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Inktober 13 – Ash

Gold dragon breathing fire
Josch13 via pixabay

Conclusion to Inktober 12 – Dragon

Shackle your greed and curb your desire, lest all be consumed by brimstone and fire.

Sulphurous air filled my cave, stealing through every gap around the stone door. I lived in almost complete darkness while the sun rose and fell unseen. The earth trembled under the heavy tread of an enraged dragon whose shrieks pierced my ears, even underground. I could not eat the food stored with such care when my stomach was sick with fear.

Days passed.

Eventually my craving for light and the need to know drove me out again. I heaved the stone aside with a great effort, weak from lack of sleep and hunger. And stepped out into a silent hell.

Grey ash blanketed the world. Blackened tree stumps and shattered dwellings were all that remained of the once thriving town. All that remained of its inhabitants were piles of bones huddled together, small and large, remnants of people and their pets, people and their hopes for a better future.

“Enough is better than riches,” I whispered, pulling my scarf tighter over my face. Choking on tainted air, I stumbled back to my cave. There I threw myself down and wept. Grief scoured out my heart and left it hollow.

After three days of mourning I bathed in the stream nearby and combed out my hair, then ate my first meal of porridge and fruit. That night, I slept without nightmares. The next day, I dressed in my work clothes and returned to Kasparenya with a shovel.

Day after day, I buried bones. Amongst the remains of Kasparenya I found gold; jewellery, coins, toys, teeth. I took them to the collapsed church where the golden spire was missing yet the altar remained intact. A miracle, of sorts.

*

Many exhausting days have passed. The stench of brimstone is faint now but I sense the dragon’s eyes watching me still. Its heartbeat pulses through the ground. The pile of gold on the altar grows daily. I hope my store of food is enough, for I have no time to grow more. I hope my strength is enough, for there is no-one to help me.

When I’m done burying bones and collecting gold, I can rest. The visions have promised me that much.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 12 – Dragon

dragon-fire_Josch13
Josch13 via pixabay

The small fishing village of Kasparenya was established generations before I was born. By my time it had grown fat and sprawling, rich in thieves and merchants alike. Like my mother and her mother before her, I led a quiet life in our cave house. The townspeople extracted easy gold from the generous hillsides while mocking our unfashionably modest lifestyle.

For years I lived alone, growing food and herbs by day and feeding my brain with Great Mother’s ancient books by night. Occasionally, people passing my field would taunt me.

“Why don’t you work in the city, earn some coin? Perhaps then you could dress less like an old crone and more like a decent woman.”
I wiped my brow. Digging was hot work on a summer day. “I must tend my garden, and I do not need more coins. Enough is better than riches.”
“Whatever you say, Cassie.” Sarah turned away, but not before tapping her forehead and giggling with her friends.

They always ignored my calls to beware of greed. Old books had nothing to teach the modern world and they stood in the way of progress. Why not have more, if there was more to be had?

Kasparenya’s gilded church spire was a fitting symbol of hard work and enterprise. It showed what a man could do if he worked hard and dug deep. It showed what to aim for when more was never enough.

We should learn from history. But how to learn when history is forgotten and those who remind us are mocked as wrong-headed fools?

News of the gilded spire travelled far and brought even more people to wonder and dream of riches, then buy shovels and buckets. Meanwhile I harvested and stored enough food for a season, oiled my tools, stockpiled candles, and waited.

And one day a shiver started in my bones that grew inexorably. I rolled the stone over the cave entrance and hid.

Above, though I could not see or hear, I knew it was happening just as the visions foretold.

The endless beat of huge, leathery wings.

The stench of sulphur as the ground trembled.

A shriek that split the air when the dragon, drawn by our golden beacon, discovered its plundered hoard.

Fiery vengeance raining down from the sky.

I rocked and chanted as mother and grandmother and all the mothers before had done in their cool, dark sanctuary.

Shackle your greed and curb your desire, lest all be consumed by brimstone and fire.

I tried to warn them.

(to be concluded in Inktober 13)


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 11 – Snow

snowflake_Free-Photos
Free-Photos via pixabay.com

There are two kinds of people in this world. Some can’t wait to play in the snow, leaving their tracks all over it, building snowmen and making snow angels. The others prefer to watch from a safe distance, rejoicing in its pristine blankness. All is potential, before you make a mark.

Once upon a time, I watched tiny flakes drift from the sky with joy, maybe while sipping a hot chocolate. Sometimes I stood at the door and tried to catch a snowflake then watched it melt on my palm. Snow covers everything, makes it clean and pure.

These days I wrap up warm against the cold and stay indoors. At the first signs of spring I’ll head north again, seeking higher elevations and staying within the snow line. I can’t be here after the thawing snow uncovers all the bodies.

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 10 – Pattern

Woman's face with floral pattern around the eyes
Image by Ronny K via pixabay (edited)

Of course I know tattoos are permanent.

I grew so tired of those comments by everyone from my mother to well meaning strangers at the supermarket, that I decided to go further. I practically lived in that tattoo shop, getting unique designs from the enigmatic artist. We’d agree on a design and he’d get to work. He never spoke, so I put on headphones and drifted away.

When it came to the last bare patch on my arm, he finally said something.

