Writing Prompt: Tassel

My Story:

I caught one of the tassels in my gown on the door handle of the drawing room, and it temporarily arrested my flight from the great house. It gave me a moment longer to contemplate the finery of my surroundings as I struggled, hooked to the door, to free myself from the restraint.

Where would I go when I managed to escape- to the poor house? Would I be scrubbing a filthy floor, and afterwards be handed one scrap of bread as my evening meal?

At last I pulled myself away and resumed my journey, adjusting the comb in my hair as I ran. I wanted to keep the comb. Perhaps I could hide it in my pocket and no-one would know it was there. If they knew, they would probably take it away from me, just as everything else was about to be taken- starting from now.

 

Ino’s story

The tassel swung. It swung and swung. It had a knotted silk loop on the end, and the knot hit the wall with a thud. Then something burst, up above in the unseen world from which the tassel had originated.

Brown silk flew everywhere, and it looked like a tulle dress tucked up and worn by a model on the catwalk as it flew into clumps and frilled, gathered areas which stuck to the wall, giving an impression of horrible gothic sleeves.

More tassels appeared at centre stage: a whole row of them, like a glockenspiel. Tassels being hit by little hammers all along the row, xylophone tinkles as the hammers hit: thud, thud and thud again, right the way along. And the whole stage split. The wings spread out as they cracked from bottom to top, and now the ceiling fell in on our many phantoms of the opera who were seated silently in the amphitheatre, waiting for something to happen.

Well, it hadn’t been long to wait after all, and someone at the back called out, “eschaton.”

 

 

I c

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Writing Prompt: Mauve

Here is the second in our series.  Ino’s story:

There are a host of colours near the violet end of the spectrum which are all similar shades, and one of these is mauve. It’s a strange name for a colour- and it’s my name. That’s right, my mother named me Mauve.

It wasn’t because I looked purple in the face when I was born. It was because my mother was a painter, and just before I was born she had embarked upon a new painting in which the dominant colour was to be mauve. In fact it had very few other colours, and was mainly monotone.

My mother shaded and shaded during those last few days when she was feeling so heavy, and like some lumbering beast. As she shaded, the brush turned to one side, she was sure she could feel the colour and spirit of the painting seeping into her skin, seeping right through to her womb and into the baby. The painting WAS the baby, and the baby was…. hers.

Therefore, she was free to name the baby after the painting if she so desired, and she did. This was to be her grand bohemian gesture, one she had been wanting to make for a long time, but had not known exactly how until this phenomenon occurred and showed her the way.

Her young husband, my father, was surprised when she announced on the way to the hospital that she was going to call the baby ‘Mauve’. His preferred name had been Annabel. He had known an Annabel at school, and in poetry.

This however was moving poetry, thrusting out its hand in the doctor’s face, or was it moving art? Was giving birth performance art, of a kind never to be repeated except with the next masterpiece, and even then with variations?

So there I was – performance art, and here I am now, disposed at times to wear mauve all over and spray it on my hair, because in my thoughts I resemble my mother.

 

Candy Ray’s story:

Peter Carroll invented a new colour, octarine, but to me it looks mauve.

I meditated on the octarine and saw it before me, a shining sheet of mauve. Plunging into it, I went to a strange world where raindrops moved horizontally and did not fall, where cows with three long legs and one short leg grazed on a stitched cotton sampler made of blue gauze with no grass anywhere on it.

You might want to see such objects if you were looking into a distorted fairground mirror. You wouldn’t want to see yourself either too fat or too thin, because that would be boring. It would be too much like this predictable everyday realm where someone built the funfair and wrote out ledgers of dull funfair accounts. It would be better to be as I was then, one foot on the trapeze and all of my body hanging in the air, yet there was no danger of falling: only alien stars.

As I moved deeper into the mauve it became even more bizarre, with footsteps wandering across the ceiling and down the walls. “If this is octarine,” I thought, “it’s craziness, not enlightenment.” Suddenly it was no longer more exciting than the familiar world, and then I came out.

I’m starting a new series of blogs in which my egregore companion Ino will choose a title for a writing prompt. Then we will both write a flash fiction story about it. My story for this one has been inspired by unfortunate topical events, which is why I’m putting this prompt first.

 

Ino’s Story

My cat likes to sleep in a cardboard box. I too sometimes step into the box, although not to sleep; for me it is an escape from the world and I can sit in it with my hands covering my eyes and see an inner world under the sea, full of waving sea-fronds and fat, bloated fish.

Sometimes I imagine that a fisherman has found the box and boxed me up in it, wrapping sticky tape around it many times. Then he heaves it over his shoulder and walks down to the sea, where he casts it in to use as bait for the fish. Most bait is only small, like a worm on the end of a line, but this box is large enough to hold me, so it can’t be a bait for the same kind of fish, and must be intended for something else: a shark, perhaps, or a piranha.

