General Forum

General Forum

  1. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:05
    Hello readers

    Below are the 2013 Prose entrants. There are 10 altogether and are each looking to be crowned the 2013 RHP Prose Champion (last year the winning piece was called Tick)

    Please read the entries and then post your top three (just say either their title or their number) - your number 1 scores 5 points, number 2 scores 3 points and number 3 scores 1 point. The winner is the one with most points when voting closes.

    I will be adding the scores up so would prefer it if no-one posted a running score commentary.

    The deadline for voting is Sunday 10th March at 8pm GMT
  2. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:07
    Entry 1 - The Hunters

    The Deer seemed to come out of nowhere, eyes blazing wildly, crashing into His side and sending Him sprawling against the nearest tree. As suddenly as the beast appeared it smashed back into the cold gloom of the forest, He regained His footing and took up the chase once more.

    Almost any other night the deer would have been the prey, tonight however the quarry was special, usually it was too big and dangerous to tackle even for the Hunters, but this one was smaller than usual and for some reason it was afraid, it was a fear that He and the other hunters could literally taste and smell, and consequently follow through the dark shadows of the forest.

    The prey had a slight advantage in that it could twist and turn between the trees much easier than the hunters, still the lead hunter was confident that these factors would only buy the prey time, and inevitably it would run out of forest long before the hunters would tire enough to abandon the hunt.

    The creature could hear the hunters crunching through the snow behind Her, Not far behind, but no closer than when She first heard them and turned toward the noise in panic but all there was to be seen we're darting sleek shadows in the distant gloom, since that moment the panic had not subsided, rather it seemed to rise with every stride and swerve, there was just enough moonlight to guide it's erratic path between the trees.

    The prey thought about Her own pack and wether they would be concerned by Her absence. These thoughts began to slow Her down as Her reveries turned to how She longed to be with them, and the warmth and safety they represented. She instinctively shook these thoughts from Her mind and refocused on negotiating a path through the forest fast enough to at least maintain the distance between Herself and the Hunters.

    He tried to keep Himself in line with the Prey knowing that the other Hunters would take care to fan out from his central position in order to create as large an arc as possible. This tacit arrangement also had the added advantage of allowing the lead Hunter to control the pace of the hunt, His experience was invaluable to the long haul strategy which characterised the Hunters, just fast enough to keep track of the prey, but slow enough to keep the least experienced and weakest of it's members in formation.

    The prey noticed that the woodland was thinning out and in the distance she saw a moonlit expanse of snow, initially Her spirits were lifted by the thought of leaving the gloom of the forest behind, almost immediately they slumped at the realisation that She would soon be exposed in the moonlight against the white of the snow. She thought of going left or right but She could hear the Hunters in both directions, with no viable alternative Her fear carried Her forward to the edge of the forest.

    The Hunter greeted the site of the forest edge with a feeling of elation, He knew the prey would be exposed, He also knew from experience that the snow would be much deeper than here in the forest and the advantage would be with them, unconsciously He picked up the pace.

    As soon as She hit the edge of the forest She almost came to stop, what had been a comfortable carpet in the forest became a foot deep impediment that clung to her legs as though it was in collusion with the Hunters.

    By the time He reached the deep clear snow He had gained so much ground on the Prey that He could hear and see it's ragged laboured breath.

    She pumped Her exhausted legs as hard as She could but they would no longer clear the snow and Her forward momentum caused Her to sprawl forward, at the same time She could not help but twist around in time to see the Wolf pack clearing the forest, the lead Wolf was all but on Her.

    She had no energy left for fight or flight and She could not contain the low mewling noise that forced it's way up her throat.

    As the big lead wolf closed it's jaws around Her neck She felt an emotion close to relief at knowing Her death would be quick in comparison to the frenzied free for all that would occur when the pack caught up with them.

    Sarah closed Her eyes against the tears and thought of Her family for the last time.
  3. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:08
    Entry 2 - Sunset in Fall

    The drive to the cabin was a long one. After fighting Friday afternoon traffic out of the city, the winding route up the canyon seemed endless. The rock walls, swirling river and twisted trees clinging to the cliff side blurred with my urgent desire to finish the trip.

