Monday, 20 January 2014

Before the Dawn




Clean drinking water commanded a high price in those last days before the dust covered the last outposts.   Jayva moved through the  dark bar with experienced grace, cylinder of water hung over one shoulder, its black nozzle cupped tenderly in her hand.   The patrons, sullen and closed in as family secrets, barely looked up as she worked, just holding up a cup, or glass, or can for her to fill in exchange for a pair of coins.

One man, skin tanned leathery, but with pale blue eyes smiled as she filled his cup.  Smiles were rare and she didn’t have one to spare in return.    The next man who took a drink tried to take more and she pushed him away, swearing at him.

I loathe this planet she thought yet again.   A decade since she’d arrived and learned that dreams could dry out as easily as flesh.

The man was persistent and stood, showing a stubby ceramic knife.  Jayva backed up a step, then another.  She knew nobody would help.  Why would they?  She collided with someone standing behind her.  Nights in the dust could turn bad in a moment.

“Remember your place, sir,” the leather-tanned man’s voice was calm, polite, almost quaint in its formality.  He placed one hand on Jayva’s shoulder and stared at the other man.  That man saw the butterfly tattoo on the back of the leathery hand, flinched, sat down quietly.

Jayva turned, nodding gratitude.  She saw the inked butterfly.

“The founder’s sign,” she said.   He smiled again.

“Are you a believer?” he asked. 

“Only in dust.”

“Perhaps that fellow’s a believer though, in the Holy Founder, and his Nine.”

“Legends,” Jayva said.

“Legends can be useful.   I rarely have to raise my voice, let alone my fists when I show this.”

She nodded and filled his cup again, not asking for coins.

“I believe in dust and heat,” she said, “not in angels and deathless knights.”


He savoured the cool water.  “Very wise,” he said.

*

In response to prompts from Studio30Plus: Loathe & Planet
and Trifecta:  Quaint (in the sense of Pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar)
and Write on Edge: "Sometimes legends make reality and become more useful than the facts"