Category: Fiction (Page 2 of 2)

Eyes of the Night Sky

A besieging force of darkness crouched silently around the town, held at bay by the hot, quavering glare of street-lamps and lights in windows. Madyl felt the contrast vividly as she walked out onto the next street, for this one marked the edge of Byrnera’s stronghold of firelight, the street beside the docks and the sea. She paused a moment, staring out into the unbroken blackness of the sea and overcast night sky, listening to the tireless rush and crash of the unseen waves. The endless abyss of shadow made her a little nervous, but also heightened her sense of adventure, out on the road alone. Then she turned resolutely away and resumed walking, scanning the buildings along the road, reviewing the directions her fellow workers had given her.

“The fisherman Tacas keeps a window open till late in the night,” the eldest of the women had explained. “His wife makes the most wonderful fish soup, to sell to busy folk like us who need a quick supper.” Now, indeed, as Madyl spotted the house that accorded with her directions—“seventh from the corner after you come to the sea”—she saw a large window spilling cheery golden light out onto the road.

Madyl smiled, feeling very accomplished to have made her way here on her own, and in a strange town at that. This would impress the older women, who had been afraid to let a child of eleven go out alone for their supper. She approached the window and peered inside at a plain but clean kitchen, lit by a lamp on the ceiling. A round wooden table and some chairs took up the greater part of the space. Was anyone in here? Then, in a corner, she noticed someone scrubbing a pot—but it wasn’t the fisherman’s or anyone’s wife. It was a boy, perhaps a few years older than she.

“Hello?” Madyl called. “Can I buy fish soup here?”

The boy’s head jerked up as he dropped the pot with a crash. “Oh! Yes, certainly. Wasn’t expecting any more customers by this hour.” Taking a thoughtful look at Madyl, he added, “Wow, what are you doing out so late?”

“I’m a laborer for Madam Loruis, the dyer,” Madyl explained. “Some of us had to work late tonight.” She laid some coins on the windowsill and held up the steel canister that was to carry back the soup.

The boy nodded, took the money and the canister, and went over to the stove, where a large black pot still sat. “So, you haven’t been in Byrnera long, have you?” he queried, as he ladled steaming soup from the pot into the canister. “Just guessing from your accent—you’re from Sylhoa, or somewhere in the hill country, right?”

Madyl nodded. “My family are farmers. Times aren’t easy. They sent me to work here to make some more money for us.”

“Working and on your own in town. And at your age, too.” The boy sounded impressed. Then he looked intently at her and frowned concernedly. “You’re not happy, are you?”

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Warning from Death

A story by Sarah E. T. Greydanus

 

Hey, Danny—yes, it’s me. Finally. I did get your very nice letter—it’s sitting now somewhere in the crazy mess on my desk. I’m sorry I didn’t answer it before now. I guess I forgot, what with everything that’s been happening. I guess I’ve been forgetting a lot of things lately, actually. Now I’m ashamed of that, and it isn’t the only thing. Since you went to the trouble to write out all that for me, I should probably be writing back a physical letter to you; but I’m kind of in a hurry to tell you what’s happened to me, so—at the risk of Gmail somehow eavesdropping—I’m writing you the fast way and hoping you have time and patience for all this.

I don’t guess you need me to get into the troubles I’ve been having. They seem to be all over Facebook at this point anyway, and from your letter you pretty well understand. What you prolly didn’t know—what nobody knows, except apparently one person and now you, and hopefully it’ll stay that way—is I almost, almost killed myself over them. As in, literally, I was about to do it, the knife was in my hand. But I didn’t, and I don’t want to do any such thing any more. I’m writing to tell you why, and please listen to me, Danny, because that’s really what I need right now.

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Joy of a Sketch

The little boy scampered along the edge of the blank space, his pen, as always, clutched tightly in his hand. He squatted down, frowning, not in displeasure—no one ever saw him exhibit that—but in intense concentration. Carefully he drew a thick, bold line, almost as high as his head, curving slightly at the top and the bottom. He scrambled around it and drew another line beside it, similar but curving the other way, so that the curves faced away from each other. More quickly, he scribbled some smaller lines between the two; then, satisfied with his trunk, traced atop it the jagged outline of a small cloud of leaves. In the middle of this, he drew a small half-circle, added some little sticks protruding from it, then eagerly inserted the crowning glory: three small birds peering out from the little nest. He then stepped back to watch. The birds blinked, twitched, and rose fluttering out of the nest, warbling gaily. The boy beamed and jumped in delight, watched another few moments, then scurried on to draw something else.

Thus he ever was, never anxious but never still, well known as the merriest inhabitant of that Space. Whether other, equally contented souls lived in other Spaces in the Sketch, no one could say. The Sketch was a canvas so great and wide that none of its residents could say much about it beyond their own corner or area. No one could be sure what it was a picture “of” in its entirety, only what they saw drawn around them. Seldom did any travel from one Space to another, for the Spaces were bordered by wide swaths of blank Space. Most avoided these altogether, as empty waste; but now and then, some adventurous soul would venture across from one filled Space to another, tracing a line beside him to keep from getting lost. Others, reasoning that more than mere lines could be drawn in the blank Space, decorated bits of that Space with figures and drawings of their own. These never quite matched the original Sketchings, but some bore a considerable resemblance.

In the creation of these drawings, the little boy spent his days—in the proverbial sense; for, when reminded, he did also enjoy playing with other children and with animals, and sometimes stopped to help someone carry wood or collect their turnips. If no one had ever called his attention, however, he could have devoted every waking minute to his art. This art was, after his cheerfulness, the chief reason for his reputation. Not that he could otherwise have passed quite unnoticed, for the Space where he lived was not a densely peopled one; it mostly included woods and mountains, with some little houses gathered between them. But, of all the people and animals dwelling there, few had much interest in art, and fewer still could imagine devoting so much time to it as did this child. “He was drawn with a pen in his hand,” someone would occasionally remark, by way of explanation, almost invariably to hear, “Sure he was—same as everyone! But when did you last so much as pick up yours?”

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