footprints WEP+IWSGFootprints, and December, came together to give me some inspiration at last.  So I’m back in the saddle for the December WEP+IWSG flash fiction adventure.

I think the team at WEP have done a great job of turning what seemed to have got out of hand back into an enjoyable event for all parties.  Well done, and thank you. It can’t be easy dealing with a load of disparate over-enthusiastic authors!

Here’s my effort for this month. Gentle comments welcome.  It’s 997 words.

Footprints

The footprints led away from her.

That is, she could see the ones about three feet in front of her, and new ones appeared as she stepped into their tracks.

There was nobody there to make them.

Nobody.

*

It had been the usual sort of response to a snow forecast in the UK: people panicking, all the usual over-reaction to warnings of a ‘huge’ fall. It might make everything white, but if you went out and measured it, there was little more than an inch on the ground. In English terms, it was a lot.

So when day eventually dawned, although the clouds were so low the light was more dim than dawn, she looked out, and delighted in great dollops of white hanging from the bare branches of her tree, weighed down so the slender twigs nearly swept the ground. Blackbirds and robins were already out, scraping the snow and turning over leaves under the bushes in hope, if not success. The chaffinches and blue tits held on grimly to the branches, waiting their turn at her seed feeder.

Theirs was the only movement.

The neighbours’ cars were lined up in the parking area, humps of white imitating cartoon sketches. Nobody stirred. Even the most driven weren’t driving this morning.

She pulled on her dressing gown and made the first coffee of the day. The news had all the usual BBC over-reaction, people stuck in blizzards as far south as Nottingham; few trains running, people advised to stay at home and not travel, blah, blah.

By ten o’clock the clouds had lifted, and there was promise of one of those wonderful winter days when the sun shines and the snow stays crisp. She dragged her snow boots out of their drawer, tutted at the state of the soles, and remembered the place she’d bought them – they must be forty years old by now. 

Wrapped up in two layers of sweaters, waterproof lined over-trousers, fleece jacket, her boots, mitts, hat and scarf, she set out for her walk. On the doorstep she paused, and returned to get her walking pole, just in case. She was prepared.

There is something about thick snow, newly fallen. It absorbs all sound, except dripping.

She could see birds darting about, but they were noiseless, perhaps in respect to the day.  Even redwings in the tops of the trees had ceased their chatter, and not because she was passing underneath.  She accompanied her journey with a swish of the trousers and the squeak of the snow underfoot. And occasionally a clank as her pole struck a stone hidden beneath the surface.

She paused now and then to look at tracks crossing her path – these might be some sort of vole or mouse; those must be a rabbit.  Some small, more circular ones made deep holes in the snow, and she couldn’t see the print beneath the surface.  A large animal, since it hadn’t had any difficulty lifting its feet out of the holes it had made. A deer probably, there were plenty in the woods around here.

She came to the end of the track through the woods and leant for a moment on the fence, looking out onto the fields beyond, stretching away down the valley. The light was still good up here, but lower down the gloom had set in already, perhaps a fog was getting up. She shivered.

She’d only planned to come this far and return, but something made her leave the security of the wood, and strike off at an angle, contouring along the hillside towards the three trees encircled by bushes that adorned the lookout. She hadn’t been to Mother Carey’s Hill for five years or more. Today was a good day to change that.

She was half way across the vast whiteness covering the turf when she felt a presence.

She stopped, looked around, but could not see anyone.  Where did she think this presence was? Not behind.  Not in front. Not on either side. She looked up… nothing, although the clouds had thickened again and the light was dull and flat. She really ought to go back. It might even snow again.

That was when she saw them. The footprints, being made as she watched.

They were like the ones she’d presumed to be deer. Four legs were making them, but there was nothing… she could see through whatever made them to the edge of the wood ahead; the tracks were headed there.

Was there some sort of shimmer in the air?

Was the entity who made the tracks invisible to her?

She made to ask the question: who’s there? But the words died on her lips.  Who would be there? Why would they keep steadily on if they wanted her to know?

She followed, at the entity’s pace, keeping a respectful four feet behind the latest tracks.

Just before they reached the forest edge, she wondered what she would do if the entity turned away from her home. She should be getting back. Light was fading. She should not be on any but familiar paths through the wood…

The tracks went on through a gap in the bushes, strung across with barbed wire to mark the boundary. Then there was a shuffle, the snow mixing up with the leaves on the ground. Something made the barbed wire bend, as if someone was holding it down for her to cross.

She hesitated… then crossed.

As she did, she felt the warmth of a large animal, its breath on her cheek, the scent of… not horse, but something similar, sweet and subtle. Then the sensation left her. The fence resumed its height, the tracks went on, but the entity had gone. She peered into the woods, and could swear she heard a tinkling of laughter, and saw a flash of silver, and a deep blue eye.

But she was on her usual trail, and no sign of the unicorn remained.

© J M Pett 2019

 

Please go and enjoy some of the other efforts for this prompt: you can find the participant list here.

