Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chapter 5: Beyond the Pale

"We will become sillhouettes when our bodies finally go." — The Postal Service

Uncle Lee took a long draw from his pipe then looked back towards the window. The old man held his breath then unleashed a torrent of thick pipe smoke. He spoke suddenly, life coming into his voice like a rising ember, and it was quite some time before he paused again.

Lorelei wandered into town in the summer of 1814, a child of no more than 12. Where she came from or how she got here was anyone’s guess. But she didn’t seem tired or unhappy. At least, no more unhappy than any other kid her age. She just waltzed in wearing a raggedy dress, stitched together with burlap, and no shoes on her feet.

She came to rest by the fountain in town square, the fountain you’ve stopped by so many times before, and she sat on a post, looking around with a gaze that belied her youth. It seemed as though Lorelei had seen small towns like this before, and in all likelihood, she had.

Her hair was black, the color of a moonless sky, and smooth, unaffected by the journey that had turned the rest of her appearance to that of a wandering peasant girl. A blue ribbon, partially ripped, adorned her head, and it flowed in the afternoon breeze. Her face was no more or less striking than any young girl her age, save her eyes, dark eyes that stared like unblinking coals from her pale face, an animal’s eyes.

Still a young man myself, I had been working across the street, helping my father rebuild a stable wall, when I saw her looking in our direction. I got the attention of my father, the town’s champion lawman, and together we walked into the street to speak to her.

“Are you lost?” my father asked, brawny arms crossed over his chest, badge deliberately protruding.

“I think I saw you in a dream once,” she said.

“Do you know me?” he inquired.

“I can see that you are some kind of sheriff, but I don’t think we’ve met.” She spoke to him as an equal, something many a hood and highwayman were scarce to attempt.

“Young lady, are your mother and father around?”

“I don’t know my parents. I just want some water, if you would be so kind,” she said. Her eyes looked up at us, and I could see years of stories in them. She frightened me, this precocious child, with her fearless looks and quick tongue, and I wanted to turn away and avoid seeing the pain in her face.

“Are you here by yourself?” My father was as incredulous as I, but his sense of obligation was unwavering.

“Just water, that’s all.” She looked away, disinterested in anything more we could offer.

I ran to grab water without looking for approval. Upon my return minutes later, I could see that nothing had changed. She sat, unspeaking, digging her feet in the dirt and occasionally looking around. My father’s questioning had ceased, and he rubbed his chin in thought, perturbed by the child’s mystery and likely cooking up a “stately” solution for this wayward orphan. I handed her the water and asked her name.

“Lorelei,” she said. “Thanks.” With that, she ambled off, ignoring my father’s shouts and demands to return. We shared a glance after a moment passed, and he raised his brows. When we looked back up, she was gone. My father and I said nothing more about it and wrote her off as the daughter of a migrant worker, perhaps a miner, as many indeed traversed our roads in those days.

A week later, Lorelei reappeared, in the same place, around the same time. The day was again beautiful and sunny, and we were once again at work in the center of town, where my father spent most of his time engaged in city business. I went into the street to meet her.

She looked sad, with her head down, scratching her throat. “Hello Lorelei,” I greeted her.

“The season is changing,” she said. “It’s going to get cold soon. And then what will I do?” She looked up at me and our eyes met for an instant. In that brief glance, I saw something flash in the darks of her pupils, an electric blue streak and then a shimmer of gold. Its majesty forced me to look away. “You know, you have a great spirit, one of silence. It’s like you have so much to say, but you just haven’t figured out how to say it yet,” she said in almost a whisper.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Right now, it’s still. Everything is still. And that is a good thing. It won’t be like this forever.” She continued to scratch her throat. I tried to say something just then, but couldn’t find the words. We both just stood in the afternoon sunlight for a few awkward minutes, glancing around. I felt lightheaded and, for a moment, thought I might be in another place. It’s difficult enough to explain being in one place at one time, but the creeping suspicion of being in between two places at once. After all these years, I still can’t understand that feeling, unmistakable though it is. “I’ll see you around Lee,” she said and then trotted away.

The next time I saw her was when I first experienced the power of the alm. It was dusk, and the summer was waning. Cool winds from the north quickened the steps of everyone in town. I had been running around all day, making pickups and drop-offs according to my father’s demand. I decided to close out the afternoon reading a book by a lake outside of town. It was a place of profound solace, and the sunsets over the elms and poplars in the west never failed to tweak my lonely young man’s heart.

