One: THE LANGUISHING;
Long Drawn Out Silences
Listening to the silence is as important
as deciphering the noise.
-Drawing Lines in the Sand:
A Way of Life,
DAVID R. G. LANGTREE
This life just goes on and on;
Will it end? And when?
-THE BOOK OF THE DEAD,
I. Fade Away Divine
Sebastion Redfield awoke to the squeak-crunch of footsteps in snow outside his father’s bedroom window. Alone, he lay there unmoving, as before, and his mind fluttered, caught in that dreamy world somewhere between sleep and this reality. But his eyes remained closed. In his mind, past the protection of the room’s fogged window, only the icy eaves existed. The early morning cold was unbreakable, and behind the façade of it, all the house fronts on this street sat back behind canopies of crisp dark foliage and branches which shielded them from prying eyes. Evergreens were dusted in white. Tangles of leafless trees were coated with clinging hoar frost. There was a fresh layer of new fallen snow on absolutely everything, and the world was still.
Not convinced that the footsteps were even real, he allowed himself to fall backwards again, backwards into that warm world of embracing sleep. He craved for the darkness to cover him like a blanket. If only. Even if the imaginary shoes munching the snow outside had existed, a swaddling embrace of black would make them easier to ignore. He had left the television on, his drowsy brain told him; perhaps its drawl was bleeding into his slumber. Like a giant moon eclipsing a distant sun, the snow-treading steps were dismissed from his mind. A longed-for coverlet sheathed his sleepy thoughts...
The bathroom, one door to the right of the bedroom, held steam from an hour ago which had since condensed into droplets on the mirror and shower doors. The faucet in the tub dripped in rhythm, and the drops fell to collide with the skin of the water beneath, which was already beginning to form a ring. There on the edge of the tub, tucked into a wet corner and standing sentry over the surface, was a glass tumbler partially filled with a dark oily liquid and two nearly melted cubes of ice.
As the cubes continued to dissolve and become water, the bronze colored liquid swirled about thickly, around and around, filling itself into the gaps of the water and creating elaborate, yet miniscule storm systems of clear and copper colors. But both refused to dilute. The two substances encircled each other; they were performing a dance, but with no one there to watch.
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Outside, the dim morning light almost didn’t exist at all. The sky was a stark canvas of steel gray, darkest at its edges. Tall trees with clinging snow stood out brightly against such a backdrop. They were as shining daggers pointing skyward.
Thin strands of smoke rose from chimneys on roofs in wiry, lilting tendrils, reaching for that canvas, as if to try and paint it anew. Pulled up into the atmosphere by backwards gravity, these fuzzy grey smoke-strings were signs from early morning furnaces. Sprawling homes were warming. Day was coming. Lives were beginning again.
A trail of prints led through the snow, from the iced over street to the front of the white bungalow where there was a pause. From that quiet, inexplicable halt, they drew around the side of the house and through a patch of shrubbery and at last to a space under a great, jagged oak tree in the back yard. At the end of the trail, sitting on haunches atop an ice-coated firewood box, under the oak and a window casement, was a man in a bright white dress shirt. Its top buttons were undone and it was un-tucked and disheveled, yet it stood out as crisp and new in the dreariness standing behind him and all around. His hair was shiny black, his eyes too, surrounded by bluish whites, and his skin was a deep brown. Drawing down his right arm was a thick line of dark red, pressed into the white shirt, blooming there, and gleaming on his skin where the sleeve was also unbuttoned. The line ran, spiraled, all the way past his elbow to his wrist, then to his finger tips—where it dripped mechanically into the snow beneath him, creating ever-brightening dimples of what looked like oil color. He remained motionless, his dark polished eyes caught in an electric gaze at the pane of glass before him. His view was mingled with the serrated lines of tree branches. They seemed to cut the glass into a thousand puzzle pieces.
He had tried the front door, locked. Had even tried the back, but it was locked as well. As with all the times before, the light seemed brighter now, the pain more intense. It was always brighter in these ticking minutes, always more extreme. There was a steadfast and unrelenting buzz in his mind and it was getting louder. Like metal grating on metal, it seemed, and as with all the times before, it was as then: eternally growing stronger.
