Changing Fortune

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
Photo Prompt © 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it. Lightning flashed across the sky and he howled in response. The humans showed their displeasure by rapping a stick across the ridge of his back. Instead of cowering him, the beating strengthened his resolve to change his fortune. Life had been perfect with the old man – but old men could not live forever. He had never liked the son: his meaness was always below the surface, bubbling to get out. Living on the street would be preferable to living with a human who did not respect animals. His chance for escape came sooner than expected thanks to bar laws and inexperience in tying knots.

mondays-finish-the-story© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This story was inspired by Mondays Finish the Story. Each week bloggers are encouraged to write a story of 100-150 words based on a photo prompt and sentence starter)

Building Trust

fwf kellie elmore badgeEarning her trust is so difficult. I have tried everything: eating the food laid out before us before encouraging her to eat; leaving her alone while she dressed and undressed; standing at a safe distance from her while communicating. My patience has known no bounds as I try to build a foundation of trust. She reminds of a young horse who has never been ridden: skittish, distrusting of the unaccustomed weight on the back. Bit by bit, little by little, I believe that I will gain her trust and her belief that I will cause her no harm.

The authorities found her in the small closet, curled up in the small space and cowering from the light. Malnourished and mute, it took several hours to remove her to the hospital where she bit, kicked and screamed. Eventually she was drugged to sleep so that they could heal the burns and lacerations that were all over her body. When I saw her lying so small and still in the hospital bed, my heart wept. No human being should be treated thus: worse than an animal, beaten and taunted until all innocence and trust has been destroyed.

My beautiful Mattie has been with me for a year now. No longer is she skin and bones. Her hair shines now and she has learnt to walk without fear in the sunlight. She will always be small for her age but I encourage her to thrive in the here and now. Family and friends believe me to be insane: to take on a nine year old child who cannot speak, who shies away from touch and does not show any emotion. And yet, when I look at her, I know that deep within my soul I am doing the right thing. I know that while helping her heal, I am healing myself too.

“Good morning Mattie. How is my Angel doing today?”

Not expecting an answer, I complete setting the table for our breakfast. Once Mattie is seated, I begin to fry some eggs. I crack the shells in front of her and pop some bread into the toaster. I take a unopened carton of juice out of the fridge and pour a glass for her. Once our meal is ready, I sit opposite her with a smile.

“Thank you, “she whispers.

Tears form in my eyes. Her first words to me, the most precious words I have heard in a long time.

(This piece of free writing was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s prompt: Trust)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

Going Back

(Some time ago Paula, the author of the blog Lost in Translation, published a stunning photo in one of her posts. I told her in the comments that I could imagine a story coming out of it. Her response? She would love to read one. This story is for you Paula. And published for your Thursday Special as I have come to enjoy free writing from photos.)

Photo credit: Lost in Translation.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Lost in Translation.wordpress.com

As I approach the house from the bottom of the hill, a flood of memories overwhelm me. Memories of my childhood. My father. Always so tall and gruff, directing our lives even though he was so often absent from it. The restrictions. The pain. The overwhelming sense of failure. I pull off the road and switch off the car. Staring up at the formidable-looking walls, I breath in deeply. I had left this place as soon as I could. And with no intention of ever coming back. I had felt no guilt at leaving behind my mother, a woman who had lost herself in the shadow of the man she had married. My desire for a life free of restrictions, free of the pressure of the belt on my shoulders, had so motivated me that I had walked down that road willing to shut a door firmly on my past.

Yet now I was back twelve years later. When I had left this place, I had struggled; I had felt hunger and deprivation. And yet I had gloried in a life in which I made my own choices. A life in which I  was free from the giant who had stifled my every move. I feel my chest tightening in response to the thoughts of my childhood. He was on his deathbed and had called to me. Why had I answered his call? I still had not figured out the answer to my question.

Taking a deep breath I turn on the car and drive slowly up the hill. The dark clouds forming in the sky reflect my own turbulent thoughts. I had to remember that I was my own person now and that I was successful in my own right. I had to guard against falling into the traps of the past. Pulling up in front of my childhood home, I notice the front door opening. I see before me the woman of my past. She is dressed the same as she always was, and yet there is a difference. Her head is no longer bowed and, as she walks towards me, I notice that she takes her steps with determination. Gone is the mouse scared of the lion. In its place I see someone who more confident of what her place is.

