The Secret Gate

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old door

 

I switched off the morning news. While the TV screen darkened, I yearned to escape the gloom and the toxic atmosphere of the city. A photographic excursion into the countryside would do me good.

Picking up my camera bag, I left the flat and made my way to the garage. After a couple of stops at charming spots, I drove past a sleepy old town and slowed down when a detached sandstone house came into view. Through its open gates, a tilted For Sale sign caught my eye. Thinking this could be an interesting subject, I parked the car and entered the grounds.

The weathered signboard hinted it had been there for a while. The house looked decrepit and forlorn, its windows boarded and the paint on the front door chipped and cracked. Unkempt and overgrown, the garden conjured a strange melancholy. Taking a few shots, I walked around the building. Broken branches and decaying leaves from tall trees echoed the same neglect. Ready to leave, something behind the shrubs, along the back wall caught my attention. A pair of pale green doors which at first glance resembled a trompe l’oeil.

Something about the stately gate told me a story. It stood intact and supported by tall tapered pillars. The half-moon pebble mosaic steps that led to it boasted of history. Its ornate, solid iron body whispered tales from the past. Yet, the walls on its either side had partially crumbled, and peeking through the gaps, I saw nothing, but an expanse of wilderness beyond.

At the bottom of the steps, a pond had formed, housing an array of horsetail reed, water lilies, and sweet flag. Natural or landscaped, I couldn’t tell. It looked authentic and picturesque, in sheer contrast to the condition of the rest of the estate. Maybe the heavy rains of the last few weeks had brought it back to life.

At some point, the door that led to nowhere must have stood proud to protect a house and the people beyond it, allowing only friends and family inside. If so, what had happened to it, or its connection to the stone cottage remained a mystery. Confrontation, natural disasters, and family sagas came to mind. Nature had built a façade over the remains, if there were any, and camouflaged it to look like an extension of the massive open fields.

I tried to pull the door open. It didn’t budge. Most likely its hinges had been bonded by the threads of time. So I climbed over the wall and stepped into the meadow woven with a carpet of spring flowers. Keeping my eyes on the ground, I set out to find remains of life on the soft knolls. I picked up an old pipe, a metal button, a penny, and the broken arm of a wooden doll. They looked old. Would they be considered as clues to who had once lived here? Not really, I told myself. Such items could be found anywhere. The sun about to  set, I became weary of wandering in the fields.

Slowly, I walked back, pondering on the remains that had endured time. Like the iron gates, intact and still present. Similar to my genetic memory, the will to live and hope, despite the dystopia the entire world is going through.

I debated whether to return to the sleepy town to inquire about the house and the gate. I dismissed the idea. Instinct had already told me the story about the property and myself. Why I endure, how I distract myself with photography, why the structures remain standing, like sentinels, steadfast in their duty, despite the odds.

 

Photo credit: Google images

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Amber Street is at The Rye Whiskey Review

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The Drinking Duck

 

 

I’m back at the The Rye Whiskey Review with Amber Street from Ripples on the Pond. Thanks for having me onboard John Patrick Robbins. Nice to be among such good company. Cheers.

By the way, this is my 22nd published story on various online magazines and in anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, and Turkey. I just updated the list here: Publications

 

Amber Street

 

The last customer leaving the bar, Harry staggered into the cold night air and made feeble attempts to walk in a straight line. The icy wind signalling the approach of harsher weather, chilled him to the bone. Despite the protective shield of his padded coat and the woollen hat pulled over his ears, he felt naked. The combination of intoxication and freezing temperatures blurred his sight. All he could see ahead were dark buildings on either side of the road and a few flickering streetlights. He followed the pavement, counting his steps on his long walk home down Amber Street.

Harry kept counting to keep his mind active, but the road seemed to continue forever. 2500 steps later, he still had not arrived at the turn to the street where his flat was located. He halted and glanced back, then looked ahead again. There were no side roads, but one long avenue where all buildings looked the same. “I’m lost,” he muttered.

continued here:

https://ryethewhiskeyreview.blogspot.com/2018/09/amber-street-by-sebnem-e-sanders.html

Old Witch
Photo from Google

The Red Room

sebnemsanders

efef9ea4da938a79ac174c243e6a80fa

In my self-imposed solitary confinement at the castle,

I roam the many halls and corridors

and stop by the Red Room

Do I dare enter her chambers for the first time

ever since she left?

Autumn has arrived though it doesn’t feel so,

the night is tender and tempting.

I unlock the door,

throw open the windows

and light the tapers on the candelabra

scattered around her boudoir.

Crimson velvet drapes sway in the fresh breeze,

the floral fragrance of her perfume still lingers in the air,

the candles flicker and cast their light

upon the guild-framed paintings on the red walls.

