|Image from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons free license.|
Lines of Lights
Moving at speed past the window, reverse parallax.
Facing backward on the train, the lights receded.
Facing backward on the train is a title.
A good title for a memory, even.
Like Benjamin Button, living backwards to get forwards.
When everyone is walking in the other direction, sit down and get still
Follow the still, small voice insight and listen.
What does it say?
I don’t know, I’m still listening.
What about now?
Shh. You can hear it too.
Chapter Three: Water
Fionula ran the water into the kettle, the filter making a soft high-pitched whine as it worked. It was an extra unit she’d had from her last apartment and she’d given it to Kirby for his new place.
“Hey,” Kirby greeted, wandering into the kitchen and sitting down on one of the only chairs that didn’t have boxes or packing material stacked on it.
“Hi there. How ‘ya feeling?” she asked brightly, noting he didn’t look very good. More like depressed and mopey. She never really liked Sara, and this was just another black mark against Kirby’s ex-girlfriend.
He sighed and looked out the window. “Okay, I guess.”
She set the kettle on the stove and lit the gas. She bent to rummage in the canvas sack she’d lugged over and pulled out the smaller bag of produce and set it in the sink. She set the pork roast, still chilly from the freezer, on the counter. Finally finding the tea buried under the net bag of potatoes, she fished it out and plumped the cardboard box back up.
“Well, cheer up, Kirby. I brought pork roast and vegies, and tea. And then you can have a bubble bath and ice cream.”
He actually laughed at that, she was pleased to note.
“A bubble bath?” he scoffed. “Come on, Fionula. I’m not a chick.”
She turned around and put her hands on her hips. “Armand said to come over and cheer you up, so I’m going to do that. Besides. I’m gay, so whatever you have,” she waved her hand negligently toward his lap, “doesn’t interest me. So your virtue is safe with me.”
He stared at her, nonplussed.
She pulled her other bag closer and pulled out the bubble bath, followed by two glass container candles, a plastic bag with a pint of Zanzibar Chocolate ice cream, and her copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. “I’ll even read to you.”
He pulled the bag of ice cream closer half-heartedly and peeked inside. “There’s a cow on your ice cream.”
“Yeah?” she retorted. “That just shows it’s made with real cow juice.” She yanked it away and stuffed it unceremoniously in the freezer. “Show respect, that’s Zanzibar Chocolate.”
“‘Cow juice?’” he echoed faintly. “Ew?”
She snorted. “Then don’t complain,” she said in a reasonable tone of voice.
He smiled but it faded too quickly. She surveyed her supplies. She pulled out the greens and set them in the sink and washed the apples. She looked over her shoulder at him. “You want to help me wash these greens?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, sure, why not.”
They spent the next thirty minutes preparing dinner. He seemed to forget some of his melancholia in the routine and helped her position the pork on top of the chopped apples. She doused it with hard apple cider and put it in the oven.
“Okay. Now I’ll go start the bath.”
“Fionula, come on. I don’t need –”
“Shush. Come on.”
He groaned but got up and followed her. She started the water and he adjusted the temperature. She let the tub fill with bubble bath, the sharp scent of lavender filling the small space.
“Hey! This doesn’t smell half bad!” he blurted.
“You know what I mean, Fionula. It’s not all girly and whatever.”
“Kirby, that’s not an improvement,” she said, laughing. “I could have brought bubble gum. Or baby-fresh scent.”
He grimaced. “Ew.”
“Okay. You get in the tub and I’ll come back in and read to you, k? Oh! I’ll get the ice cream.”
“Before dinner?” he asked, actually smiling.
“Of course! ‘Life’s short, eat desert first,’” she quoted. She closed the door on him before he could think of a response.
It didn’t take him long to get ready and he did seem a lot more relaxed once he was actually in the water. She handed him a bath pillow with a big silly pink bow on it. “It’s a housewarming present,” she told him.
He smiled. “Thanks!” He seemed to really mean it. She put the bow on the counter and he blew the pillow up, then sat back with a sigh.
“Okay.” She settled herself on the toilet, using a towel as a pillow. “Hänsel and Grethel.”
“I know this one!” He sounded pleased.
“Bet you don’t,” she countered, meeting his gaze. “Have you read the originals?”
