Her key… #fivewords

Weekly Writing Prompt #116 

female_assassin_by_ecezio-d46ek8n

 

 

Acknowledgement: ecezio.deviantart.com

She thought she ought to check the address before she went down the high street. She had the key, and would see the colour sign, the code.

Her mission was simple, she was paid to kill him.

He knew, and was waiting. He was accepting death. His time had come, and he made sure the sign was at his door. It would be painless, she was such an artist, he knew: he had trained her.

 

Image: Female Assassin by Ecezio on deviantART

A witness in the night

warrior_angel___23_06_12_by_lucastorquato27-d5mlyi7

Acknowledgement lucastorquato27.deviantart.com

I wasn’t at my best, hot, bothered, coughing, feeling sick. But that’s the time she chose. We hadn’t had a real talk, the way she wants, for a while. Evidently, I had been working, making progress, trying to move forward, damn.

The shimmer around her was an omen of what was to follow: the bitter complaints of a very dissatisfied lady, or rather ladies, since she was wearing all their faces, at once. I could tell she was furious.

“You have been at it again,” she said, as I was trying to focus on her shape in darkness, almost frightened, “yes, don’t play the innocent, it ain’t working, Monsieur le littérateur, de mes fesses, you are! First you set me on with a couple of robotic morons, and in uniform, just showing what a lamentable case I am, in your words, Sir!”

What the heck was she talking about now… It must be about the story, the girl… “Yes,” she resumed, pointing a vengeful finger at me, “You know perfectly well what I am talking about. No respect for anything. The last thing I know I am described, hopeless, as a sort of female predator, but, just a minute, not only that, an immoral kinda despicable spy. Yes Sir, no denying please! And once again, no discussion, no consultation with me: to hell with your feelings, girl!!”

I was speechless, which was probably best. I urgently needs the loo, but she was in the way, less than a meter from the bed. I had a sweat.

“Besides, you are now setting me up, again, as a complete idiot, a kinda pussy cat, ready to roll over for that distinguished, and rich, of course, lady. I assume you modelled her on your wife! YOU are, Sir, the despicable character in this story…”

There was a pause. Her shape was getting a little vaguer, was she going? Bad luck, she must have been thinking.

“Just one word of warning: don’t, just don’t set me up to become her lover! This is not me, I am not like that! I…”

I risked a word, to my peril,

“You mean, you don’t like women?”

“You, innocent you, you know perfectly well this is not what I mean, I am a human being, I have feelings, I let you know! I am not someone you, or that slut, can pick up in a club, and then pack up like, like…”

“This is not what I…”

“Shut up! You don’t even know what you’re doing. You use creatures like me as if they were your slaves, no respect, no real understanding, is this what you call writing?”

Another pause. I was by then desperate, but she gave no signs of wanting to move on.

“I am not going to have this. Not again. You never put things right. You start something, you don’t finish. And I, am the victim! I had enough!”

I attempted conciliation.

“I’ll rewrite those scenes. You know what work in progress is, don’t you?”

She was laughing, how beautiful she was in her anger…

“I despair. Your punishment will be your own readers, I mean the few who risk approaching that… well, pretend story! I am going home, where you cannot touch me!”

I felt confused, abused, abandoned. As she disappeared I could hear her laughter down the dark corridors of my imagination. I was alone, morning was still far away…

 

Image: Warrior Angel – 23-06-12 by Lucastorquato27 on DeviantArt

A new mission

 

DonetskCathedral

 

This was the city of her childhood, the young officer knew its streets and buildings by heart. On the newly opened strategic highway she’d overtaken a long line of armour and missiles carriers, moving north in the direction of the ceasefire line, shaking the ground at the slow pace of prehistoric giants. “Someone is on the move,” she thought, “and not lightly armed”.

