The Tokoloshe

 

Tokaloshe

Auntie Rose was the first to notice something amiss that morning. She’d taken the first tray of spice-fragrant samosas from the oven and set them down to cool. She’d just returned to the stove when she heard a crash. She turned, cloth in hand, to find the tray up-ended and freshly-baked samosas strewn across the floor. Albertina came running from the stoep where she’d been sweeping, still holding the broom.

“What happened Auntie Rose? Did you drop the tray?”

“No, I put it on the table. I don’t understand how it could have fallen.” She bent down awkwardly to pick up the spilled samosas.

“Wait, Auntie Rose, let me.” Albertina crouched down and swiftly replaced the little savouries on the tray. She stood up. “No one will ever know,” she smiled at Auntie Rose. “The floor’s clean.”

Auntie Rose grinned toothlessly (she wasn’t one to wear out her false teeth by using them). “Cleaner that the people’s hands, anyway.” She looked at the tray. “That’s strange.” She stared around at the floor. “Did you get them all up?”

“I think so, why?

“Six are missing. Someone came in here while my back was turned.”

Albertina pulled a puzzled face. “But how did they get in? I was at the front sweeping the stoep, Auntie Grace is in the back room doing her knitting, and the window’s much too small for anyone to climb through.”

Just then they heard shouting coming from the road outside. Albertina snatched up her broom and hurried out followed by Auntie Rose; behind them came Auntie Grace, clutching her knitting.

Abdul was staring down the road in the direction of the harbour. The display table outside his shop had been overturned and all the pots and pans and gadgets and gizmos had spilled across the ground. A big blue football lolled in the road.

Albertina picked up the ball. “What happened?” she asked handing to Abdul.

“I only caught a glimpse of it,” Abdul said, retrieving a stack of brightly coloured plastic bowls from the floor. ‘Some kind of animal, about this high; he indicated a height just above his knee. Brown and very hairy.” Abdul shook his head. “I thought I heard it mumbling something though.” He shrugged his shoulders.

Abdul glanced down the road. There was nobody in sight, but there was a trail of footprints; small and wide with huge toes. Albertina’s hand went to her mouth; the other hand gripped the broom tightly. “Tokoloshe!” she exclaimed. She dropped the broom and ran past the aunties and through the house to her little room in the back yard.

Abdul looked questioningly from Auntie Rose to Auntie Grace as he walked over to them. “What did she say?”

Auntie Grace snorted. “Tokoloshe. There’s no such thing. A creature made up to scare naughty children. It’s more likely a young baboon.”

“Well, something stole my samosas,” said Auntie Rose walking into the road and looking down at the footprints. She pointed at the tracks. “Look, crumbs as well. That was my thief.”

Abdul and the two aunties stood contemplating the line of strange footprints. Moments later Albertina re-appeared. “I’m going for bricks,” she announced as she picked up the broom, brandishing it in front of her like a battle standard, and marched down the road in her bright pink pumps and second best wig.

“Bricks?” said Abdul frowning.

“To make the beds higher so the Tokoloshe can’t get you in the night… so they say,” Auntie Rose explained to the baffled Abdul.

“They’re short and they can’t climb,” added Auntie Grace. “Like us,” she glanced at her sister and giggled.

Abdul shook his head. He’d led a very sheltered life growing up as he had in Cape Town’s District Six.

Nearing the harbour, Albertina noticed more signs of the Tokoloshe’s passage. Overturned baskets and fruit lay scattered across the road; grimy hand prints were smeared across shop windows and ransacked dirt bins had spilled their contents. Dogs were barking everywhere and people were scratching their heads and surveying the mess. As she passed Andreas’s café, she was almost knocked over by the wiry café owner and three other men, one of whom she recognised as the man called Johannes who habitually sat by the harbour and had greeted her so nicely when she’d first arrived in the town.

“My dear, just the thing!” the man behind Johannes exclaimed, looking at the broom in Albertina’s hand. He put his hand on the broom. “May I?”

Albertina snatched it away, frowning crossly at him.

