Photo Challenge #437: The Sentinel

Do you believe in sacred spaces? The power of the unknown? There are things we meet from time to time that are maybe better left alone….

The Sentinel

‘What’s this here?’ He was poking at the ground with his foot, indicating the point where the strange, blackened stump protruded from the sand.  

No one knows exactly, she said. It’s been there ever since I can remember. I’ve heard people talking about it over the years. It seems to be a bit of an icon. Definitely a landmark around here.

Well, it’s going to have to go, unfortunately, he said. We need to clear this area as per the contract agreement, and this… whatever it is… is right in the middle of where the new road will be. I’ll just get my guys to lift it. It’ll be a quick, painless job.

She smiled. He frowned. Does that seem strange to you? he asked. It’s a burnt-out piece of wood, not so? Really not complicated.

Have you had a proper look? she asked. It’s not burnt, and it’s not even wood. Take a look.

He leaned in closer to the strange object, narrowing his eyes and rubbing his palm along the surface. He pulled his hand away. Okay, I see that, he said. There was a tone of surprise in his voice, and an annoyance at being caught off-guard. It’s made of stone or something. What is this thing anyway? Some kind of fossil, or what?

As I said, nobody seems to know. I’ve heard stories, though. About its ‘special powers’ and other things. The locals say that it’s been here since the beginning of time. I’ve also heard them say that people have tried to remove it in the past and that some of those individuals… well… things didn’t go well for them in the end.

He was staring at her now, his mouth twitching as he held back a laugh.

You don’t expect me, surely, to buy into that kind of superstitious nonsense. Are you really asking me to take this seriously?

I don’t know, she said. I’m just letting you know what I know. What I’ve been told. Some of the history and folklore of the area. You asked me about the object and I’m telling you what I know. She smiled, not condescending, but with a suggestion of patience that was starting to wear a bit thin.

Well, as I see it, a commitment is a commitment, and we have a job to do here. He turned his back to her then and started to walk in the direction of the vehicle that was parked a short distance away, calling out as he went: Okay guys, we need some heavy artillery over here, please; something that can cut through stone. Pronto.

She watched him walk off, talking loudly to his three teammates as they got out of the vehicle and started unloading their tools from the container at the back. From the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a small movement on the ground just to her right. She looked down and saw a small animal, a hedgehog, rooting about amongst the short tufts of grass there. She stood quietly, not wanting to disturb the little creature as it scratched and rummaged around, probably looking for something to eat. She watched it, admiring its pretty face with its dark-button eyes and nose, and the small round ears. The sun emerged from behind the clouds at that moment, and a ray glanced against its small, bright eyes as it lifted its head to look at her. And although it was obviously just a trick of the light, it really seemed for just a moment, that it was winking at her.  

Image credit Denman Prospect Village

Instructions for today’s prompt: ‘Use the above image as inspiration for a poem or short story.’

#SoCS: Rite of Passage

Have you ever misjudged or misinterpreted a situation so badly that it leaves you reeling? Or maybe you misunderstood someone’s motives- assumed good intentions where none existed, and you now feel that you can’t trust the person, and maybe can’t trust your own judgment in certain situations. Poor judgment and misunderstandings can happen to anyone, but they have a way of knocking our self-confidence and can even leave one in a really difficult position…

He was running at me now, picking up speed as he got closer, his right arm raised and bent at the elbow, the ball in his hand. My eyes were on the ball, my feet firmly planted, bat raised to strike. I saw the ball leave his hand, and as I swung at it, I immediately realised my lack of judgment. My angle was wrong- I had swung into the gap, and there was no contact. Instead of that clean smack of bat to ball, there was the heart-sinking sound of the ball hitting the wicket, and the tumble of bits falling over as they hit the ground on impact. I heard the fielder nearest me to my left shout out in glee as he clapped his hands, “Bowled him!” and from the corner of my eye the long white sleeve of the umpire lifted slowly towards vertical, his index finger pointed, his face deadpan. There was no argument to be had here- as I slowly removed my visor and gloves, the fielders and the bowler were already huddled together, patting each other on the back and exchanging high fives. Amidst the loud cheers of excitement from the spectators and the celebratory music that had now started up in the stadium, I heard a strange sound, a low hum followed by a deep clear voice coming from nowhere that I could see. “You’re out. It’s time to leave the playing field.” “Yes, I can see that,” I muttered to myself, beyond irritated at having the obvious pointed out to me by someone or something that I couldn’t even see. I was now headed towards the players’ change rooms, anxious to escape my humiliation with the comfort of a hot shower. But the entrance to the change room was now blocked off by a locked gate, and I found myself being ushered down a long passageway- a different route to the change rooms, I assumed. I heard the sound again, the same voice as before, this time: “That route cannot be opened for you. Please make your way down the passageway.” I continued to walk down the passage which now seemed to stretch further in front of me with each step, and I realised after some minutes that I could no longer hear any sounds from the stadium above. The passageway was dark and soundless, barring the crunch of my own footsteps. I sensed my irritation growing, and I thought about turning back. I stopped and shouted into the void in front and behind me. “Hey! What’s going on here? I just want to get to the showers, guys! I’ve just had a really crappy game of cricket, and I’d like to get out of here right now, please!” Again, that low hum, closer than before, followed by the voice, so close now that it seemed to vibrate from inside the passage walls: “Well then someone didn’t properly explain the rules to you, unfortunately. That was not just a game of cricket. That was the game of life.”  