“Mom.” Thin arms enfold me and I feel the wetness of her cheek. For the first time I realise the pain she must have gone through with my leaving.

“I am so glad you came. It is important you see him before he dies.”

She leads me through the door into the hallways of my past. The air smells musty and the gloom mirrors the complete silence in the house. My footsteps lead me to the door of my father’s bedroom. Steeling myself, I walk in. Adjusting to the gloom, my eyes focus on the man in the bed. No longer is he a giant with a strong hand quick to punish. I see before me, instead, frailty and helplessness. The stroke had robbed him of his fierceness, his independence. Now he relied on the whims of his wife to help him eat and even wash. As his helpless eyes looked at me, I understood my mother’s words. I felt his power over me loosen its hold and slowly ebb away. Now I knew why I had come back.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

Experimental Treatment

The pain is unbearable! My body aches all over from the broken bones, bruised organs and torn ligaments – no dosage of painkillers seems to ease my pain. My parents had warned me that my job could lead to this; but I did not believe that it could happen to me. Maybe I had become complacent over the years and let my vigilance slide a little. It did not matter. All that mattered as I lay in this hospital bed, broken and aching, was that the pain would go away and leave my mind clear to think.

The medical staff entered: nurses, doctors and researchers. Through the haze of pain and drugs, I try to focus on what they are saying. Something about some type of treatment. I catch the phrases “side effects unknown”, “still in the experimental stages”, volunteers”. My mind latches onto the phrase “reduce, and maybe eliminate, the pain.” The rest of their words surround me, unheard and unacknowledged. I would do ANYTHING to escape this pain; even be a human guinea pig!

“Yes,” I say, unheard. I breathe in shallowly and repeat as loud as I can, “Yes, I will do it.”

“You do understand that there may be dangers? That this treatment is still experimental?”

I nod my head slowly and carefully. I do not care about consequences and side effects. All I want is to be pain-free.

Papers are brought out and signed. I struggle through the haze that surrounds me, focusing on the image of me before the accident. I see the nurse bring in a tray of needles filled with a bluish liquid.

“You may find that the pain will begin to disappear as soon as the serum enters your bloodstream.”

The doctor injects me directly into my arm. Within a few seconds, I feel a change in my body. Slowly the pain eases and I find I can begin to focus on my surroundings. With the haze of pain gone, I see the faces before me more clearly. I am also able to focus on their conversation.

“I hope the changes we made to the serum will allow us to bring this patient out of the induced coma. The last person we gave this to did not want to come back to living his life.”

“We have been told that this subject is determined and motivated. We are hoping that it will make a difference.”

I am free of pain; and my mind now thinks clearly. I realise that I was too hasty – this treatment is truly experimental! I begin to lose the grasp on my mind and thoughts. Not only am I to be pain-free, but I am also to be thought-free.

(This post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt given in conjunction with NaBloPoMo)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

FWF: A Time and Place Scenario

Credit: Tumblr
Credit: Tumblr

It’s high noon. The sun is blazing down on me and I feel its warmth slowly bringing me to life. I wake up slowly in a field surrounded by tall, yellow grasses. The birds are pecking at my skin, sharply reminding me that I am alive. I force my arm to move to shoo them away before they open wounds on my skin. I sit up groggily, holding my aching head in my hands. I feel the perspiration running down my face and long for a glass of water. I breathe in deeply, look up, and notice the tall grasses hiding me from view. Standing up slowly, I see the field stretches far into the distance: a waving yellow that moves gently in the breeze. I look all around and see endless yellow around me, unbroken by man or building.

Where am I?

I stagger forward, weakened by lack of water and whatever brought me here. I sense that I must move, that my life is somehow in danger. I cannot remember the direction I was going, so I take a chance and move forward . I walk slowly, eyes watching my feet, hands moving the grasses out of my way. The heat is unbearable as the sun  pounds on my uncovered head.

