The Chamber #3 – #writephoto

The following piece of creative writing forms the final part of a three-part series that I have been writing over the past week. I have today managed to finish this mini-series with the help of another of Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompts. You can read part one of this story here, and part two here. Thank you for reading and I very much hope that you enjoy!

A sigh slipped through Danny’s cracked lips as he leaned back against the dense hedgerow behind him. He was sat atop a small hill that overlooked Alice’s street. From here, he could see her parents. They were still calling out to their daughter, still screaming her name as if there was any chance that she had not heard them; as if there was any chance that she would still come home.

Danny had decided that he was never going to see Alice again. He had searched for too long, asking almost every member of the neighbourhood whether they had glimpsed his little girl. No one had known anything. No one had seen anything. The surrounding security cameras had come up empty and now Danny sat, completely alone.

There was no ray of sunshine to light his grey clouds anymore. Alice was gone, and he was on his own again. He watched Alice’ mother sobbing on the grass below and, with a heavy sigh, he pulled himself to his feet. There was no point feeling sorry for himself. Alice was still out there somewhere, and even if he doubted that there was any chance that she could still be alive… well, he couldn’t give up.

He had just reached the house below when the noise of an approaching vehicle made him turn. A silky black car drew up to the house and the passenger door opened just a tiny slither. Something small and dark was flung onto the grass in front of Danny, and then the door was slammed shut and the car was driving away.

Danny watched it go, his mouth hanging slightly open.

“Did you get the number plate?”

It was Alice’s father, Mr. Mckenzie. He marched past Danny, not looking at him, and reached down to examine the object that had been thrown from the car.

“No,” Danny murmured, resenting his helplessness. Mr. Mckenzie sighed, still not looking at Danny. Then Mrs. Mckenzie was beside him and he revealed to her the object which he held in his hand. It was a small flip phone, the like of which Danny hadn’t seen in years.

Danny had just opened his mouth to speak when the phone in Mr. Mckenzie’s hand beeped loudly. He drew closer to read the message over the couple’s shoulders.


Beneath the message, bank details had been listed. Yet Danny had barely glanced at them when the phone beeped again, and they glimpsed a terrified image of Alice.



Alice was alive.

Danny didn’t seem able to focus on the couple’s conversation. He had turned around to stare into the setting sunlight. It wasn’t over yet. He was going to see her again.

He was brought back to reality by the shrieks of Mrs. Mckenzie. Danny turned to see her pulling on her husband’s arm, her eyes wide.

“That’s her, Greg. That’s really her… we have to pay!”

“We go to the police,” Mr. Mckenzie said shortly. “I don’t give into blackmail.”

“But we have the money!” his wife protested, her eyes growing wider still. “Greg, it’s Alice. It’s our daughter.” Mr. Mckenzie smiled a cool, dry smile, and Danny felt a shiver shoot down the back of his neck. He had glimpsed this darker side of Mr. Mckenzie once before, and he could tell that it was now rearing to the surface of his emotions as he looked straight into his wife’s eyes.

You don’t have anything,” he said softly. “have the money.” His eyes were fixed on the distant horizon as he smiled. “And Alice is your daughter.”

Mrs. Mckenzie’s mouth fell open, but her husband’s chain had finally snapped. He turned his back on her, marching back into the house.

“I have work to do,” he called as he slammed the door behind him.

Mrs. Mckenzie then turned, as Danny had always known that she would, to him. He merely shook his head sadly. He was barely managing to pay his own rent. Money was the one thing that Mr. Mckenzie had always had over him, and now he was gone.

Wanting something to do, he took the flip phone from Mrs. Mckenzie’s limp hands. He had to grit his teeth as he stared at the picture of Alice, taking in her small mouth and bright, wide eyes. Her hair had fallen in front of her face as the flash had gone off. It was getting in the way, just like it had when she was little… before she had found her feather.

Danny brought the camera closer to his eyes, squinting at the pixilated image. Then he felt his heart freeze in his chest as he turned on the spot and began to run.


He was so damn stupid.

There was no feather in Alice’s hair. She had lost her feather, and hadn’t he found a feather, just hours ago? He had assumed that it was another feather from another bird.


Within minutes, Danny was back at the entrance to the tunnel. He pummelled down it, his breaths coming out in heavy gasps as he rushed through the darkness, oblivious to his own fear, and oblivious to the fact that there could be a fearsome kidnapper waiting for him at the other end of the tunnel.

When he reached the chamber, he came to an abrupt halt, his heart banging wildly. Then, by complete chance, he happened to glance down at his feet. Threaded between them was a dirt-spattered, red ribbon. His heart seemed to beat faster still and he was urged on by his own certainty that he was seconds away from finding his daughter.

He stumbled forwards, quite forgetting about the pile of mangled skeletons stacked in the centre of the room. He fell into them, landing face first onto something soft.


It was as though Danny’s consciousness had left his body. He watched, as if he was no longer inside of himself, as the person who had fallen into the bone pile reached down and picked up their six-year-old daughter. He watched him whirl her around, tears in his eyes, as he kissed her all over.

