#writephoto — The Escape

32822C61-0B6C-44EF-ADA0-A0B9485F960EArthur had lost track of time. He couldn’t remember how long he’d been held captive in the castle’s dungeon. It could have been months, it could have been years. He was thin and weak, but he was determined, somehow, to escape from his confinement. Or to die trying. He planned and schemed and had finally devised an approach that might actually enable him to break out.

He knew he didn’t have the strength to directly challenge the single guard who delivered the one meal he was served each day. But Arthur had managed to painstakingly remove one of the thick, wooden slats from his bed frame beneath the thin mattress. He figured that when the guard came into his cell and set down the tray of food, he would summon up all the strength his frail body could muster and would hit the guard in the head with the heavy wooden slat.

The day to execute his escape plan arrived, and when the guard turned his back on Arthur in order to set the food tray on the table on the other side of the small cell, Arthur pulled the slat out from under the mattress and, with adrenaline coursing through his veins, he swung the slat into the air and smashed it down on top of the guard’s head. Arthur stared at the lifeless body on the stone floor, stepped over it, and for the first time in, well, months or possibly years, he stood outside of his cell.

With his heart pounding heavily inside his chest, Arthur made his way to the stone steps that led up to the ground floor of the castle. He spotted a narrow archway that led to the outside, but Arthur hesitated. He crouched in the dark hall just inside the archway to calm his breathing and to allow his eyes adjust to the brightness of the daylight that he hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

As his heart rate returned to normal and his eyes began to adjust, Arthur saw a stone outbuilding across a manicured lawn and garden. He saw a large, wooden door in the outbuilding, which he assumed was locked. But he also noticed a rectangular window to the left of the door that he felt sure his now emaciated body could fit through.

Arthur took a deep breath, left the confines of the castle, and stepped out onto the path toward the outbuilding. He slowly and stealthily made his way to the outbuilding and began to crawl through the window opening in the building’s thick, stone wall.

As he reached the inside of the outbuilding and stepped down from the window, Arthur saw a table to the right of the large wooden door. Seated around the table were three guards, all now staring at the intruder. They jumped up out of their chairs and surrounded Arthur.

Arthur had nothing left. He fell into a heap on the floor, crying. One of the guards lifted Arthur up, carried him over to the table, sat him down in a chair, and offered him some water and some food. The guard who had helped Arthur to the table said, “You’re the prisoner in the cell in the castle’s dungeon, are you not?”

Arthur acknowledged that the guard was correct. “How did you get out?” he asked Arthur, and Arthur told the guard the details of his escape.

“It’s a shame,” the guard said. “The Duke of the realm, the man responsible for your imprisonment, died yesterday and you were to be freed tomorrow. But now that you’ve murdered one of our fellow guards, we have no choice but to take you back to your cell, where you will likely spend the rest of your life.”

Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.

#writephoto — Burned in Effigy

F4AD6DA9-7EA0-4185-98F1-32EC6712AF8FThere once was a time, not that long ago, when all witches were good, helpful, charitable, and benevolent. They were highly regarded by the villagers and their beneficial and healing spells and potions were welcomed by the townspeople.

But as it is with human nature, there were some witches who began to use their skills for more nefarious purposes. They would cast spells to do evil things and they would create potions that caused harm, and in some cases, even death, rather than to heal.

As the ranks of these wicked witches grew and tales of their treachery spread far and wide, the villagers that once held the witches in high regard unsurprisingly turned against them. Because, as we all know, the bad deeds of the few are almost always of more interest to the masses than the good deeds of the many.

Pretty soon, angry mobs began rounding up all of the witches, regardless of whether they were benevolent, good witches or malevolent, evil ones.

Eventually, all of the witches were subjected to trials where the outcome was always that they were guilty of practicing wicked witchcraft. They were either hanged, drowned, or burned at the stake.

There was an incident one night, however, when the last three surviving witches, who were jailed and were awaiting trial, somehow managed to escape from their cell. They were last seen fleeing, still chained to one another, through the fields outside of town. But before they could be apprehended, they seemed to have vanished into thin air.

The village leaders decided that, since they were unable to properly burn the three missing witches at the stake, they would, instead, build life-sized models of the three witches made out of tree branches and use the models to burn the witches in effigy.

But when the townspeople attempted to set the models on fire, the wood branches would not catch fire. They just smoldered, filling the air in and around the village with a putrid smell.

To this very day, those indestructible three witches crafted from tree branches stand in that same field outside of the village, a monument to, and a reminder of, the dark days when people were judged not by who they were but by what they believed.

Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.

#writephoto — Military Brat

210B7B0E-56CF-48D1-AF81-0BD9FDD689CDEd paused in front of the group of trees, admiring their long, spread out roots. He sighed and thought about how he much envied those trees for their roots. He thought about how his family had relocated every few years when he was growing up. He had been what was called a “military brat.”