A cluster of sounds coming from a distance breaks the silence.  I look up and see a cloud of dust approaching. I have no energy left to run. And maybe what is coming towards me I need not fear. I decide to wait and leave my fate to chance. Either I will be seen, or the convoy will pass me by. The group of cars approach, the front ones cutting through the fields with ease. Heart pounding, I wait. Someone sees me and the convoy comes to a halt in front of me. The door of a black SUV opens and a man dressed in black comes out and approaches. He wears an earpiece and, I am sure, has something tucked neatly away under his jacket. Unsmiling he stands before me.

“Who are you?” he asks.

“I do not know. I cannot remember.”

(This post was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday time & place scenario prompt)

An Added Responsibility

free write friday kellie elmoreI stand in front of the shop window, gazing at the black and white images flickering on the screen. How I wish we had one of these boxes at home! It would certainly relieve the boredom of staying cooped up inside when it is my turn to look after Dani. I am sure he would enjoy the movement of the images too. The stories look like they are fun – especially the ones with the man and his bowler hat. 

Suddenly someone grabs my hand, pulling me along, away from my meagre entertainment. It is Emily, my older sister.

“Leave me alone! Where are you taking me?”

“You need to go watch Dani now. I am going out,” she responds.

“It is not my turn,” I shout. “I left 30 minutes ago. It is your turn. I want to be outside watching people, seeing them talk and laugh.”

“Well that is too bad.” She pulls me in roughly through the front door. Immediately the smells oppress me. The smell of urine, and of our bedridden brother. I wish to leave this dark and gloomy place, if only for a while. I love my brother but sitting with him day after day, helping him drink, spooning his food to him, emptying the bedpan, is too much. I am 12 years old. I should be outside with friends, doing things that children do. Running free in the sweet-smelling air.

“You need to stay here until mom gets home. An opportunity has come my way and I am not going to let it pass. It is a chance to get out of this hell hole and I am going to grab it with both hands.”

I look at my oldest sibling. She is beautiful with her well kept hair, her manicured nails and her trim figure. “Where are you going?” I ask suspiciously. “Why are you dressed like that?”

“I, my dear, am going to an interview. Hopefully I will get the job and earn enough to leave this place.”

“No,” I cry desperately. “You cannot leave me here alone. Who will help with Dani? And what about me? I need to go to school – I miss too many days already.”

“That is not my problem. I am not going to let my life be ruined because our brother made the wrong choices!”

Emily turns on her heel, picks up her purse, and leaves the house closing the front door firmly behind her. I sink to the floor with my head in my hands. I cannot stop my sobbing. But what about my life? Why was I born into this family? Why? Our father left us so long ago that I cannot even remember what he looked like. My sister is concerned with only herself. Our mother works all hours at the hospital. We never see her – she is like a spectre in this house. Ghostlike, she drifts in and out occasionally saying that we are good children. My father’s leaving took the spirit out of her. Dani used to tell me she was full of fun and laughter before. Not that I even remember her like this. All I remember is a mother who is never there – both physically and emotionally.

And then there is Dani. The brother I adore and used to follow wherever he went. He was the shining light in this place where we all live. Always laughing and full of life. And one day three months ago all that joy was gone. Snuffed out. I get up and walk towards the room where he now lies, silent and unmoving. My sobs have quietened but the tears still run slowly down my cheeks. A bad decision and so many lives have changed. Joyriding in that flashy red car must have sounded so exciting to him and his friends. But speed and too many beers had led to two deaths and a paralysed brother. The doctors do not know if he will ever walk again; but his care has landed squarely on my young shoulders. Mother does not seem to care, and Emily … Well, Emily is not going to let this get in the way of her life and her ambitions.

I wipe the tears off my face. Feeling sorry for myself is not going to change anything. I head off to the bathroom to fill the ceramic wash basin with warm water. I pick it up and carry it to Dani’s room, water slopping over the edges. As I enter the room, the pungent smell of urine hits me. Emily had not emptied the bedpan. Again!

“Hi Dani,” I say cheerfully. “Time for your wash.” Dani looks at me silently with eyes that are lifeless. I pick up the wash cloth begin to clean my brother, deftly and quickly. No one else is home and I am unable to turn him myself. So I do what I can. I empty the bedpan and make a mental note to myself to catch Mother in the evening to help me change the sheets. When done, I look up and see my patient looking at me with tears in his eyes.

