Challenge 6 Image
And now ... THE WINNING SUBMISSIONS ...
Some things are better ignored and forgotten ...
After I finish writing this story, I will not think of it again or have any questions. Some things are better ignored and forgotten for my own sanity.
After I had my breakfast one glorious morning, I put food and water in my backpack to prepare for a three-mile hike to the Hidy Waterfalls at the Yellowstone National Park. Jake, my German Shepard, was eyeballing me the whole time. When I headed for the door, Jake bolted out of the door and waited for me to open the door to the truck.
After a short drive, Jake and I walked to the path that would lead us to the Falls. Jake was so full of energy that it was not long before we got to our halfway point. I sat down on the familiar log that I always used when we hiked to Hidy Falls. I poured water in a dish for Jake and I settle back with a sandwich to rest and relax. It was nice and cool in the forest. The birds were happy and singing as they worked. When I felt rested, I stood up and didn’t see Jake anywhere. I called his name and looked all around me.
“JAKE! Where are you?” I yelled. I did not receive a sound in return. I picked up my backpack and started walking towards the Falls. From somewhere up the trail, I heard Jake’s bark and started walking faster. When I caught up with Jake, I scolding him for running off without me. Without a sound he turned around and took off running again.
The path was not the best for running so I had a difficult time keeping Jake in my sight. I finally got to the Falls and saw that Jake had stopped by this huge concrete wall. It had a red sign posted on it with the words “Keep Off Wall”. Now, I was wondering to myself when did this wall get put up here and more importantly, why?
I looked left and right and the wall seemed to go on forever. While my mind was reeling with confusion, I heard Jake’s low, deep growl. I looked over and saw that his fur was standing up on his neck and he was showing his teeth. He was slowly backing away from the wall and I was frozen with fear knowing something was wrong now.
To this day, I do not know why I just had to see over that wall. Something in my brain was just telling me that I had to see.
I comforted Jake as I knew he was as scared as I was. I looked around to see what I could use to build a makeshift platform to stand on to see over this damn wall. Nothing. My mind kept saying that Jake and I should just turn around and leave, get in the truck, and go back home. But, the desire to see was stronger. While I was trying to think of a solution, I walked up to the concrete wall and placed my hand on the red sign…”Keep Off Wall”.
As soon as I touched that red sign, I felt an unseen force catapult me backwards and a flash of light. I remember the pressure, the pain of the blinding light in my eyes, I heard Jake’s whimper, and I hit the ground hard and that is all that I remember.
I opened my eyes and didn’t understand at first where I was or what had happened. I had a difficult time sitting up. My body was bruised, my head hurt and my mind was hazy. I guess I was in shock. I looked around and saw Jake, about four feet from me, laying on his side. I crawled over to him and felt with my hands that he was still breathing. My mind was reeling with what happened?
Jake was starting to stir and he was reacting to the situation like I was. What in the hell happened? I looked around for my backpack and saw it near the edge of the Falls. I limped over there and pulled a bottle of water out for Jake and I. After, we both had a drink of water, I started to realize that I was at the edge of the Falls. The wall! Where is the wall? Then I heard Jake with his low growl and the fur on his neck standing up again.
That was enough for me. Curiosity was gone and I picked up the backpack and yelled for Jake. We ran all the way back. When we reached the truck, I threw my backpack in the back of the truck and Jake and I jumped in the truck.
When I pulled into the driveway, I noticed for the first time my hands were shaking and I hurt all over. I took Jake inside for some food and water. I decided to call the Park Rangers of Yellowstone and ask about Hidy Falls. Ranger Baer (I know but, that is his name) answered the phone. I told him about my experience at the Falls. After a short pause, he stated that there was no Hidy Falls in the Park. After fifteen minutes of arguing with Ranger Baer, I hung up the phone in frustration.
Jake and I went outside to retrieve my backpack from the back of the truck. When I picked it up, Jake started to growl again. I looked around and saw nothing, so told him to hush. As I was walking to the door, I unzipped the pack and there it was! That red sign “Keep Off Wall” was inside my backpack. I walked to the neighbors house and threw that backpack in their trash and went home. And, that is all that I care to know.
Keep Off Wall
Ignoring the “Keep Off Wall” sign, I climbed the stone barricade separating me from my destination. The wall enclosed a kirkyard, and because it was usually deserted, this was the best place to safely enter this part of London.