His father was career army and was frequently transferred to different army bases before he retired after thirty years of service. For Ed, that meant being uprooted, being separated from his friends, being sent to a new school, and pretty much having to start his life all over every couple of years.

He had always felt rootless as he was growing up. He became a bit standoffish, almost to the point of being a loner. Not because he wasn’t an affable kid, but because he knew that as soon as he got really close to anyone, he’d have to say goodbye and move with his family to a different state. That was difficult for him as well as for those other kids he had befriended.

Ed promised himself that, as an adult, he wouldn’t keep uprooting himself and his own family. If he ever got married and had kids, he told himself that he would not put them through what he had gone through. He would stay in one place and give himself and his children the chance to establish roots. That was the plan, anyway.

But Ed found himself easily bored. Bored with his job. Bored with his wife. Bored with his life. Every few years, he would look for a new job in a different city or a different state. The first few times it happened, his wife and daughter went with him. But when he told his wife for the third time in seven years that a great new job opportunity in another state had surfaced, she refused to follow him.

Ed left his wife and his daughter behind, moved to a new city, began a new job, and started his life over. And he did that again and again.

Now an old man, Ed had left behind three ex-wives. He had five children from whom he was estranged. He had grandchildren, too, but he wasn’t sure how many because and he’d never met any of them. He had lost touch with his wives and kids over the years and now they were spread all around the county, while Ed, who never made any close friends, was totally alone in the world.

Ed looked at the long, spread out roots of those trees and thought about how different his life might have been if he, like those trees, had stayed in one place and been able to establish strong roots.

Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.

#writephoto —Tudor Fixer-Upper

121AFF2B-15EF-4063-BD8A-E6588A0C9F14“You said you were interested in a large Tudor-style home and that you didn’t mind a bit of a fixer-upper,” the broker explained to her client as the two of them stood on the street looking at the house she wanted him to see. “And it’s within your budget, too.”

Douglas stared at the house. “First of all,” he said, “Whoever built this place went a little overboard in trying to achieve the Tudor look, don’t you think? The whole facade is just garish and overdone.”

“Yes, well, the home was built nearly 200 years ago and for some rich people back then, an ornate, over-the-top style was thought to be a tribute to their great wealth. Besides, that’s an easy fix,” the broker said. “It’s just cosmetic.”

“Maybe so,” Douglas said, “but the house looks uneven, like parts of it are sinking into the ground. That generally means there are foundation issues, which are far from cosmetic.”

“True, but not insurmountable,” the broker insisted. “You should really let me show you inside the house. I promise you’ll be impressed.  And,” she added, “the owner is very eager to sell.”

“Yeah, I bet he is eager to sell,” Douglas said, “before the whole structure collapses in on itself. I’ll pass on this one. What else can you show me?”

Written for the Thursday Photo Prompt challenge from Sue Vincent.

#writephoto — The Trough in the Forest

C50AAC45-C2CE-4C35-81CB-4F5CA58E3452“Hey guys, get over here. You gotta see what I’ve stumbled upon,” Leo yelled.

“Keep your pants on, Leo,” Dwight yelled back as he and two other schoolmates headed over to where Leo was standing.

Donny was the first one to reach Leo. “Jesus, what is that thing?” he asked.

“It looks like a trough of some sort,” Jeff said when he caught up to Dwight and Donny.

“Or a grave or tomb,” Leo said, affecting a spooky tone.

“It’s not a grave,” Jeff said. “If this was an old cemetery, there would be other graves, but there aren’t any others.”

“So what is it then?” Leo asked. “It’s about the dimensions of a grave.”

Donny picked up long, narrow tree branch he found on the ground, stood over the opening, and started poking at the ground in the hole. “What the hell are you doing, Donny?” Dwight asked.

“I want to see how deep it is and if I hit anything solid, like a casket,” Donny said.

Just as he said that, a cold, smoky mist started coming up from the hole. The four boys stepped back and watched in horror as the mist thickened and took on an almost human-like shape. The boys would have run, but they were unable to move, as if frozen in place.

“Who dares disturb my slumber?” a deep, haunting voice that seemed to be coming from the mist asked.

“We didn’t mean to, sir,” Leo said. “We didn’t know this was your resting place.”

“Silence!” bellowed the voice. “You have awakened me after more than a century of the restless sleep of the undead! You shall pay with your lives!” Then the smoke took on a blood red hue.

Dwight grabbed Leo, Leo grabbed Jeff, and Jeff grabbed Donny. “Run!” Dwight shouted as the boys took off running.

What they couldn’t hear as they ran for their lives was the laughter of their schoolmate, Billy, who was hiding behind a tree. “It’s amazing what you can do with a smoke machine, a microphone wirelessly linked to a speaker by bluetooth, a light bar, and a remote control device,” he chuckled.

Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.