city life, countryside, despair, distraction, endurance, excursion, Flash Fiction, genetic memory, history, hobby, hope, human condition, instinct, nature, photography, remains, secret gate, structures, survival, time, toxic atmosphere
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
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
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.
Interstellar by Jasric, Deviant Art
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!
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.
“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.”
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.’
adaptation, ancient traditions, continuation, crop rotation, developers, evolution, Flash Fiction, fleeting, flora and fauna, harmony, immortality, industry, nature, resilience, spring, survival, threats, tradition, transience, virgin soil
I wandered into the field along the dirt road to explore the flora and the fauna. A kaleidoscope of spring flowers, dotted with herds of cattle, sheep, horses, and donkeys. The hyper goats and their babies preferred the rocky terrain, on its edge, climbing and leaping from the heights, and feasting on fresh herbs and blooms. The aroma of sage, rosemary, and oregano filled the air. No humans around, though. It seemed the fauna had the scene for their own amusement.
I was not to complain, as I trod on the young grass, taking care not to harm the beauties of early spring along my path.
Settled on a rock, I watched the vibrant scene as the animals shared nature’s bounty. I took photos, viewed them on my camera, and shot some more to capture the ambiance. At the end of the field, the dirt road snaked towards the village on the hills, after passing through a closed gate. The farmers had herded their livestock into the meadow for grazing till sunset.
In this part of the world, Spring is brief, fleeting like our youth. Hot summer sun burns the grass. The only plants that survive are the trees and thorny bushes. Flowers fade and the green becomes yellow.
I left the meadow with the villagers who came to gather their animals and lead them into the sheds. They offered me coffee at the coffee shop where men smoked and played backgammon. They were dressed in their all year round outfits, jackets worn over shirts, and trousers The sound of rolling dice against the wooden board mixed with the background noise from the TV on the wall. Noisy, but not disturbing. Not that these people cared about what was happening in the world or in the country. Their world was their village. They had lived that way for centuries, despite devastating events that changed the lives of many. It was their way of survival, like the thorny bushes.
The village head, an old man swinging his worry beads around his wrist, sat next to me and spoke.
“Photographer lady, will you make us famous?”
“I take pictures for my own pleasure. If I publish or sell them, I rarely mention the place. Would you like me to?”
“Yes and no,” he said, taking a big slurp from his coffee. “This is still a protected site, but we don’t know how long it will last.” He pointed to the TV and folded his arms. “The developers are viewing the land, taking photos and measuring. We may not be able to live this way for long.”
I knew what he was talking about. Land profiteers, vultures that thrive on virgin soil. They were everywhere, digging mines, shaving off mountains, building hotel complexes, marinas, and power plants.
“What they do is against nature,” I said. “Yet, they have supporters in the government.”
“Isn’t it always so?”
“I came here to photograph Spring on these ancient lands. I witnessed it once before, but never managed to visit at the right time again when the combination of the animals and nature exist in such harmony.”
“Once harvest is over, the animals graze in the fields on the other side of the gate. Crop rotation, a four-hundred-year-old tradition.” He pointed to the area, peeking from beyond the houses.
“Spring is transient,” I said.
“Isn’t life?” he answered with a smile, tipping the brim of his flat cap.
I loaded my bags containing herbs, honey, and almonds from the local shop into the car, and left the village. Driving through magnificent scenery washed in the colours of sunset, I pondered whether I was spring grass, a thorny bush or an evergreen. Grass renews itself and dies, then comes back again. A thorny bush survives all circumstances. Nature is resilient. Bougainvillea bloom, pine trees grow into forests, from the tiny seeds hidden in their cones.
I decided not to publish any of the photos on my website. Let it be a well-kept secret, on my part. Perhaps I could post them as historical documents in the future.
