The Hole

The Hole

Prompt: 15th May 2021 – Solid vs Liquid

There was a fine layer of dust on the surface of the sun-hardened ground. Even at night, the heat could still be felt rising from it. The clouds were doing their utmost to hide any star or moonlight from the earth, and the animals were silent, seeming to know what was about to happen here. 

He had no tools with him, but he had no choice. He fell to his knees and, in a blind panic, began to claw at the dirt. He scratched and picked, and felt for sharp stones that he could use to leverage the ground open. The dust rose up and rushed into his panting mouth, choking him, but he couldn’t stop. He pleaded and begged the dirt to move aside and let him in. 

With broken nails and aching hands, he managed to form a small basin. Once the top layer had been removed, the earth gave way more easily. His digging became more frantic and his fingers started to bleed as they caught on unfriendly edges. His mind was set on his only goal and he dug as if his life depended on it. 

The night was getting colder but he was warm from his efforts. And still, the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He dug deeper and deeper, becoming more manic and desperate the further he went. Every now and again a whimper escaped from him as he tunneled his way down. His eyes wide, trying to see through the dark and the mud. His hands were covered in clay and blood. The ground, he was pulling out in clumps now, was tacky and moist. Flecks jumped up and splattered his face but any attempt he made to brush them away just pushed them further into his eyes.  

Down and down, he went, and the soil got wetter and wetter. The mud began slipping through his fingers as he scraped it up the walls and out into the night. Then his jeans were soaked through and his boots began filling with water. His hands were washed clean every time he reached down for more. 

Relentlessly, hand over hand, he scooped out the masses of mud. The water level rose with every scoop. Before long, he had to submerge his head to reach the floor, and still, he kept on digging. It took longer and longer breaths, and he began to spatter and cough every time he came up for air. Finally, he lost his footing and had to dive down to the never ending task, then tread water as he tried to catch his breath. 

Time and time again he dove, dug, and rose. He had long lost reach of the top of the hole, so had resorted to sticking the mud to the sides of the walls to stop it from undoing his hard work. The air became dense around him as the hole above his head narrowed. He returned to the base, pulling it free then sticking it to the roof he’d now created above himself. The fear and exhaustion had taken over his senses and all he could do was all he had been doing. His small pocket of air shrunk as he committed himself to his endless task. 

* * * 

He floated with his back brushing against the ceiling on the tomb he had created for himself. All around him was finally still. His broken hands drifted, weightless. He blinked and the tide took him out to the ocean.  

Ode to the Seaside

Ode to the Seaside

Prompt: 5th October – Salt vs Sweet

The sun is on its fifth day of unshadowed glory. Summer is well and truly here. Further into town, the humidity can feel stifling and claustrophobic, pressing in on you like the holiday crowds. But out here, the wind skips across the sea and sweeps through the throngs, filling your lungs with fresh, salty air.

As you head towards the promenade, the sound of music from the bandstand is overcome by the casual crashing of waves tumbling over one another, and the gleeful screams of children chasing the tide away and then fleeing from it as it snaps at their heels.

In the height of summer, there are more bodies than sand. I love to watch the people step off their towels with bare feet then hop quickly from one foot to the other – the sun-scorched sand as hot as coals – towards the ice-cold sea. They run into it, eager to soothe their burning feet then scream, shiver, and run back up to the safety of their towels again.

The seafront arcade blares out its upbeat jingles trying to entice you in. It snags the children easily, but adults are usually less likely to let the gloomy, blinking arcade lights steal their sun-filled afternoon. There is an air-hockey table right by the entrance that might see action from a couple or two, but the salt and sand have made the surface rough, so the paddles don’t glide across it as they once did. I never minded though, it added to the charm.

There are ‘bits and bobs’ stores all along the coast too, bursting at the seams with buckets and spades, inflatables of varying shapes and sizes, sunglasses, and parasols. Early in the day they are well organised and sit neatly on the shop door steps, but as the day goes on the items make their way, higgledy-piggledy, towards the sand, while the sand creeps its way up to meet them.