He looked perplexed. “The original what?”
“Grimm’s Fairy Tales aren’t kids’ stories, really. They’re folk tales that were changed for children, made lighter. The originals are really dark and, well, grim.”
She read him the story and by the end, he seemed really engrossed. She went to check on the pork and came back to find him looking through the book. “Hey!”
He smiled and handed it back. “This one,” he requested, pointing.
“Brother and Sister, huh? Okay.”
By the time the bath was over and dinner was ready, the dull melancholy look had left Kirby’s eyes. She even got him to laugh a couple times during dinner.
As she put her coat on to leave, she looked at him. “Here,” she handed over the book, “you can read some more if you want.”
“Thanks!” He looked down at the cover and then met her eyes. “Thanks, Fionula. Really. I had a good time tonight.”
“I told you,” she said firmly. “It’s the Zanzibar Chocolate.”
“Right.” He shook his head and hugged her. He waited by his front door until the elevator came and then waved at her as she got on.
She hitched her bags a little higher and smiled to herself. It worked every time. Zanzibar Chocolate and a bath could cure anything.
Kirby lit the wooden match and held it under the tinder he’d arranged in the fire circle. The stones were blackened with soot and the white marks of ash. His campsite was behind him, the tent battered but homey. Nearly gray now, it was once an autumnal pumpkin color. It had faded.
Like her love.
He scraped an angry hand across his cheeks, dismissing tears that leaked out. It figured Sara would unman him yet again even though she wasn’t even physically present. The song that had played on his drive here flashed back into him mind, the refrain, ‘I’m just a sucker with no self-esteem,’ seemed overly accusatory.
The balls of dryer lint and wax flamed with a hiss, each igniting the next. He’d put all of them down, which was excessive; but he’d wanted to get them out of his house. He’d made them for Sara one weekend. Really, they were supposed to make them together. That was the plan. But like so many of Sara’s plans, it amounted to Kirby doing the work while Sara talked on the phone, chatted with her online friends, or got called to visit someone while Kirby finished the project.
He was done with that now.
Armand had told him to relax, go away somewhere to just ‘find himself.’ He snorted, nose stuffy from the tears. He knew where ‘himself’ was, he just didn’t want to spend any time with the guy. Armand had insisted, so finally Kirby relented and came to the campsite.
He could have gone any number of places. But this one was Sara’s favorite. ‘Our favorite campsite,’ she’d insist to their friends, but she never asked Kirby his opinion. She liked it, therefore it was ‘our favorite.’ He stuffed more twigs on the fire angrily. His favorite campsite was in the mountains outside of Philadelphia, not that anyone asked him.
Once the flames started licking the kindling, he arranged three of his logs in a tent over the baby fire and sat back on his heels. After a moment or two his knees cramped, so he sat down in the gravel and dirt, wishing he’d thought to bring a camp chair or something. Or maybe it was fitting that he be uncomfortable. He looked over at the daypack laying on its side next to him and pulled it closer.
Their collection of photographs lay higgledy-piggledy inside. When Sara walked out, she’d thrown them on the floor in a fit of pique. “You keep them, then!” she’d shouted and slammed the door. He sat down among them, tears drying on his face, and began collecting them into piles one by one. By the time he was done, his tears were over and he had a plan.
He pulled them out now and glanced at the top one. It was at the zoo in front of the lion enclosure, him and Michelle, Sara’s niece. Michelle loved lions and had begged Sara to go. Sara agreed and then at the last minute, canceled so she could go to the salon with her friends. Horrified, Kirby whisked the little girl up into his arms and carried her the two miles on his hip. She forgot her tears by the first block and was laughing and pointing things out to him by the time they got there.
He set that photo aside to keep.
The rest, he knew from memory, were of him and Sara, Sara and her friends, or Sara herself. He grabbed a handful of them and crushed them in his hand, tears falling freely now. The flames blurred in his vision and he burned his fingers a little as he fed the mass into the center of the fire circle. His stomach cramped from anger and he fed them faster and faster, nearly throwing them onto the flames. They curled and hissed, some melting oddly as the emulsion reacted to the heat of the fire. But they all turned black and burned.
All of them.
