June - July 2006
The most recent drabbles are at the top
These six were written for the "senses" challenge, which called for six linked drabbles, one per sense, and one per character. They won't make much sense until you read all six. They're set some 10 to 12 years after the end of Silver on the Tree.
This is drabble no. 1 (of 6). Please read them in the correct order. Things will make more sense once you've read all six.
He could be anything he wanted to be. He could be a playful note in a symphony of sound, or a speck of pollen in a world of scent.
Yesterday he had danced as a thought between the stars; today he stood on a silver shore, and watched a sunset, soft as a rose petal. Today he Saw.
And as he saw, the sunset turned red. The sky rent asunder, weeping ash.
He gasped a name, shaping it in the tainted air. But sense was an illusion here. He could be anything he wanted to be, but he could not help.
Voices on the phone
Long after he had left the hospital, he still heard the sound of the monitors beeping, of doctors shouting, of people weeping.
They followed him home, as he stumbled past the grating of rooks, and the baying of children. They followed him into his loveless flat, where he sank onto his narrow bed, his heart beating in time to the drumbeat from below.
He opened his eyes when the phone rang. His family was reduced to voices now. Barely miles away, but he never saw them. "Yes?" he mumbled.
"Come quickly!" begged his sister's voice. He could barely remember her face.
The smell drove him to his knees.
He gagged, spitting nothing onto the summer flowers. Roses surrounded him, cloying and rotten. The trees smelt stripped, things spilling out that should never be released. A nearby barbecue smelt like the burning at the end of the world, like dying flesh.
He heaved himself upright, hands to his face. "Something has happened," he rasped. Then childhood stories, dimly remembered, came to mind, of shambling monsters that reeked of swamp and death, whose presence made even the sweet things foul. "No," he said, as the odour of wrongness brought him knowledge. "Something has passed."
The taste of blood
She had often tasted her own blood, from sucking cuts, or chewing her lip when nervous.
It tasted different, when the blood belonged to another. She had wiped her brow with sodden hands, and blood, unnoticed, trickled down her face. She licked it from her lips like sweat, but the taste made her shudder, and the knowledge of what it was made her cry.
"Hold on." She tasted this stranger's death with every word. "My brother will be here soon."
His eyes closed. She swallowed, and his blood burnt in her throat, and the world changed.
There was knowledge in the taste.
A touch had torn him apart.
It had come from nowhere he had seen; it was nothing that he knew. Vast and wrong, it had grabbed him, gripped him, overpowered him. He had been mastered, and soon it would return to lap up the remnants of him.
A touch brought him back.
She thought he was a stranger. Chance brought her here, and Simon would come soon, with his doctor's touch, and Barney, drawn by fear. But Jane's touch was the kindness of strangers. Jane was charity and hope.
With a touch, he had fallen. With a touch, he would be reborn.
He stopped mid-sentence, and left the house. He drove with never a doubt as to where he was going. When he arrived, hours later, Will was in bed, and Jane was standing at the window, wondering. Simon was arguing, and Barney was hunched up, looking sick.
He pushed past them all. Will's hand was soft in his; his face like porcelain, his breathing faint. "I know who you are now," he told Will. "I know who I am. And I know," he said, turning to the others, "that something older than the Dark has now arisen, and we are needed, every one."
This one was written for the "Moment of Truth" challenge
It was in such little things.
Two hands brushing together, and lingering. A voice turning warm when it spoke a name. Flushed faces, laughing in the snow.
And then, in the morning, a "we" where before there had been "I".
A touch; a smile; a word.
He knew. He turned and left, and they did not notice him go.
He had been a fool to try to be human. He had been a fool to hope for love.
Who could bring light to the heart of someone who already was Light? What other could there be for Light, but shadow?
This one was written in response to a challenge about trains.
A book fell. Two men knelt and reached for it. Fingers brushed.
Tawny eyes met grey. "Do I… know you?"
Fingers stayed touching for longer than between strangers, but not so long as between friends.
A shattering voice spoke on the tannoy."My train..." Bran walked towards platform two, but looked back several times.
Will clutched his own ticket. A different platform, a different train, a destination a world apart. But there was time to change, if he hurried. And empty seats on a night-time train, and hours to talk, and a lifetime to know.
If… he… moved… now.
In first draft, called "Interminable Encounter," both trains were eight hours late, due to the wrong sort of snow on the line, and Will and Bran had time to conduct a torrid affair in the station buffet. I then remembered that we're not allowed to be mean about British Rail in this challenge, so I had to change it. Imagine this as being set in a miraculous fantasy land where pigs fly, the moon is made of cheese, and British trains are on time.
This one is Smut. Well, of sorts…
Hot, gleaming flesh. Sweat clinging and lingering. A sudden spurt. A groan.
Will swatted at his dirty shirt. "Barbecue flared up. I'm all smutty now."
"Smutty? That I like." Bran smirked, tugging at Will's hand. "Take that shirt off and..."
Will pulled away. "Mustn't leave the barbecue unattended."
"But your magic…"
"The powers of Light," Will said stiffly, "are not to be wasted on a barbecue."
Bran pouted alluringly.
The barbecue flared up in sudden inferno, then faded to cold ashes, scattered with vaguely sausage-shaped lumps of charcoal.
"We've got all night now." Will let Bran drag him indoors. "Shame we'll starve."
From Chambers dictionary: "Smut: n. Soot: worthless or bad coal: a flake or spot of dirt, soot etc.: a black spot: a disease of plants, esp. cereals, giving an appearance of soot: the fungus causing it: obscene discourse."
This one was written for an "Old Ones of the world" challenge:
They Also Serve
The scientists wore glasses, so could not serve the Dark. A former stock-broker, coming here to "find himself", was disappointingly bland.
Could penguins be minions of the Dark?
"The Circle covers the world," Merriman had once lectured him. "We cannot ignore a country just because it's 'boring'. The Dark... blah blah... always vigilant... blah..."
The Old One slept a lot, and knitted too many scarves.
The Rising would be in Britain, of course. Merriman would pull strings. Those stuck-up British Old Ones would hog the limelight, as usual. Just don’t expect me to be there, he grumbled, with only one plane a month.