Djnn

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A desert stretched out before her. Cold blue beneath her feet. The sun would be up soon and then the heat would be unbearable. People think this place is empty. But she had grown up here and knew it was anything but. Amongst sand, a sprinkling of scratchy plants break up the monotony and innocent looking rocks hide snakes and scorpions. When the rains come, the whole place blooms. Really, right now it was just resting; a dusty coat hugged tight over it’s party dress.

Then there’re the ghosts. The djinn. She didn’t believe in them herself, the only thing haunting her was herself. Memories and thoughts chasing each other through her head. She was so tired of trying to hold them still, so she was letting them spin, waiting to see which one would stop, play with her a little, then launch itself back off again before she could squash it.

She remembered a time she had been out here as a child. They had met another family on top of a sand dune. Their four wheel drive parked at a jaunty angle just below the edge and they were eating food in it’s shade. The parents were Bedouin but now lived in the city so they could make money and their kids could go to school. The mother sat nursing her baby as two small boys raced round them. He told us he brought them out at the weekends to camp, to show his children the life he had grown up in. Their heritage. There was a look in his eyes that she couldn’t understand as a child. Sitting in his favourite place, wild, with a look of such longing and sadness. She got it now. To be somewhere you love. That’s part of your soul and know that it’s only temporary before you have to leave again. It’s something that destroys you. It was the look she had when she was with you. Thinks of you.

And so she stands waiting for the sun to come up and burn those thoughts from her head.

Flirty Thoughts

That moment, when you catch a glance in their review mirror. Then a longer look. And you both set off from the lights with that smile. You know the one. Him a little faster to see if you want to keep up. Can keep up. A flirty drive. Passing and being passed. Feeling the bite as you accelerate up through the gears. Sitting on such power and guiding it with your hands. Windows open, hair tugging and being whipped but you don’t care. And you won’t care when you stop and it’s a tangled mess.

Jack

You ever loose your best friend?

Well this is my story of how I lost mine.

Have you heard of Jack? And his beanstalk?

I bet you have. But did you know that was his version of the story?

This is mine..

Jack did have magic beans, that part’s true. You see, we all have them, just some people have forgotten how to use them. Well Jack planted one at my feet and over the years the vine grew up through me, twisting up to reach the sky. So we were close but far away from each other. Bound by the vine. Tendrils tangled into my heart, my wrists, my hair.

You should have seen the vine, it wasn’t the usual run-of-your-mill variety, and that’s what I loved about it. Secrets, dreams and souls were bound up in its leaves. Flowers filled the air with their heady scent. And the music it made when the wind blew calmed my wildness. It was beautiful. A shimmer of happiness, in sun or rain.

Everything Jack felt, I felt. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we’d fight, but the friendship always held firm, because the roots had had years to grow deep.

Then a being came into Jack’s life and she didn’t like the vine we had. (There had been others before but they’d never noticed me.) This one declared herself allergic to the flowers.

Now this is the sad part.

Grab a tissue.

He cut it. Just a little at first. Hoping if she couldn’t see the flowers she wouldn’t have an allergic reaction. But she wasn’t stupid, she knew it was lies. So he cut a little more so he could pretend it wasn’t there when she was around. Now I didn’t just stand there. I tried to fix it. Reaching out to him then her. I tried everything I could. But her anger and hate was too deep. There was no hope.

He cut the vine at the base then. Scared at being caught in his lies to her and to me.
Only this was a living thing. And it grew through me. Each cut had hurt, but the final one that killed the vine, hurt the most. Have you ever cut a plant? It dies from the inside out. It rots in the middle, while its outside becomes brittle, splintering into anything that comes into contact with it. Well that’s what was inside me. A painful hole.

So I’m still picking out the splinters and rotting pieces because I don’t want to carry that around with me any more. And I’m working on digging out the roots, because I can’t be hurt like that again.

The hole’s too big to fill in straight away, and on some days I feel it more then others. The gap in my chest makes it hard to breathe.

But remember when I said everyone has magic beans? Well I’m lucky. I have others who’ve shared theirs with me. They grow through me. Binding me with their beauty and friendship. Helping me stay standing. I’ll slowly turn the dark into light.

So on days that you hurt too much, just think, the hole they’ve left, will turn into something beautiful. I bet my bottom bean on it.
So why’s there no giant in my story? Well that’s his part of the story. So I’ve no idea where he got it from…

 

The Raven And The Girl

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Did I tell you the tale about the raven and the girl?

She would watch each morning as he would arrive. He’d hop from floor to tree, then from branch to branch. Until he reached the corrugated metal roof of the building that the tree leant against. He would always pause, survey his kingdom, then vanish across it’s flat surface, safely hidden by the the height and angle of the roof.

His brothers and sisters were always somewhere nearby. Arriving in a flurry of wings and noise, they would call to each other, laughing as they wheeled around the yard. He always walked. Or hopped. Preferring to take his time. To watch. Only flying at the last moment when he would finally launch himself up, low in the air, to join the others.