By the end of it he was panting. He scrubbed his face angrily, offended at his tears, and sat staring at the flames. One in particular caught his attention. It licked the small tag-end of a piece of kindling and its heart was purplish blue. It waved at him like a hand, beckoning. He felt himself start to breathe more deeply as he gazed at the flame, the light and color filling his vision. His eyes watered, now from heat, but he didn’t care. Enthralled, he leaned a little closer, the heat fanning him. He lost himself in contemplation of the fire, the campsite fading from his mind.
One of the logs popped with a loud crack and he jumped. He inhaled deeply and sat back on his hands. He looked around and noted with surprise that the other campers nearby, for the most part, had already retired. He stretched his neck and caught sight of the moon, luminous and full, overhead to his right. The cooler air away from the fire caressed his face and he took the first breath in quite some time that didn’t hurt.
He looked back at the flame, at the charred bits of paper in among the ashes, and was shocked to feel a sense of completion. His heart still felt sore, but it didn’t seem as raw as it had.
Feeling a flush of gratitude to Armand for suggesting his trip, he set about making up his camp for sleep. The fire, consuming a last log in greedy abandon, crackled and popped behind him.
This story is my entry for the April Flash Fiction Carnival. The theme is “The Elements.” I hope you enjoy!
(Since the prompt suggested either one story or four, I’ve written more than one. The first element, Air, is 617 words. The others come in later chapters with associated word counts. Please feel free to visit one or all.)
Greta waved the light smoke away from her face and resisted the urge to sneeze.
“Pungent stuff,” Grant complained. “Why are we using this again?”
Greta sighed. “Dragonsblood is a purifier,” she said for what felt like the fifteenth time.
“Ooh. Purifier,” Grant intoned. “I thought dragons didn’t exist?”
She shot an irritated glance at him. “I told you, Grant. It’s from a tree. Croton lechleri, actually.”
“Never mind. Just crack the window a little and hand me that bowl.”
Grant did as she asked, still grinning like an idiot. She took the bowl and deposited the small tray with the lit charcoal and melting resin into it. Armand had asked her to clean the new apartment for their circle-mate Kirby, who’d finally gotten out of the horrible relationship with his girlfriend. Armand wanted the place nice and homey before Kirby came, and he’d asked her to bring Grant along.
“Why are you doing that?” Grant asked.
“It’s too hot to carry by itself,” she told him. “See?”
She held out the dish for him. He put his hand over it and snatched it back, eyes wide. “Oh!”
She snorted and set the bowl on the marble block she had on the altar for it. She inhaled deeply, the bitter tang of the incense filling her senses. The crow feather lay next to it, glossy and black, the center stalk white and almost translucent. She glanced at Grant. “Are you going to come with me, or do you want to stay here?”
He shrugged. “I told Armand I’d help, I’ll help.”
She resisted the urge to say, ‘But you don’t know anything, how can you help?’ Armand must’ve had his reasons. “Here,” she said instead, and handed Grant the crow feather. “When we go around the apartment, I want you to waft the smoke up into the air, okay?” She demonstrated, flipping the smoke up toward where the wall met the ceiling.
“Okay,” Grant said dubiously. He took the feather and frowned. “I thought it’d weigh more!”
“Birds can’t weight a lot,” she pointed out, “otherwise they couldn’t fly.”
He looked thoughtful at that and stilled, watching her. She smiled at him and turned back to the altar. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
It wasn’t easy to build the circle here in this new space, but she focused on relaxing and letting herself come into the moment. She concentrated on her breath, counting inhalations and exhalations up to ten. By the fifth, her hands grew warm. By the eighth, she felt the calm sense of ‘now’ she got in ritual. When she was ready, she opened her eyes and lifted the marble and incense.
Starting at the altar, she led the way around the apartment. They moved slowly, going clockwise through the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen; then back to the living room. When she was done and the resin a hard, melted blackness in among the ashes, she set the marble back on the altar. She looked at Grant and found him staring at her, wide-eyed.
“Wow,” he breathed. “That… just… Wow.”
She cocked her head, curious. “What?”
“I always thought this stuff was airy-fairy. But this… I felt something, Greta!” he burst out almost plaintively.
“Airy-fairy?” she echoed, not offended.
