Short story, Writing journey

Flash fiction: Lost in Art

It’s Friday. I have been to my writing group for inspiration and coffee. This is my homework based on the prompts from the Storyworld cards John and Caitlin Matthews.. It was great to see the range of stories they inspire.

I had the Fairy Queen, Door to Fairyland and the Rainbow.

Lost in Art

The art gallery heaved with the people as they hustled and pushed to catch a glimpse of the rare pieces from the long anticipated ‘Faeries of du Pre’ exhibition. Robert decided this would offer the ideal opportunity to fulfil his initiation in the gang. The others loitered opposite a few yards away, watching his every move, egging him on. He could not back out now. He took a deep breath and hood up, face down he weaved through the crowd, clutching his skateboard tight. It was this which brought him to the attention of Raz and his posse. There were plenty of shadows at the skate park where they could drink, smoke and plot schemes; one requiring someone small, quick and innocent looking. Someone like him. He would skate to escape the depressive atmosphere at home, and the anger of his stepfather. Once he let his guard down, the mismatch of personalities in the gang became his friends and family. Stealing a purse was a small price to pay for the protection and sense of belonging they gave even if seeds of doubt grew daily demanding he changed paths. He could enter the building, grab a bag and slip out unnoticed.

The atmosphere buzzed with excitement as people studied the framed collection consisting of sketches of elegant, ethereal beings, watercolours of streams, woodlands and Yorkshire landscapes A quick glance around and he saw his quarry. On a bench facing a large oil painting sat a dowdy old lady alone with her open handbag beside her. She was as still as statue; her focus fixed on the star of the exhibition; a painting titled The Queen of Elphame. Perfect. He had heard of the painting, everyone had. It captivated a legion of fans worldwide following its discovery in an attic in the village of Cottingley. Articles emerged delving into the history of the legendary artist, Jacques du Pre and theories of who inspired the vivid, unique masterpiece. His mistress or his imagination fuelled by obsession with the supernatural which led to his drunken downfall. Some believed it was the queen of the fairies herself after the accompanying old diary revealed he visited the area during the time of the faked fairy photograph furore. An explosion of merchandise followed – mugs, posters, postcards and bags. It was hard to escape her presence. Everyone was enthralled by the image except him. It was just a painting.

To his surprise as his hand hovered over the bag, its owner turned and placed her wrinkled, hand over his. “ I did …” he began to defend himself.

“Hush” she whispered her gaze returning to the painting. “Just watch.”

In silence, he became immersed in the landscape created by the artist. Snippets of conversation discussing brush strokes, composition and use of colour drifted by unnoticed as he studied the painted figure. Suspended mid-flight over the rippling stream, the royal fairy demanded attention from her subjects hidden in the trees and grass. Her large iridescent wings shone in the moonlight. A dragonfly fluttered in the corner, materialising from the bull rushes gently swaying in an unseen breeze. It zipped across to the other side of the canvas before disappearing into the distance. People glanced at the picture, but no one commented before walking away to the next piece. Robert glanced at the woman who smiled, and her age slipped away as he saw the woman she was in her youth in her sparkling eyes.

“They look but they do not see” she murmured.

Instinctively, he reached for his phone. No one would believe this unless he videoed it. It could go viral. She grasped his hand and shook her head. He put it back in his pocket and sat down. Together they watched a bird fly from the tree to the Queen’s unfurled hand to peck seeds before flying back. He ignored his vibrating phone as time flew by.
The visitor numbers decreased as it darkened outside until it was only the odd couple sitting on the bench. The loud footsteps of the curator echoed in the cavernous room as he warned them the gallery was closing in 15 minutes. They nodded and watched him walk away.

The woman stood and approached the canvas. Robert’s mouth dropped open as the Queen bent down and reached her hand for frail lady to grasp. The hands met: reality and paint blended until there were two people on the canvas. Alone he wiped away a tear as he watched the magic fade. He stepped closer, touched the old lady’s hand, the wrinkles had smoothed, and she looked younger. A smile formed on her face and her fingers wrapped round his.
The investigation into the disappearance of Robert Jones and Gladys Stone arrived at no conclusion with only the abandoned skateboard and bag on the bench connecting the two strangers. No one saw the two additional figures walking in the trees.

Happy writing!

