#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, flash fiction, Short story, Uncategorized, Writing journey

Flash fiction for #DystoniaAroundThe World: The Priest Hole

Yesterday night, I limped over the 200 miles of writing milestone so I am sharing with you, The Priest Hole, the first tale from Mexenby Hall. It’s publication is much later than I imagined but dystonia is predictably unpredictable and I should have realised as soon as I pledged to write 1000 miles the #DystoniaAroundTheWorld challenge it would fight back in the worst way by affecting my vision. Days have been lost but like all travellers on an epic adventure, I am just moving forwards one step at a time.

Flash Fiction: The Priest Hole by Kate Kenzie

 

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Darkness cloaked the narrow passageway. The small candle’s flame flickered with every exhalation and cast little light as Nell gingerly eased herself towards the steep spiralling steps. Her worn uniform and thin borrowed shawl offered little protection against the bitter cold emanating from the damp stone walls.

The privilege Nell felt earlier when summoned to the Great Hall and took into the Lady’s confidence after only a few weeks of employment seeped away as the walls constricted and the rising stench of unemptied chamber pots forced her to question her easy compliance. The Lady hid her true faith well. Any rumours rippling through the staff of clandestine visits from the cast out priest were quickly stamped on by the sharp tongue or slap from Cook and the staff’s forced attendance to the dreary church service every Sunday while the Lady stood in the family pew crushed any lingering doubts. Nell never guessed until she heard the simple request and now she wanted to return to the warm wood panelled room with the crackling fire she lit earlier to retract her agreement, but the clunk of the entrance closing sealed her fate.

Clutching her bundle close to her pounding chest, she swallowed down the wave of nausea, licked her dry lips, and rolled back her shoulders; she could do this and stepped down into the abyss. The twisting staircase plummeted into the depths of the property and she wondered whether the priest had traded the raging flames of Hell he feared for an icy, stagnant equivalent. A hacking cough echoed upwards. She froze and listened. Would the sound penetrate the thick walls of Mexenby Hall and alert the visitors to his presence? Would it lead to his violent demise? And hers? She made the sign of the cross with the candle and prayed. It remained silent except for a shuffling below. He was close. Nell hastened her descent: the sooner she delivered the bundle, the sooner her role as a small cog in the bigger machine would be complete and she could retreat to safety.

The dancing flame illuminated the bare and compact room. A dark shape rose from the corner, uncurling itself to reveal a bent figure hidden beneath a thick cloak. A hand clawed with arthritis beckoned her over. Fear grabbed Nell and the words announcing the arrival of food caught in her constricted throat. She wanted to flee, scramble up the way she came but her feet refused to comply. A cold draft wrapped itself around her ankles, shackling her to the ground as the figure approached.

“Come child,” it crooned. The voice was smooth and mesmerising. “You have nothing to fear. Not you.”

The hand grasped hers. Nell pulled, but the hand clenched hers tighter into a vice grip.  Nell’s eyes widened; the hood flung back,  revealing an elderly woman whose mass of white hair was braided into a long tail, and her blue eyes pierced deep into Nell’s soul, pinning her into place. A searing heat radiated up her arm. The bundle fell to the floor, unravelling, sending small loaf and apple rolling into a puddle. The scurry of small feet told her it had not gone unnoticed, but Nell could not take her eyes off the woman before her. The Old Crone of Mexenby. A legend of nightmares and fairy tales. A toothless smile emerged from the folds of the wrinkled face.

“It’s true. They don’t lie, even when the truth feels impossible. They don’t lie. You are the one. The one that can save us all.”

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You can find out more about the dystonia challenge to raise awareness for dystonia and keep up to date on my progress here. Here is to the next 100 miles and hopefully I will be a step closer to reaching my target of £250.

Happy writing and stay safe!

