Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fatality in the Rain

The Rain-Collecting Road, originally uploaded by ashleigh290.

This is a bit of a spoiler (in case anyone intends to read the book I'm working on), but is one of the scenes I'm most proud of so far. Enjoy!
   A cart was rattling rapidly down the street, the farmer was impatient to get home. Rain had been washing the world into a giant mud puddle for the past four days, and this street (nothing more than a narrow dirt track that caught the runoff from every other street in town) was becoming nearly impassable.
   Most of the townspeople were sitting inside their warm, brightly-lit homes—the tall imposing ones that only well-to-do merchants could afford; the kind that seemed to lean in to touch each other over the street, blocking out the light. The farmer sneered at the tall houses as he passed under them, and was drenched with a bucketful of water from one of their rainspouts for his pains. Cursing and shivering, hunching up his shoulders against a world that hated him, he neglected to see a small child playing at the edge of the road. It was a little girl with golden hair, a red dress, and small white fingers that were making two wooden dolls fall in love.
   The farmer did not see her. The horses did not see her. All they saw was the mist of rain that fell like a sodden gray blanket on the air. The girl did not see the cart or the pounding hooves of the horses. All she saw was her dolls. The only one who saw anything and everything was a woman with strands of wet, gray hair who stood at the other side of the street.
   In a moment it was over, and someone screamed. The farmer lay unconscious, bent into an unnatural position. The girl was mud-spattered and shaking; it was she who had screamed. The woman was nowhere to be seen. Deserted as the street had appeared, at the sharp sound of alarm dozens of villagers materialized from shadowy entryways, inadequately dressed and apprehensive. One of them had turned white in that moment, dropping her basket and sending its burden of rosy pink apples rolling away—bouncing down the narrow lane, splashing through the rain and muck. She felt as though she ran in slow motion, her nerves sluggish, none of the emotion she should be feeling making its way to her face.
   Cecily collapsed by the side of Alis’s broken body, holding her mother’s head between her knees and kissing the bloody mouth. The cart creaked and moaned and dug one of its wheels harder into the woman’s body. Alis let out a whimper and shut her eyes. “Mum, Mum, Mum. Please hold on, will it, only will it. You have to make it, please, you have to make it. Don’t let it end this way! Oh, Mum, I saved you once...” She choked on the words before she said them, knowing that it would take all of her strength and more to bend power to her will as she once had, as I swore never to do again. It gets out of hand. It takes over me. I said I’d never let it take me again. But I’d do…anything….
   Alis suddenly flung out her hand to grasp Cecily’s in a death-grip. “Don’t help me, Cessy. It is my time. This has—been long delayed.”  
   “I need you!” The words were a shriek that grew louder with every syllable. A housewife stopped to stare. The horses had been led away and a few men were now trying to heave the cart off of its victim, but only succeeded in grinding it deeper into the mud.
   “No, Cecily, you need the One who gave me to you and you to me. Talk to Him, my dear. Never let Him go.”
   “How can you talk about me at a time like this? Mum, you’re the most important thing in the world!”
   Alis’s look could have frozen stone. “Never say that, dearest one.
   Cecily lifted her tear-stained, rain-smattered face to the dreary heavens and wondered at the turns of life—like a road with so many twists that there was never any hope of seeing more than a few feet beyond the place where one stood.
   The hand that held hers squeezed a little tighter, and a spasm of agony shot across the dying woman’s face.
   “Cessy, darling, I told you that we weren’t alone.”
   She was gone. 

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