Portraits come to life,

their gazes follow me,

the lips curl into a smile, or a sneer,

they talk without speaking,

an organ plays in the background,

I pause by her picture, allured by her beauty,

She walks out of the frame and takes my hand,

Into the eternal…

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Interstellar

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interstellar_by_jasric-d8bx5vp Deviant Art

Interstellar by Jasric, Deviant Art

https://www.deviantart.com/jasric/art/Interstellar-503752453

 

Ash Hawthorn spent his childhood climbing trees in the village meadow and watching the world below. Settled comfortably on a branch, he daydreamed or read books, and made friends with countless birds and squirrels who approached him without fear. At night, he mounted the towering oak tree in the garden and perused the sky, naming the constellations and the planets he learned at school.

For higher education, Ash debated between studying astronomy or botany. In the end he opted for plant biology because of his passion for trees. The celestial objects were far away, yet he could touch and feel the woods, identify their leaves and fruits.

Ash became a spiritual man as well as a plant biologist. He travelled the world to acquaint himself  with exotic plants in various terrains. Each morning, after his yoga meditation, he hugged a tree and continued a ritual he’d begun so long ago.  At home, he wrapped his arms around the magnificent acacia in the garden. When abroad, he found a local tree to exercise his routine. Trees talked to him, he felt their vibes and communication lines.

On the way back from The Aokigahara Forest in Japan, which some called the suicide or talking forest, he was thrilled to have successfully made it through the challenging trail without a guide or using markings. The trees had guided him as his feet pounded the lava rocks and edged around perilous pit holes.

Ash clicked on the notification from the NASA website he subscribed to and read:

A small, recently discovered asteroid — or perhaps a comet — appears to have originated from outside the solar system, maybe from a distant part of  our galaxy. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

‘How exciting,’ Ash thought, interstellar, as in science-fiction movies and books. He wished he could see it, and wondered if it would have an impact on earth, perhaps strike it. Probably not, as most space stations were equipped with devices to repel such a happening. Yet, in the event they resorted to such action, what effect would this create on the entire universe? These thoughts occupied his mind as he continued his tours.

Trekking in the Valdivian rain forest between Chile and Argentina, Ash felt thirsty and hot. He took off his safari jacket and hung it on the branch of a towering Araucaria araucana, better known as the Monkey puzzle tree. Leaning against its trunk, he drank water from the thermos and rested. The air was still, though on its languid current he detected a hint of expectancy. Under the cerulean sky, the tree whispered. He wrapped his arms around it and listened. “Interstellar” it said. Ash smiled and repeated, “Interstellar.”

He smelled burning, and raising his head, spotted a massive fireball approaching. That was the last thing he saw before his interstellar journey transported him to another dimension.

 

Happy Fall Equinox!

The Key to Happiness

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Conversation in a book store

Photo from Google

 

 

Thomas hates the aisle of self-help books he has to pass through to get to the serious non-fiction section. “Rubbish,” he mutters, noting the titles. How to Deal with Loss, The Answer is in the Stars, Quantum Way of Thought, My Mother and Me, How I Fought Obesity, My Anorexic Journey. These books sell millions because people seek magical formulas to deal with their problems. All this sharing, support groups, as though they have no brains in their heads.

A towering stand for a best-seller dominates the middle of the aisle: The Key to Happiness. ‘The winner of the rotten tomatoes top prize for the worst title,’ he thinks. He picks a copy from the stand and flips through the pages. While perusing the blurb, he hears a female voice behind him.

“I lost my keys,” she says.

He turns and faces a petite woman. “Here?” he asks.

“Here, there and everywhere,” she replies. “Happiness is hard to find.”

“You’re pulling my leg.“ He chuckles.

“I’m serious,“ she says, blinking. “Shall we look for it together?”

He pauses for a moment, then decides to play along. Who could ignore those dark, mysterious eyes?

He follows her out of the store, into street. Bustling lunchtime crowds scurry along the pavement in both directions.

“This way,” she says, pointing west.

Thomas joins the flow, walking next to her.

“First we must define it,“ she says.

“What?”

“Happiness. What is happiness?”

“A much over-rated notion, which doesn’t exist.” He smirks.

“Is that so? See the blind man crossing the street, using his cane. Happiness is being independent.”

“Unhappiness is being disabled.”

“You mustn’t do that. Laws of attraction will hear you and bring you the opposite of happiness.” She points to a sparrow, searching for food by a garbage bin. A morsel of bread discovered on the pavement, the bird takes off to a safe location to enjoy it. “Happiness is being able to escape,” she says.

Leading him to an empty table at a street café, she drops her handbag on a chair and grabs her wallet. “Sit here and I’ll be back.”

She returns with two mugs of coffee and a generous portion of dark chocolate cake.

