Write On Edge: The Road Ahead


  Write on Edge this week provided a quote and a photo, and I decided to use both for my response to the prompt.  click the link above to go to the prompt page.  Submit your own story (500 words or less), or read some of the other responses.  The quote and image are below.  The picture, I have to say, gives me the willies.  There was a time that farmed lumber could be planted in neat and tidy rows.  It isn’t allowed any more in Canada (I think, anyways), but there are a few such old plantings you might walk through in provincial or national parks – it gives you the oddest sense of wrongness, as every tree in all directions abruptly lines itself up perfectly with every other step you take.  That’s what the prompt this week reminds me of.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”~ L. P. Hartley: The Go-Between (1953)

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

“The past is a foreign country.”  Marta smiled smugly down at her sister from her perch on the wagon seat.

Natalka scowled and stomped her foot.  “That doesn’t even mean anything!  When you were my age, you got to go to market with Papa, it’s unfair!”

Gregor swung her up in a bear-hug.  “Oh, my little girl, the woods are much darker and more dangerous than they were back then.” he said, “You’ll stay here and keep your mama safe, eh?”  He set her down and swung easily into the driver’s seat and gathered up the reins.  “Remember the rule, my lovely?”

Natalka rolled her eyes and sullenly replied, “always stay behind the fence.”

“Good girl.”  He set the massive draft horses off with a flick and a shout.  As the wagon rumbled through the gate, Marta leaned out of the wagon and stuck her tongue out at her younger sister.

***

Natalka hummed to herself, winding her way through the woods and picking a bouquet of wild flowers.  Intent on finding just the right one to complete her bouquet, she hardly noticed the fence until she hit upon it.  She scowled through the wooden bars, at woodland that looked just like the woodland on her side, but more… something.  There were the same types of trees, the same ferns and shrubs and vines.  The same squirrels and mice rustled the underbrush, the same birds fluttered above, though none would cross the fence.  

And yet, in comparison, the world within the fence seemed drab and gray.  Natalka sighed and chucked a branch over the fence.  Even it seemed more… something… there.

Off in the distance, she heard her name.  Forgetting her anger at being left behind, Natalka squealed in delight at her father’s early return and turned towards the house.

His voice again, calling her name, but this time clearer, and more clearly coming from behind her.  Natalka peered through the slats at the greenery on the other side.  In the distance, she could just make out the road to town, and on it, an occasional glimpse of the cart.

“I’m coming, Papa!”Natalka laughed and slipped through the slats.  She ran through the underbrush, towards his booming laugh.  She was breathless and flush when she stumbled out into the roadway, empty but for a path of logs laid out in a perfectly delightful wave.  Perfect for a little girl to balance on while dreaming of daring adventures.  Her papa called again, and she hopped onto the logs and skipped off in search of him.

***

Marta cried and struggled as she was dragged back to the house.  “I can hear her!  She’s just over there!” she shrieked, clawing at the strong arms wrapped around her.

He set her down gently.  “You only hear what you wish to hear, my little one.  You mustn’t follow the voices, you’d break your mother’s heart.”  Fat tears trickled into his beard.  “Losing you both is more than I could bear.”

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18 Comments

  1. Oh,what a perfect tale of terror,loss and things unspoken!Gave me goosebumps!Loved it:-)

  2. You set this up so well and then followed through beautifully. Arrgh. Lovely, ominous piece.

    • Thanks – it definitely built on the eeriness of the photo (or at least, the eeriness I felt from it!)

  3. What a perfect little fairy tale you’ve crafted. I like that you told a whole story within the word limit. Nicely set up and executed!

    • Thanks 🙂 i like having the option of creating characters just for a one-off type thing

  4. Well, that was chilling. You give that “wrongness” a very vivid canvas.

    • There’s just something about nature that’s been too touched by the human urge to create patterns that weirds me out, glad I could pass it on to others 😉 Though only when that nature is where it ought to be wild – i have no problem with gardens and hedge mazes and such.

  5. Ohhh i love this! So many hints at the darkness lying in wait beyond that greener grass, then the killer ending! You give Grimm a run for his money. 😉

    • I love the original Grimm fairy tales – thanks! I guess in this fable the ‘moral’ could be that just because the grass seems greener(or at least, more… something…) on the other side, doesn’t mean you want to go there. That, or ‘always obey your parents’ or ‘don’t go into the woods’ 😛

  6. The sep-up was perfect here. I’ll be more careful about following familiar voices in the future…and staying inside the fence!

    • thanks 🙂 I had a friend growing up whose parrot could imitate her father to an alarming degree. She’d be alone in the house when her parents were out late, and hear from the basement, “Anna! Anna come down here!” Even with the knowledge that there was a talking bird in the basement, I would be utterly freaked out.

  7. Lyssa Medana

     /  January 17, 2014

    What a lovely, gentle, soft way of conveying horror! LM x

    • One of the things I find worst in horror movies is children… especially children laughing, or singing. The MC always seems to end up in the woods at night (or in an empty playground, one swing rocking gently in the wind… creeeee-cruuuuuu), and despite being completely alone, there is a child giggling in the distance. Usually not far enough away in the distance to explain why you can’t see them.

  8. Brilliant and chilling. Very well done!.

    My two concrits: condescendingly I think is an awkward word here. Most people wouldn’t refer to their own smile as condescending. Maybe smug instead. And lastly: you wrote “in comparison” twice.

    That’s all I got. Again, very well played!

    • Thanks – I really need to proof my stories with a bit of a time-lapse, because I think I skim more than I realize.

  9. Wow, you are such a masterful writer. So many things left unsaid.

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