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"

44 comments:

  1. Impressively compact and evocative, very atmospheric. I hope everyone got off planet before the dust took all. LM x

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    1. Maybe not everyone, but I'm sure some of them went on to new adventures. Glad you liked it.

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    1. Thank you - it was a little more Dys than U wasn't it :D

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  3. I like that he's twisted the legend to help him, particularly in such a desolate place. There are so many secrets waiting to be told in this piece.

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    1. Plenty of secrets, plenty of stories, buried by dust along with old glories.

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  4. This is what CA (where I live) is about to turn into... we are in the throes of a drought. Nicely written, love the atmosphere.

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    1. Glad you liked it - good luck with the drought

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  5. "...closed in as family secrets..." is a brilliant line. Love the setting of this piece. You wrote it so well I found myself thirsty at the end.

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    1. Glad to hear it had an effect - and even more pleased you liked it, thank you.

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  6. This is so great. Love the dialogue and love the feel of the place.

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  7. I probably shouldn't have read this right after I thought about how thirsty I am. Now I am parched, because you put me right there in the middle of the dusty, dry bar, waiting to pay for a drink of water.

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    1. For you, TMW, only one coin and you get a mostly clean glass.

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  8. Excellent. Efficient. Crisply-written, but steeped in atmosphere and mood. I need more of these characters. That's all.

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    1. Thank you Joe, there may be more of them to come

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  9. What an interesting story-water may soon become this scarce though-sigh!

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    1. One CEO of a large corporation has already stated that water is not a human right and should be privatised. Let's hope for some grisly ironic fate to strike him before that ever comes to pass.

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  10. Wonderfully written, Thomas. You have a talent for drawing the reader immediately into the scene and atmosphere. I really like the understated use of 'dust' as the setting on the planet. I would definitely read this book!

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    1. Thank you Jo-Anne, very kind words. I'm glad you got drawn in.

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  11. So descriptive! I love seeing beautiful adjectives describing your characters. Great!

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  12. "A decade since she’d arrived and learned that dreams could dry out as easily as flesh." - I love these "tournures de phrase" You have a way of comparing things that don't line up. As always, I enjoy reading your cryptic tales!

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    1. Thanks Marie, I find the strict word limits on these prompts encourage me to find compact new ways of describing things. Glad you like them.

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  13. I definitely want to know more about this setting and its legends...beautifully written, I was right there amongst the ominous dust and thirst!

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    1. Thank you - there may be more from this setting popping up soon.

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  14. Oh I loved this! I don't want to bubble sunshine, but the way the man used the legend as a protection, the question at the end if he believes...truly fun writing.

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  15. You set up the scene well. That was a close call for her. I can't blame her for not believing in legend, though!

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    1. Legends are hard to believe in when reality is drying out your throat and making your eyes gritty. Glad you liked the story.

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  16. Your description made my throat parched and my soul hopeful :)

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    1. That's a wonderful response - thank you :D

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  17. it's a smart man that uses a legend or a myth to his own advantage.
    Have you even seen RANGO (it's an animated film about a dust bowl town ) because this reminded me of it.

    my favorite line was about how smiles were rare and she had none to spare, it set a perfect stage for how she felt about her place in that community.

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    1. Hi Kir - no, never seen Rango but I may give it a try (with a bottle of cool water close at hand for safety's sake). Thanks again for taking the time to read and feed back.

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  18. Wonderful little details without overdoing the descriptions. I like being able to use my imagination to fill in the rest .

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    1. Thanks Tara- that's one of the nice side effects of the strict word counts - it helps me keep my prose lean.

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  19. I absolutely love how you've combined all three prompts here. I want to know more! That line about being as closed in as family secrets is excellent! And the rest of the detail paints the scene well.

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  20. That is one excellent scene! Complete, from start to finish. Lots of depth to the setting, the characters and scenario. Like how "quaint" blends in so effortlessly to the story. Strong work, my friend. I aspire, one day, to write fiction this well. :)

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    1. You're very kind Tom, I appreciate the compliment - thank you

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  21. Dreams could dry out as easily as flesh - love that line.

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    1. Thank you, Trifecta-Entity :D Much appreciated.

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