Then he was running again, out of the tunnel and into the dying light of the sunset. It didn’t matter that he had failed to find her the first time. Alice was safe. She was in his arms, and he was never, ever going to let her go again.

Word Count: 1079.

Well, you asked for a happier ending, and there it is! Thank you so, so much to everyone who has followed this story. You are greatly appreciated.


The Chamber #writephoto

An unwelcome breeze whipped past his hair, cold and intrusive, as though invisible hands were brushing through it. He allowed himself a glance back up the tunnel, his eyes searching for the square of light through which he had come, and which was now far, far behind him.

He had not wanted to go anywhere near this tunnel. Every shadowy movement made his skin crawl and he kept jumping at the silence, its ringing depth seeming deeply unnatural.

Yet how could he not step into the shadows? How could he not make this long, dark journey, after discovering what he had done at the tunnel’s entrance? No person alive could have just walked away… well he couldn’t, anyway, because he’d seen her feather.

It had been in her hair. It had always in her hair, tied up with a long, red ribbon, ever since the day that she had first found it. She had been so delighted, picking it up out of the grass with a broad smile stretched across her face.

“Look! Look, Danny,” she’d cooed. “It’s blue… a blue feather, how pretty.”

He had only smiled dryly at her, wanting to whirl her around in his arms, but knowing his place. She knew him only as Danny, and that was all she would ever call him. Yet that other man – the one with the tight suits and the slicked back hair – it was he who she called Daddy.

Daddy bought all her presents, of course, but he hadn’t paid her enough attention. He hadn’t been watching her as closely as he should have done, or he would have noticed when she had wandered off, out of the garden and into the nothingness.

They had all been searching for her since the early hours of the morning. There had been no sign – nothing – and then Danny had thought to look around the old burial grounds. He had ignored them at first because she had always been afraid of them, but then he had gotten desperate… and then he had found the feather.

He had never before been into this particular tunnel. It was the longest, supposedly leading to a mass burial site set underneath the church in the centre of their little town. He never would have believed that she would have gone anywhere near it if it had not been for that feather.

The darkness was growing thicker. He was beginning to wish that he had brought a torch with him; he had his phone, but it was old, and the backlight was cracked. He was instead pointing the unlocked screen in front of him as he walked, using it to direct his cautious footsteps as he finally felt the floor levelling out.

He moved towards the nearest wall as the chamber opened outwards, feeling his way forwards. He was starting to see things now – dead things. They were all stacked up against the wall, propped against shelves and hanging onto the ground, twisted into gruesome shapes.

His eyes were beginning to adjust now, and he could make out a large pile of them in the centre of the chamber. They belonged to the poor souls who had been executed in the town. Some had been burned, whilst others had been hanged. Then they’d all been carted off to the graveyard where the trapdoor had been opened and their remains had been thrown through it unceremoniously.

No one had thought to move them since. No one seemed to care.

Danny hated to think about what the sight of these things would do to her. He didn’t want to think about it… yet he couldn’t not. Surely, surely, she hadn’t come down here? She was usually a timid child, never able to sleep without the light on in the corner of her room. Danny shivered. He knew that he should call out to her, but it was as if his throat had been blocked. He tried to clear his throat, but he was afraid of breaking the silence.

It was as if the dead were listening to him.

“A-Alice?” he croaked, his eyes on the tunnel, from which a distant glint of light still shone.

The silence was still ringing in his ears and his head was starting to spin. He staggered towards the tunnel. She was not down here. Of course she was not down here. She never would have come down here. The feather must have blown across the fields from somewhere else, or perhaps it wasn’t even the same feather; what did he know?

He felt angry with himself – furious, in fact. He was now certain that, by the time he had trudged back to the house, her Daddy would have found her.

He threw back his head and, as he stormed back up the tunnel to the outside world, he failed, once more, to shine his light on the ground. If he had done, he would have seen the long, red ribbon that was stretched across the grey slabs, its end pointing towards the very centre of the chamber.

Word Count: 829.

This (admittedly rather dark) tale was inspired by the weekly #writephoto prompt challenge hosted by Sue Vincent. I feel like it could have a second part, but I’m not quite decided about that, so let me know if you want to hear more of the story!

Edit: I decided to turn this story into a three-part mini-series! Click here to read part two.

The Gated Gardens

This piece of creative writing is for the purposes of the Sunday Scrawl prompt challenge, the competition that I run on a weekly basis. I’m a little later at answering the prompt this week as I have just moved into a new flat, so I apologise if I have been late responding to comments etc. Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far, and I hope you enjoy my story!

Individual droplets of dew collect together on the leaves, clinging onto each other as their bodies stretch out, their reach elongating, until finally they snap. The water cascades to the floor, showering my hand as I hold it out, brushing past the leaves as I walk, slowly towards the familiar, black gate.13827185_303455753342581_2017557188_n.jpg

I hadn’t had any intention of returning to this place, but I’ve walked this path so many times that I now can’t seem to avoid it. My legs carry me here as if possessed by some higher power. I can’t resist it, and I don’t see why I should.

