Before I get to Footprints, which is the #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com for the week, I must apologise to anyone who came to Chichester on Saturday hoping to meet me. I had to pull out of the Mynt Image Gift Fair because of health problems. I think I’ve pinned it down to an adverse reaction to ibuprofen over a period of time. So…
Welcome to May! And we’re back on my usual schedule of flash fiction on Monday, and Book Reviews on Saturday. With other things like IWSG on Wednesday and a Reflections post on Friday, I think.
This weeks’ story owes a lot to past stories featuring Roscoe and Neville. It’s around 580 words, and I hope you enjoy it.
Footprints in the Sand
The crystal clear light shone like a silver thread in front of the breakers far out on the shore. All around them, the cream sand held the sharp imprints of paws.
“I wonder what they were running from?” he asked.
“Or to…” she replied, pointing at the rock arch that ended the southern edge of the bay.
Without any word passing between them, they stepped in between the lines of pawprints, adding their own bare footsteps to the streaming pattern on the sand.
“Converging…” he said after a while.
“And not just dogs, look. That’s a cat, and another. I don’t know what those are.”
“Hmm, I hope not. Oh, another set of feet.”
“And the owner, presumably, just to the right of the arch.”
“Man or woman?”
“Woman, I think, but could be a heavy-set man.”
“What is she doing?”
It was an accurate assessment. As they drew near, it became hard to avoid squashing some of the knife-sharp prints, which by now overlaid others. None of them had been there long. Low tide had been three hours ago, so they wouldn’t be here much longer, either.
“Should we interrupt her?” he whispered.
“Let me… Hello, lovely morning. We saw the footprints…”
The woman turned to them, assessed them, and turned to face the arch once more.
“They draw you, don’t they? I’d heard a rumour. It appears to be true.”
“Er, I don’t think we’ve heard a rumour,” she commented, checking with him. “No. Just came out for a lovely morning walk.”
The woman nodded. “Do you have animals?”
“Used to have a dog,” he supplied, as she seemed reluctant to answer.
“Lots of dogs,” the woman said, nodding. “All running towards the rainbow arch, joyfully it feels to me.”
“Do you have a dog?” she asked.
“No. These ones were mine, or could be, anyway.” The woman indicated a line of small prints, sightly apart from the dogs.
“We thought those were rats.” He didn’t think this woman would be a fancy rat enthusiast.
“Similar, but different. Guinea pigs. Cavies. All running through the rainbow arch. Gone for a year once the tide covers them. Then all the next generation of animal prints will be here, this day, next year, heading for the arch. They say it takes a year for their journeying to end, and they end up here.”
“That’s not what I heard,” she said. “They go over the rainbow bridge into the green fields beyond, and when we die, we will all meet up and be happy together.”
“Yes, that’s the other story.” The woman sighed. “But you know, that’s always worried me. I mean, what if they don’t want to meet up with us? They are free now, after all.”
He exchanged glances with her, and they moved to stand directly in line with the stream of footprints gong through the arch.
“Where do they go, though?” he asked.
“It’ll be here in a minute, just watch.” The woman seemed confident, so they waited.
And then a double rainbow, one under the arch, and one above, sparkled into view.
“Goodbye, boys,” the woman whispered.
On the far side of the arch two small people slid on the colours in the sky, the white one facing backwards. “She’’ll be all right now, Nev,” Roscoe said. “She understands. Mind that dog beside you, he’s new. This way, chap.”
And the rainbow disappeared, along with the footprints in the sand, as the tide raced in.
© J M Pett 2023