda cold, ain’t it?” He hopped out and pulled a bomber jacket around his shoulders. “So, any sightings yet?”
“No, and I don’t think there will be. This is a dead end.” I sighed heavily and looked away across the lake.
“Well,” Jack began walking around the outskirts of the lake, his destination the wooded area around Siljan, the sixth largest lake in Sweden. “This is where all the action’s at, so…” He let the sentence trail off.
“Fine, let’s get this over with then.” I followed after him and looked over to Jessica. “So why are we doing this again?” I pulled out my gloves and put them on.
“Because dragon bone is worth a very pretty penny on the black market, and we need money.” Jess pulled out a map and began to unfold it. “Our last gig was months ago and the bounty for that is all dried up. This is the life of a merc, Siobhan. This is the way it is.”
“Yeah, I get that. It’s just… sometimes I wonder if what we’re doing is right.” I looked down and kicked a pebble.
“Hey,” Jess looked at me. “They’re just animals at the end of the day. Now this is just a recon. Find out where the lair is and then we go back for weapons.” She motioned Jack over and began dividing up sections of the forest for us to search through. I was to take the north section, towards Insjön, Jack would take the south and Jess east. “We’ll be back here in three hours. If you see it, do not engage. We don’t want to lose the element of surprise.”
I nodded, patted my side for the reassuring pressure of my gun, and took off to the north.

Leaves crunched under my boots and dim sunlight filtered through the dense foliage. A persistent wind rushed through the branches, creating shadows and sounds where there’s nothing. I desperately wanted to pull my gun, but this was a recon mission and everything would be spoiled if I scared some civilian out walking their dog into calling the police. That was something I really didn’t need right now. Not with the other shit on my record.
I shook my head, clearing my mind so I could focus on the here and now.
There was an outcropping of rocks a little further ahead, covered in moss. There were underlying cave systems all over this place, rumoured to hold silver veining throughout. It was the ideal kind of home for a dragon. They were seriously into shiny glittering things but despite all the ticks on the checklist, the temperature was still a bit of a problem. Dragons don’t like cold climates, made it difficult for the whole fire-breathing thing.
I walked towards the rocks and began to circle them, searching for any opening large enough for a dragon to fit through. It didn’t have to be big, which is the mistake a lot of people make. Dragons are large, but able to slither into holes like the rest of their cold-blooded brethren.
There was a slight fissure on the north-east side of the outcropping, large enough for a man to easily fit through. I crouched down, removed my gloves, and ran my fingers along the ground. It was still wet from the last downpour and a clear footprint was pushed clearly into the mud. It was a foot long and half as wide. The dragon had left a three-digit impression, narrow and long. The dragon had been here recently.
I looked up at the fissure again and pulled out my phone, looking at the latitude and longitude co-ordinates. I wrote them down on the notepad app on my phone and continued my sweep. I was sure that the outcropping was the dragon’s lair, but Jess had specified no contact with the creature. That meant I wasn’t allowed to explore further.
I carried on walking towards the north, but found nothing else of real worth. There was quite a lot of myth surrounding dragons and a few tales of them shifting into humans – as well as humans into dragons – but I didn’t pay much attention to them. Nobody wanted to think they might be killing actual people. I could barely stand it when I knew they were animals. But hey, survival of the fittest.
A car horn blared at me, pulling me out of my thoughts. I startled and fell backwards, a red Volvo speeding past. I’d reached the end of the forest and stumbled onto the road. A loud rumble filled the sky and I glanced up, lightning forking against clouds of a deep grey. Raindrops began to fall, landing hard on the tarmac. I pushed my sleeve up and looked at my watch. Noting that I’d been walking for two hours, I began to head back. The rain came down harder and I cursed under my breath. I wore a parka to ward off the cold and it rains. Typical.

“So… Did anyone find anything? ‘Cause I got shit-all.” Jack kicked at the pebbles and took a glance around.
“I thought I’d found something, but it turned out to just be a stray’s hideaway.” Jess heaved a sigh and shook her head. “Damn thing almost bit me. Siobhan, anything?”
I looked up and pulled my phone and thumbed through to the co-ordinates. “Actually, yeah. About two miles north of here, there’s an outcropping of rocks. Definitely looks promising: I found tracks.”
“Ok. We go for weapons and gas bombs, come back, gas the fucker out and end him. Then we chop him up and burn the pieces.”
Dragon bones are covered in obsidian, so burning the body doesn’t burn the bones. Well, not unless the fire exceeds 700C. But it sure does smell fucking horrible. Burning flesh could make anyone gag.
“Right then. I’ll meet you two lovely ladies back at the house.” Jack hopped into his Jeep and drove off.
Jess pulled the keys out of her pocket and jangled them. “Come on. Best hurry up or he’ll pick all the good ones”.