Every few meters a series of tables and chairs will signify an eatery of some kind. This is where you’ll also find the larger than life seagulls hanging out, pacing back and forth, waiting for you to get distracted and take your eye off your meal for the slightest of split seconds. That’s all they need to snatch it from your plate and disappear. The way a person guards their food indicates whether they are native or tourist.

My favourite food outlet is a small ice-cream hut about a half-mile down the coast. The ice-cream is made locally and has a creamy quality and depth of flavour that just doesn’t compare. Chocolate is my favourite. The cold, sweet taste dances on my tongue and fills me up with blissful delight.

I have lived here all my life. I have seen the sea and walked the beach in all seasons, at dusk, dawn and midday high sun, but I have never loved it so much as this moment, with this ice-cream, on my first date with myself.

As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below

Prompt: 21st September 2020 – Earth vs Air

A dance, a rising and falling, sweeping back and forth. A gentle wisp, touching, kissing, playing with all it reaches. The dust leaps up to join the ballet. There is a rumble from the deep. Far beneath the surface where nothing can survive, a red, bubbling heat. Everything above floats on this hellish lake. What was once solid and stable, shifts and moves. The rumbling grows and echoes, engulfing all. A crack, a crunch, a crash, the world is collapsing. Massive sheets push against each other, grinding. Then all is quiet again.

It begins with a jump. For so long these twigs have been home, but a time must come to take the leap. Hesitant steps patter against the edge of security. Beady eyes flit between the ground and sky. Wings stretch and begin to beat as the instinct to fly overcomes the instinct to hide. Then the jump, followed by a frantic fall. Desperate, terrified, beating feathers suddenly find purchase. An invisible hand lifting them away from danger and guiding them into freedom. A lifelong friendship has begun.

It ends with a sleep. The sweet, green meadow has given so much. It nourishes and protects. It is the first thing that can be seen when the eyes begin to open. It is where the young ones play and the elder ones nap. It is soft and lush under the paws. It collects the refreshing morning dew. Yes, it has given much and still now it cradles the body as the hopping becomes shuffling, and old bones lay down to sleep one final time. A lifelong friendship has ended.

Up, down. High, low. Fly, stand. Poles apart and yet so similar. As above, so below.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For

Prompt: 14th September 2020 – Day vs Night

“Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Because you know this isn’t something that can be taken back if you change your mind.”

“I understand.”

“So then tell me. Why do you want this?”

“I want to be strong and powerful, like you Master.”

“Power is this thing you covet? The power to kill?”

“Yes Master, I long to take a human life.”

“What else?”

“Immortality. To see eras come and go, empires rise and fall, to be present at the beginning and end of all things. I envy your freedom.”

“Freedom?! Explain.”

“You are a shadow in the night. You don’t exist in any file or database. You can go where you please, when you please. You can do whatever you want and no-one can stop you. You can kill indiscriminately and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

“I see.” There was a long pause before the Master spoke again.

“I have lived for more than 300 years. I no longer hunt for sport. Killing is for survival only. I take no joy in it. I have killed all kinds of people in all kinds of ways, sooner or later it becomes repetitive and redundant. Killing is a chore. My immense ‘strength and power’ removes any challenge that there once was, completely eradicating any remaining joy that I could possibly extract from it. We must feed every night, or we get sick and fade to dust.

In this sense we are not immortal. We can ‘die’ in a multitude of ways, the only thing we are immune to is aging. You will see eras come and go, empires rise and fall, and be present at the beginning and end of things, but soon all will become a cloud of impermanence. You forget names and faces and events as any meaning that they once had is no more. The fragility and fleeting nature of life is what makes things precious. You cannot appreciate things that have no effect on your existence. You will see the same things a million times and remain untouched by them.

And this freedom you speak of! I don’t exist in the world. No one knows me, no one sees me. I can go and do anything, and nobody knows, nobody sees, nobody cares. I am no-one, nowhere, nothing. I am trapped by my insatiable hunger and unaltered body. Bound to the earth but unable to enjoy earthly things. And yet I still possess my old human emotions. I feel an overwhelming melancholy for all that I have lost and an all-consuming rage for the being that took them from me. This is not an existence that anyone should seek out.”

