The Land Down the Well, Part 1

in fiction •  2 years ago  (edited)

One more bundle of flax to spin and she had to get it done tonight. Last week, she’d failed, needing an extra day to complete her task. A shiver ran down her spine at the memory. Mama expected her requests to be fulfilled. Liesl rolled her shoulders to relieve the ache from hours spent in an unnatural position and turned her face to catch the last warmth from the setting sun.

Sunlight turns red
flooding the ground
at my feet

Her hands ached as she wrapped more fibers around the distaff. The burning in her fingertips lessened as she dipped her hand in the water bucket at her side. If this wasn’t ready by nightfall, she’d have only candlelight to work by. She pushed the whorl to send it spinning between her knees and twisted the fibre into the thinnest, most even yarn she could, wetting the flax with more well water to keep it smooth.

Neither the callouses on her fingers nor the coolness of the water was enough to protect her skin. The pain in her hands intensified as she rushed to finish in the fading sunlight. Her eyelids heavy, she struggled to stay awake, but her hands knew the task well enough to keep spinning.

The kitchen door slammed shut behind her and Liesl snapped awake. The heavy footsteps of her stepmother set her pulse racing and she quickly wet her fingers again. She spun another length of thread but it turned first pink, then red as she twisted it.

Torn fingertips
red stains
on pale linen

The spindle clattered as it hit the ground. A hand grabbed her shoulder, pinching so hard that tears sprung into Liesl’s eyes. She looked up into her stepmother’s cold, hard face.

“Stupid girl! How dare you get blood and dirt all over my good flax?”

Liesl ran to pick up the fallen spindle, careful not to touch it with her injured hand. “It’s alright, Mama. I can wash it. It will turn out fine.” In her hurry to rinse the blood off the spool of thread, she tripped over the bucket, spilling water over the hem of her stepmother’s dress.

“I…” Liesl swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. “I’m sorry, Mama.” She cringed at her stepmother’s feet.

“It’s bad enough that your worthless father had to die and leave us to fend for ourselves. But that he saddled me with a lazy, incompetent wretch like you…” An ugly red blush crept up the woman's rounded cheeks as she narrowed her eyes at Liesl. “You had better get all of those bloodstains out.”

The empty bucket in one hand and the spindle in the other, Liesl walked over to the well and set her spinning tools on the edge.

Shivering in her thin, soaked dress, Liesl lowered the bucket. Gravel crunched behind her and a pudgy arm in a blue silk sleeve appeared to her right, pushing the spindle and distaff down into the depths of the well.

Spinning down
out of sight
out of reach

Else, her half sister, peeked over the edge of the well, a smirk on her lips. “Oops.” She turned to Liesl and shrugged. “Better get that spindle back, or Mama won’t be happy.”

Biting back more tears, Liesl looked down the well. The welts on her back from the last time she angered her stepmother still stung. As she climbed over the edge, she looked back at the house. Maybe she’d be able to retrieve her tools before Mama noticed.

Struggling for any sort of leverage with her feet, she lowered herself down as far as she could. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let go, bracing herself for the impact with the water at the bottom of the well.

The shock of the cold was more than she’d expected and she gasped as it constricted her chest. Coughing up as much water as she could, she desperately kicked her legs to keep from getting tangled in her skirt and petticoats but the weight of her wet clothing dragged her down below the surface. She came up one more time, spluttering, fighting for air and trying to scream. Her nails scraped at the side of the well as, layers of cloth trapped her legs and pulled her under.

Water closes
above my head
a cruel glass ceiling

Photo by Zen Photographer on Unsplash

Click here for Part 2

This piece is the first part of a story that just wouldn't stop growing. I worked at it for weeks until I almost lost courage. And that was just the draft. Hah.

There is something a bit different about it. It's written in the form of a haibun. A Japanese form. Among the paragraphs of prose, you'll encounter haiku.

What? But haiku have numbered verses. 5-7-5. Everyone knows that.

Well, opinions may vary on that. I learned a lot about haiku from my friend @dbooster, and I've learned tons more now from another great friend of mine, @damianjayclay.

