Thursday, 27 October 2011

RFW Challenge/Blogfest - Haunting!

Each week Romantic Friday Writers hold a themed challenge for romance writers. This week, because it's Hallowe'en coming up, this challenge is open to all! So why not kick the dusts of time, look through the mirror at what's beyond and let your imagination take flight.  

The remit is to post up a flash-fiction piece or a poem and max 400 word count. It's a tough thing to do but it's a great way to practise honing one's work by making every word, every sentence count, yet convey a complete story/cameo within those 400 words.

Last week was my last week in the role of admin for RFW. I simply have too much going on in my writing life at the moment, but I'm staying on as a member and will post up pieces as and when I can.

As this week's theme centres around Hallowe'en, I'm breaking all the rules. Note (((cackle of laughter))) and the Devil's mark. I'm way over word count 666: code MPA.

I give you: Haunting!

“Don’t be silly, it can’t possibly have disappeared,” said Amy, kneading dough. “Who in their right mind would stop by to pinch an axe?” She paused, looked her husband in the eye, a glare of accusation. “I bet if I go out there, I’ll find it lying in the long grass somewhere.” 
     Jake threw his hands in the air, frustration evident. “I tell you I left it in the wood shed.”
     Mattie glanced up from her homework. “Dad’s right, mum. I saw him plunge it in the chopping block as I came back from feeding Jupiter.”
     Once again dough received a good pummel. “Then the chopping block is where it’s at.”
     “Was at,” snarled Jake. “O.K., fess up. Who moved it?”
      Amy's hand thumped the dough with zest. “You think I have time to waste playing shuffle the axe?”
      Jake watched as Amy panned her eyes around the kitchen, air of desperation about her. A grin spread across his face. “Lost some thing?”
      “I swear I left a damp tea towel, on the end of the table.” She glanced at her husband, hands behind his back. “Give it here.”
      He bared his hands. “Not guilty.” Laughter then rumbled from the depths. “Don’t look at me like that, I swear I haven’t got it.”
      Mattie laughed. “He hasn’t moved, mum, not an inch.”
      There was a loud thump and sound of splintered wood and the door swung open. There, in the door frame an embedded axe and blood seeming to drip from the blade.
      Jake stepped forward to shield his wife and child from a potential intruder, but none came forth. With bated breath, he wrenched the axe free and glanced back at Amy cradling Mattie to her breast. “Stay here.”
      It took but a moment to check outside, and Jake’s first thought that of Jupiter in the paddock. Much to his relief the pony momentarily looked his way and carried on grazing. He checked all around the house, and then it struck him. Smoke. He could smell smoke. He dashed back to the farmyard, an unbelievable scene before him. It could not be, could not be happening.      
      He shut his eyes, prayed it was some strange vision. But no, there were horsemen circling the yard, animal furs about their shoulders. They were warriors from another time, another place. He yelled at them. Threw stones, anything to distract them. He had to lure them away from the house, away from the burning hay barn, away from his wife and child. Not one of the horsemen noticed him, each stone falling short of its target.
      Oh no, Mattie with a tea towel in her hand. What was Mattie doing?
      “Go back, Go back inside.”
      He ran forward protesting, shouting her name, but a warrior scooped her up, cradled her to chest and before he could reach Mattie the horseman turned about and rode off at the trot the other horsemen surrounding the lead horse.
      There was nothing for it but to get the shotgun. He lunged himself through the doorway, and there stood Amy kneading dough, Mattie at the table absorbed in homework.
      What the hell had just happened?
      He glanced back at the hay barn. No smoke. No fire.
      “What day is it?”
       “All saints eve,” replied Amy.
       He kissed Mattie’s head in passing, moved to stand behind Amy and wrapped his arms about her waist. “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
      “Yesterday, I think.” She turned in his arms, floured hands about his neck and leaned into him. Their lips met in a familiar and lingering caress, until, “I love you, too.” She smiled, and whispered, “They come every tenth year.”
      “The horsemen.”
      “You saw them too?”
      “It’s my second time of seeing them.”
      “And you never thought to tell me when we moved here?”
      “The last time I saw them I was ten years old.”
      He glanced at Mattie. “She’s ten.”
      Mattie suddenly said, “It’s all right, dad. I belong, here.”         

That's all folks. Hope this caused a spine tingling sensation.

To see entries by other participants please go here.  


Anna said...