    I'd made the trip countless times as a child. Long as they can only be for a young boy trapped with a noisy brother in the back of a beaten up station wagon. Trips punctuated by chaotic fast food drive through orders; smelly mongrel dogs doing laps around the car and scenic off road drives to dusty nowheres.

    The trips became few and far between as the years went on. I grew up and life got in the way. School, work and my own family took me down other paths. I rarely thought of the little cabin nestled in the woods overlooking the little lake anymore. Sometimes it seemed like I'd used up all the years allocated to this part of my life as a child. As if the last few grains of sand had run out of the hourglass years ago. Still, while it had stood vacant all summer, the cabin needed to be closed up before the winter drifted in.

    As I pulled off the pavement onto the dirt road leading to the lake a handful of muddled memories came flooding back: Cowboys and Indians through the tall summer grass; snowball fights after an early mountain storm; late night bonfires; roasted hotdogs; mugs of hot chocolate; canoe trips; fishing for miniature trout. My vision clouded with unexpected tears.

    I reached the cabin just as the late fall sun was just starting to drift down to the horizon. The crunch of gravel under the tires, the wild and half forgotten smell of the air as I got out of the car took me back. I could swear I heard a child's laughter at the edge of the woods, but, lost it in the chirp of crickets and rustle of fallen leaves.

    The steps up to the cabin creaked under my feet, but, the old girl was solidly built and the door opened easily to my key. The fire was already set in the stove and, with the sulfur smell of a couple of matches, quickly roared to life. I found an ancient bottle of Ballantine’s in one of the cupboards and poured myself a glass to head out on the porch and watch the sun go down over the lake.

    Out on the porch I saw a shadow down at the water’s edge. This resolved itself into the profile of a man. I was justifiably startled as there was nobody up here at this time of year, just squirrels, deer and the occasional bear. There was something familiar about the figure looking out over the lake and grabbing the bottle I made my way down to the water.

    The man turned to me when I came up along side of him and said, "This is my favorite time of year. The leaves turning are like nothing else on earth and the sunset seems painted with God's own hand." I didn't say anything, just watched the flies make little ripples and the occasional fish clear the water.

    The moment stood timeless and a loon let out a mournful cry that echoed across the lake. "I used to sit here with my boys." The man said. "We'd have a fire just past those trees and watch the orange sparks climb up into the air well into the night. Stories of ghosts, pirates and talking animals were standard fare."

    "Yes, I remember,” I said.

    The man turned and looked at me then, as if trying to make me out for the first time. "My eldest would be about your age now," he said. "I don't see him much anymore. He's got his own family now." The man paused for a moment and continued, "He's got a little girl. Cute little thing with hair the color of summer and a laugh that would make fairies jealous."

    We passed the bottle back and forth and watched the last of the sun kiss the top of the trees. "You should come back again," the man asserted. "I will, now I know when to be here," I said.

    I made my way back to the cabin in the dark. I wept for the things I'd lost and the last grains of sand in the hourglass.
  4. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:10
    Entry 3 - In the Sun Room

    Loretta entered her fifth nursing home as a ward of the State of Florida. How she had gotten to this point in her life was a mystery to her. She had some kind of stroke that left her totally incapacitated but for her sight and hearing. She was incapable of taking care of herself and her family, who thought sickness was a form of sin, had long since abandoned her. Helpless she had no choice in anything and simply “went with the flow”.

    Once settled in she was bathed and fed. The attendant said to her, “Loretta we’re going down to the Sun Room now.” They passed a number of doors of the “clients” as they were now called. Most were bed ridden. The Sun Room had ten hard plastic chairs a table and a television set. The large window which was supposed to admit the sun was so overgrown with bush and vine that a light had to be on at all times. It was used mostly when attendants wanted to grab a smoke or be alone. The mobile residents used the front room of the facility where they could observe the comings and goings of the Wal-Mart shoppers in the giant parking lot upon which the home abutted.

