#FF Photoprompt

Liberty Tarn

The mouth of the tunnel was an orangey glow in the darkness of the night.  The first of the runners came out of the tunnel and started to circle the tarn: the tarmac of the road gave way to a smooth gravel pathway.  Portable lighting had been erected to guide the runners, to prevent accidents. The path came to an end: the bright white lights were set back from the end of the path to allow the end of the path to fall away into increasingly dense shadow.

As each runner reached the last light, they were handed an unlit candle.  Walking now, contemplative, they followed the path to the edge of the water, and lit their candle from a tiki torch that marked the start of a short pontoon.  Walking to the front edge of the jetty, each person knelt, floated their candle on the cold, inky water and bowed their head for a moment.  Five hundred candles had already been lit and floated in the centre of the lake; a light breeze, and the natural movement of the water, drew the candles to the the others, where they joined the lazy swirling gyre.  Each watched their candle drift off into the darkness before moving away to allow the next to take their place

The elite race, longer and over more rugged, although still taking in a circuit of the lake, had finished some hours before.  The weather had not been conducive to personal bests,  being too hot and humid, although the Canadian Paralympian Birt Davies had threatened the course record.  The competition though was besides the point: they’d had a good turn out for it, and Maisy Andrews, the organiser, was pleased that everything had gone well, but only in as much as the competition covered the costs of the event this evening.  There had been no dramas: even Davies and his arch-rival Carlos Xu had steered clear of one another.  Perhaps they sensed that their usual antics, played out for the camera, would not play well today.

Maisy handed over a candle to each runner as they came by.  Some she knew well: they had run this course every year since the memorial began.  Others were new faces, come to take over from someone who could not make the pilgrimage anymore, or who had found that they had a connection, or just that they felt they wanted to pay their respects.  There were fewer runners in the evening, and it did not take long for them to pass by.  Maisy didn’t know how long the event would continue, how long people would come keep coming up to the tarn; she only knew that she would continue to organise it for as long as she was able.  Certainly there were those who asked every year “You’ll be doing it again, won’t you?” anxious to be reassured that, yes, the memorial would continue.  Running the course herself was beyond Maisy, these days, although she had been one of those who had run up the mountain when disaster had struck.  But even if she were the only one to turn up, she would walk, and she would light the five hundred candles, one for each person who had died, and she’d do that every year that she could drag herself up here.

In the last few years, the observance had seen the addition of a party back down in the town.  A wake for a lost friend, not too raucous, but a celebration rather than a lamentation, with poetry, music, and dancing.  No doubt Ellis O’Neill would be holding court, following the annual declamation of his Lay.  These days, this was becoming the only overt reminder of the tragedy that had brought the lake itself into existence.

*****

Maisy and Mervyn, her brother, used to sit together and look at the moon.  He would tell her about the craters and about the Moon mopping up the meteorites that would otherwise have hit the Earth.  And then he’d tell her about the ones that snuck past, relatively small, but moving so fast that their energy, released into the crust of the Earth, created craters tens, hundreds of kilometers in diameter, created trillions of carats of diamonds with the heat and pressure of the impact.

Liberty Tarn was much the same, albeit on a smaller scale, although it was a significantly more recent addition to the geography of the Earth.   It was named after the Liberty space station that had been deorbited by Earth First terrorists.  They had planned to drop the station on a major city.  Mervyn, with two others, had managed to regain control of the flight deck.  They hadn’t been able to save themselves, nor anyone else on board, but then they hadn’t expected to.  Doomed, their last act was to control the re-entry of the station, as best as could be managed and prevent the E1 group from achieving their goals.

The station had come down in the mountains, wiping out a piece of road and severing the connection between two towns.  A small mercy, there had been no one on the road when the crater was formed.   The impact caused localised quakes, landslides, destruction.  Another small mercy, the impact site was relatively barren, with sparse wooded slopes and so the fires that broke out died as quickly as they started.  Another 5 miles further East and the vast forests surrounding the area would have caught alight, a veritable tinderbox after a long, dry summer.

Mervyn didn’t know that his sister was staying in one of the nearby towns, visiting a college friend before heading back for a new academic year.  Woken by the noise of the impact, she joined the group that went to see what had happened, driving into the mountains, only to find the road blocked.  They scrambled up over mud and rocks.  An engineer in the group insisted on checking the tunnel whilst the rest waited impatiently.  No one really knew what to  expect, coming out of the tunnel.  In fact there was little to see.  A big hole in the ground, small fragments of this, that and t’other.

