Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pneumaion, Part Two

Thomas shifted in his chair at this enigmatical remark; the only outward sign of his intense irritation with his uncanny friend. A thick silence fell between them as Steven turned his eyes back to his book and Thomas stared very straight ahead, his face stiff with inner thought in the darkling light. Steven bothered him of late, for there was a new elasticity of thought in Steven that positively confounded the pattern exactness of Thomas' ideas. Whether Thomas had been born with a regimented mind, or made the choice of it as a man, very few could tell. But he had a march of well-chosen thoughts and self-willed belief that could not bear to withstand even the whisper of a strike against their validity.
And there was something about Steven's questions, those presumptuous, ridiculous musings over mortality and the soul that sent a strange and sudden quiver through Thomas' usually serene thoughts. It was a vivid lash of anger that shot through Thomas, and shook him like an unknown fear. He sat for a moment, the odd sensation vibrating through the even rows of his unspoken words, infusing them with a sudden energy that made him eager to speak.
A sudden flame lashed out from the aging fire, whipping its light across his shadow guarded face. The brightness caught even Steven's distracted eye and he turned again to Thomas, about to read him a passage from the book. But Thomas sat straighter.
"Steven," he began, leaning forward now in his turn, "why, I mean truly, why are you like this so often lately, do you do it as a joke? Do you ask these questions to provoke me to animation?"
Thomas drew a breath, his face so taut that Steven could not doubt his determination to conceal all animation whatsoever. Steven, however, cocked a highly animated eyebrow and put his book down.
"What?" he half laughed, throwing his hands dramatically for good measure, "do you never ask such questions? I'll admit, the day has me in a rather giddy mood, I don't know why, must be the storm. But I don't ask the questions idly. Truly," and Steven leaned forward to meet the banked fire of Thomas' eyes with an equal dance of shadow and flame in his own, "I do ask them seriously. I've been thinking of them, well, quite a lot lately. I suppose it's rather a dangerous thing to read the old classics, they are..."
But he was interrupted by the industrious tap of the waitress' shoes on the weathered wood floor and Thomas moved suddenly back into the shelter of the half light. In an instant more, the hearthstones that served as their table were laden with two steaming blue mugs and a miniature jug of cream. Steven reached for his cup instantly, burning his fingers, and not minding in the least as he inhaled the fragrance of the fresh brew.
"The elixir of thought, I am quite sure," he smiled, sending a thank you glance up to the girl. Thomas waited to seize his mug until the girl was almost gone, but nearly dropped it again when Steven suddenly reached a restraining hand out to her as she hurried away.
"Wait, just a moment, would you answer a silly question for me? I mean, the question isn't silly, I am for asking, but all the same?"
She gave Steven a quizzical smile and glanced questioningly at Thomas, but turned obligingly back, waiting with lifted eyebrows for the unguessed question.
"Do you think," Steven began, unconsciously furrowing his eyebrows and rubbing at his mug, "that a person could lose their soul? Or, I suppose, do you think about the soul at all? It's rather an issue of debate between my friend here and myself."
There was a hushed moment as her eyes widened and she glanced from man to man. But then she laughed, suddenly and freely, casting away her practiced busyness and crossing her arms.
"Are you serious? The soul? What are you, a priest in training?"
"No indeed," and Steven laughed heartily at that, "no by all that's good, I'm not. I just want to know as a matter of debate, do you ever consider your soul?"
"Only on very misty mornings and very foggy nights. When else is there time?"
And with that, she gave a laughing nod to each of them, rolling her eyes as she resumed her fallen hurry and tapped quickly away.
"Ah well, I guess I am the only one, at least in here," began Steven, burrowing back into his chair, but was stopped as Thomas stood abruptly.
"Why must you do that?."
The words were tersely spoken and Thomas' movements were equally crisp as he pulled his coat into unwrinkled attention over his shoulders.
"Why must you drag normal people into your stupid discussions? You are so rude, pulling her into a ridiculous debate... ah, I simply can't sit here with you and discuss impossible things any more. All day I've noticed it and I won't stand it anymore. You have grown strange, and I know why. You are listening to people and reading things you never should, and I will not encourage it with my presence. Goodbye."
He thumped a coin down on the table to pay for his untouched mug of coffee and strode out the door.....

