Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: €540 / mois
So I've tried writing some short-ish stuff in the spirit of not-quite free writing. Spoilered to save forum space:
"Rrrgh" said the bear, lazily turning over and swatting at the air.
"Yes, indeed," Pasha said, nodding his head sagely at the writhing giant.
"Aaarghbrppttthhht." The big, brown head shook from side to side, spraying bear slobber over the warm, lichen-covered rocks.
"You are a wise one, dearest Varhamhi," the old man said, toying with his stick in the sunlight as he sat beneath the shade of the wizened old tree.
"Mmmrm," the bear finally concluded, his exertions come to fruition. He slumped, his large, furry head lolling on the ground.
"Why, it is as ifOw!" Pasha exclaimed, drawing his hand sharply away from the sun-scorched end of the walking stick.
The supplicants lined up beneath colourful umbrellas. The first one wore a dark suit, without a tie of course, though even the suit was itself inappropriate for such weather. Though he came without an entourage (few did - it was an unwritten rule of the place, Pasha supposed) it was clear he was important. Few could afford such impracitcality in such a country. Most of the people behind him wore long, white robes or colourful dresses, their dark skin shadowed by the snaking line of umbrellas that wound its way down the mountain.
The suit bowed. Pasha raised a thin, bony hand, turned to leather by the weather and the ages. The line began to quieten, a wave of silence rippling down the hillside. Softly, he began to sing.
Varhamhi's growl could be heard from the darkness of the cave. The man at first flinched, fearful of the unknown beast hidden from sight, but gradually he became calmer at Pasha's deep, reassuring tone. The voice of the man and the bear became as one, and after a fashion, Varhamhi left the cave. First, a large, wet black nose poked from the shadows, sniffing the air. The perfume and spices of the people and their offerings wafted into the cave on the winds that rustled up the mountain, and at this, Varhamhi's curiosity was peaked. Gradually, his head, his front paws and finally his whole body emerged from the cave's dark bosom.
The giant brown creature padded up to Pasha, where he sat at the man's side, yawning and smacking his lips as if woken from a deep and restful sleep - which was probably not too far from the truth of things. Pasha extended an arm, and Varhamhi caught it in a great paw. Together they sat, singing, the suited man standing before them.
They sang like this, gathering a crowd around them as the supplicants laid their gifts at Pasha's lap. Some of the gifts were ornate, expensive trinkets from the port town where the craftsmen built Shibi statuettes and Michemous dolls from examples sold to them at a high price by passing sailors. Most were simple, scented rices or sweetmeats, or else meat and berries for Varhamhi. Eventually, when the snake of colourful umbrellas had almost finished its long crawl up the hot, steep mountain, the singing stopped. A supplicant in a bright orange dress raised her head in surprise, almost dropping a bowl of bread onto the crowded mat in front of the pair.
The crowd drew forward in anticipation, Pasha's eyes closed, the old man breathing heavily. Varhamhi was still, very still. A little boy tugged at his father's robes, anxious at the bear's sudden loss of animation. He almost wet his green tunic when Varhamhi's big, brown eyes shot open, staring directly ahead, to some point above them in the deep, blue sky. His mouth opened once more.
"This is the six o'clock news. In Mumbai today, the United Nations met to discuss the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, where talks have broken down between the European Union and the Russian Federation. But first, the weather."
The machine beeped beside me, ticking down the seconds of purgatory. Mum stood beside me, holding his hand in the dull white silence. Grandad's eyes were shut, his thin, bony shape rising and falling beneath the sheets. The machine beeped. It smelled of disinfectant, and flowers.
In the silence, ghosts of thought trickled through my consciousness, boarding and disembarking the tenuous train of thought that dark, early morning. Suddenly, a single ghost took hold, growing in my mind. A song, way back from my childhood. Maybe it was my grandfather who hummed it in his chair as I played around his feet. A ghost, dredged from my past, to be here at the end.
"Fabulous Crispy Doughnuts..." I mumbled, the notes echoing off the fuzz in my brain. "They're always really great."
Between the slats of the Venetian blinds, a street lamp glowed with a yellow halo in the frosty air.
"Fabulous Crispy Doughnuts..." My mum glanced briefly up at me as I hummed quietly. Grandad stirred, his hand juddering slightly in my mum's.
"Have one or maybe eight..." he sighed. The machine stopped beeping.
I don't think my mum ever forgave me for that.
"It's quiet up here."
The beast plodded onwards, into the infinite darkness. Occasionally they'd pass a tree, and Mikel would shout "Tree!" I suppose it kept him amused.
"Do you want any more tea?"
I accepted the flask, the coldness of the outer layer seeping through my gloves. I twisted the cap, releasing the steam, watching it drift slowly upwards, thin clouds rolling against the cold air as it escaped into the cold night above, its spirit rising to meet the stars. As I poured the sweet brown fluid into my cup, he carried on talking.
"Do you ever wonder why more people don't come up here?"
"They're sleeping, Mikel."
In the distance, a beast snorted. I turned, watching the fragile collection of wood and rope jangle, the rope bridges to the nearest beasts waving slightly in the cold night air. A bell tolled lightly, woken by the undulations of the animal's thick, musky fur, then was silent, returning to its slumber once more.
"Even the beasts are asleep," he said, staring up as his breath swirled into the dark beyond.
"It's a difficult job, marching across the plains forever."
"They seem to manage."
The wind rushed past us, making me hug my coat tighter. I looked up to the stars, at Olge's Arrow. The arrow continued to point ahead, the beasts following its eternal flight across the night sky. Ahead, the Great Forest unfolded, a thin pool of light glistening like the lights of a caravan in the distance, thin dark trails of cloud swirling around its centre.
"Do you think we will ever reach the Great Forest?"