“My dear, I simply want to borrow it. It will help us catch the creature that I, the Professor,” he put a hand to his chest and bowed his head slightly, “so unwisely unleashed.”

“You mean it was you? You made a Tokoloshe?” Albertina said warily, looking up at the large, red-faced man.

“Tokoloshe..? No, my dear, I don’t think it’s…”

A hairy brown shape appeared from the side of the building,

“That’s him!” the Professor pointed.

Johannes reacted swiftly, running towards the creature, arms outstretched, forcing it towards the lean-to at the side of the building, while calling to his friend Sam to do the same. Sam who, Albertina noticed, smelt rather strongly of fish, ran across to block its escape. Albertina advanced with her broom. The creature glared back at them, trapped in a corner.

“Now what do we do?” asked Andreas.

“I need gold! Give me gold!” the creature chanted.

The Professor took a step towards it. “I don’t think you’re in a position to make demands.”

The creature stuck out its tongue. Then it let out a wild shriek. It tried to dodge past Sam, but Albertina was too quick. She shoved the broom in the creature’s chest, pinning it to the floor where it thrashed about.

“That’s what it said this morning, when I stupidly prized open this old chest I’d bought the other day. I didn’t know there was anything in it, but I was curious. I didn’t have a key you see and…”

The creature continued to struggle, grinding its teeth unpleasantly.

“Do something!” Albertina shouted. “I can’t stand here forever.”

Sam reached into his pocket and carefully drew out a small object, wrapped in a piece of oily rag. He opened the rag and held it out in front of the creature. “Here now, this is gold.”

“A real gold coin?” Albertina whispered, glancing at Sam in awe.

“Gold!” The creature groped the air with its long, grimy fingers. “Give me.”

Sam tossed the coin toward the creature. It caught it in its hand and started to laugh, but the laugh became a scream. The creature suddenly went limp. Albertina pulled the broom away gingerly. The creature’s body started to fade until all that remained of the creature was a dark stain on the floor.

Albertina crouched down, searching the floor. “Where’s the coin?”

But that too had disappeared.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

In case you were wondering about the tokoloshe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tikoloshe

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A Basic Guide to Twitter Pitch Parties

I know a couple of folk who are up for #PitMad tomorrow – good luck to you guys!
Here’s some useful advice should anyone be considering entering a future contest, plus a bit about the etiquette on how to respond to people’s pitches on Twitter.

Jo Conklin

If you’re a writer on Twitter, every now and then your feed is going to blow up with book blurbs for a day. If you’re wondering what the heck is going on, the answer is…a pitch party. This is an event where writers share a one-tweet length description of a completed book, in hopes of attracting an agent or publisher.

I’m not pitching..what do I do!?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but DO NOT LIKE PITCH PARTY POSTS. Agents and industry professionals use the like button to indicate interest in a pitch. YOU, as a friend, should show your support with comments and retweets ONLY. Re-tweeting raises the post’s visibility, and it becomes more likely to catch an agent’s eye. It’s also a great way to make new friends and build your following.

I want to pitch!  What do I need to get ready?

Remember, a pitch party is a way to…

View original post 765 more words

Tell the Story Challenge #4

000Tell the story prompt from The Haunted Wordsmith

Teresa, The Haunted Wordsmith – nominated me to participate in the Tell The Story Challenge a week or so ago (this one slipped down the back of my desk temporarily).
This is the photo for the challenge.

The rules:
Write a story about the picture you’re given.
Select 3 nominees.
Give them a new picture.


Georgie’s secret

Georgie is a trusting kind of kid; obedient too. Each Saturday morning he dutifully departs to his piano practice with elderly eccentric Zephaniah Zimmerman, even though the open maw of the grand piano, with its great grinning gnashers, smirks at his inability to transverse their scales.

He’s always very smartly turned out, although his mother’s sartorial choices are not to everybody’s taste. Including Georgie’s. But even at the tender age of six, he rises above the taunts and sniggers.

That’s because Georgie has a secret. He leads a double life. Georgie disappears into other worlds.

You see, Georgie reads books.