Love

just Kate

Dystonia UK: https://www.dystonia.org.uk/

My fundraising page: https://www.dystoniaaroundtheworld.org/fundraiser/katekenzie

My team’s progress: https://www.dystoniaaroundtheworld.org/fundraisers/dunedystoniauknortheast

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Short story

Flash Fiction for #DystoniaAroundTheWorld: The Fallen

Hello September! The beginning of my favourite season and Dystonia Awareness Month. As promised in my previous blog, I am sharing flash fiction written for the Dystonia Around The World challenge in aid throughout the month. My aim is to complete 1000 miles of writing to fundraise and spread awareness for Dystonia UK. I have faltered in my writing thanks to dystonia flaring but I am hoping to get back on track.For more information and my fundraising page, click here.

So following on from the woodland theme of A Walk in the Woods which I shared  to celebrate 100 miles, here is The Fallen.

 

The Fallen

 

Her long fingers ran over the ridges of the rough bark, and along the smoother lime lichen. They dipped into a furrow, disturbing a black beetle in its resting place. It scuttled away. A lone tear escaped, betraying her efforts of being stoic. She bit her lip and gulped the sob down. When the news came in, she hoped this magnificent solid specimen would survive, but the abundance of blue sky at their approach confirmed her fears. In full leaf and his splendour finery on display, he did not stand a chance when the high winds ripped through the woodland, uprooting the sturdy, and whipping the young, testing their resolve to survive.  The majestic were felled by an unforgiving and relentless storm set on destruction to transform the familiar and loved landscape. The words on the clipboard blurred as she marked her location on the map and scribbled on the form. Name: Quercus.

How many others would mourn the loss of the magnificent oak, the keeper of secrets, creator of memories? More than enough, she decided. There were those who stood under the green canopy for illicit kisses, the readers who immersed themselves in another world while cocooned in his branches and generations of children who learnt to climb on his accommodating lower limbs. She moved along to locate the lovers’ initials circled by a deeply scratched heart, a sign of their eternal love, except now it was over with the exposure of the labyrinth of roots ripped from the earth.

Age? She nibbled the end of her pencil. 569 years. Her certainty wavered but there was no time to check. The petrichor intensified as she bent down to place her ear and flat palm against the trunk, hoping to feel the low thud of his wooden heart. His silence matched the crows circling above.

No one knew it was coming. There was no warning. Her chest tightened. Except from Harold. His repeated mutterings of an incoming storm increased in strength the evening before, but they were ignored and then silenced by the turn of a bedroom key; all of them certain his prophecy belonged to a storm decades before, playing on a historical loop in his mind. It made no difference; it could not be stopped, but she could have captured the landscape in her memory one last time.

It’s the circle of life. The fallen would provide shelter and nutrient for the new, but the flash of neon yellow through the remaining trees and groan of machinery advancing said different. She pressed her lips to the bark and murmured her goodbye. With a flick of her black tipped delicate wings, she darted away.

 

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More soon. Take care and stay safe!

Love

just Kate

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, Short story, Writing journey

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Celebrations and a Walk in the Woods

Not only have I completed 100 miles of writing enabling me to virtually visit my dream destination, The Cabinet of Curiosities, in Haworth, Yorkshire but I have leaped over the £100 mark in donations.

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As promised for reaching my £100 target, I am sharing a piece of flash fiction before September when Dystonia Awareness Month begins. Thank you so much for all your support and donations. It is appreciated by myself and all those involved with the #DystoniaAroundTheWorld challenge.

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A Walk in Bluebell Woods

Mary did not know why she stopped the car in the lay-by. She did not remember turning off the motorway. Perhaps it was the relief that the dreaded meeting had been cancelled, or maybe it was the tears running down her face that forced self-preservation to kick in, but it was the trail of bluebells snaking through the oak trees that made her get out of the car and follow the dancing flowers through the woodland.

Dappled green light shone through the canopy above her. She was not wearing the most appropriate footwear for the woodland as her high heels sank into the ground, but the blue path urged her forward. When was the last time she ventured into a wood?

