Doug Blackford – The Hollow

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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The Hollow

By Doug Blackford

You seldom think about the end of something when it is at its beginning. It is something new, perhaps a symbol or an advancement of what came before. It has its entire future ahead of it and may endure long after your own existence has ended. Yes, you may think about that part of the end — your own, but seldom a thought towards the end of the creation you leave behind.

I remembered when it was built. I saw it when it was new. I walked its hallowed halls. I spoke in its main chamber. I also recall burying its architect, one friend among countless others I have bid goodbye over the centuries. Time lays low all things, eventually. Like water, it is persistent and patient and cares not one whit about your opinion of it. It is inevitable.

It was built from stones carved from the same moors in which it stood. A great swath of The Highlands that had known nothing but clan wars for centuries surrounded it in all directions. The Bloody Moors, they had once been called. I had shed more than my share of blood on them, my own and others. If all the dead here rose at once, there would be a considerable population problem. There was no end to it, until High Church.

There had been churches built, spreading the word of the Christian God and converting many of my people from their pagan worship. It did not stop the warring between clans. It only gave them more reasons and excuses to prove they were more “righteous” than the other clans. If anything, it made things worse. In my many centuries of life, I have witnessed more people killed in the name of religion than any other reason.

Such was not the case with High Church. It was part church, part combat arena, part government, and all neutral. No weapons were allowed inside its walls. All disputes had two avenues of recourse — diplomacy or combat, sometimes both. All physical confrontations were to take place in the arena and were to be unarmed. The stakes and rules inside the arena were determined by the participants and no interference was allowed. Any infraction of any rule had one warning and one of two penalties. Many were banned from ever stepping foot within the walls again, and a few dozen were executed in the early years, but it became clear that it made more sense to just obey the rules.

No clan had any more authority or rights within High Church than any other. All were treated as equal, whether small clan or large. The Bishop of High Church was the ultimate authority within its walls, but held none over the clans themselves. That dubious honor belonged to the Lord or Lady of High Church, though I only recall one Lady. He, or she, was elected each equinox and could serve no more than two consecutive terms, so one full year.

I tell you this because it worked. The wars didn’t completely stop. Not immediately. It’s in our blood and we do not care much for change. How’s that for irony? Me, reluctant to change. Ha! In any case, it did reduce the warring between clans. In time, over a century in fact, they did stop. You had the occasional border skirmish, but no more all-out clan-against-clan wars that decimated our population. High Church became the central seat of government and we enjoyed a relatively peaceful and prosperous 150 years. Then invasion came. Like the aforementioned water and time, it was inevitable. We had something others wanted. Too often, when someone wants something someone else has and they perceive themselves to be the stronger of the two, they try to take what they want. Such was the case, but they erred. As I said, war is in our blood. It was never far below the surface — just banked like a fire in the hearth. It kindled back to full flame in an instant.

Time destroys all things eventually, but humans usually get to it first. I lost everyone that was still important to me over those years. I have lost many more friends over the centuries since. There have been many more wars. There have been other creations as great as High Church, but they too have been laid low. Most recently, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris suffered that fate. Almost 200 years to finish its construction, then laid low in a single night.

Why I still live, I cannot tell you for sure. I was born in the sixth century, though I can’t say exactly when. We used seasons to mark time. Calendars haven’t been around forever, and they have changed a few times since we started using them, plus I really don’t remember a precise year, much less a month and day. The best I can figure is I upset or killed the wrong person in my youth and was cursed for it.

I don’t know if I can die. I have tried a few times, but I always wake up all in one piece. Sometimes years will have passed or I will find myself buried. I was buried for a long time once. Over 120 years had passed when I saw the sun again. Some would say, “Immortality! Give me some of that!” It is not an exhilarating existence. I have known a multitude of people, some famous, and I have seen some amazing things and places, some now forgotten, but I am tired. And empty.

War will always be in my blood, but I no longer have any passion. I care for nothing. Death no longer moves me or angers me. Life no longer amazes me. Beauty leaves no impression upon me. I have lost all faith in humanity. I have seen too much, but I cannot even remove my eyes to stop seeing it. They grow back. I only wish for it to end, but I have no idea how to end it.

And so, I sit here in The Bloody Moors, next to the last remains of High Church, waiting for I know not what. I can hear the vernal equinox celebration coming from the town bearing its name over and down the hill. All they know are mostly wrong stories about how their town got its name. High Church has become like me. We are both empty and irrelevant, echoes from the past with nothing but hollow shells to mark our existence in this age.

I sit and I wait. I am The Hollow.

