Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunfish Jot

Been a while since 've written anything. Anyway, here goes.

Winter wind whispers, winter wind laughs. It has long since extinguished the stub of a candle in an unnamed valley, on an unnamed grave. It goes on to extinguish lives great and small, all across the barren wasteland riddled with canyons and low, gnarly trees. This wind had a name once, given to it by the people no longer dwelling in these parts, and it was called “the loneliness of the land”.

These people have come and gone, along with many others. Some stayed. Some continue to call this lonely land home, even to this day. Their presence would explain a flicker of light on the bottom of one of the gullies- an unsure, faint presence of life in this snow-swept place.

Where there is life, there is sound, far quieter than the howling of the loneliness on the plateau far above. There is the crackle of the campfire, creak of leather, rhythmical grinding of teeth against well-cured strips of meat. Eventually, a voice emerges above these, a thin voice that has to strain to be heard over the wind.

“It was a long time ago,” Says this voice from one side of the little fire.
A congested snort replies from the side opposite.
“How long ago?” Asks a second, younger-sounding voice skeptically, from slightly off to the left of the snorting one.
“A world and a half ago,” Replies the first tartly, “Before the first live-oak dropped its first acorn, before the first city was built... and before the first kid came up with the idea of interrupting her elders.”
“Before the elders had the sense to come to the point?” The second voice inquires, undeterred.
“Before the first kid developed a thing called patience,” Rumbles voice number three, a slightly stuffy baritone with underlying signs of the common cold.
            Winter wind cackles at this, sending plumes of fine powdery snow drifting down into the encampment. The trio is silent for a while, contemplating the angrily sputtering fire. What they are thinking of, none but they may know, though we could rightly guess. The elders’ minds are firmly rooted in the past, suspicious of the future. The kid lives in the present and thinks of little but the dance of dying snowflakes above the flames.
“It was a long time ago,” Repeats the first voice, and pauses for emphasis. The eerie silence of the moment underlines the pause.
            “The land was different then, and all was twilight. The First came to these parts through forests thick with game, down valleys where fruit grew on every tree, knowing not where they were headed, but only that they would stay once they have found home.
The land was different then, and a great ocean hugged the mountain chain on one side, an ocean green as the first leaves and vast as the skies above. The First came to it, and saw the wonders which the water tossed up onto the rocky slopes, sea-apples, and shells, and eatable creatures both alive and dead. Then they knew that their place was here.
We know not the name of the First who spotted the great fish in the deep, but spot them he did. As old as the ocean was this fish, and bore upon its tail a shining disk of gold, brighter than anything that the world above the waters has ever seen. It would surface sometimes by the steep shore-slopes, the ones which now surround Herm’s peak, and it would gaze onto the land with its glossy eyes of purest jet, and wonder at all that walked there.
The First watched it for a long time, drawn by the light of its tail, until the time when his desire grew unbearable. He came to the ocean’s fringe, then, where foam flew against the granite teeth of the earth, and called out to the fish.
“Creature of the deep,” Cried he, “Give me that scale of light which you wear!”
”It would just burn your fingers, and you would drop it,” Laughed the fish at the
shrimp of the land, “Besides, my treasures do not come free.”
“There is much that I could offer.. ” Added the First after some thought, “Berries
of the woods and meat on the hoof, and feathers of birds with a hundred stripes.”
“I have no use for berries or feathers, and all the meat of the land is not enough
to satisfy my hunger,” So the fish spoke and so the First listened, and when it was finished, he departed, unsatisfied.
Many an hour he wandered across the mellow slopes, consumed with the desire to
possess, the likes of which is familiar to all that last for gold. At last, he came upon a grove of rowan-trees, straight as rays of starlight and golden-green in color. This grove stands, still, at the inner-rim base of the Herm, although the trunks of the trees there are now gnarled with age and the leaves-eaten black by fungus.
            From the oldest tree in this grove did the First make a spear, fashioning to it a hook of elk-bone and sharpening it to the finest point; to it, he tied a rope of twisted rowan-bark, thin yet strong. It is with this spear that he waited for the fish, long after his hair have gone gray, for the desire burned deep within him, and would not be quenched by fine food or the company of his kinfolk.
            When the great fish surfaced again, he speared it through the mouth, and dragged the leviathan upon the shore with a great struggle. At last could he touch the object of his desires, but true to the fish’s words, the scale burned his fingers. Outside of the cooling waters, the scale burned and burned, through the body of the fish that housed it, setting the ground itself afire. The First fled, then, in fear, and the fish, in its final death throes, hooked the scale with its fin and tossed it upwards.
            There, it remains to this day…”
            The voice trailed off and the exhalation of the breath was punctuated by a sharp sniff. Perhaps, the owner of the voice had realized that the steady undertone of noise to her story was not winter-wind, but snoring.