On the days they were late, the girl found herself pausing in her work to search the sky for them. Him. Other birds filled her bird feeders, a multitude of colours and feathery fluff balls of sizes. She moved softly between them or just sat quietly watching them, tolerated by these happy wild things. A robin liked to sit on her table and inspect her biscuit eating habits. But the ravens were different. They were the teenagers of the air. Loud and unruly, keeping their distance and flying off as soon as they noticed her presence. Quite often she would turn and find them in nearby trees watching her. Hanging out together.

She learnt to listen out for the sound of his wings. The noise they made as they rubbed the air. He was different to all the others and it was if her heart would flutter in time to his wing beat.

Then one morning she finally got close enough to see him clearly. He was walking carefully, turning over pebbles under the bird feeder, looking for any dropped offerings. Totally absorbed in his task, only pausing briefly when the right wing tip brushed the ground. He’d pull it up and carry on again, repeating the process every few steps as it kept drooping.

“Ahh that’s why!”

Even though the words were soft, under her breath, he turned and inspected her carefully. The first time they’d looked into each others eyes. Her cheeks flushed as this wild thing looked into her soul, weighing her up. She felt the world slowly spin before he finally broke eye contact, turned and took off to join his brothers and sisters in the trees. Only then did she realise that she had been holding her breath.

Trees filled up with leaves, then flowers, which hung heavy, trailing petals to cover the floor and break their landing when they had finally picked up the courage to drop gracefully to the earth. Spent in their beauty.

Then one cold day, when the world was covered in a tissue paper layer of mist, she had started filling the bird feeders before noticing a black pile of feathers half hidden in the bushes. With heavy heart she moved closer to remove the remains, a single tear slipping down her face. As her hand touched warm, she jerked it back, before carefully, ever so carefully, scooping up the fallen raven. His wing spilling over her hands. Just the one wing. Breath held, and in total silence she hurried back to her house, oblivious to the eyes watching her closely. Moving her hands gently over his body and wings, explaining quietly what she was doing, until she found a small piece of plastic caught round his neck. It had rubbed him raw. Wrapping him in a towel, she carefully snipped the tie, then as lightly as she could, washed and dabbed cream into the cut. Over the rest of the day he mainly slept, ignoring the food she tried to tempt him with, but allowing her to drip water slowly down his throat from a syringe.

That evening, she slept next to him, tossing and turning through the night. Her dreams were filled with birds the colour of night and a boy with a broken arm. He was always just beyond her fingertips, but she felt that his eyes held the stars, just that she couldn’t quite see. He was night and his breath, the tug of tides in her heart.

When she woke the next morning, he was gone, only the flutter of curtain to break the stillness that soaked the room. Opening the door, she ran barefoot into the yard, small birds scattered, a confetti of colour and feathers, but no black amongst them. Near her seat, something glinted. Walking over, ignoring the scolding by ruffled birds, she found a silver locket and chain in the dirt. A single black feather alongside it. Clutching the necklace tight in her hand, she turned slowly, scanning the trees for the eyes she hoped were watching her. But there was no sign. Even her heart fluttered in a hollow, echoey way.

That was the last time she saw them. The locket was always worn, warm against her skin, and if she closed her eyes, she imagined it was filled with the night sky. And every time she saw a flash of black feathers, her heart would skip, but they never sounded the same.

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Inspired by my real life Jackdaws and Jack the boy with a drooping wing.

The Wolf

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The wolf was following. She was sure of that. How close she couldn’t tell, instead she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, snow greedily swallowing each step. Somewhere there would be lights and warmth. That’s what she kept hoping. Promising her numb limbs. Repeating the words over and over, just trying to keep her lips warm with movement. A flicker, seen out of the corner of her eye. Pausing, breath laboured, she leant against a tree, eyes narrowed towards where she thought she had seen it. This wouldn’t be the first time tonight she had imagined something. The light held, blinking slightly as invisible branches brushed past it. Holding her breath she tried to sense the wolf. There may have been a soft panting? But it could also have been the snow brushing off branches in the wind. Forcing her fumbling body she turned and headed towards the light.

The man didn’t know what to make of it. After he carefully opened the door, gun cocked ready, he really didn’t expect a girl to fall through it. The fur lined coat told him she was wealthy and as he lifted her and carried her to the fire, she weighed less then a doe. As he carefully unwrapped the wet outer garments, her slim build and gentle curves stirred something inside him he thought had died a lifetime ago. She was dressed in forest green velvet, a gift from the forest he lived in. Fire warmed her slowly, spreading a brush of pink across her skin. He watched her and the fire, coaxing the woods cackle lullaby.

