Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Silk Road by Jenny Brigalow

                                         The Silk Road by Jenny Brigalow

The sky was bright with diamante light and a silvery moon.  A sly breeze slipped through a gap in the warped window frame.  A curtain flicked and brushed across Jack’s face. He sat bolt upright in bed, senses on red alert. A cry of dismay slipped through his teeth as  blackness spread over the window pane. 
Inside his chest, his heart raced like a hot-rod. It was back! His teeth clenched at the sound of the moth’s frantic, desperate tap, tap, tap, tapping. On and on it went as the beast gyrated up and down. He felt as if its wings were in his head brushing across his brain. It drove him mental. Completely crackers. Then his mind conjured up his father’s gun. A flush of relief rippled through him. Of course. He would shoot the little shite.
The moth froze. Jack observed it nervously. Was it his imagination or was it bigger? His eyes swept over the thick furry body, the groping, slender feelers and wide wings.  The brilliant pink tip of its abdomen scraped over the glass, swollen, glistening and pulsating.  Gross.  It was bigger; the velvety wings extended past the glass and beat their crazy tattoo on the wooden frames.
 And then it was gone.
Jack let out his breath and sagged down onto the bed. His whole body quivered like a spot lit wallaby.  Then his spine stiffened as the moonlight blotted out. Like a cannon ball, the moth came back. It hit the window like a missile. The pane cracked.
“Shit!”  Jack shot back and slithered over the edge of his bed.  For one mad moment he considered waking his dad. But he swallowed the idea like an undissolved aspirin. That would be an embarrassing conversation. “Hey, Dad, will you just come and kill this scary moth for me please?” A man had his pride. No. He’d just have to sort this himself.
Before he lost his nerve he slid out the bedroom door, padded barefoot down the creaking boards and onto the back veranda. There he paused, senses probing the familiar landscape. All seemed quiet. Gum trees slumbered and cast long moon shadows over the paddock.  The only sound was his breath rasping in and out of his lips. A pulse hammered in his neck and Jack slapped a hand over the spot, scared the moth would hear. He nearly pissed himself when a soulful howl slapped the silence.  Dingo.  He forced his feet down the steps, leapt across the gravel path and flew inside the shed door. Too scared to switch on the light, he fumbled and stumbled until his fingers found the smooth comforting length of the rifle. He lifted it, broke it down, and peered down the sights. Loaded.
Jack stepped back outside and raced down the long length of the house. At the corner he paused, suddenly unsure. Maybe he’d just sneak back in and kip on the sofa. But then his ears caught the familiar sound of wings buffeting his window. Frustration and fury ignited in his belly and he set off with newfound determination. Rifle ready, he moved swiftly, circling around. With luck it’d never see him and he would blast it with both barrels.
And, for one deeply satisfying minute, Jack felt an anticipatory wave of victory. The moth seemed insensible to all but its own frenzied quest. Smoothly, carefully, he lifted the rifle and took aim. But, as his finger squeezed the trigger, the moth dropped away and took flight. Jack swore violently. He lost sight of it. And then he spotted it silhouetted against the sky. He took off, racing across the garden and  the paddock. At the boundary fence he paused.  He peered into the forest. It was dark. The moth, if it was there, was hidden.  As Jack turned to go, his eye caught a glistening thread of light upon the forest floor. Curious, he wiggled  through the sagging strands of barbed wire and crouched down to see. It was a silk road.  A long string of caterpillars moved sinuously along the silk strand away into the trees. Without hesitation he followed.
On and on it wondered, through clumps of lantana, down dry creek beds and across dusty dirt roads. A burned out shell of a house loomed like a cluster of broken teeth. The MacDonald’s old place. For a moment he wavered. The old ruin was a long way from home.  It was then that he realised that he no longer had the gun.   He continued on.  Finally, behind the ruined homestead, the trail ended. Jack looked up at the ghost gum that gleamed softly in the moon light. His eyes roved up its smooth skin and into the gnarled and ancient head, adorned with mistletoe and stag horns.  Cicadas strummed a ghostly serenade and the wind whispered secrets into the ears of leaves. He looked down at the forest floor. At his feet the ground dappled. Half hidden in shadow, a shimmering metallic mound hugged the bole of the tree. Jack sucked in a lungful of eucalyptus air and stepped back, sweat bursting from his pores as the mound split apart.
His mouth opened wide as a dark shadow emerged from the cocoon. He waited, taut as high tensile wire.  She stretched, and her feelers unfurled. Beneath the dark, downy skin her sinews flexed and rippled. On thin, bony feet she came. Jack could smell her. Like fruit and honey.
Sharp fingers flickered across his chest. Jack held his breath. Shadow fell across his face as her wings unfolded and wrapped him in a velveteen embrace. Jack looked up into eyes that glittered like wet coal. And he waited to see if this was heaven or if this was hell.
                                                The End?
979 words

