The King #writephoto | Short Story

The grey clouds above us had begun to churn, rumbling and rocking over one another as we shivered. They were an omen, I thought, my knees knocking together in the air. They were an omen for our future.

The King.jpgUp ahead of us, our captors were murmuring to each other, gesturing first at us, and then over the hill to a point that we could not see. I shifted slightly, my chains grating painfully against my ankles, and glanced at the boy behind me. He must have been only nine or ten, his skinny arms limp at his sides and his face tinged with blue.

I wanted to offer some words of comfort to him, but I couldn’t find any to give. Then I heard the sound of approaching footsteps and I turned back to the front to see one of the guards marching down our ranks.

He was a tall man with a thick, black moustache that did not entirely hide his twisted smile. In his hand, he held the dreaded whip and was stroking it gently – almost lovingly.

“Walk,” he croaked, and I felt a tug on my chains as the prisoners at the front of the party began to march forwards. Again, I felt an excruciating pain against my raw ankles, and then it was my turn and I, too, was climbing the steep hill towards – or so it seemed – the clouds themselves.

At the top of the path, our party began to turn. Then I heard sighs and stifled sobs from the front, and the guard with the whip darted forwards to silence them. When I reached the top, I didn’t cry or gasp. My eyelids drooped slightly over the eyes that had become hard and stony. It wasn’t anything worse than I had been expecting, but it was eerie. There was no denying that.

the deadThe process was a long one. They led us into the gallows three at a time and, for every prisoner, they read out our shared sentence: this party has been found guilty of treason in the highest degree. Having plotted against our Lord the King, they are to hang by the neck until dead.

I thought of the King then. I hadn’t considered him since the day of my capture, but it all came back to me as I watched the guards toss away the bodies of my fellow prisoners. I thought of his malice and his demands, remembering how, on the day of his coronation, he had asked for a gift from each household. I remembered watching my daughter being dragged away from me, screaming as she was hoisted into the back of a van.

Back then, they had told us that she was to be made a slave, but I had never really believed that. My daughter was dead. They were all dead.

More bodies were being removed from the grass now and I took a couple of steps forward as the next three prisoners approached the gallows. What about the boy that now stood behind me? What could he have possibly done to insult the King? Perhaps he had thrown a stone at one of the guards as they had slaughtered his parents, or perhaps he hadn’t done anything at all. Perhaps he had been taken as a punishment to his family. It didn’t matter, though. Guilty or not, he didn’t stand a chance. There were to be no trials and no inquisitions. The King’s word was the law, and he had decided that we were to die.

I was at the front of the line now. I closed my eyes as the guard at my side thrust me forwards, leading me up some rough, wooden steps towards the gallows.

I did not resist. I only looked at the boy behind me, watching as the guards lowered the rope to his level. I didn’t take my eyes off of that boy the entire time. My eyes were fixed – resolute. After all, if this was to be my final moment on this earth, then I wanted to remember. I wanted to remember what our Lord had done.


Word Count: 696.

I hope you liked this #writephoto story. It was inspired by the weekly prompt challenge that is hosted by Sue Vincent. You can read all about it here.

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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.

IF U WANT 2 C HER AGAIN, SEND £1MIL.

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.

Alive.

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.

Stupid.

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.

Stupid.

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.

“Danny?”

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 #2

After ending my response to this week’s #writephoto prompt on a bit of a cliffhanger, I decided to turn the story into a little mini-series. You can check out part one here, and I will be posting the third and final part of the story within the next few days.


Alice’s eyes were half closed as she curled up on the stone floor, cocooned by the dead. She could see Danny’s blurred back disappearing up the tunnel that led outside and, for the hundredth time, she tried to call out to him. A small croaking sound slipped from her throat, but he was too far away now. He would never hear her.

Even as she watched his silhouette disappear from sight, Alice felt the little energy that she had left slip slowly away from her, as though it was following Danny out of the chamber. She allowed her eyelids to fall shut over her eyes and welcomed the darkness that flooded out to meet her.

When she next awoke, she knew that something was different. She was still trapped under the pile of bones in the centre of the chamber, and blood still coated her neck and shoulders, but the darkness in the chamber seemed to have lessened slightly.

A torch was being shone around the chamber walls and, from somewhere behind its light, Alice could hear footsteps.

She tensed her body, listening hard. The footsteps were heavy – too heavy to match Danny’s light tread. Yet if they didn’t belong to him, and they were too confident to belong to either of her parents, then surely there was only one other option.

Her kidnapper had returned.

Just as that thought reached her mind, a hand plunged into her rotting cocoon and grabbed her by the collar of her dress. It then dragged her through the sharp bones, throwing her into an empty space on the hard floor.

Her hand flew instinctively to her neck, as a sharp pain told her that the wound that the kidnapper’s blade had made in her flesh had been torn open once more.