“Happiness is a cup of coffee and piece of cake?”

“You’re learning,” she nods.

The serotonin from the chocolate washed down with coffee takes Thomas to a moment of bliss. “Happiness is sitting next to an attractive woman and sharing a forbidden delicacy.”

Holding his arm, she takes him to the park across the street, and settles on a bench “Happiness is finding a vacant bench on a sunny day.”

Thomas watches the children racing their miniature sailboats on the pond and remembers his childhood. “Happiness is having friends.”

“You’re getting there.” She pats his hand.

His gaze falls on the woods, bordering the park, on the other side of the pond. “Happiness is being an evergreen, dressed for all occasions.”

“Perfect!”

Thomas looks into her eyes, speckled with gold beams from the sun. “Are you the author of the book?”

“No, I’m Samantha, just a reader. I read on your face you were in need of a burst of cheerfulness. The key lies inside you, not in a book. It’s up to you to unlock the door or to keep it shut.”

“I’m Thomas. Samantha is a lovely name. Mine’s plain, yours is melodious. All this positivity could be addictive. It’s like taking drugs.”

“It’s better than scepticism. There are so many things we can’t control. Every single day bad things happen in the world. If we don’t look for happiness in little things, we won’t be able to cope with the serious problems.”

“What now? “ he asks.

“It’s up to you.” She flutters her eyelids.

“Can I invite to dinner tonight?”

“I’d like that.”

They part at the park entrance. His gait livelier than ever, Thomas heads towards his office block. He’s looking forward to seeing, discovering more about the beguiling Sa-man-tha tonight. “Carpe diem,” he mutters. ‘Less history, more lightness, living -being.’

A Kind of Loving

Here’s something “Noir” for the weekend. This story was first published in my anthology, Ripples on the Pond.

sebnemsanders

Jack Vetriano A Kind of Loving large

Jack Vetriano, A kind of Loving

Photo prompt: Jack Vetriano paintings

Bernard visited the flea market every Sunday and looked for objects to add to his collections, or something interesting to start a new one. Seeing a display of old-fashioned mannequins at one of his favourite stalls, he stopped and studied them, imagining what he could do with them. He negotiated the price for four, and carried them to his station-wagon, one by one, taking great care. They were a treasure, rare samples from the 50’s, made of wood.

Bernard installed the mannequins in the basement of his house, which he’d turned into a nostalgic bar, after his mother died. Not that he was a drinker, but he liked the idea of people socializing under the influence, telling each other their secrets, or meeting someone new. This was something he envied, yet his shyness prevented him from making friends. As…

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Birdie

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Birdie

 

This is a true story …

 

She comes at the most unexpected time. In the evening, when the sun has sunk behind the hills, and it’s time to roll back the canopy on the terrace to allow daylight into the flat. I head towards the kitchen door and open it to let in the cool evening breeze. Something crawls around my foot.  A kitten, on the first floor? I look down and see a small pigeon.

She walks, but can’t fly. I presume she would have the moment my foot touched her body.  Something must be wrong. Maybe her leg or wing is injured?  I fill two bowls, one with water and another with bread and seeds, and place them near her. She doesn’t touch them. Frightened, she seeks refuge in dark corners. I let her be and watch her from behind the terrace door.

Darkness falls.  I switch the lights on in the lounge. She hides by the flower pot next to the kitchen door. I must not disturb her. Later, before I go to bed, I must lock that door.

Discreetly, I close the door. She’s sleeping on her feet by the flower pot. Let her be …

 

It’s still dark when I wake up. Under the moonlight, I see her shadow against the flower pot. I slide open the terrace door. She doesn’t move.

I turn on the coffee machine, sit in my chair, and switch on the computer. I hear wings flapping. Through the netting, I peek outside. Birdie is thrashing herself on the terrace tiles. She makes an attempt, falls on her head or sideways, and tries again, as though her legs are paralysed.  She can’t walk. What happened? She was pacing the terrace last night. I took photos …

She’s still trying to hide from me. Desperately, she moves to the opposite side of the terrace, and then, under the table, seeking refuge. I don’t know how to help or comfort her. I take a soft floor brush and gently move her towards the food and water. She perches on the food bowl, then on the water, and stays put.

I check my watch, 7.30 am, can’t call anyone at this hour. I wish my downstairs neighbour were here. She’s good with animals and would know what to do. My conscience hurts as Birdie flaps her wings and falls sideways. She’s trying to hold onto life.

My plans for the morning and the day over, I desperately Google information on vets who might take care of birds. I come across a name I took my neighbour’s cat to. I punch the number on the landline. No reply. At 8.30 am, I call my neighbour, away on holiday, asking for help. “Any vets who can take care of birds? This one is dying and I can’t do anything to help.”