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Pneumaion, Part One

They stepped into the dusky shop as the bell trilled their hurried arrival out of the torrential rain. For an instant they stood still, adjusting to the shadowlight of the firelit room, drawing deep, rather steamy breaths and shaking off their coats. Steven was quickest, wriggling out of his patched jacket and lunging for the farthest corner in the dim room where his chair, battered, beaten, and quite beloved, was awaiting him. Tall and careless, he slung his coat onto the bricks of the hearth, pushing the glasses up higher on his nose, shaking the rain out the dark tangle he called his hair. Within seconds he was quite at his ease, feet propped easily on the bricks, shoulders sunk deep in the battered red velvet as he watched his much slower friend claim the seat opposite him.
While Steven had been settling himself, Thomas had been straightening the wind and storm out of his well-kept person. His black coat was draped over the quiet dignity of his arm, and as he took the plumped armchair opposite Steven, he smoothed his collar and ran a hand through the short of crop of his dark hair.
Neither said a word for several minutes. The fire had reached the middle age of its loveliness and burned steadily in a mellow dance of gold and crimson. The crackle of its quiet flames was the only noise to disturb the ease of their silence. Steven stared off into a far corner, Thomas cocked an eyebrow and seemed to stare absently at Steven, but neither spoke until the waitress appeared to take their orders. They broke their silence with, "coffee please, very hot, with cream,". When she was gone, Steven suddenly set his feet on the floor with a firm thump, planted his hands on his knees and leaned full forward.
"So Thomas, my friend, could a man really lose his soul?"
Thomas stared just for an instant and felt as if he had somehow stumbled into a strange story where a wild-haired man accosted him with impossible questions. Steven was a sight, an eery, elfin sight with the shadows twined round his face and the light glinting off his glasses, obscuring his eyes. He was leaning forward almost far enough to touch Thomas with an intensity that belied the seeming carelessness of his question.
"Well," Thomas almost sniffed, crossing his long legs and adjusting himself so that he was entirely out of Steven's reach, "how could anyone know? It's one of those grandfather type questions that no one can answer and so no one ought ask. You will harp on about the impossible topics, won't you? But if you must, then I would recommend the classics, Faust for example?"
And so saying, he tapped the cover of one of the worn books at his elbow.
"Try this," he said, holding the book out to Steven as if he would drop a pet a bone to placate it. Steven's eyes, however, grew instantly bright, and he snatched the book from his friend.
"Have you read it?" he queried.
"Of course not, I'm no interested in such mental gymnastics as involve the imagining of losing one's soul. Mine is quite safe. I do sometimes wonder about yours though. You know Steven, you are beginning to get rather impossibly strange," and Thomas cocked his eyebrow very purposefully.
Steven merely grinned.
"Oh really?"...

Monday, February 13, 2006

The First Story

Dark was the night and chill the winter wind that whistled down over the Quinlan hills on the night when Jenny went wandering. The cold could freeze the heart of a body and a cloak of darkness had wrapped the land in deep shadow. And though the cold and dark be fear enough, the Quinlan hills were said to be enchanted. For there, it was told, the Star Gypsies held tryst in the deep of the wildest starlit nights.
Such a night was this when Jenny came, a cloak of midnight blue fastened round her and her white face lifted high unto the winter sky. Dark the night may be, and cold, but Jenny sought a treasure beyond price. Jenny sought the music of the wandering stars.
And who were the star gypsies? They were the very spirits of heaven itself, the souls of the lights whose dance lit the earth and sky. It was told among men that they were a people passing fair, tall of body and pale of face. Some said they came in the nights of the new moon to aid the children of earth, and it was told that a child near death had been called back to life by a song that came through her window from the distant hills.
But none dared tread the star gypsy’s lands when the night drew near, for men and women both had followed the star music never to be seen again. Thus the tale was told that if ever any mortal held counsel with a star gypsy, he would be seen no more among the living. Few even of the bravest of men would have dared tread the ancient paths of those hills in that night and Jenny was but a maiden...