Short story, Writing journey

The Cottingley Fairies Backlash Group

Bollocks! I could do without her at the meeting. I watch Edna creak in with the aid of her zimmer frame. Yes, you read that right – Edna. Not quite the elegant, ethereal Shakespearian name people expect. The days of Titania, Oberon and Morgan le Fay are over. Our parents thought they were being modern giving us up to date human names so my generation have an abundance of Ediths, Ednas and Mauds. They forgot popularity of names in the human race change in a blink of an eye and quickly disappear from use. They have come to their senses and becoming more creative, descriptive and nicer with naming their offspring while we are left with ours for many years to come, I hope.

“So is he coming?” they ask as they arrange themselves on these uncomfy hard, plastic chairs; they are not designed for wings at all. At first, I think they are inquiring about Zachariah, our oldest member but quickly realise they are asking about Trevor.

“He said he would”, I reply quickly crossing my fingers. No one can abide the man and his sneaky, slimy ways but we do love the black market wares he brings especially our favourite, Yorkshire Tea. We are quite happy to listen to him drone on and repeat his fictious tale about how he helped inspire this delicious blend of tea as long we can have some cups of this forbidden drink. I say forbidden, they are not as strict as they were about us drinking caffeine as they were in the soul crushing years of the Prohibition in the 1920s and we are unlikely to be raided for indulging in a few sips of brew.

I breathe a sigh of relief as Zachariah arrives with the help of his carer, Joseph who I hope will remember to shut the door behind him. The cold draft is causing my wings to ache. I need to tap into Zachariah’s wealth of experience of dealing with these pesky humans. We just need to keep his mind in the here and now rather than allow him to reminisce about his time with Shakespeare and his mischievous antics when he called himself Puck. He is a rare breed. As many of us have withered and died before our alloted time, he is centuries old and only now is rapidly showing signs of his age. I should be along with the others here having the time of our lives, dancing, being merry and luring unsuspecting men into our world with our flirty ways not flying with battered, creaky wings, fighting wrinkles and having shooting pains in our knees when we land. Many blame environmental factors, loss of habitat and the vices we enjoy but we know the truth.

It is all their fault, those Cottingley girls. Elsie and Frances.
Our elders warned us they were trouble and letting them see us then ultimately photograph us would come back to hurt us threefold. Being young as we were, we knew the world was changing with the advent of science and people wanted prove for everything including our existence. Without the power of human belief, we do diminish and die. Barrie and Disney were right about that part of fairy lore. The plan to allow a photo or two was perfect until the eldest child, Elsie placed paper fairies in the ground with hat pins and continued to photograph those instead. Paper fairies! We were all dressed in our finery ready to share our existence to the world and they took photos of cut outs instead. Some reasoned Elsie was at that age of teetering on adulthood and could not see us clearly so decided on direct action but others were fuming. The anger was mainly aimed at myself and those gathering here today. The air was blue that day, I can tell you.

It all came good for a while. People did believe the photos were real. Humans are gullible that way, especially when their worlds are turned upside down with war and catastrophe. The desire to believe in magic, supernatural and all things mystical flourishes which is perfect for us. They came in droves to visit the beck in the hope of seeing us themselves. Even big wigs and that fancy author, Arthur Conan Doyle from London. It was wonderful. The area was buzzing with anticipation of catching a glimpse of our ethereal forms. The energy their belief created boosted our population and we thrived. Our wings shone. When things began to crumble we let the youngest child, a sweet quiet thing see us again and catch us on film for real so our legacy could continue. We became world famous and it was all down to me.

Then they ruined it.After years of denial, they betrayed us. Both of them, even Frances who was adamant to many she did see us at the bottom of her garden. We know they have long gone now but their story has not been forgotten and those final headlines declaring us a hoax still exist but worse they are constantly being shared on social media. It is the final nail in our coffin. People are believing we are nothing but a figment of imagination, a joke or inspiration for online fiction. No wonder our wings are wrinkling and our hair is going grey prematurely. Our children have given up curdling milk and shooting Cupid’s arrow but prefer a bit tinkering on Tinder to find the perfect love match for people or create chaos by being internet trolls.

I have tried to calm my rage and hurt but it continues to grow. Direct action is needed. We need to take control. It is time to fight back and let the Cottingley fairies tell their side of the story about the girls at the beck. Heck, we may even share the secrets of the villagers. You wouldn’t believe the things people reveal and do when they think they are alone – that will get people tweeting or whatever they do and maybe they will begin to believe again.

But first, where is that cup of tea?