The austere building of Military Intelligence HQ, in D…, was off the new road, near the reconstructed airport, where, for months, fierce fighting had raged, only fifteen years back, when the enemy’s hordes were shelling the city, days and nights. Sophie Lavinsky was a little girl then, and she remembered the bombing, the dark basement, the fear, her mother’s anger. She also remembers the days, when, finally, the province had been liberated, the celebrations, the overwhelming sense of triumph, and her decision, at seventeen, to commit her life to the defence of her country. As she approached the entrance, and showed her pass to the guards, she thought of her mother, who had taught her the lessons of the Great War, and the sweet taste of victory. She parked her car near the Commanding officer’s building. Near the door a platoon of troopers in combat gear saluted her, she returned the salute with a smile. She climbed the stairs, checking her uniform and cap.
She knocked at the door, under a sign that said: “Colonel Maria Suvorov, 3rd section”. The third section was the German section, charged with intelligence gathering on Alliance troop movements in Germany, and in Eastern countries. A clear authoritative woman’s voice told her to come in. At the door Sophie saluted, a little stiffly, and stood to attention. Colonel Suvorov was walking toward her and shook her hand: “Welcome comrade! Sophie, this is general xxx who is taking part in our our briefing this morning.”
The older man stood up, and smiled. Sophie saw the lines of campaign colours on his uniform jacket: from all parts of the world where the Federation had fought in the past decades… A single golden star medal was pinned to his breast. “Good morning comrade, please sit down. Colonel Suvorov has told me about you, lieutenant Lavinsky, and of your exploits at the last joint forces olympic games.” Sophie blushed.
She had won the gold medal at the pentathlon, no small feat given the level of competition. They sat around a round table. A young NCO brought tea in silver cups. The small office was spartan. On the wall hanged various photographs of soldiers, in majority women. One photograph was of a younger Maria Suvorov, in the Syrian desert.

Colonel Suvorov looked at a note pad in front of her, and then to Sophie, a direct gaze the young woman held. “There is very likely to be a change in… “our friends’s policy,” she said addressing Sophie, and looking from time to time to the general. “Our friends” was pronounced with only a thin veil of irony. “Soon, events on the northern coast cities will force us to intervene. The intervention will be massive, and there will be no cease fire line, this time, until we are deep, deep enough to eliminate any shred of doubt about our resolve, in the minds of their politicians.” She added, after a pause, “of course we will limit the casualties.”
“You should know,” the general said, while Sophie was registering the meaning of the colonel’s words, “that the mission we are about to explain to you, is of the utmost importance to that future campaign. We need, promptly, better intelligence on the population mood in the old territories, and specifically, Berlin. We have agents there, but we need fresh eyes and ears to confirm, and possibly correct, some of the intelligence we have.”
There was another pause, Sophie was listening, knowing better than asking questions at this point. The colonel resumed: “We are sending you to Berlin for a short mission, a snapshot, with two main objectives. One, as the general just said, is to take a view of the spirit of the residents, their state of mind, now, and after the events I have alluded to. We expect a favourable change in popular sentiment after that, but we have to be sure. Two, is to probe the stance, particularly, of the English speaking expatriate community in the city. As you know US neutrality, now that they are virtually out of of the Alliance, is no longer an issue: it’s an incontrovertible fact. Yet we have to know what westerners there think, what their concerns are, how their views of the Federation change, before and after we take action. I should add, for your understanding, that, in due course, there will be a new division of the country…” Colonel Suvorov smiled before adding, “this time not temporary.”

The general asked Sophie: “Do you have any burning question so far, comrade?” Sophie realised a new step was about to be taken in her life. “Only about the timeline for those events, and my move, Sir.” – “You are leaving tomorrow, the rest of today is about providing you with detailed information about where, who and what, and your contacts there. You are fluent in both German and English, as well as French,” the colonel replied, “so, in addition to your well honed skills as an intelligence officer, you are the perfect choice for this mission. Events in the north are already at boiling point, as you know. We expect a serious provocation to take place within two or three months, possibly earlier. Our response will follow swiftly, within a couple hours…”

Viktoria Park II, ©2017 Honoré Dupuis

Photo: The reconstructed Cathedral of Transfiguration of Jesus in Donetsk. Source: Sergiy Klymenko

Haven #writephoto

Haven

january-hol-2016-004-2

 

This is the place we have chosen,

The haven of our declining years –

For there we will await the start of

our voyage, beyond the beloved sky of our world.

There we will remember other journeys,

other skies, and celebrate

the enduring treasure

of our love. 

 

 

 

Departure

1200px-GendarmenmarktLB

Henry Miller had written about his city, and Francis Lenôtre too had known happy days in his birthplace. The street was calm, a few children were playing near the school, a familiar sight. Francis closed the door, turned slowly round holding his light suitcase in a firm hand. The metro station was ten minutes walk from his apartment, a well trodden path he had followed many times in the thirty years he’d lived there.
A short and wiry man, in his early sixties, he still projected a sense of energy and strength, and the attentive face of a fit, mature man, at ease in the lecture room as much as in the training room. Today, his first stop would be the Gare de l’Est, where he would catch the afternoon high speed train to Berlin. The journey would take six hours, with a fifteen minutes stop in Frankfurt. He would have plenty of time to read the brief for the literature conference he would be attending two days later, to polish his own paper, and perhaps he would even be lucky enough to catch Myriam, his ex-wife, on her busy schedule.
In front of the town hall he noted the new graffiti on the wall of the old party local office, and the hate symbols freshly painted from the previous night. The day before he had read several articles describing the explosive situation in the East, the coastal cities, and western Ukraine. The internet was awash with speculations and warnings of an impending war, of the next move by the powerful Eurasian Federation, and of the neutral silence that was now a feature of US diplomacy. He boarded an almost deserted underground train, and soon he arrived at his destination.