Mary’s heart lurched as his disapproving face flooded her mind. He would not approve of such unfeminine activities as clambering over the fence or stumbling over the hidden roots in the deep foliage. She swore as she snagged her tights. The sting of the scratch bringing her back to reality as the rustling of the leaves in the soft breeze and the chattering birds calmed her thoughts.

The trees opened to reveal a bumbling stream, Mary sat on its bank while the motorway droned in background. As the sun warmed her face she imagined it as a roaring river or the buzz of a bee close by. She had always been told that she had a good imagination.

Suddenly an image of her mum’s smiling face flashed by; “Always my little Pollyanna,” she would say. Where did that go? Her positivity, the ability of always looking on the bright side and appreciating the little things; every day the greyness seeped in, dragging her down and strangling any glimpses of future happiness. A wall had slowly formed between herself and her colleagues leading her to watch the world in a haze.

Unable to resist she slipped off her tights and dipped her feet in the ice cool water. Making figure of eights she watched the ripples spread across the stream distorting the pebbles below. Her shoulders relaxed. She felt calm. She could feel the moment.

Mary looked at the ring of faded bruises around her ankle before rolling her sleeve up to reveal the fresh marks around her wrist. She had felt each one form as he crushed her against the wall, shouting her latest failures while his alcohol fumed spittle joined her tears. The list of her misdemeanours grew by the day, her body recording each of his disappointments.

Looking around her oasis, she didn’t want to leave or go home.

Home! The word conjured up fresh memories; warm dinners, being cocooned in love and surrounded by laughter. Touching her barely noticeable rounded stomach, she reached for her phone amazed at finding a signal. Her fingers glided over the keyboard remembering the number from years ago. Her heart thudded, and skipped a beat, as a familiar voice answered.

“Hi Mum, it’s me.”

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Thanks again for supporting Dystonia UK.

Catch up soon when I have written more miles.

Stay safe!

Love

just Kate

If you would like to sponsor or follow my journey for the Dystonia Around The World challenge my page is here. Or follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Short story, Writing journey

Writing Challenge to Support Dystonia UK or what have I let myself in for? #DystoniaAroundTheWorldChallenge

August has arrived and with the speed time is flying this year, it will soon be September. September is Dystonia Awareness month which I always try to participate in. I was diagnosed with a rare form of dystonia, dopa responsive dystonia, in 2012 after many years of doctors scratching their heads. I have been lucky; medication gives me some relief during the day and I have adjusted to being wobbly and a new way of living. Awareness of this neurological condition is crucial for better treatment, diagnosis and research for a cure. Many people suffer for years before they see someone with experience of diagnosing and treating this condition despite it affecting at 100,000 people in the UK.

Writing has been my escape throughout my dystonia journey and gave me a focus away from hospital visits, disability and more recently, the four walls of my home during lockdown. To help Dystonia UK which supports people affected by this condition, I have signed up to the #DystoniaAroundTheWorldChallenge. I can not run or walk 100 miles even with my walker but I can write. My aim is to write for at least 1000 minutes in many sprints. I will post the resulting short stories/flash fiction here from September.

I'm taking part

If you would like to know more about dystonia, click here and if you would like to find out more my writing challenge click here.

Thanks for reading and your support whether it is through donations or encouragement, it all matters. 1000 minutes seems a daunting task and I am now doubting my ability to achieve the goal and producing something readable. If anyone has any writing prompts or inspiration for short stories please comment below.

I had better get writing. Take care and stay safe!

Love

just Kate

Short story, Writing journey

Flash fiction: Lost in Art

It’s Friday. I have been to my writing group for inspiration and coffee. This is my homework based on the prompts from the Storyworld cards John and Caitlin Matthews.. It was great to see the range of stories they inspire.

I had the Fairy Queen, Door to Fairyland and the Rainbow.

