Monday, 20 May 2013

The Hanged Man

(a writing prompt from Write on Edge involving the picture above,
and from Studio30Plus about the word Redemption)

Skene could feel the ancient cold of his cell as he squirmed downward into dream, forcing sleep as his heart hammered faster with the exertion.   This once came easy to him but that was a long time away from here (in which direction he did not know) and now every moment the effort of his attempt strained his nerves, tried to draw him back to meatspace and the frigid stone confinement.  If he gave up now though he would give up forever.  He could not live with that.   He had to find his way back, to let them know that he knew he’d been wrong.   Just that.

A moment like a painful birth and the dream opened for him.  Skene lay on dry ground, the breath knocked out of him and his body jarred from the impact.  He took a second before standing.

The Cornerhouse waited alone, surrounded by nothing but flat plains.   It looked like part of a larger edifice, and so it was of course.   This was a glimpse of the whole, a single gate house and two vestigial wings that intersected with this part of his dream.   He wondered who would be playing Cerberus today and groaned as he saw.    

Skene walked toward the doorway of the hexagonal building, toward the guardian, a man in a funeral suit and tall hat.   His skin was greying, his eyes twin blue stars of cold contempt.

“You’re not welcome,”

“Malachi,” said Skene, “I need to speak to someone.  Anyone.”

Malachi’s voice was tomb-dry.  “No fatted calves for you, prodigal.   Turncoat.”

Anger flashed through Skene’s long-practised despair.  “I walked away, and that was wrong.  I know that.  But I never betrayed-”

Malachi cut him off with a snarl revealing a mouthful of discoloured and splintered teeth.  “Not welcome... but expected.”  He stepped aside and the door behind him opened slowly.   “Counter-Clockwise.”

Skene climbed the stairs, entered the house and held his breath.   He turned left and walked the corridor, much longer inside than it seemed from outside, wondering which of the ten thousand rehearsed words he should use.    Each window showed a new outside – a burnt ochre desert, an ocean of shining gold beneath watchful stars, a city of rainbow neon where spiders passed from hand to hand in secret trades.  He knew them all but passed by each view uninterested.

“We can’t get you out of there,”  The speaker was an old woman waiting in the chambered vault of the next Cornerhouse.   “They have you too deep for us to reach.” 

“I just wanted to explain-”

She held up her hand.  “No time.   We cannot keep you here.   You will have to return there.”

“I know,” Skene said desperately, “But I wanted to say I was sorry, wanted another chance, to do something-”

She nodded.  And then she smiled and he recognised the girl he had known in a far Context.   He knew how her laughter would sound, remembered that they had been lovers (or would be).   “Oh you’ll do something, Skene.   You have to return there.  But you’re taking something back with you.”

Her fingers touched his chest.

He opened his eyes then in cold and painful darkness, stone around him.   He felt the change that she had made and he grinned like a rogue in a convent.   Freedom waited just beyond the walls, and walls were nothing to him now.

(a continuation of Strength, High Priestess and Magus & Hermit)