There is a lot to be said about this, as well as other things. This story was written as part of the #writersworkout program we've started over at The Writers' Block. It's full of symbolism and archetypes as well, and it speaks to me on a number of levels.

That is why I plan to do a companion post for each chapter of this story, to provide you with more information on all these background topics.

The companion posts are being posted on my off-Steem page.

Companion posts
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

For now, thank you once again for sharing this with me.



My stories have all found a home on my Steemshelf. Feel free to pay them a visit.

If you would like to read more of my work, feel free to have a look around on my off-Steem blog page. My library there contains all of the pieces I’ve written since starting my blockchain adventure.

The Writer’s Block is a home to writers from every corner of the world, and from every discipline that involves the written word. I consider myself lucky to have found this amazing community. Not only have I found help, support and encouragement there, but I’ve found people who feel the same way I do about writing. I’ve found a second family there. Do you write? Would you love to be a part of a community that can help you learn and improve your writing skill? Our door is always open for kindred spirits. Come and pay us a visit by pointing your pointy thingie at the animation below and clicking.

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I love it! Wonderful work, Tiny. I wish I could have been around to help you more with it, but you did a fantastic job on your own. Well done! I look forward to reading all the companion posts on your web page.

Well, I wasn't quite on my own. The workoutcrew had my back and so did 3B. They've been wonderfully patient with me through my struggles with this monstrous story. :-D I'm glad you like it though. I wanted to make you proud. ;-)

Fantastic work, Tiny. I've very much enjoyed seeing this one progress and getting an insight into your writing.

Thank you so much, Damian. It's been lots of fun to work on this with you. Hugs

Nice! It will be interesting to see where you take this poor girl! Looking forward to it...


Oh and for the record, she took me on a trip. Not the other way around. I was planning for a short and sweet little story. Liesl disagreed.

Yes Yes. Back to work. Nothing to see here. Shoos people along.

Thank you, kind sir, for your glowing comment. ;-)

Have I told you yet that your writing is terrific?

Well it is also terrifying!

Death by drowning is bad!
A child dying because of lack of supervision makes my toes curl!

Keep me posted... I need to see where this goes.

Sorry... I will. Promise. Next bit should go up in a day or two...

I have heard stories of wicked stepmothers; I know a few wicked stepmothers who constantly humilated and terrorized children.

Well, I hope Liesl survives. Looking forward to Part 2.

You and me both. ;-)

Oh my, the suspense in this piece is terrific. It's really masterful, @tinypaleokitchen. I'm amazed by the use of haiku. I've never seen this form before. I can't wait to see the next part!

Thank you, @jayna. The next post should be going up somewhere tonight or tomorrow. ;-)

I will watch for it!

Well done, Tiny, for making it through this story and out the other side! I'm super proud of you! I'm sorry I never got a chance to read it before you posted it, but I will hang on every word as it goes up. Can't wait to see the rest :)

I need to start writing those companion posts!

I don’t believe I’ve heard of a haibun, but it makes for a very interesting and gripping story! (Or is that just you? :P )
Nice work!

Thank you, Caleb. The second companion post discusses the haibun form, if you'd like to know more. ;-)

this is such a fantastic piece so well written has a beautiful flow to it and drags on into the story

Than you for your kind comment. Start tuned for part 2. ;-)

Great start and a great read. I know who I like here, and who I hate. Clear cut. Now let's get to part two!

Thanks Neg. I'll try my best. ;-)

Very well written and engrossing little story. A lot of real angst and feeling here. Look forward to the continuation.

Thank you. That should be arriving tonight or tomorrow.

This a fantastic opener, already has a Grimm fairytale feel, dark but classic, but my interest is already piqued because I want to know what this land down the well is. I can't wait to find out.

Also, the notion of going to "Wonderland" through the terrifying ordeal of drowning definitely has my darker, morbid side intrigued.

I love the haiku scattered throught, quite an interesting format. Must look into this haibun myself, it intrigues me.