What will the fisherman do when he catches the shark or piranha- will he eat it? They must taste bad, and it’s unhygienic to eat meat-consuming fish anyway, for at second -hand you eat whatsoever it is the fish has eaten.

My cat climbs into the box holding a sardine in her mouth, and she licks her paws languidly and then falls asleep. There is no room now for me to get into the box tonight. I’ll have to dream instead, in my innocent bed with rose petals on the pillow.

 

Candy Ray’s Story

 

I close my eyes and try to sleep on the street. All my remaining possessions are in a cardboard box, and I am forced to use the box as a pillow.

I’d heard about all the recent disasters: how there have been far more than usual, and whole communities have been destroyed. Some people are saying it must be the Apocalypse, while others say it is  human beings who are  to blame. I was taking a lively interest in the debate- until it happened here.

Now my brain won’t work well enough for me to have an opinion. I’m so tired, so hungry, and sore all over. I have to walk a long way every day, in ragged clothes and broken shoes. Disease will come soon, and then my brain will stop working altogether, leaving only fear and irrationality. What a pity; it might have been helpful to have a brain. I could have used it to find a solution to the problems, or at least a way of coping with them.

The others around me are losing theirs as well.

 

 

 

 

Writing Prompt: Cardboard Box

Juxtaposition

I have found a flash fiction story that was edited out of my book of short stories ‘Chaos Dreams Part 2’. It’s  about English general elections among other things, and it’s called ‘Juxtaposition.’

 

The general election was in mid-swing, and for Mandy it brought back memories of that campaign long ago, squeezed into the back of a van with scruffy, heavily smoking labour party campaigners and piles of leaflets tied with rubber bands. That lady in the polo-necked jumper, twenty years her senior, who had so impressed her with tales of ‘politically educating’ potential voters on their doorstep. All Mandy had felt able to do was stuff a leaflet through the letterbox and quickly move on to the next one.

Now as she walked up the road there was a slim leaflet sticking out of every letterbox- and then suddenly, on one of the doorposts, she saw the pixie. He was exactly like a pixie from a children’s’ fairy tale: a little green figure balancing on the stone and holding a flute. As she watched he put it up to his lips and began to play, and the music was so completely mesmerising that she forgot where she was and entered a reverie, and after the reverie she could remember nothing of what she had first thought or daydreamed.

Mandy made her way home, hoping that after her intriguing experience the depression wouldn’t hit tonight. For she had an affliction, and it was depression. However well her life was going, however fortunate she was, she would sink into that quagmire of hopelessness, convinced that neither she nor her life had any worth. It ate away at her cheerful times; it was like a mousetrap that she could tread on at any moment.

As she sipped her tea and watched the News, she thought she could tentatively trust that this would be a cheerful evening. Then the pixie was there beside the TV, singing like a jangling cricket and leading her away into a funnelled-out tornado, poised over foggy, brackish moorlands where there were stagnant pools and a single wren bobbing in a bush. She became more and more lost in travelling through this spiral, walking on cloud steps, and she loved the pixie and wanted to follow him forever.

When you’re working at the polling station you have to pretend you live there for the day, because there are no half shifts, only the full one which ends with taking out drawing pins with exhausted fingers under dark windows and electric light, and bagging up many papers to transport away along with heavy metal boxes. On this side of the counter you must stay alert, while those queuing up on the other side relax and slouch, and half surrender responsibility for this change to normal routine.

Mandy was proud of her hard work at those distant elections- it somehow justified her sitting now gazing into a coal fire, or spending several hours watching a film. She didn’t mean to drift away so often but it felt peaceful, like rambling through the countryside. The journey with the pixie was only a new variation of the same; it was simply harder to remember what happened when she followed him. The music had so many layers: although it was one flute there could have been a whole orchestra behind it, and each layer whirled her somewhere new along a path bordered by grey, misty shapes which might have been flower heads leaning upwards above a marshland.

The last time she got depressed she had lain on her bed for four hours, and all she did during that time was pull undone some knitting she had been attempting to learn as a new hobby at a time when traditional household crafts had all but disappeared. Dinner time passed without her bothering to eat anything, because what does it matter when you live alone? You might as well never eat again.

Mandy stood up quickly as she remembered this and did a few tasks to reassure herself that she wasn’t depressed tonight.  Work was best for taking her mind off it, yet it often struck in the middle of work as well, and that was devastating as she slowly ran out of energy and motivation and came to a stop. But there would be none of that tonight; she would finish her work and then sit down to follow the pixie again into his musical world where the two of them were united.