With his wound ever-worsening, and the edges of his sight blurring to black like the boundaries of two binocular lenses, he did all that he could do in this, the next to last moment: he lunged forward, through the pane of still glass, towards that noise, towards that infernal buzzing inside his own head.
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Entirely awake and with pounding in his temples, Sebastion jerked upright, the bed sheets twisted in his fists. That jarring crash was not pre-recorded; it was not from the television. The loudness was out of nowhere, yes, but it was real, and it could not be ignored. His eyes were wide with hysteric questions and his mind raced towards answers, all terminating in one too-real conclusion: It was six-oh-four in the morning, and there, on the edge of the night, still too early to be morning and too late to be simple darkness, there was a stranger in Sebastion Redfield’s home.
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Window splintered into shards. As he lunged forward they pierced his face, matted in his hair, and slid across his bronze arms, tearing his skin, drawing on it countless tiny rivulets. A few pieces of cold broken branch came with him. The pain he could ignore, for a moment, but the sound was deafening. He could not ignore that.
Landing as he did, onto a mattress covered in bluish bedspread, where glass tinkled against pieces of itself and onto the floor surrounding, he was sure that the sound would overwhelm him. And there he would stay, laying crumpled and face down in a pile of glass and branch, until noise did him in, causing his mind to cease function and implode.
But after just one breath of hopelessness, he was driven up from his silent position—smearing blood against the bedspread with his hand and his arms. He was compelled towards the bedroom door, towards that noise that could not be identified but could now be more or less pinpointed. The front of the house was a static squall mixed with the slur of automated dullness.
He lurched forward into the rest of the house, intent on finding the source and ending it. Down the hall, dimly lit, banging against wall and doorjamb, his focus became that noise, that unrelenting squeal. It became louder as he approached and he could stand it less. The pain was shadowed by it. Everything was worse.
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Sebastion’s mind had seized. His door, drawn closed but not shut tightly, quivered as something passed it on the other side. He could see it from where he sat frozen, immovable: the light from the semi-darkness of the hall broken for a moment as the something crossed it and kept moving. He realized he could not breathe. His last breath had been a hundred years before, at that second when the rear bedroom window had been shattered.
Instinct took hold. All he could do was roll toward the edge of the bed. There was a space between it and the street-facing wall of the room—the wall beyond which, only moments earlier, he had imagined a peaceful street dusted in snow—one with no footprints leading up to his bungalow, one with no strangers lurking in foliage and breaking windows in the early morning peace.
Continuing his roll, only three quarters of a revolution, all the way over the edge of his mattress, he braced himself with his left arm, hand-heel falling nearly soundless to the rug below. He came to a gentle but all-at-once stop beside the bed, on the padded carpet. His eyes, gaping holes, could barely readjust; there was even less light down here. It was a narrow space, between the bed and the wall, so he could not lay full on his back. Instead, he was on a slant, one shoulder on the floor, and one pressed against the cold wall. Blood was rushing to his head and he couldn’t even force an exhale. His body felt like a rusted tangle of gangly metal limbs that would squeak and give him away if he even tensed. He froze again, nearly sure the little noise he had made had been heard by the figure moving down the hall. That figure heard everything, sensed everything, knew everything, and would turn crisply, then come rushing back toward Sebastion and find him in his secret place. The cool air from under the bed, to his immediacy, pressed in on him and his mind became clouded. What do I do? his brain finally hollered. What do I do?
TO BE CONTINUED...THURSDAY
My webserial of THALO BLUE is a fun challenge and partnership with historical fiction author, R.L. Jean. Her latest novel is Liberi. It's the sequel to her wildly popular book, The Noble Pirates, which tells the story of Sabrina, a modern gal transported back to the 1700s where she experiences danger and excitement with the notorious bad boy pirates of the age. Liberi promises more of the same kind of swashbuckling pirate adventure, I'm certain of it!