After dropping to the ground, I dodged the multitude of gravestones and slipped through the kirkyard gate. Like passing from light into darkness, the differences between this London and my London were profoundly evident. My London had vast, emerald lawns seemingly painted over with cloud-teased azure skies. This one, along the docks and riverside, was reckless and dangerous under a pea-soup smog.
Walking toward the bridge that spanned the Themes, I joined the tide of humanity flowing across it. I was pushed and pressed and jostled all the way to the other side. Here, the crowd dispersed and went their separate ways, and with my heels clicking on the dampened cobblestones, I headed unimpeded toward Limehouse and Pennyfields.
The narrow, tortuous alleys of Limehouse were crowded with shiftless loungers and noisy street vendors, all dodging rattling carriages. The maze of lanes and cloisters gave way to more of the same and formed a labyrinth milling with criminals and beggars and grubby children.
You may ask what would drive me to venture out alone into such danger? I had asked myself that same question over and over these last weeks, but I was determined, and I would carry out my resolve no matter the consequences. You see, I was being tutored by one Mercy Peckham, and she was teaching me the arts and craft of hedge witchery and magic.
The weeks of tutelage had been going on a long time; for the craft was complicated and involved. My efforts were being rewarded, however; for I had already mastered many of the spells, potions, and charms. Tonight promised to be very special. I would make and bless a besom … or witches broom … a means to fly about in the night and sweep away negativity here on the ground … or so Mercy promised.
Her house was in Pennyfields, a dubious section of London that joined the streets of Limehouse Causeway and Poplar High Street. It was a crooked abode consisting of three rooms placed one above another, and it elbowed similar houses along the narrow street.
The witchery was on the third floor. Mercy had entrusted me with a key, and it was with great relief that I let myself into her parlor and bolted the door, shutting out the madness in the streets. As I climbed the narrow, winding stairs, I was again struck by how different her nondescript parlor was from the intriguing room on the third floor. It truly was a different world.
Framed in smoke-stained rafters, the room was a jumble of strange objects and witch paraphernalia. Bubbling pots crowded the hearth. The peat and coal fire, along with a hundred flickering candle flames, cast lights and shadows that danced eerily about the room. Shelves lined every wall and were groaning under the weight of colorful bottles and tins filled with the ingredients for fulfilling hopes and dreams and creating cures. From the rafters, herb bundles swayed and spun in the charged air, and the floor was strewn with papers and books.
Mercy Peckham was little more than a switch of a woman with long, wildly curling gray hair and bright green eyes. She was bent over the work table, but sensing my presence, she turned and greeted me with her intense gaze.
Before I offered greeting, she said, “I hope you are ready girl … you’ve work to do this night!”
With that, she abruptly swung her cloak around her shoulders and left me alone with the mounds of broomcorn and twigs and twine, all neatly laid out on the work table. Undaunted, I began.
I carefully separated and fashioned the broomcorn, including blackthorn twigs for working against negativity. Then, using hedge bindweed, I bound the lot around a hazelwood staff. When I was satisfied that the broom was sturdy and complete, I prepared to administer the blessing that would bring it to life.
Following her exact instructions, I knelt at the hearth where Mercy had already positioned the element pots. I held the besom before me. As I anointed it with pure water and salt and candlelight, I spoke the blessing aloud:
Thirteen powers I give to you
Besom of flight straight and true.
Sail the heavens above beasts and men,
Command the air … ascend and descend.
Fly the sky and stars of night
Glide and soar on the moon’s pure light.
This is your task to have and to share
blessings besom, may the spirits be fair.
It was done … and I could feel the besom’s energy … it tingled within my grasp.
My mission was complete, so with my besom held tightly against my body, I left the house. Mercy was nowhere to be seen, but she and I both knew I would not have need of her expertise again.
By then, it was dark, and this part of the City was even more frightening. Prostitutes shouted at men and carriages and greased the buildings with their fleshy, bare arms. Some muttered oaths and crude jests as I passed.
Finally when the bridge loomed ahead, I hurried across it, thankful to be leaving this London behind. With fewer people on the streets, I reached the kirkyard and the stone wall in good time and without incident.
Moonlight bathed and illuminated the tombstones, and the familiar “Keep Off Wall” sign was visible ahead. Hesitating, I wondered how I would climb the wall while carrying the besom. I could feel it trembling and vibrating, impatient for flight, and a wondrous revelation dawned on me.
“Keep Off Wall,” I read aloud.
“… what a silly sign! Why would I climb a wall when I can fly over it?”