I don't know what to say about this Dystopian, Western Fantasy. It's good. Please comment.
Cold wind carried a hint of dampness from the coast. Trees swayed, popped and crackled in the far forest, reminding one of the coming wave upon wave of chill - undaunted, unabated. ‘Is this all there is to this life?’ he thought. He’d never wished harm toward a single soul, yet there he sat full of sour gloom in the waning daylight. He sat next to a stump, almost becoming a wooden headstone himself until it uprooted and moved on.
One could only push someone so far until they either broke or snapped. When a limb broke, it was finished. When it snapped, it fell, aiming to crush something. The forest beckoned him to listen fore they had a story to tell of breaking and snapping - and of growing and living. He kept a diligent watch, waiting for nightfall from the safety of a brier thicket through his one good eye. The forest stood at his left and the small cottage nestled on a hill in front. Cold wind, a bad company made.
A murder of crows passed overhead. They danced about, jostling the winds across sleek, distilled-purple bodies in the flickering sunset. It moved wings far and near, looped and spun them to and fro, never quite allowing them to land where the tasty morsels lie hidden. They spotted him there and fled from his spying eye.
They knew things no mortal man could ever hope to perceive, wondered if he’d tried to capture their thoughts as they fought for control against endless, invisible tides. They dared not let him, kept distance between themselves and the man-bear where he stood in denial of the cold. Maybe they were jealous as he seemed so unaffected. Maybe, they thought, he was too stupid to be anywhere else.
A brisk walk across the field at dusk brought him closer to the old log home. Smoke boiled from the stack, finding itself drawn to the east by blasts of spiteful air. He paced sporadically on numb knees and forgetful ankles. A horse stamped to attention when he rounded the corner. He'd already known she was there.
Side-stepping to the corner post drew him closer to the soggy poles on the left of the channeled doorway. Dead grass hung below its thatched roof. He swept a handful from view and sank lower against the complaints of groaning knees. A slither of light flickered between two rotting logs. He pulled a strand of thatch from the hole, revealing more of the inside's firelight glow. The man sat down, crossed legs and peeked inward.
Inside, an old man chanted and cursed, tugging every now and then on a milky tuft of thick beard. His exact words felt foreign, though he repeatedly talked to someone, or simply, himself. He waddled about the room laying items on the table, only to pick them up again and repeat the mindless squabble, seemingly failing in each attempt. He grunted and grumbled and spat as he pondered.
Then, queued by some pre-destined notion of will or an impossible patience of mind, puffs of smoke boiled from feeble fingers, tails of amber butterflies spun round and round the room.
‘He must be a Threader. I’ve never seen a Threader before.’
Stopping the procession to make a mark in goose quill, he quickly resumed another set of chants. A huge book lay sprawled across a long table. The onlooker continued to watch but, as anything is to anyone, he soon became bored and distracted, as is oft the case for any-most repetitious happenstance. He nodded off.
Suddenly, a stream of light spilled through the amber cracks and actually grew to encircle his body. The crack glowed so intensely, one hand rose across his sleepy eye, the other to his chest in defense. Spicy tendrils of glowing fox-fire spilled all around leaving him awe-stricken. The light became too much for his one good eye.
A steady stream of stardust sprang through the hole, snaring and passing straight into his worn, leather coat. His head tilted and mouth locked open gasping for air. Surge after surge of living energies lassoed the humbled body. A knock on the door of his mind brought forth the inevitable questions, to persist or perish? He soon lost consciousness again, still sitting upright against the weather-beaten, log wall.
He awoke to prodding from the old man’s muddy cane tip. Torchlight illuminated faint memories as the old man peered from behind its flickering light, laughing just enough to render him fully conscious.
“Get up, my good man. Would you care to come in for a bit?” asked a cheerful old fellow.
“That’s not how you treated me yesterday.” head shaking as he replied. “I remember you caused me great pains when you removed me from my own home.”
“That was a... mistake.” mumbled the old man. “I needed a place to work... to gather my thoughts. I regretfully and truly apologize if I’ve offended.”
“You did more than offend.”
The old man held the cane outstretched, rendering it to pull the poor man out of his condition. Long, dirty fingers bore withered skin, his stained coat appeared unnaturally colored but, it had the look of a fine, frost-free apparel. He grabbed the pole and pulled himself to his feet, finding a renewed exhilaration in doing so.
“Why are you so chipper, you... old goat? You wanted me dead, last we spoke.”
“That was then... and this is now. Remember your manners toward an old soul.”
“Remember yours. We’re not that many years apart... and you took my welcoming you in as some kind of threat to your life. Why kick me out of house and home... to do such a thing? Well, what is it that you’ve done, anyway?”
“I’ve created life, you fool. Where none remained, it shall be renewed.”
