Saturday, May 25, 2013

Prompt: Mercy, Blood, Iron, Cross, Secret (use at least 3 of these)

Every step was agony. I couldn’t think beyond the pain, beyond one foot in front of the next. Three was no moonlight to see the bloody tracks I knew I left in the dirt road. I couldn’t lift my head to look around, look behind me. If they were coming, there was no more I could do. My scabbard was lost in the battle, and the weight of my sword hung down my back, the guard pressed like Christ’s cross against my shoulder blades. I was too weary even to cross myself and ask forgiveness for the thought.

One step. Another. Light brightened the darkness around me, and I dragged my head up, stumbling to stand in front of a small church, braziers blazing on either side of the broad entry. Swaying, I tried to think if the shelter within would be honored. It should be, but these were dangerous times, and the secret I carried had already cost many lives.

My spirit could drive my body to go no farther. I staggered to the door and pulled the handle. It would not open. I swayed forward in despair and leaned my forehead against it. The door swung gently inward, and I almost fell as I stumbled after it. Small torches against the walls carried incense through the small nave. I didn’t see anyone inside. Slowly I made my way to the altar. I had to reach it to ask for shelter. Each step seemed the last I could take. Each time, I pushed once more to lift the other foot one more time.

At last, I reached the altar and fell to my knees before it. The weight of my sword carried me down, and I twisted to fall on my side. Pain lanced through my belly, and I bit my lip to keep the whimper, the screams, that rose in my throat. The stone was cool on my temple, and I closed my eyes with relief. I heard the faint swish of fabric against the floor and opened my eyes to see the priest’s black boots and a tan robe. As he leaned over me, I tried to speak, but my voice was long gone. I looked into his worried face and tried again.

“Mercy,” I croaked.

“Yes, yes, daughter. Of course you may have mercy and shelter here.”

I shook my head. “No. Not me. For the child.”

I put my hand on my belly and saw the shock in his face as my vision dimmed. God’s mercy, I could protect the secret no longer.

Dogs in house:

Miloš Karadaglić, Pasión

Time writing:
40 minutes, interrupted

May word count:


  1. Prompt: Mercy, Blood, Iron, Cross, Secret (use at least 3 of these)

    I stopped in wonder. The iron cross must have been three stories high, if not more. I set down my backpack and settled on the ground, leaning against it. They said that the red light of sunlight appeared to bathe the cross in blood, and I had hiked four hours into the middle of nowhere to see the view.

    Some said the cross was ancient, dating to the very dawn of the industrial age, back when mankind only had this one lonely planet to call home. Others said it was artwork from the revival, when the rich liked to fill their gardens with replicas of old tech. But even during the questionable taste of that period, I could not imagine someone thinking this looked _nice_. It was impressive, though.

    The evening light grew slanted. A long shadow stretched onto the hill behind the cross, folding organically over crevices and tussocks to look like a man standing with arms outstretched. I shivered. The stories had not mentioned that effect.

    As the sun lowered further, the light grew orange. A beam of light found its way through the valley to strike the cross. It shone red: shiny, liquid. I was on my feet, running toward it. This was no trick of the light. It was flowing down the surface of cross in waves, like a vertical sea of blood.

    The beam of light cut off, with me still metres from the cross. The blood vanished, and I arrived, panting, to face a rusted iron surface twice as wide as my armspan. My feet squelched in the grass. I looked down, surprised to see my boots wet only by water. I had been sure it was blood.

    I forced a mental laugh at myself, and trudged back toward my backpack. Even with the tales, I had been taken in. If this truly was ancient, no wonder the people of those times had believed it magical. My heart was still racing, and the back of my neck still prickly, and I a modern man.

    It was only those few moments each day that it looked such. If I turned my head back now, I'd see the plain, rusty cross. A little farther and I wouldn't be able to make out the rust, which must have something to do with the illusion of blood. It would look just like any other decaying relic of the iron times, if I looked back now.

    Even though I knew it would be plain old rust, I got it into my head the blood had somehow come back. And that it would be blood, but only if I looked now. If I got all the way back to my backpack, it would look just as it had when I arrived. And the farther I walked, the stronger became the feeling that there was blood there now and that it would be gone if I looked back later.

    I could not resist it anymore. I turned. I could just barely make out the rust from this distance. No blood, of course.

    I laughed out loud, half embarrassment, half relief. The cross's shadow still resembled a man, distorted and stretched. He folded his arms around his knees and stood up.

    Time writing: ~30 minutes

    1. Wow! Loved the beginning, a little rambly in the middle, and what a punch at the end! The "rambly" part was when he was walking back trying not to look back at the cross. It didn't read as tightly, but I was appreciating the struggle, so it's there, and I think you need it to get that punch of the shadow at the end!

    2. Yeah, I was trying to capture a sense of irrational belief that gets caught in your mind--like what happens to me when I watch shows about mummies late at night!--but I don't think I quite got it down right.

  2. Ooo! Like! I really want more of this one.

    Not quite able to place it, as with the mention of Christ, I'm imagining something historical, but I don't entirely understand why she has to get all the way to the altar to ask for shelter.