Rain Dance

Hopeless as it’s beginning to seem without the elder’s lead, the dance continues. Chanting, stamping, every person keeps in time, as strings of shells which dangle from their ankles, rattle to a timeless beat. Owab, carried by the rhythm of the dance, wills himself on, inhaling the powerful scent of the sacred herbs smouldering on the remnants of the fading fire.

They cannot fail. Without the Rain Bull, the land will turn to dust and the group will be driven from the place they call home.

Far into the night
they dance on through scented smoke;
waiting for a sign.


Previous episodes of this little African adventure are here.

Photo credit: Nika Zhorzholiani from Pexels

Written in response to two challenges:

– Di of Pensitivity101‘s Wednesday’s Three Things Challenge – PERSON, DANGLE, HOPELESS
– Denise Farley of GirlieOnTheEdge‘s Sunday’s Six Sentence Story Word Prompt – REMNANT

I also set myself the additional challenges of confining my piece to 100 words exactly and writing in the haibun form. Just for fun!

Click here for more Six Sentence Stories – come and join the party!

Death or Glory

Hiding in barns and outbuildings by day
Walking in hedgerows undercover of night
Head down, senses alert
Day after day, avoiding the light.

The border’s not far; check point ahead
Dive for cover or put up a fight?
Crouch in the undergrowth; senses strain
The longest day; freedom’s in sight.

Evening comes, it’s time to run
Pound across fields, vault over gates
Soldiers shout, shots are fired
Adrenaline pumps, heart thumps.

Hounds at my heels, boots thud on the ground
Screw up my courage, don’t ever look back
It’s now or never, my ultimate hope
Striving for freedom, just one final leap.


Written in response to Sadje‘s What do You See #86 photo prompt.

Image credit: Warren Wong @ Unsplash
The image shows shows a stretch of empty road. There is a man in running shoes taking a leaping jump over the yellow dividing line on the road.

Location, Location, Location #23

Location No 23 – Basements and tunnels beneath Liverpool

Welcome to the latest stop on our literary tour through the pages of my novels. This week you’re going to need your hard hats as we venture into the mysterious network of tunnels and basements built beneath the fine city of Liverpool. These fictional tunnels from You’ll Never Walk Alone, are partly based on fact, although I embellished the extent of the network for the sake of the story.

When I was initially rummaging around in rabbit holes researching the background to the book, I came across this article which talks about a basement areas under Bold Street in the city centre, where Pierre and Lucy do some of their Sunday Shopping. In fact, I’ve referenced the before – you might even remember it if you were following the unfolding novel back in October 2018! One of the comments in the thread provided me with a big chunk of inspiration for my fictional tunnel network:

“I worked on a refurbishment prog (sic) in 1980 at the Adelphi hotel. A tunnel was found at the front of the hotel, it’s now covered over by the back bar in the night club. It was heading in the direction of Lewis’s or Central Station.”

Many of you will remember that I was once employed as an insurance surveyor, and in the course of some of my building inspections I tramped through many of the dusty, disused and fascinating parts of Liverpool’s panoply of historical edifices.

One of these was the Cotton Exchange. Remember how Liverpool was built on the Far Eastern trade of cotton and silk? Even in the distant days of my insurance career not much was left of the cotton trade in Liverpool and, at the time of my visit, this beautiful old building had fallen into disrepair. I remember being shown the old sample room where the quality of the merchants’ cotton was once assessed against the samples contained in a large beautifully crafted chest of drawers. But the basement held many treasures. Take a look.

Around the perimeter of this massive building there were a number of intriguing metal-clad doors which led from the pavement down into the basement storage level and it was this that captured my imagination for Pierre’s little bolt hole:

“I have just the place. Come, Lucy.” He held out his hand. Lucy took it and followed him as he ducked around the next corner and down a short flight of steps leading to a basement area. There was a heavy door at the bottom of the stairs and the window next to the door was boarded up. Pierre reached down and drew out a key from a recess under the bottom step. He fitted the key into the lock and turned it. The door swung open silently on well-oiled hinges...