“Do you want the crossbow or the broad sword?” Jack held both in hand.
“I’ll take both. Pass me the scabbard (or sheath) as well and I’ll strap the sword to my back.” I started rummaging through the potions draw.
“Where will you put the quiver then?”
“Well, I’m putting the sword on my back so the bolts will have to go over my shoulder.”
Jack shrugged. “Ok then. Think I fancy the axe, myself. You can get a nice good heft in behind it.” He began to swing experimentally.
Jess walked into the room and frowned at Jack. “Careful with that. I don’t want another hole in my wall.”
Jack stopped with a sheepish look on his face. I finally found the sleeping draught for the dragon and pocketed it.
Jess shook her head and pulled out the map. “Right. Jack, I want you to come in from the west. Siobhan, you come in from the east. I’ll chuck the gas bomb in and wait for it to slither out. Then we kill it. Any questions?”
Jack and I shook our heads, so used to the routine that we weren’t sure why she still asked. We’d been doing this for about three years. Sometimes it’s so much a part of your life that you can barely remember what you did before.
“Ok. Let’s head out.” Jess grabbed a dagger and axe from the weapons chest and swung out the door.
“This is gonna make us some big bucks.” Jack grinned at me. “Soon we’ll be rolling in it.” He followed after Jess and I pulled the door closed behind us.

I crouched low behind a bush and watched Jess approach the dragon’s lair. She pulled out the gas bomb and yanked out the pin. Then she threw it into the fissure.
I counted down slowly in my head. Five…four…three…two…one.
We heard a sharp pop and then green smoke began to seep out. My hand tensed around the crossbow and my breathing quickened. I always hated this part: the adrenaline spiked and for a bare second, I’d have rather run and hide then fight. Times like these when I wonder why I even do this.
Then I remember the pay-out. Guess we really are all just slaves to the money.
“Get ready!” Jess took several paces back and raised her axe higher.
A trememdous roar burst out from the lair and the dragon finally slithered forward. It was at least ten foot tall and covered in black scales. Large menacing spikes rose up along its spine and red eyes glowed madly from the sides of a dusky grey snout. The wings towered out, above and to the sides, leathery black and larger than life. It roared again and stalked towards Jess, fangs bared.
Jack twirled his axe in his hand and grinned. “Oh man. This is gonna be great!”
I stood up and approached cautiously. Jess, Jack and I now stood in a loose circle, surrounding it. We made sure that there was always someone at its back. We made doubly sure that it never cornered us. Wouldn’t want to give it any more of an advantage.
It took a swipe at Jess with one massive claw-tipped paw. She jumped back and swung the axe in a wide arc, missing the dragon by inches. Jack jumped in from the side and took a strike at the left hind leg. I sighted down the crossbow and pulled the trigger. But the arrow just glanced off the scales.
Shit. It seemed bolts weren’t gonna cut it. Pun intended. I pulled the broad sword from my back and tightened my grip around the hilt.
The dragon swung around to glare at me and started to approach, slowly. I held my arm steady and stared it down. It started to swing it’s head from side to side, taunting me. Suddenly, the dragon swung low and came at me from the right, opening its jaws wide and snapping its teeth. I sliced at its snout and it jerked back.
Jack planted the axe in its left haunch and Jess severed an Achilles tendons. The dragon listed to the side and staggered forward. Jack finished off the other tendon. “Come on Siobhan. Finish it!”
The dragon swiped at me with one claw and I ducked, turning quickly to bury my sword in its neck. Purple blood instantly began to pour out, drenching me in ichor. I stumbled back and swallowed air into my lungs. Jack and Jess stood up from their crouched positions, smiles on their faces.
The dragon collapsed, taking one shuddering breath before its eyes turned glassy and the twitching stopped.
Jess stood straight and looked around. “Right. Well, best start building the fire. Wouldn’t want anyone to find this and steel our bounty.” Jack nodded and began looking for dry branches, while Jess started to gather dead leaves. “Go clean yourself up Siobhan. I think we got this.”
I nodded and began walking back to the car, shaking the excess blood off my hand every few steps. Ain’t it great being a merc.