I stare hard at the gate, taking in its elaborate patterns and thick, bolted entrance. It’s the only way out. I’m certain of that; I’ve explored every inch of the gardens, traversed each of its many acres, in search of an escape. The perimeters of my prison are guarded by thick, impenetrable bushes that circle all the way around the manor, lowering only at this singular, haunting gate: my only exit, sealed with a bolt and key from the outside.

My feet take me right up to the gate, stopping only so I can reach a hand through the bars, scrabbling only half-heartedly at the lock. It will not open. It may never open; for twenty-three years, I have existed within my prison, speaking only to my fellow inmates. Why should that ever change? This isn’t just my prison; it’s my entire existence.

When I was child, I hadn’t minded the prison, because I’d thought that that’s all there was. I didn’t know that there was an outside, so I had no desire to reach it. I’d lasted most of my life in this happy state of ignorance, and all that while, from the gardeners, to the nurses and handmaids, no one had thought to tell me that there was more. Perhaps each of them hadn’t wanted to be the one to ruin it for me. That had been until my sixteenth birthday. It had been my first birthday alone, my mother having died in early September. I hadn’t wanted to talk to the servants. I hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone, so I’d run. I’d run all the way out here, to the strange, tantalizing gate. I’d seen the break in the hedges and looked beyond, to the trees and the flowers that I couldn’t quite reach.

I’d asked since, of course. I’d asked everyone I happened to run into, and then I’d discovered the truth. It had been too late by then, though. The only person who really mattered had already left me, which meant that I couldn’t ask her.

I couldn’t ask her why she’d done it.

IMG_1163.JPGWe’re all women here; I’m told it’s to stop the endless cycle of betrayal. That’s what one of the nurses told me, anyway. They don’t want more children growing up in here, which means that I’m the last one. Before long, all the servants will have left me; the youngest one left is fifty-eight, which, in my mind, can only mean one thing. Before long, I’ll be the solitary prisoner of this infernal, hated prison cell. Because it might look pretty and provide me with enough space to run around for days at a time, but it’s not enough. It’s still a prison, and I’m still alone.

I sink slowly to the cobbled ground, my legs crossing automatically as my head falls into my hands and I begin to sob furiously. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to have to think about my cold, lonely future. I don’t want to have to think about roaming around that manor all by myself. I don’t want to have to think about how many days I will sit here, staring hard at the immovable, impossible gate. I look up, angry tears still falling from my eyes.

Then I freeze.

Something that has never, during my entire existence, happened before, just has. I’ve seen a child.

I blink hard, standing instantly and rushing manically over to my bars, mouth slightly agog. The boy stumbles a few paces back, apparently alarmed. He’s clutching a small, stuffed rabbit around his chest, which he drops as he scuttles away. Then he looks down at it, apparently conflicted.Rabbit2.jpg

“What’s your name?” I ask greedily. I know I should move back so the boy can grab his rabbit, but, if I do, he might leave me. “My name’s Alika.” The boy doesn’t move. His eyes are still fixed on the rabbit, every muscle frozen, as if every portion of him is occupied in his own internal war. If he moves forward, he can get his rabbit, but then again, if he moves, the strange, wild woman might attack him.

I sigh, stepping away from the gate slightly.

His eyes are fixed on me as he creeps forwards, bent low as if he thinks it will make it harder for me to see him. I don’t say anything else. I don’t see the point.

In a sudden move, he rushes to the rabbit, yanks it up by the ear, and races off in the opposite direction, without sparing another glance for the wild woman behind the gate.

I lean heavily against my cell door, regret pounding through my veins. I should have kept him with me. I could have at least looked at him a little more, taking in his tiny little features and smooth, innocent face. It was one thing to see a child, but a male – well that was something as equally as foreign to me. I rattle my cage, and, on the strangest of impulses, begin to shout.

“Please! Please, help me! I’m trapped in here and I can’t get out! Anyone… you have to help me!” My voice begins to break, and I mutter, in a barely audible whisper, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

They’re funny things, wishes. In the days of my childhood, I would waste them on frivolous things, such as wishing for the agility needed to climb the highest tree, or wishing to be able to run as fast as the rabbit that just alluded me. I’d never wished for an escape, though. It’s as if a part of me already accepted my fate. Why try to fight the inevitable?

So, I didn’t wish for an escape, even as I beat my head against the hard metal of the gate. I didn’t wish for anyone to help me as I felt the blood begin to trickle down my forehead, but it didn’t matter. My unasked wish was answered, nevertheless. I hadn’t really thought about what the boy had been doing in this forest, all alone. If I had, I might have yelled a little louder.

His parents found me a few minutes later. I’d almost knocked myself out by then, but I was still alive. The father disappeared to find something called wire cutters. I didn’t know what they were; they didn’t exist in my world. Then – well, it was so easy – then I was outside and being led to a strange, unfamiliar box with wheels attached. I screamed in alarm, as well as amazement, as the box began to move. I wasn’t really scared, though. There could be nothing scarier out in the real world, than there already had been in that prison. I didn’t care what wild beasts I would face out here, because I wasn’t alone anymore.