“I understand Master. I’m sorry, I was ignorant before but now I see how this thing I believed was a blessing is actually a terrible curse.”

“It is… but you said you were sure.”

As the Master held the limp blinking body of his new protégé in his arms, he licked the blood from his lips and turned his face to the full radiance of the moon.

“All I want, is to see the sun rise again.” He said.



Prompt: 7th September 2020 – High vs Low

A rollercoaster. That’s what they call it. You have your ups and your downs. I hate the over-simplification.

Rollercoasters are fun, for starters. People pay money and queue for hours to get those few minutes of fun. Then they walk away with a photo and fond memories. Nobody queues for this ride.

I was taken by force when I was far too young, shoved onto the ‘rollercoaster’, strapped down and made to ride it perpetually, indefinitely.

The tracks are always changing, so I can’t even get used to it, I never know what is coming next. The highs are so high, they terrify me. The sun is burning my eyes, the wind is rushing past my ears, the air is so thin up here. I can’t see, I can’t hear, I can barely breathe.

Sometimes I throw my arms in the air, I scream, and stamp my feet. People point and say, “Look at how much fun she’s having! She’s always the life of the party.” They don’t understand that I am desperately trying to get their attention, that I desperately need help.

After the high comes a plunge into the dark empty hole of the low. It drops so suddenly, like off the edge of a cliff, or a tall building. But I can’t see, hear, or breathe, so even though I know it’s coming, I don’t know when, or how far I will fall.

So I’m on my high, squinting, shouting, panting, then suddenly, the tracks beneath me disappear. My stomach jumps up into my throat, I feel sick and winded. The sun has gone, and I can see the ground rushing up to meet me. I brace myself for impact, but I continue past it.

I am subterranean now. Everybody else is walking around above me, over me, on top of me, unable to see me, or hear me. They have no idea that I’m down here. They are blissfully unaware. I keep sinking, deeper, darker, cold, alone. No light reaches these depths, the silence presses in on me, and the air is dank and rancid. I can’t see, I can’t hear, I can barely breathe. Then, when I just can’t take it anymore, I’m being hoisted upward again.

My body sways this way and that, being thrown about by the moving tracks. My neck hurts from the whiplash. I want off of this ride. So badly. I’d do anything. I begin pulling at my restraints, yanking at them desperately. I break my nails and sprain my wrist. I have to get out, get off. I can’t keep doing this, I need to breathe. Suddenly, there is a loud crack, the sound of a broken spring and my ‘safety bar’ releases me.

The Predator

The Predator

Prompt: 31st August 2020 – Ordinary vs Extraordinary

I watch on intently, barely breathing, waiting for him to make his move. He’s been crouched in that same position for what feels like hours now. It all happened so suddenly, he was just strolling along, minding his own business when suddenly his eye was caught. He locked onto his target and hid himself in a nearby bush. Here he had been waiting, close to the ground for his opportune moment. They say that hunting is a waiting game and this guy is a true predator, born and bred to stalk and kill, it’s a marvel to watch him work.

I’m a few feet away and trying to match his stillness. The last thing I want is to give away his position, or to distract him when he’s in ‘hunting mode’. I wait and watch him, while he waits and watches his prey. No movement, no breath from either of us. As I watch, he begins to move. He’s not going in for the kill yet, just creeping a little closer to get a better vantage point. He is glued to the ground as he moves, his eyes never stray from the target for a second and his limbs are lifted and placed slowly and deliberately with a fluid-like motion. I watch him go, but every few steps he kicks a stone or rustles a leaf. When he does this, he freezes for a moment to make sure he hasn’t been heard, my eyes snap to the target as well, but it’s blissfully unaware. Then he continues on.

He’s way out in the open now and I’m starting to have my doubts about his expertise. I’ve heard stories about these killers, seen them in action before, but this one? Maybe he’s too young or not had enough experience in the field. He is getting more excited the closer he gets, and the excitement is making him clumsy. His movements are becoming obvious and the noises he is making are too loud, he’s sure to be seen!