 

 

 

 

Evil Guardian Angel

This one was channelled from Ino

I don’t know what to do with my English public schoolgirl friend. She never actually wore a tie at school, but I’ve decided that the Old School Tie is something that strangles those who try to survive without being streetwise.

Several times now I’ve picked her up from the gutter of life, dusted her down and set her back on the road again. But she only goes somewhere that’s off the map, where many a big bad wolf idles by the side of the road watching for her to stray off it.

As I lift her up by her braces (she’s never had braces on her teeth but she does so need a gate across her mouth), I swing her a few times as if from the gibbet where her path would shortly have petered out had I not picked her up. Then I place her on a friendlier road lined with flowers, and I give her a pocket handkerchief full of pot pourri tied to a stick that she carries over her shoulder.

But I should have put in rat poison. Then the discolouration of her character and tongue would at least have been quick instead of painfully slow as she meanders along the flowery way, the easy path, the ‘wide road that leads to destruction.’

In the land where old school ties have only recently disappeared, it behoves you to be very careful that people can’t tell exactly where you come from, right to the exact front door and the number on it.

If I can find you so can the stork, and whose baby would you really like to be? He picked up his bundle just as you did, and will be depositing you behind the front door where the cap fits. ALL CAPS: easy to read there above the door. So the journey will end and a new one will begin, but don’t expect me to keep picking you up this time, because I’ve picked someone else.

 

Past Historic

n-college-greenhouseFlower petals, velvet maroon, brushed my cheek as I leaned forward in the greenhouse. Something unfamiliar: a wrenching magnetism emanating from the flowers, vigorously sucking in heat. But the heat here was supplied by boilers, so it must be possible to fool a tropical plant, when what it is really seeking is the sun.

I remembered that this was a past life regression. So the public gardens still stand, but this greenhouse is long gone, a glass case from another time and its source of warmth allied more closely with steam combustion than with modern radiators. This other me who could feel flowers drawing in heat was familiar like the coal fire in my childhood home, yet at the same time she was a stranger with very unusual senses. I moved on.

Nympho

I hate the way insatiable women are made fun of all the time in comedies and cartoons. I watched one of those late-night animations once, about a woman who kept dragging her man into cubicles and things. It was bad taste and insulting.

I’m going to draw a cartoon that makes fun of insatiable men. Here we go! The man I’ve drawn has inflated arm muscles and long, floppy hair. He wears scruffy shorts that are too tight, and his name is Wacko. Now I’ll start writing rude jokes.

What was that? I heard a noise behind me. I look around and then at the sheaf of papers on my desk- and he’s gone! Where are you, Wacko? Come back! I bet the girls in the cartoons don’t run away like this.

I hear a voice calling from a distance; it’s a grating voice, the way I imagine Wacko’s. “Yes they do! Where do you think YOU came from?”

 

One Hand Clapping

I went to a concert and heard a band I liked, and afterwards I looked them up on YouTube. As I watched the video of the pub gig it was obvious that the audience hated the band. The silences after some songs, the scanty applause after others, the muttered heckling….it all sounded so rude. What a terrible audience! Didn’t they realize they were being recorded, and how it would look?

At my own gig I mounted the wooden steps to the stage, and as I climbed up I cast a spell on the audience to make them appreciative. Here there will be no silences, or only a couple of people clapping at the front, or patrons making rude comments under their breath. Never shall I suffer the fate of that band in the video!

The spell tasted like ash, and made me think of rats running in the dust. Ugh- caught on the akashic video. What a terrible performer! Doesn’t she realize she is being recorded, and how it will look?

Melon

The melon was round, contradicting what he had heard about the oval-ness of melons, and it served to represent a globe here: a sphere of influence for all who dwelt on the planet’s surface and mined its fruitful interior full of juicy assets.

That old song about a shy melon wouldn’t stop echoing in his mind as he rotated the fruit between his hands, and stretched out the allegory over a greater distance than his fingers could ever have spanned. Ideas seeded from that melon bursting with pips flew across the room as if on tiny wings and recalled paintings of Cupid as a baby cherub, fertilizing the heart with romantic and sexual notions that had nothing whatsoever to do with a melon.

But still he held up the melon, used it to represent the world, drew on its rind in felt tip pen and spoke to his students about  obscure abstractions that are recognized the world over.

 

 

This one was channelled from Ino.

Meditation: Fawn And Ladder       

I love the tender pale green of leaves in April, newly opened from the bud. I love the dark green of August leaves that have been out the whole summer and are about to fall.