There are people – so many people – now. They are busy and colourful and blessedly unfamiliar. I don’t know them. I can walk up to them and introduce myself. The best thing, though, the best thing of all about being free, is that I don’t have to think about those things anymore. I don’t have to hate my mother for betraying her royal husband, and I don’t have to worry about being alone. Out here, I will never be. There’s too much life.

A Snowy Encounter

Here’s my attempt at the Sunday Scrawl prompt challenge, which I recently begun myself; it will run from Sunday on a weekly basis. If you want to know more about this challenge, feel free to check out the page here.

The light sprinkling of snow that had settled over Bridgewater that morning crunched under my feet as I walked. It was strangely satisfying to hear the crisp snapping sound accompanying my every step, almost as though there was some strange echo following me along the pavement.

I was ju11272892_847812051963254_1840294869_nst in the process of asking myself why I found the noise so comforting, when others may have thought it unnerving, or, at the very least, irritating, when a shout made me look up. My path ran parallel to the railway; a temporary clearing of trees allowed me to stare right down at the tracks, from where they disappeared under a long bridge. At first, I couldn’t work out where the sound could have come from, but then I noticed, scampering down from the far bank, a pair of scruffy looking boys. They skidded onto the railway, and, taking deliberate care not to touch the tracks, ducked under the bridge and pressed their backs against its wall. The taller of the two held his hand out across the other’s chest, his finger on his lips.

Astonished, I paused to watch the scene, wondering fleetingly whether I should call the police or not; the boys were clearly off limits, and could cause a serious accident down there. My phone was actually in my hands, the first nine dialled, when another, more high-pitched, shout made me look up again. A smartly-dressed woman was now approaching the top of the bridge, her crimson coat wrapped tightly around her and her fluffy black scarf shielding her from the wind. She stopped at the top of the bank where the boys had slipped down, eyeing the route suspiciously. Daintily, she placed one, heeled foot on the muddy bank, as if she was considering descending to the tracks. Then, she straightened up again and looked across the bridge, moving away from the bank to scurry across.

I eyed the boys curiously, watching as their eyes flew skyward when the woman crossed; evidently, the sound reverberated all around the tunnel. Then, a few seconds later, the taller, scruffier of the two, dragged his accomplice back out of the tunnel and helped him up the far bank. Then, without a backwards glance, they scurried off into the distance, moving as fast as their grubby, little legs could carry them. I watched the railway for a few seconds more, then, sighing, turned towards home. My feet were frozen lumps of meat in my shoes by now, and I was quite ready to get back to my bed, but my progress was impeded, however, by the figure who now stood right in front of me.

I was now facing the woman in the red coat, who’s path had evidently cut into mine from ahead.

“Hello,” she said unsmilingly. “What were you looking at?” It wasn’t really a question, more a demand. I attempted a cautious smile, but, still, she did not return it. I swallowed, biding for time; this woman had clearly been looking for those boys, but for what purpose, I couldn’t decide. She could be their mother, I supposed, yet their shabby, torn clothing and muddy faces didn’t quite relate to her immaculate visage in my mind.

“Are you not from around here?” I asked, finally coming to a decision. “We don’t get much snow. It’s so lovely to see.” I laughed, trying to scoot around the woman, but she blocked me.

11287922_1630813043872475_1208774922_n.jpg“You didn’t, perchance,” she continued, crossing her arms accusatorily, “happen to see two young vagabonds down there, did you? They seem to have gotten away from me.” I couldn’t help but notice the note of disgust in her voice as she mentioned the ‘vagabonds’, and I think that it was this, more than anything else, that made me lie to her. I told her I hadn’t seen anyone and, again, tried to leave. She let me pass this time, but kept watching me all the while I scurried away from her; I could feel her eyes boring into the back of my neck as I skidded on the snow. I’d stood motionless for so long that the once crisp, satisfying snow had turned weak and icy underfoot

I made it home unscathed, however, and, as I warmed my hands around a mug of hot chocolate, I couldn’t help thinking that I would never hear of anything to do with those boys, or that very strange, woman, ever again. I thought often of what had happened, though; I was deeply afraid that I’d done the wrong thing – what if that woman had been trying to help them, and by feigning ignorance to her, I’d just condemned those boys to a life on the streets? It must have been the fear in their eyes as they’d hidden under that bridge, because something about them had forced me to pity them, regardless of logic and regardless of reason.

To my great surprise, however, I did hear of the incident again; two weeks on from that fateful day, when I was stocking up on groceries in my corner shop, I saw the red-coated woman again. This time, though, she was on the front page of the local newspaper, under a headline that read: Infamous Child Snatcher Caught at Last. I snatched up the paper from its stall and devoured it with my eyes, heart beating wildly. Her name, apparently, was Cecelia Bordman, and her hobby had been to lurk outside children’s houses so that she could grab them as they walked by.

There was no mention of the boys in the paper, but then, I supposed, why would there be? If they’d had any sense, and they must have done, considering how they’d hidden under that bridge like that, they wouldn’t have hung around. They would have run for their lives, because, when it came down to it, they really were running for their lives. I put the paper down again, a pleasant sense of satisfaction rushing over me. It wasn’t just that I’d made the right decision in helping the boys; that was too simple. As I looked at the sneering photo of the woman on that paper, I realised that I had this feeling because, for the first time in my meaningless life, I’d done something. I’d stopped something terrible from happening. I hadn’t just been another bystander; I’d been there, right in the midst of it all.