    One day Loretta was in the room with the attendant who was called away for an emergency. The attendant turned on the tv for her before she left. Loretta watched a black and white movie which was in progress when it was turned on. A murder story. She knew nothing of film and because of her condition she had been more often subjected to television for children if she got to see anything at all. When the attendant came back she realized that Loretta was absorbed by the movie and let her continue to watch. From that day forward Loretta was taken to the Sun Room. The tv was turned on and Loretta would watch until lunch and then returned until dinner then allowed to watch until bedtime. On any given day visitors to the home would see a woman, totally disabled, parked in her wheel chair in the harsh light of a depressing room watching black and white movies on tv.

    Over the many months, she came to love the movies which ran without commercial all day and night. The movies were introduced by a commentator who told interesting things about the upcoming movies – John Ford’s arguments with John Wayne, Paulette Goddard’s remarkable husbands, love affairs, troubles with the sets, and tragic deaths. She came to love the actors.

    She began to find the television a portal which led to different worlds – western deserts, other planets, all the countries of the world – mostly manufactured by studio set designers. She loved the beautiful actresses, their beauty and their freedom of movement. She once saw a young Peggy Ashcroft in “The 39 Steps” and that same afternoon as a stately old woman in “A Passage to India” – a whole career lie sandwiched between these two movies. When she had seen a movie more than once she began noticing the techniques used by various directors, the styles of different actors, the camera angles, the lighting, the depth of the writing and she began to appreciate the efforts of those who made film and marveled at their skills. In her mind she began to judge the quality of the movies based upon, what she felt, were the best that she had seen to date.

    One day while watching the slick Bud Abbott confound the hapless Lou Costello she fell asleep. She dreamed of all the places she’s been. They were exotic places all black and white peopled with the most marvelous people all there for her to enjoy. They spoke about their lives, their careers, their loves. They spoke to Loretta and her to them. When she woke up Frank Sinatra was being beaten mercilessly by Ernest Borgnine.

    At night after being put to bed, tubes and bags attached, meds given, lights turned out, she would slip into a magnificent gown carefully chosen for the occasion. She would walk down the red carpet to the elegant theater. Loretta said her hellos, offered her congratulations and best of lucks, kissed cheeks and shook hands. They all knew Loretta and she them. Ushered to her seat among the celebrities she had gathered, she waited for the lights to dim and the presenters to come on stage and award those she had judged to be the best artists in the films she had viewed that day. She never ceased to thrill at the words…”And the winner is…!”
  5. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:111 edit
    Entry 4 - The Hunted

    "General Xog is here to see you, sir."

    Governor Qan looked up from his desk toward the secretary who had addressed him, blinking in mild incomprehension.

    "General Xog, sir…", the secretary repeated hesitantly, motioning toward the antechamber.

    Governor Qan's dark, almond shaped eyes narrowed momentarily, "Yes, yes, thank you," he answered quietly, "please show him in."

    General Xog was still an imposing figure, even at his advanced age. At a shade over four feet tall he had towered over most of the other Zayaxians in his youth, although he now walked with stoop that had gotten more pronounced in their many years on Mars. His skin had lost its former lustrous green and was now more of a mottled, tan color, but the almond shaped eyes still shone a deep, fathomless black. None of cloudiness of age in them.

    Qan motioned for him have a seat, but Xog ignored the gesture and announced, "The Beagle 2 has successfully deployed from the Mars Express. I request your permission to have it destroyed."

    True to form, Qan mused to himself. Xog's 'requests' always carried with them the implication that they would be heeded as a matter of course. Or at the very least that they ought to be heeded.

    Not one to be bullied, Qan countered, "Destroy it? Don't you think it would be more prudent to wait and see if it lands successfully?"

    Xog flashed him a look of disgust, "You know as well as I do that we haven't had enough time to successfully eradicate all signs of our activity at Isidis Planitia. The danger of our mission being discovered is far too great to allow the Beagle 2 to proceed to its landing site. The Earthling craft must be destroyed now!"

