Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remembering


He remembered rolling down the back lawn, crashing into cradling honeysuckle in a giggling heap, nose full of grass and earth and the sky still spinning.

And there were her smiling eyes.

He remembered singing, Shuffle shuffle shuffle through the crunchy crunchy leaves, as his feet sought golden orange maple and already brown sycamore and a pile so deep he could jump off the roof and land safe like a crouton in soup.

And there were her smiling eyes.

He remembered when he was a beetle. "You can walk between houses, honey," she said. But of course he insisted on crawling with all six legs. It had to be—and not just look—authentic, after all!

And sighing, perhaps, there still were her smiling eyes.

He remembered last October. The short visit; the half-finished conversations; the goodbye drop-off at the airport, hurried due to the very bulky box he was determined to check in.

And now, months later, he was sitting on a stone beneath an iron sky on the other side of the planet, trying to remember. Had he embraced her? Had he said all that he had wanted to say to her? During his time there, had he done anything to help at all?

The cat tiptoed around the corner and stretched. A cool gust of wind rocked the branches overhead, sending a pair of high-strung lorikeets screeching off in search of a more stable perch.

He closed his eyes, remembering some more. 


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Winemaker


The Winemaker
The Constable's tone had been sympathetic, but his warning was unambiguous: if Arturo did not pay up by season's end, he would lose the other eye.

Arturo had simply given the larger (but in his mind, smaller) man an impatient nod and shown him the door. For the Town to have sent someone all the way out here to East End just to tell the winemaker something he already knew was nothing short of patronizing, and as he watched the Constable carefully leading his mare back down the muddy oily slope, Arturo's wounded pride had left him no choice but to shout after him. "You'll see! It's a bumper crop this year. You'll all have your gold, and I'll be laughing!"

But that had been over a month ago, and no thanks to the embarrassing incident of the storm, his debt had now doubled. Arturo Morlen, who fancied himself a carefree type of fellow, was beginning to worry.

The aluminum broad-brimmed hat hanging from a nail in the doorframe had belonged to his father, and to his grandfather before that. Arturo placed it evenly on his own head, snatched a pair of stained leather gloves from the bench, and walked outside to face the day.

Only a few stars remained in the sky, directly overhead. Their light gleamed from Arturo's single golden eye. The steep little valley spread below him, its sides clothed in shadow-blue vineyards that were broken only by the occasional clump of spruces. Farther down he could see that his only neighbors, the Appenbaums, had already lit their breakfast fire; a ghostly white plume rose more or less eastward to merge with the thin orange glow from the sun where it promised to bloom above the gentle hills that marked the confluence of the Five Valleys. It was a beautiful morning.

Arturo smiled. Never mind the Town; he would prove the Old Crone wrong once and for all about the graygrapes, and while he was at it, he just might win Gailen's heart. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Flight

FlightAs far as Tarilleon was concerned, birds were worse than fish. Sure, you had more freedom in the air, and thus -- potentially, at least -- more room for perspective. But with fish, the danger was obvious; from the second you entered, being inside one felt so alien and mind-numbing you couldn't wait to get out. The risks of being bird-brained for too long, on the other hand, were much... more subtle.

It was the addiction, of course. The hook, on which so many had hung their mortal coils and never thought to look back.

To be able to fly had perhaps been a dream in the human subconscious for as long as they'd had two hands and a pair of feet. Actually being able to do it now -- soaring high overhead, completely unreachable by earthly concerns, tasting the wild wind—was hard to give up indeed. Tarilleon's own brother Moz had fallen to the temptation, and he himself had nearly succumbed when he was a younger man. He had survived only by learning discipline, moderation, and control.

And so it was with great reluctance and more than a little trepidation that Tarilleon had agreed to the High Oracle's proposal. Using cormorants as their hosts, Tarilleon and four other Watchers would penetrate deep into Sha'mani territory, flying all the way south to the palace of Chamma'Nyva. There they would sit atop walls and on windowsills, dodging rocks and gleaning what information they could.

It would be eight days before they returned to their real bodies. Hence the trepidation: the longest anyone had ever been inside a bird, and successfully returned with sanity intact, was six days. They could shorten the journey by traveling into Krr'Chamma first, finding a safe place to harbor their bodies, and employing wild birds locally. But with animals that had not been raised and nurtured since birth, the risk of a premature break was too great. And so they would have to fly all the way from here using the cormorants.

It was imperative that they find out what the Sha'mani were up to, and soon. Something terrible was happening; never mind the High Oracle, even Tarilleon had sensed it. He could feel it in his bones, in the soil and water, in the very air gusting through his feathers....