By the Light of the Moon

Here’s another story inspired by the photo prompt challenge run by Creative Writing Ink. I absolutely adore this week’s picture; it’s so beautiful, but at the same time conveys a kind of severity that’s a little scary – maybe that’s why this story takes a darker turn? Enjoy!

The distant crash of waves told Kayla they’d arrived. She didn’t look up, even as her brother parked up the car and slipped wordlessly out into the sunset. If he saw her looking, he’d make some comment about her interfering, and she didn’t want to interfere. She wanted to go home.

Hugging her knees in the back of the car, she chanced a glance out of the window. The square-shouldered shadow of her brother was already moving behind the trees that concealed the path to the water. She watched him hesitate for a moment, and then dip out of sight.


October 2012

She leant back in her seat, wishing she was anywhere but here. By now, her brother would have joined his friends on the sand, a beer would be shoved into his hands and he would be circling around some innocent – would it be a boy, or another girl, this time? She didn’t want to know. She was just lucky that his friends didn’t know that she was out here, hiding in the dark. Loyal to her brother though they might be, she highly doubted that their loyalty would stretch so far as to refusing to beat up his sister. Any excuse to cause pain, that’s all they wanted.

She kicked the front seat angrily, digging her heel into the soft material. She wanted to be home, snuggled on the sofa with a book or a film. Her brother only dragged her into this because it would look suspicious, otherwise; that was the price of having a twin. Their mother would worry if Kayla didn’t go to all the same parties that Martin did. Well, maybe she should worry. Maybe it was about time.

A sudden scream made Kayla sit up abruptly and reach instinctively for the door handle. She slipped out into the half-light, squinting towards the source of the noise. It hadn’t sounded like it had come from the beach below, but from he heath on the opposite side. She whirled about in the dark, fear clouding all other thoughts. Was there someone else out here with her? She took a couple of steps towards the heath, the mossy grass cloaking her frightened footsteps.

The night was silent now. It was almost as though Kayla had imagined the sound, but she knew she hadn’t. She continued to stumble onward, her feet slipping slightly as her path took her slightly downhill. It was warmer away from the beach, and there were more cars parked down here; she supposed they were her brother’s friends’. She hesitated, looking nervously back over her shoulder. Night had fallen almost entirely now, the stars and moon above her providing only a pale, ghostly light for her to see by. Any number of people could be skulking by those cars, and yet Kayla felt sure that their owners would be down at the beach by now. They wouldn’t want to miss all the fun, she thought bitterly, as she took a few more steps forward.

Then she froze. There was someone stood by one of the cars, but it wasn’t one of her brother’s dumb friends. It was a girl, about her age, with long, dark hair and deep, green eyes. She was watching Kayla from over the top of the large book she held. Then, smiling, she returned to her reading, her eyes flicking furiously across the page.

cwi 13-07-17.jpg

Credit: Creative Writing Ink

Kayla swallowed, clearing her throat slightly as she approached the girl.

“Who are you?” she asked rather bluntly, coming to rest on the car besides the girl. She smiled again, but, still, she didn’t speak, and she didn’t put down her book. “Do you know someone down at the beach?” Kayla pressed, looking hard into the girl’s eyes, but she didn’t reply; she only smiled and continued to read.

Kayla’s eyes fell on the cover of the book, taking in its strange symbols and old, crumbing spine. She wondered wildly if the girl even spoke English. Perhaps she was just some innocent tourist who’d wondered too far from one of the nearby campsites.

Kayla had just about decided that it was time for her to go, when the girl moved closer to her, holding up the book for Kayla to see. Her eyes fell on an old photograph of a pretty, dark-haired girl dressed in leotard and tights. Beside the picture, was a cutting from an old newspaper. With a nod from her mysterious companion, Kayla began to read, scanning the headline, which read, Olympian Gymnast found Dead. The article was about sixteen-year-old Jessica Marlin, who had died seven years ago, found beaten and raped at the bottom of a gutter. Kayla remembered hearing about Jessica on the news, although she’d only been small at the time. It had been awful; she’d been one of the country’s high hopes for the upcoming Olympics, but she’d never made it there. Some thug had killed her before she’d gotten the chance. He was in prison now, of course; it hadn’t taken them long to catch him, but that hadn’t brought Jessica back.

Breathing rather heavily now, Kayla looked back at the girl, who was fiddling at something at the front of her coat.

“Do you know what’s happening on the beach tonight?” she demanded, stepping away from the girl slightly. “Do you know what they’re doing?”

The girl merely smiled, undoing her coat to reveal, underneath a thin cardigan, a shining leotard, glinting by the light of the moon. Kayla stumbled backwards, losing her balance and falling to the ground. Her head hit the uneven earth with a horrible smack, causing the world to start spinning out of control. She rolled over, coughing violently and clutching to the ground for support.

