Thursday, March 09, 2006

Vignette: ShadowPlay

This is part of a scene of the story that I was supposed to submit for the Gaiman contest. Still, I'm hoping I get time to finish it before the Palancas. ^_^

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The candle flame flickers into the shape of a swan, the tip seemingly darting forward, beak-like, catching an invisible fish. Another gust of wind, and the flame gently bends forward like a bamboo stalk giving way to the breeze, then the outline changes again. This time, it is a silken strand, twisted away from the cloth, floating away on a gust of forgotten summer air. Outside the window, the air is thick with darkness.

She curls up on her pallet beneath the last window of the house, pretending that she is a mouse, a cricket, a small creature not daring to breathe. Around her, she catches sight of an overturned desk, a scattering of books across the dust-carpeted floor. She wants to reach out and touch them, but she knows that one tiny motion could alert them to her. She remembers what her father said before he left to join the men outside their home. "Stay here, Alexa, just stay here. I'll come back for you."

She was just twelve back then. That was three years ago.

Water pools in fluid shadows just beside her. Occasionally, she is brave enough to pull herself forward and take a sip of the dank liquid, her tongue slightly burning with the metallic flavor. She remembers the ocean, once, when she is lucid enough to remember anything: the rush of the waves towards the shore, the crash of foam and saltwater against her skin, pushing and pulling her towards the womb of the world. She can remember the sting of the salt and sand in her eyes, the limpid reflection of the setting sun across the horizon bordered by mountains on both ends, the cove seemingly belonging to another universe altogether.

She remembers her mother telling her that she was special, smoothing her dark hair back from her face. Now, she has forgotten that she has hair, that the thin strands of rope that occasionally obscures her vision is really what remains of what people used to say was her crowning glory.

Her body has shrunk to mere bones, her skin paper thin against her skeleton. Her stomach has become a cave, swallowing light. Her eyes have continually deteriorated, moving her away from the pinprick of illumination that was her candle towards the deeper shadows. She has forgotten why her light has remained the way it has for all those years, or if there was really a candle in front of her. She has forgotten where to draw the line between her reality and her memory.

But she remembers the day they came. She relives it every day.

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