He creeps closer and closer eyes wide and unmoving. He stops and I see his feet dig into the ground beneath him. This is it! He’s going in for the kill! My heart can barely take it, all the anxiety has led to this moment.

His bum wiggles side to side as he feels his footing is solid, then he pounces! His claws extend and his teeth are bared as he flies through the air. He lands on target, sinks his teeth in and begins to rip the stuffing out of previously created holes.

Babbit-on-a-string never saw him coming.

The Race

The Race

Prompt: 17th August 2020, Ahead vs Behind

I am ahead. My legs are brimstone and my lungs are sucking in ash but I’m ahead. I can’t slow down. I can feel him right behind me. I keep my eyes fixed on the road. If I look back, he’ll see my fear. If I look back, he’ll have me. Wait, is that? I can hear him. No! He is in peripheral. He is beside me. My legs feel wet now, are they bleeding? I can’t give more. I have no more. He edges further ahead of me. Come on, legs! Push! Move! The ash is now hot glass, shredding my throat with every gasp. My legs won’t obey. I am looking at his back now. I have failed. I am useless. Worthless. Pathetic. All that training. All that time. All that pain. Wasted. I am a waste. Why do I bother? 2nd place is the first to fail. Wait, what’s this? No, it can’t be! Another colourful haze to my right. This can’t be happening to me. Move, you useless piece of shit! Fucking move! Now there are two backs mocking me. My face is red. Rage and embarrassment hiding beneath exhaustion. How did I fuck up this badly? I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to have legs or breathe air. I’ll never do this again. I’m shit. Worthless shit. I am behind.

Footprints in the Snow

Footprints in the Snow

Prompt: 10th August 2020, Hot vs Cold

It was 3am when a bad dream woke me from my sleep with a gasp. I know because I always check the time as soon as I wake up. It helps me to ground myself, to know where I am in time and space. I don’t remember what the dream was about but going back to sleep seemed like a terrible idea. I sat up and pushed the duvet back, steadying my breathing as I did. I felt exhaustion pull at my eyelids, but I kept dragging them back open, afraid of what lay in my subconscious. With the warmth of the duvet gone, I began to feel winter seeping into my toes, and I remembered an old cautionary infomercial about driving while tired. They recommended opening a window as the cold, fresh air will keep you awake until you’re able to find somewhere safe to stop. I moved over to the window and drew back the curtains. It was snowing.

I closed the door as quietly as possible then turned to look at the virgin blanket before me. I didn’t have a destination in mind, just thought I’d walk until I got too cold or people start leaving for work. I have always loved snow. The fresh smell of ice in the air, the way the delicate flakes disappear in the palm of your hand, the glow of the streetlights turning the old grey concrete into diamonds and gold. I thought about how I love the crunching sound of the compacting snow beneath each step, that was when I realised the sound was missing. I must have been more tired than I thought to not notice before.

I stopped walking and looked down at my feet. They were planted solidly on the ground, I could feel it under me, and there was snow piled up around the edges of my boots. I lifted a foot and placed it back down, applied pressure, shifted all of my body weight onto it, but the was no noise. I lifted the same foot again and stepped slightly to the side. To my amazement, there was no imprint in the space where it had been. I turned to look down the path I had just walked. No footprints. The snow was completely untouched. I crouched and reached out a hand. I felt my fingers sink into the freezing cotton and watched them turn pink as the blood rushed into them, but when I lifted my hand, it left no mark. I tried to scoop up handfuls of the stuff but, even though I was in possession of a crude snowball with melted droplets running down my arm, no snow had been taken from the street.

Suddenly a feeling of dread came over me and I ran, panicked, down the road looking for anyone else who might be out at this time. As I approached the corner, a woman stepped into my path. I was going too fast to stop in time, I called out to her so she could brace for the inevitable impact. Then I was standing on the other side of her. I turned back, trying to understand what had happened. She shivered and walked on, never looking my way. It was then that I knew.