    Qan knew, of course, that Xog was right. Their chance of being discovered was too great, and it was getting greater all the time. The Mars Global Surveyor and the 2001 Mars Odyssey were both still orbiting the planet. And now there was the Mars Express. Long ago they had been forced to relocate what few operations they had on the surface into the caves of Mars. Removing all traces of their surface activity would take more time, though. The Mars Pathfinder rover had landed in a non-sensitive area and had been allowed to conclude its brief mission, but their intelligence revealed that there were two more rovers and even more orbiters on the way. Qan had lost count of how many they had destroyed or sabotaged over the years. The first one, the Mars 1M No. 1, had been sabotaged at the launch site at Baikonur in the Earth year of 1960. A host of others had been similarly sabotaged or destroyed en route since then. But there were more orbiters, landers and rovers all the time. They couldn't destroy them all without the risk of giving their presence on Mars away. The least compromising ones had to be let through. How fast these Earthlings were progressing, Qan thought. Their mission seemed to be completely pointless to him now.

    "It would seem, General Xog, that the hunters have become the hunted." Qan could see that his observations were wasted on the likes of Xog. "Fifty Earth years ago it was our vessels that were regularly visiting Earth, conducting research, collecting samples and," Qan added pointedly, "abducting human specimens for analysis. You were far too cavalier in the conduct of your probes back then, general. The Roswell incident nearly gave our presence away."

    The Roswell incident again. Xog bristled at the way Qan never missed an opportunity to throw that back in his face. "Since we all thought our mission was nearing completion," Xog countered, "elaborate security measures seemed to be a waste of time. At any rate, we've tightened things up considerably since then. The Earthlings remain as stupid and complacent as ever. There's no reason to believe that our mission has been compromised in any significant way."

    "Our mission?" Qan shot back incredulously. "To establish a forward staging area for the conquest of Earth?" Qan allowed himself a brief, bitter laugh, "It's been a decade since we had to scrap our last vessel capable of visiting Earth. With no supplies and no communication from the home planet, our operational capabilities have degraded to almost nothing. It takes all of our energy just to keep ourselves alive in this subterranean, ramshackle, dung-heap of a base. Since it seems that we've been abandoned here, do you really think our 'mission' has any continued purpose whatsoever?"

    Xog was undeterred by defeatists like Qan. "Our orders are to establish a forward base to assist in the conquest and colonization of Earth. The absence of any further orders from the home planet does not grant us leave to infer any change in that mission. We must proceed with the assumption that our orders are still in effect and that the planned conquest of Earth is still operational."

    It wearied Qan to keep having this same conversation with Xog all the time. He continued in a more somber tone, "I know it's not in your nature to question anything, General Xog, but do you realize it's been 26 Earth years since our last communication with the high command on Zayax? Why do you suppose that is?"

    "SETI", Xog answered confidently. "The risk of having our communications intercepted by the Earthlings became too great."

    "Perhaps," Qan conceded. "But why, then, have we received no resupply vessels in that period? If the invasion plan was still in force, you'd think they'd want to keep this base in a higher state of preparedness. I think something far more troubling than SETI is behind our isolation."

    Now it was Xog's turn to tire of the direction the conversation was taking. "Your conspiracy theories become tiresome, Governor Qan. The notion that the great Zayaxian civilization has somehow destroyed itself is less than credible."

    "Don't you remember how bad things had gotten on Zayax by the time we left? Devastating weather patterns, crop failures, dwindling resources, civil unrest…"

    Xog's interest perked up at the last item. "Traitors", he interjected. "I would have had more than a few of them shot if I had had my way."

    "Fortunately," warned Qan, "you don't have things your own way." He paused for a few moments while Xog glared at him before continuing. "The fact is that our assigned mission is a failure. Our model of civilization has also failed in all likelihood. And we can observe the same pattern of development on Earth." He paused again and then continued, almost to himself, "We ought to establish contact with Earth to warn them. Our mission could at least serve that purpose."

    "Warn them?" Xog exclaimed. "Do you really think they'd believe us? If your theories have any truth to them, then I, for one, will take great pleasure in watching these Earthlings destroy themselves. But that will take time. The only thing that concerns me at this moment is destroying the Beagle 2. I once again ask your permission to do so."