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Other Side Of The River

Photo by Nick Manning


The Other Side Of The River by Jenny Brigalow

The rain had gone.  Anita Patel observed the wide expanse of water that sparkled and rippled beneath a clear blue sky. Water lapped and frolicked on the muddy river bank as it raced to the sea. She breathed in the freshly laundered scent of the world. Drops of water glistened like jewels, shivered and dived from the blue canvas roof of her tent. She smiled and dug around in a canvas bag with fingers sculpted by arthritis. The biscuit tin rattled as she drew it out.
A small shadow fell.  Anita looked at her visitor. Without a word she held out the tin. Little Joanne put in a grubby hand and took two bits of pale, crumbly shortbread. The child stuffed one piece in her mouth and disappeared. Far away to the west, thunder growled.    
Samantha Thornton lifted an earring in each hand. The pearls were tempting. They screamed "culture". But the diamonds shouted "success". Tricky. In the end she opted for diamonds.  She leant in close to the mirror that dominated one wall of her dressing room.  Then, earrings swinging like chandeliers, she slipped on her shoes and went to her bedroom. A shaft of sunlight blinded her and she rushed to smother it. As the drape swished shut she glanced across the river and her pretty, painted lips tightened.
But time pressed on. She grabbed her clutch and keys, clip-clopped out onto the deck and sped down to the garage. The Mercedes engine roared into life, the automatic door opened and she was away. As the wheels ate up the bitumen she made a mental note to contact her local MP. She hadn't paid four million for a riverside mansion with a view of scabrous tents and the great unwashed. It was an outrage.
In the deep of the night raindrops drummed on the tent roof and ran in a rivulet through one corner. But Anita was unperturbed. She listened to the frog's love sick calls and remembered. John had walked all the way to the farm in their courting days, come rain or shine. She had been young then. Now she was old. All she had now was the river. Until they moved her on.

Wet, weary but well pleased, Samantha shut the door and headed for bed. She was glad she'd worn the diamonds. She had been in sparkling form. The deal was practically done. 
Hour after hour the rain fell in silver sheets and lightening cracked apart a pregnant sky. The river rose. Water fretted at the jetties and clawed greedily at the soil. To the west a dam shuddered into surrender. A tsunami tore through a valley and finally met the swollen waterway.  Like a surgical scalpel the raging river sliced through the land.  Mansions swirled and shattered. Small tents sagged and were swallowed. It was all the same to the river. It was all one land. 
Silent and serene in their grave, Anita and Samantha were drawn irrevocably toward the sea. 

Photo by Nick Manning

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

WEP entry August 2015. Spectacular Settings - Like Lantana

                                                 Like Lantana.

This is Australia. The place that I live. But not my "island home". That's at the far side of the planet. A green dot on the landscape. England. It is forever in my mind. Sometimes I go back. I feel complete. Effortlessly my self. For a while. Then I begin to long for dust and the cackle of kookaburras. Long for the sharp scent of eucalypt. For  shimmering heat waves on scorched earth. The secret, brooding silence of the bush. It calls to me.
So I come back. I sink fence posts into the ground and wonder if I'm desecrating sacred ground. I dig my roots deep into the rusty red soil. I turn my face to the brilliant blue of the sky. I am alien. An invader. Like lantana.


