Friday 27 May 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 9

I am sat in the mouth of the cave. I've been here for most of the night, unable to sleep for fear I might dream about what I have done. The light of the sunrise spreads now in golds and violets and fleeing shadows across the far side of the valley. A grey-furred wild dog of the kind we were eating last night stalks something I can't see, vanishes behind a stone.

I am cold. I am cold from the still, heavy air on my skin; I am cold from still heavy weight beneath my diaphragm. Today, I know – and I have stopped asking why I know, am coming to accept this – we walk. I do not know if I can bring myself to walk.

I hear a sigh. Svaathe stirs first, wriggles expertly out of the other woman's embrace without disturbing her. She stretches; I have a picture of a home far away in time that is not mine, a black cat arching and straightening her back.

She sees me looking at her over my shoulder. She rolls her head, unlocks her shoulders, comes to sit by me.

"I wondered what they were so afraid of," she says.

"Yes." I am acid. I am cold.

"So what did you do? To do... what you did?"

"I fought." I can see myself as if from outside. Snarling, bloodied, brutal. I shudder.

Svaathe considers that for a moment, staring out across the valley. She picks something from her teeth with a fingernail, looks at the speck of old meat or whatever it was and then flicks it out, away from the cave. "Tell me a thing."

"All right."

"If you were sleeping, and we decided that we were scared and thought to cut your throat, how far would we get?"

The frankness of the question is almost a relief to me. I return her candour. "Right now, Svaathe? I think I would let you."
She puts a hand on my shoulder.

"I don't understand you. That'll do, though."

She goes inside to wake Makara.

[Collected Writings Index