Writing Sample

Soft, soft fell the moonlight on the deserted streets of Doerstadt, and softly fell Lome’s feet on the hard road. Squelch! Squelch! Squelch! The small sounds seemed to ring out in the darkness as the trail of wet footprints stretched out behind her. Her body shuddered, but her mind was numb. So it is… So it goes… Keep walking, Lome, just keep walking. Keep breathing, Lome, just keep breathing. Where death comes, death comes, and where there is still life, it must be lived… Still life must be lived until it is made still. Her thoughts ran on thus, as the houses and shops ran slowly by, down the streets crowded with emptiness.

At last she stood dripping in front of her door. The house was deathly still. As quietly as she could, she entered, and dripped up the stairs to peak into the children’s room. Nars lay in his crib, and Lore on the bed beside it, breathing softly. Lome exhaled in fevered relief and shuddered in her sodden clothing. Carefully she closed the door, retrieved a fresh sleeping tunic from the room she shared… she had shared… with Margim, and crept downstairs to the kitchen. She had just begun to pull the riverweed out of her hair when the stairs creaked, and the soft voice of her daughter split the silence of the dim kitchen.

“Mama… why did you not come home… we were worried. Why are your clothes black, Mama?”

Lome turned toward Lore and smiled a small smile. “They are very wet, my dear one… I went for a swim in the river! Would you fetch me some water? I’m so dirty, I had better clean off before bed.”

Lore began to move to light the stove, but Lome motioned her away, “Cold water will be best… cold water will do. Thank you, dear one.” Efficiently she slipped off her mottled, dripping garments and pulled the loose sleeping tunic over her head. Lore did not see her wince, and did not see the odd discoloration along her side and back. As Lore returned with the filled basin, her mother gently embraced her. “Thank you, dear… now go back to bed, and I’ll tell you all about it in the morning.”

“Mama, are you alright? You have mud all over your hair!”

“In the morning, my sweet. Let me just get cleaned up and go to bed.”

“Where is papa?”

“In the morning.” Lome’s voice had hit that wall-like tone that Lore knew all too well to argue against, but there was something else in it, something that made her uneasy. She paused, staring at her mother’s mud-caked face in the flickering candle-light. Something in the dark eyes staring out of that tangle of hair and riverweed both frightened and at the same time reassured her, and she slowly backed away and padded up the stairs, to lie on her mat and not sleep for a very long time.

Alone in the kitchen Lome took a cloth and began to carefully wash herself. The water in the basin grew darker and darker, and from the stinging on her head and arms Lome knew that what the dim candlelight showed as black was probably a deep blood red.

They will know well enough in time. Best to face such things in the morning, though. The cold water will not get the stains out… They will be here for a long time, but there’s nothing to do for it. She wrung out the cloth and quietly dumped the foul water in the gutter behind the house. Lystra has let me keep my life. I must make the most of it. She looked up to the serene night sky, managed a flicker of a smile, and then returned with a heavy heart to the bed that she knew would now be hers alone.

Note: This scene occurred some years ago, when Narsereg was a toddler and Lorena still a child. After that night Lome's husband Margim was never seen again. Lome would not speak of what had happened, saying only that he was gone and would not come back. When asked if he was dead, she said in an unnaturally calm tone that she did not know.

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