Photos from Google
Photo of last night’s Blood Moon taken by Side Antalya Turkey on Facebook
Taking a right turn from the highway, Tim steered the car into a dust road that meandered towards the coast. After parking at a dead end in the middle of nowhere, he unloaded his camera bags and tripod. Carrying the picnic basket, I followed him to the top of a hill, facing the sea. Away from traffic and city lights, the night sky resembled a star-studded umbrella in complete darkness. The cicadas sang as we waited for the moon to appear, and the eclipse due in a couple of hours.
“What’s special about a lunar eclipse?” I asked.
“The moon plays hide and seek with us.”
“And a blood moon?”
“It happens a few times a year. This one is rare because it will be one of the longest. Instead of going dark, she becomes red. I believe it carries a message for the blood spilled on earth.”
“You’re making this up,” I chuckled and sipped the red wine.
“I am, but I it could be true. Eclipses always bring out the truth, like your mood today.”
“What mood?” I asked, knowing he was right.
“You’re hiding something, playing games with me.”
I lit a cigarette, inhaled and exhaled the smoke. I looked at his face in the moonlight and stared into his eyes.
“Tim, you know, this is not right. I’m too old for you.”
“You love me, don’t you?”
“Of course, I do, but that doesn’t change anything. A fact is a fact. This won’t work.”
“You’ve been with an older man before. Did that work?”
“It didn’t, but this has nothing to do with that.”
“You’re biased. If this relationship were between a woman and a man ten years older than her, you wouldn’t question it.”
“Then, you’re contradicting yourself,” he said, pouring more wine into my glass.
“Maybe.” I raked my fingers through his sun-streaked hair and touched his face. “I’m scared. This might lead to a heartache I won’t be able to cope with. They get worse as one gets older.”
“I won’t break your heart. I promise. I’ve been with younger women, some around my age, but none of those relationships worked. It has nothing to do with age. I’ve never loved anyone like you. Why won’t you accept that?” He held my chin and kissed me, and wrapped me in his arms.
I stroked his back, clinging to his big frame. Opening my eyes, I saw a shade of darkness on the outer edge of the moon. “Quick, it’s happening now.”
I watched him taking pictures behind his camera. He swapped lenses, and shot from different angles, as the moon went dark. Then, as if through magic, a rosy colour appeared from its edge, and gradually covered the entire sphere, frame by frame, until it became a red ball flaunting its beauty in the night sky.
I wondered whether the rosy colour hinted at a good omen or a bloodbath for my future disappointments, disillusionments. There was only one way to find out.
After one hour and forty-three minutes, the duration of the eclipse, everything went back to normal. Normal as we know it. The full moon slowly returned to its familiar appearance of a white sphere, as though nothing had happened. It was an illusion. Something had happened, but it would only be revealed in time.
The drinking duck is the AVI of The Rye Whiskey Review.
Many thanks to The Rye Whiskey Review for including my flash fiction story, Exodus. So now I’m officially a Whiskey person! Cheers! 🙂
As the website is on Blogspot, I can’t re-blog it. So, I’ll just post the first paragraph here and then the link to the story.
He walked into the bar, and set the room on fire. A magnet that pulled me into his dark eyes. I tried to look away, but his gaze held me captive and stripped me bare. A force I could not resist. A friend mouthed something, yet I had become deaf and blind to anything except his presence. Surrendering to the magical glow and the current that washed me to his shore, I became his satellite.
Continue reading here:
adventure, anthology, debut, Flash Fiction, memories, review, Ripples on the Pond, short stories, Stockholm Archipelago, Summer of 1968, Sweden, teenage, teenage adventure, teenager, time-travel, travel, Varmdö, young adult
Recently, Ray Not Bradbury https://raynotbradbury.com posted a review on Ripples on the Pond https://raynotbradbury.com/2018/06/25/book-review-ripples-on-the-pond-sebnem-e-sanders/ .
I was pleasantly surprised to receive this review which she kindly posted on Goodreads, as well. I loved the photo of the book Ray took, which she used on her blog and on Instagram, and asked her if I might use it for a future post for Ripples.