“This was amazing!” His blue eyes were glowing with excitement. His whole face was transformed into something handsome and engaging.
She was surprised to find herself feeling kindly toward him. “Well, we have a full moon celebration next week, if you’re interested,” she offered shyly.
“Yeah! I’d love to!”
She blinked, pleased, and turned back to the altar to clean up.
Maybe Armand knew what he was doing after all.
Summation: I did it! My March FADs are done. Please see the list below for the prompts, and click the links for the associated story. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them!
The low-down: “The stories must be previously unposted, written during the month of March, and they must be under 1000 words.” For more info., go here: March FADness.
March 31st: Deja Vu All Over Again: It’s the last day of the challenge and I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have. Your challenge is to comb through the previous days and choose one to repeat.
March 30th: I’ve got rhythm. Music! It’s such a part of our artistic lives. How could we not write about it? Your story should center around music.
March 29th: It’s not easy being green: Your story should revolve around the color green.
March 28th: MIA. Missing in Action: I know I put that prompt around here somewhere. Oh yeah! Your prompt today is missing someone or something.
March 26th: Click Clack Moo. Typing about cows. Yes, cows. Or horses, cows, dogs, goats, chickens, donkeys, hamsters, lemurs, or any other critter that takes your fancy. It’s time to look to the animal kingdom for inspiration. If it worked for Gary Larsen, it can work for you. (Psst-before anyone asks, Click, Clack, Moo is a popular children’s book and Gary Larsen is the guy who drew the Far Side cartoons. Just so’s you don’t have to Google it.)
March 25th: The Postman Always Rings Twice: And at chez soccer, it usually means rejections. But for your character, it can mean anything you want. Your prompt today: An unusual letter.
March 24th: Back to the Beginning: Today, write a flash using one of the starting lines provided by The First Line:
1. Nick had considered himself a lucky guy, until now.
2. Roy owned the only drive-thru funeral business in Maine.
3. While not the intended effect, the outcome was surprisingly satisfying.
March 23rd: Beauty is Truth And Truth is Beauty. Your prompt is to write about something beautiful. Happy Easter.
March 22nd: Mine, Mine, MINE! It’s all mine! Mwahahahahaha! Your prompt today is about ill-gotten gains–specifically, an undeserved inheritance.
March 21st: The Deadzone: Your MC is dead. Oh noes!
March 19th: You Go, Girl: Write a story in second-person present tense.You are whining. You wring your hands. “How am I supposed to do this,” you say. “This is hard.” You sit at the keyboard and begin to type…
March 18th: Waiting for the World to Change. Waiting. Sucks right? I’m a terrible at waiting. I fidget and squirm. How about your Main Character? That’s your prompt for the day. Waiting.
March 17th: A Toast for Me Friends! Bars, pubs, taverns–[they] can think of no better location for a wee story on St. Paddy’s day. So pour yourself a pint and pull up stool. Write one for the road.
March 16th: Mysterious Spring: Your prompt is about finding an unexpected body of water. What does your discovery mean?
March 15th: It’s a fight on the home front. Is it the cold war or a fire fight? Literal or figurative?
March 14th: Space, the Final Frontier: It’s silly Friday and that means a silly prompt. Ever wanted to write an itty bitty space opera? It’s time to contemplate the cosmos. Bring on the aliens and zip around the galaxy with Interplanet Janet!
March 13th: Where’d everybody go? Good question. Actually, your mission today–should you choose to accept it–is to write a story without people. You can include anything else that strikes your fancy: animals, aliens, trolls, snow, car, rings. But no people.
March 12th: Isn’t it Romantic? No? Well it should be. Time to luv it up. It can be spicy erotica or a sweet dalliance. Maybe just unrequited and pure love that burns in your Main Character’s heart.
March 11th: Gambler’s Choice: It’s double or nothing. Since [they]’ve had technical difficulties, this topic is late, so you get a bonus–double the topics. Your choice.
- Choice One: Technical Difficulties! There’s a ghost in the machine. Houston, we have a problem. Uh oh. Something just went clunk. Now what?
- Choice Two: Curious Contraptions! It’s time to unleash your inner steam-punk and get creative. This story should center around an unusual machine.
