The River By Raymond Walker.
My house was small but homely, brick built with three rooms a kitchen and bathroom. It stood quietly far from the road between Peninver and Carradale. Do not worry if you do not know where those places are for it really does not matter. This is the story of a river and could have happened anywhere that a river runs, and to anyone.
It was a small cottage much like many you see dotted around the roads and byways of Scotland and probably many other places. It was pretty if you looked closely but nothing remarkable. The outside was whitewashed and the roof black slate as most of the older houses in these parts are, there was a small garden at the back bordered by a stone dyke and then a slope down to the river Lussa which runs from a large loch in the hills. To the front the cottage door opened straight onto a narrow road, just beside a small hump backed bridge over the river.
It had once been the river bailiffs cottage but the days of river bailiffs on such a small fast flowing river were pretty much gone in Scotland now with the advent of hydroelectric power upstream and the seine netting of salmon down. So years ago it had been sold on and I was lucky enough to be the one to buy it.
I had hung flower baskets at the front to give it a good appearance and break the unremitting white of the walls and there were flowers in abundance both in them and in the garden at the back.
A year or two ago I had taken down part of the dyke to put in a gate so I did not have to go out onto the road and then climb a style to get down to the river. I then rebuilt the dyke around it. The old dry stone dykes are so lovely I would have hated myself for destroying it, the rock fits together so neatly with no need to use mortar or cement. As I later found to my cost, there is an art to building them, one I did not have no matter how I tried and eventually had to pay for a dyker to come in and fix it. The work took him half an hour but I had been trying to piece it back together for weeks with little success.
I wanted to build the gate as I liked to walk by the river in the evening, I found the sound of the water so restful and watching it so very relaxing.
At that time I worked in Campbeltown which is the only town for about fifty miles and my work was quite demanding so such relaxation was nothing but a boon to me.
It became a nightly excursion for me to go and walk by the river, occasionally I sat and stared into its depths, when warmer I may even lie on the grass near it just listening to the sound of its passing. In the winter I would spend less time doing so for the cold and rain were at times horrendous, in the summer I could do it for hours on end except during the fishing season, which thankfully was short here. At that time there were just too many people there, too much talking, though are anglers not supposed to be quiet? I found it upsetting that these interlopers stole my river and spoiled my peace for the sake of a few fish.
Many of them thought me strange I think but then I bought a fishing rod and sat there with it and was accepted after time as one of them even to the extent of becoming quite friendly with some of them. I even caught a fish once, a sea trout, I tried to put it back but it was dead before I could and so took it home.
I did like to eat trout though that was not the reason for me fishing, it was simply to blend in and let me sit by the river as I did the rest of the year without interruption. I had to call my mother to find out how to cook trout but enjoyed it once I had.
In the spring and autumn my nightly trips went pretty much unnoticed and after a while for those that did notice and wondered of me I bought a dog. A dog is always a great excuse for walking in even the worst of weathers. She was a half-breed border collie and German shepherd and a better-tempered dog you have never met. She was cute and playful and obedient all at the same time. What I had first got as an excuse for walking by the river eventually became tolerated and then loved. She was my firm companion through all this time and there is not a better one to be had, In my opinion. Though perhaps all animal lovers would say the same of their pets.
It was everything to me, my short or long walk in the evening, I took pleasure from my house and books but it was the thing I loved the most.
I know most people would consider it tame or a poor substitute for a real life but it was my life. I worked hard all day and was not one for going out to the pub or dancing as some people did.
I had never gotten married, never found the right girl I suppose, though in part it was because I was never good looking enough to attract girls.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I had had girlfriends at times, though mostly when I was younger and at college but none of them stuck. Perhaps it is me, perhaps I just was not what they wanted but I did try to be accommodating. Like most boys in their late teens and early twenties I think I tried too hard and that probably put them off, I will never know, but that age passed and then when I really wanted someone all I knew were married.
Later I dated a couple of times and they were quite nice but again it never took. Perhaps I was not enough for them, to staid, to set in my ways, I don’t know, but no matter, it never happened for me.