#SoCS Writing Prompts, Sat 22/10/22: “Bowl.”

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

#SoCS: ‘Back of the Fridge’

 

08/10/22: There may be forgotten treasures there: unopened jars of your favourite relish that you were saving for a rainy day. Or something else entirely: a jar of greenish, blackened mycelium fuzz, effectively disguising the host underneath. You read the label for clues, and there it is: ‘Bandini’s Grated Parmesan,’ with an expiry date that has itself long expired. Here’s my take on it- a tale with a tweak:

 

The Creature in the Kitchen:

The man from the appliance repair centre appeared puzzled.

Well, I can’t see much wrong here- your connections are all fine, the thermostat is working. I’ve checked everything.

It’s not just that, she replied. Nothing in the fridge is passed its expiry date, and yet stuff just keeps going bad in here. This fridge is rendering my food inedible. You’re the expert- you need to tell me what to do.

There was an awkward silence. He was looking down at the floor, biting his lip, frowning.

Well, there is one thing, he said finally. But this is going to sound weird, so just bear with me, please.

Tell me, she said. I’m all ears.

Well, I think you might have a Kitchen Goblin at the back of the fridge. Behind the fridge, most likely.

What? Are you serious? I thought those things were just a joke. An urban myth….

Oh no, they’re real, all right. Last week a woman in your street called on me for her washing machine. Kept on switching itself off mid-cycle. I found the darn little creature hiding away in the detergent dispenser. I removed it on the spot, of course.

Well, then let’s do it. I can’t go on like this.

Are you sure? They’re nasty little things, and they tend to jump up at your face when exposed. I can call for assistance if you like.

The sooner this can be sorted, the better, she said. Let’s just get it over with. She was now leaning against the fridge, ready to start pulling it away from the wall.

He joined her on the other side, preparing to pull.

Ready? He said. On the count of three:  one, two, …….

 

#SoCS Writing Prompts, Saturday 08/10/22: ‘Back of the Fridge’

 

#SoCS: Eureka! What have we found?

 

 

20/03/21: Starts with Cal…

So what is ‘callousness’ without an O? It’s having a hard lump growing on the side of the foot. Oh wait, ‘callusness’ doesn’t make sense. ‘Callusless’ makes sense, sort of, as in being without a callus. It reminds me of that joke: what do you call a man with a shovel in the side of his head?- Doug. And a man without a shovel in the side of his head?- Douglas. But whereas that joke may bring on a bit of a chuckle, ‘callusless’ is not funny. It does not hit home, let alone hit the funny bone, because it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not in the dictionary. Although maybe it could mean something. Maybe even something profound. Remember that part in Forrest Gump where Sally Field says to Tom Hanks, “If God intended everyone to be the same, he would have put everyone in legbraces”, or words to that effect. And wow, it’s just dawned on me that leg braces have a ‘proper’ name: Calipers- Which is also a ‘cal’ word! This feels like a Eureka moment, although I don’t know what it is I have found, if anything. Is the universe trying to tell me something? About calipers? That feels a bit far- fetched. Maybe the universe is just reminding me that sometimes we would be better off if the exception could be the rule. That things like quirkiness, kindness and creativity (I didn’t plan that alliteration by the way, it just came out like that) should maybe be the norm, the default position, the basic standpoint for all of us. What a beautiful and interesting world we could create…..

Prompted by Linda G Hill at 
Stream of Consciousness Saturdays #SoCS: 20/03/2021