Thursday, September 07, 2006

Estuary Land

a little story, to be going on with -

Estuary land

At the height of my powers he summoned me to his house. I left it broken and in disgrace, unable to even look at myself again. I had been proud, full of the arrogance of youth, full of power and gifts and tricks. I thought I was wise, that my talents were eternal and unarguable. He showed me they were not, and that I was a callous fool, whose only power came from his youth and from his own self belief.
He lived on the other side of estuary, in a wooden house where the wind seemed to blow through the corridors and the milky light lay thin and cold. The estuary land was always cold, always a breeze whichever way you turned your face and where every colour was another shade of grey blue white. The people there were likewise, men and women with windblown faces, lines etched and eroded by the sea salt spray. Hands rubbed red raw from the picking of the sea grasses, clumps of which grew thick on the sand islands. Thick sea grass, made land from water and yet in a day could loose its strength and the island would be gone, another smooth sandy spot in the estuary. The village had been built from clumps of these, a few sandy houses made from driftwood and held together by nothing but sheer will and thick cords of fraying blue rope. I didn’t know why he lived there, but that is why he is a mightily powerful and wise man, and I am nothing but a humble soul with memories of almost greatness.
I was from the city across the estuary. A cosmopolitan city, a city grown wealthy through thick river traffic, a city that saw Emperors come and go, watched them add their finery to the city and sent them on their way on rich funeral barges. Even from the estuary land I could see the city clearly, towering on the sturdy bank high above, the mighty sand stone bridge of St Peter-Paul arching over the estuary and onto another city and another country. It was a city of onion domes, a city of green coppered roofs and institutes of learning and entertainment.
I was a child prodigy, I say it now with ashes in my mouth and cringing shame. I was found with my talents early on and as a teenager acquired the swagger that goes with such fame, I was easily the most powerful in the city, the best at what I could do. My feats were gasped at, my powers marvelled at, there was nothing I could not do. I felt too though that I was not just some flash in the pan young turk who would make some noise with flashy spectacle and then be gone but a man of substance, a man in the ancient tradition I had been raised in, that my talents would only grow with time and that there was nothing that could not be accomplished. Spells and arithmetic verse and telekinetic forces were easily at my command, the others who had been my equals and my teachers now stood at a lowly distance and I down upon them. It was in this puffery that he called me to him, and I was glad to go. For was it not proof of my power that he, the greatest of this age, should wish to converse with me, as equals? It should be said in my defence that although my arrogance now is as plain as day I truly did not feel it then, I did not consciously look down on any man, indeed I took it only as plain fact I could do things no other man could. I did not think this was anything but what I had earned through hard work and tried not to lord it over anyone. That is the frame of mind I went to him in, ready to learn from a man I considered a good friend. We had indeed met several times before, we had communicated through certain ethereal channels upon which deception is impossible and I definitely trusted him. Please do not think he coaxed me to him only to see me fall, for it hurt him as deeply as it did me. He did so only out of friendship, from the ideas and ideals we held in common. That is the part that galls me more, that I might have had an opportunity at greatness but only my own weakness cut that channel of forever.
My mind pulled me gently over to the estuary land, its details growing clearer as I fixed the target in my mind. Travelling then was easy, merely fixing a destination in my head was enough for me to be there. I made a point though of walking at least a hundred metres to his house, though I confess that may have been so that I could look at the estuary village and so that they could see me. I talked and laughed with those I met, it was easy to know exactly what to say, to make these strangers laugh with words I knew from thoughts I had seen.
He greeted me cheerily, he was never as grave as people may have you believe. He was certainly the most powerful man I have ever seen yet he was never one to preach upon it, never one to let the weight of knowledge that clung to him wear him down. He introduced me to his two sisters, young women and as beautiful as the tide. They were the cause of my undoing, yet I bear them no ill will as the blame, the hubris, was only ever mine.
We floated through his house, his thoughts adding a sheen to the dimensions of what he was showing to me, revealing layers of sympathy, of planes of memory and abstract might have beens. I saw then that everything in there was arranged for astral purposes, and nothing was ever left to chance, however small and insignificant it might appear to the casual observer.
He did not educate me, indeed he was never intending to be a teacher, that was what puffed my pride, we were there as equals to explore hypothetical galaxies and absorb seasonal energies. He was not some lecturer or pusher of education, I was there by my own volition to learn but also to acquire from him a veneer of authenticity I felt I lacked, without which I would be merely a gaudy showman.
From the wide windows of his house and to the sound of creaking beams I watched the skaters on the estuary at low tide, watched them criss cross its smooth lengths.
“I always wanted to do that, but I never have”
I turned and gazed at lemna, the younger of his sisters, I could see in her eyes and the poise of her body that she was enamoured with me. Could almost smell the warmth she exuded across the frosty wood lengths of the room.
“there’s always time” I said “we can go, sometime. The next low tide perhaps”
“I don’t think he would like that, I don’t think our people do that sort of thing. Only the people in the city do it, it wouldn’t be proper”