Despite the rules to nominate three people, I think this time I’ll just throw it open and see what comes back.

What’s the story behind this old photo? I could tell you…

MISS ARNOLD

A Nick in Time – Chapter Eight

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Bryony guessed that she had blacked out, not having ever done so before, she wasn’t sure, but she had the sense of time having passed while she’d felt herself falling and falling for ages. She hadn’t remembered landing which was strange. She lifted her head and looked around. Where was Bethany? She’d fallen over her and almost landed on top of her before she’d passed out.

Feeling no ill-effects of her fall, Bryony got to her feet and looked about her. Although she couldn’t put her finger on it, the wood seemed somehow different. She listened, but there was no sound other than the usual twittering of birds and humming of insects. Surely Bethany wouldn’t have gone off and left her lying on the ground?

Then she noticed the line of bent over sticks and knotted grasses at the side of the track which led deeper into the wood. The signs they’d used to mark their way a few weeks ago. But these weren’t the same ones, the damaged vegetation would have wilted and died. These had been made very recently. It must have been Bethany.

Following the markers, Bryony moved through the wood as hastily as she could. The path sloped downwards and she was pretty sure that this was the same path they’d followed previously. The tree canopy opened up and Bryony found herself in the clearing. She stared about. There was no sign of anyone else. She was sure that this was the place to which Bethany had brought her before, but now the ruins they’d found were complete buildings, although not as Bethany had described them. The stone work was blackened and parts of the roofs were gone.

Bryony walked silently past the front of the small, squat stone structure which Bethany had described as William’s workshop; as she turned past the corner of the building she saw the house, her sister was standing outside staring through the door opening. She hurried towards her. Bethany turned round, her face was white. Bryony looked inside the house.

There had been a fire; and recently. The sticky smell of smoke clung in the air. Bryony peered into the gloom of the interior. The whole inside of the building had been burned. All that Bryony could see that remained was a large iron cooking pot which had rolled away from the fireplace, and a few stumps of a badly charred table.

Bryony pulled her sister towards her, dragging her away into the open air. “Come on,” Bryony said gently. “Let’s sit down for a moment.”

Bethany was sobbing. “But this is William and Ellen’s house; where I came the time before.”

Bryony’s mind was racing. The fire had not long burned out. There was no sign of the inhabitants; if it had been an accident, surely they’d still be around. And if it hadn’t been an accident..?

“Shush,” Bryony said quickly. She was sure she’d heard shouts, men’s voices and horses’ hooves striking the ground hard. “Listen.” She turned her head towards the noises, and looked around. “I don’t think it’s safe here. We need to get away.”

They stood up, wondering where to run. The sound of the hooves was getting louder. A horse snorted and they heard a man cry out.

“Quick. Behind the house.” Bryony grabbed her sister’s hand and they ran around the back of the damaged building.

Seconds later the clearing was full of stomping horses. The girls cowered under the window at the back of the house.

A man shouted. “Where did he go?” Another voice: “Search the buildings.”

Bethany gasped; Bryony held her tight. Over her shoulder she saw something moving in the bushes. A boy’s head appeared; his eyes wild and startled. He looked straight at Bryony, who froze, clinging on to her sister. Bryony was aware of more shouting at the front of the house. The men were arguing. She focused on the boy’s face. It was scratched and dirty, his hair was dishevelled and his collar was torn. He looked to left and right, then beckoned to her, nodding and mouthing words to her.

Bethany twisted around to see what Bryony was looking at. She gasped her surprise. The boy beckoned with greater urgency. At the front of the building the shouting stopped.

Then suddenly, they heard the order. “Find him! Spread out! He’s got to be here somewhere.” The voice was harsh; the accent strange to Bryony’s ears. She looked at Bethany and nodded. They scrabbled into the bushes and followed the boy as he disappeared deep into the undergrowth.

