Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, 22nd October, 2014

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October 22, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a creepy story. It can be prompted by the green fog in the photo, an imaginative idea about the Beals or take place in a cemetery. If other creepy ideas take hold, go for it! We’ll all shudder and be in the mood for Halloween–or grateful for its passing.

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I love this picture because it reminds me of my childhood and the reasons why I’m an archaeologist who specialised in Anglo-Saxon Mortuary Behaviour. That’s the term we archaeologists use to describe the way various ancient peoples approach the disposal of their dead. I like that too; it sounds so high-falutin, not at all as down to earth – literally – as the simpler burial of the dead sounds in comparison. Puts me in mind of a naughty teenager acting up in the middle of a post mortem, or something similar, but my mind always does look for the comic imagery in everything. It’s the irreverence, the undertones of ridiculousness of our modern age, that I like about this picture, the way it pokes fun at the way we’ve all changed from the Victorian unsmiley rigid formality of the very posed pictures of the early Daguerre-o-type images to the quick and very informal selfies on our iPhones that go all the way around the world in seconds at the push of a button. And most of all I like that this picture speaks of how much our priorities have changed, and how our lives have become virtually ruled by the technological developments that have been achieved in the time between these two picture-taking methods, slaves even unto the grave as are we all now.

It’s the second time I’ve used it in a blog post. The other was a post about my childhood as the daughter of an archaeologist father. Not wishing to reiterate the whole post here, I shall just say that we always thought having a large shed full of 300-odd skeletons, belonging to the Anglo-Saxon individuals who were buried in the cemetery my father excavated between 1969-72, some 1200 years after their initial interment, would provide more entertainment each year on Halloween than it actually did. No one came back to spook us, not even close. Although my friends were suitably impressed on Halloween of 1974 when I had the only party I’ve ever had in my entire life, and it made apple-bobbing more fun knowing that the shed was potentially capable of yielding its own version of fright night fun, if only in their imaginations.

Merlin is still in the Italy of AD525, although it’s September rather than October. There’s no reason to suppose that Romans several generations on from the fall of the Empire aren’t equally as superstitious as they were when it was still thriving, or that they don’t still bury their dead outside of city walls, along the Roman roads, and leave offerings to appease their dear departed deceased ones, in the effort to make sure they remain so. Which is the premise for Merlin’s observations below.

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Merlin Spends the Night Under a Tree on the Appian Way

The road is a little bumpy and in need of repair but peasants, I’ve seen, keep the verges clear of overgrown vegetation. Their interests vested, I would suppose, in the stopping of traffic in its various forms to leave offerings at the many mausolea and shrines along the way, which no doubt fatten their meagre income a degree or two above starvation. Who are they robbing? The dead have no need of sacrificial beasts, cooked or otherwise, or libations, and the life-giving force of a meal is a far more potent spirit when measured against their own death.

Thank you for reading this far. If you’d like to read the first seven scenes of Book One of the Merlin’s Gambit trilogy, Earth Magic, you can find them here on my website as separate blog posts, they’re listed either in the sidebar on the right or in the dropdown menu when you click on the “Blog” tab of the menu at the top of the page.

Brightest Blessings, as always,

Tally :-)

PS: If you’ve enjoyed reading this snippet of time-travelling Merlin and his protracted moonlight adventures, perhaps you’d like to receive Automatic Reminders of further posts (once I figure out how to make it work, that is!), you can Subscribe using the box underneath, and there may well be another one in the sidebar on the right. Once you’ve signed up, please do let me know if you don’t get posts every week, though, as I really haven’t figured out if it works and I’d like to know if it doesn’t so I can try and put it right!

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2 Comments

  • Charli Mills says:

    Fascinating and funny post all in one! I love how your knowledgeable background combines with your sense of humor (and sense of wonder) to meet Merlin on his journey. You are a good companion for him to tell his story, a writer who understands. Great flash, too!

  • Tally Pendragon says:

    Thank you, Charli 🙂 … Not sure Merlin’s too happy with me at the moment as I can’t seem to get him into the right conversation with the future St Francis, who is about to propel him on a journey 500 years into the past! I would say it’s a long story, but it really is, it’s the story I’m endeavouring to tell! I’ll poke my nose round the tree trunk and see if he’d like to tell me how he wants it written for himself, see if that works!
    BB’s, Tally 🙂

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