Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Giants ruled the island for centuries before the clans discovered the place, bringing their version of civilization. They thought they could colonize the giants and rob them of their resources while enslaving them. The ships landed, and soldiers spread out to find and conquer the inhabitants. They found evidence of cooking, fires still warm, but no people could be found. Days of searching systematically revealed nothing more of the locals. It looked like they had vanished suddenly, but there was no clue about where they had gone, or how they had escaped without being seen.
Harsh storms blew in from the west rocking the ship at anchor. The invaders were cold, hungry, and became afraid they might be stranded as they watched their ship take on water. A funnel cloud swept across the horizon, churning up the surf. The clansmen feared for their lives and wished they had never come to this place. There was no shelter, and the elements were harsh. Survival would be difficult at best. They questioned the wisdom of trying to conquer a land separate from their own, and hoped they would live to return to their homeland. They were not equipped for warfare with giant wizards.
In a flash they were lifted into the sky on the funnel cloud, swirling wildly. Time was suspended while they floated in a dream like state. Chaos in slow motion took over their minds. They saw each other disintegrate, then reappear whole. They screamed bloody murder as the rock beneath them opened. A torrent of lost and angry souls were swept downward at high velocity. They could feel the heat as their fates were sealed. They joined all the others who had come to conquer the giants in an underground of immeasurable suffering. There is no escape.
The giants keep the island for themselves to this day, as is their inherited right. Visitors beware of the local rules and customs.
When they lived along the river the whole family used to hike up to the rock hideout a few times every year for a party, a picnic, and some music. Families wandered more in those times. They met folks from other towns, learned new songs from them, and exchanged some goods. The den in the rocks was used for festive purposes before the flood. They never had to worry about thieves or tricksters in those days. Life was simple. There was plenty for everyone. They had not known tragedy or loss. Then one day a wall of water rushed down the valley, washing away everything on both sides of the river for miles.
When the water finally subsided and they surveyed the damage it was decided that moving to higher ground was practical. If they were to rebuild and start anew, they wanted to be sure they could not be wiped out so suddenly by the whims of the river. They looked for signs. They decided to make their new headquarters in the old hideout. It had some sentimental value to them, and they were emotionally fragile. The loss of their home and possessions took a heavy toll.
They used the cave as a shelter, a watchtower, and a place to store their belongings while they built new lives. The significance of the place to the family became legend. When we come up here now we like to tell stories about the time when our ancestors camped in this place in order to survive.
This piece is a response to the photo prompt on Sue Vincent’s Echo this week. Every week she posts a new photo to inspire poetry or prose, long or short. Join us for a wide variety of responses every Thursday. The fun is in seeing all the ways people write about the same image.
After work we walked down to the shore to watch the sun set on the shortest day of the year. We were looking for comfort as the calendar told us to begin a new year. The resolutions we made in the past have been leading us to this point. Our point had no point, our days had no joy, and our business had lost a reason to be of service. We had become the victims of habit, impulse, drudgery and slothful thinking. Time had become flat and meaningless.
My sister asked me if I thought we would survive the winter. I answered honestly that I was not so sure we could. When she trembled and asked if I believed in luck and fate I told her I did not put much stock in luck. Fate is another matter, because we can not know our fate. We do fashion our own good fortune or lack thereof when we create our self image. We waited by the water and watched the light of the sun sink into the horizon while I wondered how I could change our luck, in which I had just claimed to have no belief. After dark I whispered to her, “All our needs are easily met.” The moon rose, shining brightly on the path to our home. Our spirits lifted and we felt a surge of bliss. We harvested hope in the night that would last all year. We floated home on a cloud of new optimism.
This short story is based on the photo prompt on this weeks’ Echo by Sue Vincent. She inspires us every Thursday with a new photo to which we respond with poetry or prose, comedy or dark dystopian drama. This group is diverse, bringing a talented response to the snapshot of the moment. Join us to read, comment, or submit your own response here. Thanks for stopping by today.
