A Broken Silence

Day 446

The four day stale snow covered the land like a tattered blanket or corpses on a battle plain. Overnight chill froze the horse-trod slush in the roadway and crusted the still white lumps under the shadowed firs. The sun may have risen or it may still be mired in the horizon. Either way, grey clouds had hammered the earth shut in a dim lit coffin.

Back from the empty serf-road Jora squated to see below the branch-line. A small dark-metalled dagger appeared in her hand. If you hadn’t been just hovering over the narrator’s shoulder you’d be dead now. Jora ranged ahead of her three sisters scouting. Sometimes she waited for them to catch up and sometimes she traveled back to them. She waited.

In this weather Jora’s ears picked out voices in the distance with preternatural ease but the clarity cheated distances and timing. Jessa, Jemma, and Jia arrived later than Jora anticipated. Jia clomped down the road because she just didn’t give a shit. She could kick your ass if needed too.

Jora scowled at Jia. The youngest sister gave Jora the finger but hushed her tromping and jumped the ditch to join the other three gathered in the grass and frost.

Jessa, the oldest, gestured for Jora to share her scouting.

Jora shrugged a silent ‘all clear’.

“Then why are we being so fucking quiet here?” asked Jia. Jemma elbowed her. Jia replied with, “Cut that shit.”

“Maybe the gypsies will share their coffee. Right now you need to hush,” Jessa said, “How far to the camp? I’ve been smelling their cookfires for a while now.”

Interrupting Mrs. Xenoworth

I have not visited Mr. Johnathan Goffe is quite some time.  I’d like to see what he’s up to this morning.  Last I recall he was headed to some part of town to get some film for his camera.

Grandma followed a different magic than my sister.  Grandma’s enchantments harnessed a deeper power, but they were fickle and often [unspecific].  Jennetta may stalk the hereditary manse[?] presiding over friend and foe alike while Nonni putters in the Old-old Conservatory, but give me the least of Nonni’s spells over the best of Netti’s—I’ll be happy.  I left the leaves in their packet and returned to the lane under my own direction.

:?camera requires film,: I ask the camera.

:.camera requires film,: it replies.

:?list film shops, sort by proximity, with directions relative to the Book Gate:

:.danforth Road Photography (0.26 miles, 11.5°)
:,[something that sounds like a mini-mall] (0.84 miles, 85.5°)
:,bonar Balfour: Haberdasher & Milliner (2.67 miles, 127.3°):

:?haberdasher: I’m trying to imagine a shop that sells clothing, woman’s hats, and photography supplies. As well as decide if I want to go that far out of my way.

:.public inventory all known stock sizes and custom cutting services:

:?stocking men’s hats also: I could really use a new hat.

:.affirmative:

:.map it; call in the quickest order to fill; shut-down:

I stop listening before the camera acknowledges my requests. I need to think.

Bonar Balfour’s resides in a narrow alleyway off Bent Street.  Bent is already a subsidiary outlet of the main circle of shops in Surland Wood, so Balfour’s nicely secluded and separate.  Mr. Goffe is glad to have come the extra distance.  Even before he swings the wood and crystal paned door inward he’s thinking this is his new camera shop—providing they actually have what he needs.  The pleasant trinkle of the bell as the  door glides open on well oiled brass hinges and the top edge strikes the clapper confirms his tentative decision.

“Excuse me a moment please Mrs. Xenoworth.  I need to greet the gentleman.”  A younger tinker smiles brightly as further apology for the conflicting requirements of politeness.  Mrs. Xenoworth pats him on the shoulder pushing him in the direction of the door.

“Go.  I’ll be here deciding a bit yet anyway.”  The boy thanks her in a whisper then departs.

“Good afternoon, sir.  I am Ben Balfour.  My father is still preparing your order and will be out front shortly.  Can I offer you a cup of tea while you wait mister…?”  Ben waits for me to fill in my name.  My camera certainly relayed that information when placing the order and it’s unlikely anyone in this town does not know me by appearance.  It’s polite to pretend.  I ignore him as is also polite, instead addressing the older woman.

“Madam, my apologies for the intrusion on your shopping.  I won’t keep Ben long.”  I clasp my hands and make a short bow.

:,arrange for her purchases today: I command Camera.  My predilection for going among the people like a commoner often result in these sorts of disruptions.  Camera runs a routine that negotiates with the shop’s system to pay for Mrs. Xenoworth’s good.  I’m guessing Balfour’s will smooth over that audacity of my presumption by making the offer to her themselves without my appearing to be involved at all.  This will likely result in my order for film being gratis.  Blah blah blah.

Day 306

A Few More Flowers

From way back when.

Kraite stroked the ridge of fur back from the corner of his mouth and twisted the thin braid at the end.  He disliked the style, but the braids appealed to Mallen.  Repeating the action made him feel thoughtful.

He was not thoughtful.  At least not anymore.