    It seemed their conversation was at an end. There was no way around it. It almost seemed to Qan as though their ends had been preordained. The internal logic of developmental patterns followed a fixed path throughout the universe and any attempt by him, or anyone else, to alter those paths was doomed to failure. For any species which gained ascendency on their planet was driven to expand to the limits of that planet's capacity. The introduction of ever greater levels of technology meant an exponentially rising level of resource consumption. The only way to continue was to colonize other planets for additional living space and resources. The catch, though, was that the enormous amount of resources consumed by any civilization technologically advanced enough to seriously contemplate an interstellar space program was more than one planet could possibly provide. Such civilizations, therefore, necessarily destroyed themselves, either before reaching the capacity for interstellar travel, or shortly thereafter, which is what he presumed had happened to the Zayaxians. It was as though the universe had imposed an upper limit on the advancement of planetary civilizations, and that limit, once reached, could not be surpassed. Such civilizations either destroyed themselves completely, or collapsed back into more primitive models. The universe, he thought, was probably teeming with planetary civilizations going through cycles of growth and collapse, most of which were eternally oblivious to the presence of each other. Qan couldn't help wondering what the Earthlings had in store for their own planet, for he had to admit that he's grown more than a little fond of observing their foibles over the decades.

    Xog brought him back out of his reverie. "Do I have your permission to proceed with the destruction of the Beagle 2, or not? Our window of opportunity grows short."

    My permission, thought Qan. As though what he permitted, or did not permit, had the slightest impact on the eventual outcome of history. He could have said 'no', he supposed, but it was probable that Xog would simply ignore him and do as he wished. So Qan merely looked back at his desk and said, "Proceed as you see fit."

    A short while later Governor Qan was informed by his secretary that the Beagle 2 had been successfully destroyed. Intelligence indicated that, as usual, the Earthlings remained oblivious to General Xog's ongoing role in the curiously high failure rate of their Mars missions. But it was only a matter of time before that changed. Long ago events had been set in motion across the universe. Events which proceeded according to their own seemingly deterministic logic. Events which neither he, the Zayaxians, the Earthlings, nor anyone else had the power to alter. He wondered if anyone was still alive on Zayax.
  6. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:13
    Entry 4 continued...

    Or how many decades did the Earth have left? Did any of it matter? He supposed not. Progress, it seemed, was an illusion. And even though its extravagant promises never quite turned out as expected, those who had committed themselves to its pursuit were compelled to continue doing so right up to the very end. An end which he could see was not far away.
  7. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:15
    Entry 5 - A Letter which never sent

    Last night I was a dream
    About your house
    Were the roof leaks everywhere
    A green-painted house very dull
    I walk to the room
    To the kitchen
    To the front
    Round the back
    The water to flood (inundate) on the floor
    The water rose higher and higher
    Flow to the visiting room
    I walk to bend (bow, stop) and to walk on tiptoe,
    I walk on tiptoe to avoid The water flood
    Everywhere, from the front to backyard
    I walk on zig-zag
    Head made a low bow
    To avoid the bird excrement
    Much of bird cage hanged
    On the roof

    when the water to flood increasing high
    to their food’ knee, -you still cook in the kitchen
    in the bend of the dull wall and moss-covered/mildewed
    The water flood increasing and increasing on the foots
    to the broken chairs
    to wet, dampen the books which to scatter, spread everywhere
    I could stop to find your mother anymore
    she likes to coddle me (to observe by holding in the hand)

    To day i find your mother
    In the overcast house
    A green-painted house dull
    Dull painted
    Dark and overcast
    The water to flood the floor
    Just I found your mother walking stick
    And her artificial foot
  8. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:16
    Entry 6 - Hunters & Prey

    In the woods, another day was dawning. The penetrating sunlight was reflecting, glittering off the few crystals of frost that had been left from the cold temperatures of the night just gone by. The sunlight was bringing color to the woods for another day of nature. The changing of seasons was in the air - the green color of the world had gone, replaced by an explosion of bright colors - the bright red, dull brown, and mystical orange and yellow leaves continued to drip from the branches above and floated down to the dry surface.

    The silence of the woods was slowing being replaced by the chattering of the woodland creatures once more. Up above was the chirping of the blackbirds almost gossiping it seemed, down to the scavenging little field mice on the ground trying to find food to feed their families. To the casual observer it would seem that this woodland almost had a community, a lovely peaceful community that seem too far away from the sound of man and the cities.