I had with me a sack containing all the fruits of the day’s errands, some of the items quite important for reasons I did not know. It also held more than a small sum of money from my father’s purse.

In the fading sunlight, I fell asleep. How long I was out, I do not know, but I was wakened by the vicious cracking of wood to my scalp. Sprawling in the grass, I opened my eyes to see a man wrapped in a surcoat, with a tri-corn hat tilted over his dark face, revealing only a grizzled beard. He held a crooked staff, and stood unmoving, a few feet before me. His coat whipped in the breeze, and he held his offhand in the air, as though ready to strike with it.

“What do you want?” I shrieked, rolling to the side and angling myself to make a run for it. He hit me again with his staff, this time in the neck below my chin, and I saw a flash of purple sparks flare into the night air. I spit some blood.

“It’s reckoned simple, simple boy. Hand over the gunny and be on with ye. Away from me lake, and the cursed ground that’s not for simple boys.” He stretched out a pale sinewy hand and flickered long fingers, grimy nails begging for my sack. I faltered, running my hands frantically in the grass around wear I lay. The bag was nowhere in sight. “Here be trouble, goodly simp. This here’s wizard’s silage, not for ye trespassing simple boys.”

“I don’t have it. I’ve lost it,” I said. He dropped to a crouch and exploded into a blinding pounce, swinging the staff across his body. I had barely time to move, but had I not, the chair in front of you would likely be empty now. The blow caught me on the chest and arm, paralyzing me with white-hot pain, again sending sparks into the air, chasing each other like demon flies, fizzling into nothingness.

“Ye’ve one more chance to hand over me gunny rightful, or beyond the pale ye go. Yer brood here before ye is watchful. These here eyes have seen more’n worms, simp. There be darker serpents within the wizard’s gash, waiting for freshness, skin and blood of wee boys and girls. Yer brood here doing one last favor as ye please. Me next hew will cleave yer thick simple skull, boy.” He bobbed up and down slowly, poised to provide what I can only guess as the end of the line for me. Then something unexpected happened.

Fine white streams of light curled down from the limbs of an overhanging tree. The old man saw them and pulled his staff to him in guarded anticipation. He steepled his hands in the center of the staff and looked upwards. I caught a glance of his bearded visage and nearly screamed when I saw that he had no face above his vacant, lipless hole of a mouth. A voice from behind me spoke up.

“Leave him be, spawnling of black. Find your way back through your hole, away from our peaceful ways.” It was the voice of a girl.

“What trespass, what folly. Ye’ve stumbled upon death, simple child.” His voice betrayed fear.

Lorelei appeared behind me, filthy and tattered as always. Her eyes gleamed in the darkness, and the curve of a smile awakened on her small face. “I will not warn you again. Take your maggots’ bones away from us. There are those who are not afraid of your kind, you know.” She glowed, her voice a thin wave of innocence and hope, as she scratched her throat.

“Languoring sleepwalker, ye. Yer brood here deals in deaths deeper than holy rot.” He spat the words and leapt at her, his body contorting into a fluid shadow, his staff blazing violet. It all happened very fast, but what I remember is the old man’s form going limp in mid-air. Lorelei laughed, a full laugh that rang across the sky. Clutching her throat, her mouth opened into light. From it a burst of pure flame lit the air, it’s curls forming spiraling hands, dancing to the notes of her laughter. They grasped and smothered the dark, suspended figure, wrangling the life out of it as they stopped and then reanimated. Hacking screams and the slosh of mucous came forth from the writhing creature, as he diminished into a minute flicker that shot into the sky. The whole struggle lasted less than ten seconds. Then all was quiet.

Lorelei fell to her knees and began to recite something to herself, softly. It sounded like a prayer, but I couldn’t make out the words. I was hurting and exhausted, shocked and confused. Lorelei ceased her prayer and collapsed in a heap, looking more like a 12-year-old than I had previously seen. I tried to stand up and noticed something odd. Lying on my lap was my father’s sack.

I went to Lorelei’s crippled form and took her hand. “Come with me. We have an extra bed. You need to rest.” With that, she rose and we walked home together in silence.
eXTReMe Tracker
Adult Dating Site
Adult Dating Site