By the time the pain had cleared enough for Kayla to open her eyes again, the girl and her book had vanished from the car. Whether they’d ever really been there, Kayla would never know, but, what she did know, as she pulled out her phone and glanced in the direction of the beach, was that she was really, truly scared, and that she had been for a long time now. Swallowing hard, she dialled the number that she should have called nearly a year ago. She bit her lip as the phone began to ring, and then,

“Police, please,” she whispered.

Be My Escape #writephoto

This is my second attempt at Sue Vincent’s photo prompt challenge. It’s a fair bit longer than my usual writing, but, as there’s no word count to this prompt, that can’t be a bad thing! I hope you enjoy!

Vincent July

Credit: Sue Vincent

Nobody knew about Freddy. For some reason, he liked to hide from other people. I suppose he’d once hidden from me, too, but I spent far too much time in the forest for that now; it would be more difficult for him not to talk to me.

At home, everything was noise. I had a big family: three brothers and two sisters, along with a mother who was inclined to shout at everything she saw; a father who was partially deaf; and two dogs, who had recently taken to yapping whenever they were lonely, hungry, sad, or just thought things weren’t quite loud enough as they were. The forest was my escape. There were no screaming siblings or parental reprimands there. There were the just the trees, the grass, the gentle tweet of birds, and peace.

In a way, I was jealous of my friend. He never had to leave the forest like I did. I had to go home before six every evening, or my family would assume something terrible had happened and start sending out search parties. Freddy, however, didn’t have that problem, because Freddy didn’t have a family. That’s what he told me, anyway. I couldn’t believe him; everyone had a family somewhere, or else how would they have come to be? Whoever they were, though, he certainly didn’t like talking about them. Whenever I raised the question, he would quickly change the subject, distracting me by pointing out some rare species of bird or suggesting that we went for another walk.

I loved walking with Freddy, because he was so good at it. When I’d used to go walking in the forest with my family, they’d always make so much noise, kicking up the leaves and shouting to each other. Much to my dismay, they chased every animal away within a hundred miles. Freddy was like me, though; he learnt where to tread to make as little noise as possible, balancing on the mossy parts of the path and remembering to step over the twigs, rather than causing them to snap loudly as he broke them in two. One day, we’d crept right up behind a peacock, its plumage extended to reveal a fantastic rainbow of colour. I’d never seen one before, and just wanted to stare at it all day, so Freddy had pursued the peacock for miles after I’d had to leave. The next day, he’d produced a rainbow feather for me, telling me that he hoped it would cheer me up whenever I felt sad or alone.

My parents, of course, were worried about me. They’d started giving me more chores about the house, stopping me from leaving whenever I tried to sneak off. They also kept asking me why I loved it out in the forest so much. I would never betray Freddy, of course; I would never tell them about him, but they were worried, because they thought I was by myself all the time. Some days, I wanted to tell them so badly, if only so they would stop pestering me, but I knew I never would, no matter how annoying they were. It wasn’t my secret to tell, and I didn’t want to lose Freddy as a friend.

That Thursday, they were being particularly irritating. My mother had first asked me to change all the sheets in the entire house, and, just as I finished and made for the shoe cupboard, she had handed me a mop and bucket, telling me to wash the car. I’d scowled and I’d complained, but there I was, a few minutes later, washing the car.

The annoying thing was, it wasn’t even dirty; my mother had evidently been running low on excuses to keep me tethered to the house, so had started to make them up, instead. I scowled at myself in the wing mirror I was supposed to be cleaning. I wasn’t really; I was just rubbing a dry mop over it half-heartedly; what I was really doing, was keeping both eyes on the kitchen window. I could see my mother watching me, sipping her tea as she leant against the window sill. As soon as her back was turned, I would ditch the mop on the floor, and run for it. I was patient, moving about the car ritualistically as I waited for my window of opportunity.

It happened when I was brushing down the second wing mirror; there was a sound of breaking glass from the kitchen, and I looked around to see my mother rushing away from the window. I didn’t wait to see what had broken who the culprit was. If my mother called me back now, it was too late; I’d tell her later that I hadn’t heard. She didn’t shout, however, and I escaped telling-off free to the boundary of the forest.

Freddy was probably wondering where I was by now; it had been long enough. I rushed down the bank towards the valley, turned a few corners and raced towards Freddy. Except Freddy wasn’t there. His bed was there, the magnificent frame carved from a single tree trunk, but someone much taller and much balder than Freddy, was now looming over it.

“Hey!” I shouted out indignantly. “Get away from there, it’s not nice to touch other people’s things!” The man, for I quickly realised he was a man, and not a boy, at all, turned sharply around to look at me. His eyes widened slightly.

“Oh, sorry, do you play here?” he said, taking a few steps towards me. I backed up instinctively, suddenly nervous. Where could Freddy be? He was always here when I came looking for him, no matter how late I was. Perhaps this man – this intruder – had done something to him somehow.

I gave him a searching look, taking in his shabby coat and torn, muddy jeans. He was holding up his hands to me as if making a silent surrender.