The bush in Qwain, especially here at the headwaters of the Drenfennelen river, smelled clean even a bit spicy.  The warming morning air brought with it the earth’s aroma…

The dark green foliage dropped below him in a static sort of fall.  Earlier in the morning light he’d tried to imagine the tops of the trees as sort of river of plants to match the one in water hidden below.  The trick wouldn’t go.  He couldn’t think of them as anything but what they were.  Now he was left to waiting.

Most hunts he wouldn’t get such a prime vantage point.  Normally he’d be half hung in a tree or crouched behind a too-small rock waiting in the rain for armed quarry.  This juicy gig allowed him a relaxed demeanor and he was taking full [measure of the sun and view].

Kraite listened again for the monk’s approach.  The human girl was below the clearing  by a switchback or two.  He pushed a bit of limestone from his perch to mark the moment.  The [stone] dropped out of sight before he heard it chackle across the [ruins and rocks] lining the seasonally dry streambed below.

His perch no longer served as an aqueduct-hadn’t in [a century]…

…when the Chief Administrators in Theeble stopped paying the monks for healing water that didn’t, in fact, heal. The stonework of the arch in which he waited now lined the streambed below (yeah, I know).

Kraite lowered himself into the vines that spilled from the dry waterway. Holding on with one hand he tossed another stone into the rocky path below. The flat stone smacked into the rocks drawing the monk’s attention as she entered the clearing below Kraite. He took that exact moment to drop after it.

###

I was going to swap to the monk’s POV but then my brother called. Maybe later.

Follow all of Kraite’s adventures using the ‘qwain‘ tag.

Word count: 107
Day 208

Day 135: Too Much Time on My Hands

Originally here.

I’m really in my office. Thirty-four floors above the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, Colorado. I feel as if I am in a Polaroid from the 70’s. The blues faded, the reds indistinct, and the blacks turned a sickly green. The “Welcome Back Kotter” t-shirt I’m wearing is an iron-on and the collar isn’t the same color as the shirt. I have on that first round of Nikes: blue with a yellow trademark. For some reason I am on a wall. I’m twelve, but the look on my face is veteran. I’ve been effected by what I’m seeing, but I don’t care.

There is no such photograph.

In the memory that follows I don’t wear those clothes but pretend I do because they are the only ones I can recall from that era.

[a whole buncha stuff here]

From that summer there is a single recording of me. Its corners rounded in the style of the day; it’s format clearly 110. I’m on the back of a motorcycle, t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and a helmet–“Gotta protect your head.”

My boredom drove me to the most dangerous spot I could find. The made-to-look-like-adobe cinder block wall I am sitting atop is too tall to have climbed directly. At first I’d expected my Uncle to return quickly so I just sat on the tailgate and swung my legs. Later I decided he’d be longer. I hopped from the bed of the pick-up to the wall and walked it like a tightrope to the end. Sword-leafed yuccas and some taller but equally daunting plants lined the outside of the wall. If I missed them when I fell, I’d still get a mouthful of sand and a couple of scrapes from something. You can’t fall here in the High Desert and not get at least that.

Probably the adult look on my face comes from staring out at the desert wondering how these people determine which parts are good for putting a house on and which parts aren’t or discerning where the highway we rode in on disappears into the hills and where it goes after that. Puzzles a kid won’t solve quickly. I’m sure my thoughts devolved to something that happened the Saturday before. I awoke early to find my Aunt and Uncle up already–him still up from the night before? His animated conversation and smokey clothes didn’t distract me from the bag of doughnuts nor the pile of unorganized cash on the kitchen counter. He pulled more out of his front pockets while I stood there and added it to the wad of treasure. It was just ones and few quarters.

Here on the wall Tuesday drifts to a close. Maybe Wednesday drifts–in Summer, who knows.

Word count: 286

Day 131: Marrow’s Next Step

Originally here. All posts with the marrow tag.

I’m pressing the crescant to his neck and he’s saying words like magic. Words that feel like they could unbreak a jar, maybe raise the dead.

“The best waters are swift and shallow.” He’s trembling as he chants, “The best waters are swift and shallow.” I realize he doesn’t believe the words, doesn’t trust their power. This makes me angry.

I gave up my daughters and ruined my wife. I burned my parent’s home and salted their orchard. I eat the same meal and swallow the same wine. Every day I guard this gate from nothing and no one comes. I even cut my hair. And he doesn’t believe. I did all of this and he still fears these words have no meaning. He rakes at might unyielding arm. He pleads again, “Please, please. The best waters are swift and shallow.”

In an instant I decide answering this coward is not worth the trades I made. I’m going to release this crux, let the prophesy fail, go back to my cold hearth. He must know his death is next because I feel him swallow through the contact of my weapon on his flesh. His tremors subside. He makes his final breath. He’ll beg for his life of course.