WEP+IWSG Flash Fiction | Footprints
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31 thoughts on “WEP+IWSG Flash Fiction | Footprints

  • 13 December, 2019 at 2:32 am
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    Nice! I thought for a while there it might be a very special reindeer. A unicorn is even better… especially one that I get the feeling she’s seen before.

    Lots of sweet stories this time. I’m enjoying them, and glad I participated. Though we’re heading into the 10,000 Islands at the lower end of Florida, so I don’t know that I’ll be able to read many more!

    Reply
    • 13 December, 2019 at 2:36 am
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      PS, I added your link to the WEP page, since I saw you hadn’t, and you wouldn’t get a message until morning 🙂

      Reply
      • 13 December, 2019 at 8:52 pm
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        Thanks. I tried to comment on my iPad earlier, but it wouldn’t let me again.

        Reply
        • 17 December, 2019 at 1:09 am
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          Annoying iPad stuff :). And forget about doing anything from the phone. I don’t even try 🙂

          Reply
  • 13 December, 2019 at 3:34 am
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    This was marvelous! You set the scene beautifully with your descriptions. I loved how the snow allowed for a bit of magic to shine through so she could witness it.

    Reply
  • 13 December, 2019 at 6:18 am
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    So sweet. A unicorn! I can’t stop smiling. Love it.

    Reply
  • 13 December, 2019 at 2:14 pm
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    I wasn’t sure which way the story would go – and I love the way it traveled! Beautiful!

    Reply
  • 13 December, 2019 at 3:20 pm
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    If we all could but have such a magical encounter with a unicorn. Enchanting story. 🙂

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    • 13 December, 2019 at 8:55 pm
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      Thank *you* for reading it – otherwise it might not really exist!

      Reply
  • 13 December, 2019 at 8:57 pm
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    Just a word to my visitors – I am trying to get round all your stories, but my iPad often doesn’t let me comment. I’m doing a lot of travelling at present, so iPad is inevitable!

    Reply
  • 14 December, 2019 at 5:52 am
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    Jemima, this is a very wonderful, thought provoking story. I’m so glad you penned it for WEP’s last challenge of the year. Beautiful. I love the way you use the senses to convince us.

    Thanks for joining WEP from time to time. I hope we’ll see more of you in 2020. Yes, WEP has sorted through many issues and 2020 is shaping up into a bright new day which we hope to share with many more writers like you.

    Happy holidays!

    Denise

    Reply
  • 14 December, 2019 at 10:35 am
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    Hi Jemima – happy travelling. Loved the story … couldn’t imagine where you were going with it – just delightful … as I’m sure with your knowledge of our land – the birds would be found … I could definitely see the snow covered area … and then a Unicorn – such a wondrous creature … cheers Hilary

    Reply
  • 14 December, 2019 at 4:36 pm
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    Hi,

    A very engaging story about a unicorn. At first, I thought something terrible was going to happen to the lady and I dreaded it. But, I continued reading and I am so haopy there was a happy end.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Have a Merry Christmas and a great crossover into 2020
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Reply
  • 14 December, 2019 at 6:47 pm
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    This was so beautiful and magical. Happy holidays to you!
    ~The Real Cie~

    Reply
  • 15 December, 2019 at 5:07 pm
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    This one travelled beautifully. I loved the description. And the unicorn in the end!

    Reply
  • 16 December, 2019 at 6:15 pm
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    I knew it. There are unicorns out there. Loved your magical tale of a snowy UK.

    Reply
  • 16 December, 2019 at 8:46 pm
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    This was lovely, a heart warming tale just right for the season! Great use of the prompt, and loved the touch of magic.

    Wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year 2020.

    Reply
  • 17 December, 2019 at 8:39 pm
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    A great use of description throughout your entry. Along showing how people overreact to snow. Well done, Jemima.

    Reply
  • 17 December, 2019 at 9:04 pm
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    Wonderful description of a snowy winter in England, Jemima – with more typically British chaos. (Having gone to college in Canada – 20 ft of snow – I was always amused in the UK.) Anyway, your world came alive. You also captured the sense of something sinister or not. Magical ending. I hoped for a unicorn.

    Reply
  • 20 December, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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    Ooh ! Just the kind of story my daughter loves. Thank you Jemima. You expertly carried me along the mystery, magical trail. Beautiful descriptions and sweet twist at the end. Serene and wise entry.
    Wishing you Happy Holiday writing and looking forward to reading you again in 2020.

    Reply
  • 28 December, 2019 at 7:42 am
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    This is lovely. I was with her every step of the way.

    Reply
  • 1 January, 2020 at 7:24 pm
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    I really liked this. This is so magical and mysterious. I could read more. Great entry and excellent use of the prompt.

    Reply
  • 6 January, 2020 at 11:55 am
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    Hi Jemima – sorry took so long to get here … but loved the way you took us on your snowy travels, and then the enigma of the feet and horn … beautiful – cheers Hilary

    Reply

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