The Seated Circle

Presenting my 750 word challenge story for the above picture by American photographer Jerry N Uelsmann. This challenge was set by Miranda Kate, please find her on twitter @PurpleQueenNL. The challenge is part of her #MidWeekFlash game on Facebook, and the link is below the story.

The Seated Circle

Nothing’s better than the beach upon a misty dawn. Oliver took a breath of salty air; he was enjoying the waves lapping over his toes. Tilly the Labrador bounded ahead up to her belly in the water. Seagulls were catching crabs for breakfast, even a seal had come close to watch the passage of the man and his dog. His silky grey head barely visible in the mists that rolled gently upon the water.

“Come, Tilly. Don’t stray too far.” Oliver began to whistle, his feet taking him ever further from his seaside cottage.

The last homes on the seafront were soon behind him – replaced by the marram topped dunes. A light breeze began to blow, bringing with it an uncomfortable feeling. Oliver felt goose-bumps rising with the hairs on his neck.

Tilly gave a howl, a growing bark, her attention fixed ahead.

Oliver followed her direction with his hazel-eyes, his cheery whistle died in his throat. The breeze had opened a curtain in the mist revealing a circle of high-backed black chairs surrounded by the water. Though the rising sun bathed the area in light, they cast no shadow. Tilly turned on her heels and ran to her master with her tail between her legs. She was shaking as she buried her head against his shorts.

“What on earth is this, Tilly. I’ve walked this shore all my life and never seen such a thing,” Oliver said, his hand smoothing the dogs silky head.  

With intrigue leading the way, Oliver walked closer over the gravel-rich sand. Ten chairs made of wood formed the circle. The easterly one on it back in the water, as if the owner had jumped to their feet in a hurry. Oliver had to know more and so he entered the water. Tilly gave a warning bark, but he had to see.

“I’ll be fine, dog. You stay there if it pleases you.” Oliver drew a deep breath and walked to the nearest chair. It was hundreds of years old in style, yet shone like new. Reaching to touch it, he felt his heart skip a beat. His hand passed right through it – coldness gracing his skin where the wood of the chair should have been.

“Unbelievable!” Oliver found himself breathing heavy, the situation taking its effect upon him. He entered the twenty-foot circle, the water now ankle-deep; mid-shin when the wave sets came in stronger. He felt rock beneath his feet as he turned a circle looking at each chair. Cold fingers of creeping fear began to take him. Spectral figures were materialising in each chair. Each figure faceless thanks to the cassock drawn around him. The monk from the fallen chair was on his feet. He appeared to be pointing at Oliver. Unfinished sentences came from him like whispers on the wind.

“There… traitor — Exile or death?”

Oliver skin bleached to white. Were the monks meaning he had betrayed them?

“Never… I did… duty,” said the monk opposite him.

Oliver breathed a sigh of relief. Voices were emanating from all the ghostly monks now. An angry argument erupting, charging the air with supernatural energy.

“Please, calm down,” Oliver said, but they could not see or hear him. He was a spectator in another time. Then it happened, the standing monk lunged. He met the traitor with a roar of anger. His spectral body staggered back, a silver dagger now embedded in his stomach. The monks bounded to their feet, burst forth upon the traitor and vanished in a flash of bright blue light.

Oliver found himself sitting in the water. His hands were shaking and he felt cold. Tilly’s barking cleared his senses.

“I’m okay, Tilly. What did we just see?” he breathed. Looking about himself, he realised the circle of chairs had vanished. Being a lover of history and mystery, Oliver knew events like he’d witnessed always had meaning. Ignoring the cold, he began scrabbling about the stone beneath the waves. He found upright stones where each chair had resided. “A stone circle lost to time.” On he went, searching for more answers. He found it stuck in a crevice. The dagger used to commit the murder, it was encrusted with iron oxide thanks to untold years in the sea but was undoubtedly the same dagger.

Oliver realised that millennia ago a murder had taken place and was recorded forever in the stone. Re-joining Tilly with his prize, he began to whistle while wondering if those chairs would ever reappear again.

The End.

Thanks for reading! Do you fancy writing a 750 word story for the above photo. Head over to Finding Clarity, follow the instructions and have fun.

Check out more of my tales in the Short Stories tab too.

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