Category Archives: Flash fiction
“There it is,” the high-pitched cry pierced the gloom. As one, we looked across the dark, calm waters of the loch. Where once had been foreboding darkness we watched as the beam of a lantern appeared, illuminating one of the openings high in the castle wall. It was a wonder that no-one else could have seen it but it was our agreed signal. We trotted down to the shingle bank and positioned ourselves on either side of the little wooden boat resting just above the seaweed strewn tideline. Taking up positions either side we pushed the boat into the water stern first. Then all four of us, standing knee deep in our breeches in the cold water, clambered aboard. We took up the oars and carefully fed them through the muffled rowlocks. Each one wrapped in strips of cloth to cover the sound of the creaking oars.
“Easy lads,” the coxswain breathed, “we don’t want any splashing to be heard or the game will be up.” We strained at the oars and the dinghy slid silently across the waters with barely a ripple. It was only a short pull but we realised the current was against us and though the evening was cold I could feel the sweat forming under my tunic and salty streams running down my brow. We finally got to the shore below the castle wall and shipping the oars ran the little craft up the sand. We three oarsmen leapt over the gunwale and leaving the coxswain seated in the stern, we started to drag the boat out of the water.
The lantern still shone from the walls but the beach seemed ominously quiet. It was supposed to be a secret mission. Our purpose was to take the sole prisoner held in the castle back to the mainland where a troop of horsemen were waiting to accompany her carriage on the route to Edinburgh.
From high on the wall we suddenly heard a shout and more lights started to appear. When the first discharge was heard we realised the plan had failed. We scrambled back into the boat and started to pull for our lives. Musket balls were raining down and forming fountains all around the boat but luckily none of us were hit.We finally arrived at the far side and found it deserted. It appeared everyone had run away when the first shots were heard. We thought it best to do the same ready to plan our next attempt at rescue.
It was a long walk but it was worth it. I had followed the old drover’s road from the beach at Porlock Weir. In times past the only way that the necessities of life could be carried to the outlying small settlements on the moor was either by pack-horse or pulled on sledges, called truckles. Their way had for centuries been blocked by a fast-flowing stream which had it’s birth on the high moor till it finally plunged into the sea at Becky falls. A total length of over forty miles as the crow flies but much further with all the twists and turns as it followed the contours of the land. This old bridge was the only crossing point. Still standing after probably hundreds of years but virtually disused; having outlasted it’s reason for being, now only serving as a mystery to any hiker who happened to come upon it in their travels.
Surrounded by dappled sunlight, I decided to rest, breathe in the cool air and enjoy the idyllic scene. I stretched out, my back propped against my rucksack on the large granite rock which formed a firm foundation for the little archway, like the roof support of some parish church nave. The only sound was of the rushing stream, each ripple and wavelet jostling it’s neighbour in the race to pass through the narrow channel. In my drowsy state I imagined I heard the sound of whinnying, snorting and shouting. The use of the whip being unnecessary as the proud little Exmoor ponies would have known the direction they were heading and the path they needed to take. Back up to their homeland to discharge the sand for the farmers to mix in with with their cloying, damp, peaty soil from which to try and wrest a few reluctant crops.
The names of those who built this stout bridge are long forgotten but the moss-lined, grass-topped, faced stones remain as testimony to their skill as they helped others to carve a life from the inhospitable region they were proud to call their home.
I could hardly believe it. Suddenly stricken with a craving for nostalgia and childhood memories I had decided to take a tour around the land of my birth. Driving around the village of my childhood I remembered one of the local children’s favourite pastimes. There was a steep hill out of the village with at the bottom a shallow ford where a small stream crossed the road forming a pool, one foot deep at the most. We all used to career down the hill on our pushbikes and with loud cries of delight hold our shorts-clad legs in the air as the water sprayed from beneath our wheels as we crossed. It was great fun especially when someone had the misfortune to fall off. Probably due to the large pebbles we had hidden in the pool. Sadly, now the stream has gone and the children no longer have the pleasure.
Brother Alphonso started to feel rather pleased with himself. Although it was considered a violation of the rules of the Order, a form of vanity. He found it very hard not to let a smile show on his face, just a slight upturn of the lips. He smoothed the parchment and prepared his writing tool ready to transcribe the last two lines. He had been working on the Ogham script for fourteen months. Now he was the first and only person able to read the legends as they were written. Sadly his excitement at the translation proved too much for his elderly body as he collapsed to the floor having suffered a fatal heart attack.
Before me, my destiny. Ahead, the colonnade, bestrewn with offerings of the lucky few. I stood, decorated crystal vase in hand. Within, a host of freesias and orchids, their delicate hues and subtle fragrance assailed my eyes and ears. To my left stood former suitors to the Demi-goddess within. Medusa.
I looked up at the clock on the windowsill. It was obvious that time was running out. New candles needed.
Gaydon had been celebrating. Darts night in The Cottage Inne and his team had just won. It was time to go home. Rosie, his wife would be waiting up for him. On his way he saw some people dancing in the moonlight. They grabbed his hands and he found himself spinning faster and faster till he collapsed. He awoke alone and continued his walk home to tell Rosie he had been pixie-led. Fool, she said, you should have turned your coat inside out and you would have been safe from their spells.
Aproaching the twilight of my earth bound time I made a personal pilgrimage to the Tuscan countryside of my youth. The farmhouse was strikingly familiar, memories came flooding back. Despite the passage of over fifty years I still held the fantasy that as I approached the stable door that familiar long blonde nose framed with gold, would peer out and in that curiously American accent my great friend, with his own particular lip-smacking sound would greet me as before; ready to offer advice and his own style of philosophical thought. Sadly it was not to be, “Mister Ed,” the wonderful talking horse was long gone to the glue factory in the sky.
Sandra felt detached, as if standing looking at herself from a few feet away. Somehow surprised at her imagined facial expression, it was certainly not how she felt. Inside she was smiling. The casket stood dark and aloof, the lid balanced on end. The face inside was ashen, smooth, parchment dry. Her mother, released from life, freeing Sandra from her years of denial. She had expected more emotion, probably not sadness, a feeling more akin to relief.