“I will do this one free. Since you are my best customer.”
“Sweet! I think I’d like—”
“No. I choose. I know what is best for you.”

I shrugged and let him decide, after all ink isn’t cheap and I had a lot of it.
He wrapped it without letting me see. “A surprise for you.”

At home I gasped when I saw it. A woman’s face, so perfect and beautiful in miniature, it was incredible. Everyone commented on it, and I didn’t mind.

Life got hard. I made a wrong turn here and there. Had to change, just to get by. One day I thought the face looked different, but it was just a trick of the light. That night I tossed and turned, a voice stuck in my head reminding me of stuff I’d done. So what, we all have to survive, right?

Gradually the face changed, until it scowled in permanent, terrifying disapproval.

I went back to Spilled Ink but it was gone. Every night the face taunted me with my sins, daring me to do better. When I didn’t listen, she woke the other tattoos up. Flowers turned decayed and nasty smelling. The tiger clawed my back and attacked my lucky rabbit, the stars burned my skin, and the skeleton rattled its bones until sleep was a distant memory. I’d had enough.

I stole enough money to visit another shop. The new artist wouldn’t shut up about the quality and artistry of my ink, especially the face that was somehow beautiful again. I had to pay double for what I wanted, but finally it was done.

I thought covering up would be the answer.

She shouted even louder from behind the crosshatched pattern that obliterated her face. “I can’t see! I can’t see!”

Now I hold a knife to my arm, crying. I want it off me.

She says I’m weak, that I’ll never do it, she’ll never let me forget I blinded her.
“Tattoos are permanent,” she reminds me.

So… how deep must I cut to be sure?


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Inktober 9 – Swing

woman holding brown and black baseball bat
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

They say schooldays are the best days of your life. I really hope they aren’t, because if you peak then, what do you have to look forward to? Real life isn’t like high school. Nobody cares that you were the team captain or homecoming queen.

All that stuff they fill your head with is next to useless. When did you last use calculus or algebra in real life? No, if I have kids I’ll make sure they learn practical skills. Oh and they’ll play sports of course, to foster a competitive spirit and the ability to keep swinging until the game is won.

I broke the record for home runs in my last baseball season. I kept the lucky bat I used, which actually is quite useful now. Turns out school was good for something after all. I take a loose, easy stance and hold the grip firmly but not too tight.

This intruder won’t know what hit him.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 8 – Frail

spartan_mohamed_hassan
Image by mohamed_hassan via pixabay

listen:

When they rounded up the young and strong they left us behind to rot, we who had only grey hair and slack bodies to offer. They had no idea who we were. That was their first mistake.

When you’ve been through the mill, walked through the fire, gone under three times and still refused to break, it changes a person. Struggle burns away all that is inessential and leaves only steel.

We appreciate life the most, standing here at its last season. We’ve fought, lost and won our battles, and we know love is the only prize worth the effort.

They think us unworthy of their consideration, too frail to resist, a waste of good bullets. That’s their second mistake.

Now as we gear up for the mother of all fights, we will show them what we are made of. We have everything to fight for and no mercy to spare, and love will guide us true.

They underestimate us. That’s their final mistake.

It will be their epitaph.


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audio, blog, creative writing, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 7 – Enchanted

man covering his face standing
Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

listen:

They call me vain and self-absorbed. It’s true that I have a face so beautiful it might make angels weep. It’s true I check my face in every mirror I pass, but they don’t understand.

He haunts me day and night, and all I can do is try to please him. I’ll know I’ve done enough the day I look in a mirror and see not a smug, grinning devil, but the face I was born with looking back.

But it’s been so many years, and I don’t know when I will ever repay my debt.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 6 – Husky

woman using black smartphone
Photo by malcolm garret on Pexels.com

Listen:
“Get off the phone and come home right now,” she said. “I need you.”

“Wow. That’s quite the offer.”

“Don’t make me wait. I’m already in bed.”

He laughed. “That sexy, husky voice can only mean one thing.”

“You know how I’m feeling, don’t you honey?”

“Yeah, I really do. Ibuprofen and throat lozenges, coming right up.”

“And chicken soup?” She sneezed twice, then groaned. “Please?”
“Bless you. Anything for my baby.”


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 5 – Build

silhouette of woman at blue sea inside black cave during daytime
Photo by Jens on Pexels.com

listen:

She was captivated from the moment they met in a cave at the edge of the ocean. He had the classic swimmer’s build she’d always admired; broad shoulders, strong arms, and narrow waist. His clear blue eyes sparkled like sunlight playing on rippling waves. She melted at the warmth of his shy smile.

Of course they had differences to work out. He absolutely had to swim every day, no matter the weather. The whole fish tail thing took some getting used to, and the scales he shed were annoying. But when he sang his siren’s song everything else was forgotten, and she knew he was all she’d ever wanted.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 4 – Freeze

margarita_Celtica
image by Celtica via pixabay

listen:

Everything changed after the aliens landed.

You couldn’t trust anyone, not even your own family, once we realised that they were manipulating humans using mind control. It was quite by accident that I found out brain freeze could block the telepathic waves. I’ve learned to love the pain of frozen margaritas, which is good news.

The bad news is, I’m too drunk to walk and this bar just ran out of tequila.


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