“I’m not gonna hurt you,” he said slowly, this time not moving any closer. “This is where I sleep, that’s all. I’m normally out at town in the day, which is probably why we haven’t met before, but I’m ill, I’m afraid, so I thought I better stay put.” He smiled at her, sitting down on Freddy’s bed. “It’s okay,” he said in what he must have thought was a reassuring voice. “I’ll be out of your hair tomorrow and you can play here to your heart’s content.”

“I don’t play,” I snapped rather brutishly as I folded my arms in front of my chest. “This is Freddy’s bed.” The man gave her another toothless grin, seeming to relax slightly.

“Now, I can’t say I’ve seen no Freddy around here… are you sure you’re at the right bed?” I scowled at him, biting my lip slightly out of frustration.

“This is the only bed! And it’s not yours, it’s Freddy’s!” I was beginning to get quite upset now; I figured that Freddy must be waiting until the man left, but if the man was planning on sleeping here, Freddy would have to hide from him all night. “You can’t stay here!” I insisted, rushing forwards now and pulling at the man’s uneven cuff. “He won’t come out if you’re here! You have to go!”

Alex!” called a horrified voice from the top of the bank behind us. I spun around to see my mother stood there, my little sister at her arm. “Get away from him, now!” The man got to his feet again, and I backed hurriedly away, moving towards my mother.

“I didn’t mean no harm, mam,” he was saying, putting his palms in the air again. “She just came running up to me, trying to make me move.”

“Alex, get up here right now!” my mother hissed, the anger in her voice paramount. I swallowed, but couldn’t not obey. It was strange how she held such power over me. I hadn’t had a second thought about running off earlier, but now that she was so angry, it was like I had to do as I was told. I ran back up the bank to stand at my mother’s other side, eyes on the ground. “You stay away from her!” my mother shouted at the man as she dragged her children away, pushing us in front of her around the corner and towards the house.

Back home, I was sat down at the kitchen table in front of my mother and father. The dogs had been shut outside and my five siblings had been banished to the upstairs whilst us three ‘had a talk’. I knotted my hands in my lap, not looking at either of them. I didn’t know what they wanted me to say. I understood why they’d be worried about me talking to strange men in the forest, but Freddy wasn’t a man, and I’d never seen the one today ever before. I doubted that they’d ever believe me, but I had to try.

“Have you forgotten everything we have ever taught you?” my father began, his voice desperate. He was taking a different tack to my mother; whilst she was relying on her raw anger, his voice was dripping with disappointment. I couldn’t lie: it was effective.

“No,” I said to my hands. “I’ve never seen that man before. I know it’s wrong to talk to strangers but I haven’t… I only spoke to that man just then because-” I stopped myself, remembering my promise to Freddy. I couldn’t tell them about him, I just couldn’t – but I was in so much trouble now; wouldn’t he, as my friend, understand?

“Because what?” my mother pressed, her arms folded tightly across her chest. I was strongly reminded of how I’d addressed the man earlier in the forest, and then I remembered how worried I’d been about Freddy. What if the man had done something terrible to him?

“That man doesn’t live there,” I said quickly, throwing all caution to the wind in my desperation. “My friend does. He’s called Freddy and he’s really nice, but I’m worried that man did something horrible to him.”

My parents looked at one another, their expressions unreadable.

Ten minutes later, I was pacing back and forth across my bedroom floor, fuming. How could my parents do this to me? How could they be so cruel? It was one thing to not believe me, but another to make me sound like a little kid who couldn’t look after themselves. I was fourteen! I was fine by myself, and didn’t need them making up lies about Freddy. It wasn’t fair. Freddy was real. He wasn’t – I shuddered at the thought – he wasn’t my imaginary friend. I was too old for that; I lived in the real world, and I’d spent so much time with Freddy! He was as real as I was!

I collapsed on my bed, still fuming.

I didn’t know what it was that I was feeling anymore. A strange sort of panic was coming over me now, constricting my throat and making it difficult to breath. Freddy was real, I told myself firmly.

But then why has no one else ever seen him? Asked a nasty voice from somewhere at the back of my mind. Why are you the only one he talks to? I shook my head, trying to get rid of the thoughts. Freddy was just scared, I reminded myself. He didn’t like people, not after his family had abandoned him.

But why does he never talk about his family? The voice pressed, forcing me to my feet in anger. Because they’re not real, either. He hates them! I thought desperately. Why would anyone want to talk about someone they hated? There was so much depth to him; so much reality when they talked. It was absurd. It was like saying everyone she knew was made up. There were no dogs and no siblings; maybe there weren’t even any parents, not if Freddy wasn’t real.

I kicked at the underneath of my bed angrily, tears beginning to roll down my cheeks. Why did no one ever believe me? Why didn’t they understand that I didn’t want to sit inside all day? I wanted to spend time with my friend, my real friend, in the slice of peace that I shared with him. All of that was all okay, because he was real. He had to be. I allowed my head to drop into my lap, eyes closed. Was there something seriously wrong with me? Had I managed to invent an entire person?

I opened my eyes, and caught sight of something poking out from where I’d kicked earlier. I reached for it instinctively, turning it over in my hands.

