« on: January 12, 2010, 08:37:02 pm »
Back in October my girlfriend asked me to write and orate a short story for her for our anniversary (yesterday). Now that she's officially the first to have seen it, I'll post it here:
In the Traveler's world no place has a name. Destinations are necessary as beginnings and ends to journeys, for resting or restocking his supplies, for anxious leisure while not feeding insatiable desires for new sights. Home and place of birth exist separately, the latter forgotten to decades of wandering and seeming eons without speaking, the languages of men and other blended to ambiance of new surroundings, both brick and mortar to empires raised on words, some hollow and some awesome. And the former is where the pack rests beside him that night, the sky perpetually taunting him with its infinity above. Tonight they would offer no such humiliations, their merry eyes and innumerable grins, their hints of grander meaning falling on the uncaring tiles of a standard fare inn.
His road ended shortly ahead at walls that seemed to dance in the waning sunlight. They rose tauntingly before him, covering only the half of the city not resting upon sheer cliff side. Rumors told him to arrive at twilight while others claimed twilight never ceased so long as the sun fell on the city, the beautiful city, its irrelevant name etched as the only mark upon the high walls. There was no welcome in addition to the name, no title or claim to supremacy, merely a declaration of its being. With similar function the guards stared at this path worn man, the filth of his lengthy wanderings seemingly more than the accumulated filth of the entire city could be. They watched him pass and watched the soles of feet that seemed to have seen more miles than the world has seen years disappear on cobbled streets more immaculately tended than most palaces.
Business of the denizens appeared to be dwindling with the hour, the city's squares emanating a foreknowledge of desertion. Men and women were perfect here the Traveler saw. As his gaze rested from face to face in awe a plethora of the same passed by without his notice, each attractive in unique ways. Looks began to be thrown at him of concern and distaste and in his shame he realized how he much look to these people. With effort he averted his eyes to the architecture of the place.
Nothing about the place was uniform, no two buildings alike nor even very many symmetrical, yet it was all so perfect. He sat for a moment on a bench that clearly belonged precisely where it stood to find the breath pulled from him by his shock. Shocking eyes that had seen so much he marveled briefly, the thought interrupted by his notice of a pristine fountain his seat faced. A child with clever eyes knelt on a stone pedestal with a smile hinted on her lips as her arms lifted a circlet to place upon her brow. It was a snake engulfing its own tail. Clear water cascaded from the serpent and splashed to the rest of the pool with a shifting chime.
After marveling from his spot for some time he rose on tired legs with excitement, the exploration of a new place at hand. He mastered the skill of finding the shy sights, the ones which hid themselves from prying eyes and appeared only if one knew they were there. In cities they were discovered only by following the kind of person who looked as though they might find themselves where one wishes to go, a skill that takes a keen eye. But he found none like this here. Instead he set to his life's work of letting his whims guide him.
Darkness fell before long, marked by moonlight shimmering on the streets and none to see it but him. His footsteps echoed across the lonely alleys in an ethereal music. Down one street or another he might find flickering light playing upon the edges of a closed door, laughter inside like any other tavern in any other city. But the tones were richer and the light more pure somehow. Eventually he found one such doorway from which slow music drifted and the light seemed feeble and the laughter was not real but only an idea that had once been there, a memory imprinted on the spot by those who would frequent it. Here he stepped inside.
Lovely people sat dejectedly about the place, their features no less striking for the almost determinedly sullen mood. He sat at a bar of oily wood, rich smelling and spotless. A mug was set down before him in a silent gesture from the rough looking man tending to the customers. With a nod he turned to a woman crooning before a fire, her voice sounding as though it might catch aflame by the sparks popping intermittently. He became slowly infatuated as her tune carried him through histories and tragedies. These were not the words of a mortal, or if they were they were not meant for mortal ears.
His drink was sweet and heady and as he turned for another the bar man lingered a moment longer, the act so foreign to the man as to make him visibly uncomfortable. As though he knew the question forthcoming.
"What does the lady sing?" the Traveler asked. It was the first he'd spoken since arriving; he awaited the reply nervously. Thus far his beaten appearance had made no impact on the folk but he feared to be ostracized.
"The day's events, in town at least," came the reply. The man's tones lilted in gruff song not unlike the lady's own.
The Traveler listened more closely, catching the rhythm and understanding her at last. Expecting to hear of thefts and politics, of deaths and religious figures he instead learned gossip. The grocery boy was in love with a nobleman's daughter; a visitor had entered the city gates and has been seen exploring its streets. He perked up at what might be about him, but there was no more. His presence was known and evidently unremarkable. He motioned to the barkeep.
"Do you have rooms available?"
"We do, and baths and food if you'd like more than drink."
"I'll have the lot of them," he said.
The man showed him to the upper floors of the building, where narrow halls belied spacious rooms and opulent beds. His own was decorated with flowers. He laughed a little, unnoticed by the exiting innkeeper. It made him forget a disturbing image while he left the basement lounge, a slight vision that chilled him. On the railing leading upstairs his hand passed over a gouge in the wood otherwise polished smooth by both care and years. It was the first imperfection he'd seen since arriving, but with those delicate flowers in view it seemed a mistake of his own senses.
A bath was drawn shortly after, happy looking attendants filled it swiftly without seeming to break their own paces. In it he washed the filth of miles, the dust of roads caked so firmly upon him it seemed a part of him. It stayed there in the basin, now a cloudy unsavory stew that drew his mind again to that rough spot on the railing. He fell asleep with it in mind.