Thursday May 28th, 2015

The exercise: 

I had my orientation/training day today at Town Hall and the Community Centre. My head is stuffed to nearly bursting with information right now. Otherwise, it went pretty well - everyone was really nice and welcoming.

After dinner I needed some peace and quiet so I went out and weeded the last of our onions and leeks (Kat had already done the rest), as well as most of our broccoli plants. That was much needed - both for the garden and myself.

Anyway, let's keep this experiment going with: The Crossing, Part Two. 


“You seem… nervous.” Pestilence told the boatman as he poled the ferry across the river with slow, steady strokes. The man grunted, either in effort or reply, and Pestilence sighed quietly. “With good reason, I would suggest."

“You did keep us waiting for an awful long time,” War added, then laughed. It was a sharp, short thing that held no joy. “Even by our standards!" 

“I told you,” the man said as he brought the pole forward once again. “I was delayed.”

“Yes, you did tell us that,” Death said. He was standing in the middle of the ferry, holding on to his scythe with his left hand. Had he have been another passenger, the boatman might have suggested this one was afraid of the water surrounding them. But he was who he was, so the boatman wisely kept that thought to himself. “But you did not apologize.”

“Wasn’t my fault,” the man muttered. “Ain’t my fault, ain’t my apology you need.”

“Then who, dear mortal, should we be… requesting… our apology from?” Famine tilted his head to the side as he stepped closer. “Is that, perhaps, something you can provide us with?”

“It would be the fair thing to do,” War added. “After all, you did keep us waiting for so long. If morning had arrived before you did…”

“But it didn’t, did it?” The man countered with more righteousness than he had any right to feel. “My agreement was to get you across the river before morning, and that’s what I’m doing. So as far as I can see I did nothing wrong, even if I wasn’t there at the exact second you showed up on the bank. I can’t imagine you’ll get to Kingstown much later than you would have if I hadn’t been otherwise preoccupied.”

“Kingstown?” Death asked, the name of the four horsemen’s destination hanging from his lips like an icicle.

“Or, you know, wherever it is that you’re going.” The boatman shifted his attention back to his work as sweat appeared on his brow. “How should I know, right?”

In the silence that followed glances were exchanged, even among the horses. Within seconds a decision was reached, without so much as a nod or a hand signal. Even the boatman felt it.

“What?” he asked, his voice suddenly lacking the bravado it had displayed moments earlier.

“You will tell us why you were delayed,” Pestilence said, stepping back and notching one of his putrid arrows in his black bow. “And, much more importantly, you will tell us who it was that delayed you.”


Greg said...

Is orientation day where they show you where the bathrooms, the canteen, and the shredders all are? Sounds like a busy day, but I'm sure the weeding helped you think it all through and settle the new information in your head!
Hmm, this ferryman is either very brave or a bit stupid, but I'm intrigued with the way he's trying to stand-off the four horsemen. I can see the horsemen themselves developing more now, and at the moment I'm rather liking Pestilence. His bow feels like an odd choice of weapon, but given the kinds of wounds arrows cause and their ability to get infected, I can see a definite sense to it. I wonder who, if anyone, will get to Kingtown?

The crossing (Part II)
"Mum?" Arthur tried to tug at his mum's sleeve but his fingers seemed to slip off it as though it were greasy. She looked oddly grey, almost two-dimensional, as though she could turn sideways and vanish from view. The rest of the people milling around in the road -- the traffic had been stopped now and people were getting out of their cars; anger was quickly turning to concern as they heard what had happened -- looked just as grey. Arthur blinked; he could swear that they were starting to look smokey, as though they were about to drift away.
A soft whickering noise behind him made him turn round, and he promptly dropped his school lunchbox, a brightly-coloured plastic box with Simpons stickers all over it and a tuna-fish mayo sandwich inside. The huge, sweaty smell of horse filled his nostrils, unfamiliar and unpleasant, so he wrinkled his nose.
"Poo!" he said as the chestnut animal lowered its head and its eyes came level with his. Its head was glossy and smooth except for the crown of its skull where a single horn broke through the hair. It was steel-grey and glittered in the sunlight like stars in the nightsky.
"Her name is Nijinsky," said a voice, and Arthur lifted his eyes up further to see that there was a person sitting on the back of the unicorn. They were tall and thin, reminding him of the supermodels that his dad liked watching on Project Runway, and he couldn't tell if they were male or female. They were wearing weird clothes that seemed like scales of something like leather, were completely bald, and had blue tattooes on their skull.
"Cool!" he said.
"Do you like Nijinsky? I think she likes you," said the rider. Their voice was oddly flat, as though they were on television when only one of the speakers was working. "She'll let you stroke her if you ask nicely."
Nijinsky stepped slightly away, and then paused, as though waiting for Arthur to follow her. He looked down at the ground, conscious that he was wearing his school shoes and his mum got really annoyed if he got them dirty, and for the first time he realised that he couldn't see the houses that should be in this direction. Around his feet was a circle of mushrooms, black trumpet shaped things that looked like they needed little people to sound them.
"Where's mum?" he said, uncertainly.
"Nijinsky doesn't like to be kept waiting," said the rider. The horse shied away a little further, not much, but now Arthur would have to step out of the circle to reach her.
Arthur looked over his shoulder again, and there was the world, all flat and grey and people rushing about trying to do something, but he couldn't see what. It looked like it was raining there, but here it was warm and sunny.
"That's a funny name for a horse," he said, looking back.
"Maybe you could give her another then?" The rider sounded amused. "But you'll have to make friends with her to do that."