He moved rapidly and the girls struggled to keep up. But they did. The men’s shouts as they rode around the glade on heavy-hoofed horses spurred them on. Low branches tugged at their hair and their clothes, while brambles scratched their bare legs. They stumbled over roots and crawled over logs for what seemed an age. The boy glanced back a couple of times to check on their progress, but he didn’t slacken the pace. Finally they came to a steep bank, where he stopped.

“Get ourselves over that,” he nodded at the bank, “they’ll not follow. A bit further on there’s a place where we can stop and talk.”

The girls weren’t used to climbing but he showed them how to use the tree roots as hand and foot holds and they soon managed to clamber up. A series of rocky outcrops on the other side made it easy enough for the girls to scramble down.

“Follow me,” the boy said. The girls obeyed, picking their way along the rock-strewn path. Both were grateful to still be wearing their sturdy outdoor shoes from their morning walk into the village. A little further along he stopped again and led them down another dip in the land to a wide flat slab of stone at the entrance to a cave.

The boy flopped down on the ground just inside the cave. The girls followed his example, leaning back against the smooth cave walls. “That was a close call,” he said. “I thought me goose was well and truly cooked.”

“Do you know William and Ellen…who lived in the house?” Bethany looked at the boy with her round blue eyes.

“Aye, bad business that. I hope they got away and weren’t…” The boy shook his head. “Decent folk, both of them; too decent not to stand up to Lord Childecott and his men, and that’s where it got them.” The boy spat on the ground. The girls grimaced. He looked from one girl to the other. “Sorry; where’s me manners?” He sat up straight and raised his cap which by some miracle had remained on his head during their flight through the undergrowth. His dirty brown hair tumbled over his face. “I’m Toby Lacey, from the Valley. Though maybe not for much longer if those riders catch me; I’m not exactly popular there no more. Not to thems who’s in charge there now.” He put his head on one side. “You’re not from these parts are you? But we’ll get to that. What’s yer names anyway?”

Bryony spoke up. “I’m Bryony Grayson and this is my sister Bethany.” She glanced at her sister. “I think we’re quite a long way from home.” Bryony looked down at her hands which were covered in scratches and encrusted with dried mud.

“Pleased to meet yer both.” He drew up his knees and rested his elbows on them. “Well, judging by the style of those dresses, you’re certainly not from round here.” He scrutinised each of them. “Fine cloth too. Who’s your family?”

“We’re from the other side of the woods, but our parents are far away in another country. I’m not sure where we are now.” Bryony looked at Toby’s clothing more closely. “Or when.” She muttered.

“Now you have got me foxed,” said Toby. “But no matter, if you were friends with William and Ellen, you’re on the right side of the fence, if you know what I mean.” He touched his nose with his forefinger. “You’re educated too, by the sound of yer.” He shook his head. “Educating girls and women. Something else which Lord Childecott don’t approve of, although my sister will be impressed.” Toby grinned. “She’s still down in the Valley, but I reckon her days there are numbered. She’s the apothecary. He don’t like that either.”

“Please,” Bethany said quietly, “I want to go home.” Bryony put her arm around her. “Don’t worry, we’ll find our way back.” She looked up at Toby hopefully.

“I wouldn’t risk going back there for a while. Childecott’s men are all over the woods. Best lie low for a while. Tell you what, you come with me, we’ll skirt around to the east, then creep down into the Valley to my sister’s; she’ll know what to do for the best.”

Bethany looked up at Bryony. “But what about Astra?”

“There’s another one of you back there?” Toby shot a glance back the way they’d come.

“Astra’s our cat, she ran off into the woods after a rabbit and we were chasing her. She got stuck up a tree.” She turned to Bethany and squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sure Astra will be home by now and looking for her supper.”

Toby nodded. “Cats always land on their feet. And they don’t need to worry about Lord Childecott.” He jumped up. “Come on, follow me. We’ll see what Issell has for our supper. We just have to be very careful that we’re not spotted. Because if we are…” he left the sentence unfinished.

©2019 Chris Hall

/next chapter


From my latest work-in-progressWhat do you think? I’d really appreciate your feedback.