A shiver of pure delight erupted down my spine. It was shrivelled and misshapen, but there was no denying that it was: a beautiful, rainbow-coloured peacock feather.


September 2016

Out of Place

Today I revisited a site that I used to use photo prompts from, called Creative Writing Ink. This is a weekly challenge and one that I find very useful to aid my writing. I therefore based this short story on this prompt, although I also found the inspiration for it by reflecting on the very real stories on some of my close friends. It’s not a nice feeling when you know that you don’t belong in a certain place or in a certain way, and that’s the message that I attempt to communicate below. I hope you enjoy!

It’s almost as if the white wall in front of me is laughing. It knows my secret, and it knows what I should be; I should be plain, white and ordered, just like the paint. That’s what I should be, but I can’t deny the fact that it’s simply not true anymore. I’m complicated, not plain or ordered. I can’t be put into those simple categories when I’m everything that they’re not.

The wall stands resolute, mocking me.

I’ve probably been sat here for too long, now, but the wall, for all its faults, is my entertainment for the afternoon. I sigh, looking away from it at long last, to instead turn my attention to the freshly laundered, baby-pink sheets that I’ve been clutching. They’re not quite as perfect as they were when I’d been handed them that morning; they’re creased around my fingers and a spider is crawling across one of their corners. I shake it off, sighing once more. It’s time for me to move now.

I change the sheets quickly, then stand, stretch, and begin to walk downstairs. The walls are still white here; they’re all white, because anything else, apparently, would be wrong. I swallow hard. I need to stop thinking like this. The photos that colour the wall alongside the staircase catch my attention. They depict me, and only me, from my first waking moments to a few months ago, all hung in perfect order, straight and in their proper place. I’ve never minded them before, but now, it’s difficult to suppress the urge to rip them from their hangings and fling them down the stairs.

Both of my parents are present in the kitchen when I enter, my father setting out the table for supper, and my mother bent over a hot stove. I look at the clock: 6:29, and suppress a grimace as I take my seat. As predicted, a timer goes off a minute later, and my mother calls out, it’s ready, as if we need telling twice. I smile as usual at her as she brings over the food, and then we all sit together as my father blesses the meal. He talks about gratitude and how lucky we all are, but I don’t join my prayers with his. I don’t feel lucky, and I certainly don’t feel grateful.

When he’s finished, we eat in silence. There’s no music playing and nobody makes any small talk. We just eat, and when we are done, my father brings out some fruit for dessert. I stare hard at the six, ordered pears in a line in front of me, and something begins to snap. I look at my father, with his hand on the cross at his chest and his head bent low in endless prayer. Then I look to my mother, who purses her lips, wiping each inch of food thoroughly before emitting it into her mouth. I look back at the pears. Everything must always be so perfect. It must be right, and ordered, and as things are meant to be. That’s all their world is, and it’s what mine was, too, up until I really thought about things.

CWI 29-06-17
Creative Writing Ink’s photo prompt 29/06/17. 

I want to seize the pears and throw them at my parents. I want to see the shock in their faces as they stare at me and ask, what on earth has got into you? I want to dance on the table and laugh so loud that their eyes pop right out of their faces from their horror. I want to destroy the ordered world that they commit themselves to, if only to make them understand, because they never will understand anything but what they are. I can’t speak my mind, because they won’t listen. They’ll tell me to sit down and be quiet like a good, little girl. That’s what they’ll say, but I think that if they do, it’ll break me.

I continue up the stairs that evening just as I descended them. I smile at my parents and wish them well, saying, goodnight, sleep well mother; sleep well father. Then I go into my room, shut the door carefully, walk slowly over to my bed, and stuff the newly laundered pillow into my face to mask the sound of my own desperate sobbing.

I don’t hate my parents, because they’re my parents. I love how reliable my mother can be, and I admire my father’s endless devotion to his faith. Really, I adore them, but I hate their world, because I’m not a part of it anymore. I used to understand it, but that’s all gone now. One day, I’d just realised that, over time, my own world had been changing, and as it changed, it had taken me further and further away from theirs. We were in different solar systems now – different universes, even, and there was no way back for me, and no way forward for them.

I sit up, turning the pillow over so that the wetness from my tears is concealed from view. Then I get to my feet, and kneel at the foot of my bed. I haven’t prayed like this for such a long time, but right now I need it. I know you’re there, I think to myself. I know you can hear me, and I want you to know that I’m not grateful. It’s great to be alive and it’s great to go each day not starving or dying of some horrible disease, but perhaps I’m spoilt, because I’m still not grateful. I don’t want to do this anymore; I don’t want to have to pretend, every single day, that I’m a part of something that goes against everything that I am. I want to apologise to my parents for pretending for so long, but I can’t, because I know that I will never, for as long as I live, be able to tell them the truth. I won’t stop. I’ll carry on, because I can and because I’m a good actor… but, as it’s only you who’s listening, I need you to know: I hate myself. I wasn’t meant to be this person. I break every mould that I’ve ever known, but I need you to know, because it must be your fault. You have got to have messed up somewhere; you must made a mistake, because I know, I know, that I’m in the wrong body. Please, understand me when I say this:

I wasn’t meant be a girl.