Greetings, my lovelies! It’s that wonderful time of the week again–time for you to voraciously consume (or at least half-heartedly scan) my own response to last week’s prompt; I’ve included the photo I chose to write about below, and, as usual, I’ve included links to the prior five prompts and my responses. If you haven’t done so yet, please join the fun, and be sure to tag me!
Choose a photograph from a published collection of black-and-whites, of people in uncertain conditions. Write the story of one of the individuals or one of the groupings.
She wasn’t sure what she’d find–her memories of the fire were so tarnished with age and tainted by family lore that she wondered if she’d even recognize the old camp–even if she could find the place.
But find it, she did–thanks to the ancient, twisted old maple that presided over the property. Reaching into the gray sky like a burnt, gnarled witch’s claw, the tree appeared to have fallen victim to the blaze that destroyed her childhood happy place–and much of her childhood happiness with it. But she knew for a fact that the tree had escaped unscathed–it was merely lying dormant, the ground surrounding it covered by leaves that would soon be covered by snow.
She made her way carefully down the barren slope to the tiny fieldstone structure–windows long gone, blackened timbers from the roof now lying on the floor within the four soot-covered walls–walls that had kept her and her family warm, safe, and dry for two weeks every summer…and it was her favorite place to be once school let out and the weather had turned for good. Lazy days filled with picnics, hikes, freezing dips in the burbling stream at the bottom of the hill, and woodsy adventures for her and her younger sister; nights of lying on their backs by the crackling fire outside, gazing up at the breathtaking wonder of the night sky, untainted by any nearby city lights.
Surprised to find that her feet now stood inside the singular doorway into the camp, she gazed around at the remains, her eyes settling on a moss-covered lump near her right foot. The remains of a small animal, she thought, and nudged it a bit with her foot…but then realized it for what it was: a tattered and charred purple flannel sleeping bag, much of which had disintegrated into moldy rags over the years.
Her heart in her mouth, she crouched down–mostly to keep from falling down–as flashes of horrific, fiery images strobed through her mind like some sadistic slide show. Being awakened by a tremendous whooshing sound as the dry-as-kindling roof ignited over their heads during the night–an errant spark from their insufficiently doused fire, stirred up and carried aloft on the night breeze…and suddenly the spark was a conflagration. Her father’s face, lit by the hellish light the fire imparted, as he scooped her up, screaming to her mother…but she couldn’t hear what he said, because of the screaming–the horrible, horrible screaming–coming from the purple sleeping bag just three feet away from her own. And as her father fled out into the smoke-filled night with her cradled in his arms, she saw her mother fall out the door just behind them, her hair beginning to burn. And her sister–her sister was…she…she was…
Not realizing she had picked it up until she was walking away, she glanced down at the remnants of her sister’s sleeping bag, draped carefully over her arm. She made her way back up the hill toward the tree, and while it was still broad daylight, she thought she might stretch out on the ground under its branches and wait for the stars to come out.