“I am so sorry, Lucy. I would never have wanted this life for you.”

“Dani, it is okay. I love you and will always be here for you.” I climb up onto the bed and snuggle up next to him like I used to do before the accident. I close my eyes and feel comforted. All I can do is hope that everything will be okay.

(This story was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt.)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

Hope Fulfilled

It is hope that had got me here to this point. I had struggled against all odds: the recriminations of my mother, the disapproval of my step father, the plane delays, the loss of my luggage, the quick disappearance of my wallet. But I stood now in front of the home I had travelled all this way to see. The home that I hoped would become mine once again. The home that I had been pulled away from unwillingly when I was a child.

I had held the hope in my heart that I would be here again during all the years I had grown up in a country across the world. I had yearned to be here, with all my heart and soul. The hope had keep me going through the taunts directed at the kid with a strange accent and limp. My hope had sustained me through the lonely hours at school, or at the house where I lived. The goal I had burning in my heart to return to this place was what had encouraged me and pulled me through the solitary years. My hope was that here I would find again acceptance, love and contentment.

Photo credit: http://darcylabelle.blogspot.ca

I take a deep breath and try to still my beating heart. If my hope is to be destroyed, I do not know what I will do. Pulling my suitcase behind me, I limp slowly towards the red door. It looks the same as it does in my memory: a gleaming red door with a well-used knocker inviting visitors. I raise my hand and rap timidly on the door. After a while, I knock again with more force. I hear footsteps approaching and the sound of laughter. My heart races and I eagerly await for the door to open.

“Emily! Is that you? My child, we have missed you so!”

The door opens and, with these words, my grandmother envelopes me in her warm embrace. Her love and warmth surround me. My heart settles down. My hope has become reality and I am welcomed back into the home I had thought about for all these years. I step in through the doorway and I know that I will never leave here again.

Has hope kept you going through bad times?

(This piece of fiction writing was inspired by Jakes prompt: Hope)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

Bridge to a New Life

Credit: http://idesignow.com/photography/20-spectacular-bridge-photographs.html#.UMFW8IOCn6c
Photo Credit: http://idesignow.com

The bridge beckoned me; the lights in the distance encouraged me. I had travelled far to get to this point; to reach this bridge that no-one had believed existed. My faith had brought me here: faith that there was a better place for me. A place where I would have enough food everyday. A place where I could be free to practice my art. A place where a could be free to be who I am without being oppressed by the drudgery of finding food to fill the ever-open mouths of children and elders. Crossing this bridge would bring about a life filled with meaning for me; a life that I had decided on myself.

And yet crossing this bridge brought with it some risk. As I peered down the length of it, I remembered the old tales. Tales in which those with malleable minds were drawn into the churning waters below by sirens too beautiful to behold. Tales in which those with uncontrolled fears turned back to escape the monsters of their mind. Would my mind be strong enough to withstand the magic that surrounded this crossing? I would like to believe so. But then, one never knew how one would react in a situation.

I thought of the journey I had taken to get here, the dangers I had overcome. I thought with regret of my companion who had died of fever only three days ago. I had grieved, as one only could for a life-long friend. How he would have loved to stand here beside me, facing the walkway to our future. I could still take strength from him: I could remember his courage, and his unfailing belief in me. Surely that can be my guardian against the onslaught my mind will encounter once I step onto the bridge.

I take a deep breath and stretch my arms skyward. Closing my eyes, I allow the mist to surround and encompass me. I become one with the earth. I hear the rustling of the trees behind me, the stirrings of the wildlife. I breathe deeply once more. I make a mental count of my supplies: my water skin is full, my food pouch filled with berries and pieces of the rabbit I had roasted the night Roan died. I was never more ready than now. My mind was settled. What better time to walk towards a new life than at the break of day?

I placed my foot on the bridge.

What do you think will happen as I cross the bridge?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

(This post was inspired by the prompt given by Kellie Elmore. A visit to her post is the bridge to even more prose and poetry on these walkways.)