Please visit Doug at his blog: https://smithandscribe.wordpress.com

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Calliope NJO – My Journey

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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(Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

“My Journey”

By Calliope NJO

A place of ruins filled with memories of the past. The breeze carried voices of the people who once inhabited this place. If one dug underneath, I would not be surprised to discover the remains of the warriors who once battled to save this kingdom.

I didn’t know if anyone else did, but I heard voices carried over the breeze. Crying and screaming for the next order in the hopes it meant retreat. Horses stomped and cried as loud as their riders did.

If I listened hard enough, swords clanked together as a distant warrior shouted that arrows rained down on them. I took a deep breath in and smelled the salty air as the waves crashed. I closed my eyes to entice peace. It worked because when I opened them, the breezes stopped as did the noises.

I needed to take all this back home with me to create that story. A novel about a love lost in battle. About that princess who waited for her warrior to return so they could live the rest of their lives together.

Almost as if someone heard my thoughts, I felt a strong urge to walk towards the window remains. I needed to dig. Without tools, I had to use my hands. I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty because the greatest of treasures sometimes required to be dug up to find them.

Two piles of rocks, and about as many piles of dirt later, I found a book. Water and dirt soaked into it. That and whatever ink had been used to write with made it tough to read. I believed I was brought here for a reason and I needed to try to at least understand the pages. There had to be a way.

I tucked it in my bag and walked away. I vowed never to forget this place and all that it had.

When I returned home, down the hallway, into the bedroom, and on the bed I went. I wished I could have slept, but that proved impossible. Those voices kept tickling in my head.

People say that playing music the opposite of that earworm often helped to kill it. Beethoven’s Fifth often cured that, but nothing could counteract cries and screams of battle.

Prayer may be a possibility, but I never thought of myself as religious. My only choice was to wait.

The house had a master bedroom and a writing room. Poster boards encompassed the walls. Everything from a landscape and architectural board to a rough outline of names and plot points. They took up an entire room.

If anyone came in, they might have commented on how funny it looked. This story needed the space though. A new story about an exotic place, all that material needed to be there, but word count dictated otherwise. What and how to cut I had no idea.

I took a closer glance at the book I found, and an unusual phenomenon happened. The pages cleaned themselves up, and the words became brighter and more visible. Maybe Grammy’s gift had been passed on to me.

She used to tell me stories of such events happening to her. I thought it was because grandmas tell wild tales. After this experience, I started to understand her better.

All that information and I had no notion where to start. Yes, from the top, but I had no concept what was considered the starting point. I needed to tackle this on my own because nobody would understand. My job was to find the story.

We sewed new clothes, baked bread and cooked stews, and with her help, explored the abilities we had. Growing up, I enjoyed my stays with her. I felt empty when she died.

I clung to that book and read it multiple times. About to put it away, the realization that the book was not a personal diary but a recount of events came to mind. There were descriptions of dinners and ceremonies but nothing intimate. No stories written from her point of view filled with feelings or interpretations. I couldn’t imagine not reading into that.

Another thing I missed was the note on the first page: I hope this pleases you, Your Majesty. So maybe her mother or father had been overseeing her writing this. She needed to hide something, could have been a love interest.

Well, not much to go on, but it gave me a place to start at last. Her words became mine as if her soul inhabited my body. I didn’t recognize the wording so she must have had some part in it.

Three years in the making and the final draft done, getting it looked over by my editor was the only thing left to do. It got saved in a thumb drive and put aside for safekeeping.

The thought of a break and a walk among the living for a change sounded enticing. A personal celebration for getting that story finished. A good steak dinner with baked potato and sour cream, green beans, and a salad sounded so good. A slice of cheesecake for dessert. A very rich idea but a very well-deserved treat.

I opened the garage door so I could pull the car out. Not sure what I expected to see, but the same Lincoln Town Car parked across the street with the same yellow Volkswagen Beetle right behind it.

I laughed at myself and shook my head. The thought of losing my mind rose to the surface. A bit of food would help to alter those thoughts.

I sat in the car and couldn’t get over the fact that a big hole still lurked in that story. Something that she didn’t want me to know or the rest of the world to know. That hole in the wall when I punched it after Mother told me writing was not a real job but a complete waste of time came into full view. My hand broken, I had to drive to the ER one handed since Mother refused to take me. Things sure got heated after Grammy—

That was it. My story needed that interaction with the parents. My own experiences told in story form. Thumb drive out and loaded, I rewrote the entire story.

* * *

Love From a Window stared back at me. I couldn’t help but think it all started from a trip to look at ruins of a castle. I insisted on them using my picture, it seemed fitting, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Please visit Calliope’s new blog and follow her: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog