a year in stories::two

So here’s story number two, written just now with only one hand because I burnt my thumb and index finger super bad about two hours ago.

 

Affection

 

The horns sprouted and his eyes fell out and he saw.

He kept his eyes closed and ran his hands over his skull feeling the aberrations, two two inch bony horns sticking out just below his hairline with two smaller horns beneath those, centered between his eyebrows and hairline.

He saw with his hands and his ears and his feet but rumors spread that he saw with his horns the way insects see but what he saw was not what we saw.

Ghosts, they said, He is a seer of the past and the future, a window to the otherworld, to the dead, to the gods and angels, to heaven and hell, their voices rose and the proclamations were taken as truth, He will show us the way and the light.

And so they came from nearby to see the boy who caused his mother to cry. They came and they saw that he was only just five, a tiny boy who could not cry and spoke softly, his timid voice trilling along the waves of wind,

Who is it, mother?

Don’t worry, heart.

His mother beat them back and demanded they stay away and they called her harlot or worse and blamed the child’s affliction on his fatherless upbringing.

But he has a father, she said to their backs, He’s just dead is all.

The boy sat by the riverbed and listened to the fish swim and the water surge. Dipping his toes to feel the rush and understand that sense and sound were hands held tight. He dug his fingers into the soft sand and listened to them drop against his barelegs or groped through the mud and squeezed it between his fingers to trace the history of the soil.

The villagers left him alone but discussed him behind closed doors, about his communion with the spirits for they had seen him sitting along beside the river staring at the sun though sun he could not see so surely it was the gods above calling to him through a window metaphysical and there were others who saw him from a distance talking to no one with his hands covering his ears and still others watched him as once he took buckets full of water to make a great deal of mud which he then covered himself in and surely this was more than only the peculiarities of the blind and the horned but something deep as souls and heavy as hearts.

The mother did not mind but devoted herself to her son, to teach him how to live in a land of sight and not feel lost. She taught him to see with his hands and feet and ears, to trust what he felt more than what he heard and to trust sound when there was nothing to feel. She taught him to weave and to sew, to dig and plant, even to cook. She taught him to memorise and they practised several times a day until the house he lived in lived inside his head so clearly that he saw it clearer than she and then they expanded his knowledge to the surrounding nature from river to forest and even through them. Then the village where his touches remade the world lost to his sight and with each sound and touch he built the village again new until its architecture lived in him and he spent his night dreaming them again and his days walking their paths and enjoying their sights and sounds and life.

When he was ten his mother’s health began to fade and he spent long hours in her arms where he listened to her heart and lungs and the coursing of blood through her, the constriction and stretch of muscles and fibers, the juices of the intestines and the way they wriggled, the archaeology of skin and the geometries of the limbs and back.

He began to massage her and in the act he discovered his mother. Not only her body, but its history. Where she came from, who she had been, and even where she would go.

He saw her Death but did not tell her. He saw her life but said nothing.

He learnt of his father and the man he was, the ways he loved his mother, the delicate intricacies to his touch and the harmonies her reactions made. A kind man, a foolish man, but one who loved his mother till he was lost. She carried this weight in her neck and eyes, in the soles of her feet and fingertips. There was a thick black growth in the center which he attributed to his dead father and he knew it was taking her too.

From his mother’s skin and lungs and throat he learnt of himself, the agony he caused and the ways she loved him, how she never hardened against him, how every day her heart broke, how the villagers feared yet almost worshipped him, how her dreams were of his brown eyes growing back but, oddly, his horns remained, for it wasn’t his strangeness that hurt her so but his affliction.

She died quietly and he buried her without ceremony for no one came.

He ventured back into the village several weeks later all dressed in black, his face serene, his steps and movement’s measured. When he reached the center of the market he spoke in a loud voice

I see and will show you your lives.

and then he turned and walked home and waited.

And the people talked and when they talked the rumors became truths and the truths turned them from what they were doing to the small cottage at the edge of the forest where the no eyed seer, yet a child, lived alone with all the spirits to guide him, for how else could he walk to town alone and blind? how else could he survive without his mother or father?

The horned boy without eyes saw the history of the village expand before his eyes with each new person he touched. Massaging away their pain and speaking to them of the life they led and the ravages it had on their body, he showed them the route their life would lead them, and when they asked how he knew, he told them only that he saw it.

And so the boy lived by telling them their lives and they called this prophecy and a gift and they brought him food and clothes and he told them he required nothing but that they listen but in his head he created a new reality of the collected memories of their bodies and still they brought him daughters to love and newborns to bless and they came from further away and spent weeks to find him and he told them all that he saw inside them which was all that they were and some left cursing but the villagers rebuked and beat them away and referred to him as their angel and guide and his cottage as the home of the sky and sun for only in darkness lives light and once he asked for ink and with the ink he began to draw and as he drew the world around him changed. Filling scroll after scroll of papyrus with figures and visions of a reality so twisted and broken that it resembled all their lives and each scroll was but a portion of a tapestry he spent five years drawing in bold black strokes and when he finished they called it hell but he called it them:

This is your lives

but also those of the past

this is our village

and it is me.

And they feared him and they called him a demon and a devil and he told them to see with more than eyes and they told him to burn to burn to burn and so they stole his inky masterpiece and as the night fell on that village in his sixteenth year he found himself strapped to wood and seeing the heat of his life drift away into the sky.

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