Sunday 9 January 2011

The Dull Sky Shook

The world has become blizzard. Thick flakes rage about him in such constant motion he can’t believe they are settling, but the snow beneath his feet is becoming deeper by the minute. The storm steals everything: sound, colour, distance. But it grants him cover too.

He feels the weather testing the edges of his armour, whispering in past plate and cloth, stealing moments of his movement to drop chill kisses across his skin. The suit is older than him, it has carried heroes through wars long past. The heavy plates still hold true but he has had to patch up the decaying joints with the flags of devoured countries, because that was what he had to hand. He never intended to be a warrior but, like the armour, he carries the experience; always in the wrong place, having to make do or die, having to learn fast just to stay alive.

Lian asked him why he remained, once, towards the end; what he had left now that everyone else was gone, dead, or worse - to the other side. Now that they had failed.

He hadn’t known, he had no answer for her. He hadn’t fought for their ideals, or their lost peoples; he had fought for them, just them, and now they were no more.

He wasn’t one for introspection, but this slow, trudging progress seemed to encourage it. He supposed, in the beginning, he had stayed because of Lian, he had wanted her and so he had done what he always did, set out to impress her, which had meant joining their scrappy rebellion. But it had become something more to him; somewhere he belonged, for the first time. Before it all went wrong, before it looked like they might do some real damage. And that had been their greatest mistake. As soon as they looked like a genuine threat they had been taken seriously, and they found out exactly how a thousand year empire had learnt to protect itself. They were taken apart, broken down, ended.


He endures. Just like his father.

He swallows down the bitterness and bile. The silhouetted corner of a building intrudes on the empty world, a light grey edifice in the blizzard. It could be anywhere, but his sense of direction is unerring, he knows this is the building he is seeking; the building where Lian is being held.

After all this time, that was what it came to. He had no real belief in their cause, harboured no sense of duty to their people, but he had never failed before and so she still had a hold over him. He still wanted her, still felt the need to impress her. And so he had come to rescue her.

He put a hand against the wall and edged his way along, towards the window. He already knew they hadn’t been able to move her before the storm struck. They had vehicles that could make it, but why take the risk? What danger could come to them when such terrifying, white silence roared through the world? This was weather that killed.

It was weather he brought inside with him in a shattering flurry of broken glass.

In that moment his armour became more than a cracked shell patched with old flags; it became ancient heroes and vengeful nations. And he became everything he had tried to avoid. He became hope. He became a sign.

The title, and some of the inspiration, came from a D.H. Lawrence poem.

"The snow descends as if the dull sky shook
In flakes of shadow down ; and through the gap
Between the ruddy schools sweeps one black rook.

Recommended reading: Those Who Remain by Jacqueline May on Every Day Fiction.

Shaking Things Up: talking micro-fiction and the internet.

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