As he entered the station, Francis reflected that, at a time when high speed trains were finally replacing internal European flights for the greater common good, rail stations looked more and more like the previous century’s airports: Mammon temples. A patrol of four soldiers led by an NCO marched past him, as he was checking the news panel. The NCO’s beret revealed an elegantly shaped feminine nape, and a young face with beautiful dark eyes. He was already walking to the gate, then boarded his coach, found this seat, and checked for messages. He had tried to contact Myriam since he knew for certain he would attend the conference. He always told her what he was doing, and where he was going, a habit of ten years of marriage he had not abandoned. Of course, he was never sure of where she was, since the compliment was rarely returned. To his mind, it did not matter, as it was still his duty to ensure she knew where he was, in the unlikely but still possible event that she would need him. Francis logged his pad to the train network, and accessed the conference site, checked the timetable of speakers.

The subject of the conference was “fiction and reality in the days of neutrality”. This was a clear reference to the situation of writers, now that the East-West old rivalries had finally been made all but obsolete by the newly elected US president’s unilateral and popular decision, five years earlier, to return his country to near isolationism, declare neutrality, remove his troops and most of his diplomats from Europe, quit the Alliance military wing, as well as withdraw from all but a few of the now useless overseas bases. Authors, who had long thrived on stories of Middle-eastern wars and western special forces heroics, were now high and dry, like their predecessors spy hunters at the end of the Cold War. But western Europe was holding forth, in the shape of a resurgent, and, occasionally, vociferous German conservative government, that had taken again the mantle of defender of the “free world”, whatever that now meant for the Alliance.

As his train was leaving the Paris conurbation at accelerating speed, Francis checked his pad again for messages. Myriam was, as ever, silent. On one of the Eurasian Federation news sites he followed, Francis noticed a recent post describing the violence and racism of some groups in one of the coastal countries. The author claimed that no amount of Alliance armour or ex-US fighter jets would soon protect those thugs from a just punishment. The tone was patriotic but calm, and Francis wondered whether the blogger was writing for herself, or inspired by some officious source. Some news channels reported movements of Alliance troops close to the Federation border. The day before, the chancellor had made an uncompromising speech in the Bundestag, affirming that the Republic would stand by its allies, and the “common European values”. But who counts now as her “allies”, thought Francis, and as for “values”…

Half empty at the departure in Paris Est, the train filled up in Frankfurt, a mix load of passengers including military personnel travelling east on duty, business travellers like him, and families. The journey to Berlin would only take now two hours, which Francis intended to use to polish his speech. His subject was a humoristic comparison between John Le Carré and a fictional young writer who had achieved some fame singing the praise of the old intelligence services, champions of freedom, before neutrality set in, and this genre became quaint and, finally, irrelevant. He meant to contrast the spirit of Le Carré’s writing, denouncing the elites’s collusion with forces of evil, as in the “Constant Gardener”, and the early Cold War Smiley’s novels, with the total adhesion of some recent authors to the myths of the “War on Terror”, the threats to civilisation and the glory of its heroic defenders, reflecting, in his view, the subservience of many of these youngsters to a crumbling order. Francis expected a moderate approval in response to his thesis, at best. Did he care? In a sense he did, as he was still of the old school, who believed in a role for literature in the business of living, and therefore, politics. His invitation to the conference had been from an old acquaintance in the german publishing world. He’d accepted for the sake of old time, and for the opportunity this gave him to be back in Berlin.
As the forested landscape of central Germany flew past the Intercity window, Francis reflected on the events of the past decade, and on his own life. His wife Myriam had divorced him ten years ago, and they had since remained “friends”. Myriam, born in Tel-Aviv in the 80’s, from a jewish observant American mother and a French entrepreneur father (entrepreneur in what, Francis had never known for certain), was attractive, sure of herself, and determined to have everything her way. Even to have him, Francis, whom she’d married, first and foremost, to prove to herself that she could master the art of being a wife, and, secondly, have a son from a man she could respect. Their son, Philip, gifted with his father’s charm and his mother’s determination and looks, was now starting in his career as architect.