‘The Suburbs’

HqcOy

Ella rubbed her arms roughly and hastened her pace. The separate click-clack of her heeled boots as they hit the pavement echoed off the surrounding walls. She huddled deeper into her dress and cursed her decision to forgo a coat. Night had fallen quicker this evening, and she’d scarcely realised the time before the club was shut-up and its customers expelled out to the cold, unforgiving world. Ella had arranged for a friend to pick her up, but after waiting a half hour, she’d resigned herself to walking back. It was only a few blocks to the suburbs and then only a couple of streets to home. The walk was pleasant during the daytime, but it all seemed more sinister under the cloak of midnight, and a cool chill wrapped it’s tendrils up around Ella’s shoulders and down along her exposed legs. Her eyes darted from left to right and her breath began to quicken, a hazy mist appearing, created from cold air and warm exhalations.
She reached the suburbs quickly and carried on along the quieter streets. As she passed a row of houses to her right, a strange creaking noise reached her ears. Ella stumbled and paused slightly, confused. Her ponytail whipped from left to right, following in the wake of her head as she scanned the area, looking for source of the noise. Her eyes caught on the obviously unlocked door of the house directly to her right as it slowly swung inward. Ella checked her watch. The hour hand was pointed straight to the right and the minute hand pointed exactly up: 3:00AM to the second. She glanced back at the open door, wondering why someone living in the suburbs would be up at a time like this. The door stayed open, nobody appearing in the space it had created. But the more Ella stared, the more that space turned into an abyss, swallowing everything in its periphery. Ella blinked twice, sure that her mind was playing tricks on her. Frown lines marred her forehead, but she continued walking, quickening her pace so she could return home just that little bit quicker.
The sidewalk was lined with street lamps, evenly spaced every three metres to provide optimum coverage. As Ella reached the second house, she heard that ominous creak again and the lamp she had just passed flickered once…then twice…then remained dark. She turned her whole body around and stared at the lamp. The creak came again and Ella instinctively looked back towards the first house, to the door, expecting it to have closed as sinisterly as it had opened. But nothing had changed. It was still that empty space, the deepening abyss. That sound came again and she turned her head slightly to the left, now focusing on the next house. This door began to open as slowly as the first one had. And just like before, nobody was there. Just that blank space.
Ella turned back – the way towards home – and sped up until she was jogging. Each house she passed, the lights flickered off and the door opened, each time the noise scraping down her spine. Ella reached the end of the street and stopped, unable to grasp air. She looked back haltingly and waited. The doors stood open, the lights all off. The only thing that stopped the area from falling to complete and utter blackness was the silvery sheen cast by the moon.
And then, as if in complete synchronicity, a figure appeared at every door. Each one was non-descript, although as she looked at the figure nearest to her, she realised it was the resident of the house, Mrs Hambrey. Ella’s mother used to drop her off at Mrs Hambrey’s house sometimes for babysitting, but that sweet-faced woman was nowhere to be seen. Now, her face was blank and emotionless.
As one, they all stepped forward and walked in a straight line towards the sidewalk she had just crossed. Their movements were not jolting and rigid like a robot’s, but neither were they shambling along like zombies in a low-budget B movie. They walked…like they were human. But there was something missing: the movement was too smooth. There were not trips or stumbles; just an unwavering repeat of one foot in-front of the other. They reached the sidewalk, paused, and then all turned towards Ella. It was then that she saw Mrs Hambrey’s eyes. They had that blue film that eyes got when they’d been dead for a couple of hours. There was no emotion in those eyes, no recognition, nothing. Just emptiness. A quick glance told Ella that the others were exactly the same. Her eyes widened in fright and she started running again. But no matter how fast her legs moved, how quickly her feet hit the tarmac, she could still hear them; could still feel them behind her. Ella reached the row of houses with hers at the end. Spurred on by the sight of safety, she pushed herself just that little bit harder, took a sharp right at the path and braked hard at her front door. Panting, she reached into her right boot and pulled out her keys. They jangled softly as she inserted them into the lock and her front door swung open. Ella stepped inside and stopped at the oppressive silence behind her. They were there, standing at the edge of the front lawn, just…waiting. She scanned their faces as she regained her breath. What were they waiting for? They’d followed her this far.
A hand landed on her shoulder and Ella turned in relief, expecting the welcome sight of her mother. But it was those dead, dead eyes again. Her mother’s dead, dead eyes. Ella released a sob of despair and she – no, it – smiled. What used to be her mother reached past her and softly closed the door on those waiting figures, enveloping them in complete and absolute darkness.