    Down on the ground surface there sat a beautiful brown hare - his hair seemed to brushed very neatly and he had quite a strong build. Compared to the other hares he seemed very large and was unsurprisingly the leader of the group, even among the other males in the group. Regularly you would see his mate and his children as well - he seemed to have already fathered two groups. Oddly, he always seemed to look out for the rest of the clan and seemed to be on watch but for what – this place seemed so peaceful, quiet and safe.

    It didn't take long to find out as there was a suddenly a lot of rustling and a panic of a squeal behind the bushes by the hare’s warren. Due to the sensitive (and advanced) hearing, the hare immediately stamped his foot on the ground – warning the others of the impeding danger. With this the rest of the clan jumped into the warrens and escaped out of the impeding danger - but what was this terrible danger?

    The rustling became louder and then suddenly it emerged. The animal was about 5 times the size of the hare, was covered in blood and had a very dead rabbit in its jaws - the hare noticed its eyes - large, black and almost nullified of soul. The animal had four orange legs, a fluffy tail and triangular shaped ears - it was a fox.

    The fox noticed the hare and noticed it's size and immediately he felt that the hare would make a welcome meal to him and his vixen and his cubs as opposed to the rather small rabbit he had just captured. Without a moment's thought and no hesitation he dropped the lifeless body of the rabbit and sniffed towards the hare, gave a low growl and started leaping towards the hare.

    Luckily, the hare was already alert to the immediate danger and started to run away from the warrens of the other hares in order to protect his clan and family from the danger of this fox. The fox started to move faster - his heart beating quickly, his stomach getting excited at the thought of having this hare as his next meal. They chased through the trees, past barrows, along the riverbank and past other animals. The hare was really struggling to shake off the fox - this had been the first time this had happened as he had easily shaken them off before.

    The chase was beginning to get a lot of attention from the other animals and birds in the woods. Animals ducked into burrows, the toads jumped into the river and the Squirrels dived up the tree trunks. The rooks up in the trees were getting very agitated and making a lot of squawking and this noise was getting really loud when suddenly the hare tripped up on a tree branch which had been poking up on the ground. He had enough time to turn round and be prepared to meet his fate as the Fox was just behind him and was running towards the stricken hare with his jaws wide open ready to get his prize and felt a sense of victory and achievement when suddenly there was a huge bang which deafened the woods.

    The Fox fell down to the ground awash with rich red blood coming from his chest. One final thought came to the Fox's mind before he died - what would have happened if he decided to stick with the rabbit and not hunt the hare?
  9. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:17
    Entry 7 - Peter's Pans

    Wendy called Peter around 11:30 PM on the day before the event. Peter had gone to bed early because of his afternoon at the pub with the Lost Boys. It took him a minute to figure out where he was and as such wasn’t able to get to the phone before his answering machine kicked in. “Hi you’ve reached Peter Pan, I’m unable to come to the phone at the moment as I’m either dealing with Captain James Hook or I’m on the other line, if you leave a brief message and your phone number I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able”. Wendy said, “Peter we’re in big trouble”.

    Once he’d gotten his wits about him Peter called Wendy back. “What’s the problem Wens?” He loved that name, she no as much. “Remember Mr. Smee asked me to bake that big cake for James’ birthday party? Well I don’t have a pan big enough. I think one of your boys took it and used it as a boat.” Peter thought for a moment and said, “I think I might know where it is. Let me check and I’ll get back to you.”

    About an hour later he’d found it and called Wens with the good news. He asked Tink if she wouldn’t mind taking it over. She “tinkled” yes sprinkled the pan with pixiedust and off she went.

    The day of the party came. They all loved the cake (it was a large replica of the Captains ship) with miniature lookalikes of Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and of course Peter, walking the plank.