The edges of the stones were mossy and slick. When we tried to climb on them we slipped into the rushing current of the river. We were carried swiftly downstream, looking for a jetty or an overhanging branch on which to cling. There were no helpful signs. The river had run away with us, and in our folly we had lost our way deep in the forrest. The adventure had turned into a nightmare without a map or a plan.
This little hike started out with innocent curiosity about where the source of this river . Some said the tributaries trickled down from the whole mountain range, naturally seeking the sea. Others told stories of a hidden artesian spring deep in a cave, which was the main source of all the water we found in between the river’s banks. It had been said in ancient times a hermit guarded the source of the spring, to keep the enemies from polluting it. The folk tales of the valley mention healing powers, even miraculous restoration of wealth and status, attributed to bathing in the river water. The hermits and the shamans kept the secret of the waters for themselves. They stopped healing the sick, and started selling miracles to those in power at the time. After a time the spring ran dry, and the flow of the river was diminished.
We found shelter under tall trees on the shore where we finally landed. We sat at the edge of the water and watched for the others. Our voyage of discovery had been ill-advised to say the least. We now found ourselves miles from our intended destination, wet and without a plan. As the afternoon shadows grew long we heard voices coming from the woods. Our shouts for help were finally met with the sound of our companions calling our names. Once reunited we felt better, but still had no idea where we were. We built a fire and told our individual stories of falling into the current and finding our way to this place until we all fell asleep.
After a long heavy sleep we awoke to find ourselves safe and sound on the shore where we had started our day. We all had strange dreams about the river which we recounted to each other on the way home. It was surprising how similar our dreams had been.
When the light streamed through the glass we could see the patterns on the ceiling and the walls. The old stairway stood at the center of the building. It was the grand entry to the upstairs office suite of the wizard. Guests would be met at the front door by the secretary butler, then shown to a small waiting area to be announced to the staff on the upper floors. When the bell rang the wizard was ready to receive petitioners. The group filed up the stairs in silence, taking in the opulence of the place. When they first got a glimpse of the altar they usually gasped in shock. The wizard knew how to impress with all the right lighting and stage effects.
There was always a pattern. The wizard demands tribute, or proof of loyalty in return for his miracles. The petitioners start out on their quests for glory with full faith and a joyful attitude. They return without figuring out to what or whom they owe tribute and loyalty. After much tribulation the wizard reveals himself to be a fraud with no power at all. The power he endows is the lesson of the master trickster. Once this lesson is learned, the petitioner has solid confidence in his own ability to find the right answers.
He still keeps office hours at the top of the stairs. Knock three times with the big dragon door knocker, and you can still be admitted to the chambers. Make sure you ask to go home, and don’t get stuck in the holding pattern of illusion. His game never changes. Some say he is just a collection of habit patterns. Others say he is a hologram. See for yourself, but set firm boundaries, or you may become lost in the reflections and refractions.
This is a piece that has been inspired by Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. In her blog, the Echo, we gather to share impressions on one of her intriguing photographs. Join us by reading, commenting, or writing your own fiction or poetry inspired by this picture.
Storms blew around the island all summer long, keeping the family inside the cottage much of the time. The tedium and tension of being cooped up with members of the family we rarely saw was grating on everyone’s nerves. We had little to discuss, so we talked about the miserable weather and the past when everything was better. We remember childhood sailing regattas and foot races on sunny days. We played croquet and walked to the village for ice cream when Grandma was alive. Now her cottage was musty, moldy, and dark, used only for a short family reunion each year. There was talk of selling the property and splitting the money. People today want different types of vacations.
The hall closet was still full of board games, dominoes, and cards. We prepared for the storms by stocking up on basics, and choosing our games. It was impossible to know how long we might be trapped without power, so we prepared for the worst. Monopoly was a big favorite for the group. When we found the Ouija board we had to test it for old time’s sake. Two of the cousins unpacked the board and sat across from each other at the coffee table. They asked the board all kinds of questions about Grandma and our past. We wanted to know if we should sell the cottage, so they asked the board if this was a good idea. Almost instantly there was a large clap of thunder close to us. The cousins’ hands moved the pointer quickly to the words Good-Bye.
