Lightning crashes, a new mother cries.
|Some say that the greatest power belongs to those who hold the Truth.|
They are mistaken.
I spent my whole life chasing the Truth, and when I finally grasped it, I became desperately powerless. For the first time ever, I knew to the very depths of my being that everything was outside of my control.
Still, I wouldn't give up the Truth for all the power in the world.
For many years, people have asked for my story. They think that I owe it to them. I do not, for it is my story. Still, I've come to the realization that I have nothing against letting them have it. Perhaps, if they knew my story, they would avoid my mistakes. Perhaps, they might finally grasp what they are choosing when they choose to grasp the Truth. And I've always loved a good memoir.
From today onward, this is no longer my story. It's only a story telling of me, and whatever you choose to make of it .
First, I'd like to clarify some things as to the circumstances of my birth. I was not born the day the comet passed, nor was I born at the beginning of the Harvest, nor was I born on Loendza. I was born on the thirty-ninth of Ilian, according to my father. My mother, Lilian Swell, was a street urchin, for lack of better words. My father was as well. They both spent their days in alleyways, broken and forgotten. I do not know much of their story , much to my regret, but it is known to me that my mother was pregnant with me at merely fourteen years of age. I do not know of their marital status, though my father always said they were married. When I asked if they had a wedding, he once replied: “Did we need one? We only needed to declare ourselves souls bound before God .”
Shortly after my arrival into this world, my mother departed from it. My father didn't speak about her often, but on the occasional nights when he got into the mood and had enough whiskey, he would sing songs and lament his lost love.
"She was a good woman," he'd say. "Like no other in the world." Then, after a while, he would usually slide into slow, pitiful tears. "She died there in my arms..."
I wish I had known her. Yet I do not hold a single memory of my mother. I await the day I too will depart and meet her in the Summerland.
My father was left with a baby to take care of, still with no home, no money, and rare food. He told me that one day, in the blazing sun of a Halldinian summer, I nearly overheated.
"That day, I knew that I couldn't take care of you. I walked you down to the orphanage. It was bad there. There were kids deathly sick, kids not right in the mind, kids so starved they could barely walk. All were being taken care of by the kindest souls in Deoir. God-fearin' fellows, most of 'em. They did the best they could. But even then, I chose to keep you there in my arms. For I knew that you deserved a better life,” he told me once. I suspect there were even deeper aspects behind his decision, though—some of that poisonous, beautiful fatherly love, as well as an obligation to Lilian.
Hence, my father searched tirelessly for a job so that I could be taken care of. However, people rejected him from hire or apprenticeship--he was a dirty, homeless widower with a son to take care of.
Yet a kindly old couple, owners of a tailor, allowed him to work there in exchange for lodging and food. Their son had died off in a war overseas—so they had a tender heart for my young father, caring for a son and doing his best to give me a good life. As long as he did their chores and jobs, my father and I would have a place to live and food to survive. It was generous of them, and I wish I could go back to thank them all those years ago.
The literacy of my young years was ultimately the beginning to the person I became.
I sat on the bench outside of the little tailor, the little sign that read Phellins’ creaking in the soft wind. I swung my legs lazily and watched the people roaming and carts meandering past, the sounds of the shoes and wheels on the cobblestone creating an orchestra of harsh sound , a cacophony of travel. Despite my place in society, I could read more intently and write more elegantly than most of the people passing me. And I knew it, too.
In my lap was a journal bound in leather that I had received as a gift from the Phellins. I scribbled in it hastily, though these scribbles were much more than just that. They were the thoughts stemming from the depths of my young mind, for my mind was a cacophony, and I always found that sorting it out required words .
A boy appearing some three years younger than myself, likely about eight, came up to me and sat next to me on the bench. I turned to look at him. “May I help you?”
He pointed to my journal, my shiny pen still scratching its way across the paper despite my diverted eyes. “You know how to write?”
I nodded, a look of contempt amusement on my face.
He suddenly blushed and pulled a piece of folded parchment out of his pocket. I then noticed his clothing: it was fine, made of quality materials and dyed with expensive colors. He was not a poor child.
“If you write me a note and deliver it to the address I tell you, I’ll give you an iron sein,” he said, his eyes darting around at the traffic on the street. “But you mustn't tell anyone of it,” he added. “For I will tell secrets that only the receiver of this letter has the right to read.”
I held up two fingers. “Two. One for the writing, one for the secrecy,” I told him professionally. For a moment he looked flustered, then he reluctantly reached to his purse, unbuttoned it, and pulled out two shiny iron seins .
“Fine,” he replied dryly, pressing them into my hand . Then he began to dictate the contents of his letter. I will not tell what he spoke of that day, what my pen etched into the parchment. Nor will I tell the name of my customer or the receiver. Despite everything, I keep my promises.
Once finished, he watched me write the last few words, seemingly fascinated by the methodic swaying of my silvery stylus and the blue letters that were forming on the page. “Where did you learn?” he asked quietly.
I finished, then turned and looked towards him. For some reason, I did not fully register his simple question. “Where did I learn to read and write?” I asked. He nodded in reply .
“The Phellins,” I said, pointing to the sign above the bench without looking away from him, “Are devout Aitans. When my father was hired there, he agreed to learn to read so that he could comprehend the words of the Holy Lelon. And I learned to read alongside him,” I explained. “It’s not all that difficult, you see. 27 letters and a few rules are all you need to learn. And you already know the language; it’s just a new way of communicating with it, a new perspective on something you already comprehend. As for writing, it is really just nothing more than mimicking what you read . Though learning how to write beautifully requires practice, and a nice pen,” I explained.
He nodded, his expression suddenly sullen. “She’s deaf,” he said, his voice sounding pitiful. He might have begun to cry, but he buried his face into his hands so I couldn’t tell. “I can only talk to her… through writing,” he grieved. I suddenly felt very guilty about the second iron sein in my pocket.
After only a few moments, he collected himself and stood up. His face was now expressionless. “Thank you for your time. Deliver the letter by the end of the day,” he said, turning and sprinting off into the busy street.
“Wait…” I called after him. I wanted to return the second sein to him. I wanted to teach him to read. I ran into the street to look for him, but he was already gone.
I strolled back into the tailor.
“Father, I need to deliver a letter,” I told him. He was young… for a father. He looked the age of a lot of the people I saw strolling around the University of Deoir.
“To whom?” he replied. “How long’ll you be gone?”
“I was paid to write and deliver a letter for someone. I won’t be gone long; I just have to go to the clock tower.” I answered.
“Well, go then. Fulfil your job,” he said quietly. His focus was on stitching a badge upon a nice shirt.
I gave him no response as I left the tailor. I was in a hurry, for I had lied to my father. It was quite a long way further than the clock tower. Well, I hadn’t exactly lied. It was to the clock-tower; but rather, it was at the clock tower on the east wall of the city, which was much further than the clock tower on the west wall, near where the tailor was.
As I ran my way through the city, I thought about what I had told the boy. It’s not all that difficult, you see. As my dingy shoes pounded against the cobblestone, I wondered: How does a boy wearing clothes like that not know how to read ?
On my way to the place I was told to deliver the note, I stopped at a shop that sold inks and pens of fabulous quality and bought myself a bottle of purple ink with the two iron seins. It was enough to last me a year.
When I arrived at the clock tower, the distant sun hung low in the west. I looked up to the blue and gold clock-face: 19:45 was the time.
On this side of the city, you could hear the ocean and all it’s might, an eternal and powerful cacophony, a sound that can only be created by an indescribably massive watery abyss. The sound of the ocean terrified me—for I knew it to be the sound of the unknown. Contained in the sound of the ocean was the sound of a million kils of lands unexplored, of depths unventured. This simple sound, to me, was the sound of echoes from the darkness, of cries from the abyss.
Deliver it to the small green house by the eastern clock tower. I started towards a cute green house nestled among some trees, then looked to my right. There was another cute green house, though this was slightly larger and on a clear plot. "Hean der," I said aloud, repeating a Denish swear I had picked up from my father; I later learned it’s meaning to be hell-fire.
I supposed I would have to knock and ask personally… I was not good at such things. I had a great distaste for introducing myself to people. After a moment’s consideration, I chose for the smaller one among the trees. Strolling awkwardly across along the stepping-stone path, I made my way towards the front door of the little house. I knew I had chosen correctly when I saw the sign that hung above the door: If you knock, I cannot hear you. I decidedly dropped the letter into the delivery box and made my way quickly off the property.
For a moment, I thought about what might have happened if not for the warning. Would I have knocked on the door, and waited till the nightfall? Would she have noticed me there and answered? How would I have talked to her?
At the very least, I was glad I knew how to read her sign.
As I ambled home, the sun kissing the city wall to the west, I wondered silently if she too could hear the sound of the ocean.