Sue Vincent runs a wonderful writing prompt, #writephoto, each week, using her own photography as inspiration. Maybe it’s the snot monster talking, or maybe, once again, Sue has come up with a great image, but as soon as I saw this week’s photo I heard the first line of a story. And here it is:
‘So that’s the last of it then, is it?’
‘Well, yes.’ I shuffled sideways, as though I could hide the patch of green. ‘I’ve used all of it.’
Master Pinchface advanced on me, bony finger extended. ‘And you call this a Wasting then, do you?’
‘Um.’ I looked around. I mean, the place did look pretty much like a wasteland. Or at least the start of one. The grass dead and tumbled, the soil rising as dust to the sky. Except for that one patch. ‘Well…’ My voice cracked, and I felt myself flush.
‘Let me get this straight.’ The Master glared at me, eyes red under his hood. ‘You were given, at great expense by the Council, a bag of Wasting dust. And your job, your only job, was to render this,’ he grimaced, waving his arm, ‘place,’ he spat the word, ‘a wasteland. Am I correct?’
I nodded. My mouth twisted and I shuffled a little further away. It hadn’t been my fault, really it hadn’t. But she had been so pretty, sitting there in her russet gown, wings all silvery like the moon on harvest night. I’d not had the heart to sprinkle the dust where she sat, combing her long dark hair and singing, her voice like chiming bells. And then when I remembered it was too late, the bag flapping empty in the wind. And now she was gone.
‘So tell me,’ the Master went on,’ what is the golden rule regarding a Wasting?’ He raised feathery eyebrows, shrivelled lips pursed.
I cleared my throat. ‘Um, the rule is, Let no green remain, or the land will grow again.’ I bit my lip. ‘I didn’t mean to,’ I went on. ‘And I think, well, it’s not too bad, is it?’
‘Not too bad?’ Master Pinchface’s voice rose to a shriek, tattered sleeves catching the wind. ‘You must be joking!’ He advanced on me, pointing his finger again. Too late I saw the tip had started to glow. The last thing I heard before my world went dark was laughter. Silvery, like bells on the wind.
Master Pinchface moved forward, the pointed toe of his boot pushing at a pale stone lying on the grass, all that remained of the young apprentice. He shook his head. Taking a small bag from his pocket he opened it, spilling black dust that swirled across the small patch of green grass, turning it to brown. Now that, he thought with satisfaction, was a proper Wasting.
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