*****

Maisy walked to the end of the jetty. She took off her walking sandals and placed them neatly side by side, and sat down next to them, trailing her feet in the water.  She watched the candles floating on the water.  She watched the stars flickering in the humid air.  Alex, her husband arrived and sat beside her, draping his fleece lined jacket over her shoulders, as the night cooled.  Together they watched the moon rise.

© David Jesson, 2018

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Three Takes on a #FF Photo Prompt

Pismo Beach at Sunset

Jonno slowly made his way through the gallery, checking that everything was in order. Part of his hindbrain was telling him that he should be in a daze, but whilst he was conscious of the event that was now only – he checked his watch for the three hundredth time that day – 90 minutes away, he pushed it away as much as possible and gave his attention to the scene before him. Attention to detail was one of the things that had made all this possible, and brought all of this to bear: every picture in the gallery hung straight and every piece of objet d’art was displayed to best advantage in the lighting available. Even the dressing was perfect, designed to emphasis a particular piece, or to show the link between one piece and another. Jonno had coined the term ‘anti-focus’ for a piece of dressing that was the opposite of the focus: it drew the observer in whilst being itself completely unobtrusive.

At 15, Jonno was acutely aware of this being a BIG DEAL. It had all started with an Auction of Promises. His father had managed to acquire three lots, one each for Tophe, Jonno and Tom: each was perfect for the boy it was given to. Jonno’s had been a week of lessons with a professional photographer and artist. He’d been impressed with Jonno’s work and had very kindly included some of Jonno’s pictures in an exhibition that he’d mounted. Jonno and his family had received VIP tickets for the event, and on the evening there had been a number of conversations between Jonno’s parents, the artist, and the gallery owner. All of which led to today: the gallery owner had been persuaded to run a charity event for Jonno’s school, with work by Jonno on display to anyone who had received an invitation. Jonno was trying hard not to think about this, since he knew who at least some of the invitations had gone to: the gallery owner was well connected.

The collection was astounding: not only had Jonno taken every photo, painted every picture, cast, carved, welded and worked his way through myriad techniques, but he had framed and mounted every piece himself, having made even these from scratch. He selected every material himself and went to great pains to match the material, style and finish to the piece. He stopped for a moment in front of one of his favorites.

Last summer, the whole family had gone to California, where his mother had been temporally based for work. They’d all had a marvelous time. Comparatively little time had been spent in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but rather they had taken in the parks and the National Forests at Shasta-Trinity and Los Padres. Death Valley had been on the itinerary too. But it had been Pismo Beach which had been the highlight of the trip for him. He’d not been able to take all the kit that he wanted, but his lessons had paid off and he’d been able to take some remarkable pictures with a rather ordinary camera. He’d not had long, as the sun sank into the horizon and was swallowed by the Pacific Ocean. Tophe had been building a fire on the beach itself for a barbecue, aided by Tom. There was a picture of the fire elsewhere, odd-coloured flames from the salt encrusted wood dancing in the night. But it was this picture, with the sun setting the sea alight, that always held Jonno’s attention for a little longer.

© David Jesson, 2018


 

Staircase to Nowhere

“So, this staircase, what does it look like?”

Marsha was sat opposite a wizened old man with the kindest eyes she’d even seen. He was asking about her recurring dream. The one which had been steadily driving sleep away.

First her Jim had begged her to get help, then her boss Mr Mack had taken her aside for a private word. His concern for her had shone through so much that, against their usual practice, she’d crossed the line and talked to him about personal stuff.

First about the dream, then about her fears of what it meant. She’d cried whilst telling him how worried she was about seeking help, fearing being taken in by some sort of charlatan. He’d patted her hand kindly and agreed that was something to be avoided at all costs. Then he’d dug around in his desk and pulled out a business card.

The man was a psychotherapist, but his area of speciality was dreams. Mr Mack said he’d helped him. Smiling, he’d admitted he’d only gone because his wife had put her foot down.

Marsha described the staircase. Slowly, a picture was formed, with the gaps being filled in by her responses to his gentle questions.

“Hmmm, so we have a beach, at sunset, with a spiral staircase that is old and rusty. But this staircase, it goes nowhere. This last is what causes you to be frightened, no?”

Marsha nodded her assent.

“You will not be surprised to learn that staircases are indicators of change, of transition. You are imagining – I think – that this one is portent of change which will result in an unexpected, unwanted, even abrupt ending, yes?  Yet, from our previous conversations, I don’t believe that you have an abnormal fear of death?”