I envied those I knew that were happily married but not having many friends they were few. Yes I suppose with hindsight that I was rather lonely but you may have had a difficult time convincing me of such.
And so I consoled myself in my nice house, in my ordered life and my work; my walks by the river, my dog and my books. I was never one for television though I had one, it was switched on only once in a while for a film.
I think none of these things and all of these things contributed to what happened, I have thought on it often but have never come up with a conclusive answer and doubt now that I ever shall.
She sat on a rock staring into the river as I walked past and to the place I liked best to sit. It was wild that night with a high wind and occasional flurries of stinging rain but that was never going to put me off, nothing ever did. I often vary my walk and sit different places and at different times but there was one place just before the river widened to meet the sea that I tended to sit more than others and on my way to that very place I passed her.
Hi, was all I said in greeting as I passed her.
It was strange to see a woman on a rock just sitting there staring into the river much as I did. I thought of asking her why but realised that I didn’t really wish to know I just wished my usual peace for the evening. So I did not say more to her I just walked on, found my customary rock and sat.
Do you mind if I join you, she asked walking up to me and disturbing my usual reverie.
In actual fact I did mind, but with politeness said I did not. She sat beside me, her beige hooded anorak and denim skirt beneath it pressing against my hip, the dog ran playfully around chasing midges and moths. She was always highly unsuccessful in her nightly chase but seemed to love it anyway,
I did not look round but rather at an angle watching the river still but taking her in as I did so to see her long black hair whipping against the wind, I couldn’t really see her face but occasionally saw her sharp nose and deep dark eyes. In a way, I remember, I hoped they looked at me but they did not and instead looked into the deep dark of the rushing river.
I was being foolish I knew for I was long past the time that any girl would have looked at me tempted in anyway and I also knew that in some strange way I did not wish her to be tempted by me. I had settled into a way of life that I did not wish changed so though the idea was good the reality was somewhat different. She however did not seem interested in that way. Perhaps she simply wished some company on this night.
It is deep she said.
Yes as it narrows through this channel it is, I replied, but it shallows again soon afterwards and then spreads before it gets to the sea. She looked up and over me, straightening her back and looking towards the invisible ocean, known to be there only by the sound of waves crashing in the high wind and the scent of salt on the wind.
I saw that indeed I was right; her eyes were dark in this light and her hair was long and dark, her mouth wide, her lips thin and her look distracted.
I realise that from my description she does not seem attractive, however I found her beautiful though in some way wild and she seemed very worried about something.
I did not wish to get into a deep conversation about what had brought her out to stare at my river on a night like this but I felt it would be unmannerly not to make conversation.
I have not seen you here before?
No nor were you likely to have.
Are you not from here then?
Oh yes I am always here.
By the river? I have never seen you before. I said, and I walk down here most nights.
Not most nights Rob, she replied, every night. I see you every night, every single night. I normally sit up there and she points to where a large oak shades the surface of the river just next to the bridge upon which my house borders.
I often watch as you walk the dog here, I see where you sit, and that you have different places that you like depending on the season and the weather. I have always seen you walk here, I saw you years ago and last night and saw you before you had the dog just walking or sitting.
I am sorry, I never said hello, I replied but really I never saw you. I was not being rude, I did not know what else to say.
Oh don’t worry she replied I know you never did, there is a lot of shadow beneath that tree and I like the shadows so I saw you hen you never would have seen me.
I really would have said hello had I, I remarked.
Yes I know you would have; I have seen you be so polite to everyone even those you don’t really like, I am not accusing you of a discourtesy here Rrob.
I even watched you fish and knew you wished not to for you were so inept.
But I caught a fish one time, I said not wishing to seem really so odd to her.
Yes you did. I saw. I also saw how you were horrified at the thought of killing it and that you tried frantically to put it back in the water.
By this time it seemed as though I had a stalker though a perfectly polite one and so I began to feel rather ill at ease despite her good looks and willingness to talk to someone like me.