A few paragraphs later, they finally make their escape through the basement and into the tunnels. Lucy is understandably unnerved when she and Pierre first enter…

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Excerpt from You’ll Never Walk Alone

“This way,” Pierre took Lucy’s hand and guided her out of the room into a dimly lit corridor. The heels of Lucy’s dancing shoes echoed on the tiled floor as they hurried past the closed doors on either side of the corridor. At the end there was a larger metal door with a plate which read ‘boiler room’. Pierre pulled the thick metal handle towards him and they stepped over the threshold. The door clanged shut behind them. They climbed down a short flight of metal steps and crossed the floor of the boiler room to another metal staircase which led to a sub-basement. At the far side of the lower basement there was a smaller unmarked door. Pierre pushed against.

“Okay, Lucy, through here.”

“It’s so dark. Where are we going, Pierre?”

“Hold on, just stand there a sec,” he said letting go of her hand and feeling along the wall. Lucy heard a click and a torch beam shone on the ground in front of her. Pierre shone the beam around revealing a tall, brick-lined tunnel.

“Where are we?” asked Lucy. “It’s not a sewer is it?

“You’d be able to smell if it was. No, this is part of a whole network of tunnels under the city.”

“How did you know about..?”

“Come on, Lucy,” just a bit further. “You’ll like where we come out.” Pierre sounded as if he was enjoying himself now.

“Okay, you’re the boss.”

Hand in hand they strode along the tunnel. Lucy focused on the torch beam, shutting out all thoughts of what might lurk beyond the pool of yellowy light. As they followed a branch in the tunnel which led off to the right, the gradient increased and a little further on, Lucy could make out the faint outline of a door. Pierre clicked off the torch and placed it in a small alcove alongside the door.

“Okay, Lucy, let me just check the coast is clear.” Pierre ducked inside the doorway and looked around. He gestured Lucy to follow.

Lucy stepped into another corridor and followed Pierre through the door opposite where they had come in. The room beyond was shrouded in gloom, but Lucy could make out a row of steel barrels and shelves containing cardboard boxes and bottles. They crept through the storeroom and found themselves behind a bar counter, looking out into a room containing an assortment of tables with chairs piled up on them. Pierre looked at Lucy and smiled.

“I know where this is. It’s that little bar at the side of the Adelphi Hotel.” Lucy said triumphantly.

“It certainly is,” Pierre held out his hand. “Follow me, let’s see about a room.”

We’ll likely be visiting the Adelphi Hotel another time!

You’ll Never Walk Alone is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook and on Kindle Unlimited
USA UK ~ CAN ~ AUS IND ~ the rest of the world

Image credits: Liverpool Echo, Britannia Adelphi Hotel

The Summoning Begins

The hunters advance further into the foothills of the purple mountains. Despite Aquilla’s reassuring presence, Owab remains downcast. He cannot pretend that his failure to forestall the lioness’ attack on the elder hasn’t weakened the group’s chances of success in their search for the Rain Bull.

As night falls, the hunters light a fire on a shelf-like outcrop of rock and wait as the quarter moon rises in the velvet sky to align with Orion’s three she-tortoises. Each throws a handful of scented herbs into the flickering flames.

Aquilla cries out;
they gather around the fire
and prepare to dance.


Previous episodes of this little African adventure are here.

Photo credit: researchgate.net

Written in response to two challenges:

– Di of Pensitivity101‘s Wednesday’s Three Things Challenge – PRETEND, SHELF, TALL
– Denise Farley of GirlieOnTheEdge‘s Sunday’s Six Sentence Story Word Prompt – QUARTER

I also set myself the additional challenges of confining my piece to 100 words exactly and writing in the haibun form. Just for fun!

Click here for more Six Sentence Stories – or bring one of your own to the party!

Smitten

Behind those sapphire eyes
a trusting soul peers out

your little heart beats apace
tiny mouth mews silently

oh, little kitten
I am smitten

beholding a world
of wonder
anew.


Written in response to Sadje‘s What do You See #85 photo prompt.

Image credit: Iqbal Nuril @ Pixabay
The image shows a small kitten looking inquisitivelyfrom under a table.

Jude Itakali is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Jude Itakali to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Many of you will already be familiar with Jude through his blog, Tales Told Different, but let’s find out a little bit more about him from his author bio.

Jude was born and lives in Kampala, Uganda, and when not being an athlete on the rugby field, or crunching down numbers on a computer for work, he delicately pens the epiphanies from life and its different relationships and encounters.

He writes about all sorts of topics, finding a way to relate them with each other because no one theme exists in a vacuum.

Empathy is sometimes considered a gift, and Jude has it in abundance.