Again, Marsha nodded.

“So, let us look to the condition of the stairs – old and rusty, huh? This leads me to look to the past. To ask maybe what you have buried away? Something you are ashamed of perhaps? Something that didn’t end as you planned?”

Marsha burst into tears. Handing her a box of tissues, the therapist waited for her to speak.

“I don’t know if I’m crying out of relief that whatever this dream is about is in the past, rather than my future. Or whether I’m crying because your question has struck a chord within me. Either way, I feel so much better.”
“Good. So, shall we work together to uncover this … whatever this is?”

Marsha nodded, this time with a smile. A small one, but a smile nonetheless.

© Debra Carey, 2018


 

The Tomb

Thompson’s treasure had loomed over their heads for five years. Wayne Marin was Spanish, but a descendent of the Incas. The treasure they were in pursuit of belonged to the long-lost Inca Empire. “C’mon Wayne, you’re the explorer. Hurry up I’m almost at the beach”, Kyle barked. The hike through the mountains had been treacherous but they had made their way through the rocky cliffs and finally to what they hoped would be their final destination. Marin stood at the edge of the cliff leading into the final descent before the beach. His map consuming him, he ignored Kyle completely. His brow furrowed, he glided his finger across the map. Pencil marks and annotations made it incomprehensible to anyone else. Kyle never bothered guiding them through their quest. He was an accomplished map reader himself, but a lost Inca treasure was Wayne’s area of expertise. “C’mon get down here, one hell of a view!” Kyle’s voice echoed up the mountain trail. Wayne heard him this time and began descending. His feet followed the loose dust and gravel preceding them. The final path twisted and turned slightly but he eventually reached the bottom. His right boot sunk into the sand followed by his left. He had reached the beach. The silence was strange at first but soon became very addictive. Uncharacteristically, Kyle hadn’t said a word since Wayne had caught up. He sat on a rock staring into the sea. Wayne walked up to him. The view was spectacular. The sunset immersed the sky with red and orange. Ripples of colour across the sea seemed never ending. Untouched by people, civilization and time. Neither man wanted to interrupt the others tranquillity. Wayne shuffled slightly. He knew they had to continue. There would be another puzzle set by the pirate William Thompson they had to solve. The sand under his feet shifted causing Kyle to drift out of his daydream. “Hell of a view right”, Kyle said. Wayne nodded as he removed the notebook within his pocket. “Cheer up. We made it. How many years have we been talking about this. Crack a smile? Please?”, Kyle maintained the grin on his face not doing well to hide his excitement. The edges of Wayne’s lips stretched out into something that resembled a smirk. “Knew it. Mr solemn and serious finally shows emotion”, Kyle joked. “Now where is the next clue”, Wayne said. He fiddled the folded map out of his pocket hoping for something.

Two hours had passed, and they had gotten nowhere. Wayne’s patience was waning. He paced along the beach whilst Kyle sat looking at their notes on the sand. Kyle looked up at Wayne. He didn’t hide his frustration very well. He let out a cry of anger and threw his compass onto the sand. Realizing he had to stay calm, he bent down to pick up the compass and gazed at the sunset one more time before giving in to surrender. The rocks lay in the sea aligned in front of the sinking sun. Where had he seen that before? He frantically slapped his pockets trying to find his notebook. He couldn’t contain his excitement. “Kyle! Get over here now! See this?”

“Uh yeah sure…”

“Kneel here and look between the rocks towards the sun”

“Ok? So?” he was dumbfounded

“Look at the shadows”. They swayed across the water. Kyle followed the shadows up to their tips. They all converged at one point. The rocks weren’t far from shore. They swam up to the convergence. The seabed was slightly raised right there but only just. You would only have seen it if you were looking for it. Wayne rested his hand on the sand, instinctively tracing the Inca symbol for abundance and prosperity. A flower.  Eventually his finger found some sort of button. He pressed it without hesitation despite the risk of a trap. Behind him metal groaned. The spiral stair case rotated into the ground. Sand began to fall into the orifice left behind by it. The two explorers clawed their way towards it. As they reached the circular hole in the ground, they realised it was a tomb. In big, gold encrusted letters on the wall, it was proclaimed. THE FINAL RESTING PLACE OF THE PIRATE WILLIAM THOMAS, DECEIVER OF THE ENTIRE SPANISH EMPIRE.

© Adi Gajendragkar, 2018