I am sorry but I don’t know you and you obviously stay so close, I thought I knew pretty much everyone round these parts.
Yes I suppose you do and even know me though you don’t remember us meeting do you?
No sorry, you have the advantage of me.
Not really, it is just we have met before.
I really am sorry I don’t remember were we at school together or do I just know you from the town? I really can’t think. I am sorry.
Oh no one ever does, I am not so memorable.
Don’t say that, you are very pretty. We are all memorable to someone I said despite what I knew to be an obvious lie. Should I cease to exist this very second only those at my work would notice and then only till they got a replacement.
But I really did mean that of her.
I am not, few notice me, and few even know I am here and care less unless they can take something from me.
I felt sorry for her then. I have watched many films on the way men are. She must have been hurt sometime in the past, I did not wish to think how only knew that I felt sorry for her.
I am sorry, I said.
Oh do not be for you are the one that has cared for me even when those who would use me have not.
Pardon, I said, have we been out before? I was wracking my mind for she obviously knew me but I had not a shred of recollection of her despite the fact that I am sure I would have remembered her had we met.
Oh, I am being silly, she said. What I mean is that I have watched you and you are like me, you are grateful the river is here and you enjoy it just for what it is, not what you can take from it. You are very like me in this way.
You watch the eddy’s and flows of the steam and see the shallows and depths the sparkles and feints yet never do you wish for more.
No I said, I don’t want the fish though I have as you said I just like it, I feel happy with it. I want nothing from it, I wish it never to change and wish to be nowhere else.
Why did you never marry rob? She asked looking round and straight into my eyes for the first time.
I thought of lying but she had been so honest with me more honest than I expected.
I don’t know, no one wanted me enough I suppose, I never wanted anyone enough, oh, I don’t know the reasons other than that I did not.
Yes there was she said.
Was what? I asked after a second when I realised what her words meant.
Someone you wanted enough and someone you wished for just as much as she wished for you. Someone you were happy with, someone you would always be happy with, the same person that wanted you wished for you and knew she would be happy with you forever.
I wracked my brains but still could come up with no recollection of her whatsoever.
She had looked deep into me as she said this as though to make sure she was right and then turning her eyes away I realised she thought that she was.
The conversation had gone places that I had never expected and though a thoughtful person I am not the most quick-witted and so I tried to stall for time. Thinking time, I had to remember where I knew her from, I had to work out what she was talking about so I did what I always do in such situations, I prevaricated.
Where do you stay? I asked slightly unnerved.
Here, I stay here, I am always right here, I have watched you watching me, I know you are happy here with me and I have longed for you so much.
What, I have never seen you before or if I have I don’t remember and certainly not from here.
I have been under your eyes for so long rob you watch me every day, you fall asleep at night listening to my voice, you wake in the morning and gaze upon me with fresh wonder, I love you rob.
I have watched you from my sandy bed and saw your wonderment, I have seen that you love me and are happy with me. You wish nothing from me other than to be with me and I wish nothing from you other than to be with you. Is this not love? It is time now for you to come and be with me.
What you mean you are sorry?
No I meant pardon me, I am not sure what you said, I said though I knew exactly what she meant.
I said it is time for you to come and be with me. Rob we will be happy together, we already are. It is time for us to be together fully.
I do not know what you mean.
Rob I am the river you love taken form and I want you to be with me.
I shook my head still watching her eyes, I am sorry you have lost me.
I am what you wished for rob, I am your hopes and dreams, I am the river, and your love for me has let me take a form that will appeal to you. I wish to be yours rob for all that you are and I wish for you to want me as you have always done.
I was still too shocked to think but belief did not come into it for I knew it to be true as I looked into those dark eyes. I saw the flow of the river beneath them, I smelled the peat and the rain they carried with them I saw her hair was the long strands of black river weed and that her skin was like the dark sand of the river bed.
and she asked again; Will you be with me Rob?
I cannot, I am sorry, I have my work, though that was simply an excuse for I was never really needed there but we all have our vanities and though I knew otherwise I still like to be thought indispensable.
