03/11/2014 § Leave a comment
Another sun was coming to its death. Lowly it clung to the eastern skies, like a pale and bloody fist, partly eclipsed by the jagged peaks of the Spine. Its light was stark and beggarly, and it touched without warmth of life the vast stretches of valleys and hills that formed the Eastern Territories. In a matter of weeks since the first frost, the earth had withdrawn itself from the failing light and left all its rooted children to wither and be drained of colour. Now the land took on the appearance of something half-formed, not altogether real but still palpable, still and yet not altogether lifeless, like something the gods might have dreamt of before they conceived of creation. But this half-world, too, would soon vanish with the wayward sun. The world would know darkness yet again.
Horace Shaw had been awake for some time, and knew it was a half-hour past the first. He had a keen sense of time. Someone long ago had once remarked that he must have a clockwork in his skull, and this was more or less true. For the greater part of his life he had been wound up, so to speak, firstly by a father who starved him if he was not up and dressed before the first cock-crow, and later, after he had run away and enlisted in the army, by a scout sergeant who taught him to read the hour by the bodies in the sky, who kicked him awake at odd times and asked him to name the hour, and kicked him more if he had got it wrong even by a quarter-hour. His body remembered the lessons, his stomach and his bones and his muscles, even as he strove to forget those years.
Now, lying in his tattered bedroll and waiting for others to stir, he watched as the sun continued its steady spiral toward the Abyss. A few days, a week at the most, and it would be no more. Night was stirring. He could feel it in the coldness of the earth and in the sharpness of the air, and in the rigour of the very light that touched his skin. Hunger and silence, there in the suffering quietude of all that surrounded him, and all that was inside of him, a cold conviction growing in the pit of his stomach like a bone tree. The thought of it chilled his spine, sent beads of sweat down his armpits.
He sat up, bent his head, and uttered the words. From whence it came, it shall return… From whence it came… But they held no comfort for him, those ancient words, and the breath that carried them was a thin white smoke rising toward an empty sky. A meek and bloodless exaltation.