    After the candles were blown out, the cake eaten and the gifts opened, the “good” captain went over to the starboard side of his ship and gazed out over the calm seas. He looked down the side of the ship and noted something floating in the water up against the ships ladder. It looked like an envelope so he went over to the ladder and headed down towards the waterline. Sure enough it was indeed an envelope and it was addressed to him. As he grabbed at it he thought he heard the sound of a clock. It was the last thing he ever heard or did. Tick, tock.
  10. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:19
    Entry 8 - Song of Herself

    Alyssa lives in the Whitman Housing in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. It was long after her husband had disappeared leaving her with two young girls to raise by herself that her neighbor told her that the project was named after a very famous American poet. On her way home from her job Alyssa stopped in the Strand bookstore and asked where the poems of Walt Whitman could be found. A polite young man took her to the back of the store and recommended Leaves of Grass, Whitman’s most famous poem.

    She carried her little green covered book with her religiously attempting to understand what seemed she would never understand. At times she felt that she looked like the religious Jews on the subway who pored over their bibles in search of something she knew not what. “I sing the body electric” had no meaning for her. How does a person sing a “body” especially an electric one?

    Her job as a caregiver, took her daily to the Upper Eastside of Manhattan. Her clients were elderly wealthy people whose families could afford the constant care of people sent from her employer. She would sit with them, read to them, feed them, walk with them, take them to the bathroom and make sure of their safety and health from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    She loved the job because it took her through the busiest of subway stations – Grand Central Station. She also changed trains at Union Square from the Q to the 4 or 5 trains to 89th St. There was music everywhere and seemingly at all times in the subways. The Doo Wop guys on the trains themselves always took time to sing to Alyssa when the trains were uncrowded in the earlier hours. She loved when they sang “Up on the Roof” by the Drifters just to see her smile. At Union Square there was always music at the top of the stairs and sometimes she would sit there if she was early and read her book, listen to the music and watch the people. She marveled at the crowds rushing to and fro to their exits or to other the trains as the music ebbed and waned and reflected the beautifully controlled chaos that flowed all around her. It was there she began to grasp the meaning of the poem. Yes – “electric” – all she had to do is plug herself in.

    She would, on nice days, take the elderly for their walks. They were slow on their walkers and the Upper Eastside walkways were more narrow than most. It was difficult but she loved being in a different section of the city among people both alike and unlike those in her neighborhood. One day she had taken one of her clients to Central Park. She was an elderly lady who had told her how much she loved the park and had played there as a little girl. She was in her wheelchair.

    Alyssa wended her way through the crowded sidewalks to the park. She found an area near the boat pond where a young Asian man played his violin. She read to the woman from her book and watched her as she looked around absorbing the sites she had known all her life. She loved it when Alyssa read to her and she often fell asleep to Alyssa’s gentle Caribbean accent and Whitman’s raucous poetry.

    When she nodded out Alyssa took her hand and gently sang “Up on the Roof” to herself as she sat in the shade of an oak tree. She felt the hand of the woman go gradually from warm to cold and recognized the sign. She called 911 from her cell phone and the police arrived in a few minutes and before long the ambulance ferried her client to a new reality.

    She took the wheelchair back to the apartment where the woman from the agency met her and sent to the office for a new assignment.

    Alyssa loved New York and she often would rise earlier than necessary and walk over the Manhattan Bridge and catch her train in Chinatown. The bridge fascinated her - millions of tons of steel and cable. Looking up the East River then down past the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, the backdrop of Manhattan, the subways thundering by her only a few feet away, the smooth metal of rail and wheel and the blue electrical flash where the train passed over the weld of the third rail . It was there she found her Walt Whitman standing alone on the bridge surveying all within sight – and he was she.
  11. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:20
    Entry 9 - Bushfire

    Twelve years old, standing in the driveway, watching the men in overalls with the big hoses try in vain to save her family's home from burning down, she wondered why God let it happen. Later, when her mother said she could have new clothes and toys, she thought that was why. Forty years later, she is still afraid of fire, it’s just a visceral thing without any thought behind it.

    Now she stands at the window looking at the giant smoke cloud looming over the nearest ridge to the north. It's almost time to bale the summer hay, so there's a lot of fuel for the fire, it will burn very easily. Round the house everything which might trap embers has been cleared or packed away, the roof gutters have been filled with precious water, and every preparation which could be done has been done. The precious photo albums have been packed, along with the insurance documents and all the other pieces of paper that make up a life, into a small case which is sitting by the door next to the cat carrier and birdcage.

