Monday, November 15, 2004

 

the child, sixteen


The Child hardly knew which way to look. In front of her, where the Master now stood looking perfectly normal again. Or behind her, at the unknown person who had caught her to keep her from falling.

The arms that had caught her now steadied her, setting her back upon her feet. 'Can you stand up? Do you need to sit down? Are you going to be all right?'

She turned to see who it was speaking to her. A man. Quite ordinary he was, with ruddy skin and shy eyes. 'You're all right?' he asked again.

'I - I think so,' she replied.

He smiled. 'Good. I've seen you around here for a few days now, practicing with your sword. My name is Stone.'

'Mine is Starr,' she replied.

'Starr!' he said. 'Now see, that's a pretty name. Not dull like Stone. You look up to see your name. To see mine, though, you look down.'

And she did look down, feeling somehow confused and fluttery inside herself, to be in this man's presence.

'You sure you'll be all right?' he asked once more.

'Y-yes.'

'Good. Hope to see you later. I'm learning to use one of these things myself.' And he tapped the scabbard that he wore at his side. A tilt of his head as a notion hit him. 'Maybe we could practice together some time. Would you like that?'

She nodded, suddenly not trusting her voice.

'That would be great,' he said, beaming. 'But I have to hurry right now. See you later, Starr-girl. Or wait. Catch you later!' And he grinned at his own joke as he went on his way, walking backwards the first few steps as he waved good-bye to her.

Starr waved as well, stunned. A long time she stood there, watching him out of sight. Till a voice spoke behind her. 'What do you think?'

The Master. She turned back to him, feeling completely dazed. 'Who was that?' she asked.

'As he told you. He is Stone. He is one of the sons of my house.'

'Why have I never seen him before? In fact...' She was totally confused now. 'Why have I never seen anyone else here? Only you, and Mathilda, and she who walks the mountain.' She shook her head. 'Why have I never wondered this till now? Your house is huge. Of course it must be filled with people. And yet...'

He touched her cheek. 'You have been gifted, my love, with uncommon sight. You see the things I show you. And part of that is that you do not see many things until I show them to you. Yes, my house is filled with people. I have many sons and daughters in this house of mine. Until now, you needed the solitude of being with me alone. Now you will begin to see the others, and to take part in the life of this house. Come, dear.'

And as before, when he had first showed her Mathilda unveiled, so now he kissed her closed eyes - one, two - and breathed his breath upon her. She breathed in the sweet fragrance of him, and looked up.

'See now, my love,' said he. And turned her to look.

But at first she saw nothing. The house was as it had been, the grounds green and empty. And she started to say this to him.

But then there arose a shimmering before her eyes, as when the air shimmers and dances in the heat of summer. And in the shimmering she began to see as it were shadows. And the shadows became solid. Became real. Became people.

So many people! Again the sight staggered her.

How had she walked so many days amidst so many people, and never saw any of them till now?

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