Continuing the Back Work theme, this week is the first 25% of a short story I wrote in the mid 1980s. It is the sort of stuff I wanted to write: fantasy. Quite dark fantasy (It is me, after all!), but fantasy none the less.
It's not 'me', 'though. It was who I was trying to be, It was who I wanted to be. In the absence of true connection, it is, in large part, story-less. Sorta. It is lyrical. It is logical. It does have a sequence of events. If my hubby can get the rest typed up by next week, and we can find the last three pages, you may even see the end. :-) But it is what much of my early writing was: vignette. Not complete. A sketch.
I rewrote the original short short version, and added the title it has now, to signal it would be on story in a sequence of 22 short stories, for a Creative Writing element of my degree at the University of East Anglia. The 22 short stories would range through the Major Arcana on the Tarot deck - from 0, The Fool, to 21, The World. Each would illustrate the theme of the card, and in the entire sequence, would be the development of awareness through the journeys of life. It's one of the things I keep remembering to think about finishing. :-)
The Hanged Man, for those not in the Tarot know, is a card of isolation and self-sacrifice: from which comes mystical understanding and knowledge. But a price must be paid.
I have resisted the urge to polish it up. A great deal of effort required to do nothing, actually, especially in respect to the adverbs... *shudder* I can only apologise for the first sentence.
Major Arcana XII : The Hanged Man
The dawn fell gently into the dark recess of the glade within. As light brought its life slowly onto the earth, Kylara woke, and sang her morning song to the wind and earth and sky. Holding herself closed and tight, the wrappings of sleep drifting from her, she hummed the songs and feelings that the night now lost and dead had visited upon her. Down in the village, past the river that rushed its way to the edge of the land, the notes from her lament filled the ears of those who dared wake and listen. Her song of the hills whispered into their hearts and left a touch of fey dread. The sleeping turned and grasped their bedding, hoping to delay awareness till the light was there to hold them.
Within the glade itself, the Others rose to her song, and started their day with the usual calm, their usual acceptance. Another day, another night. As the sun’s strength grew and lifted the veil of night, drying its tears and leaving the air to breathe again, her song changed from the night’s lament to the morning’s glory. Each leaf that rustled within the glade, each branch that swayed, went into her song and lifted the hearts of the Others, those whose soul were locked into the night. When the day’s tasks became too many, and the Other’s indifference too large, Kylara’s song slowed, then stopped: locked into the rhythm of another day, another night.
As the day began to splinter, dark creeping into the glade, the Others laid their tasks to rest, awaiting the night. The eldest approached Kylara. She lay curled in the leaves, the night slowly pooling around her, the fogged hands of dark reaching out to drag her down into the night. Skin glistened with dark moisture, dark, empty eyes, looked through the space the eldest inhabited, and slender hands dug deep into the earth, chasing the last of the days heat.
The eldest settled his gaze upon the space that was Kylara and once more spoke.
‘He will not come. Do not wait another night. Go. We will rise without your song. The work will be done.’
‘He will come. Light will come. My song will bring him.’
The moment stood between them. The eldest looked to the space that held Kylara, and Kylara looked to the far distant hills that still held the day’s embrace.
‘He will come.’
Her sight withdrew from the light, and settled on the dark earth, preparing for another night within the glade.
The eldest sighed and returned to the others with his failure. They settled into their dark. Down in the valley, past the river that rushed its way to the edge of the land the living people lit fires to warm the night. Children squirmed into each other’s embrace, falling into sleep with the talk and songs of the fire in the air around them. Within the glade, Kylara’s soft moans shivered the last of the day into the abyss.
In this night, with the pace of the day lost into the dreams and fits of the dark, Kylara once more turned and tossed, and clenched her sleeping fists. She fought with the demons of the night, holding herself free from their grasp: the vision of Him, the touch of Him, the sight of Him, standing fast by her. Clothed in memory of His light, she raised protection against their assault, removed herself from their taunts, refusing to feed them with that part of her soul they wished. Once more, however, the dark inside rose to meet the dark outside, and memory and illusion faded. Standing down, her night was filled with the silence of feasting and all song faded.
Within the glade within, dawn pushed off the edge of darkness and sneaked some golden warmth onto Kylara. She felt its gentle embrace and woke into a pattern of another day, of another night. Her voice stayed behind, in the dark, and no song greeted the Others into the day. Still they rose, oblivious the rent in the air around them, as the pattern strained and broke.
The work was started, the tasks begun. Still, Kylara broke rhythm. The day, for the Others, altered not. In the village, past the river that rushed its way to the edge of the land, children whined and soup scalded in the hearth. Mothers bit their tongues deep into the flesh of those around them, and the fields ploughed crooked. Dogs hid under carts and the men looked to the broken skies. As night fell, the tasks finished, the others returned to the abyss. Silent they fell, alone they fell, but still they fell.
Kylara lay hidden under a bed of leaves, listening to the dark. Her tears silently scoured the earth. Night caught her in its embrace, and she met the demons alone, unaided even by the vision of His light, her love.
There was no dawn within the glade within, only a lessening of the dark around the Others. In the valley, a storm raged round the village and rain drove the river so hard that it stopped its rush to the edge of the land and raced instead to the homes of the living people. The beds of the children were caught in the day’s tears and the mothers wept to see their homes ruined. The fields flooded and the wheat drowned. Within the glade, the others completed their tasks and fell deep into their nightly death. Kylara lay on the cold ground and waited. The demons came and gloated.
The dark did not lessen. Still the Others rose. A set time, a set task. Kylara heard for the first time the cries from the village that was no longer a village, by the river that no longer rushed its way to the edge of the land. She held herself tight against the cries of the living people. Her lord had left her with no light, and her song was still. She waited. The Others worked, oblivious to the dark.
Kylara slipped so far into the wait that there was no wait and the demons fell swift and fey. The Others, set into their work, took no note of the nightfallen eternally around them and on finishing their tasks, fell quiet. Cold frosted the valley, and the living people had no fires to vanquish it. That night a child died.
The demons left Kylara as the Others rose to their tasks. They had no fun in her empty waiting. There was no game in baiting one who would not fight. No song to smother in the dark. Frost rimmed Kylara’s form as the Other’s tasks began. In the swollen valley, the gray day held funeral to the dead child. The living people left the valley to its death.
In the glade, Kylara stirred. The ice which lay thick on her skin broke and fell to the frozen earth with a tinkle that sounded of light. Kylara stood. She walked through the death of the glade within and strode out into the valley. The Others carried on their day, oblivious to the lack of light. As she crossed from the glade to the valley she passed the crying child. Behind her, the eldest greeted the child and gave him a task.
Kylara walked. She walked from valley to valley. Through rivers that rushed their way to the edge of the land, past villages of living people and at times through their dreams as they lay in the night’s death. Just as sun no longer reached her, she ignored night, and dark. Demons therein grew long bored with her death (which did not exclude them) and left her alone to her emptiness.
She walked untouched by the world around her, but a part of the land of the living people. There were those who perceived her, those unlucky enough to find no respite in the night, who glimpsed her shadow on a wall, and heard the depths of her silence. There were those who were too young to see what the living people saw, and who followed her path with eyes that delighted in anything new to see, whether it was dark or wholesome. In this way it was the children’s giggles and cries of mystery that followed Kylara most in her travels. At last, she reached the edge of the land, and stood stark against the light and water that was the sea. Over the horizon, she knew, the light turned over before returning in the morning from the land. She stood and tried to think a thought of what to do.