Space Cadets

Hanson Lu on Unsplash
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

We peer out at the blank, barren landscape. Having landed, we’re not sure where we are. Or for that matter, ‘when’ we are. That’s the problem if you borrow the Professor’s Special Space Machine without asking.

But she’d shown it to us, tempted us. That’s the problem with having someone like the Professor coaching you for entry to the Space Academy.

But hold on, who’s that up ahead? Look, she’s waving.

We hurry forward into the bleak barrenness, but before we reach her, there is an ear-splitting sound. Everything goes black.

Later, when we come round, we are strapped into hard, upright seats facing a large spherical console. The Professor is standing opposite us.

We start to speak, but she holds up her hand for silence. “I’m sorry. I know you wanted to join the Space Academy, but I’m afraid the Great Zyborgatron has other plans.” She smiles weakly. “He did grant me one last request, however.”

Plates of burgers and chips materialize before us. We look at her; what did she say?

“Well go on,” she urges, indicating the food.

We eat. We devour the lot. It’s the best burger and chips we’ve ever had.

Then everything goes black.


 

Written in response to The Haunted Wordsmith’sMain March Madness‘ 

Tell the Story Challenge #3

Tell the Story NOMINATION from A Pause for Nature Lunasonline

SanaHA Pause for Naturenominated me to participate in the Tell The Story Challenge. This is the photo for the challenge.

The rules:
Write a story about the picture you’re given.
Select 3 nominees.
Give them a new picture.


The Sealed City

‘You’re new here, aren’t you?’

He nods.

‘You see the city over there. It looks like any other city, doesn’t it?’

He frowns and shakes his head. ‘But it’s not; I heard. That’s why I’m here. I’m a writer.’

They sit down.

‘I heard there’s no way in or out. That, although you can’t see it from here, there’s a cordon, an impenetrable ring of steel around the whole perimeter.’

She nods. ‘Since the virus struck.’

He leans towards her. ‘Is it true about the virus? Everyone who catches it becomes some kind of monster?’

‘That’s what they say. Flesh eating monsters and worse.’

The writer’s eyes widen. ‘But the whole thing’s been contained? I mean, no way in and no way out.’

She leans forward and grabs his wrist. Her hand is very cold and her grip is strong. ‘Don’t be so sure.’ She smiles, pulling his arm closer.


I hope these three guys will up for this challenge: 

Sandmanjazz

A Guy called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip

Fangango: This, That and The Other

Flowers Beating by Walter Molino - picture prompt

Flowers Beating by Walter Molino

 

A Nick in Time – Chapter Seven

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Lessons continued in the school room every weekday morning. The afternoons were devoted to a selection of pastimes; outdoors if possible or else in Papa’s library, ‘for a change of scenery from the schoolroom’, Mr Eyre had proclaimed as he darted about the room. One rainy afternoon, Mr Eyre had attempted to teach them all knitting but, as Hodge had pointed out, the girls were actually rather better at it than he was. Mr Eyre simply didn’t have the ability to sit still for long enough. He would spring up from his seat in the middle of the row to consult a book or demonstrate something about a topic which he and the girls were discussing. Stitches would unravel from his needles and he would be forced to start again.

Next he found a book about knots in the library. After a couple of afternoons’ practice, each had mastered the intricacies of the sheep-shank, reef knot, half-hitch and more. “You never know when a skill like this might come in handy. I mean, we might have to tie up a runaway horse!” Mr Eyre had exclaimed to a sceptical Hodge when she came upon them in the garden tethering the wheel barrow to the garden bench with a length of Mr Eyre’s abandoned knitting wool.

Of course, as any kitten would, Astra loved the twine and wool that they were using, tugging and pulling at any stray piece which came her way. The little black cat was devoted to Bethany and had taken to following her wherever she went anywhere outside, and every afternoon, just before teatime the two of them would ‘take a turn about the garden’. “Very Jane Austen,” Mr Eyre had remarked.

“That cat’s done Miss Bethany the world of good,” Hodge observed, as they watched the young girl and her little cat wander around the garden one afternoon. “She doesn’t seem to be missing her Mama and Papa nearly so much.”