The marriage had not lasted more than ten years, which Francis thought, at the time, was an achievement in itself. Myriam was unfaithful, openly, and seriously so, compared with his own infidelities, a very successful business woman, who rapidly tired of their life together in his old-fashioned suburb, even though, in the later years of their marriage, she did not spend there more than two or three months in the year. She now lived in London, with a lucrative job as a private financial consultant to high net-worth individuals, or to the façade companies that shielded them from preying eyes. Their meetings were far apart, but not so infrequent for them not to get a little closer, occasionally. Philip had decided, after Oxford, to live close to his mother, and mother and son shared a spacious penthouse in the East End.

They were now approaching the marches of Saxony. Francis checked his pad: he had a message from Philip who said that his mother would call him once he’d arrived in Berlin; but, of course, he reflected, this had to mean she wanted him to call her then. Memories came back to him of Myriam and him in Berlin, before their divorce, one of the happy trips away from France, which had found them once again in love, and in love with the city. The city of Faust. They had even, briefly, considered living there, exploring Brandenburg, visiting Poland, perhaps even Russia…

They’d arrived at the Hauptbahnhof, all glass and steel. Francis checked the time, packed his pad: it looked like a warm late afternoon in Berlin, so he would walk to his hotel on Friedrichstraße. He enjoyed the walk, past the chancellery, along the river bank and the Reichstag, and Unter den Linden. When he reached his hotel he found a message from the conference organisers: the start of the conference was to be delayed by a couple of days since delegates from Eastern countries – did this refer to Poland? – were experiencing travel disruption. He was to call the organisers’ information desk the next day to get a new schedule. It crossed his mind that he wouldn’t mind spending a little longer here: nothing was urgently requiring his return to Paris, and he knew where to rent working space, if needed. When he tried and called Myriam, to his surprise, he found the network congested. He unpacked, and decided to take a stroll to Gendarmenmarkt before dinner.

The old square, and the two churches, were a nostalgic spot for him, where he had often stood and watched the crowds, the demonstrators holding various nationalities flags and symbols, the balloons sellers, the bubble blowers, the tourists in summer dresses. The square in this early evening was crowded; he noticed various flags, but there was no confrontation. Several trucks of black-clad city police were parked along the eastern side of the square, at a distance. The mood was somewhat more subdued than he remembered, but his last stay here was back four years. His walk took him past an Austrian restaurant he remembered he had, almost in another life, appreciated. The interior was cosy and light, the waitress smiled at him and asked what his accent was. Am I losing my Berliner? He asked himself, a little puzzled. But then the waitress was not German, unless she came from a remote germanic tribe in the Far East, for neither could he identify her own accent. He ordered a generous salad and half a bottle of Austrian red.

It was then that his phone rang, with the hallmark tone of the lady Myriam. She wanted to know how long he was planning to stay in Berlin. She’d heard some noises of panzers close to the Polish-Federation border. But this wouldn’t deter her to come to meet him in Berlin, if he did not mind, and stay a little. No, he did not mind, in fact, he said, it would be nice to see Berlin now, with her, and perhaps they could discuss the situation then. She laughed: ever the talkative type, Francis! She said she would call back once she had sorted her flights. Flights, plural, of course, he thought. But he was delighted. What could be more agreeable than the company of his best friend?
In the lobby of his hotel, a group of American tourists were watching the news. Columns of armour were following a long motorway, viewed far away from the air. The colours or flags were not visible. Where was this? He would read a little, then turn off.

Viktoria Park I © 2017 Honoré Dupuis

Photography: Gendarmenmarkt, Leon Bovenkerk Eigenwerk

Neophyte #thedailypost

Neophyte

DSC_0131

The streets are empty, and rain starts falling. Some windows are lit, high up the tall buildings. Fallen leaves fly in the wind. Slowly he begins to hear the voices of the city. He has so much to learn: the geography of those unknown spaces, where the wall once stood, the secret boundaries, what was once the East, what is still the West, the ancient churchyards, the parks, the statues.

He listens to the voices, far away. He walks, he writes, he speaks to her. She says: “you have to forget what you learnt: this is different, you are on the other side of a mirror, you have to start again, and you cannot guess…”

Luna #writephoto

Luna

new

 

A small voice in darkness…

And now, the light through the curtains:

The moon has appeared, clouds gone,

Is it late,

or is it early?

Have we lost the dream?

Or is the moon guiding us 

to a new world,

half awake?

Proxy #thedailypost

Proxy

fantome_by_0zhan

 

She roams the streets, a pale, almost immaterial silhouette, the thin shadow of a woman. Yet the eyes are much alive, piercing blue, observing the passers-by, decrypting the smiles, or the tears. She reads the lives, the stories, the pain, the joy, she does not need to talk with people, they are an open book for her – and the only light in her life.

For without them, she is not really alive, a mere shimmer in the autumn air.

Image: Fantome by 0zhan on DeviantArt

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