The Grey City XVII

Saturday April 26, 2008 @ 01:07 PM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II
The Grey City III
The Grey City IV
The Grey City V
The Grey City VI
The Grey City VII
The Grey City VIII
The Grey City IX
The Grey City X
The Grey City XI
The Grey City XII
The Grey City XIII
The Grey City XIV
The Grey City XV
The Grey City XVI

There was a curious sound that Carys could not place. It was short, percussive, and repeated at odd intervals. It sounded like something fragile breaking, far away. crack.

Then Carys heard her mother hum, and she remembered. Sunday mornings in their house, Mother would sneak out of bed and start to cook. Papa would lie in the bed, sleeping as if his body knew it was his only day of rest. Eirian, in the little cot the sisters shared, lay curled into a cozy knot like a hibernating squirrel. As the smells of cooking spread out from the cast-iron stove, the sleepers would stir and sniff, then kick off their covers and stumble towards the table.

But not Carys. It was not her nose, cold above the quilts and sheepskin, that woke her, but her ears. crack. In Mother’s hand, resting against callus and ground-in dirt, egg after egg broke against the edge of the stone mortar. crack. Carys knew that each blow split an egg perfectly into two ragged, hollow bowls, knew without opening her eyes. And she did not open them. Not until Eirian or Father had snuffled out of bed and Mama had said, “I’ve led you out of bed by your nose again!” did Carys flutter, blink and stretch. Such sweet deceit she remembered now with the absent-minded tune and the muffled, delicate crack.

Carys remembered it all, every moment her childish mind had been too busy or careless to catch. The pain and fear she had never forgotten; the body thinks it needs those things to survive. But the joys she now recalled — deep beyond memory, or rediscovered like a beloved toy at March’s first thaw — overwhelmed the sorrows.

The sweet smell of milk that had led her to Mother’s breast, the first rainbow, the spring breathing lavender onto the tall slate hills, the way a lamb butted your hand when it knew you were safe. Father teaching you to dance, the voice of the girl who lost her baby raised in song more beautiful for its knowing ache. Figgy pudding, the warmth of a blanket burrow on a stormy night, and Eirian’s breath, as familiar as your own, warming the night beside you. The voices of Mother and Father are drawing closer, more than a memory, real voices singing a song you do not know. Now you are remembering the good parts of your last months with your family, the moments you could not see through the fear and grief. Papa telling you tall tales and family history from his sickbed, and Mama — oh, how could obligation and worry chase away this glow of pride — Mama telling you she trusted you to look after your sister, knew your heart and strength.

The song was strong now, and there were words in it, indistinct as if heard through a door, felt more than understood. The dark around her was alive with warmth and music, but she could feel a thread of chill like a draft on her back. It came from the body’s world, the City she had escaped, escaped alone, and Carys turned and followed it, swimming into the cold current of time, back to the City, the night, and to Eirian.

Grey City XVIII


Quoth Oliver.

I love this, and this portion was kind. But darn it, it’s not enough!

Thank you for a return to serials.

You’re very welcome, my friend. I found I missed the exercise, and even the tenebrous alleys of Grey City.

The next segment isn’t drafted yet, but I must confess I was sketching it in my head not 5 minutes ago!

Oddly familiar, your description of a thread of chill. Is it from long gone boyscout days, sitting around the fire in the blackness of night, listening to scary tales, and suddenly feeling an urge to look over my shoulder?

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but I think I describe sensations as ‘threads’ very, very often. So it could even be from around somewhere! This is what I get for being the child of a quilter….

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