#WritePhoto: Continuing the saga

It's been a long time since I last posted in this rambling on-going story of a few fierce defenders of human liberty in a ruined castle in Scotland. The last installment was here, with links to Parts I to III, Part IV, and Part V. Or you can go with the simple summary: the castle's defenders have defeated and driven off the aliens with a combination of water balloons and dungball bombs. Now they are faced with uncertainty over what's next, and a nasty clean-up job.

My story this week drew some inspiration from the last several WritePhoto pictures. It was mostly written before this week's photo came out, but I think that gave me the idea where things will go next.

Photo by KL Caley New2Writing.com


The #WritePhoto challenge is a weekly bloghop challenge where KL Caley posts a photo on Thursday and you have until Tuesday to write and post a story. I got started on this one and can't seem to let go! Visit the challenge page to join in or to see what others who are better at following the rules do with the prompt.

Part VII: Doubt


It took three days to clean the meadow around the castle to the satisfaction of Aunt Gertrude McDonald. The water balloons had made a lot of little bits to pick up, though the dung was allowed to remain and do what came naturally. James and his scruffy band of resistance fighters did their work with one eye on the sky, expecting the alien ships to return any time with death blasters on full.


When he didn’t worry about that, James worried that the National Trust folks would be on them for damages to the historic ruin they’d occupied and made habitable. Even if it did belong to the Campbell clan, of which James was the chief, more or less.


News from the outside world was hard to come by. If Gertrude McDonald knew what was happening in London or even Edinburgh she wasn’t saying. Their own radio didn’t pick up anything but classical music; the BBC seemed to have given up on news along with every other station out there, but Gertrude always seemed to know things. Of course, Gertrude was probably a witch, in the best ancient tradition; she wouldn’t need a radio.


“The thing that worries me,” James confided to Claire Campbell, his choice of intelligent lieutenant when Gertrude wasn’t at the castle, “is that we don’t know if we are the last free people on Earth, or even the last people period. Should we be planning to rebuild humanity in hiding, or looking to join other rebels to pitch the bastards out? And how do we get rid of invaders who have space ships and I suppose faster-than-light travel?”


Claire blushed. She might have been having ideas of her own about rebuilding humanity, the way she and Rory McDonald stuck together. That didn’t stop her thinking.


“If we were the last holdouts, don’t you think they’d be all over us with their whole force? I mean, surely the Bugs didn’t take over the Earth with a couple of hundred troops.” The young people in the castle had taken to calling the aliens Bugs, which was as good a name as any. She had a point: they’d not seen more than a hundred or so of the creatures. If they could hold off that many with water balloons and dung-cannons, how could the Bugs have taken control of the whole world?


But all the world’s governments had caved and signed treaties basically making humans slaves. Surely that took more than a couple hundred Bugs. There must be lots of hold-outs and the aliens were too busy to waste time on a couple dozen Scots too stubborn to lie down when they were dead. They had what they wanted.


Time to start looking for allies. Time to convince the witch to talk.


James groaned. “I need to talk to Gertrude. She’s the only one who knows anything beyond the limits of the village.” He wasn’t admitting he was glad of the excuse. It was just that Gertrude was the only one near his own age, though she might be as much older than him as most of his warriors were younger.


“Chief?” Claire shuffled her feet, not meeting his eyes.




“Why are there still villagers in the village?”


“What do you mean?”


“I mean, we came here to be the last hold-outs and fight off the Bugs, but they haven’t come and marched the villagers off to slave ships or anything.” She knew the history he thought of when he thought about conquest. “Is it because we’re here?”


James gazed at the redheaded girl in surprise. “That’s a really good question. You’d think they’d have leveled the village the first time they came for us.”


“Have we been making fools of ourselves?”


Blast the girl for asking aloud what he was wondering. Was the whole thing a big nothing? “Well,” he reasoned aloud, “the Bugs have definitely been trying to kill us. I assume they don’t like people who don’t obey, and the orders—you remember—the orders were to remain in one’s village or town or neighborhood and await further instructions. And to keep producing whatever people produced. So the obedient villagers have been left alone.”


“I wonder how that worked out in the cities?”


“What do you mean?”


“I was in Edinburgh when they came, before I ran for home. People live in one area and work across town or even farther away. In the US it’s even worse, I hear. People driving hours each way to work. So, if people were to stay in their neighborhoods, they couldn’t keep producing. And were they just supposed to make food and things that the Bugs want, or keep making all the silly stuff people have been buying?”


James put his head in his hands. “You’re confusing me, girl.”




They were quiet a long time, until Claire commented, “I see Gertrude coming. Now you can ask her what she knows. I’ll go down and send her up,” she added, seeing he wasn’t moving.




“Of course there are others resisting,” Gertrude said. “It’s only the leaders who caved. They saw threats to their power or ways to make money and jumped on board with the apparent victors. But people away from the cities have been pretty much able to decide for themselves if they are participating.”


“And how are they deciding?”


“The farther from the city, the less cooperative from the start. But since the Bugs rounded up a bunch of folks in London and New York, even city people have become less willing to go along.”


“How many Bugs are there?”


Gertrude shrugged. “I don’t know. Fewer than there were,” she added with a wicked grin. They’d seen to that. Gertrude swiveled to face James. “It’s time for you to make sure others know how to fight them.”


“How can I do that? We don’t even know where others are.”


Gertrude grinned, showing all her slightly pointed teeth. “We’ll find a way. And there are ways to move around without tipping the Bugs off.” Her eyes wandered out over the water.


James followed her gaze and spotted a vessel of some sort, standing out to sea. He squinted to see better. Were those sails?


“Avoid motors and technology and they have very little way of finding you,” Gertrude commented before heading back down the stairs.


They weren’t using motors or technology here at the castle, but the Bugs already knew they were here. Was it time to leave?



What will happened next? That may depend on the WritePhoto prompts, but I'm open to suggestions :) 

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
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  1. Love it. The possibilities are now endless. But do you want it to be a blog serial, or does it need structure and become something more... The Lanternfish series does spring to mind, although that may just be because of the galleon. :)

    1. I don't know. I'm having fun playing with something that doesn't have to be perfect :) Maybe I'll create a Patreon and give it to patrons!


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