Dear Francine,
Love this! Great Halloween story!
The first half of the story with all the missplaced things, axe, tea-towel, reminded me of my real life. I have five cats and they are always moving things around, knocking things off shelves or tables. They want me to believe that it's haunted here!

So happy that it was a vision of ghosts and not something that really happened to the family.

Lovely read. Perfect for the theme.

Happy Halloween!
Anna's RFWers' Challenge No. 25 - 'Haunting'

Talli Roland said...

Ah! An axe! Why does it always need to be an axe that disappears? Great piece, Francine.

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for stopping by.

Cats area delight to have around a house, but yes, know what you mean about misplaced items. Broken more often the case with the last two cats I had.


Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Talli,

The axe kind of fell into place for the Haunting piece, in that it's a daily tool at out house. I use one quite often to split logs when hubby isn't around, and that piece was written shortly after a session in the wood shed! I dared not write another tale that came to mind: too gruesome. ;)


Kiru Taye said...

Hi Francine,

Well done for breaking the rules. It's a great piece. I love the way you wove in time-travel into the story of haunted house.

You also caught me as I thought there might be an axe-murderer on the loose. LOL

Well written.


Adura Ojo said...

Hi Francine,

Like Kiru, I initially thought there was an axe murderer too. The 'time travel' twist worked really well. Definitely spine tingling especially with the daughter being so calm, and her words at the end...

Great work...always a superb reason to break the rules:)

Talei said...

Love it! Ghostly horsemen, warriors and love! Le sigh.

Happy Halloween to you, dear lady! x

L'Aussie said...

Hi Francine

A spine-tingling tale at its best. Ever since I read about the axe murderer in 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith' it's been a dread of mine. The time travel worked well. Maybe this is another genre you may follow in the future...

Great use of theme.

Happy Halloween!


Andy said...

WoW! I was all caught up in bloodied axe & child-thieving horsemen!
I'll have to pay more attention the next time I see my wife kneading dough (lol).

Awesome imagery!

This Unknown Spirit

Donna Hole said...

Ohh yeah, spine tingling indeed. I love ghostly manifestations.

I am sorry to see you will no longer be a host of RFW, but I do understand the constraints of writing. I wish you luck in your writing journey :)


Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Kiru,

Thanks for stopping by. Yep, the axe got the part, and I do like time-travel novels! ;)


Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Odura,

Kids can be like that: so cool!
Hi Talei,

I know I had Vikings and Samhain in mind!

Hi Denise,

I like reading time-travel novels but don't think I'm geared to write a full blown novel for the genre. A short blast: yes! ;)

Hi Andy,

Hee hee, yep, you may well wonder who your wife is pummelling hell out of?! Can't be you, you're too sweet with poetic words! ;)

Hi Donna,

Glad you liked it, and yeah, writing for me is the vampire of my soul: it feeds on the blood-sweated words. ;)

As for RFW it grew from an idea and flourished with the strength of its supporters: all of you!


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a story, hauntingly beautiful...unexpected yet great ending...

N. R. Williams said...

I love the horsemen, so cool. That would give me the creeps too. So glad his family was alright and so funny neither wife or daughter were worried about the ghost. Now we must compete with you for our prize. I'm guessing you are the winner this week.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Eclipse,

Thank you for your kind comment. ;)


Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for stopping by!

No, no prize for moi. I'm only in it for the fun aspect.


M Pax said...

Very original, Francine. I loved it. It veered off in a direction I did not expect. Excellent.

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for dropping by to comment.

Yes, I do seem to have cracked it with this one in catching people with possibility of axe murderer on the loose! ;)


Madeleine said...

My favourite line: Their lips met in a familiar and lingering caress, until, “I love you, too.”

Awh! Sigh!

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Madeleine,

Yeah, nice when long-term love is as romantic as new found love! ;)


Deniz Bevan said...

Definitely spine tingling. Is it the future or an alternate history that they're seeing? How sweet that they can all see the visions.

Trisha said...

Creeeeepy! Good job Francine!

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Deniz,

Thank you for stopping by to comment.

They're present tense and seeing into the past. ;)


Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Trisha,

Thanks for the comment. Glad it came across as creeeepy! ;)


Ruth Madison said...

Clever you, breaking the rules for Halloween, I like that!

The story is great. Fun and exciting at once.

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi Ruth,

I've always thought it fun to break rules and stretch boundaries, particularly within novels. And, beside a wicked sense of humour I also have a wicked playful streak! ;)