To Know the Dark

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ToKnowtheDarkv2

Bluebird

The Edge of the world was hurting.

Kori pressed her cheek against the smooth cool sky, close to where it arched into the ground. The noise came from deep inside the sky, below her and distant. It was an irregular pulse and thrum against her skin like the heartbeat of a struggling animal. It was a mumble, a chiff-chaff, a gnawing of tooth on bone. The hum paused then began again.

Her fingers left dark smudge marks on the blue of the sky. She brushed the sky clean with her fingertips, knocking the little grains of dirt back into the ploughed field where they belonged.

“Are you ill, Bluebird?” asked her father from a few steps away.

Kori stood and wiped the soil from her bare knees. She shook the hem of her rough dress to keep it as clean as a work dress needed to be. “The Edge is making a noise …”

Her father carried on planting seed potatoes from a sack tied around his back. His calloused hands were black on black with the soil. He kept up a steady rhythm, taking a handful of potatoes and planting them one by one. The flow and reach of it was practised and honed over long years, oiled with honest sweat.

“Always dreaming, eh? Maybe the sky will grow arms and help us plant this field.”

Kori picked up her own sack of potatoes and hoisted it over her shoulder. The rope cut into her neck, settling into the aching groove that had been building over the past turn. She found where she had left off, a furrow leading away from the edge and back down the slope towards the farmhouse. There was another turn and a half of work, she reckoned, and then the Edge field would be fully planted. And her back would be on fire with the bending and stooping.

She turned away from the grumbling sky, set her nose towards home and tried to settle into something resembling her father’s flowing movements. The dark earth sucked at her fingers.

When something worked well it had a flow, a dance, a swoop, whether it was a machine crafted by the hand of man or a natural force. A cow’s steaming breath, the dimming of the sky’s light, the caw of the bluebird singing from the stable’s gable end, the rise of pliant dough under kneading fingers. These things had a way of being that was a rightness. Just so. Even the thorn-prick of a rose had a song and flow, not that it made you feel any better when it scratched.

But when something was ill, it stuttered and grumbled and coughed. Discordant and clashing like men arguing over their ale and pushing fingers into chests with shouted words and curses. That was how the Edge felt. Its surface was as smooth as always, but the humming was grumbly, discordant.

As if on cue, the sky dimmed a notch into eight-turn. That meant two turns until Dark. Whatever was grumbling inside the Edge it wasn’t making the day any shorter or the planting any easier.

* * *

That day’s planting never made it to nine-turn. Before two more notches had past, Kori sensed a change in the wind. It was not much. A subtle shift and altering. A happening was in the offing. She stopped planting and looked up, rubbing filthy hands against a back that ached and clicked back into place.

A small group of men appeared on the path leading up to their home – too far to call out to but close enough to see. She recognised two of them – the Mayor Berhad, fat and wheezing but with sly eyes, and his cute son, Anders, a tall boy with curling blond hair and a patter of shy freckles. The Mayor leant on a soot-black wooden stick. An older man followed on behind – tall, thin and grey like an ancient stork and wearing the white and black mask of a Lawgiver.

“What does that carrion crow want at this late turn?” said her father. “Fat old windbag with soft hands.”

Kori loved it when her father grew angry like this and used the juicy insults that her mother did not like. “We had better go talk to them,” she said.

“Aye? Both of us?”

The Knowing was on her. “Yes. Both of us.”

“To Know The Dark” will be published on Amazon on 24 October 2015.

If you would like a free pre-release review copy, please drop me a email on will@will-once.com.

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