I coloured the wood before me in greens of every shade, for I was building a meditation landscape. It was to be the sacred forest presided over by the Green Man. But he must have turned back into a stag already and brought his herd here with him, for up ahead and over to one side of the wood I could see a fallow deer that I had not put there.

She grazed by a stream at the bottom of a gentle valley, her head down and her brown neck facing towards me. I half expected to see exaggeratedly long eyelashes when she looked up, like a deer in a Disney film; however when she did look up they were the normal eyes of a deer.

Everything else was normal too as I walked down the valley and drew near to her: the dappled coat, the slender legs with well-proportioned hooves. It was only strange when she spoke. “Hallo, Villatina.”

Villatina wasn’t really my name. I made it up when I was eleven and was writing an episode of my favourite science fiction show from the TV. Had I regressed back to being a child ?- (and talking animals as well.)

The forest disappeared and I had a sudden vision of a broad open fireplace with many statues lined up along the mantelpiece shelf above it. They were of Egyptian gods and characters from Greek mythology, and all were half animal and half human hybrids: Thoth, Anubis, centaurs and fauns, and Cernunnos himself who is half a stag. All those ancestral priests and philosophers weren’t being childish, were they? That must be the message, because after all I was still engaged in a meditation.

The mantelpiece faded and the image of the deer returned. “Hallo, fallow deer,” I answered her.

“I have some things to show you further down the valley,” she said.

With my hand on her soft flank I followed her deeper into the incline towards the narrow river that lay right at the bottom of the valley. Then…

“You’ve painted over all the rungs,” I exclaimed. “Give me the paint pot.”

The air was a dull grey, and the man I had addressed stood brandishing his paintbrush with one hand and holding a paint pot in the other. The top half of the ladder took up all my field of vision like a close-up photograph, and I couldn’t see the bottom half ; it was as if I was floating, although my feet felt as though they were on the ground.

“No!” he retorted. “It’s MY paint.” He splodged a blob of brilliant white paint onto one side of the ladder and it stood out sharply against the nondescript grey, so thick that it ended in a lump and a long white strand folded back on itself.

I took a step closer to the ladder and the close-up view intensified: now all I could see was the splintered surface of one rung. It was like being right up close to a television screen, and that was when I realized that I had started to dream.

When does meditation become a dream, and when do either become a trance that is completely detached from the physical world? I didn’t know whether I was lying in bed asleep or still sitting in the home-made temple in my spare bedroom, and I couldn’t remember my name, my family or what kind of job I did. Maybe I should ask for that information at the Narnian castle with its many formal gardens laid out in front of the entrance: it would only be five minutes’ walk from here. But they might be unable or unwilling to tell me.

I lifted my foot slowly onto the lowest rung of the ladder, all the while wondering whether it was Jacob’s ladder, and began to climb.

“Hey, remember I’m painting it!” yelled the man with the paintbrush. “You’ll get paint all over your legs!” Looking down I saw a white stripe appear on the left leg of  my fawn-coloured casual trousers, which I had apparently been wearing all this time.

Ignoring the man and the paint on my leg I climbed to the second rung, and then on upwards, eight rungs, and then I stepped off into navy blue clouds that gathered around my knees and obscured all other worlds and their adventures.

Looking down might help, but when I did what I saw below the ladder was many fields divided by hedges spread out like a map below me as if I was viewing them from an aeroplane. I could dive down there and it might turn into a pleasant flying dream….or else the landscape could change into a flat picture which I would land on after a few seconds. That had happened before.

I didn’t want to have a love affair with Son of Joseph, and I didn’t like him mocking Jesus by calling himself that. So I turned him into paper; that entire meditation landscape became a flat picture lying on the ground. In the end we did have an affair, but only in the story. He kept claiming that the story was real. “We country bumpkins are here all the time, but you have to drive over from the big city.” If I believed that my coma would be deep, and difficult to come out of.

Turning astral objects into a picture is a way to control them. They can no longer move or act and instead of a sequence of events happening to you it becomes a picture book that you can close as you sit at your desk above it.

A computer game appears to be three-dimensional when in reality the screen is flat. Where do you actually go when you start playing the game and enter more and more deeply into the virtual environment? An insect in the air could dive down and after a few seconds would land on the flat screen, just as I might with the fields that I could see below the ladder.

In the end the fields did have depth, and I landed in the grass by a wooden fence. I felt the lumps of grass under my feet yielding as I stepped on them, and the breeze blowing on my face. As I walked through the fields they gave way to forest, and the faces of animal guardians could be seen looking out from the trees, semi-transparent against the leaves and the dark tree trunks. There were foxes and badgers, rabbits and dogs and regal looking stags. I was back at the beginning, back in the sacred forest, and then it was a meditation again instead of a dream, and I opened my eyes.