Penance – Friday Fictioneers, April 2016

Copyright J Hardy Carroll

Copyright J Hardy Carroll

At dusk the villagers commence their annual pilgrimage through the woods.

I’m sixteen; judged old enough to participate now.

We reach the clearing where, only yesterday, charred timbers littered a blackened hollow, that nature, oddly, has abhorred for years.  But today I see a sprawling house, with dark soul-less eyes.  From within I hear whimpers and sobbing.

We stand in a circle for hours, pain etched on our faces, listening.

And then the windows glow red, and the screams…

The house vanishes.

“For years we refused to acknowledge what went on at the orphanage,” my father says,  “we owe them this.”

I really didn’t feel like submitting something darkly tragic today, but this is what the muse thrust upon me, and having had the grandchildren to stay for a few days, I really must get on with restoring the house to its usual pristine condition…  yeah, only joking.  😉   Many thanks to Rochelle who leads the Friday Fictioneers with her usual aplomb and dedication.

About Sandra

I cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and write fiction and poetry. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Friday Fictioneers, Just Sayin'. Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to Penance – Friday Fictioneers, April 2016

  1. ceayr says:

    Phew, Sandra, ghosts and memories in abundance.
    Powerful, tragic, atmospheric, magnificent.

    Like

  2. I say that every time and somehow darkness creeps its way out of my pen. This is truly a dark, haunting piece, it got my mind run in circles. A very powerful story, Sandra.

    Like

  3. Dear Sandra,

    I hope this wasn’t “inspired” by a recent visitation. Deliciously dark. This is something I could see becoming a larger piece and then a movie. Ever so well done.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Not at all. 🙂 I think this, or something very similar was recently done as a television play over here. At least it was a piece about a family renting a haunted house that had once been an orphanage. It was one of those series that had great impact at the time, ghostly feet on the stairs etc. Thanks for commenting Rochelle.

      Like

  4. neilmacdon says:

    Very evocative of all the historic and current child abuse scandals. Brilliant! The only thing that tripped me was the word “pilgrimage” at the beginning. I see pilgrimage as a journey of veneration, not of expiation.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I take your point. I’m not sure I know of one word for a ‘journey of atonement’, and if I’d used that phrase it would have given the (rather weak) ending away. A pilgrimage can be a journey of moral or spiritual significance, I believe, but you may be right. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  5. Great stuff. This could be a novel in itself.

    Like

  6. wmqcolby says:

    Wow! That impacted. Terrific story, Sandra! Going “dark” sure worked for you. As we say here, always go with your best pitch.

    I went “historical” on my story. I have trouble going dark as it is. 🙂

    Like

  7. Wow. Very haunting. My kind of story!

    Like

  8. Those horror told from orphanages in the world… we have all heard the stories, and your viewpoint brought them all back to us….

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I researched ‘fire in orphanages’ very quickly after I’d written it, and came up with a horrendous event that took place in Ireland where, allegedly, the nun in charge wouldn’t allow the girls to run from the house because they’d be seen in their nightdresses! And where one victim had only been consigned to the orphanage because the local priest didn’t think it was right that his only surviving relative should be allowed to bring the child up because of religious differences. Thanks for reading Bjorn.

      Like

  9. The Voice says:

    Creepy! I’m glad you let the photo prompt take you where it wanted. I love scary stuff. Nicely done.

    Like

  10. IfeomaO says:

    I felt compelled to write about an orphanage, but glad I did not. Could not have done it the way you did…such an intense atmosphere and true feeling of penance. well done.

    Like

  11. This was one of your rare paranormal stories, Sandra. I knew this picture would bring tragic stories out of the writers.in the group. Well written as always. You painted a vivid, terrifying work picture. —- Suzanne

    Like

  12. helenmidgley says:

    Very creepily done, great job as usual 🙂

    Like

  13. That gave me shivers.

    Like

  14. Wow, what a day to get back to reading stories, first Rochelle’s and now yours. I think I’ll get back to my cuppa and the new Laurie R. King book! 🙂 Beautiful done as always.

    janet

    Like

  15. elmowrites says:

    Your story hadn’t made me think of it, but I remember the TV show you refer to in your reply to Rochelle. Nevertheless, I fet your story had a different slant to it and could well be a longer story, and a movie, as she suggests. It reminds me in a strange way of The Village, if you’ve ever seen that? Anyway, love the mix of magic and realism, and the darkness you imbued throughout. I was worried for the girl at first, and pleased to see you didn’t head off into sacrifice.

