Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Prices

(This is a story I wrote. Read the post below first please.)

The man’s body presses down on mine, constricting my movement. I lock my leg around him, and try to reverse our positions, but the floor is slick with blood, and I cannot get any purchase. He tries to reach for something in his boot, and I snap an elbow into his briefly unprotected face. His hand scrabbles against my face. I have my arms locked around his chest, but I cannot find leverage. I feel his thumb press against my left eye. I bite down on his wrist, and he shrieks.

A golden sunlight field, stretching in all directions as far as he could see. There were no clouds, and the warmth poured down from the sky. He ran, as far as he could, with no cares. He did not know anything else, so he was happy. The feel of the stubbly furrows under his unshod feet, the whisper of the stalks against his outstretched arms, the heat of the sun on his face, it all meant home to him. Behind him, his family, working the land. Far in front of him, a woman, just back from market, with baskets in her hands. She is thin, with a delicate face, and sadness is visible in the lines around her eyes. She seems tired. Her clothes are simple, and flowing. She wears a collar around her neck. When she sees him, her face transforms into a beaming smile.

I slam my fist once more into his body, just under his ribcage, on his left side. He curls towards the blow, which allows me to drag my right hand from between our bodies. My left arm is numb from repeated impacts, my fingers tingling with pain. I am about to reach up and hook my hand in his face when he snaps his forehead into my nose. Pain blossoms, seeming to fill the universe, and my vision briefly goes white.

A huge vaulted chamber, of yellowish stone. To his young eyes, the ceiling seems to stretch upwards, perhaps into heaven itself. There are huge stained glass windows along each wall, the light spilling through them, illuminating incredible images of serene, wise men and caring, motherly women, brightly coloured, throwing patchwork shadows across the white marble floor. As he walks, he looks in all directions. It is all so new. Halfway, the enormous icons give way to towering pillars, coated with a golden metal. Between them are hung vast tapestries, each one easily the size of his childhood home. At the end of the cavernous chamber, almost dwarfed by the scale of it all, is a chair, simple, hand-carved from wood. He recognizes it, they told him once that his father had made it. In the chair sits a young man, confident, draped with silks and golden decoration, self-consciously toying with a simple silver band on his left middle finger. He looks at the boy, and his mother, and smiles. The boy knows that things will be different.

My mind clears. His forearm is pressing down against my throat, slowly choking me, while he digs his gloved fingers into my left wrist, preventing me from striking him. I cough, and spit blood onto his cheek. I feel a crackle in the joint, but the pain doesn’t make it through the haze of adrenaline. The weight on my neck seems infinite, though, and my vision begins to be encroached by a grey tunnel.

A shadowed vault, made from roughly hewn blocks. Simple wood shelves cover the walls. They are filled with books. He had never even seen one book before. He didn’t even know what they were for. In the centre, lit by a flickering lantern, is a desk, strewn with scrolls, tomes, and old, tattered pages. Hunched over it, a man, ancient looking, with a long flowing beard, and dressed in the simple garb of a hermit or a monk. He adjusts a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. He remembered, there was a bright red mark on the bridge of the old man’s nose, as if the adjustment was a nervous habit or a tick. He shuffles some parchments, then unrolls a scroll. He gestures at it to someone behind the boy. He turns, and behind him is the woman, and the confident young lord. The lord looks shaken and frightened, his face white. The woman’s eyes suddenly catch his, and his is filled with a feeling. “I love you. I will always love you.” The old man shakes his head, and a hand falls on the back of the boy’s neck, pushing his collar into his shoulders. He shouts something, a protest, a prayer, he can’t remember.

I can’t breath. I can’t see. I am about to give up, and go the rest of the way quietly. Suddenly, my grasping fingers settle on a handle. I explore it further. He had a small knife hidden on his back! I wrap my hand around it, and jerk it from it’s sheath. He feels the sudden tug, and the pressure on my breath is momentarily reduced as he twists about to see what is happening.

A small room, made from perfectly fitted blocks of smooth black stone. There are no windows, or decorations at all. Beside the simple steel door, the only interruption is a raised dias. Standing at the stage is the confident young lord. This time, his robes are red, and the ring, set with a large ruby, into which is carved a sigil. He struggles against the ties about his wrists and ankles, but they are too strong for his young limbs. The woman is lead onto the dias. She is dressed in gorgeous white linen robes, and wears a veil over her eyes. She seems limp, docile, like the drugged fowl he used to slaughter for the great feasts. His eyes fill with tears, but he shakes his head. He will not cry. He will not cry! His mother is lain across the altar, and the noble is handed a wicked knife. I WILL NOT CRY. I WILL LIVE!

The short blade of the knife disappears into his throat. We both stop. He looks at me incredulously, as though he doesn’t really believe what just happened. Red wells up around the sharpened spar of steel jutting from the half-shaven flesh of his neck. I pull the weapon out, and hot red blood sprays onto my face. He gurgles, tries to say something, but can’t. I plunge the knife into him again, and again. I will live.

1 comment:

  1. Hey...really liked this. Looking forward to more!

    ReplyDelete