5 Replies to “Daily Journal Prompt #296”

  1. There were warnings. As there always were. Signs posted saying to turn back and to turn back now before it was too late. And across the road barriers thrown up and lights flashing yellow and blue.

    A man on the news said something about God, and his voice was all broken and all tears. He was dressed in black and his hands were big and red and thick and he held them together in his lap, knotted and tight, not quite in prayer but something like.

    And everywhere the windows of stores were boarded up and policemen looked pale and wore outsize coats and held onto their hats now that the wind was picking up. And they shouted, those pasty-faced policemen, shouted out orders for everyone to stay inside, and their voices were whipped from their mouths and hurled against the stone fronts of buildings.

    And rain fell, great gobbets of spit that hit the ground like bullets, and the gutters overflowed and cars shifted in the rising water and the wind slewed them this way and that. And cables were ripped from the tops of poles, the tops of buildings, and street signs folded and tore like paper. And there was such a howling, as if there might be a creature as big as a city and surly as surly is, and it roared full throated and foul, and everything in its path trembled. And I thought then of the man on the television and I thought of what he said about the word of God and how all men do tremble to hear it and I wondered if this was what he meant.

    My mam said we were to pray and she made us kneel on the floor of the cellar, all of us. And I cried, not for the wind and the rain, but for the floor that I knelt on which was stone and hurt my knees. I thought God would not mind if we lay in our beds and prayed, that God did not need for kneeling and knees hurting.

    Then she was singing, our mam, and they were church-songs she sang and we were to join in, except I did not know the words, not the words our mam was singing. I thought she might be crazy then. Teachers said that sometimes, when the kids were all jumpy in class and scarce could be controlled, they said it was a full moon or a wind coming. And I thought that was what it was with our mam, that the wind had got inside her head and was blowing her thoughts all around.

    Then it stopped. I did not notice at first and when I did I was not sure what it was that I was noticing. There was an eerie quiet, as though I’d lost my hearing and only a strange ringing in my ears like the whine of an insect that is near. And then after only the incessant drumbeat of rain, and our mam holding her breath and her eyes turned upwards as though she was having a holy fit and we none of us dared speak.

  2. There were warnings. Scribbled on scrap paper and pinned to the door. Warnings not to enter. Or if one must enter, then not to give all and not to take all. Not to believe in what there was to see on the other side of the door. And afterwards to pay what was asked, to pay quickly and to leave then, not to linger. Not to return, not ever.

    And on the other side of the door sat the whore of Huascaran. Beauty that cannot be measured once, but now the years were on her and they had not been kind or unkind. There was grey in the woven tresses of her hair, if you looked. The face was painted and the cheeks rouged and the lips smeared with red wax. And she smelled of German cologne. So much that the visitor was always a little giddy in her company.

    Her name was Pilar and she did not enjoy conversation. Introduction was formal at the start and they drank madeira wine from small glasses and she held her limp hand out to be kissed and she did not seem to even look at the young man before her.

    ‘You can leave now,’ she said when he’d drained his glass. ‘And you can tell your friends in school that you met the whore of Huascaran and you kissed her fingers and she called you by name. You can leave now, Catunta, and it will have cost you only a few soles. Stay and there will be a richer story to tell, but the cost will be more than all the soles in your wallet.’

    They never did heed the warnings, not the scraps of paper pinned to her door or what she said to them, her voice soft enough it might have been only a thought in their heads, the voice of their own mothers telling them to take care. One kiss and then another and the whole night pressed into a single hour and they thought themselves in love. Catunta and a hundred young men before him and a hundred after, and they all abandoned reason and gave themselves up to pleasure and such dizzy heights that no man could afterwards put into words, nor dared to. One hour and they were forever lost and the whore of Huascaran had another captive heart in her hand.

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