Lost in Art

The art gallery heaved with the people as they hustled and pushed to catch a glimpse of the rare pieces from the long anticipated ‘Faeries of du Pre’ exhibition. Robert decided this would offer the ideal opportunity to fulfil his initiation in the gang. The others loitered opposite a few yards away, watching his every move, egging him on. He could not back out now. He took a deep breath and hood up, face down he weaved through the crowd, clutching his skateboard tight. It was this which brought him to the attention of Raz and his posse. There were plenty of shadows at the skate park where they could drink, smoke and plot schemes; one requiring someone small, quick and innocent looking. Someone like him. He would skate to escape the depressive atmosphere at home, and the anger of his stepfather. Once he let his guard down, the mismatch of personalities in the gang became his friends and family. Stealing a purse was a small price to pay for the protection and sense of belonging they gave even if seeds of doubt grew daily demanding he changed paths. He could enter the building, grab a bag and slip out unnoticed.

The atmosphere buzzed with excitement as people studied the framed collection consisting of sketches of elegant, ethereal beings, watercolours of streams, woodlands and Yorkshire landscapes A quick glance around and he saw his quarry. On a bench facing a large oil painting sat a dowdy old lady alone with her open handbag beside her. She was as still as statue; her focus fixed on the star of the exhibition; a painting titled The Queen of Elphame. Perfect. He had heard of the painting, everyone had. It captivated a legion of fans worldwide following its discovery in an attic in the village of Cottingley. Articles emerged delving into the history of the legendary artist, Jacques du Pre and theories of who inspired the vivid, unique masterpiece. His mistress or his imagination fuelled by obsession with the supernatural which led to his drunken downfall. Some believed it was the queen of the fairies herself after the accompanying old diary revealed he visited the area during the time of the faked fairy photograph furore. An explosion of merchandise followed – mugs, posters, postcards and bags. It was hard to escape her presence. Everyone was enthralled by the image except him. It was just a painting.

To his surprise as his hand hovered over the bag, its owner turned and placed her wrinkled, hand over his. “ I did …” he began to defend himself.

“Hush” she whispered her gaze returning to the painting. “Just watch.”

In silence, he became immersed in the landscape created by the artist. Snippets of conversation discussing brush strokes, composition and use of colour drifted by unnoticed as he studied the painted figure. Suspended mid-flight over the rippling stream, the royal fairy demanded attention from her subjects hidden in the trees and grass. Her large iridescent wings shone in the moonlight. A dragonfly fluttered in the corner, materialising from the bull rushes gently swaying in an unseen breeze. It zipped across to the other side of the canvas before disappearing into the distance. People glanced at the picture, but no one commented before walking away to the next piece. Robert glanced at the woman who smiled, and her age slipped away as he saw the woman she was in her youth in her sparkling eyes.

“They look but they do not see” she murmured.

Instinctively, he reached for his phone. No one would believe this unless he videoed it. It could go viral. She grasped his hand and shook her head. He put it back in his pocket and sat down. Together they watched a bird fly from the tree to the Queen’s unfurled hand to peck seeds before flying back. He ignored his vibrating phone as time flew by.
The visitor numbers decreased as it darkened outside until it was only the odd couple sitting on the bench. The loud footsteps of the curator echoed in the cavernous room as he warned them the gallery was closing in 15 minutes. They nodded and watched him walk away.

The woman stood and approached the canvas. Robert’s mouth dropped open as the Queen bent down and reached her hand for frail lady to grasp. The hands met: reality and paint blended until there were two people on the canvas. Alone he wiped away a tear as he watched the magic fade. He stepped closer, touched the old lady’s hand, the wrinkles had smoothed, and she looked younger. A smile formed on her face and her fingers wrapped round his.
The investigation into the disappearance of Robert Jones and Gladys Stone arrived at no conclusion with only the abandoned skateboard and bag on the bench connecting the two strangers. No one saw the two additional figures walking in the trees.

Happy writing!