The Bell-ringer

A short story of 100 words (for Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers using photo prompt) and in six sentences (for GirlieonEdge’s Six Sentence Story, “knot”).

photo prompt © Dale Rogerson

The Bell-ringer

Remember the bell-ringer, Sundar!
Mummy, just now I’m trying to find . . . !

There once was a bell-ringer whose job it was to . . .
ring the bell at dawn announcing Christmas.

He was born without . . .
no, born with a heart of gold that shone . . .
and stomach in knots he’d walk remembering Christ Jesus,
all alone, in the dark town
past sleeping people.

Look up, Sundar, you’re almost there and . . .
I can see you, Mummy, I can see you!

———
NEWS ALERT: Elderly man found dead in church bell-tower.

Giovanni Segantini – The Bell Ringer, 1879-80. Image via Arthur Digital Museum.
Continue reading “The Bell-ringer”

Journeying on Geryon

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot
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Journeying on Geryon

Dante’s Inferno lies open as I sleep.

On winged Geryon we descend into the infernal sublime of fraudsters, flatterers, the treacherous, their earth-borne bullshit stench exceeded here by that of countless privies.

Geryon’s human face seems kindly, despite his serpentine body and scorpion tail, and I ask: “Geryon, will I recognize anyone in the Malebolge, this place of stone?”

He, answering sweetly in steady meter: “Nay, why, for art thou not too clever for such?”

I relax, then gasp, as he drops me in the mire.

Alas, it’s not as one living but as one damned to her final destination.


Illustration by Gustave Doré 1867, The Flight of Geryon.

In Canto XVII of Dante’s Inferno, the pilgrim Dante and the poet Virgil, his guide, ride on the back of the monster Geryon to descend from the seventh to the eighth circle of hell in the third ring of hell, the Malebolge. It is described in this way in the next canto:

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
made all of stone the color of crude iron,
as is the wall that makes its way around it.

Right in the middle of this evil field
is an abyss, a broad and yawning pit,
whose structure I shall tell in its due place.

The belt, then, that extends between the pit
and that hard, steep wall’s base is circular;
its bottom has been split into ten valleys.

Just as, where moat on surrounds a castle
in order to keep guard upon the walls,
the ground they occupy will form a pattern,

so did the valleys here form a design;
and as such fortresses have bridges running
right from their thresholds toward the outer bank,

so here, across the banks and ditches, ridges
ran from the base of that rock wall until
the pit that cuts them short and joins them all.

This was the place in which we found ourselves
when Geryon had put us down; the poet
held to the left, and I walked at his back.

The Divine Comedy – tr. Mandelbaum – Cantica I – Canto XVIII
Sandro Botticelli (1480), Inferno, Canto XVIII

Come Hell or High Water (A Very Short Story)

Written for Sadje’s WDYS #157 photo prompt and Sammi’s Day 5 prompt of 13 Days of Samhain. Thanks to both for their inspiration to write this short story. Do check out Sammi Cox’s amusing serial mystery featuring Damon, the caretaker of a graveyard full of undead inhabitants. Click here for part 1. You won’t be disappointed.

She grew up looking at the world sideways, knowing if she saw it head-on she’d only see the mask, not the face outlined behind it. Better the warm, blemished skin than the plastic over it.

Never took anyone too seriously, neither. Not worth the trouble and trouble was all that ever brought. Better to know they’d break their word than be surprised when they did.

People wondered why she was always so placid. Why? Because she was never disappointed. And however bad folks were, they could be worse. However good they were today, it really didn’t pay to think they’d be the same tomorrow.

When the Imp came along, she adjusted. She was stuck with it. One day she opened her eyes and there it sat, twisting every nerve and joint in her body till it brought tears to her eyes.

She asked God about it. She said she felt like Job. And then she ended up covering her mouth like Job did when she realized there were things she didn’t need to know as long as God did.

The Imp turned the screws on her off and on. “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” it would say, as her footsteps got slower and slower. Then she’d get better. Then she’d get worse.

But she stopped looking at people sideways. “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” they’d tease, and bring her a pumpkin-face latte when she couldn’t get up in the morning.

The Imp kept up its mischief. They kept up their love. She kept thanking God for setting her straight, come hell or high water.


1 Corinthians 13:3-7, 12-13 (NIV)
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. …
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Image credit: Valeriia @ Pexels

The Structure of Things

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Feeling a little ambitious today with three prompts for the price of one: Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneer’s photo prompt (100-word story), Sammi’s 13 Days of Samhain (“The Cheek of the Devil”) and Thursday’s Six Sentence Story (“Structure”). Enjoy!

Word/Sentence Count: 100 words/6 sentences; Genre: Fiction

The Structure of Things

“Mom, that lady was rude and you just let her walk without telling her off!!”

Ruth considers her outraged child.

She picks up the broken glass structure at her feet, says quietly, “I’ve always taught you to turn the other cheek, haven’t I? Someone’s got to be the first to take the hate, stop it from spreading, and I can, because Christ gives me that power.”

“But Mom, if you keep turning the other cheek, it just keeps getting bloodied!”

“Like our Master’s on the cross, and whose cheek would you rather have, Christ’s or the cheek of the Devil?”


Matthew 5:38-45:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Tales from the Beyond: Woodbury Piles No. 13

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Genre: Horror
Word Count: 100

Tales from the Beyond: Woodbury Piles No. 13

M.R. of Woodbury is “E-tonic” to Oxbridge friends. He retires nightly with a tonic, his Eton tie, and an e-book of M.R. James, his namesake, until McQuin, his uncommonly phlegmatic valet, comes to softly extinguish the lights. McQuin says he has “the mind of a nice child.”