Many thanks to Denise and Yolanda for making it happen. To see more go to... 


Word count 130:FCA

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Pitch For Paranormal

A Pitch For Paranormal.

First of all, I must confess that I didn’t set out to write a paranormal. It just came out that way. Like many people I have enjoyed paranormal novels such as Vampire Academy and Twilight. And it’s hard to ignore the whole paranormal phenomenon on the screen. So, subconsciously at least, I must have been soaking it up!
Paranormal means different things to different people. Indeed, I had to do a bit of research to establish the boundaries between fantasy and paranormal. And, I must confess, that the lines are still a little hazy. Paranormal seems to encapsulate anything that defies scientific explanation whereas fantasy seems to hinge on the idea of magic.  To me there seems plenty of overlap. After all, surely magic defies scientific explanation, if it didn’t, would it be magic? Tricky one that.
So, do I believe in paranormal? Do I believe in magic? The simple answer is that I want to believe. Trust me; I spent years trying to spot fairies at the bottom of the garden and searching the woods for the Magic Faraway tree.  But I can honestly say that I have experienced paranormal for real.  When I was ten years old my family moved into a 16th century house in Wolverhampton. It was rumoured to be haunted. A white figure would often walk briskly past the kitchen window. At first we would go to open the front door, anticipating a visitor. But no one would be there. We learned to ignore it, but guests were always telling us someone had arrived! It wasn’t scary. Just a bit irritating. And at Christmas (and this was spooky) you could smell pipe smoke in the house. No one smoked a pipe. Spookier still was the giant cedar tree in the back garden. It dominated the landscape and couldn't be touched as it was placed under a preservation order. I never played near it. We moved after just a few years and I’ve never experienced this again. Of course many people scoff and put it down to an overactive, young imagination. 
If I didn’t harbour the belief that paranormal is - at the very least - a possibility, I don’t think I could have written the NightShifters series. In The MacGregor I found a forum for fantasy and paranormal. Best of both worlds perhaps! For me these stories  reflect a life time of longing to be - even a little bit - magic. And I still haven’t given up hope.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Whatever Happened To Alison?

                                                         Whatever Happened To Alison?

Sometimes the past drifts back. Places, people and sepia snippets of life. You know how it is. Something stirs my subconscious like an eddy of air through mist. A scent resurrects a memory. Pipe smoke or the scent of Pears soap.  Or a sound. The distant hoot of a diesel train. A storm bird. Today it’s  the glimpse of a young girl with long red hair. My mind winds back like a tape recorder.
It’s summer. England. Blackbirds warble in the hedgerows and dogs bark at the postman. Alison and I sit astride a tall brick wall, an imaginary pony between our long, skinny legs. We giggle and snort sherbet down our noses. Powder fountains into the air like snow. Alison’s red hair is warm in the soft sunlight. She is my Ann Of Green Gables. My bosom pal.
One day they come to me and ask me strange things. About Alison. Did she have a secret? A friend? Had I seen a stranger? A man?
I shake my head. “No,” I say. And I am bemused.
Alison’s parents buy her a real pony.  I look out for her and wait.  But we don’t play anymore. And I move far away.
The decades roll by and my hair is streaked by frost.  Many things are forgotten. But I never stop wondering - whatever happened to Alison?
Alison, are you out there?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