Jude has recently released his first book, Crossroads (Winds of Love) – a collection of poetry, prose and short stories. Here he is to tell us all about it. Take it away, Jude!

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Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today, Chris. I’m excited to tell you all about my book, which is entitled Crossroads (Winds of Love).

This is my debut publication and I used poetry because of its ability to touch a variety of people in a variety of ways. I admire the creativity it gives and the outlet of emotions that might otherwise fester within. The ability to exercise the breadth of language to pass on a message has always captivated me because it touches and evokes much deeper than plain words.

CROSSROADS (Winds of love) is a collection of poems, prose, and short stories written in verse. Many times, romantic love is depicted as a formula: advice on ways in which to get the best out of love. In my time and experience through many kinds of love, some my own, many from the people closest to me, and a few from the world testimonies and stories, I have come to understand that each situation is different, and not all advice is applicable for everyone. Love is not bound by rules, and in most cases, it does not make sense.

I wrote and compiled these poems and stories to show multiple aspects of love, to show the reader that they are not alone, that they should not be judged, and even though love’s pleasures may come with even greater pains, that in the end, the power to change it or discover it in its best form, lies within us.

This precious gem of a book has poetry in structured forms including, but not limited to sonnets, haiku, etheree, tanka, cinquain, shadorma, and many more. It also contains free verse poetry and a splattering of short stories. It takes us on an adventure through longing, intimacy, heartbreak and healing.

Click here for some of my latest reviews and some short extracts from the book.

The Blurb

In the corridors of love,
At the crossroads of loneliness,
We stand at our most vulnerable.
As the winds of love swirl, we are often ill-prepared for the portends and promises they carry;
The longing, fear, and deception.
The intimacy, and the horrors of heartbreak.
But also the hope, renewal and strength from the trials we have survived.

May these poems, prose and short stories touch each in their own particular way,
And bring us all perspective, compassion, hope and ultimately;
Love!

Find it on Amazon in ebook and paperback: USA ~ UK ~ IND ~ AUS ~ CAN ~ ESP ~ Rest of the World

If it’s available in your region, I’d recommend you order a paperback copy – so much better for poetry.

My copy arrived just a few days ago.

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Follow Jude here!

Goodreads: Goodreads Author Jude Kirya Itakali 
Blog: WordPress – Tales Told Different
Facebook:  Kirya Itakali Jude
Twitter:  @jude_clutch 
Instagram: judeitakali

Contact him on email: judekirya37@gmail.com

Blood Moon

After a solid day’s trekking, the hunters are cheered to find a group of thorn trees, indicating the presence of precious water. Aquila flies on, scouting for a cave to protect them from the coming night.

Distracted as they forage for food, the hunters fail to sense the danger. A lioness leaps, the group scatters, but an older man lags behind; Owab turns, raises his spear, but he’s too late.

Gripped by powerful jaws, the lions move in; by morning there will be nothing left but bones.

The pride is sated
and under a blood-red moon
a shooting star falls.


Previous episodes of this little African adventure are here.

Photo credit: Nick Owuor

Written in response to two challenges:

– Di of Pensitivity101‘s Wednesday’s Three Things Challenge – HORN, CHEER, SOLID
– Denise Farley of GirlieOnTheEdge‘s Sunday’s Six Sentence Story Word Prompt – PRESENCE

I also set myself the additional challenges of confining my piece to 100 words exactly and writing in the haibun form. Just for fun!

Click here for more Six Sentence Stories – or bring one of your own to the party!

Winter’s song

Slender notes as crisp as frost
cast silver beads across the grass
colour-drained trees old and bare
echo tunes on winter air

Melodies fill the sunless day
where morning shadows long to to play
perched upon a lonely pew
fragile memories form anew

Snippets snatched from days long past
pervade an emptiness that’s vast
remembrances both sweet and dear
proffer us a tender tear.


Written in response to Sadje‘s What do You See #84 photo prompt.

Image credit: Clay Banks @ Unsplash
The image shows an older man sitting on a bench by a park. There is a trolley bag behind him. He is playing a stringed instrument and has a collection bag by his feet.

Thanks to Cassa of Flicker of Thoughts and Spira of inSPIRAation I have learned what the instrument in the photo is. Called a Erhu, it makes a most beautiful sound:

Rain in Jiang Nan_Erhu Cover

Planet Earth: Restart (again)

Great Being Five had been practicing mindfulness while idly airbrushing some of the scenery on Orea, her second favourite planet, when a Thought Bubble popped up in the corner of her monitor. It was her friend and protégé, Great Being Nineteen. His Bubble glowed amber with agitation.

