Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Black Egg

S.J.Hirons


I

There had once been a tower on the far side of the bay. The tower was the reason that, on this side, there was now a city: a long time ago a furious storm had smashed the tower down, leaving only the rough ring of white stones that had once been its base. Men had come some time after and taken the loose, lightning-blackened rubble and built the city with them.

The water of the bay was as glossy as treacle. Marchioly rowed Ilisabeth towards the far side, keeping close to the eastern bank where a burst of swampy green growth tipped down to touch the water. Under the overhangs the air was hot and heavy. The afternoon sun on the clear water had been a bright glare.

It was shallow here under the eaves. Ilisabeth could see the bed of the bay below where gnarled shapes gathered bright jade-coloured detritus. Further out the ground fell away sharply and the water showed only rippling reflections of the sky on its flat green face.

Crossing the water was the only way to get to the ruined tower from the city. The crescent shore and much of the inland was complicatedly dense, thorny with trees and underbrush. All the paths and roads that once led from the city to the tower had been overrun.

“I see the stones!” Ilisabeth exclaimed.

Marchioly turned the boat out of the shade.

“There,” he said to her. “You can see them from here.”

The low stones were just to be seen on the treeless crest of a rise in the land. They looked like a row of broken teeth.

Marchioly eased the boat towards a tight shoreline of soft sand and the white stones disappeared from view.


II

Marchioly pulled the boat up onto the beach while Ilisabeth ran about gathering deadwood, her wet feet and calves getting sticky with sand. On this side of the bay the water made no waves. Marchioly pointed to the sand and Ilisabeth put the blanched branches down in a small pyre for later. Marchioly took the blanket from the boat and put it next to the pile of firewood and Ilisabeth lifted out the basket.

“It’s hard going,” Marchioly told her.

“I want to see,” she said. She leant against the boat and brushed the sand from her feet and legs, slipping her sandals back on.


III

The second time they stopped they had cleared the trees and could see the bay again. The sun was close to setting. The city was hazy. Marchioly looked across the water. Ilisabeth looked along their way ahead.

“Do you think the tower really is cursed?”

He shook his head.

“It must have been huge,” she said.

“Yes.”

She stood up.

“Are you coming?” Ilisabeth took a few steps further along the grassy hillside, the basket swinging in the crook of her arm.

“I want to watch the sun go down behind the city,” he said.

“But then we won’t see very much!”

He shrugged. “You go on if you want,” he said.


IV

When she came back down he had his head in his hands. He looked up, hearing her.

“Was it worth the look?”

Ilisabeth shrugged. “Just some old stones. That’s all. Old stones and blackbirds.”

He nodded. “It’s getting dark quickly. Let’s go back down.”


V

She laid out the blanket and the food as he lit the fire. They ate and then lay together. The night took away the city and the stones above. The firelight encircled a small world of sand. Marchioly walked up to the ruins as Iliabeth slept. He checked the small alcove on the north wall. The black egg was still there. Another of the golden eggs had gone. He walked back down the hill.

He stood with his bare feet in the still water for a little while and then, very quietly, pushed the boat back out onto the glassy, black bay, scuppering it some way out with a swift blow from one of the oars. It sank, joining other wrecked boats from other times.

When the water was at his knees he took to the air. Below and behind he heard her thin and outraged voice as the stolen egg began to hatch.

He flew ever higher, up into the dark and free sky of the cool night.


__________



S.J.Hirons (sjhirons@yahoo.co.uk) was born in Greenwich, England in 1973. Educated at Rugby and Cambridge, he currently resides in Leamington Spa where he works with young Asylum Seekers. He has studied creative writing at the National Academy of Writing and Birmingham City University. More of his short fiction can be found in Subtle Edens: An Anthology of Slipstream Fiction from Elastic Press , Farrago’s Wainscot, SFX magazine’s Pulp Idol 2006 and at http://www.pantechnicon.net/. Further pieces will appear this year in The Willows, A Fly in Amber , and in The Absent Willow Review .

8 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

Gripping tale. Not really sure why the golden eggs were gone, though.

Jodi Lee said...

Interesting read. :)

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