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the delay. I haven't had internet this weekend; I only saw the prompts on my phone. Wow, things are heating up. Marc, I love that death is afraid of water. It's such a human thing to be afraid of. And who could this person be that delayed the boatman? Dun dun dun. Things are really heating up!

Greg, is that a fairy circle I see in your story? And a strange androgynous being on a unicorn? I can not wait to read how this ends!

The Crossing, part II

The area around the crossroads was more or less a field. There were fallen beams and scattered brick from the old bar that used to stand solitary across the way. If I remember correctly, a fight had broken out between two drunk sailors. The story went that it was a cigarette ash landing in the puddle of whisky that set the place ablaze.
Now it was only a glorified junk yard punctuated by the two long, ashy bits of gravel. Shepard Lane and King Way. Rather ironic that two godly roads could become something entirely different once they cross.
My hands were really starting to shake as I came up caddy-corner to the scattered remains of Benson’s Bar. The small rational part of me was telling me not to go through with this. Shoebox still in hand, I could turn right back around and try and piece together what little existence I’ve known since the accident. But my life had gone from Technicolor to black and white in a matter of seconds, leaving me twirling around and around my mistakes. A reel of film reaching its end, that’s what I’d become.
No, there was no going back for me. Only forward. No matter how crooked and backwards that path would take me, forward was my only option.
I thought of her face as I took a small step from the wild grass onto the gravel. I saw her smile once more as I crouched down, my hand scooping gravel out of the way. I heard her laugh as I placed the box in the hole I’d dug, tasted her lips again while I covered the box with gravel.
I then stood back up, my gaze darting back and forth from Shepherd to King, waiting. The contents of the box should have been enough for a calling—the summons didn’t have any other instruction.
I don’t know what I would do if this didn’t work. I guess I could always borrow my cousin’s 45 and—
“Shane, Shane, Shane,” a deep bass voice tsked, causing me to jump into the air. “What on earth are you doing here?”
I whipped around to find a man, dressed in a three piece suit and a tall, black hat. He was tall, taller than six foot two me, with the build of a man accustomed to a gym. A build which I tried to obtain back when I first met her, but could never fully achieve it. She never seemed to mind my scrawniness.
The man had paler skin and a square jaw, clean shaven. He had a sharp, angular nose and a wide mouth that, when he smiled at me, showed straight teeth that seemed a bit too sharp for the average human.
He had deep red eyes that seemed to stare straight through me.
“H-how do you know my name?” I licked my lips to moisten them.
He tsked again. “You insult me. It’s your blood in your offering box, isn’t it? Though a meager amount, it tells me everything I need to know about you.”
My lips were still chapped, my throat parched. Yet still, my voice broke and cracked under the pressure of my tears. “I just want Carly back.”

Marc said...

Greg - yes, pretty much. And introduce you to everyone in the office and all that good stuff.

For Pest (and the rest of the riders, actually), I was going off a wikipedia page. But this was what caught my attention for Pest when I was figuring out the four characters:

I liked the idea of each of them having their own weapon, though Famine caught the short straw on that one. Just made me think more about his personality, I think.

This is a wonderfully sinister scene. I like that you managed to convey that the rider and horse were up to no good without having anything said or done that makes it obvious.

I'll admit I was expecting the dropped lunchbox to disappear and return to the street where everyone was looking for Arthur, throwing that scene into even more chaos. I'm curious if you considered that and dismissed it for a particular reason, or if it just hadn't occurred to you at the time you were writing this?

Ivy - hah, that was a quick response to my prodding! No apology required, I'm just terribly pleased that you've continued your tale.

That's some great additional info in your opening, it really helps to flesh out the scene. And this mysterious figure at the end does not seem... like the good kind of mysterious. Not for our narrator, at least.

But I guess we shall see how things turn out!