‘It’s Planet Earth. Something’s wrong!’

Five flicked a switch and focused her Third Eye on the spiral galaxy that contained her most beloved planet. Nineteen was right. Planet Earth was behaving very oddly. The whole world was flickering, like one of the earthlings’ little light bulbs when it was about to go out. Her Eye roamed around the screen. The stars in the Milky Way were shifting and shimmering ominously.

‘I think it’s the Time Grid,’ Nineteen yelled. ‘Something has gone wrong with the reset on Planet Earth1. Do something, Five!’

On the far side of her screen, a large chunk of the Milky Way blinked off and on.

A bolt of alarm shot through her. What had gone wrong? All she’d done was turn back Time a little bit in that small corner of the galaxy, so that the little humans could have a major re-think and cease their wanton destruction her lovely blue planet.

And it had all been going so well. The little earthlings had emerged from their planetary pandemic a reformed race. They’d been caring for the planet so well.

‘Shut the planet down!’ bellowed Nineteen. ‘Earth is compromising the whole galaxy!’

‘I can’t do that after all we’ve done,’ snapped Five, anxious to protect her little humans. She took a moment to focus. ‘There’s no need to panic.’

Nineteen’s Thought Bubble eye-rolled.

Five started scrabbling at the keys. She’d just have to reset the Timer again. Go back to the previous setting. Switch it off and switch it on again. Wasn’t that the mantra of every Techbot?

A sudden thought occurred to her. ‘What about your Mind-Set Program, Nineteen? Can you replicate that?’

Nineteen’s Thought Bubble made a thumbs up sign.

Five aligned the Time-Grid counter to its previous setting: 01.01.2020. She took a deep breath and pressed the reset button. At least the little earthlings wouldn’t know they’d already been through Nineteen’s Mind-Set Program, and after all, it had only taken a year for the scourge to die down. They’d be fine.

The screen went blue.

Five held her breath.

The image reappeared. Planet Earth and the Milky Way were stable. The Space-Time Balance had been restored.

The Thought Bubble made an apologetic pop.

‘What’s wrong, Nineteen?’

‘Sorry, Five. Planet Earth’s Virus-Settings wouldn’t accept the same program again. I had to opt for a Mutation.’

Five clutched the edge of her keyboard. ‘What do you mean?’

‘The pandemic is going to take a little longer to play out this time.’

‘How long?’

‘Well, there’ll be at least a second and a third wave before it’s over.’

‘And then?’

‘You’ll have your beautiful blue planet back again.’

‘But what about the little humans?’

‘Those who survive: never better.’


It’s been more than a year since we last caught up with Great Being Five in a story I wrote1 shortly after South Africa and many other countries first went into hard lockdown in March 2020. I wrote the story you’ve just read in January 2021, when South Africa went into the second wave of the pandemic but never got around to posting it. Reading it again this week, as the country teeters on the brink of the third wave, it seems even more apt than it did when I penned it.

You can find all the stories featuring Five here.

Photo credit: watercolour painting by Elena Mozhvilo

Aquila triumphs

The boomslang slithers from beneath the canopy of acacias, the nearest hunter in its big-eyed sights. Aquila cries out, letting his powerful talons swing forward to pluck the serpent from its thorny perch, as a group of startled magpie shrikes rise from the trees in a shrieking cloud of black and white feathers.

The snake thrashes while the eagle’s talons tighten, spearing the serpent’s skin. Ruby beads bleed across its sapphire scales and the snake slumps. Aquila spirals back to the waterhole, dropping the vanquished snake at Owab’s feet.

They will feast tonight
but the journey continues:
mauve mountains beckon.


Previous episodes of this little African adventure are here.

Photo credit: © Koshy Koshy / Flickr

Written in response to two challenges:

– Di of Pensitivity101‘s Wednesday’s Three Things Challenge – MAGPIE, OUTLET, NEAT
– Denise Farley of GirlieOnTheEdge‘s Sunday’s Six Sentence Story Word Prompt – POWERFUL

I also set myself the additional challenges of confining my piece to 100 words exactly and writing in the haibun form. Just for fun!

Click here for more Six Sentence Stories – or bring one of your own to the party!