Scrolling through her blog, I discovered Ran Not Bradbury is a pen name for Victoria Ohlsson who lives in Sweden. So the picture was taken in Sweden by a Swedish reviewer. Well, this brought back some memories from many years ago, to be exact, fifty years ago, from 1968 .
So, I time-travelled to the summer of 1968, when I spent about six weeks in Sweden, and a few days in Copenhagen.
I was one of the Turkish students invited to attend an International Lions Youth Camp in Sweden. It was my first trip abroad and the Sterling Airways flight took me to Copenhagen where I boarded a train to Stockholm after making sure I was in the right car labelled Stockholm. When we reached the sea, the Stockholm labelled car slipped onboard a ferry. After arriving at the Swedish shores, the car was attached to a Swedish train. It was dark when we reached Stockholm.
I entered the terminal in apprehension. How was the Swedish family I was to spend a week with before the Camp going to find me? Then I heard an announcement in English on the loudspeaker, calling my name and asking me to come to the Information Desk. A very blonde and blue eyed Swedish lady , Mrs Bernstrand, accompanied by two young boys with corn silk hair, greeted me with a smile. After dropping my small suitcase into the trunk of her car, she drove away to a destination unknown to me.
I was very tired. I hadn’t slept since the early hours of the previous morning when my flight took off from Istanbul. The stress of finding the Copenhagen train station, buying the ticket, and making sure I was in the right car added to the tension. But the good thing was everyone in Copenhagen spoke English, even the dustman who guided me to the ticket booth. Although I had relaxed a bit on the train, the American sailors who boarded at the next station and tried to chat me up, gave me the creeps. As soon as I told them where I was from, they asked me if I had “Hash”. I was terrified. I clung to my handbag and my suitcase, praying they won’t steal my travel allowance of about 200 dollars in my wallet. I stopped talking to them, and luckily they went away.
So trying to keep my eyes open and answer politely to Mrs Bernstrand’s questions was a hard task. I kept drifting off and waking up, thinking this is very rude. At the end of the journey, sprinkled with polite conversation, we came to a jetty and parked. A very tall and well-built gentleman, Mr Bernstrand, came to the car, and after greeting me, carried my suitcase and guided me to a motor-boat waiting at the jetty.
About ten minutes later, we arrived at another jetty, where he tied the boat and we disembarked. Mrs Bernstrand took me to a wooden cabin and introduced me to a teenager, about my age, saying, “This is your bedroom. Chloe will help you settle and she’ll show you the way to the main house in the morning. “
Chloe was an Au Pair, taking care of the young boys in the summer. I think she was French, but spoke English. Kindly she offered me the bottom bed of the bunker. I collapsed and fell into deep sleep. I hadn’t slept for twenty-four hours.
The cabin was equipped with a bathroom and shower. After the morning ablutions, it was time for breakfast.
I emerged from the cabin and found myself in the middle of a pine forest. Birdsong filled the air, and the red house we were heading to was perched upon a hill facing the sea.
We entered the kitchen with a magnificent sea view and sat at the generous breakfast table. Pickled herring Eww… No, I can’t have that for breakfast. It’s sweet too. I love the cheese though, and the crackers. And that little instrument that shaves the cheese. Ham, no problem. Coffee or tea, I can’t remember. Probably tea, I wasn’t a coffee addict, then, just acquiring new tastes. I loved the strawberries, though I couldn’t understand why they were pouring milk on them. Later I found out this was cream, not milk, though I still love my strawberries plain.
I was at Varmdö, the biggest island in the Stockholm archipelago, where Swedish families spend their summers. An array of colourful wooden cottages sprinkled inside a pine forest where strawberries and raspberries grow wild, under the shade of the trees. No borders or hedges between the houses, a lifestyle without borders.
I was lucky. The summer of 1968 was one the hottest summers in Sweden in thirty years. So, I took my first dip into the Baltic Sea and had a great time.
Photos: The book picture is taken by Ray Not Bradbury
The photos of Varmdö, from Google, exactly as I remember this gorgeous island.
The photo at bottom right, is one of me and friends at Varmdö, after playing croquet
To be continued….