This was puzzling to everyone, since there had been no answer to the question. We all wanted the money but for some reason nobody wanted to be the one to convince the others to sell. We thought it was disrespectful to the memory of our grandparents who built it to sell it to strangers. We went to sleep pondering the fate of the old home as the whole thing shook and creaked in the thunderstorm. Finally the rain stopped after two days of pouring like cats and dogs. As the sun peeked through a cloud we took a walk down to the water. The cottage and the future were still under discussion when a vertical ray of sunlight shot out from a cloud on the horizon. We stopped in our tracks and stood silent watching this light stream down from heaven toward the sea. This was the message the ouija board could not give us. This bright spirit was telling us that our grandmother had long been liberated from all her earthly goods, including the cottage. She had no need for it now, so we could do with it as we pleased. We all began to feel much lighter as we released our need to keep things we don’t even want. Thanks, Grandma!
They called out to each other when he entered the building. “CaCaw-CaCaw”, the sound of the crow echoed through the staff to warn that the boss has arrived. Quickly scurrying to clean up, sweep up, and look alive, everyone knows what the boss likes to see and what sets him off. This factory was for a while the last remaining business in the town. Generations of village folk have worked in the same jobs for decades. The relationships between the factory and the town were simple. The workers provided an honest labor force, and the factory provides jobs to keep the economy alive.
The casket industry is a lucrative niche in the death market. Since 1795 the luxury leaders in the industry had been Royal Flush. They were the providers of royal caskets, designed for pomp and ceremony. To stay in high society and leave a lasting legacy the final statement had to reflect an abundance of tradition and very flashy symbols of wealth and power. No expense was spared as the Victorians went about turning the funeral into a well orchestrated show with all the trimmings. Modern times brought new color and swag to the final container. The possibility to jack up the price with extras had never been better. Nobody wanted to be outdone by others as they made their final exit. Caskets were almost pure profit.
Times changed, global warming had severe consequences for graveyards everywhere. As the costal waters rose currents swept through cemeteries causing remains to float to the surface and drift out to sea. Nobody had anticipated this side effect. Suddenly burial was no longer the first choice of those who needed to dispose of their dead family members. Royal Flush was the last place any sane person would look for a civilized end. The factory doors closed and the workers all had to move to higher ground. As they looked back at the factory for the last time a black crow swept low in the sky and shouted, “CaCaw, CaCaw”. They understood his warning, his message. They saw the folly in resisting change and biting the hand that feeds. It was too late.
This story is written in response to Sue Vincent’s Echo, where a photo prompt is featured every Thursday. Join us to read, write, and comment here. Jump right in with your version! It is fun to see how many ways the picture is interpreted.
Crawling on our bellies through the mud, James Bond style, we quietly exited the castle. Our scuba gear was hidden in the brush at the end of the tunnel. We had the documents we needed to prove the identity of the spy we had come to investigate. Her tricky double agent status had fooled us into thinking she was interested in helping us. As we proceeded with some caution we discovered her true intention was theft and subsequent sale of our defense plan. Ever since that covert meeting at the tavern she had turned up in curious ways. We sensed that we were being followed, and took pains to put her off our scent. Finally we discovered the source of her power and wealth. She was fully funded by the Inquisitors, and was expected by her masters to defeat us through espionage.
Our island was infiltrated by the Inquisitors without our knowledge. The slow trickle of foreign settlers all claimed to be loyal to our mission. The last island in the sea that was not ruled by a conglomerate was to be our Eden. We planned to live in harmony with nature, cultivating the plants, the social customs, and the laws that would preserve our tiny paradise. Refugees from all over the world had journeyed to our island to take part in this bold social experiment. Science and politics had failed us when they combined to dominate the world. Our diet had been reduced to just corn, potatoes, and animal fat. We were starving on many levels. The abundance and freedom we once cherished had been sold. Humanity had sold itself for secure employment in a mysterious system that enslaved the populace. Now our survival would depend on our ability to weed out those who intend to destroy our culture.