An Unlikely Allie by Jenny Brigalow

                                                        An Unlikely Allie by Jenny Brigalow

Cloud hung like a black anvil on the horizon. It was still. Sweat trickled  and tickled down Helen's spine . Her horse's black coat was as  slick and shiny as liquorice. White foam waved over his neck. The great flat landscape stretched away out of sight. The only sound was the steady clip clop of shod feet. Even the cicadas in the Coolibah trees had subsided into silence.
And then she heard it. A soft  grumble. Forked  tongue of lightening split the air. Ozone zinged. An ice cold drop of water plopped onto her arm.  Despite her horse's fatigue, she put the spur to his side and he broke into a trot. Anxious now, Helen cursed herself. She should have stayed at home. But the brindle bull had pushed through into the heifer paddock.  And besides, the geeks at the bureau had been forecasting storms for a fortnight. And not a drop.
As if to spite her, bullets of rain danced on her Akubra. They bounced on the dusty dirt sending up small geysers of red. And then it poured. Water surfed off her hat and stuck hair to the back of her neck. Her reins were slippery as eels.  Then the  wind wailed like a banshee across the outback. It sent the rain scudding and the black horse skittered  like a sheet of newspaper. She patted his shoulder. "It's alright  Sesame, just a bit of a storm." But she couldn't hear her own voice as thunder rent the air.
She didn't panic. What was the use? It'd pass.
But it didn't. The storm raged on. Streams of water began to swirl across her path. Helen halted Sesame, suddenly unsure. Where was the fence? It had been there, on her right, just a moment ago. Still, it couldn't be far. She pushed Sesame to the right, although he was reluctant to walk into the rain. Her eyes slitted against the maelstrom as she strived to sight the wire that would take her home. Like it always did.
When the lightning struck, she wasn't expecting it. Which was crazy. The tree exploded like a firecracker. Poor Sesame panicked. He reared and screamed. Helen clung on like a limpet. But the boggy soil betrayed them. Sesame's back legs slid out and they crashed.
 Helen was trapped beneath the dead weight of her horse.  Fear raised its ugly head. If she couldn't get out she would drown. No one was home. They'd all gone to the camp draft. Wouldn't be back 'til late.  Not for hours. Sesame convulsed and Helen thought he was a goner.  His back bowed and, with a groan,  got back up on his feet. Helen sat up and cried out. When she looked, her ankle was swelling like an angry toad. Not good.
She reached out to snag the reins that trailed in the water. Relief flooded her as her fingers found them.  Lightening cracked like a stock whip. It was too much for Sesame. He bolted. The reins slid through her fingers like soap.
For a moment Helen was breathless with fear. Her fingers scrabbled into her jeans pocket and pulled out her phone. No signal. Dammit to hell. She'd have to walk. Or hop. Slowly she levered herself up, cursing crudely, which helped. She found she could get along slowly.  The rain fell so hard she could barely see an arm's length around her. A stream rose to her ankles. Cold. As she hobbled on, it crept up her legs. To her calf.  Then her knee. And she could hear the water  now.  Like a cauldron simmering. Any stronger or faster and she'd be in trouble.
At the next tree she paused. Could she climb up? She tried. But it was impossible. The pain made her nearly pass out. With no other option she carried on. Surely she must find the fence soon? She stopped. What was that noise? She had the answer as a wall of water scooped her up and swept her away. She struggled and fought like a wild thing. Water filled her. She was heavy. So heavy. And tired.
Then she hit something. Something solid.  Two strong hands gripped and lifted her from the maelstrom.
 "Dad!" Her hands went to his neck and she hugged him.  The  sky lit up and Helen's joy turned to horror. It wasn't Dad. It was a monstrous mountain of a man. His face was scarred and disfigured above a thick  dark beard.  Long hair plastered to his massive head like kelp. Heart pounding like a stampeding herd, Helen began to struggle, longing to be back in the  water.
But he locked her to his chest and waded like a giant brolga through the raging river.  On he went. Like a tireless machine. The rain stopped and frogs began to serenade .  Helen lay still. She could hear his heart beat slowly. The clouds rolled away and a vast lake sparkled in the sun.  Cautiously she looked at him. His disfigurements less terrible in the light. Maybe he was sick. Or had skin cancer real bad. Some surgeons were hackers. He stopped and grunted. Above them she saw the homestead, perched on the ridge. High and dry.
And she was home. He carried her to the verandah and settled her in a chair. And then he turned and walked away.
"Stop!" she cried. He stopped and turned and looked at her. He had fine eyes. Amber and clear. Like a single malt whiskey. "Who are you?"  she said. " What's your name?"
"They call me Frankie," he said huskily. "Frankie Stein."
"Thank you, Frankie," she said. But he was on his way. She watched until the Outback swallowed him up.
                                                                        The End

 945 words
Thanks to Denise Covey for this wonderful opportunity!  http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com.au/