Short Story: Descent to The Past; a Response to Billybuc's Second Photo Challenge/Prompt
Responding to a Challenge
Well, I’m arriving late at Bill’s second photo prompt challenge. I enjoyed the first so am keen to get going with this one. Thanks again, bill, for providing such great photos and setting our imaginations going.
Here are the stipulations:
• Use the photos in the order you see them
• Use all five photos in your story
• Your story should be a minimum of 1,000 words
• Publish your story on HP
• Email your story to me so I can be dazzled
Each of the above was qualified with ‘or don’t/not’! I chose to stick to the parameters as I need structure and guidance. You need confidence to wing it!
Descent to The Past
Solid against the elements, hugging the wide base of ground, the old tiled barn sheltered in the lee of the hillside and surveyed its expansive panorama, a heady swoop to the valley waters far below.
The thermals entertained eagles whose eyes probed the depths for a sizeable fish dinner. The winds, though kind today, could drift the snow, juggle the waves and throw the trees into a frenzy. Hunkered down in a barn was a safe option in those conditions. That's exactly what Joe had done.
From his hidden perch in the upper storey, Joe surveyed the blue glass of the upper lake. Only birds could be seen drifting on the surface, leaving a patterned trail which betrayed their position if they dived below. Serene waters, where mountains shimmered and floated, met his eye.
Joe was less serene. His senses tingled, stretched to receive the slightest disturbance of the air, any small movement on the landscape, or tiny twitch in the bushes. On high alert, he summoned all his training to keep him safe.
Soon, he would have to leave this hide-out. He had to descend to the river, then he would make plans for the next stage.
That night, Joe made his preparations. He’d rationed his food to have enough for the following day and then his stomach would start growling. Back-pack bulging with tools, supplies and essential clothes, he snatched a few hours of sleep, rose just before dawn and slipped down the mountainside.
Keeping within cover of shrubbery and trees, he made good progress. As far as he knew, no one had sussed out his whereabouts. Not a soul was about in this wilderness.
Lower down now, his view through the forest showed him the lazy meanderings of the river. Despite his fast-beating pulse, the calm vista consoled him a little, but he couldn’t afford to match its pace. There was a job to do. His worry was that he wouldn’t arrive in time. Too many were relying on him, and him alone.
As night stole his visibility, Joe searched for shelter. Thick bushes hugged the lower banks, close to the water’s edge. He found a hollow, made a hasty cold sandwich and drank some of his water ration before cushioning his head for sleep. A green thermal blanket preserved his body heat.
Several hours later, he woke. All his senses tingled. Part-whispers and soft footfall alerted him to activity along the bank. Joe saw two pairs of feet through the foliage, too close for comfort, but they kept walking and did not return. He woke again at dawn, collected all evidence of his visit and left, all with studied silence.
Luck was with him that morning. A small boat was moored further downstream. A calculated guess told him it hadn’t been used for a long while so he’d be safe to ‘borrow’ it. He’d leave it down-river in full view in case it was missed. Kind of someone to leave a fishing rod under the seat; he couldn’t hide but he could assume a fishing pose, making sure his face was shielded. So, keeping to the outer reeds and banks, Joe let the craft drift, now and then guiding it downstream.
The most dangerous part of his journey loomed. Gone were the hiding places in the snow and the forest. Open water, albeit veiled by dense shrubbery, was a gamble. At least when his job was done, he could eat in broad daylight in another port a million miles away. No-one would bother him then. For the moment he concentrated on recognising his destination. Wouldn’t be long now.
His little boat slid happily behind larger ones moored to the jetties as he entered the marina. This was safety in numbers. Difficult to find him amongst pleasure boats, yachts, dinghies and other rowing boats. But he couldn’t afford complacency.
Would the others be there? Would they be on time? Would they have survived their journey?
A shout! Figures running down the ramp to the jetty. A woman and boy, yells and gesticulation from two hooded, dark-clothed pursuers wielding rifles useless amongst the crowds. Another figure captured the woman, threw her and the boy onto a motor-boat, and followed, pushing them into the lower cabin.
Joe was already on the free-floating motor-boat. Full throttle, it lurched from the jetty, the froth from its wake showering those who, frustrated, stood and watched. Taken by surprise by the speed of escape, they realised even the rifles were redundant.
Joe, his wife and his son embraced in the small cabin, while Joe’s brother took over the wheel. They had risked two years of immense danger to be reunited and nothing was going to separate them again.
How Did This Challenge Work?
In the end I ignored the minimum of 1000 words. Sorry, Bill, I thought I’d just about got there but I see no reason to contrive another 200 words just for the hell of it!
Once again, I had no idea how this story was going to pan out. I just followed the photos and took up the flow (no apologies for the pun!). It never ceases to amaze me how the imagination can do that. Prompts are such fun because they inspire and then totally surprise me! Such fantastic photos furnish plenty of ideas.
I know there are more challenge instalments to go but I’m taking my time otherwise I won’t have enough to do for the rest of my 12 weeks’ isolation. There are only so many things I can clean, sew or cook and I don’t enjoy any of those things much!
As always, in these troubled times I wish you and yours, and everyone reading this, safe passage and good health wherever you may be.
Stay at home if you can, keep safe, keep well.
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© 2020 Ann Carr