The following Saturday, Mr Eyre had an errand to run in the village and invited the girls to accompany him. Hodge had several things she’d like them to fetch too, so off they went with their empty baskets and a list which Bryony had made out to make sure they didn’t forget anything. Astra had accompanied them to the end of the driveway, but Bethany had spoken to her firmly and seemingly the cat had understood, remaining perched on top of one the large, square gate posts like a miniature Egyptian statue when they turned out of the drive and into the lane.

Weaverton village was a pleasant fifteen minute walk from Bluebell Wood House. The narrow lane was lined with leafy hedgerows where insects buzzed. “We collected blackberries and elderberries for jam along here last year, Mr Eyre.” Bryony pointed out a row of tall bramble bushes. “Look Bethany, there are so many again, and they’ll be ripe soon.”

“And did you eat as many as you picked?” Mr Eyre said, laughing as he rummaged about in the bushes, examining the fruit. “I know I did as a boy.”

“Do they have blackberries in London?” asked Bethany.

“Well, not in the city itself, apart from in some of the parks. But I grew up in Kent. I only went to London later on when I became a tutor.”

They walked a little further. “So tell me, ladies of the flowering vine and house of figs, what other useful plants can we find here in the hedgerows?” He rubbed his chin. “You know we really should’ve brought a flora.”

“A flora?”

“Yes, you know, Miss Bryony, a book for identifying flowering plants. No doubt your Papa has such a volume in his collection?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure he has.”

Mr Eyre plucked a couple of likely samples from the hedge and tossed them into Bethany’s basket. He crouched before her, eyes wide with enthusiasm. “Maybe you could try drawing some of them?”

Bethany nodded happily.

“And I could label them,” added Bryony.

“Splendid idea,” Mr Eyre exclaimed, rising swiftly to his feet and waving his forefinger in the air. “Using the original Latin names, of course.” He spun around and pointed down the lane. “Now let us press on into the village.”

The lane broadened out at the crossroads at the edge of the village which boasted a line of neat brick cottages arrayed around the village green. There were couple of stone water troughs for passing horses and, much to Mr Eyre’s delight, the old village stocks, which fortunately were padlocked shut, or otherwise, no doubt, he would have felt himself obliged to demonstrate.

The post office and general store was on the far side of the green. Mr Eyre lengthened his stride on seeing his objective to such an extent that the girls had difficulty keeping up with him.

A little bell sounded as Mr Eyre opened the shop door. Rosy-cheeked Mrs Gilbert was standing behind the post office counter. She greeted the two girls warmly and asked when they were next expecting a letter from their parents. “So exciting dealing with post from such a distance!” she exclaimed. Bryony answered politely and swiftly introduced Mr Eyre, who she noticed was twitching with impatience.

He rubbed his hands together. “Mrs Gilbert, delighted to make your acquaintance; tell me, have you a package for me? I am expecting one.”

“Likewise I’m sure, Mr Eyre, I’ll have a look in the back.” Mrs Gilbert bustled through into the storeroom. A few moments later she returned with a parcel almost the size of a shoe box neatly-wrapped in brown paper. She looked at it inquisitively, peering up at Mr Eyre from behind her half-moon glasses.

“May I?” Mr Eyre put his hand out.

“An intriguing parcel from my newest customer. What can it be?” she said speculatively.

“Aha, you will have to wait and see, Mrs G.” Mr Eyre replied, touching the side of his nose. He turned to the girls: “Miss Bryony, Miss Bethany, will you accompany me further?”

“Well I never did. Not a word of an answer,” said Mrs Gilbert as they left the shop.

“Onward to Mr Fenton,” announced Mr Eyre as he sallied forth. The girls exchanged glances as he strode away from Mrs Gilbert’s curious eyes.

“You have it then?” said Mr Fenton as they entered The Weaverton Dispensary.

“I do,” Mr Eyre held up the parcel. “I’ve just collected it from Mrs Gilbert. She was so desperate to know what was inside; I couldn’t resist not telling her,” he said grinning widely.