The justice system had been corrupted, but there was a single official who retained both integrity and power. The Judge Most High still had the ability to rule in favor of morality. He told us that with evidence he could convince the other rulers to allow our culture to survive in freedom. Some of the most powerful rulers had started to think they had gone too far with the total control of agriculture, environment, and religion. They feared creativity had been wiped out forever to feed the factory machine. They feared the automaton nation might eventually become too weak to survive under the strict and repressive circumstances. They wondered if nature was angry at the killing of all her diverse species for the sake of “markets”.
We managed to sneak away, but wondered if we could make it to the Judge Most High without being caught. We saw a hazy figure blocking the end of the tunnel that lead out to the beach. At first we could not distinguish if the figure was man or woman, friend, or foe. We continued in silence with deep anxiety, wishing for the best. Finally we saw that the Judge Most High was waiting for us. Our fate was sealed. Either the Judge Most High was truly an ethical figure, or we were about to turn over evidence to a double agent. There was only one way out of this predicament. It was show time.
People tell stories about the time before the stone wall was built. The streams and rivers flowed freely and served everyone as they went by. Water to run small mills and to irrigate crops was plentiful and easy to find. Family farmers subsided and even thrived in years when the weather was favorable. The community members provided for each other, and the simple agricultural life was comfortable. They had plenty of food, shelter, and water.
Progress came to the area in the form of a land buy out by a large estate owner who wanted to experiment in modern farming techniques. His ignorance of nature combined badly with his lame and greedy attitude toward those with deep knowledge of working the land. He changed the landscape, moved the waterways to suit his purposes, and set out to build an empire. He had a monopoly on all the waterways in the valley, having sewn up all the land on which the tributaries flowed. His signature move was a large stone wall he built. It stood in the middle of stream, with tunnels to handle the water as it flowed beneath the structure. He was secure and pleased with his conquest of this natural resource when all hell literally broke loose. With a crack of thunder and a flash of lightening the sky broke open with a stormy and deadly response to his lack of respect for Mother Nature.
The flash flood poured over all the banks and rushed through the canals and tunnels like an angry dragon. Destruction and erosion brought famine to the land, once ripe and productive. Once the greedy land owner gave up the ghost the land itself returned to a riparian state. The farmers did not return, so the land has been fallow for centuries. It no longer feeds or shelters people. The natural world has taken the place of the former residents. The streams flow sweetly and green moss covers the ancient stone as if nothing had ever happened. All is forgotten.
The sandy beach was sunlit and appealing as we stepped ashore. We had all been on a picnic party out to the island that had become a bit too rowdy for some of us. We left our jolly drinking friends to make their own way back, since they had become argumentative and feisty in a rude way. We could see that they had more than enough rum left to bring the evening to some kind of roaring conclusion, but we had roared quite enough with the crowd. They were always the same. We rowed the short distance back to mainland and felt the peace descend gently just as the sun sunk lower on the horizon, reflecting in the water.
I like to watch the sun go down from those dunes when the summer is starting to warm up. The sailing and kayaking pick up as weather permits. The bay becomes crowded with vessels, visitors, pretenders, and kings. The cottages are rented or opened for the just summer by those who can afford multiple dwellings. The visitors employ plenty of staff in the kitchens, gardens and drawing rooms. There are chauffeurs and butlers hanging out at the tavern in town late at night telling all the stories of their households to the other servants.
No secret lasted long, and no juicy gossip traveled on unembellished. Stories of wild lavish parties, intrigue and financial ruin were the daily bread of this summer society. They did not separate themselves from city life to be out of touch with all the news. They savored the tales of family strife or business struggles with relish. We enjoy a week at the cottage my aunt lends to us every year at this time. We do go to a few parties, like the picnic today, but we don’t really come for the social life. We like the beach when it is empty. Our pleasures are simple and all our needs are easily met. We pull our green rowboat out of the water and lift it over our heads to carry it back to the boathouse. The day is complete.