Will you be with me rob? That you love me is without doubt and that I love you will never be in doubt. You will lie in my arms forever more and I will cherish you as you have cherished me and together we will be until the end of time when the seas rise up and the rivers run dry.
I understood that she meant it and like suicide, I was tempted. So very tempted for she was what I was happiest with. I would never be surer but also knew I liked to gaze upon her and enjoy her warmth and chills, smells and noises but she was but a river and I a man and so I declined.
For we men have persuaded ourselves that we are better than the fishes and the animals, better even than the dryads of the forest and the sprites of the river.
A river is a fickle thing and though I expected her sadness, this sprite that wished to love a human man, I was overwhelmed with the ferocity of it.
The lash of her tail as it hit the water almost drowned me and washed me towards the river but I clung to the rock I sat upon and endured the lashes she sent my way each one worse than the one before. It was long that I endured and thought often that I would fall beneath her neptunian fury but the rock was stronger than she and the roots of the earth prevailed against the might of the water.
I felt her slackening and realised that some of the water I now felt was rain and not her fury. When it lessened slightly I was able to move further from the riverbank and thence to the fence that borders it and walking hand over hand made my way back towards the cottage. I later realised that the lessening of her fury was not impotence but simply that she stopped to cry over a love lost. At the time I thought I had finally prevailed and proved the might of man over the elements but now know it was simply that she was exhausted with grief for a short while. I, sure in my arrogance walked back, wet but assured to the cottage. The dog had ran And was busily chasing sheep, her other favourite pastime, as I stood bowed but not yet broken and fell back, finally the dog joining me inside the door.
I lit the fire that was always set in the hearth for the nights I would return from my walk wet and cold. Little had I expected this to be a reason but was glad that I undertook this task nightly before setting out.
Warmed I made coffee and in my dressing gown made my way to the window and my evening chair to look out at her secure now that I was home. She sat beneath the old oak aside the bridge the leaves shadowing her face but that her fury was not spent was obvious for the river lashed the dirt banks and tore at the salmon weir and sought to push down even the supports on the sturdy old bridge.
Large bits of the banking gave way turning her a deeper darker bloody hue with the soil and red clay. She lashed out with all the fury a river could again and again and again.
I could not see her dark eyes in such a shade but had I been able to I think they would have been staring at me. Occasionally her fury lessened and the rain started, when it did he felt her sorrow in the tears that fell from the sky.
He wanted to go and talk to her, he wanted to explain but he had no explanation to give no promises to make no condolences to give. At the same time he could not leave her alone for how could he explain what has no explanation. It was the rock he had clung to when she tried to kill him, it was his safety and sense and his sorrow for what was he to tell her, was he to tell her that he could not love, for he loved her already.
Was he to tell her that he thought her ugly for such lies would been seen through in an instant.
Was he to tell her that he could not hope? For already he hoped. There was simply nothing to say that would make any difference.
So he sat and watched her, imagined again those deep dark eyes and the sandy skin and long flowing hair. Her mouth this time was full from anger and she no longer worried of rejection but enraged with his foolishness.
She was beauty beyond compare, he saw her and the river in her as he started to drift towards sleep the warmth of the fire on his chilled skin.
Only one short time had he stared upon her as she turned to tell him of her love but he could see her all as he always had. He saw her long hair drifting with the tide near to the sea, he saw the perfect white of quartz pebbles and quicksilver fishes in her teeth and smile. He saw the river grass in her lashes and the beauty of the hues of her skin, Red River clay in her cheeks and warm Brown River sand on her body.
He felt her touch on him; the coolness of her hands on his body like a cool damp cloth on his brow to soothe a fever. Waves upon his body soothing and relaxing him but building his arousal. The sweet smell of a spring river in her breath as she kissed him. Which she did lightly and deeply, gently and roughly almost carefully and capably and he knew he wished for her never to stop. He had been a fool not accept her. She was beautiful and he wanted her, wanted her as she was now, and wanted her as she always was. The river and the woman, he wished for her passion, her longing, her body and her taste.
