the mists were heavy that year and stuck to our clothes as we walked. often we would return having found only one or two of the precious flowers and the mist would still be shimmering around us, a pale unearthly fluorescence. it would take an hour in the tumble dryer before the last willowy strands would disappear. occasionally the mist would call out to us as we trudged over the heath towards the woods. it would call out the names of our mothers and their mothers and their mothers before them, along with the many crimes the mages had accused them. then, as now, the distance between healer and witch was not great.
we searched for the golden yellow flowers fringed with black: potentilla tempus, found in the rising mists of heath and woodland. but none grows on the heath here. we must walk five miles across them to the woods and if we arrive once the mists have risen the flowers are gone. the heath is their guardian, only when the first whispers of damp begin to coalesce on her own tangle of grasses and gorse can we set off. even though we've lived with this journey all our lives, often we arrive late.
at these times it is dangerous. stretching back through the woodland, past the decayed walls and folk memories of the old city ruins, there runs a stream that no-one should trust. it twists with mercurial beauty and madness comes to those who venture into it. those of us that have followed the stream have never returned. our compasses, which work on the heath and in the woods, and once the mists have risen are the only hope we have of finding home, spin with lunacy within an hundred yards of the stream. during daylight, when we are able to use the landscape to navigate, we are safe. but if you once follow the stream through the mist or in darkness you will never follow her back. on no two journeys is she ever the same, changing her course through the hills and across the heath as she sees fit. on occasion she strays near the village and those of us who lack experience are mesmerised by her and the lady that follows her. her yellow hair locked shut with faithlessness and sorrow, her tears a spell to human eyes. she laments and the quicksilver beauty of her voice draws the unwary. we are in thrall to our own wrongdoing, to the wrongdoing of our ancestors, and she has majesty over this. how many have we lost to her and to the forces she wields through the stream? seven of us already this past year, now that the potentilla has become scarce. how... tragic that we are dependent for our survival on the properties of a single flower. but we have nowhere else we can go, outcastes as we are, inciting fear in the masses. only the black fringe of this yellow flower protects us. dried and crushed it has powers of redemption. for the few of us that are touched and escape, the root has antiseptic and analgesic properties.
strange to think that in the past we stood on the shoulders of giants, and saw past the seven hills to the stars themselves. there is no superstition in the operation of the universe. yet now, from the cauldron of the cities we are exiled. the woman from the stream asks us to sing her lament. we refuse. but the cities who do not even know her sing instead.
a writing exercise for flash fiction - pick a subject and genre you don't normally write about and give it a whirl. word limit 1,000. no rewriting allowed, first draft only (minor tidying up acceptable). then put it in a draw and leave for one month. after one month see what happens when it's exposed to light. of course, i just type it straight onto the computer, but you get what i mean.
i'll post the second draft in a month's time.