He bent down to her level and shoved the back of a smartphone into her face. Then there was a white flash of light, and she was hurled back into her skeleton prison.

There was a sound of receding footsteps, and then her kidnapper was gone.

Alice was left sitting alone in the dark, her hand still pressed against her neck as tears began to stream down her cheeks.


Word Count: 367

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.

A Light in the Dark #writephoto

The clouds above us were dark, but from beyond the mountain ridge, I could see the beginnings of a golden ray of light. It shone upwards into the sky, turning the grey into a golden yellow. It was a positive sight, one that would ordinarily fill me with hope.

Yet this wasn’t the time to be hopeful – not when I knew where that light was coming from. I turned to Alica, but no words came. What was there to say to someone after all of this time? Thank youI’ll see you on the other side? Nothing seemed adequate.

Alica knew, though. She entwined her and in mine, smiling slightly.

“We tried,” she whispered, a tear rolling down her face. “We really did, but we can’t run forever.” I nodded, eyes on the horizon once more as black figures began to sprout from behind the hillside. In their hands, flickered the red-hot flames that had stained the sky yellow. It was not a sunrise, but an end – a final end.

“It seems unfair,” I said, feeling rather stupid. Alica laughed, squeezing my hand slightly.

“You know what?” she asked through fresh tears. “I think that you might be right.”

I tried to return her smile, but my mouth didn’t seem capable of the movement. The figures were getting closer now, and the closer they grew, the hotter those torches seemed to burn. How painful was it to be burned alive? From all that I’d seen, it was the worst pain imaginable – worse even than that, perhaps.

“I don’t want to give them the satisfaction,” I said suddenly, as I pulled Alica further away from the figures. “They don’t deserve it.” She glanced down at the cliff face behind us, eyes wide.

“They’ll at least give us a trial,” she whimpered, almost pleading with me.

I simply stared at her, eyebrows raised, and she sniffed back her tears, nodding. “They wouldn’t even give us a chance to defend ourselves. The trial would be an excuse to accuse us all over again.” She renewed her grip on my hand and, impossibly, she smiled.

“Let’s do it.”


Word Count: 355.

Thank you so much for reading! This piece of writing was inspired by Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompts. Each week, she posts a photo for writers to have a go at interpreting. There are no word counts and no limits, which are just some of the reasons why this is such a great challenge. If you’re interested, why not get involved?

A Simple Life #writephoto

In the past, back when life was simple, I didn’t spend that much time by myself. I was always so busy, surrounded by my friends and family, simply unable to see the appeal in leaving all that behind me.

Fading

Credit: Sue Vincent

Perhaps, if I hadn’t been so busy, and if I’d had fewer friends around me, I would have enjoyed spending time by myself. I couldn’t imagine ever hating it, but when you’ve never experienced something, you can never appreciate it.

There really is something quite wonderful about being alone, though. It brings with it a kind of solitude that being with other people just can’t replicate. I feel completely at peace with the world, mirroring the calm waters before me; they’re not disturbed by the insistent pestering of some gull or cormorant. They’re still – peaceful.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this calm. My once exciting, crowded life had become only chaos. Those friends that had once distracted me didn’t seem to matter anymore. They couldn’t distract like they used to; now, they just made me angry. They didn’t understand. They couldn’t help.

As for my family, well… they were just as broken as I was.

I’m gazing out across the sea, watching the sun’s last rays dancing with their reflections in the still water, when I notice a flicker of darkness in the distance. I sit up, my legs stiff from the hours that I’ve spent here, frozen. It’s the smallest shape, floating slowly away towards the clouds above, but it’s somehow captured all my attention.

I’d always thought that I needed all that colour and noise of a busy life to occupy my attention, but that really wasn’t true. All that I needed was the sight of a child’s balloon, drifting slowly away from the troubles of reality.

I smile to myself, my right hand closing into a fist, whilst the left reaches out, releasing the ashy substance before me into the serene calm. As I do so, I let out the quietest of whispers:

“Goodbye, mum.”


This was my latest take on Sue Vincent’s weekly #writephoto prompt. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed my story!

Sky Waltz #writephoto

Here’s another bit of creative writing for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge! Every week, Sue provides one of her own photos to inspire writers. This is an excellent challenge and a good opportunity to strengthen your writing skills!


wisp

Credit: Sue Vincent

Their whispers are distant at first. They barely carry over the harsh whipping of the wind. As the gale strengthens, though, so do their voices; as it batters against them, whipping their hair into their faces and forcing tears from the corners of their eyes, their throats grow hoarse from their shouts.

Then, far above them, the clouds begin to shift over each other, as though they’re engaged in some great waltz. They twist together, unfurling and tumbling over each other.

One of the men in the front row throws a grin behind him at his youngest daughter, whose eyes are wide as she stares skyward, mouth slightly open and hands outreached, desperate to join the dance up above them. The father grins again, his chanting growing louder still, until, at last, the rain begins to fall.