old and new

At just before midnight last night, and thanks to a writing prompt from Chasing Dreams Publishing, I got the motivation to write a brand new piece of flash.  The writing prompt was simply some words which had to be included in the story – those words are the penultimate line, if it still matters.

I didn’t exactly know where it was going at first, but then slowly I got the idea that this character was racing death to do something for herself, and it all went from there.  I hope you enjoy it.

Old And New

In the morning they sailed into the sun. It lit the water ahead and either side of them, turning the waves to molten bronze. She stared. Over the side, wood and tar meshed into one, living materials bound together to make new life. Brown wood and black tar, it stretched away until it all turned to gold. If the ship hadn’t been so damn tall, she would have thrown her arms into the water to the shoulder, soaking up the light and washing the old world from her like soot.

With the sun overhead they sailed on. Blue above, blue below. The old world was far behind them now and there was nothing to be seen in any direction except that blue, so empty. So alone. They told her to wait below while the day was at its hottest but she couldn’t bear it – somebody had to care for the sea and sky. She coughed into her handkerchief, put it away without looking at it.

When she did that twice more, they urged her below decks with their hands on her forearms.

She dreamed that the sun was at her back, that it opened her dress up like a sail and swept her up into the sky. She sighed with relief – the blue would be alone no more! But like all dreams it ended, and she awoke, and through the wood that was once alive she heard all the others shifting, snoring, moaning. She went back on deck.

Now the sun was nowhere, and this time she looked into her handkerchief when she coughed, wiping the viscous fluid from her lips and inspecting it in the moonlight. The romantic part of her saw silver; every other part saw dark red.

The captain was about. He inspected his crew briefly, giving soft orders and small, inconsequential corrections. He was a good man, they said. A brave man. Satisfied, he left the deck and went back below.

In the port, he had kissed her hand.

The days slipped by. She spent more time below decks, mercifully cut off from the other passengers’ sight – but they could hear her. Some made soothing sounds to her through the timber, though in the end most of them begged her to stop. Stop coughing and let them sleep. She didn’t blame them. It was a noisy, unpleasant business. In the old world she would have been bedridden. In the new world, perhaps, too. But this was neither, this was a world of silver and bronze, a world of blue skies and black tar where sunlight made you fly.

But like all journeys, it ended, and they carried her to the shore, and her dress flowed through their hands, and her necklace clinked softly with every step. She didn’t speak. Her eyes fluttered. They held her still. Finally she forced her eyelids open, her pupils wide, then narrowing slowly as the smile grew on her lips.

“My lady?” they asked.

She didn’t speak. Her tongue was dry. The new world was good.

It wasn’t quite what she expected, but still . . .

But still . . .

Emblem Black (2)

the roots of education

It has been an eternity since I last posted.  You will hear no excuses from me – it is how to is.

Without further ado, here’s something I wrote just now.  I would appreciate any feedback as the style is, I think, a little different from how I normally do things.

Bitter Roots

My whole life, I’ve only ever grown one tree. People say to me: Mateusz, if you only grow one thing, you can’t call yourself a farmer.

They may be right – but I do not accept their truth.

For I, Mateusz, know that I am a farmer, and will always be.

The only place this tree can grow is in the desert. It grows quickly and it grows slowly: quickly undergound, a hulking, twisted mass of roots that goes deep, deep, but never shows – slowly, unbearably slowly above.

Other trees put up a shoot, grow tall, then grow strong, but not this one. It pushes up from the ground, already so thick the stoutest man couldn’t embrace it, but still so small that even a child could step over it.

Every day I walk miles to bring it water, and I eat its bitter roots. Every day the tree grows more roots and I choke them down.  With my teeth I grind the brittle, dusty things to powder. The powder cloys, it sticks, and I spare myself a little water so I can swallow. But I am a farmer and I do it gladly, for the tree teaches me.

It teaches me how to mend my shoes, how to protect myelf from the sun, and how to walk all day without getting lost. It teaches me gratitude for my rare visitors with their gifts of honey and beef and bread. It strengthens my will every time I refuse to leave with them. When they are gone, it teaches me who I am.

When the wolves come, it teaches me how to fight.

I will only ever grow one tree, and it is a tree not often farmed. You must toil to grow this tree, and never stop, and live a bare life, and spend much of it alone. If you are lucky, it may take only twenty years to bear fruit.

But then.

You take that fruit back to your village – it’s the sweetest and most delicious fruit in the country, they say – and they sell it, and merchants come from far away, and they buy it, because it is not just the most delicious fruit in the country, it is more than that: there is no other like it in the whole world.

And only you know the secret.

Only you know how to care for the tree.

And still they won’t call you a farmer, for there is no word for what you are now.

But I, Mateusz, know that I am a farmer, and will always be.

Emblem Black (2)