"Some day, little Mikel," I said, sighing into the infinite darkness. "Some day."
I watched the thin grey cloud follow the great arrow upwards, escaping to the stars. This was my life. Watching, waiting. Occasionally we would stumble across a forest, and the men would saddle up their panting mounts and race off, returning by sunfall with enough wood and fibre to last us another season.
"Almi." Mikel shook at my sleeve from his pouch on the side of the great beast.
"Not now, Mikel." I yawned, struggling to stifle my body's yearning for daylight.
"Almi. What's that?"
I turned sleepily, to watch what my apprentice was pointing at. The infinite darkness stretched on, silent save for the whisper of the wind and the jangle of the fastenings of the forest of ropes and wood on the shaggy, wide backs of the beasts. And then, the dim lights of the sleeping city behind me...
"Is that..." I raised the looking glass to my eye, the rough lens forged from the sand taken from beneath the snows that the beasts trudged endlessly.
In the distance, a new constellation began to form on the horizon.
The old woman raised the looking glass shakily to her eye. After a short while, she lowered the instrument, shaking her frail head, the beads on her headdress chinking in defeat.
"My eyes are not what they were..."
"It is easier to see at night, caravan-mother" I said, my body humming from lack of sleep. The infinite whiteness blurred into one, my night eyes stung by the brightness of the light, so used to the watching of the darkness and the subtle lights that hung above. "The whiteness hides the lights by day."
"I believe you, child of the carvan," she said, her tiny, dark eyes studying me through her thick, colourful shawl. "I shall tell the men to study her. The children of the woodsmen have sharp eyes, and must have something to do of the day besides soothing their mounts, while the men harvest the trees of the forest towards the lights."
"Now, child, watcher," she said, a bony hand touching my thick coats. "You must rest. It will be night soon enough."
"The lights move not," Mikel said in frustration, throwing down the looking glass.
"Ay, ay," I admonished him, waving a gloved finger. "Or do you wish to explain to the forgemaster why he must replace a difficult lens?"
"Amma," the boy said, hanging his head in contrition. I beckoned for the tube, and he passed it up.
The lights were still a long way off. From the motion of the beasts against the stars that followed us across the plain, I estimated the lights were still a good twenty beast-years away. By then, I would have given up my post, sitting around with the other elders of the night, making tea and singing stories of the past. We would have a new caravan-mother, and Mikel would have his own apprentice to admonish.
"What are they, Almi?" the tiny voice whispered to me in the darkness.
"I do not know, little Mikel." The stars hung above, listening in their soft silence. "But I believe them to be moving."
"Look to the distant trees. We might see how fast they recede by the way of their passing by the stars, and I believe that the lights are in fact approaching."
"I do not know, little Mikel."
"The songs speak of this, child of the caravans."
The air was thick with sweet-smelling smoke. I coughed, my nostrils unused to the syrupy scent, trained on the cold night air of the darkness. "The songs?"
"The songs of the stories of long ago. Of the meeting of the caravans?"
"The meeting of the caravans?"
"Repeat muchly, she does," another of the elders crackled.
"Apologies," I began, but another elder raised a finger.
"In the long ago, we were but two caravans. We cannot count of the number of mothers who have passed in that time, but it numbers in the hundreds. We travel all for the Great Forest, and in their voyage, the beasts stumble across others, each following Olge's Arrow. Caravans merge, and songs collide. The oldest songs are of but two tongues, though today the tongues have become one. So goes the way of things."
"Child, we shall not live to see the joining of the caravans. But if it is a caravan, it will be your age that greets them. Learn from what we have sung to you, and greet them with wisdom and compassion."
I nod, wordlessly. The thick smoke swirls in front of me like the flight of breath into the cold air, entrancing me.
"Now go," the elder opposite me beckons. "The stars expect you."
I huddle in my shawl for the last time. My hands have become thinner, wrinkles appearing along their length, and brown spots growing where they were once free from blemish. Mikel puts his arm round me, the warmth of his tall, firm body flowing into my shrinking, huddled one.
"I will miss you, Almi."
"And you, Mikel." My breath escapes for the last time into the air, the last piece of my spirit rising to join the stars in their sage communion. "You will visit the circle, of course?"
"Of course, Almi."
In the distance, through the looking glass in my shaking hands, the flags of Mikel's caravan flutter. Together with the watchers of the other beasts, we have come to know them. Today, the beast we have come to call Darma has gained ascendancy, and has taken from Rhoba the lead of the pack.
"You have the flag, Mikel?"
"Oh, yes, of course!"
I shake my head as Mikel pulls the coarse fabric from his satchel. He has learned well, but still forgets from time to time. As he clambers up the ladder to the top of the beast, I watch the flag drape behind him. It is a new flag, one to join the others that we have learned to make from Mikel's caravan. Red, with a tree of gold encircled by a band of blue. The birth of a new beast. Again, the elders hark back to songs of the age where the youngest beast in our caravan was birthed, and how its mother carried it along until it grew strong enough to join the journey on its own four feet.
I gaze up at Olge's Arrow, staring for the last time as a watcher into the infinite darkness. Somewhere ahead, the Great Forest lay, where the untold and uncounted lights flickered. Someday, the caravan, my people, would arrive, and bring our songs to the endless circles that sat there, their sweet tea drifting silently into the darkness above. But that day would not be for any of us, Mikel, the elders, the woodsmen, the craftsmen, the watchers or me. Until then, I shall sit in my shawl, sheltered in my circle from the cold night overhead, and Mikel will watch, learning the way of the stars, the darkness and the flags, his spirit rising to the stars above.
I coughed, my aging lungs protesting at the cold night that I had come to learn.
The beast plodded onwards, into the infinite darkness.
Apparently Feynman's lectures on Math for Physicists was just him masturbating at the front for 50 minutes.