I could feel her against me, urging me, ready to take me, it was the most wonderful of dreams. I moved myself to accommodate her touch as she lay over me, her lips against mine her hand playing and in so doing moved my leg closer to the fire. I could feel the heat of her touch on my leg burning me with her want, the taste of her on my tongue and the silk of her skin beneath my fingers. Her touch was wonderfully cool on my stomach, her lips tracing lines on my belly, her hand soft and subtle on my back, but the other was burning upon my leg with her heat. I wished for her now, immediately.
I could smell burning, that horrible dreadful smell of carbon put to flame and opened my eyes to see he hairs on my leg shrivelling as I had moved it too close to the fire in my ardour. I pulled it away quickly shaking myself awake at the same time, it was not burned I thought, just singed hairs and a warm leg no big deal.
Then I noticed my dressing gown was open, I had been to worried about my leg burning to notice the obvious. I quickly got my elbows under me and began levering myself up on the chair, she appeared as soon as I had begun to angle myself.
She stood in one fluid movement. I thought for a second that it was still part of my dream but knew all the time it was not. It is surprising the way we sometimes try to fool ourselves.
I looked upon her again and again noted her beauty a beauty both wonderful and terrible for I had by this time recovered myself a little and remembered last night’s fury. I noted the flush of her body and the depth of her breathing, and knew all I had felt was real. The touch of her skin on mine, the taste of her, the feel of her hair caught in my hands. Involuntarily I lifted my fingers to my nose and realized I could still smell her on my fingers and taste her on my lips.
She just stood there watching him beginning to know her though he knew her intimately, he knew the way her edges would ice up in the winter, that her depths that were normally her coldest place became her warm heart
Her lips that kissed and caught dragonflies from the skies became her melting soul when the summer began and that the sleek trout and salmon that sprang from her womb yearned ever to return there.
Rob pushed himself from the chair and stood before her. He smelled all the things he had in his dream, tasted the promise of love and knew that though she would be fickle and adventurous she would never leave him as all other women had.
She stood before him, all that he would or could ever wish for in a woman and stranger still a woman that wished for him as well.
He kissed her. Her lips were cold on his but he felt warmth beneath them, he put his arms around her and kissed both her lips and cheeks and then her eyes, for they were very wet.
She is the river, he thought and of course she will be wet beneath my tongue and so he kissed her again as he pulled her onto him.
They slept where they lay on a small armchair in front of the quieting fire. He held her close and tightly and enjoyed both the heat and chill of her skin on his.
When the morning came harsh and bright she was gone, he panicked for a second but when he looked from his window he saw her beauty laying in the midday sun beneath the twist and turn of the cool winter water and he knew there was little to worry of. When Monday came he returned to work and did all the things that he would have done had she never been there or been real. All the time he realised that he would never have to worry about work again for there was little time here left to him, he would join her, and the decision already made for the first time he was truly happy.
She graced his bed many a night from then on, she warmed him when the cold nights came, stoked his ardour when it was needed and cooled him in the heat of summer and he grew to rely on her as men do on women be they rivers or not.
One night she did not return and then never did again for that is the way women are.
He tried as men do to care-not but these things are simply a delusion.
He knew that better than most with his loneliness and so though he tried he could not ever be without her but this he had known since the second day. And so he cried, as men do not.
He wept and wept, remembering the love he had lost and knowing not why he had lost her. He wept and he never stopped. He gave up his work for how was he to work when he could see through only the blurry windows of his eyes. He just sat and thought of her and wept.
And he wept for what was
And he wept for what he knew
And sometimes he just wept because he had grown used to it.
And he wept for all he had missed
And he wept for all that had gone before
And some times he just could not bear to be without her
And he wept for a love that could have been
And he wept for what is
And for the feel and taste of her
And he wept; for what else could he do but weep and weep and weep
And so he wept for all that was and could have been, he wept for finding her and he wept for loving her, he wept for losing her.