- Powerball: If you want to double down, combine the two and let your bizarre machinery go on the fritz.
March 10th: Thanks for the Memories: Memory is a tricky thing. Instead of being an accurate recording of our past, it becomes hazy blend of fact and fiction. Your prompt today: Memory.
March 9th: Literary Genius: Time to unleash your inner geek and write fanfic–but not just any fanfic. Shakespearean fanfic. Take the Bard and give him your own twist. If Shakespeare doesn’t inspire you, write fanfic based on something you have previously written.
March 8th: DAD: No, I don’t mean the guy sitting on the couch watching ESPN. I mean Drabble A Day. What’s drabble? A story of exactly 100 words. 99 words is not drabble. 101 words is not drabble. Exactly 100 words.
March 7th: Creature Feature: Vampires? Wyverns? Swamp things? Goblins? Your own invention? Time to go mad scientist and get creative.
March 6th: C’mon, Baby! Let’s Do the Twist: It’s a staple of flash fiction, the twist ending. Time to practice your gotcha. Can you sneak up me?
Note: March 1st through the 5th ended up being a connected story about Fenton and Kilasha; please start with March 1 and move forward through the 5th.
March 5th: A Dish Served Cold: Revenge is the order of the day, whether your MC is on the serving or receiving end, it’s time to get even.
March 4th: Destination Unknown: Sometimes it isn’t the destination that’s important. Sometimes it is the journey. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write about a journey.
March 3rd: Feed Your Soul: And also your face. It’s time to Unleash your inner chef and get culinary. Your topic today is: Food.
March 2nd: It was a dark and stormy night: The thunder rolls and the lightening crashes. A storm is brewing. Write about the weather.
March 1st: Fear of Flying? Strap in, Amelia Earhart and take to the skies. Be ye dragon or machine, this is one for the clouds. Your topic is flying.
Farendorm strode along the passage, hit boots hammering out his annoyance. Brixa trotted behind, trying to keep up. Farendorm ignored him and kept going, flexing his right hand, ligaments cracking.
“Master, slow down…” Brixa murmured. “She’ll know you’re angered if you barge in!”
Farendorm whirled so sharply that Brixa collided with him, barking his nose against Farendorm’s sash buckles. He stumbled back, eyes wide.
“You think I am angered?” Farendorm demanded. “You think I should be calm? For THIS?” He brandished his left fist in Brixa’s face.
The domovoi watched it wave inches from his chin and then looked back up, black eyes worried. “Farendorm. My lord, please…”
Farendorm spun without replying and continued down the hall. After a moment he heard Brixa follow. He inhaled angrily and turned the corner to the royal apartments. He slowed, exhaling.
“All right. You’re right, as usual. I’ll be calm, Brixa.”
“Do you wish me to carry –”
“No!” Farendorm shouted. He looked down at his fist. “No,” he said in a softer tone. “No, I will carry it.” He swept forward, leaving the domovoi to follow in his wake.
The guards on either side of the door snapped to attention. “Milord Farendorm,” one said.
“Shall we –” the other started.
“No need,” Farendorm snapped and threw open the door. “Meliskinei!” he shouted.
“Father?” came the startled squawk. “I’m not dressed, Father!”
“Throw a robe on!”
She appeared around the side of her dressing screen and saw him. She saw what he held and her eyes widened. “Father…”
He brandished it at her. “What is this? In the ancestral home of my fathers and mothers, how could you bring such defilement here?”
She stared at him, eyes huge in a delicate face. She would be as beautiful as her mother, he reflected. If he let her live that long.
“But Father!” she wailed. “The iPhone is the best one!”
The best… He nearly crushed the white appliance in his fury. “And the pink…what are these, rhinestones?” he grated.
“That’s the bling, Father! Everyone has them! Sheniliei told me –”
“What of your mother?” he interrupted.
“What is this commotion?”
Farendorm froze. The Queen of Light and Fire moved into view from behind him, eyes flinty. No matter what he’d said to his daughter, he’d had no intention of telling his wife of this.
“Hello, dear,” he said casually, turning to meet her gaze. Her beauty reached out and slapped him, same as always. He smiled.
She blinked. He was not without his own beauty, Farendorm reflected smugly. He used it to full effect now and moved to take his wife in his arms.