Then I feel like I am falling, like something I can’t explain has happened, like soon this something will hurt very much, but for now I just know something I can’t stop is coming. He’s kicked me in the groin and I am on the ground inhaling air, but unable to exhale.

“I said, ‘The best waters are swift and shallow!’ I’ll be inside when you are ready to complete the couplet.”

Eventually I’ll smile at my son’s return, but for now I’ll just puke.

***

“If you thirst, quench your spirit. Your body will wait.” My forearms lean on the lentil of the low door. I’m adjusting to the light and being upright.

“Is it true,” he asks.

“You cannot know the key and not know the truth.”

“I’m a skeptic, not a coward.”

“There’s a difference?”

I shuffle into my small home, surprised his presence doesn’t feel intrusive. After this many years alone I expected some annoyance. I motion to the barrel and the dipper; he waves a no. Zealot. “When I’m thirsty I don’t kneel.” I dip out two cups and force his into his hands. “Drink it and wait.”

Word count: 143

Day 125: A Son’s Father’s Love

From Day 117: Conner’s Son’s Father

Conner’s Son thought his father was foolish for leading them to this dilapidated oasis on the open prairie.  Surely the beast that tracked them would turn it’s attention here–even if he didn’t think they were that stupid.  A flock of crows startled at their unstealthy approach, rose like a flare, then dove back to their perches and cawed loudly.  Nothing Conner’s son could imagine would announce their location more plainly.  He hoped that in his death book they wrote, “Not the crows nor the beast that killed Conner’s Son but Conner’s Son’s Father.”

Conner’s Son’s Father, Conner, smiled at the crows.  “There’s been just enough rain that this should work.  Follow the trail along the stream like you are hiding.  Make sure you cross through the water several times.  Come back when you hear my call.  Come back through the stream only.  Not on the path.”

Conner’s Son nodded.

As soon as Conner’s Son was away Conner began meticulously uncovering the entrance to a cave.  Stone by stone he exposed the slim hole.  Each stone within arms reach of the entrance and neatly laid to avoid disturbing the secret over much.

“Son!  Come back quickly.”

Conner made a hasty and obvious trail opposite his son’s that ended in an expanse of rock and hard scrabble earth to obscure his path.  He removed his boots and turned back to the hidden escape walking swiftly but with as much craft as he could to conceal his trail.

The beast would arrive soon [but].  Conner’s Son had not returned.

Conner was bad at farming; his son good at reminding him.  Since the first delicate sign of the beast Conner ceased farming and became a warrior again.  It filled him with joy to be hunted.  He didn’t regret thinking that the boy would need to fend for himself for not returning quickly enough–that was a warrior’s instinct–he regretted that it took him so long to resist the urge to leave him behind.

“Protection; not punishment.”  He repeated his wife’s dying words.  He’d spoken them out loud so often as a reminder in these past three years his son taunted him with them when they’d get into a fight.  “The things I fucking do for you.”

Conner sprinted down the ravine in the direction of his son.

Rounding two bends of the stream he came upon his son hobbled by a twisted ankle.  Tears streamed down Conner’s Son’s face as he stumbled over the wet stones.  He sobbed as quietly as any fallen compatriot Conner had ever heard.  Pride calmed his panting heart, but did not inspire his tongue: “Shit, Son.  Now you’ve fucked us.”

Immediately he wanted to apologize.  Immediately he wanted to rend the beast by hand and eat it whole to show his love.  Instead simply knelt in the running water in front of his son and said, “Get on.  Grab my neck.”

Pile some more on them; but not tonight.

Word count: 235

Day 96: The Qwain Train Fails Again

Kraite stroked the ridge of fur back from the corner of his mouth and twisted the thin braid at the end.  He disliked the style, but the braids appealed to Mallen.  Repeating the action made him feel thoughtful.

He was not thoughtful.  At least not anymore.

The bush in Qwain, especially here at the headwaters of the Drenfennelen river, smelled clean even a bit spicy.  The warming morning air brought with it the earth’s aroma…

The dark green foliage dropped below him in a static sort of fall.  Earlier in the morning light he’d tried to imagine the tops of the trees as sort of river of plants to match the one in water hidden below.  The trick wouldn’t go.  He couldn’t think of them as anything but what they were.  Now he was left to waiting.

Most hunts he wouldn’t get such a prime vantage point.  Normally he’d be half hung in a tree or crouched behind a too-small rock waiting in the rain for armed quarry.  This juicy gig allowed him a relaxed demeanor and he was taking full advantage.  Kraite listened again for the monk’s approach.  The human girl was below the clearing  by a switchback or two.  He pushed a bit of limestone from his perch to mark the moment.

The bit dropped out of sight before he heard it chackle across the stones lining the seasonally dry streambed below.  His perch no longer served as an aqueduct–hadn’t in centuries.

Grr…

Working to o hard to get this off the ground.  Will try again in the golden hour of the morning.  If that doesn’t take it somewhere I am moving on for a few posts.

Word count: 273