He wept for each second he had been with her and more for those times he had been without her. He wept for the days that he passed without her and he wept for the nights he never held her in his arms
One day his tears made a rivulet, which eventually became a burn and then a brook. And before too many years had passed the tears fell more than ever and they ran into the brook and the brook became a stream. And he walked down that stream on a cold April morning and saw her lying in the bed of that fledgling river in all her beauty and without thinking he jumped in and grabbed her. She struggled but he held her tight, never thinking of letting go till there was no air in his lungs, no breath left to him and he felt the air leave him. He knew he was dying and though his body started to convulse he still held on, He would not let go even in death.
He expelled his last breath but never would let go and felt the river fill his lungs. He tried to remain lucid but it was too much, he craved air but when he tried to draw breath all he took in was her hair. And then when he felt life slipping away and the convulsions grew to strong he felt her arms on his back and her breath in his lungs as she kissed him.
After a little while he remembered who he was.
He remembered who he had been.
Who he always was.
And he was hers.
The church was empty apart from the dead. The stone scoured by fire, the bulging, sturdy red sandstone, blackened by the fires that had been lit around it, the church survived though many timbers had fallen or had been consumed by the conflagration. The roof had vanished with the flames, the many blackened corpses, curled in upon themselves, in a fetal position, were as common as the smoking wooden beams that lay betwixt them. Thankfully all life had left this place. It was empty, bereft, god’s love and those that had loved him had left this place. Still I knelt at the entry and genuflected.
I pulled my sword from it’s sheath and placed it point first upon the carbon covered ground before me. I begged the lord’s forgiveness for all my misdeeds, they were many, I begged the lord to forgive the sinners, massed here, of all their earthly misdeeds. I begged my lord to forgive me those same misdeeds. I gazed down, head bowed in prayer, God did not answer, he never did. I used the crosspiece of my sword to pull myself up, putting all my weight upon it. I am old now, my sword sharp, my mind less so, my knees crack when I stand. My hair and beard greyer than they once were.
I walked in through the crooked doors, burned and disfigured, hanging from hinges that had melted or warped with the heat. Stepping over blackened beams, some smoldering still, I walked towards the chancel. I did not enter, I fell to my knees, instead, and prayed. My old knees were protesting as they hit the soot covered, slate flagstones and my breath was lost in the pain. Jesus suffered on the cross and so we must suffer in this life that which the lord has granted us. I just wish my lord, that you would make things a little easier.
So many good men dead, so many lost, so many fathers that will see their children no more, so many wives left alone, so many fathers and mothers will be crying in the dark tonight. I at least, will return home. Hobbled, Hurt and wounded, but I will get home. I will see my wife and children once again.
A step, a sound on the wind and I knew that my luck had changed. I would not be going home after all.
“I thank you lord” I started, raising my face to the sky, I thank you for all that you have given me. A beautiful and loving wife. A son and daughter that, once a part of me and my wife, now forge their own lives. They have their own loves, their own places, thoughts and dreams and you set them on their way.
I thank you lord for my life and all that you have given me. I will be with you soon.
I could feel the blood seeping from the wound in my thigh, my kilt was blood ridden, clinging to my leg, in half congealed gore. I gazed again skyward, accepting my fate. I would not die from the wound, though it was likely that I would have in time. I could hear the sound of marching, the smart snap of flags in the wind. I could hear death growing closer. Thank you for my life my lord and father, you who reigns over all.
My lord, who art in heaven, you have been good to me, your humble servant. I am old, I have lived my life. I have been loved and have loved in return, I have been a fortunate man. You know my lord that I have praised you through my long life, and will till the moment of my death.
I am to die here, today. I have only one thing to ask of you my lord. “keep my children and wife safe” I have nothing other to ask other than that you accept me, as a good man into your kingdom.
I heard small stones rattling before the door. I heard the footsteps of the intruders upon the stone flags. Six I reckoned.