I slid closer to her, my movements carefully calculated, not that I was some trained seducer or lecher only I could feel vibrating form her a desire for me. It was something that I can never resist even now, the joy in the sudden realisation that the person you are facing wants you desperately. That is enough to make me want her, never mind any other factors, just the heat and the wanting and the needing and the fact that suddenly I am the centre of her universe, that I am what she wants, that it is no longer I in the singular but I in her eyes, that I am rendered more real than I could ever make myself. That my character ever changing and ever open to doubt has been cast in iron by her gaze. That is the thing any man like me desires more than anything, perhaps it is in the nature of people like I to feel insubstantial, the gnawing fear that because I have tampered so easily with the nature of reality that like a frayed cloth the whole thing might disintergrate and leave me alone in the darkness, unsure and unsecured. Love makes you real, desire makes you solid.
I could not help then being drawn to her, feeling her sweetness and naivety, her innocence and youthful purity- not of body but of spirit. Of everything being fresh and clean, even as a young man I found this intoxicating, the world even clearer and sharper, my powers magnified by my importance in her eyes.
Those first days I only fluttered around her and her sister Opia, feeling myself pulled into their lives, aware of their mutual feelings toward me but not acting upon it, my respect for him being such I would not try to take them. He would have known my reasons were only that of vanity and would not have approved. I spent many hours in their rooms on the high second floor of the house, the winding staircases that curved and bowed in organic forms. It was his fancy that the ceiling should be at a great height so their rooms were greatly elevated, attic rooms with skylights and the grey of the sky always visible. He did not have a room, perhaps they were all his rooms, that he kept the various dimensions between the ground floor and his sisters rooms to himself and that we could merely never perceive them, much less enter them. Whole universes were accessible to him in the most humble of things, a speck of dust or a casual phrase.
The sisters rooms were a thing apart of the rest of the house, of even the rest of estuary land. Though they had none of their brothers power or his daunting wisdom they were nonetheless special people, girls who saw more than most and who understood much more than the cowlike people of the estuary land. Their rooms became like a sanctuary to me, away from the cold lines and the logical explorations of his world. They were places of elegant simplicity, of conversations that spun delicately out upon unknown lines, of mutual human enjoyment and comfort. I hope I was not blinded by their love of me, that all I saw was its reflection, there was real beauty there, and I have fond and tender memories of that place. Whenever I see the items those rooms possessed, the crystals hanging at lunar angles or the proliferation of cushions that warmed the room more than any heater I am forced back into that place. It only takes a single glimpse of a cushion in a market place or the smell of them or even just a certain angle of light or the tone in a womans accent, it is enough. The memories are ingrained in me as deep feelings and could not be removed, even by the later sadness and shame. Indeed it is perhaps that which makes those memories seem so sweet.
My expulsion was such a simple thing, and the blame is mine alone. I had I felt taken in enough with these sisters to journey further with them, I had grown intoxicated on them, my self belief inflated too far to be remotely rational. It was such a simple thing, a single act that was enough to show me I had gone so very deeply wrong.
It was another grey day, I had talked more to Lemna of the city, felt her hanging on my every word. Opia had entered too and likewise listened, arms folded and leaning in close. I snaked between the two of them, felt their warmth and their smell strong in my bones, I reached out and touched Lemna’s thin blond hair, felt the strands s they floated in the myriad of tiny breezes. She drew close to me, skin pale and seemingly translucent. I felt Opioa too, she drew closer to me but I could feel a part of her wishing to recoil. I pulled them both closer to me with a tug of my mind but as I did, and as I let them plainly know my desires I felt them pull back from me. At that moment the shameful act occurred and I for the first time used my powers to coax them, to try and force them to obey my will. It was only a second and it was enough.
Lemna rushed away choking tears and away out of the house, Opia merely stood up and left the room, the look on her face enough to tell my time with them was over, that I had broken something beautiful through sheer greed. I know then I could have had her or her sister but in trying to take both I had ensured I would have neither.
It did not matter how he found out. He did not need to be told. I knew it was time to leave almost immediately, though irrationally hoped there might be something more from him. It was the next morning as I descended the stairs that I saw him there, hanging between the flights. He was a body, small and miserable looking, the noose tight around his throat. The body swung but never looked my way, the voice in my head radiated only his disappointment in me, that as a friend I had done this to him. That I ruined the life of his youngest sister, a girl who had truly loved me and that I had done it only for my own vanity. I stumbled down the stairs and out onto the estuary land. Folded myself through a series of locations until I was back in the city.
After that I was a ruined man, I kept up the charade of the entertainer as long as I could which frankly was not long. There were new child prodigies, ones whose talents dwarfed mine, whose confidence was grounded in greater skill than I could ever have accomplished. I had realised my life was a sham, that I could never have been like him, never been a master, my prowess was youth and arrogance alone. I became a figure who only stalked the avenues and gardens of the city, looking desperately for that person I had been, wanting to claw back some of that certainty, to retain some of that potency. What friends I had left I drove from me, what women still desired me I repulsed as I tried to drag them closer to me. And never again did I dare look over the water to see the estuary land, I did not speak to him, or hear of what happened to his sisters. I only hope they could forgive, and hope that they could see me now and know that I have repented.

like many stories this was a dream, where i was the boy wonder wizard and my housemate the wise elder creature, though he has no sisters, and does not live on the estuary.


Post a Comment

<< Home