Rest Weary20:59 Jan 08 2008
Times Read: 1,490
I squint my eyes, trying to to overcome the curtain of dusk that is falling fast. All has been quiet for two hours now and the slow chill that began at my toes has picked up the pace and I am blowing on my hands when I see motion above. From the bank of the river, I spot the soldier as he crosses onto the bridge. Now the cold has full grip on me; my stomach fills with ice as I struggle to focus on the progress of the lone figure in silhouette, an indistinct man traced onto an uncertain sky.
Everything that mattered in this world suddenly hinges on this stranger and what I can learn from him. I back cautiously from the rushes, trying to keep my ruined shoes from making squidging sounds as I stay low to the ground. I hate moving farther back, but I need to see this man. An unsolicited memory from my childhood assaults me now, my mother's voice reading to me about the poor who walked days just to gain hope from the sight of one man, climbing trees to see above the crowd or reaching for the hem of his garment. I murder this memory quickly and bury it with the rest.
There he is! He wears his uniform coat buttoned against the evening's bite. I blink and squint, open and shut my eyes, all to try to see his face, to read something there, but he has pulled the brim of his hat low and all that remains are shadows so deep I might be peering into the abandoned well behind my father's barn.
As a kid, I'd been dared to dangle over the edge. I scooted on my belly, cold sweat chilling me while I breathed in dust and choked back the sour taste of pure dread. I knew there was no stopping, though. It was my moment. When I reached the rim, I kept going until I could reach across to the other side.
I lay like that for a few seconds, trying to gain a choke hold on the panicked certainty that one of my friends would use me as a bridge and walk across my vulnerable form sending me falling to my death. When my breathing slowed, I dug the toes of my shoes in as best I could, and let go, bending forward at the waist, arms dangling. I willed my eyes open and looked down into ink, not even a hint of light to suggest where the bottom lay. I knew in that moment a truth that can't be said out loud; there are dark places in this world that have no end and as scary as hitting bottom might be, it is a comfort beside the prospect of an infinity of falling.
I scrambled away from that well and grew fair, tall, and straight. I have led a life of mostly good decisions, blessed by the favor and company of friends, that while few in number, are of the really true kind. I keep few secrets from those I love. Perhaps the most closely guarded one, though, would be the light that is always lit when I sleep. I long for it now as I crouch in marshy earth that smells alive with threat as I stare up at my hope who wears no face.
The soldier walks slowly, his back straight, his weapon shouldered. I cannot see anything or anyone behind him. I can discern neither victory nor defeat in his step. He walks to the center of the bridge and stops to lower his rifle. He sights along the length of it and my heart hammers against my chest, unlocking my knees and dropping me to the freezing mud as the soldier sinks down to sit on a forgotten crate lying askew there.
He rests the butt of the weapon on what I know must be the white line painted down the center of the bridge road, runs his hands gently against the stock, then lowers his head and leans it against the barrel. He never looks back. He never lifts his eyes forward. We have been this way hours now, my soldier and I. The first rays of morning have stretched their fingers across the sky to draw back night's curtain and my first thought is that the bridge seems more solidly brick and steel while my soldier appears less substantial.
My second thought is a wistful memory of soft incandescent light that blankets the blankets of illusive sanctuary, tucked into sweet dreams and the warmth where a good person can still feel their hands and feet and the face of tomorrow does not bow over the resting rifle of a weary soldier.
* I want to acknowledge my friend, Occam, who saw my vision and his own and created the powerful image that precedes my story. Thank you.
17:46 Jan 29 2008
What a rich tapesty you weave! I love this piece Jo.
07:59 Jan 30 2008
I don't care what VampireWitch says, your writing isn't crap!
02:56 Jan 31 2008
I second that. ;)
01:45 Feb 03 2008
..there's are day, quite a few of them, in fact, when I wished I wrote more like you.
..then again, it's taken me years to write like me. So, I'll just admire a damn good writer.
03:04 Feb 04 2008
A distant gaze comes to mind here...looking far away for a better sight.
20:25 Feb 04 2008
I did not say that. O.O Otter.... you going to get me in trouble.