“I was merely angered from a council meeting,” he said smoothly, handing the appliance to his daughter behind his back. She took it, eyes wide. He glared and she paled, knowing the argument was not over. “Come, love. I will tell you all about it over breakfast.” With a final glance at his daughter, he steered his wife toward their own apartment, Brixa trotting quietly behind.
“Gabriel, what you doing?”
“Nothing Michael. Why do you always have to pester me?”
“I’m not pestering you. That should be obvious by now. You’re drunk again!”
“I am not drunk, dammit! I only had three high-balls!”
“Three! In what, a half hour?”
“Well, you were late.”
“Late! I came here right after work, for the love of Pete! How much time do you think it takes to get here from the office?”
“You make everything so dramatic, Michael. I’ve been here for almost an hour.”
“It’s five-thirty! You’re leaving the office early now?”
“Well, I am the Archangel, Michael.”
Kita ran toward the village, the smoke too thick, almost, to breathe through. A stitch stabbed her side, interfering further with her breathing, but she pushed herself forward. The first screams floated toward her on the billowy clouds. They sounded disconnected, unreal.
“Please…” she gasped. “Please!” She didn’t know who she was speaking to. The gods themselves seemed to be absent, gone away from this hell of thick air and war.
She heard the Auntie’s voice, up ahead of her. Hoarse with age and smoke, the sounds hardly penetrated pass the beating of Kita’s heartbeat in her ears. Then a gurgled scream burst out and the singing cut off.
“No!” Kita shouted, spitting it into the clouds. She rounded the corner to the bridge and caught herself, barely. Her right shoe skidded forward and the sound of the gravel toppling off into the gorge clicked and clacked, echoing oddly.
The bridge was gone.
Kita sagged to her knees, too stunned yet to cry. Black smoke billowed from the temple, obscuring the running figures. Lumps strewn on the ground in front of the steps that lead to the door drew her eye. At least seven lay dead, cut down within sight of sanctuary. Auntie herself lay, limbs askew, sprawled on the stairs. Her blood seemed black at this distance when seen through the darkening smoke.
Sudden fury surged through Kita and she got to her feet. She positioned herself as Auntie had drilled, shoulder-width apart, weight forward onto the balls of her feet. She gazed into the distance, eyes on the temple but not seeing it. Taking a deep breath, she opened herself to the smoke, the blood, the battle. Girding herself in the sights before her eyes, she began to sing.
“Look! There’s one of them witches, right there!”
The harsh shout speared through the late afternoon and Kita took it. She wove it into her singing, her Weaving gaining power. Her arms started to tingle with the energy of it. Her hair crackled, static electricity developing around her. Her voice trembled at first with her youth and exhaustion. She held steady, as Auntie taught her, mouth open and throat throbbing.
An arrow speared across the gorge toward her, creating a weird vortex in the smoke as it passed. Her right hand raised of its own accord, palm out, and the arrow veered and then dropped into the gorge, falling end over end. The soldier across from her paled visibly.
“Shoot her!” The large man who yelled the command appeared from around the side of the temple, sword drawn and bloody. He strode up to his man angrily. “I said, shoot her!”
The soldier, more terrified of his Captain than her, obediently drew back and fired a second time. It followed its predecessor. The Captain watched it go thoughtfully, then looked up at her.
His gaze raked her, rude and harsh. She ignored it. She kept her mouth open, feet spread. She wracked her brain for every memory of Auntie, cycling through them one by one for songs and sounds to make. Her voice seemed to sing of its own volition now, flowing from her body like blood or water. Her hair floated around her like she was swimming and even her clothing moved as though in some kind of light breeze.
The Captain turned without a word and disappeared behind the temple. He appeared moments later with Shjango, dragging the boy by one arm. The Captain stopped where he was before and met her gaze insolently. He put the point of his sword against Shjango’s throat. A small line of blood appeared.
Something clicked deep within Kita. Her eyes closed and her head fell back. She felt her arms move, open wide, then turn palm up. Her voice poured out of her into the sky. She allowed her eyes to close and abandoned herself to the music, letting it have its way with her. The minute she did, her awareness deepened, as though her eyes had been a distraction.