    The fire people's website says it will soon be too late to leave, so she has to decide now. She's been listening to the emergency radio all day, and her anxiety level is so high that she cannot make a rational decision. The road to the fire refuge has trees all along it, and fire leaps very quickly from tree to tree; if she goes, she must go now or the fire may block the road, and so many dead people have been found in burnt-out cars. They say the safest place is in the house, but she remembers her childhood home and does not believe this.

    Family is far away and cannot help her now. Most of the volunteer firefighters are on the scene, only a skeleton crew in the neighbourhood, and they’re trying to be everywhere at once. She is alone. She must go. And still she hesitates.

    What may be happening to other people she knows, she simply cannot think about. Her focus is on herself, her life, the possessions which make up her life – the house, the garden, her pets, and all those precious things which represent the people she has lost, such as her husband’s photos and diaries. She cannot save them all, she accepts that, she cannot save them all.

    But now she knows what to do, the house and garden can be replaced, nothing else can. With a sudden sense of purpose, she closes her laptop, gathers her things, packs them quickly into the car, and heads for sanctuary.
  12. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:21
    Entry 10 - Victims

    He emerged from the shadow of an apple tree and there before him stood the
    humble country cottage. Set on half an acre and surrounded by a three foot high
    stone wall made up of uneven rocks. It was like looking at someone smiling with
    teeth that were not straight. No moon, the sky was a midnight blue. He himself was
    dressed in black clothing and on his head a black woolen hat. No pets in this house,
    so no dogs to attack him as was an occupational hazard in his chosen profession.

    He quietly and quickly slipped over the wall, avoiding the old iron gate which
    would have screeched in alarm announcing his presence. The old wooden kitchen
    window gave easily and he was soon inside. On went the small slim torch, it's
    dim yellow beam spilling over the green linoleum floor. A large pine breakfast
    table of pale coloured wood and six matching chairs. The cupboards were pine
    also and he rapidly searched them. In one drawer, £400 pounds. In another drawer a cheque book and two gold rings in a box. In another box a diamond
    cluster engagement ring that had belonged to the now long dead woman of the
    house. Her husband now a widower and was now awake hearing noises.

    Down the corridor he walked silently. A double barreled shotgun in his hands.
    It was a cold night but he was sweating and found his grip on the gun failing.
    He wiped his hands in his robe and gripped the gun again tightly.
    Quickly he opened the door to the kitchen. The burglar was already standing
    on the sink by the window where he entered. He froze and stared at the long
    metal barrels which pointed at him.

    In the back of his belt, a sharp wide knife with a 7 inch blade.
    The two men stared at each other for what seemed an eternity.
    The burglar grabbed his knife and jumped. A loud bang. The smell of
    powder in the air. Bright yellow flash lighting up the dark.

    Dark again. Deep red blood covering the green linoleum floor. From the blackness
    came evil and from evil now came the crimson blood. Life force draining away.
    Sirens now. Bright flashing blue lights piercing the dark. A neighbour had called
    the police. The cottage sealed off away from prying eyes. Two men dead.

    A great hole in the chest where was once a beating heart, the man in black
    lay in a contorted position on the kitchen floor. The widower lay beside him,
    his throat slashed by a 7 inch blade. No winners here. All is lost.
  13. Joined
    12 Nov '05
    24 Feb '13 20:22
    There are the 10 entrants for The 2013 RHP Prose Competition - Start voting now!!!!
  14. Joined
    14 Mar '04
    24 Feb '13 21:57
    Originally posted by Silverstriker
    There are the 10 entrants for The 2013 RHP Prose Competition - Start voting now!!!!
    Song of Herself-5
    The Hunters-3
    Sunset in Fall-1

    Good luck to all.
  15. SubscriberKewpie
    since 1-Feb-07
    20 Jan '09
    24 Feb '13 22:21
    Originally posted by Silverstriker
    There are the 10 entrants for The 2013 RHP Prose Competition - Start voting now!!!!
    1st - In the Sun Room
    2nd - A Letter which never sent
    3rd - Victims
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