Mr Fenton chuckled. “That’s Ida Gilbert for you.”

Bryony and Bethany looked at each other. Bryony raised her eyebrows and Bethany looked as though she was about to speak when Mr Eyre placed the parcel on Mr Fenton’s counter and started to unwrap it. “So, Mr Fenton, what do you think?” Mr Eyre removed the brown paper. Inside was a box labelled ‘Eastman Kodak Brownie Camera’. With reverential care he drew out a small rectangular case with a handle on the top and a small round glass window at one end. The two men gazed at the object. Mr Eyre turned to the girls. “This is my new toy; a very special present to myself. It’s a camera.”

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” said Mr Fenton.

“Indeed. Now all I have to do is figure out how to use it.”

“What does it do?” asked Bethany, looking at the object with her head on one side.

“Why, it takes photographs, of course.” Mr Eyre picked it up and pointed it at her, squinting through the viewfinder. “Smile!”

“It’s not like the one Mr Craddock had when he did our portraits before Mama and Papa went away.”

“No, Miss, that’s the beauty of it,” said Mr Fenton leaning forward on the counter. “It’s small, easy to carry and easy to use. The exposure time is so much shorter,” he saw Bryony’s puzzled look. “It takes a photo in just a jiffy.” He turned to Mr Eyre. “You have film, of course?”

Mr Eyre took two small, bright yellow boxes with the word ‘Kodak’ written in red on the sides out of the wrapper and held them up. “Two rolls.”

“You’ll need the wherewithal to develop your pictures. I have the chemicals if you need them, although I’m sure old Craddock with help you out if you ask him.”

“I thought it might be rather fun to set up a darkroom of our own.” Mr Eyre looked at the girls, who stared back at him blankly. “Well, first things first; I’ll need to take some pictures with it.”

“I’ll be interested see how you get on.” Mr Fenton reached under the counter. “Here’s the book on photography, I promised to lend you.”

Mr Eyre bowed his thanks and gathered up his new camera, pocketing the two reels of film. “Right-ho, Mr Fenton, we still have some errands to complete. We’ll bid you good morning.”

The two girls hurried off with their baskets and Hodge’s shopping list while Mr Eyre sat on a bench at the edge of the village green and started to peruse the instructions for his new Box Brownie.

The girls darted ahead on the way back. Mr Eyre strode after them so engrossed in his camera, that they had to come back and help untangle him when he got caught up in an overhanging branch. When they arrived home Astra was waiting for them by the gate. She immediately started twining herself around Bethany’s legs to such an extent that she had to hand her basket to Mr Eyre so she could pick the kitten up and carry her.

After lunch they took a basket with the samples, the plant book and drawing materials up to the orchard. It was far too nice a day to be working inside, and Mr Eyre was keen to take some shots with his camera now he had loaded the film. 

As they passed through the gate he remarked. “You know, there’s something I’m very keen to take an image of,” he paused and scanned the orchard, shading his eyes with his hand. “The other morning when I was out for a stroll I saw the most curious-looking rabbit.”

“A rabbit, Mr Eyre?” asked Bryony.

Mr Eyre nodded. “Of course I’ve seen rabbits before, but never one with green fur.”

The girls exchanged glances.

“Oh, my word, look,” Mr Eyre cried, pointing. “There he goes!”

Just then Astra shot past them through the gate, chasing at full pelt after the rabbit.

“Astra!” Bethany dropped the basket and scampered after the kitten. Bryony hurried after her.

“Wait!” Mr Eyre took out his camera and fiddled with the settings before joining in the chase.

Bethany and Bryony reached the bluebell clearing just in time to see the rabbit leap over the fallen log. Astra, meanwhile, was clinging to the uppermost branches of the tree above it, mewing piteously. The girls charged forward, Bethany calling anxiously to the kitten. It was then that she tripped and fell. Bryony, with no time to stop or change direction, landed on top of her sister. She seemed to be falling for a long time, then everything went black.

©2019 Chris Hall

On to the next chapter


From my latest work-in-progress. What do you think? I’d really appreciate your feedback.