She woke. Body rigid, letting only her eyes and mind flit round trying to piece everything together. These weren’t her blankets, the scratching fabric was very unfamiliar. But there was a fire, so she was sheltered and warm. A rumbling snore meant she wasn’t alone. Turning her head carefully she found the source. Slumped in a chair, hair stuck to his scull, snaking round from behind his ears. The beard was the same colour, with flecks of white. The man was wearing layers of patched clothes chosen only for their practicality, not style, a piece of orange twine escaped at one side. It had been a long winter for him as well. Trying to move as quietly as possible, she ran her hands over her body to check what exactly had been removed. A sharp, heavy weight reassured her. Her knife at least was still there. Adjusting her position, she had a look around the room she was in, noting how the door was bolted closed and the gun was close to his hand.

He wasn’t sure what woke him and it took him a few moments to work out what was different. Everything was in it’s usual place. Only an empty blanket and pillow on the floor in front of the fire nagged at his sleepy head. The girl! He sat upright, checking where he’d hung her wet coat and boots. They were still there. A small puddle under them. He eased himself quietly out of the chair and circled towards the back of the tiny cottage and the doorway that lead to the store cupboard and bedroom. The slight scuffing told him she was in the cupboard. He paused to listen and make sure, then flung open the door.

When she had found his store cupboard the dusty outlines told her he was running on near to nothing. The flour that was left smelt strange and the few cuts of meat hanging still from the rafters had pock marks from where he’d picked at them. Jars weren’t labelled, but then hopefully he would know what was in there. There wasn’t too much she could make for them from this.

He found her standing staring at the hanging meat. She shrank back against the far wall. Dusty cobwebs attaching themselves to her dark hair. Teeth bared, there was nothing refined or gentile about the girl in the rich clothes. Glancing round he noticed she hadn’t actually touched anything.

She cursed herself for getting trapped. The only exit was past him and his whole body filled the sturdy wooden frame. There was a gun in his hand, although not actually pointed at her.

He put the gun away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Of course you must be hungry. I’ll fix us some food. Come sit by the fire.” He held out his hand, trying to coax the girl out. When she let out a faint hiss, he looked into her eyes. The wildness took his breath. Changing tack he backed slowly away, hands turned out, giving her room to leave the room. He’d had to do the same in the summer when he’d left the windows open and a dove had become trapped in the house.

Once it was safe she bolted from the larder and moved back to the main room. She sat near the fire but kept the front door between them.

He kept his movements slow and measured, pretending that he didn’t notice her watching his every move. He left approaching the fire for as long as he could, watching her wince as the metal pole carrying the pot clunked into place over the fire. She had shrunk back, but hadn’t moved further away and he took that to be a good sign.

The man had put together some kind of gruel. It was something he’d made often by the way he moved so confidently. She watched as he teased the fire, getting it to the right height for the pot. Now he was closer she could smell his scent. A musk mixed in with the fire and earth tones. He was very much a part of the landscape he lived in and that comforted her a little. But the tang of metal clung too, reminding her to still be on guard.

“Where have you come from?” he carefully picked up her finished dish, noticing that she’d pushed it a little way from her, giving herself space. She cocked her head on one side, lips moving, as she turned over the words he had given her.

“here” she whispered. The dustiness still in her words.

He frowned, thinking of all the people he knew in the area, true he hadn’t been into town since the last heavy fall of snow but that would stop anyone new moving in as well. Surely? She wasn’t dressed as a hunter or a farmer. Was there a new preacher? Maybe it was his daughter. Would someone be missing this girl?

She looked into his eyes, watching the thoughts flicker across them. The callused hand, red raw from the plunges into soil and cold, rubbed his matted beard. Outside was muted but she still thought she could hear the wolf. It’s breath on the window pane steaming it slightly.

“A woman used to live here. Maybe it’s time to try again.” He looked over to the second set of snowshoes leant against the chimney breast. Slightly smaller then his and a layer of dust on them. He’d buried her in her best clothes, but there was still her cloak and some of her working clothes. They would suit this new one better then the clothes she’d turned up in. More practical. And he was a patient man. He could wait a little while. Not forever. But she would understand that. He was a man. With needs.

“You are sad.” Her voice hung in the air. Amongst the dust specks dancing in the light.

He looked into her eyes. Watched as she walked towards him. Hesitatingly. They were still wild. Dark. Emotions were swirling through them and as he tried to place the thoughts behind the expression, he was only vaguely aware of her hand moving towards him. Reaching out to touch him. The sharp pain.

She looked down at the body. Her hand and knife covered in blood. She knew the look in his eyes. The hunger. She’d seen it before. Experienced it before. Her coat was still wet, but her boots would be ok, especially if she used the snowshoes. Then she found the cloak. Berry red and heavy, good quality wool. Pulling it round her, the weight and warmth felt comforting. Tucking some wrapped food into the hidden pockets she took a deep breath and headed out into the snow. She stopped on the edge of the cottage clearing, looking back and whispering her thanks to the stones for providing again. She pulled up the red hood and headed on her way.

Somewhere nearby the wolf paced, slightly pacified by the fresh kill.