The lord has not answered me, he never has before, but I already knew that I was never leaving this church. I had come here to make my peace with him before I joined him in heaven. I had been foolish to think that I had only to perform one last task before I was set free to live out an easy life. Jesus suffered for us and I must suffer in return. It is simply the way of things father. I would have like to have seen my children again before the end but it seems that was not to be.
I had to lean on the crosspiece to force myself to my feet, my knees protesting. I was suffering from blood loss. I could hardly hold myself upright when the first came at me, sword held high. I gutted him easily. Slashing his unprotected belly. The second and third came together, an axe whirling towards my skull, a sword looking to sweep the legs from under me or cut hamstrings. I dodged the badly slung axe and my old battered sword clove the fool in two. “Never throw away your weapon” my old dad told me. He was an ignorant bastard but he knew war. I ducked down as the other Launched a huge slice that could have parted my head from my shoulders except that my head was not there. A quick stab to the abdomen felled him. Still alive, still able, but with no reason to fight he was going to follow the crow road with me. No coming back from his injuries.
The only question left was; how would we die? He died, badly, screaming.
The fellow that followed him was little more than a boy, fourteen or fifteen. A kid trying to make a name for themselves. I could have killed him instantly but I thought of my children, my wife, my friends, their sons. “Go on son” I said. “Go on home, tell everyone that you killed me. I will not make it out of here alive. Leave now and you will be known as the man who killed “Sorley MacGregor” stay and you will die along with me”.
I gestured towards the silent fellow, a redcoat, I am sure, veteran of many wars and a born killer, you could see it in his eyes, cobalt blue and sharp as a sunlight January morning in Scotland. Tall but lean, ready as a whippet, sharp and ready, he was the assassin meant to bring me down. The wry smile on his face and his easy posture bellied his readiness for violence.
The boy was nothing other than a recruit added into the mix to add numbers. “Go boy or neither of us will live”, I said as I nodded back to redcoat, whose smile froze upon his scarred face. “Go now, make a life for yourself, find some girl, father children. I do not wish to kill you, my quarrel is with the fellow that paid you”.
The boy ran at me directly, kids, what can you say? His sword raised high for a killing blow, I stepped forward so his sword fell upon empty air and I ran him through with almost no effort or thought. I was watching “The Killer” behind him, the assassin. The one paid to end my life.
I grew ready but he had not moved. He still stood, hugging the wall, looking at me and smiling.
I raised my sword, weary though I was and looked at him, “come on then” I said.
He just smiled and said, “no. don’t think I’ll bother” he turned and walked up the hill vanishing instantly when your eye left his disappearing back.
I lay in the early morning sunshine, back against the soot stained walls of the church, bleeding from twenty odd wounds, most scratches and cuts but the blood was pouring from me. I always knew that I was not going home again. I could see my beautiful wife, hanging out the washing and looking towards the hills, hoping to see me striding over them, coming home, as I once did. My children running towards me, arms wide, I would gather them up and hold them close to me. I closed my eyes.
Ach Sorley, my mind was not so taken with death. It was all my story, my imagination. My wife was not beautiful though she once had been. When I, a boy and she, a girl, she was the greatest sight in Scotland, a land covered with wondrous views. Tall, she stood, her fiery red hair thick and lustrous, her body lithe and welcoming, her thighs and kisses even more so. Our joy and lust for each other turned into children, little delights and horrors, each one, born from our union and each taking a toll upon our life and health. They took time, the little ones, they took effort and energy, they sapped the energy from you. Took the fat from your knees, kneeling beside them, hurt your back lifting them and carrying for them. The children were only parasites preying upon their elders, at first.
Then they grow and become little people, persons with their own identities hopes and ideas. During this time, they take from you. From their mother’s milk and warmth, caring and coddling, from their father’s lessons that will help them in the hard world that they will one day be propelled into.
I was dead and then wakened again, I had been told that you saw a bright light as you walked towards heaven and your reward but my only reward was pain. Pain everywhere. My mouth was forced open, my gritted teeth prized apart, with a blade of some sort. I felt it with my tongue, the sharpness, the grit on the dagger. A tube was forced down the space between my teeth and fire poured into my aching body. I spluttered, every limb protesting. I was not dead nor in heaven. I had survived and was being tortured. Surely that must be the case, heaven was our promised reward for goodness and fidelity to god.