The old man stroked his chin beard and pulled up the side of his bonnet to scratch. The gray facial hair was a virtual bird’s nest in the making, hair protruding from ear to beard and back to brow, a uni-beard of mottled mess to keep the winter out, or ideally, to imprison the implied madness.
“I haven’t seen it. Where or what have you created?” he asked, turning the corner to quickly gain entry before the old man noticed. He rushed inside, barred the door and turned to grab something.
“I was saying there was an impasse.” said the old man, somehow standing near the table holding the huge book. The cane in his right hand seemingly grew into an impressive staff right before his one good eye. He shook again and blinked twice, bewildered by the notion of it all. “My spell has already been set into motion within the boundaries of this dwelling. It's very possible, some of it found its way outside as well. But, if you don’t want to know, I’ll gladly take your leave by horseback.”
“My horse.” He walked toward the old man, rubbed his jaw and looked him straight in the eyes. “Jezebel is my horse.”
“You talk as though you possess everything within your reach. Should we ask the horse what it is that she requires?”
“If that horse tells me in her own words - which I can understand - that she wants to leave, so be it.” he snorted, crossing arms in defiance.
“Another time.” said the old man, passing his attention to scan the room and floor. “I feel as though it’s beginning.”
“Introductions.” he stopped to wince. “I am… a... Threader." he whispered. "In case you haven’t noticed. I’m known to have killed and/or accosted a great many men... and a few lucky women. There are those whom would kill... in search of this name, so remember it in silence. Jensen Brenamon… at your service, my good man.”
“What service could you offer me, J... J... Why can’t I say J... Bre.... I can’t say that name. What have you done to me?”
“Security!” he remarked. “And Silence. Me thinks we need the pipe.”
He reached into his right sleeve with the left hand and pulled it back, though something remained grasped in his right. It was a normal smoking pipe. He placed a finger over the snout and the pipe lit for no reason other than his skin-and-bones finger made it so, and then sank it between two chapped lips until the pipe pushed a ring of smoke slowly into the air. The visible ring rose skyward and finally settled under a log on the ceiling. The smoke sat there wholly perceptible for what seemed like an eternity whilst the younger of the two gazed in amazement.
“I don’t... smoke.”
“I sense you and I are much alike in that we don’t prefer the company of fools. This is a pipe for those such occasions.”
He drew the stem again between cracked, red-stained lips and blew another spiraling ring onto the ceiling, encompassing the first ring as it free-floated in a mystifying insanity. The pipe found its way into his own face, the old man’s outstretched arm offering it without hesitation.
“I’m not going to smoke that. It’s been in your mouth.”
“It’s a self-cleaning model.”
“I don’t care to carry your diseased spittle between my lips.” he revolted, dropping both arms straight down with fists clenched.
“Come on, now. It will all be over soon.” The pipe's stem pierced his lips regardless of complaint. “Give it a good, tooting blow.”
He puffed the stem as it hung in his mouth, ever so slightly. The cob end caught fire, sparks spewing everywhere. He began to jostle about in anxiety. The old man still held the pipe taught for him inside his own mouth, furthering the uneasy situation. The fellow again placed an index finger over the hole and somehow, reset the apparatus.
“Blow, don’t suck. You’re sucking the life out of the room.” he grumbled.
“This is ridiculous. Get out of my home!” he urged, still pierced by the pipe as if a puppetry for the old man's amusement. “Go, before I get mad and do something I’ll regret.”
“The pipe distills all grievances and leaves one in, metaphorically speaking, a better mood. Blow out your discontent before I give you reason to 'get mad'. If you pull air through the thing, you might literally begin to hate yourself more than you already do.”
The hand left the pipe allowing him freedom to move once more. He blew, blew very hard, pushing a great amount of air through the tiny little stem as though he wanted to pop the cob end into tiny little pieces. A huge smoke ring gathered above the cob and grew to encircle his head, body and the entire immediate area.
“That’s more like it but... not so much blowing.”
“I don’t...” he said in a higher pitched voice. “I don’t feel it... No... wait.” he continued speaking in the strange voice of a little girl. “There’s something to this.”
“Hand it back... before you break it.”
Jensen’s hand reached for the stem, causing his eye to glare and head to pull away from the bony-fingered, pipe pusher. The reaching hand grew to cover half the room it seemed in his one good eye. The stem breached, passed from both lips as teeth and gum denied departure. The one eyelid soon began to drift and swagger when the pipe’s true effects caught hold.
“Deal McShane.” he squeaked in a new-found, little girl's voice. “My name is Deal McShane and I may never speak the same way again.”
The head rolled back and forth, drool fell from his bottom lip to the floor and he grew almost too dizzy to stand. The room spun round and round, back and forth and back again as he gaged himself instantly filled to the brim with liquored spirits.