She seemed to hear a deep drumbeat beneath her and realized it was the heart of the Earth. Throbbing just below audible range, it kept time to her Song. Her hands started to heat and then itched a little. She felt as though her voice were pulled from her by strong, sure hands and knew, suddenly, that Auntie was there with her.
“Hold firm, Kita,” Auntie’s Voice whispered. Other Singers appeared in her hearing, murmuring. Their susurrations comforted her and firmed her resolve.
Kita’s eyes opened and light blinded her. Blinking against it, she realized her hands were twin balls of flame. Moving without conscious thought, she brought her head up and locked her eyes on the Captain’s gaze. Kita smiled.
Flames shot forward from each hand, arcing across the gorge. They hit the Captain in the dead-center of his jerkin and threw him backward six feet. Shjango screamed and threw himself onto his face, crying into the dirt.
Kita turned her gaze to the soldier still standing, slack-jawed and stunned, next to Shjango. The flames licked backwards from the Captain and caught the soldier in a tornado. Kita moved through the village, her flame passing before her like wrath.
When the invaders all lay dead, Kita allowed her hands to close. The flames cut off like a faucet, dying into the Gorge like bright flowers. Kita’s voice faltered and fell silent. She sank to her knees in the dirt, tears on her face.
When the villagers finally got across the Gorge to retrieve her, they found her in that same position, hands palm-up on her knees. They carried her back to her hut and celebrated.
Some Songs are borne of light and life. Some come of anger. A few come of the desperation of a people, faced with sure extinction. On that day, in the small village next to the mighty Gorge, an old Singer is killed, and a new Singer is born.
“Calm yourself, Lars. It’s not seemly to get so excited. It’s a beautiful morning,” Elder Wilhelm Yoder soothed. “Look there. You see how the trees form a line like they are walking to market?”
“Yes,” he sighed, “I see them.” He clucked at Mila and Kesta to hurry up. The two black mares obligingly moved into a light trot, their unshod hooves making soft ‘clops’ on the pavement.
The road was only two lanes. He and Wilhelm drove in the right-hand one. The English in this land drove on the right, but in their home country drove on the left. It numbered among the many things Lars didn’t understand. To the right of the white line separating the road, the ugly hedgerows began. Nearly waist-high and wide to the depth of his forearm, trees had been planted just beyond them, spaced evenly like in an orchard. But this close to the exhaust fumes of automobiles, the trees would be useless for produce. Another hedgerow started just after the trees, like a fence, and then the woods began.
“Are those Mr. Madden’s woods too?” Lars demanded, the thought popping unbidden to his mind.
“Mmm,” Wilhelm responded. “I do not know. Why is it you ask?”
Lars blushed and looked away. “Curiosity only, Elder.”
“We Amish are a curious people,” Wilhelm said softly.
After a moment, Lars realized he was teasing. “Forgive me, Elder. I feel out of sorts this morning.”
“And why is that, young Lars?”
“It’s Rebecca!” he burst out. “Viktor Sauder gave her flowers at the Meeting. Flowers!”
“It is Easter, my son,” Wilhelm said quietly. Then, “Are you out of sorts because you neglected to bring any?”
Lars shot a look at the Elder and found himself regarded by calm, age-filmed blue eyes. “Yes,” he said miserably and looked back at the road. “What if she chooses Viktor?”
“If you neglect to bring her any gifts, perhaps she will,” Wilhelm said gently. When Lars whirled to retort, he held up a hand. “I said ‘if,’ my son. ‘If.’ We go to market after Mr. Madden’s delivery.”
Lars stopped. That thought had not occurred to him. “I brought candles to barter,” he noted thoughtfully.
“Perhaps you should barter with Mrs. Mills, young Lars. She makes such pretty hair ties.”
When Lars met Wilhelm’s gaze, he found the old man twinkling at him. “Do you approve of the match?” Lars asked, greatly bold.
“I do, my son.” He patted Lars’s knee. “But first, to business. We have much work to do, and we are missing the scenery.”
Lars grinned and turned back to the road. The sun, not up yet, provided enough light that the woods were cast into bluish shadows. “Aren’t the hedges rather attractive in this light?” he asked the Elder.
Elder Wilhelm just smiled and settled deeper into his seat.