* A story inspired by this week’s Search Engine Stories prompt – the hill.
The moon had cow’s eyes. Soft and sad. Allie browsed the valley from her position on the hill. Amber lights glowed in windows. The smell of woodsmoke rose. If Allie squinted she could see the white grey furls of smoke coiling like springs in the dark sky.
In the sunlight she could stand on the hill, hold out her hands in the wind and see the bones fluttering. In the dark it was as if she had no hands at all, as if she had become shadow.
One night she had slept right there on the hill, sinking into the grass and wildflowers like an eiderdown. Nightsounds filled her head, moonbeams caressed her. She was perfectly safe.
Aidan had been angry with her in the morning. He had shouted. ‘You need help,’ he said. ‘Who sleeps on a hill at night?’ She knew he wasn’t angry out of concern for her, but out of fear of what other people would think if they saw her. Vagrant. Gypsy. Lunatic.
‘You’re just like your mother,’ he would say as the sky turned red and yellow with morning. ‘She was mad too.’
Allie’s mother hadn’t been mad – she just preferred outdoors to in; sleeping under trees, by rivers, in caves. She would have loved the hill, would have set up camp there; if she’d actually lived to see it. Allie wasn’t sure if she was as like her mother as Aidan said, but she remembered her best outside, the world spread out to the horizon from the hill.
Sometimes the birds sat with her. Watching as she did. They were her greatest companions. Allie was struck by the realisation that the creatures with the smallest hearts often had the largest souls.
When she walked in the city she saw people just like her, sleeping in doorways, in cardboard boxes, on park benches. She knew the ones not there by choice; panic flecked their eyes. The ones like her were content, tranquil with the wind on their faces.
She told Aidan about them but he scoffed. ‘They are losers,’ he said. ‘Hobos. How can you imagine you are anything like them? You have a home, a life. You have me. They have nothing.
Allie knew he was wrong. ‘They don’t have nothing, they have the sky like amethyst in their heads forever; the wind whispering like a human voice. Never-missed sunsets. Moss green nights,’ she wanted to say, but instead she retreated, running in the dusk to the only place she felt safe.
She slept, curved in the grass, feeling the world below. The gods of the night curlicued their wishes on her skin, her hair. In the morning she shone like glass. She walked back down to the house to eat, to wash. Aidan was gone.
Allie suspected he would not return. She had torn herself out of the world. She could not expect Aidan to follow.
That night Allie sat in indigo light watching a landscape of endings. Or perhaps beginnings. Starlight dripped, hexagons of silver paper falling from the sky. She heard the cry of a nightbird and the answering call of his brothers, joyful as a choir; watching as the sky unravelled in waves, serene as velvet; moving towards her.
Lovely this line- ‘Starlight dripped, hexagons of silver paper falling from the sky. She heard the cry of a nightbird and the answering call of his brothers, joyful as a choir; watching as the sky unravelled in waves, serene as velvet; moving towards her.’
Actually there are so many fantastic images in this story. Great characterisation of both Allie and Aidan.
It’s more common than you think … it’s called ‘bivvy-ing’ in the trade, and saves dragging a tent around with you.
Did you know, though, that, if you spend the night on Cadair Idris, you will be either a great poet or mad when you wake up?
Probably why there are so many mad poets about? 😀
sounds like Allie is enjoying her life outside, I think people should be outside more often if only to see the sunset or the trees or nature, but I guess that’s just talk, I couldn’t really understand what’s it’s like but I can guess it’s a freedom only those who knows can tell you
There are just some spirits that should never be captured in a cage to wilt and die. Some spirits just need to be free. Beautiful imagery Selma.
Do you ever write something that feels more like an observation than a story? That’s kind of how this one feels for me. I’m not sure about it.
Bivvying, eh? I didn’t know that. That bears a bit of looking into. And I didn’t know that about Cadair Idris either. Thanks so much for the info. Now I am intrigued!
I can’t imagine living outside permanently myself but I have spoken to some people who have said they felt being indoors was like being in prison. It’s a very interesting choice to make.
It’s true – some spirits do need to be free. That’s lovely!
>>Bivvying, eh? I didn’t know that. That bears a bit of looking into.<<
Army sleeping bags are designed for that very purpose … although most soldiers like to make a little shelter for themselves from their ponchos … theyre designed for that purpose, too.
I’ll have to try sleeping outside like that one day. It’ll go on my list of things to do before I die.
I love hearing about your time in the service. It really is incredibly interesting. I mean that sincerely.
I’ve done it. It’s cold, the ground is hard and bugs crawl into your sleeping bag. But in one of Travelrat’s army sleeping bags it might be OK.
“Do you ever write something that feels more like an observation than a story? That’s kind of how this one feels for me. I’m not sure about it”. Selma
I would say that what you have written is a plot less story filled with wonderful observations that I enjoyed reading.
What’s the difference between story and plot?
>>It’s cold, the ground is hard <<
You need a closed-cell sleeping mat; they cost about a £5. I (used to) use a Thermarest self-inflating mattress … it was expensive, but, IMO, worth every penny. Great thing was, it packed down to the size of … let’s see … two bottles of whisky??
Thank you, my friend, for giving me encouragement for a piece that is fairly ordinary. You are the best.
No way. As small as that. That is incredible. I love really functional things like that!!
“The moon had cow’s eyes.” What a great moon line !! Ah, nature, self determination, cow eyes, and lovely writing. What’s not to love? Well, nothing – really nice.
Sometimes when I look at the moon I think it looks a little sad, just like the eyes of a cow do. An odd comparison, I suppose, but it just seems to fit!
This is an interesting piece, Selma.
Often, if I am pressed for time, I read your ‘true” postings, and save your short story or fiction-pieces untillater, when I can spend more time, drinking your words up!
I’m really enjoying “catching up” late night/early morning today, with your posts responding to “Search Engine Stories’ prompts”…..
I still don’t like this piece. I think I rushed it. It was more of an idea than a story. I might rewrite it if I get the time!