***500-word “One Word Prompt” Microfiction Series***

Stop. Go. Listen.

This was Ally’s life mantra. It’s how she connected with her intuition.

As she wandered through a lavish forest in the hinterlands of northern New South Wales, she was very well aware of her ritual of escapism from her wretched life.

It was her wonderland where she could just be. Her place to connect to the oneness of the cosmos, which she believed contained endless beauty – if only everyone around her looked up once in a while.

Ally was the breadwinner for her family. Her father had died during uni and her mother had been bedridden with chronic arthritis for years now. And while Ally had much compassion for her, her mother was relentlessly scathing towards everyone – harbouring a lifetime of deep resentment towards her late husband, which literally hardened her body.

It didn’t help that Ally’s younger sister, who had the grades to go to medical school, seemed to indulge in this theme of helplessness as well. Being homebound herself, she blamed her thyroid condition for not being able to work and was living on the dole.

Despite only a few years out of university, Ally was already a respected nurse at the local hospital and had worked her way to a leadership position. She was no stranger to overtime and often filled vacant shifts to bring in extra cash. Ally had a gentle loving nature which brought a sense of ease to her patients, the doctors often marvelled at their quick recovery.

As Ally strolled through the forest, she often wondered why her own family never responded to her kindness.

She approached a barren creek and made her way down the bank. As she stopped in the middle, she looked up. The creek was lined with gum trees and she marvelled at the perfect balance of light and shade these trees brought.

She felt an urge to go up steam toward a tree that had fallen across the creek. As she arrived, she climbed up on the log and sat.

She listened to a particularly rowdy magpie that seemed to have a lot to say. “Is he talking to me?”

The magpie landed before her, along with a few others, and to Ally’s surprise, they got into a nasty fight.

Squawk squawk squawk…loud, melodious carolling phrases seemed to be projecting from the two magpies picking on the other. Feathers floating everywhere.

It made Ally uneasy and she jumped off the log to shoo them away.

After she caught her breath, a tear welled in her eye. As she stood there, she wondered what she was going to do when she got home.

She realised that she too was wrapped up in this theme of helplessness – something that deep down, she had been trying to ignore.

She knew she was keeping this family dynamic intact in by staying.

It was time to stop and fill her own cup. It was time to follow her dream and move to the big city.