    If you’re bored of the darkness, can you send some over my way, please? I used to write so much grim / murder / misery and find it much harder to come back now I’m mothering little ones.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I don’t think I remember The Village, Jennifer, though I have seen several films where villagers unite in preserving a deadly secret. And as for darkness, I’m sure when it comes back to you, it will come back in a highly concentrated form after being suppressed. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  16. Wow…where you went with this!

    Like

  17. Mike says:

    Atonement and fire, may not redeem them I fear, a powerful illustration of evil.

    Like

  18. oldentimes says:

    Stark, dark and scary! Well done!

    Like

  19. Amy Reese says:

    The house with dark, soul-less eyes…this has a very haunting feel to it. I like where this took you, Sandra. It’s hard not to go dark with this one. You survived the grandkids! Congratulations.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      It was a great photo for inspiring ‘dark’, wasn’t it? I’m still finding socks, toys, phone chargers etc that the kids left behind, despite at least four sweeps of the house before they left. 😦

      Like

  20. Margaret says:

    I’m glad you listened to your muse. This is a wonderfully grim, chilling story, brilliantly executed, as usual.

    Like

  21. mickwynn2013 says:

    Orphanages have horrible connotations, especially these days and your piece expresses the true horror of what has gone on so often and there’s probably so much more to be revealed unfortunately. Soul-less is exactly the right word for these institutions and so many of those who worked in them.

    Like

  22. gahlearner says:

    Perfect and dark, I can see it as a movie too. It gives me the shivers, and your true story in the comments makes me want to scream.

    Like

  23. draliman says:

    Creepy, tragic and powerful. Very nice piece.

    Like

  24. liz young says:

    Wow – what a pwerful story, and so well told.

    Like

  25. mjlstories says:

    Great piece of horror (with reality behind it).
    I think it’s hard to do this well – there’s so much silly stuff around. This really hits that chilling spot.
    Whilst I’d agree this could be a film, I think it’s power lies in the pictures you create in the reader’s imagination.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I’ve always felt that the important thing with horror fiction is not to over-write it. The writer’s pen comes a poor second to the reader’s imagination when it comes to the macabre aspects of the detail. I’m not sure I did that here, but that’s what I set out to do. 😉 Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. The villager’s own little bit of Hell on Earth. Good and dark.
    Tracey

    Like

  27. rgayer55 says:

    It made my skin crawl and my imagination harbored thoughts of horror. I’d shriek, but I don’t want to scare your other readers.

    Like

  28. ansumani says:

    Ah the muse. Somedays I hold off from posting because my muse takes me to a dark place. Glad to you went where the muse took you….it was a powerful and sad story with a hint of magic.

    Like

  29. plaridel says:

    nice touch on a dark subject. well done.

    Like

  30. rosemawrites says:

    oh my. eerie, creepy but written beautifully!

    Like

  31. A stunning story, full of haunting imagery. Beautifully narrated, Sandra!

    Like

  32. Dale says:

    I felt it was going in a similar direction to my very first FF… spooky, involving children. Well done (as usual!)

    Like

  33. trentpmcd says:

    It’s not Gore Orphanage, is it? There is a local legend in my home town about Gore Orphanage. The legends state that it burned down killing all of the kids. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course. You can go there at night and smell the fire and hear the kids screaming. Unfortunately it is a legend – the state closed the orphanage years before the fire. But the orphanage was known for its cruelty.

    Like

  34. madamewriter says:

    Love the dark murky tones…great story!

    Like

  35. Jan Brown says:

    Wow. Very emotional, impactful story.

    Like

  36. Odd that this picture brought to mind orphanages for both of us. Your story sounds rather supernatural too – loved it. (But I like dark stories.)

    Like

  37. subroto says:

    The house of horrors most likely, a very dark and supernatural feel to the story.

    Like

  38. IB Arora says:

    when we refuse to act against wrongs the outcome is a foregone conclusion

    Like

  39. Fantastic take on the prompt Sandra! Loved it! 🙂

    Like

  40. Nato says:

    Great read! Makes me want to know the full story.

    Like

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