Posts Tagged 'romance'

A spot of gothic romance

His eyes met hers. Her eyes met his. Their eyes met. Above their heads, black clouds formed, the winds began to howl and shake. Someone must die.

“In these terrible times, sir, I find it best to speak rarely and gently,” she said, looking back down at her needlework. Her voice was light and firm.

“Yes, indeed, m’lady, I understand that a raised voice would be improvident,” he said, reaching to take the needlepoint from her hands. She resisted only briefly. Pulling the white linen back, he revealed beneath it a letter, open and sitting in her lap. One eyebrow lifting slightly, he took the letter, folded it and slipped it into his cape.

“No need to worry about this, madam,” he said. “I will look after it until it is needed.”

“Yes, of course,” she responded, remaining seated, remaining composed, remaining convinced as ever that someone must die. Now quite certain which of them that might be.

 Outside were the sounds of preparation that had become common over these past few months. Horses and men, the smell of burning hooves as the animals were shod, the excited yells of small boys chasing soldiers and knights-in-training through the muddy streets. Enemies came in all forms in those days: enemies of state, illness, criminals and people made mad by poverty and dirt. The men in the castle held council after council, each beating the drum for his own reason. War. Glory, wealth, religion, property, power.

Who holds a woman’s letter over her head, leaving behind an unspoken threat? This young man has just taken a letter from the most dangerous woman of her place and time. Pity he did not recognize her; they’d met before, in other circumstances. If he had realized from whom he took the letter, the situation in which he eventually found himself might have been avoided altogether.

Simila says what she knows

The king knows my heart.

In the distance, I hear the wistful baying of the dag-vark, calling their prey out of safe dens. Strange, isn’t it, how the innocent, helpless creatures of every world are so easily seduced? It has always been so, though, and so it was for me.

The king knows my heart, and I, I know something of his mind, and thus am able to control certain small things without his knowing exactly what I do. His heart, though, is still a mystery to me. It is a mystery that keeps me alive, at his discretion.

How did I get to this point, 3.6 light years from my youth, hurled through space in the great lemming-like panic of year 7147? All of us, every light haired, mossy green one of us was thrown by giants from one world to another. Then a sudden, heavy silence, and then the suns came up, one, two, three. Number four was Varg-ner, my king.

The king knows my heart. What I know is that, alone, I made horrifying mistakes that I never would have made in community.

Community. There is a word that sticks in my throat. I am the only one of my kind on this world. We, all of us, all of us communal and bound to one another through something that is not blood, not exactly, but is the closest I can come to naming it, were tagged and shipped with our various talents to the planets of my king. One of us per planet. My king’s fear is that two of us, together on a single planet, might link through blood and an unrelenting passion for the secrets of our home planet, and turn it all back. 3.6 light years back. Back to the time before this, or forward to the time after.

 7147

“Hold on,” he said softly to the woman, and they took the last step. She turned her face to his, and as the lights came on around them, she watched as his face broke and spread and shot away from her, trails of light, a comet of remembrance, a path that would lead her back to him again some day. However many light years it took.

Brimnook stood in the open spaces of his designated planetary assignment. Trees proliferated here, multivariate trees, branches reaching and writing, word trees spinning words to be harvested and fed to the CGS farms, where words generated and regenerated in a tightly controlled process that Brimnook oversaw, he being the migrant editor of the 7th planet occupied by Varg-ner when the troubles came. The sick trees Brimnook beat, or cut down, or burned. Or hid. For his eventual return, following the path left by his home-mate, his moss green woman, the woman who fed him words to sustain him through all of this time, travel, travail and now, through the secret door that would take them all back home.

 

Home

When I finally got home, I nosed around hesitantly, as if I were an intruder in a forbidden kingdom. This, though, was my kingdom – no, our kingdom. Where we’d been there was no word for “we,” or “us”. My job had been to cut all such words out of the bleeding trees and to destroy them. The king, though, although he knew my heart, did not know my mind, and it was a bittersweet task to betray him by taking those words, us, ours, yours and mine, we, and using them to collapse his interplanetary kingdom, as gently as pulling a string, as tipping over a single tile, as tossing one small stone down a steep mountainside.

(30 minutes, Monday writing group. Genre fiction – romance and sci-fi standard terminology blended.)

 

War, romance, sleep, death

Earlier

Bear liked mustard, he liked mustard on his german dogs, brautwurst with sauerkraut. Not mild mustard, hot hot mustard, mustard that lets you know you are a man. When we were falling in love, it was like living in the trenches, like Hitler and Mussolini and bombs going off all round us. Really exciting, but crazy wrong.

Bear was rich, rich in ideology, rich in actual money. He sold cars to the Germans, he sold honey to the British, he sold watches to the Italians. The Swiss and the French he sold reservations to rest resorts in foreign lands far away from the bombing. The English and French had bad nerves and loss, lots of loss. Bear was half English, he liked to say, an aunt named Bessie, an uncle who lived in Inverness (Scots, I know, but Bear did not make that distinction).

We met while I was shopping between raids, between bombings, in a period of artificial peace. I was buying a leather handbag, and thinking about having my initials monogrammed on it. The shopkeeper was kind and attentive, and I would hardly have noticed the pause when Bear walked in, if it hadn’t been wartime. In wartime the little hairs on our arms stand up, tiny antennas reading fear, reading danger. Bear brought danger into the room. Danger and heat, and I admit to being young. I bought the handbag and left without the monogram. Bear followed me out and bought me a coffee on the sidewalk where the umbrellas had been brought out in the fall sunlight in an act of shocking optimism. The end of this war, the beginning of another.

This little village had some damage, some churches and banks that were shells. Every night, we covered the windows, and inside each flat, each small cottage, the stories were short and cheerful, to put the children to sleep. Short, to get as much sleep as possible before the sirens woke us. Cheerful, to convince us that tonight, as least, there would be none. I believe Bear slept heavily and well, all through the war.

Later

The train was slow in stopping. She stood in the steam and the fog. The brakes screamed, the babies waved their little hands. Cccchhhhh. Ccchhhh. Stop. Her ankles are aswirl with smoke, she stands and waits and watches. Getting off the train. Polish grandmothers, Swiss nannies. Soldiers, flirting and giving cigarettes to Swiss nannies.

How many times will I call myself back through my bones? she wonders. My bones, the bones of memory, even when I am old and will have learned how to take some and leave some. Some memory. Every night, I see them again. There I am. Me, in my blue eye liner. Dressed as someone other than myself. Taken out of myself, by soldiers, and bombs and my missing child.

In May, when the weather is warming, what woman, what mother, can imagine the loss of a child, the whole in the ground where an entire building filled with hundreds of lives had been just moments before. Ana will sing in a low voice to the men who killed her child. She will hold them one by one against her body. And each one, before he dies, will see two things distinctly on her face. First, her grief. Second, his own death. And so she goes from gardener and mother to siren and chanteuse and killer.

This is a simple poem. Biblical, even. Ana has gone back to the basics: vengeance, rage and power. Tonight they are drinking at a club, brightly lit, with windows covered. The room is heavy with smoke. Smoke is swirling around her; she looks at him. She leans forward, he looks at her, at her blue eye shadow. She holds up her cigarette. He leans in to light it for her. She looks up and their eyes meet. For a moment he feels lost, something is wrong. She smiles, he smiles back, and the moment drifts away.


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