I had not been good. I had killed, I had rebelled against god’s rightful king, or so the church told me.
There is more to come from this tale.
The First Dragon.
The First Dragon.
In Heavens eye. A mote, drifting in the vast emptiness of the intergalactic void, tiny insignificant beneath the notice of even an omnipotent, all seeing god. Carried upon solar winds, radiation bled and shriven, drawn hither and thither by gravitational waves the mote entered a galaxy.
How long this particle drifted no one knows nor ever will. Time did not exist at this point or if it did there was no one to measure nor document it. It is commonly held that the mote drifted for many millions of years it’s progress through the interstellar void and later solar gulf mystical in all thought.
Thwarted by the nature of the universe and that it had no thought process, it simply drifted upon the galactic seas.
It was a simple mote, basic in it’s construction or make up, hibernating, in the long cold void to protect its existence on its epic journey.
There have been many hypotheses produced to explain the existence of this tiny speck the most popular being that the mote was created by god himself or herself, depending upon your beliefs.
We are unable, it seems, to talk with god directly and so cannot confirm that he/she was the originator.
Many others think that the mote was not living when it began its million-year journey but that it was simply an anomaly given life by its journey and accumulated time.
No matter the reason Perhaps the truth is even stranger than the many fictions created to justify such an existence.
That this mote existed we can be sure, without it we would not be here discussing its existence. It lives even now upon our world, again in hibernation, in shut down mode. Without the mote no one here would ever have existed. It gave of itself to form the first simple organisms which evolved into the first creatures all bound to sea, where the mote still sleeps. Each form, created adapts and transforms, eventually leaving the sea behind and adapting for the second time into land based organisms. Desert, forest, mountain, plain, tundra or jungle, life took hold and the mote rested, Its scion became the building blocks of life.
- It had long vanished when the motes long hibernation ended. The mote had neither eyes nor ears, touch nor taste but somehow it felt all the life around it above and below. It sill rested where it had first come to rest upon the sea bed and only slowly did it come to realise that there was other life beside it, all unique and various.
The mote began to think, it had grown, these other life forms had been subsumed by the mote in its unconscious form. They had become integral; the little pieces were now part of a whole.
The mote was no longer unnoticeable, it had grown taken shape, gained mass and memory and it could feel a void within itself but it did not understand the feeling and did not know what it yearned for.
Without truly understanding what had happened, the mote knew that it was responsible for all the life around it. She had become the creator of many things.
- She slept, hibernating, millennia passed, absorbing, classifying, enveloping.
The mote grew larger and could feel itself developing senses. Sight hearing, touch, smell. She started subsuming those that came in contact with her. Trilobites, sea slugs, crustations, and even bottom feeding fish became a part of her and she grew and grew.
The mote did not know the word, evolution. It did not even understand the concept, rather It simply consumed or subsumed any organism that came within its reach. Again, and again the mote drew sustenance from another organism and grew. During the hibernation it was able to process the knowledge gained, it grew aware.
It was no longer a mote it had devolved the power of motion, stumpy legs or sturdy fins growing from it’s underside. It could now see, the eyes adapted to the stygian depths. her hearing had now become acute and she could feel and touch. she had changed dramatically both in size and understanding. She hibernated for thousands of years and then awoke, she drew the beasts of the sea to herself. Eels, long and sinuous, plesiosaurs, and on land snakes and, crocodiles. She drew the beasts of the air to her pterodactyls, pterosaurs and great predator’s; tyrannosaurs, ceratosaurs and velociraptors. She subsumed them all gathered them all into herself and returned to her nest. The ocean cocooned her for another few thousand years. Then she woke. She felt the strength of all the creatures she had taken within herself. She used her immense back feet to push her towards the surface of the ocean and breaking through the waves, spread her wings and rose into the air taking wing..
She called herself; woman.