She comes back with a name, someone she knows, but he won’t be at the clinic till 10 am. I look for a suitable box, lay some paper at the bottom, get dressed and call the Vet clinic after 9 am. They tell me I can bring her in.

I lift birdie with plastic gloves and put her in the box. She’s faint, but still living.  I drive slowly towards the address not far away from home.

Carrying the box in my hand, I walk into their office. “Can you please help her? I think she’s dying.”

The young Vet takes her out of the box and examines her with his gloved hands. He says, “Her rib-cage is hollow.  This is an advanced stage of a viral infection. She’s dehydrated, suffers from malnutrition. “

“But I did give her water,” I say.

“At this stage, you need to force her,” he replies.

He asks the assistant to bring some water and puts her beak into the paper cup. Birdie takes  a couple of sips.

“I tried to do that,” I say.

“Maybe she was frightened,“ he says.

“Can you help her?”

“Very difficult at this stage. This infection progresses fast.”

“She was walking last night. Look I have photos.” I show him the images on my phone.

“It happens. Why don’t you leave her with us? We’ll take your contact number and get in touch with you.”

I leave the Vet’s Clinic without Birdie. I arrive home and think I must wash the balcony, get rid of the bird’s poo on the tiles. I can’t. I sit and wait. I’m unable to go for my morning swim. I can’t move. An hour later, the nice girl at the Vet’s calls me. “I’m sorry,“ she says.

And I cry for Birdie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh

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Ship with Butterfly Sails Salvatore Dali

Departure of the Winged Ship, Vladimir Kush 

http://www.beautifullife.info/art-works/surrealistic-paintings-by-vladimir-kush/

 

 

August heat lingers,

like a lover who doesn’t want to

end a long gone affair

I need a new beginning

with September,

a fresh chemistry

where we discover

each other on

virgin territory

crisp as white linens

that carry the aroma of the sea

and laid on the bed

to conjure dreams

that have never been

travelled,

hopes that have never been

expressed,

words that have never been

spoken.

The Sea

Today I shared many famous paintings on the sea theme on my Facebook page. They reminded me of this post. So I thought I’d reblog it.

By the way, Happy Eid and Mutlu Bayramlar. 🙂

sebnemsanders

Child on the beach

Photo of a child at İçmeler Beach, Marmaris.  (2016)

 

The sea and I are friends

from a long time ago

We like each other’s company

and miss each other on the days we can’t meet.

I have been in many seas,

but I think it’s just one big sea,

regardless of the names.

The sea has seen me age,

but the child who dipped into the water

for the first time

doesn’t age.

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La Belle Époque is at The Rye Whiskey Review

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The Drinking Duck

 

I’m back at the Bar, sipping more Rye Whiskey. Many thanks to John Patrick Robbins, Poet and Editor-in-Chief  of The Rye Whiskey Review, for letting me in. 

 

 

La Belle Époque

 

The theme of the dinner party was La Belle Époque,

in the vintage shop, I found a dress suitable for Jane Avril.

Took it home, put it on a hanger and began imagining …

The urge was great, so I slipped into it,

the lights dimmed for a moment and

I was transported to a busy bar in Paris,

champagne flowing, cigarette smoke hanging in the air,

as the pianist accompanied the sad song the soloist sang.

Toulouse came to say, “Bonne soirée, ma chérie,”

but my eye was on the young Picasso, surrounded by pretty ladies.

Hiding in the corner with Zola was Pierre Currie,

having left Marie at the laboratory with her radiation tests.

Lumiére was looking up and down my dress,

to decide on my role in his next film,

as Picasso approached and bought me drink.

Moulin Rouge, he said, or Casino de Paris or maybe even La Tour Eiffel

Toulouse wasn’t too happy about this, but he joined crowd,

carrying bottles of champagne in his hands.

We rode Lumiére’s automobile to the Eiffel with Colette,

flirting with the elegant dames, in their haute couture,

Monet, Renoir, and Cezanne followed us,

in other autos with Michelin tyres.

We danced through the night in Parc du Champ de Mars,

and on top of the tower, watching Paris and then,

stopped at Moulin Rouge, meeting,

Andre Gide, Baudelaire, Mussorgsky and Stravinsky there.

Joie de vivre, absinthe, Can-can, poetry,

music, art, and literature hand in hand,

we roamed through Monmartre,  Folies Bergére,

visiting each and every drinking hole,

cabaret, burlesque show, and ended up at the Ritz.

And we danced, and we danced, and we danced,

And I danced, and I danced, and I danced,

clinging to my dress …

 

link:

https://ryethewhiskeyreview.blogspot.com/2018/08/la-belle-epoque-by-sebnem-e-sanders.html

 

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