The Garden

summerhouse-and-pond

A resplendent explosion of colour,
amassed in a singular space.
Fragile stalks reach above to radiance,
as delicate as sugar lace.

Topiary of dense green,
shading dampened earth below.
New growth shoots from it’s depths,
and buds bloom fast and slow.

Dew on grass blades and,
pinkened petals wet.
Mother Nature’s natural beauty,
a lovelier sight never met.

Writing Competition

Hi all.

I recently uploaded a story of mine for a supernatural / horror competition on inkitt.com. The winners are chosen by popular vote so please check it out. If you think it’s good, you can vote for it by clicking on a ‘heart’ at the bottom of the screen.

Here’s the link: The Suburbs

Check out some of the other submissions as well. They’re really good!!!

Thank you!!!

Writing for Magazine Coursework 1

P_20150211_130135

Coventry: The Not-So-Modern City by Katherine Westwood

I had never heard of Coventry before. I was going through the elimination process of finding a university and decided to get to know it. Awarded Modern University of the Year 2015, I expected an equally modern city. However, it became evident to me during my visit that Coventry has a hidden past that stretches millennia.

The fairly small city can trace its roots back almost 2000 years, to when it was an early Iron Age settlement. It influenced the novelist George Eliot greatly in her works, was home to the infamous Lady Godiva, and during World War II, was one of the first areas to suffer major attack.

Home to approximately 329,810 people, Coventry is most widely recognised for its impressive new cathedral – a replacement to the previous one destroyed in World War II. In the past millennia, the city has had three cathedrals: Priory

Church of St Mary (built in 12th century), Parish Church Cathedral of St Michael (built during the Medieval period), and currently, Coventry Cathedral. In 1940, the second cathedral was destroyed by bombs, and the decision to rebuild was decided the very next day. The new cathedral stands tall next to the ruins of the old one, with the exact brick lay as the previous – a washed-out ruddy brown with a clean equal cut. Giant round pillars hold aloft an expansive ceiling over the walkway between the new cathedral and old, demanding you stretch your neck back and gaze up, as if to the heavens themselves. The entrance to the cathedral faces the preserved ruins of the old one and is built entirely of engraved glass panes, each one detailed with the image of a different biblical figure.  In difference to the previous, however, this modern cathedral now features a colossal bronze depiction of Michael defeating the Devil. Lucifer is prone on

the ground at the Archangel’s feet, bound in chains, with Michael posed tall and sentinel, a spear clutched in his grasp. This representation of holy justice awes you as your eyes first alight upon it, and the architectural design does not imitate that of other holy buildings, but of an imposing structure that welcomes all, despite your beliefs.

Opposite to the cathedral, to the left of the University, is the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. This Museum shows a timeline of Coventry, from its early years as an Iron Age settlement, right through to its recovery after WWII. As you start at the back of the room and walk your way forward, Coventry’s past unfolds before you like the petals of a blossoming flower, revealing all of its hidden depths. The room is filled with the sound of horses and the clink of iron, a mimicking of life 2000 years past, transporting you to a different period, and making the experience of viewing all this history even more engaging. The museum holds originals and replicas of items from the Iron Age, as well as from the Victorian and medieval period.

Coventry City was also home to Lady Godiva, an historic female figure famous for riding naked on a horse through the town of Coventry. Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Lord of Mercia, who was a very prominent nobleman of the 11th century and while the Lady Godiva was a real person, there is, however, no defining evidence of her being the naked rider. The first mention of the tale appeared in the ‘Chronica of Roger of Wendover’, which was written at least a century after Godiva’s death and it states that Leofric grew so annoyed of Godiva’s pleas to reduce the heavy taxes of the area, he declared he would only do so if she rode around the marketplace naked. She complied and used her long titian hair to cover all but her legs. Lord Leofric then reduced the taxes, honouring his side of the deal. There is a version of the tale which suggests that Godiva asked the people to remain inside their homes and to not look, but one man did and was struck blind. This is the origin of the famous phrase ‘peeping Tom’.

I now reside in Coventry, and still find small hints around the area of what has been. It is a beautiful place to live and pieces of modern architecture are interspersed between sloping Tudor buildings, each one a relic of history. The modern city of Coventry has grown around these glimpses of a past period and seems to almost engulf them. Yet, nothing appears out of place or as if it doesn’t belong. Coventry is an area which merges the old and the new, and a stunning reminder of things we shall never forget.

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