“You shouldn’t be so hasty to play the peace pipe. A bomb's exploded in your head and now you’ll ask me for something to drink, of which I shall say this is your home and that I am an honored guest.”
“Do you have anything to...”
“Let me do the talking.” he stammered, taking another blow on his pipe. “I can feel the age passing from my eyes. I dare think the same has affected yourself in some manner or form. Do you feel anything... peculiar?”
“I don know.” stammered Deal. “That’s some good pipe.” Drool dripped from his jutting, bottom lip and fell on the hand beneath. “I need somefin to...”
“The pipe had nothing to do with this, it's the earlier magiks. I can see the wrinkles on your face starting to recede. You’ve been touched, I fear it. There are two things I can do here. I can kill you… because the world doesn’t need another damned, touched soul, or… we can embrace this in the name of scientific exploration, to see in yourself the things that happen to me as well. One can never trust an untried spell because it's unproven, unorthodox and, in your case, unappreciated.”
“Yeah, whatever...” slurped Deal. “Honestwy, I’ve never been fo drrrunk in my wife as I yam riyet... now.”
“The threads are taking hold of the individual cells and changing them. I’m also as drunk as a skunk snooting bee candy. And now, the pipe keeps us honest with each other, I tell you.” Jensen blew another toot on the peace pipe, bellowing ring after ring to the ceiling, each puff of smoke filling a hole and compounding the previous ring. He'd proclaimed to be drunk, yet his mind kept the path effortlessly clear - using the utmost in self-control. “I’m glad you were here with me... in my greatest achievement.”
“Actuawy, I’m against you. You stole ma home and kicked me out on ma arse.” he spat, stumbling to sit down at the table.
“Don’t be sore with me. Embellish this victory.” preached Jensen even more loudly. “You grow younger by the minute.” he laughed, pulling his hat’s ear bonnet to scratch a wayward flea. The hair slowly receded into his ear. The fleas began to fall out and vanish in a rolling fog of tiny sparks. The wrinkles on his face looked half as much and those bony fingers now felt of meaty flesh and renewed vigor. “Your eye. Can you see it?”
“What about ma eye?” asked Deal. “I was once...” he hiccuped. “young an stoo-ped… an fought in a WAR... only for one king to laugh, just sat back and laughed at another... when it was all dead an done. I lost ma eye... man.”
He lowered his head to the side to show the skin-covered eye-hole to Jensen. Reaching over his bad eye to rub an itch, once finished, he used the index finger and thumb to pry open the eye, allowing ages of foregone light to partly blind him. He pulled the hand away quickly, grimacing in pain and shut his good eye as well. Cupping his face in both hands, he fell to his knees and gasped in a simultaneous agreement of both pain and relief.
“I think I can see!” screeched Deal. “Yes, you’re amazing Mr. Bre..., damn, I can’t say it. It’s been 35 years since I could see the wight of day in ma weft eye.” He raised his head just enough to stare across the table at Jensen, though not even caring for the sight of him. It was the vision of anything which excited his new-found joy. “There it is... wife... la la la... life... renewed. How did you do this?”
“The same thing happening to you happens to me. The world threads are wondrous creatures. Excuse me for a moment. I must clarify something in my book.” Jensen snapped open the book against the hard table onto the very last page and dabbed a blot of ink with his goose-feather quill. “I, uh, see how I did this, just need to make some corrections.”
“How old am I?” asked Deal. “I don’t have a mirror. How old do you think I wook?”
“Give me a minute.” scolded the old man.
“You’ve shed 40 years just wike dat.” said Deal. “How young will I be when it’s f... f... finished.”
Deal looked to his own muscular, veined hands closely, raised and lowered both arms to ponder the musculature, felt the cheek bones in his face and sighed in relief. Even his long hair and mustache were grown aback into the destitute crevices from which they came.
“You seem headed towards a teenager. If this keeps up, I’m afraid... we’re doomed. No one person on Earth has ever pulled such threads before. I... don’t know.”
“Doomed? Why are we doomed? Will we gwow so young, we’ll need a wet nurse to suckle and wipe our poopy butts?” he said with the most intense look on his face for such questioning by a placid drunkard.
“Only time will tell.” said Jensen, propping his head above the table with one arm swallowed by his huge, mottled-brown coat.
“Damn you for pwaying God.”
“Damn you for not listening. I told you not to come back until I was done and gone.”
“It’s no wonder those Knights want you dead. You’ve used up what wittle fweads God has weft.”
“He left them for our defense. The threads aren’t getting any weaker.” shouted Jensen, lashing out across the table. “The Knights want to keep us powerless against them, by keeping their world a secret. It’s a method of control.”
“It’s a way of bwinging God back to punish us... again.”
“God punished Man for disobedience. The Bible doesn’t... you can’t.” Jensen’s face distorted as he tried to smile. “You’ve stopped getting younger.”