Tonight he reads, “saw someone crawling towards him on all fours with his eye hanging out on his cheek,” when he does. See someone. Like that.

“McQuin, when you’ve husbanded the modicum of blood left in you . . . ” he says.

Just before McQuin slips its thin arms round his neck.


Today’s tale brought to you by the inspiration of that master of horror, M.R. James, whose story, “The Mezzotint,” is happily alluded to.

Judgment Day

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photo prompt © Ted Strutz

Genre: Realism
Word Count: 100

Narrator: dorahak Background: Arctic White Noise and Wind (link)

Judgment Day

Cur Deus homo.* Why? Blindly, we sail past the pinnacle of what we could be.

The cruise ship Earth is all fun and games. Whether the fun intended causes others misery or not isn’t part of the equation. The equation only includes playing gods, every individual for himself, the rich richer, the poor poorer because they were losers. Losers become slaves because that’s how the game is played.

Like the pharaohs of old, we will take the living into hell with us.

Out across the ice, I see Frankenstein chasing his monster. And the worm turns.

Judgment Day.


*Cur Deus Homo (Latin for “Why a God Human?”), usually translated Why God Became a Man, is a book written by Anselm of Canterbury in the period of 1094–1098. In this work he proposes the satisfaction view of the atonement.

In its preface, Anselm gives his reason for writing the book:

I have been often and most earnestly requested by many, both personally and by letter, that I would hand down in writing the proofs of a certain doctrine of our faith, which I am accustomed to give to inquirers; for they say that these proofs gratify them, and are considered sufficient. This they ask, not for the sake of attaining to faith by means of reason, but that they may be gladdened by understanding and meditating on those things which they believe; and that, as far as possible, they may be always ready to convince any one who demands of them a reason of that hope which is in us.

Preface to Cur Deus Homo, transl. Sidney Dean in St. Anselm
The beginning of the Cur Homo‘s prologue, from a 12th-century manuscript held at Lambeth Palace

Trade-off

PHOTO PROMPT© Liz Young
Genre: Realism; Word count: 100
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Trade-off

— It looks fabulous!
— What does?
— Isn’t that heaven?
— Those are elevators.
— Can I go on one?
— No. You have to take the stairs. You don’t have a golden pass.
— Why not?
— You can’t afford it.
— But I have money!
— It’s not just money. It’s talking a certain way, shopping at the approved stores, socializing with the proper sort, voting for the prescribed party.
— Well, I’ll do all those things then.
— Okay. But first I have to tape your mouth shut, blindfold you, tie up your legs and lobotomize you.
— And then I’ll get to take the golden elevators?
— Yes.
— Okay.

Knowing Me, Knowing You

photo prompt © Krista Strutz

Knowing Me, Knowing You

I watched him.

Rather queer really, how his eyes held the same question as my nestlings when they dared to look over the edge of their eyrie.

Here was a grown man suddenly struck by the mystery of being: “I see the eagle. The eagle sees me. We see each other. Why?”

This man meant nothing to me yet I pitied him as he drifted past on his piece of wood.

I raised my pinions, taking flight on the warm current of wind. There was only one mystery that mattered: how to know the One who freely gave us life.

Genre: Realism; Word count: 100
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Waiting for Michaux-Perreaux

photo prompt: Brenda Cox

Read more about the Michaux-Perreaux here, a French bicycle company that later invented the steam velocipede, one of three precursors to the modern motorcycle. I chose Michaux-Perraux for its rhyming allusion to Godot in this semi-allegory.

Genre: allegory; Word count: 100
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Waiting For Michaux-Perreaux

Every day, after work, the old cleaning woman sat on the bench staring at the Michaux-Perraux half in, half out of the building’s side. She was as much an oddity as the bicycle. Sometimes she was seen wiping tears away. Usually she sat poised expectantly. Nothing ever happened. Then, bowing her head, she would walk slowly away.

One day, an earthquake shook the town. The building was evacuated. As everyone watched, debris began falling, the wall with the bicycle cracked, and people screamed and ran.

All except the old woman.

The bicycle fell loose. Smiling, she rode it home.

Untinned Djinns: The Tale of Oomani

Matthew So-Yohu had thought it was a day like any other when the unthinkable occurred. Pushing aside that inherent illogic, So-Yohu grimaced internally and continued his speech. His unnameable audience was transfixed. So-Yohu’s grimace grew. He felt it stretch within his soul like a rubber band as large as Archimedes’s hypothetical lever. Would the grimace grow until it exploded his soul’s natural capacities or would his soul expand in its turn to accommodate the increasing proportions of his grimace, thereby proving itself infinitely flexible, gargantuan, and monstrous?

At this point the grimace transformed into a grimmus, which in fact it had been all the time, and So-Yohu was able to relax. The grimmus, however, could not.

So-Yohu’s grimmus got to work at once, as all grimmuses are compelled to do. It began with an ordinary 16-oz can of tomato sauce that So-Yohu inexplicably Unknownpurchased on his way home from work. That was the unintentionally easy part since djinns can abide in anything but prefer the packaged effect. The intentionally easy part, of course, was summoning the djinn. Like cherries in an Anatolian cherry orchard after a moderately hard winter, plentiful spring rains, temperate sunshine, and only a modicum of infestation, djinns are everywhere. One doesn’t have to know where to look. The grimmus had only to choose. And that was the difficult part, though Who made it so, the grimmus knew very well.

So-Yohu’s grimmus did actually settle on one djinn but he ended up summoning another. Their little joke. But in cases like that and otherwise, the grimmus understood, the outcome was predetermined.

So the djinn claimed occupancy of the 16-oz tomato can that its owner, placidly unaware of its contents, carried in a large paper bag all the way into his domicile.

Continue reading “Untinned Djinns: The Tale of Oomani”