Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kei Lumosa (chapter one)

(it's not the greatest, but don't y'all be stealin' this!)

This is a dark place, and these are a dark people. They all came to this city of hiding and escape, the hole beneath the rock, as runaways. I don’t think any of them expected their secrets to follow them here. I imagine that haunting insecurity comes as a cold shock, but there is nowhere else for them to go. In two weeks I’ve had no luck finding him. Time is being wasted, and I’m afraid for what that means. And, I think these people are beginning to suspect that I am no runner. That I am a secret.

The sun rose that morning over Tana Shaneh, but no one saw it. The clouds that always smothered the small city were so thick that light never broke through them. A heavy wooden door begrudgingly scraped open to reveal a young woman wrapped in a dark shawl. She stepped hesitantly out onto the cold stone road in front of her and shut the door softly behind. She let go of her long skirt to hide her pale bare feet and pulled the shawl up over her copper hair. The streets were empty, as usual. The windowless buildings stood over her in darkness, guarding the narrow alleys that hid between them. A vomitous stench filled the stale air. She stepped carefully through the filth and black, trying not to breath it all in.

Suddenly, a man came running up the street, his face hidden beneath the same dark cloak they all wore. She reached inside her coat to wrap her fingers around a hilt, but the man was not running toward her at all. He stopped at a door a few yards in front of her and slammed his fists on it, over and over. Another man opened the door and his visitor whispered angrily at him. The men’s faces showed their excitement, which, though muted, was still so rare in this place. The woman walked cautiously closer, hand still at her side. In a second the man, and his neighbor who heard the noise and came outside, joined the messenger, and all together ran back down the street toward whatever was happening. She followed quickly. Was that light ahead?

The woman pushed her way into the gathering crowd. She was usually in fear of the silent, hostile eyes staring at her with mistrust. Now they were only glances, because the novel distraction was the fire burning in the middle of the alley. She looked up into the faces illuminated by the flames. There were none she recognized. She looked back into the blaze. Even by the fire, the air was still cold. She tried to keep her face vacant as she remembered the warmth where she came from. Sadness and frustration threatened to betray her, because as much as she wanted to return home, it would be meaningless, if she failed here.

Why were they all so fascinated? And furious? She looked up just in time to see a man toss a bundle of paper into the fire. Forgetting any pretense, she dropped to her knees and stared into the flames, eyes wild and searching. Between garbage and dry leaves she saw words. But it couldn’t be a book. She hadn’t seen any writing since she arrived. She shot back up to her feet and marched over to the man, grabbing his arm. “What is that? What did you just burn?”

“It’s a story, idiot,” he growled at her. Her eyebrows raised in shock.

“Who wrote it?”

The man threw her off with a violent shove. “The same fool that always writes these ridiculous things and leaves them to be found. And what is he trying to do? Since we can’t find him, we’re burning his work instead. To teach him a lesson.” Others sneered in approval.

“And what lesson is that?” the woman snapped.

“That he has no voice here.”

Her eyes narrowed. No one in this city ever wanted to be seen or heard. She knew of only one who was too strong to be silenced. “Where did you find all this?” she asked in an even tone. The man turned and threw the stick he was holding toward the building directly across the street. She glared at him once more, but decided that threatening him would bring too much attention. She left the circle. Even with her outburst, no one watched her go. Strange people. She pulled the shawl to hide her face as she crossed the street.

The building didn’t seem to have a door. At least not one the woman could find. She went to first one empty side, and then toward the other. An icy, wet gust came around the corner, blowing with it a piece of paper. She saw it out of the corner of her eye and bent to pick it up. There were more pages in a puddle ahead. She collected all of them and walked back out to the street. She tried reading the pages but they confused her. Many were exactly the same, with the same words and the same paragraphs. She sat near the gutter to sort them, putting the copies together in piles. There were three unique sets. Taking one sheet from each pile, she put them in the order they seemed to fit. The sad, sickening story she found there forced her tears. It had to be him.

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