“It’s a good ting for you I have. I don’t ever wanna gwow up... again.”
“It’s a good thing for both of us.”
“Since we’re both telling the twoof.” said Deal. “Are you eeevil?" he leered. "You know, talkin bout man’s punishment and all.”
He looked up, discarded the smile and hesitated for a moment. “Some say I am. It’s presumable I may burn for what I’ve done.”
“Did you" hiccup, "KILL in defense of your own... or did you...”
“I’ve done bad things in my life, but I regret nothing, boy.” He stood, looming over the table as a giant among men, raised the peace pipe to the ceiling and - “If I be evil, may God strike me...” broke the peace pipe over a log on the ceiling. The smoke rings flashed and dissolved, the broken pipe showered sparks across the room below and the cob end landed table-side in a multitude of glowing embers. It continued to smolder and burn as it lay on the table edge, both men staring at it intently.
“God just said somethen.” said Deal. “Were you eben wistening?”
Jensen faced and looked Deal in the eyes to reply. “I’m still here, aren’t I?” He quickly sat down, grabbed the broken pipe and shoved it into his pockets, though it smoldered heavily. “God, I hope I’m right.”
“Are you gonna get any... hiccup, younger?” asked Deal, slowly recovering from the pipe's effects.
Jensen looked at his hand, having to force it out of the long coat sleeve. The width of palm and length of fingers were half as much as before. “I need to tell you something.” he said with serious intent. “If I don’t make it, take my book and leave this place.”
“I’ll gwadly take your schtuff... sanks, man.” whispered Deal, still a tad inebriated.
“I mean for you to have it and use it.” He leaned, reaching for the huge book, patted it with his right hand and pushed the coat sleeve forward with his left as it kept falling down around his arm. “It is self-explanatory. Think about what you intend to do and speak the words. Repeat as necessary... until the threads take hold and the magics happen.”
“Self-explanatory?” asked Deal, yawning so widely, he shut his own mouth with both hands. "I can't follow you, I'm so tired." He rolled over the table to lie down, getting ready for a good night's sleep.
“This is not the time to pass out, you fool.” Jensen pushed the book to Deal, hitting the side of his head and shoving him.
“Ouch.” Deal looked up. Both eyes were completely normal, yet bloodshot. His youthful appearance now, a young lad in his teens. He’d stopped regressing, though Jensen still aged in reverse and, even more rapidly. “This book, I promise to keep it and read it every day.” said Deal, his head propped upon the leather behemoth and staring in wonder at Jensen's youthful face.
“No. Promise to keep it safe and let it protect you as it did me. It is my life.”
“What do you call it?"
“‘The Book’, of course. There’s the good book, for those who honor and live by the word of God, and then there’s ‘The Book’. They are the only two books you will ever need.”
Jensen dropped the coat from his narrowed shoulders and sat swaddled in a heavy and nasty cotton shirt. His age had reduced him to half the size of Deal, though honestly, the two could have passed for brothers at the supper table, if not for the menacing, leather-bound thing between them. The age slipped away from Jensen as they continued to stare at each other as if awaiting bed-time punishment.
Jensen shrank into the chair and hid unintentionally beneath a pile of filthy clothes. Deal walked over to him, picked up the toddler and snuggled against his chest. Jensen’s shrinking head hung across Deal's shoulder as he fell into him, naked and cold, grasping to hug Deal back. Blond locks of hair adorned a shrinking head. Soft skin and blue eyes directed themselves toward infinity. Tiny fingers shrank as he tried to hold onto the collar of Deal's shirt. He became increasingly lighter and the young man struggled to keep him in place because he diminished from both head to toe at once.
In the most dismal part of their yearning to say goodbye, Deal held the baby straight out front. Both smiled to each other while the baby quietly moved from two hands - to one - and finally to the size of a finger. The spark of life came and went; the deadly magiks took the tiny, baby boy like it took the falling fleas - in a plume of smoke. He was gone. Baby Jensen dissolved from the palm of Deal’s hand, though he now clutched it tight against his chest and screamed.
The Lord giveth...
#6. Chapter 2 - A Warm Spring Day
ID #844459 entered on September 23, 2017 at 7:49pm
#5. Chapter 3 - A Horse is just a Horse
ID #844751 entered on September 16, 2017 at 4:35pm
#4. Chapter 4 - Deep Pockets
ID #844996 entered on September 16, 2017 at 4:56pm
#3. Chapter 5 - Oh Holy Knight
ID #846775 entered on September 22, 2017 at 11:38am
#2. Chapter 6 - No Time for Chatting
ID #849713 entered on September 23, 2017 at 1:09pm
#1. Chapter 7 - Broadside
ID #920361 entered on October 19, 2017 at 11:04pm